Monday, April 03, 2017

Title Game Picking The Lines

There is a significant segment both of the media and of ordinary sports fans who simply cannot accept the idea of a "mid-major" program being on par with a blue blood. After all, these mid-majors aren't stacked with one-and-done guys like Duke or Kentucky, or getting steady 4- and 5-star guys like North Carolina or Kansas. They play too many white guys, damnit!

And so the excuses come thick and fast. We hear that they didn't play anybody in the regular season and got an unjustified seed:
But it doesn't matter because Gonzaga always falters in the NCAA Tournament:
And if Gonzaga wins? Meh, who did they play, anyway?
Of course, the idea that Gonzaga's path to the Final Four was any easier than North Carolina's path to the Final Four is simply not borne out by the facts (Gonzaga's route to the Final 4 is on the left while North Carolina's is on the right, with both images from

No matter what happens tonight, there will be some who will find a negative angle for Gonzaga - there will still be whining about how easy of a path they had to get here. But if they defeat 1 seed North Carolina in a title game, it will be a fitting topper for an extraordinary nearly-two-decade run for Gonzaga hoops as one of the premier programs in the nation.

It's been a weird NCAA Tournament picking the spread, and easily my worst performance ever, but let's do this one more time:

Saturday ATS: 0-2-0
2017 Tournament ATS: 32-31-3 (51%)
2016 Tournament ATS: 36-30-1 (55%)
2010-15 ATS: 220-167-11 (57%)

Gonzaga (+1) over North Carolina: This is a "public" line, as they say. Most every computer rating, including Pomeroy, Sagarin, and BPI all have Gonzaga as a narrow favorite here. And Gonzaga has played better throughout the NCAA Tournament thus far.

As has been obvious for a long time, the way to beat North Carolina is to neutralize them on the glass, and if you can't do that then you need to shoot the lights out from deep (North Carolina was dead last in the ACC in defensive 3PA/FGA ratio, so if you get hot from behind the arc they won't do much to slow you down). Gonzaga certainly has the size to withstand North Carolina and they are a solid defensive rebounding team, though not a great one. The fact that North Carolina does not draw a lot of fouls should help Gonzaga's front line stay in tact more than it was during their foul-prone game against South Carolina.

Defensively, North Carolina certainly has the size to throw at Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins. As noted above, North Carolina is far more vulnerable to outside shooting than paint scoring, and Gonzaga is a solid shooting team but hardly great. It's trite to say this, but if Gonzaga shoots well then they likely win this game but if they go cold then they probably won't.

In the end, I think Gonzaga is just a good value here. They are likely the better team, have been playing better over the last few weeks, and match up reasonably well in terms of personnel. They are my pick to win.


Anonymous said...

HHAHAHAHA. I knew you'd call this a "public" line. As usual you don't know what the fuck you're talking about when it comes to gambling. If you could blindly bet differences between the Vegas line and BPI/KenPom/Sagarin then we'd all be fucking rich. You are such a fucking clown.

Anonymous said...

With you on Gonzaga. Thanks for the write-ups this year.

David Mann said...

What a thoughtful and well considered take. You should keep it up. You DEFINITELY do not sound dangerously insane.

liza said...

nice post

Zach said...

This is obvi way off-topic and I'm not sure how soon you'll see it, but I don't really do Twitter, and since I don't trust the average sports media, I don't trust whatever Google would give me, so you are my best hope.

Why is Nairo racing Italy again? Has he given up on winning the TdF or something? And if he's not going to challenge Sky, will anyone? I like cycling (for an American at least), but there's gotta be more doubt to the final outcome than 'maybe he'll crash.'

Jeff said...

While I generally like Chris Froome, I agree with you that it's way too boring when they just suck the life out of the Tour de France. That said, the young Frenchmen have shown some life, so it's possible that he gets challenged.

I don't know about Nairo for sure, but the 2017 TdF course does not really suit his skills. There's a lot of difficult descending, not many tough summit finishes, and a long individual time trial. Maybe he will try the Giro/Vuelta double instead.

Zach said...

Didn't realize that about this year's course, makes sense then. Thanks for the response!