Sunday, March 29, 2015

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

It's going to be pretty hard for today to live up to yesterday. Two great games that were really well played. The teams themselves simply aren't as good today.

Some quick thoughts on yesterday: Arizona should hold their heads up high. They played incredibly well, and would have beaten just about any other team other than Wisconsin shooting out of their minds in the second half. If a team is going to shoot 10-for-12 behind the arc in a half you just have to shake your head and move on. There's nothing you can do about that.

As for Kentucky's two-point escape against Notre Dame, the Irish will go back and wonder why they got away from their offense late and went with Jerian Grant Hero Ball. But this will whet our appetite for Kentucky's Final Four games, where we're not going to see a couple teams get steamrolled. The Wildcats will be tested seriously again.

One note on the 2015-16 previews: I will release the first one Monday evening and will try to post at least one conference every day, rolling them all out over the next two weeks. But they might be a little bit out of order, because I have to wait for teams to finish their seasons. So the first bunch of previews rolled out on Monday will likely be "One Bid Conferences, Part III". Part I is waiting for Louisiana-Monroe to finish, while Part II is waiting on Tennessee-Martin. But my goal is still to have every conference released and my full bracket projection posted by Friday, April 10th.

As always, feel free to shoot me a comment to this blog post, or tweet at me. I'll do my best to respond to everybody.

Yesterday ATS: 2-0-0
2015 Tournament ATS: 36-26-0 (58%)
2014 Tournament ATS: 40-23-4 (63%)
2013 Tournament ATS: 36-30-1 (55%)
2012 Tournament ATS: 30-35-2 (46%)
2011 Tournament ATS: 40-26-1 (61%)
2010 Tournament ATS: 35-25-3 (58%)

Michigan State (-2.5) over Louisville: Michigan State being a narrow favorite isn't a surprise here. Pomeroy has Michigan State the slightly better team while Sagarin gives the narrow edge to Louisville, and the Spartans in particular have been playing their best ball down the stretch. Michigan State defensively will pose a test for a Louisville offense that hasn't ever really been particularly good. The Spartans led the Big Ten in blocked shot percentage and were second in 2P% defense, which means that Louisville is going to have to continue to hit jumpers. Louisville's offense has been atypically sharp the last couple of games, out-shooting both Northern Iowa and North Carolina State, but there's no reason to think that hot shooting should continue here.

Offensively, Michigan State is going to try to get out in transition off of defensive rebounds. Louisville has a tendency to commit fouls (12th in the ACC in defensive FTRate), and the Spartans are going to aggressively attack the paint. If they are able to have an advantage in second chance and fast break points, Louisville will have to out-shoot them. And despite two straight games with hot shooting, Louisville has been a worse outside shooting team than Michigan State overall this season.

Gonzaga (+2.5) over Duke: Both of these teams are going to struggle to stop the other on offense. Gonzaga has three big guys who can all defend Jahlil Okafor in different ways, though I still expect to see a bunch of double-teams. But the Zags don't have the perimeter defenders that Utah has, and Justise Winslow and Quinn Cook will both have more room to operate. And the same time, this Duke defense isn't that good... or at least they weren't good all season long. They've held all three tourney opponents so far to under 0.90 PPP, though that has had more to do with awful outside shooting by San Diego State and Utah more than anything else. The Zags have a significantly more explosive offense than what Duke has seen so far, and they shoot the outside ball better (40.3% on threes).

If you're looking for an "x-factor" in this game, I think it's got to be Domantas Sabonis. Duke's perimeter defense is very strong, but they are not great on the glass (7th in the ACC in DR%) and get very small very quickly if Jahlil Okafor gets in foul trouble. Sabonis is a very aggressive offensive rebounder, and he could cause Duke match-up problems.

In the end, the reason why I like Gonzaga over Duke is because they have more options. There is no one person whose foul trouble would cripple Gonzaga the way that foul trouble for Jahlil Okafor would cripple Duke. If this game is up tempo or slow, decided by rebounding or outside shooting, Gonzaga will be comfortable. That is why this is the best Gonzaga team we've ever seen. They go ten deep, with multiple options at every position. And it's why I think they're the favorite here.


Anonymous said...

Duke fans would like you to keep picking against them. Everyone you say how crazy the line is and every time they cover. I believe they have covered 9 of their last 10. Maybe KenPom and Sagarin aren't the most accurate sites after all. And I am against it to, but someone who is so strongly against ESPN referencing something the selection committee doesn't use, maybe you should stop doing the same with kenPom and Sagarin since the committee uses those just as much as as the BPI which is 0.

Jeff said...

Yes, everybody knows that "Duke fan opinions on whether Duke is going to win the next game" are more accurate than ratings like KenPom.