Saturday, March 17, 2012

Day 5 Open Thread + Picking The Lines

What else is there to say about what happened to Friday? Crazy day. Three very narrow non-covers for me, as well as that blown foul call at the end of the Alabama/Creighton game, which caused me to finish the day a brutal 7-9 against the spread.

Rather than talk about the upsets, I wanted to say a quick word about South Florida. One of the things I always find amusing is how we tend to be so race-oriented when we compare basketball players. When we talk about some up-and-coming white kid, we never compare them to a black player. White guy that is tall and can shoot? The next Dirk Nowitzki or Larry Bird. A tall black kid that can shoot? The next Kevin Durant. I don't think it's racism... it's just intellectual laziness.

Anyway, we do the same thing with teams. We compare mid-majors to other mid-majors. We never compare major conference teams to mid-majors. So when VCU went on their run last year, they were immediately compared to George Mason. They were from the same conference, after all. But there were many things different. Besides the fact that VCU's inhuman three-point shooting was different from how George Mason won, there was the reality that VCU came in as the worst at-large team. George Mason was a controversial at-large team in 2006, but the computers recognized that they were a quality team. VCU in 2011, on the other hand, was the worst at-large team in the field.

And that brings me to South Florida. I'm not saying that they're going to go to the Final Four, but goodness have their first two games in the NCAA Tournament been similar to VCU's last season. They're shooting out of their minds, they're forcing a lot of turnovers, and every time they take a big shot it goes in. And on top of that, while the computers don't rate USF as the single worst team in the field, they do agree that USF is one of the worst teams in the field and are worse than many teams stuck in the NIT.

If USF was a mid-major, every media analyst would be comparing them to VCU. But they're not... so they're not. Just a random observation.

Anyway, here are my picks for Saturday's games. Hopefully they go better than Friday:

Friday ATS: 7-9-0
Total through Friday ATS: 16-18-2
2011 Tournament ATS: 40-26-1
2010 Tournament ATS: 35-25-3

Kansas State (+5) over Syracuse: I have to say, I don't understand this line. Pomeroy projects a 4 point win for Syracuse, and Sagarin projects a 4.5 point win. Fab Melo has to be worth at least a few points, and Syracuse played like crap against UNC-Asheville. So they're a 5 point favorite in Vegas? I don't get it. Both of these teams are good offensive rebounding teams and poor defensive rebounding teams, but the difference is Kansas State's poor ball handling. If Syracuse can turn them over 20+ times then they'll probably win. If Kansas State takes care of the ball then they'll probably win.

Ohio State (-7.5) over Gonzaga: Ohio State was underwhelming in their opening game while Gonzaga was dominant, but I wouldn't put too much stock into one game. Gonzaga had something to prove, while Ohio State was just taking care of business. The Buckeyes will present a defensive test like nothing Gonzaga has seen before, and they're very good at defending without fouling (Gonzaga's offense depends in a big way on getting to the line). I think Ohio State will win this game fairly easily.

Marquette (-5) over Murray State: Murray State managed to get past a soft Colorado State team, but Marquette is going to really challenge them with their athleticism. Marquette will fly up and down the floor and will crash the boards against a Murray State team that is bad at defensive rebounding (10th in the Ohio Valley in defensive rebounding percentage). The only concern for Marquette is if the Missouri loss causes them to look too far ahead and they don't focus on the task at hand.

Wisconsin (PK) over Vanderbilt: This is a clash of styles. Vanderbilt is an athletic team that is going to be very aggressive with their backcourt on both sides of the ball. Vanderbilt also depends heavily on three-point shooting - they've hit 39.1% of their threes this season. Wisconsin is going to try to take the air out of the ball, and are probably the best three-point defensive team in the nation. They allowed only 3.5 made threes against this season, which is tied with Savannah State for the national lead (Wisconsin's came against a slightly tougher strength of schedule). In general, when there's a clash of styles, Wisconsin is the team that enforces their style. But if Wisconsin goes cold and Vanderbilt can hit a few threes in a row (a la Iowa a few weeks ago), then the Badgers will go down.

VCU (+6) over Indiana: Indiana should win this game, but with Verdell Jones hurt there is just is a gigantic lack of point guard depth for Indiana. VCU is going to wear Jordan Hulls out, and who is going to handle the VCU press whenever Hulls goes to the bench? It's too worrying for me to be willing to give six points.

Iowa State (+11.5) over Kentucky: Kentucky should win fairly easily, but 11.5 is an awfully large line. Iowa State is athletic enough to hang on the floor with Kentucky, and Royce White will be a unique problem for whoever guards him. Iowa State also led the Big 12 in defensive rebounding percentage and defensive FTA/FGA ratio, which means that they're going to make Kentucky work for their baskets. They won't give up easy put backs and won't give up a lot of free throws. I don't think Iowa State has a real chance of winning this game, but it could be close.

Baylor (-7.5) over Colorado: Don't be fooled by that Colorado win over UNLV. Colorado shot the lights out beyond the arc while UNLV was ice cold. If the shooting was anywhere near even it would have been a blowout for the Rebels. Colorado's offense, in general, is not good. Baylor's length and athleticism on defense will make it really difficult for them to score.

Louisvile (-1.5) over New Mexico: I talked about why I was picking Louisville here. New Mexico's biggest problem is ball handling and turning the ball over, and Louisville's press has been tremendous the past few weeks. New Mexico was underwhelming against Long Beach State, and the Mountain West as a whole has been iffy in the Tournament. It's a limited sample size, but I believe that Louisville is the favorite, and I'm not going to worry about 1.5 points.


Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who really wants to see Syracuse lose? Even ignoring how poorly Syracuse handled the Robert Fine fiasco, when you combine the reported drug violations and Fab Melo academic violations with the UNC Asheville game, aside from Kentucky, Syracuse should be the easiest team to root against in this entire tournament.

Jeff said...

I think plenty of people would argue for Kentucky, but I'm sure you're not the only person who doesn't like what is going on with that program.

Anonymous said...

Definitely not gonna disagree with people being more anti-Kentucky. IMO, I just feel like the teams people should hate to see advance are:

1) Kentucky
1a) Syracuse

and then a definitive gap to everyone else now that Duke is eliminated (frankly, I don't understand the hatred anymore. 10 years ago it made sense, but now it's clear that, unlike some of the elite, Coach K is running a clean program and maximizes his talent. People who hate them now just hate winners, nothing more and nothing less).

Jeff said...

I agree on Duke. I don't get the hate anymore.

Anonymous said...

This is not an excuse for losing this early, but when is the last time a team seeded 5th or lower got to play the first two games in their home state, like Murray State this year?

Both Thursday and today, the crowd has been decidedly pro-Murray State from the opening tip-off.

Going 30-1 in the OVC to earn a 6 seed AND getting the first two games in your home state? Fate is clearly on the Racers' side this year.

Jeff said...

It makes you wonder if some of the people on the Selection Committee didn't know where Murray State is from.

Anonymous said...

True or false: Lehigh over Xavier is a more likely upset than Norfolk State over Florida. Hubert Davis and Jimmy Dykes both said Norfolk State had a better chance at getting to the Sweet 16 last night, and I thought that was absolutely ridiculous.

Jeff said...

No, you're right. If that's what they said at halftime then they're idiots.

Pomeroy ratings give Lehigh a 44% chance, Norfolk State a 7% chance. In Vegas, Lehigh is a 3.5 point dog, Norfolk State is a 14.5 point dog.

Norfolk State could not miss a shot in that game - they're not getting a performance like that again.

Anonymous said...

Baylor losing to Colorado would be absolutely hilarious. That would mean one of Colorado, Xavier, and Lehigh will be in the Elite 8. Talk about busted brackets!

Anonymous said...

Guess I jinxed that upset...

Jeff said...

Brady Heslip, oh my.

Anonymous said...

Gotta give Tad Boyle credit. He definitely got as much as he could out this Colorado squad.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, after 14 of 16 higher seeded teams win on Thursday all 8 win on Saturday? If it weren't for all the carnage after 6pm last night, this would be in the running for the worst NCAA tournament of all time.

Before, it's become rather obvious over the last decade that the quality of seeds left after the first week means basically nothing about how good the remaining games will be.

If you're stupid enough to think I'm wrong, just look at the '07 and '09 tournaments. Nearly all the top seeds advanced during the first week of those tournaments, and the sweet 16 onward in those tournaments were among the most boring we've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

No upsets, yes, but I'd hardly call today's games boring. If you weren't in to the Murray State-Marquette game you simply don't like college basketball. That game was incredible.

Louisville-New Mexico, VCU-Indiana, Vanderbilt-Wisconsin were great games and Gonzaga-Ohio State and Baylor-Colorado were interesting games for the most part. The only real dogs were Kentucky-Iowa State and SYracuse-Kansas State. And even KState and Iowa State hung around for at least decent a part of the game.

I like seeing upsets too but the quality of games is what really matters, and today's games I thought were very entertaining.

Anonymous said...

some good games, happy Cincinnatti could pull it out as it makes things easier for OSU imo and hurts people in my pool...

I really hope Louisville can beat Mich. State, I'm getting a lot of **** for that pick right now so hopefully they come through

Jeff said...

Louisville has looked awfully good in their two games, but you never know. Plus, the way the Big Ten has performed so far, you can't feel too good picking against any Big Ten team. But right now, I still think Louisville is the favorite for that game.

It's always bizarre to me how influenced people are by seed number and the name on the uniform. To me, picking San Diego State to the Sweet 16 or Duke to the Final Four would have been much more controversial than taking Louisville over Michigan State.

Anonymous said...

The way the Big 10's performed? They've actually underperformed. Based on seeding, they should have had 5 teams in the Sweet 16.

Jeff said...

The way Tournament performance is typically measured is PASE (Performance Against Seed Expectation). It's defined here.

The Big Ten has a 1 seed, 2 seed, three 4 seeds and a 10 seed. That means that they should end the Tournament with 10.98 wins. They already have 9. So they need two more wins to hit expectation. I expect they'll get it.

You can see it in the computer ratings, where the Big Ten has expanded their lead over the Big 12 in both Sagarin and Pomeroy.

Anonymous said...

So, hitting the expectation is a great performance for a conference in the tournament?

Just as a comparison, I calculated the Big East's performance. The Big East has a 1 seed, 2 3 seeds, a 4 seed, a 6 seed, a 7 seed, 2 10 seeds, and a 12 seed. Based on PASE, the conference should win 12.29 games this tournament. They've already won 12.

Jeff said...

Yeah, the Big East has had a pretty good Tournament as well. Certainly a lot better than the last couple of years. The conference wasn't getting the same level of hype this year, so the teams were seeded fairly overall.