Sunday, March 30, 2014

Elite 8 (Day 2) Open Thread + Picking The Lines

I talked about two things late last night on twitter that I want to repeat here for those of you who don't follow me there. First of all, I want to repeat just how silly these "can't win the big game" narratives are around coaches. I'm happy to see Bo Ryan shed that label, and eventually Sean Miller will shed his. Miller is now 0-3 in Elite 8 games over ten years of coaching, which as pretty damn impressive. Most coaches don't get to three Elite 8 games in their career. Don't create a narrative around a one-point overtime game. Bill Self and Jim Boeheim were other guys who "couldn't win in March" until they did.

When I said that on twitter last night, ESPN's John Gasaway retweeted me and added that comp to Bill Self, leading multiple Arizona fans to respond angrily that we were insulting Sean Miller. It's insulting a guy to compare him to a coach who has won ten straight conference titles and won a national title? We really shouldn't live in a sports analysis world where comparing a coach to Bill Self is an insult.

Second of all, the idea of a refereeing "controversy" at the end of the Wisconsin/Arizona game is dumb, for a few reasons. First of all, that charge call was correct - Nick Johnson used his forearm to push his defender out of the way to get an open lane to the basket (you can see it a lot easier from the behind-basket view than the live tv view). The attitude that "you have to swallow the whistle and let the kids decide the game" in the final 10 seconds is ridiculous. The rulebook doesn't say that the rules don't apply in the final ten seconds. When somebody fouls, they are "deciding the game" - they've chosen to foul. Should we let defenders just tackle shooters to prevent them from taking a buzzer beater?

The bigger controversy was that terrible out of bounds call. Leave aside that there should have been a whistle on Aaron Gordon for defending the pass from beyond the out-of-bounds line, but I've long been a proponent from "Jeff's Rule" - you get a 60 second shot clock on reviews, and after 60 seconds it's automatically "call stands". The purpose of review is not to get every single call perfect - every game would take 5 hours if we reviewed every close call all game. The purpose of review, if you recall the controversies in the late-1990s that led to the era of review, is to fix egregiously blown calls, particularly crucial ones late in games. Let the refs call the game, and if you think something is egregiously, obviously wrong, then use review to fix it. If you're spending 5 minutes and breaking out CSI "enhance" technology to try to figure out whose pinky was on the ball a split second after the other dude's pinky, just let the original call stand. Enough.

Anyway, let's talk about the rest of the Elite 8:

Elite 8 Day 1 ATS: 1-0-1
2014 Tournament ATS: 36-22-4
2013 Tournament ATS: 36-30-1
2012 Tournament ATS: 30-35-2
2011 Tournament ATS: 40-26-1
2010 Tournament ATS: 35-25-3

UConn (+5.5) over Michigan State: Michigan State is the better team, of course, but I'm a bit concerned about giving 5.5 points. What strikes me about this game is that it's likely going to be a three-point shooting contest. Both teams shoot the three well (UConn is at 39.4% for the season and Michigan State is 39.3%), and both defend the paint much better than they deny threes. And in the end, 3P% defense is basically luck, so if either of these teams happens to get hot then they'll likely win. I'd say that the most important player in this game is DeAndre Daniels. He is the one UConn big man who can match both Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson on both ends of the court, and he needs to stay out of foul trouble and he needs to play well. If he does, UConn can pull the upset.

Michigan (+2.5) over Kentucky: To me, this is the easiest call of all four Elite 8 games. Just a wild "public" overreaction to two fairly fluky Kentucky wins (for example, if Louisville hit anywhere near their season average on jump shots they would have won that Sweet 16 game easily). This isn't a situation like Dayton, where a team has shown a big progression over the last couple of months - the evidence that Kentucky "is back" is based on a two game sample size. A good rule of gambling is when a team has one or two high profile wins and all of the public jumps on their bandwagon, you want to fade the public.

Kentucky is actually a pretty good three-point defense, but not enough people are talking about the fact that Willie Cauley-Stein is probably not going to play. Michigan is not a team that just passes the ball around the perimeter - they attack the basket and generate a lot of their offense in the paint, with a variety of players who are effective at getting to the rim. They score in the paint and also use a collapsing defense to open up kick-outs to their three-point shooters. Alex Poythress is going to have to do his best Cauley-Stein impression or Kentucky is in trouble. Offensively, Kentucky generates most of their offense from rebounds and free throws (their OR% and FTRate were both over 45% against Louisville). Michigan is potentially vulnerable on the glass, though they've been better recently (obviously Jordan Morgan has to stay out of foul trouble or this becomes a bigger problem). Free throws are going to be an even tougher task for Kentucky, as Michigan was third best in the nation in defensive FTRate.

In the end, you want to be smart here and fade the public.


Unknown said...

ESPN's recap of the game was pretty funny. The commentator mentioned how "a lot of people didn't like this call" during the offensive foul on Johnson..and of course they only played the live camera view and not the baseline view, while he didn't mention anything about the out of bounds reversal being bogus. I still think the ball was *probably* out off of Jackson, but with every angle they showed there was no certainty and therefor reversing the call was ridiculous.

If people want to talk about the refs, let's not forget about the 2 balls that were clearly out of bounds off of Arizona yet given to Arizona, or the 2 phantom travels on Wisconsin in the first half. Or the terrible off ball offensive foul on Brust.

I thought it was one of the poorer officiated games of the tournament. There were a ton of 50/50 calls that went Arizona's way, especially in the first half. I'd also like to hear more about the Bo got a technical, apparently it happened while he was talking to his players in a timeout huddle.

Refs did not lose this game for Arizona, I think the easier argument is to suggest that refs instead kept them in the game.

Jeff said...

Arizona certainly had the friendly whistle over the first 10 minutes, which was why Bo Ryan got T'd up. I felt like reffing was fair in the second half and overtime. Both teams had some calls they didn't like. But there's no way Arizona fans can say that, on net, the refs are why they didn't win.