Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Morning News: Haka, Playoff, Sam Dekker, Javon Bess, Alex Rosenberg And More

The VCU band, the best band in college basketball, is going to be doing Haka dances at games this year. This is not a drill.

We're getting closer and closer to some real college basketball to talk about. Friday marks two weeks until the first regular season games. Some teams have already played exhibition games.

All I'll say about exhibitions is what I warn about every year. First of all, according to "sources" every player either lost 15 pounds or gained 15 pounds of muscle, and everybody looked awesome. Lots of fantastic dunks happen when nobody is playing real defense or competitive opponents. It doesn't mean much. But second of all, don't freak out if a good team loses an exhibition to a bad team. These games are not played or coached like actual competitive games. Back in 2009-10, Syracuse lost a preseason exhibition to Division II Le Moyne, and went on to earn a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. So sure, watch the exhibitions. It's nice to see those players in action again. But don't draw any strong conclusions from them.

One more note before getting to the actual college basketball news, I want to remind you that I broke down in gratuitous detail how the College Football Playoff Committee put their initial rankings out last night (Spoiler Alert: They copied the AP Poll, as I predicted two months ago).

On to the real news:

Sam Dekker Injures His Ankle For now, this doesn't seem like a significant issue for Wisconsin. They still hope to have him back for their regular season opener, though he's not yet back practicing. As a preseason contender for the All-American team and for Big Ten Player of the Year, expect Wisconsin to be cautious with him. The last thing they need is for an ankle injury to linger all season.

Javon Bess To Miss A Month Bess is widely considered the second best prospect in Michigan State's 2014 recruiting class, behind point guard Lourawls Nairn. He's not a true blue chipper, but probably good enough to play significant minutes off the bench as a true freshman. But this injury will not only cost him some regular season games, but could push him into a redshirt. There's always that balance with freshmen, where you have to ask just how few minutes you're willing to play a guy to burn a year of eligibility if he's not very likely to leave early for the NBA.

Columbia's Alex Rosenberg Out For Two Months Arguably the best player on Columbia's roster, this is a blow for the Lions as they enter this season with their best team in perhaps decades. They were primed to be a serious contender to Harvard in the Ivy League. But if he can come back before conference play starts (which isn't certain, but seems likely), it shouldn't be too big of a blow for the program.

Hawaii Fires Their Head Coach Gib Arnold's assistant is also being fired. Hawaii is in danger of NCAA punishments, and they weren't likely to seriously challenge in the Big West title race anyway. So whoever becomes the next head coach at Hawaii looks to have quite the mess to clean up.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

BREAKING: The CFB Playoff Committee Is Mirroring The AP Poll

This evening, the first college football playoff rankings were put out by the College Football Selection Committee. And figuring it's interesting to see how they mirror or differ from the college basketball version, which I spend a lot of time projecting on this blog, I wanted to discuss just how the rankings worked tonight.

As I projected when I broke this all down two months ago, the playoff rankings basically mirror the Top 25 polls, with only minor deviations. Why did I project this? Well, two reasons:

1) When your selection criteria is impossibly vague, you're inevitably going to just go on feel, and then attempt to justify whatever you decided on with stats. Between W/L record, SOS, head-to-head, resume, eye test and conference standings, there are enough parameters to justify absolutely anything you want.

2) College football, much more so than college basketball, has the "poll culture" engrained. When teams win they move up, when teams lose they drop, and head-to-head matters (but only when the media decides it... since nobody is clamoring for 1-loss Arizona to be ranked ahead of the 1-loss Oregon team that they beat). The college football playoff, more than anything, wants to be accepted by fans. And the absolute worst way they could do that would be "rock the boat" and go outside these accepted norms. College basketball culture is much more accepting of the concept that quality strength of schedule matters, and that Selection Sunday can very much deviate from the Top 25 polls.

So, let's break this down statistically. First, can we demonstrate that the Selection Committee did not care about picking "the best teams"? Sure. I'll use the Sagarin ratings, as I like to do in college basketball for this purpose, because Sagarin has a "PREDICTOR" rating that measures team quality and an ELO_CHESS ranking that purely measures resumes. So below, I have compiled every team that received Top 25 votes (not including FCS North Dakota State and 2-vote Oklahoma State) that had an ELO_CHESS at least five spots apart from its PREDICTOR, and compared them to both the AP Poll rankings and the College Football Playoff rankings:

What do we see? In 11 out of the 12 cases, both the AP Poll and the Playoff Committee chose team resume over team quality. And this is to be expected. When the media says "best teams" they don't actually mean "best teams". They always mean best resumes. I explained this phenomenon here.

But that's not a surprise. The $64,000 question is, does the Playoff Committee mirror the AP Poll more or a true "resume" rating more? Here, I looked at the same group of teams, and selected all of those that had an ELO_CHESS at least five slots apart from their AP ranking. The results are below:

The results look slightly more ambiguous here, in that the Playoff Committee went with the AP Poll only six out of the nine times. But in fact, in all three cases it basically broke a tie by taking the resume. For example, with Notre Dame the committee is four slots off the AP Poll and three slots off Sagarin. With Ohio State they're three slots off the AP Poll and two slots off Sagarin.

On average, among these nine teams, the Playoff Committee was 2.1 slots off the AP Poll and 6.6 slots off the ELO_CHESS. So by a factor of more than three-to-one, the Playoff Committee just mirrored the AP Poll over seriously trying to rate the best resumes.

So, the Playoff Committee was what we thought it was. All the endless debate about how much the committee was going to care about strength of schedule or head-to-head or how good teams looked was pointless. Heck, Jeff Long gave an interview worthy of Kim Jong-un, pretending that he was breaking down blocking schemes and knew when left tackles were out injured in coming up with his rankings. It was all waste of time.

In the end, as we knew all along, the Playoff Committee is just another Top 25 poll. The four spots in the playoffs will be contested by 0 and 1 loss teams from Power 5 leagues along with 2 loss teams from the SEC. That's it. If you are a Notre Dame fan angry that Michigan State, Kansas State and TCU are all ahead of you, don't waste your energy. The odds that all four of those teams will go undefeated the rest of the way is vanishingly small, and all four of those teams will be eliminated with one more loss.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Morning News: New Bracket, UNC Scandal, LJ Rose, And More

"Do I remember anybody talking about AFAM classes? Hmm... I don't think so..."

New Bracket Projection If you missed it earlier in the week, my newest bracket projection is out. The next one will be posted November 16th, which will mark 17 weeks until Selection Sunday. Remember that the regular season doesn't start until November 14th this year, but the season will start with a bang. There are a ton of really good games just in the first week.

UNC Academic Scandal If you've been on the internet in the last few days, you've read the #HotTaeks, so I'll spare you. But obviously this is a really serious problem for the university. Roy Williams was smart enough not to use his official university e-mail account, but it stretches credulity to believe he didn't know what was going on. And I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Tar Heels receive some "lack of institutional control" penalties, although the football team looks more likely to get that than the basketball team. At this point, we have to just wait to see what the NCAA wants to do.

Houston's LJ Rose Out For Two Months Kelvin Sampson is off to a solid start at Houston in terms of upgrading the level of talent in the program, but a lot of it won't be suiting up when the season tips off in a few weeks. LJ Rose, who is an awfully good pure point guard, will miss the next two months or so with a foot injury. Houston was going to have quite the uphill battle to the tourney bubble as it was, so this is obviously going to make that task even tougher.

Shawn Lester Leaves Charlotte This story might not be particularly relevant nationally since Charlotte is unlikely to be in the bubble mix in February, but Shawn Lester was second on the team in points per game last season (11.9 per game) despite only making one start, and only finishing fifth on the team in minutes. Lester could be a real asset for a big program, depending on where he ends up.

DJ Johnson Will Likely Miss The Season The 6'9" DJ Johnson averaged 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds per game off the bench last season for Kansas State, but his foot injury will likely force him to redshirt this coming season. The Wildcats look like a prototypical bubble team this coming season (they're currently the last at-large team in my projected bracket), so even a little loss like this can make a big difference.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Post-Midnight Madness BP68

Believe it or not, regular season college basketball is right around the corner. Every team is practicing, and nearly all have had their Midnight Madness (or the equivalent) events. The first exhibition games will begin in the next week or so.

There are a couple of dates to keep in mind. First, November 14th is the opening day of the regular season. It's a little bit later than usual, but it just means that we're going to have a high density of really good games in the opening weeks. We'll be barely a week into the season when the Thanksgiving Week tourneys get underway. The second date to keep in mind is November 16th, just the third day of the regular season. That will be 17 weeks from Selection Sunday, and the date I'll be posting the next BP68.

Since my last bracket, there is only one team moving into the Field of 68, and that is Kansas State. Oregon drops out, for obvious reasons. The Ducks would struggle to field five scholarship guys if they had to play a game tomorrow.

If you want to know why I have a team where I do, you can click on my conference previews on the upper right of the page as well as the tags for each team on the left. The conference previews were done back in April, but I have been tracking any significant roster changes since then in Morning News posts, so you'll find them via the team tags.

For now, here's how I see things ending up on Selection Sunday 2015:


2. KANSAS (BIG 12)
2. North Carolina
2. Virginia

3. Texas

4. Oklahoma
4. Florida
4. Louisville
4. Utah

5. Michigan
5. Ohio State
5. Iowa

6. West Virginia
6. Iowa State
6. Dayton
6. SMU (AAC)

7. UConn
7. Colorado
7. Pittsburgh
7. Stanford

8. Xavier
8. Nebraska
8. Georgetown
8. Illinois

9. Cincinnati
9. Syracuse
9. Northern Iowa

10. BYU
10. Maryland
10. Oklahoma State
10. Colorado State

11. Richmond
11. Tennessee
11. Michigan State

12. Arkansas
12. Miami-Florida
12. Butler
12. Kansas State





Teams seriously considered that just missed the cut:
Memphis, Tulsa, Clemson, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Rhode Island, Creighton, Providence, Minnesota, Purdue, Baylor, Illinois State, UNLV, California, Oregon, Georgia, Saint Mary's

Other teams with a decent shot to get onto the bubble:
Houston, Temple, Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech, NC State, Virginia Tech, George Washington, UMass, Marquette, St. John's, Seton Hall, Indiana, Northwestern, UC-Irvine, Northeastern, Louisiana Tech, Green Bay, Iona, Western Michigan, Missouri State, Fresno State, New Mexico, Arizona State, Washington, Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas A&M, San Francisco

Other teams I'm keeping my eye on:
Duquesne, Penn State, Texas Tech, Delaware, Charlotte, Old Dominion, Columbia, Princeton, Yale, Northern Illinois, Evansville, Southern Illinois, Boise State, Wyoming, Oregon State, USC, Washington State, LSU, Vanderbilt, Portland, San Diego 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Morning News: Midnight Madness, Coaches Poll, Florida News, And Evan Smotrycz

"I got it... I got it... I got it... Crap."

New Bracket Projection This week I just want to give you all a heads up that I will have a new BP68 posted in the next day or two. The most recent one, which I posted on June 29th, is here.

Midnight Madness Goofiness This post being led by a Drake joke was such a sure thing that it was off the board in Vegas, but somehow Tubby Smith stole the spotlight with his motorcycle crash. The story from Kentucky, other than Drake doing Drake things, is the hype machine is revving up again. Rather than give you my 40-0 speech again, I'll just link to what I wrote about this a year ago.

Preseason Coaches Poll Revealed Overall, I do think this is a decent preseason Top 25 from the Coaches Poll, which isn't too surprising. Remember that the most accurate human poll of the season tends to be the preseason poll, since it's the only poll where pollsters are actually trying to rank the 25 best teams and aren't bound by stupid rules like head-to-head transitive properties.

The most underrated team is no surprise: Utah. The Utes were staggeringly underrated last season due to a crap strength of schedule (the 350th ranked non-conference SOS out of 351 by Pomeroy) and horrible luck in close games (1-8 in games decided by four points or less). So on Selection Sunday they were 80th in RPI and nowhere near the tourney bubble, but in the Top 40 of both Pomeroy and the Sagarin PREDICTOR. They now return their entire regular rotation and add a strong recruiting class. Utah deserves to be a Top 20 team, but it'll probably take at least until December before polling catches up with them.

The most significantly overrated team by my projections is Michigan State. I honestly don't really understand the logic of pollsters having them ahead of teams like Ohio State and Iowa, other than "I dunno, Tom Izzo will figure it out".

Speaking of clueless pollsters, I spoke on twitter about the fact that we need a sting operation to weed out voters who effectively announce that they don't pay attention to the sport. This year, we could have eliminated any voter who voted for Oregon, who are in 35th place in the Coaches Poll with 9 votes. Now, that wouldn't have been a terrible place for them back in April, when I had them as a 10 seed in my projected bracket after they lost three starters and two key bench pieces to graduation off a pretty good team. But since then? Three players have been booted out of the school for domestic assault, two more have been recently arrested and suspended, they lost their star recruit (JaQuan Lyle) and lost Michael Chandler for a while with a knee injury. At this point they're going to struggle to get five scholarship players on the court when the season starts. Anybody giving them Top 25 votes just isn't paying attention and should have their voting privileges revoked.

Florida Loses Brandone Francis For The Season The Chris Walker suspension got a lot of attention in the press this week, but I doubt it's going to really matter. Walker's "three game suspension" includes an exhibition and two relatively easy home regular season games. He'll even  have a full game back in the lineup before Florida gets their first big time test at the Battle 4 Atlantis.

The more important news for Florida is that Brandone Francis is going to miss the entire season after being declard academically ineligible. Francis was not going to start as a freshman, but he was expected to be a regular contributor off the bench.

Evan Smotrycz Out 4-6 Weeks A sprained ankle will probably sideline Smotrycz until after the CBE Classic during Thanksgiving week. Maryland looks to be a Tournament quality team this coming season, but they're far from a sure thing after so much roster turnover during the offseason. A concern for them is front court depth, and Smotrycz is a strong defensive rebounder who can guard opposing power forwards. After the CBE Classic, their next tough non-conference game will be December 3rd, at home against Virginia as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. If Smotrycz can't make it back for that, Maryland's final significant non-conference test will be December 21st at Oklahoma State.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Morning News: Kentucky's Pro Day, Jon Octeus, Martez Walker, And Craig Sword

Bill Self channeled Andrew Wiggins for his "Late Night At The Phog" attire.

Kentucky's "Pro Day" One of the more annoying parts of college basketball fan bases is everybody complaining both that the tv networks hate their team and that their rival coaches are all shameless promoters. Leaving the former issue aside, the reality of the latter is that every coach does a ton of self-promotion to try to attract recruits. It's part of the job. Did Calipari form his "pro day" event to shamelessly promote himself and to attract recruits? Of course. It's the same reason he hired an "analytics guy" to help promote his players to NBA scouts who supposedly don't realize that points-per-game is a bad way to compare players who don't play the same number of minutes per game.

Are pro scouts getting anything out of a pro day less than a week after practices begin? Of course not. Is Calipari's "analytics" guy going to improve the draft stock of any of his players? Of course not. But they impress high school recruits. And the reality is that every other fan base is simply jealous that their coach didn't think of it first. It's why Calipari is the best recruiter in the sport.

Jon Octeus Will Play For Purdue The Colorado State transfer had signed for UCLA, but failed to qualify for their graduate school. Because he's a graduate transfer he can switch schools and still remain immediately eligible, so he will play for Purdue this coming season.

Octeus is listed as a point guard, though he's not really a true point in any sense of the word. So he won't fill the gap left by Ronnie Johnson's transfer. But he'll have the chance to start, and should at least be a significant contributor off the bench. With AJ Hammons returning, Purdue does have a real chance to get back to the NCAA Tournament. They have to be considered at least a borderline bubble team at the moment.

Martez Walker Withdraws From Texas This was probably inevitable after all of the offcourt troubles for Martez Walker, who had played reasonably well off the bench as a freshman for Texas. But he has been arrested twice in approximately the last month, including an alleged assault of his girlfriend, so he's now officially withdrawn from the university.

I've talked about this before, but the issue for Texas is backcourt depth. Their front court has a ton of really good bigs, but they are going to need perimeter play, and particularly perimeter offense. This Martez Walker saga will not help.

Mississippi State's Craig Sword Out 4-6 Weeks Craig Sword was Mississippi State's leading scorer last season. In addition, Juco transfer Johnny Zuppardo will miss the entire season. But the reality for Mississippi State right now is that even if everything went right they still weren't going to end up anywhere near the bubble this season. Rick Ray still has a long way to go with this roster.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Morning News: Welcome To The 2014-15 Regular Season

Teams are practicing! For real!

Hey everybody, the college basketball season started!

No, really, it did.

Yeah... I know. Not really. But it's only a little over a month until regular season games tip off. And we're only about two or three weeks from a goofy preseason exhibition result that the media overreacts to. In the meanwhile, let's get to some news from the last few days:

Oregon's Abdul-Bassit And Cook Arrested In the latest in a string of bad pieces of news for Oregon this offseason, Jalil Abdul-Bassit and Elgin Cook have been arrested for shoplifting. Oregon is already going into this coming season without star recruit JaQuan Lyle, and projected starting center Michael Chandler is out with a knee injury, too. And don't forget the sexual assault case that cost Oregon three players back in May.

It remains to be seen if Abdul-Bassit, Cook and Chandler will be gone for a significant piece of the regular season, but while those three are out I believe Oregon is down to six active scholarship players (by my count, at least). In my most recent bracket projection I had Oregon as the last at-large team in the Field of 68, but that was before the JaQuan Lyle news broke. So even before the Chandler, Abdul-Bassit and Cook news, I was going to drop the Ducks out of my next bracket. It could be a long year in Eugene for Dana Altman.

Tristian Etienne Leaves Washington The 6'9" recruit has only said "personal reasons" are why he won't join Washington, but his departure leaves 6'7" Donaven Dorsey as the only high schooler in Lorenzo Romar's 2014 recruiting class (they do add some transfers). The Huskies were a better team last season than their 17-15 record would suggest, but their margin for error is small in a deep Pac-12. If Romar can't get this team back to the NCAA Tournament, and at this point it's not looking likely that he will, don't be stunned if Romar isn't the head coach in 2015-16.

Kedren Johnson Will Be Eligible For Memphis Immediately Johnson transferred to Memphis after being suspended at Vanderbilt for the 2013-14 season. Johnson was not the greatest shooter in the world at Vanderbilt, but he's an aggressive player who can create a lot of offense for himself and his teammates.

After losing four starters from a team that wasn't particularly good last season, Memphis was desperately in need of an influx of talent. That's particularly true in the backcourt, where every proven regular graduated. Point guard Dominic Magee is their top 2014 recruit, but a true freshman is always a risk. Kedren Johnson immediately becomes the best Memphis backcourt player, and puts them in a real position to move into my next bracket projection.

Brandon Miller Taking A Leave Of Absence This is a story we'll have to follow, because it's unclear precisely why Miller is taking time away from Butler or how long he'll be gone. Obviously we have to hope it's not a serious health problem for a guy who is only 35 years old. Butler is due for a bounce-back season, but they're likely going to be a bubble team at best, so any offseason turmoil is bad news.

Dominic Woodson Will Be Eligible For Tennessee The 6'10", well over 300 pound Woodson did not play much for Memphis as a freshman, but he clearly has a lot of raw talent if he can actually lose weight and get into shape. It would be a mistake to expect too much from his in his first year in Knoxville, but any help is welcome help for a team likely to end up on the tourney bubble.

Matt Thomas And Abdel Nader Suspended For Three Games Abdel Nader transferred to Iowa State from Northern Illinois, while Matt Thomas was the first man off the bench for the Cyclones as a freshman. That said, this three game suspension includes an exhibition game, so the only regular season games they'll miss are home contests against Oakland and Georgia State. Georgia State will be a very dangerous team this year, but the Cyclones will have a good chance to escape these suspensions without any impact on their at-large profile.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Morning News: Midnight Madness, Cam Biedscheid, Cam Wright, Charles Mitchell And More

Cameron Biedscheid will not play for Notre Dame or Missouri next season.

It's time to get caught up on the last two weeks of college basketball news! Unfortunately, it's that time of year where there aren't too many positive stories coming out. It's mostly suspensions, dismissals, arrests, et cetera. But let's get to it:

College Basketball Starts This Week! (kinda) The NCAA has, over the last few years, changed the way Midnight Madness works. And so teams can begin to practice as early as Friday (two days from now). Don't expect any Midnight Madness events this week, though. Most schools will have theirs sometime in mid-to-late October, with ESPN's Midnight Madness coverage on Friday, October 17th.

I always put out a bracket projection the week of Midnight Madness, so I'll be using that ESPN date. Look for a new bracket right around October 20th.

Cameron Biedscheid Has Left Missouri It's not clear exactly why Biedscheid has left the team, but he will not play for them this season after transferring from Notre Dame. There's been quite a bit of turnover with Missouri lately, with the dismissals of Zach Price and Torren Jones to go with the NBA defections of Jabari Brown and Jordan Clarkson. Even with quite a few additions (including Baylor transfer Deuce Bello), Kim Anderson is down to just eleven scholarship players. And with two of those players suspended after an arrest, Anderson really just has nine players to work with at the moment.

It's going to be an uphill battle for Missouri just to get to the NIT next season, honestly.

Pitt's Cam Wright Out Injured A broken foot will sideline Cam Wright until mid-December, most likely. That will have him out for their trip to the Maui Invitational, and also their road trip to Indiana as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Wright's not the greatest offensive player, but he's a strong defender and athlete and he started every single game for Pitt last season.

A full strength Pittsburgh has a chance to be a Top 25 team next season, but in a very deep ACC, Pitt could find themselves in some bubble trouble if they fail to collect a quality non-conference win or two. And if they collect those wins, they'll have done it without one of their starters.

Charles Mitchell Will Be Eligible For Georgia Tech The 6'8" rebounding monster transferred in from Maryland over the offseason. After losing three of the top four players off a team that went 16-17 last season, the Yellow Jackets were going to need a bunch of roster additions to have any chance to get to the postseason. Mitchell doesn't get them there by himself, but he's certainly a big help.

Oregon Removes JaQuan Lyle From Their Roster Oregon hasn't announced precisely what the academic issue is, but blue chip recruit JaQuan Lyle is not cleared academically to start the year at Oregon, which has put his entire freshman season into doubt. With the graduation of Johnathan Loyd, Lyle was expected to immediately step in as the new point guard. In my most recent bracket projection I had Oregon as the last at-large team in the field. Unless Lyle rejoins the team in the next couple of weeks, it's basically a certainty that the Ducks will drop out of my next bracket projection.

Jon Octeus Denied Admission At UCLA The Colorado State transfer was expected to step right in and start at point guard for the Bruins. While point guard was UCLA's biggest need this past offseason, I don't think this is going to be a significant blow for them. For one thing, they're stacked with talent at every other position. For another, I'm not sure it's a significant drop-off to Bryce Alford, who was really good as a freshman this past season. So even without Octeus, UCLA should still get back to the NCAA Tournament next season.