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Sweet Sixteen Day 2

In mid-January, I ran a table with the average coach efficiency ratings over the last 5 years. Here is an excerpt from that table:

AAO = Average Adjusted Offense

AAD = Average Adjusted Defense

AEMR = Average Efficiency Margin Rank (Offense minus Defense)

AEMR

Coach

Teams

AAO

Rank

AAD

Rank

1st

Bill Self

Kansas

119.2

2nd

86.1

1st

2nd

John Calipari

Kentucky, Memphis

117.3

3rd

86.1

2nd

4th

Thad Matta

Ohio St.

116.7

5th

88.1

5th

6th

Roy Williams

North Carolina

116.5

6th

89.5

8th

7th

Jim Boeheim

Syracuse

116.5

7th

90.6

15th

11th

Rick Pitino

Louisville

111.2

31st

87.8

4th

18th

Billy Donovan

Florida

116.9

4th

95.6

56th

20th

Scott Drew

Baylor

115.3

12th

94.7

49th

Every team in the Elite Eight has a veteran coach that knows how to win. Every coach is in the Top 20 in efficiency margin over the last 5 years, and that possession by possession dominance is paying off. Eventually if you win more trips down the floor than you lose, you will find your team making a deep run in the tournament.

Keep in mind that if this table went back 7 years (and included the two Florida championship seasons), Billy Donovan would look even better. Scott Drew seems like the outlier on this list, but while I have often questioned Baylor’s defense, there is no question that Scott Drew’s teams have become much more consistent over the last 5 seasons.

Bill Self hasn't looked like a great coach the last two games. But keep in mind that his success is predicated on defense. And with the season on the line, his team got stops against both Purdue and NC State.

The Moment

Point guard injuries can clearly be catastrophic when you don’t have a viable backup. Minnesota went from beating multiple Top 25 teams to losing 10 of their last 11 last season when they lost both their point guards. So I’m not confident that North Carolina will turn it around. As John Gasaway noted on Twitter, North Carolina turned the ball over on 30% of their possessions in regulation against Ohio Friday. But how fast Kendall Marshall heals and how UNC responds will always be speculation. There will never be a large enough sample of games to know the answer, before UNC’s season is over. The only thing we can do is tune in and see what happens next.

And sometimes, that is what it is all about. As much as I love picking apart games, the joy of March basketball is getting wrapped up in the moment. There was a moment on Friday when Nick Kellogg made a three pointer to give Ohio its first lead of the game 47-46. The stadium erupted in applause. And collectively across America, everyone had the same thought. Ohio might be able to win this game. At that point it wasn’t about play-calling or matchups. It was about the wild ride. It was about DJ Cooper’s bucket and one to give Ohio a precarious two point lead. It was about Reggie Bullock’s heart as he knocked down a three. And it was about the missed opportunity when Walter Offutt missed a FT that would have given Ohio the lead in the final 30 seconds. We argue, we analyze, and we speculate all year. But in the end we watch for one reason. We live for the moment that a game captures our imagination and draws us in. We live for the last 8 minutes of Ohio vs North Carolina.

Bad and Good

Twitter was abuzz with jokes about North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes draft stock dropping on Friday thanks to his hideous 3 of 16 performance. But he wasn’t the only star player with a horrible shooting day. Ohio’s DJ Cooper had his 3 of 20 stat line. Scott Wood and Lorenzo Brown were a combined 5 of 22 for NC State. And Kansas’ Tyshawn Taylor followed up a 4 of 11 performance against Purdue with a 2 of 14 performance that included 5 turnovers against NC State. Just when we thought Tyshawn Taylor had turned a corner this season and become a consistent star, the inconsistent Tyshawn Taylor is back. At least things were better in Atlanta. Baylor’s Quincy Acy was an individual highlight reel against Xavier, scoring 20 points on some of the most impressive dunks of the season. And Kentucky and Indiana engaged in a beautiful game of transition basketball.

The most impressive thing for many people was Kentucky’s balanced scoring in the game, but I find it equally impressive how so many Kentucky players are capable of attacking the rim off the bounce. When Victor Oladipo fouled out and Matt Roth came in at the end of the game, there simply wasn’t anyone for Roth to guard. Every player on Kentucky was capable of beating him off the dribble.

Expected Wins in NCAA Tournament

Own = Change in Expected Wins based on each team’s own game.

Other = Change in Expected Wins based on other games in the bracket

Marg = Change based on the change in the Pomeroy Rankings since last Sunday.

Team

 Seed

Start

Own

Other

Marg

EndFri

Kentucky

1

3.90

0.80

-0.09

0.00

4.62

Ohio St.

2

4.30

 

-0.04

0.01

4.27

Kansas

2

3.56

0.42

-0.10

-0.01

3.87

Florida

7

3.87

 

-0.04

-0.03

3.80

UNC

1

3.57

0.32

-0.11

-0.02

3.75

Louisville

4

3.62

 

-0.03

0.06

3.65

Syracuse

1

3.64

 

-0.02

0.02

3.64

Baylor

3

3.08

0.44

-0.10

-0.02

3.41

Ohio

13

2.21

-0.21

   

2.00

NC State

11

2.29

-0.29

   

2.00

Xavier

10

2.35

-0.35

   

2.00

Indiana

4

2.61

-0.61

   

2.00

North Carolina’s win was the most expected, so it did little to increase the Tar Heels “Own” expectations. Since the favored teams all won on Friday, the effect of “Other” games is negative across the board. The “Marg” is the only column including Thursday’s games. Louisville’s win over Michigan St. was the most impressive of the round.

NCAA Tournament Day 4

If you are returning to work on Monday and missed what was written over the weekend, I want to direct your attention to two things I wrote:

First, here was my running diary of Friday’s historic games. That day was so fun, you have to read about it again.

Second, here was my breakdown of the Syracuse lineup in the five games without Fab Melo this season.

This column for Sunday's games can’t quite top the juicy goodness of those two columns, but here are 1,000 words anyway.

Surprise

Twelve of the 16 teams in the Sweet Sixteen were in the preseason AP Top 25, and Michigan St. was among the first teams in the “others receiving votes” category. But Indiana, Ohio, and NC State have all exceeded expectations this season by making it this far.

Fourteen months ago I attended the Charleston Classic and saw NC State in person. The Wolfpack seemed like they had some nice pieces. Scott Wood was one of the best pure shooters in the country. And NC State had plenty of athleticism. But the fundamentals were all wrong for the team. No one boxed out. No one made a priority of getting back in transition. And with a team of freshmen on the floor, everyone wanted to take the first available shot instead of working for a good shot. NC State advanced to the championship game of the Charleston Classic, but was blown out by Georgetown.

Now, flash forward to December of 2011. NC State hosted Syracuse, another tall Big East team that also plays a lot of zone defense. The Wolfpack had an eFG% of 64% in that game, but because their fundamentals were so poor, particularly their turnover rate, they still lost.

If you had told me in December that NC State would have to play Georgetown on one day’s preparation, with no time to prepare for the back-cuts of Georgetown’s offense, and the length of Georgetown’s zone defense, I would have said the Wolfpack had no chance. But a funny thing happened over the course of the season. NC State rediscovered the importance of fundamentals. Against the zone defense on Sunday, NC State took care of the ball. And the Wolfpack rebounded like champions. Richard Howell and CJ Leslie were unstoppable on the offensive glass.

But more than fundamentals, NC State discovered the importance of team basketball. They played a lot of zone, which shut down Georgetown’s back-cuts. But the Hoyas have run great offense against the zone this year. It isn’t Princeton stuff, but it is based on great passing out of the high post. And NC State stopped all of it. They moved their feet defensively and got Henry Sims to commit multiple offensive fouls. And with Sims out of the game, they severely limited Georgetown’s offensive sets against the zone.

And on the other end of the court, NC State was patient. They rarely settled for threes against the zone, and when they took threes, it was the right players taking those shots. Scott Wood, in particular, lived up to his billing as an elite three point shooter. But more importantly, NC State didn’t panic when forced to play half-court basketball. A year ago, NC State could only win when they were forcing turnovers and moving up and down the court. But Georgetown only turned the ball over twice in the second half, and NC State still opened up a lead. They executed in the half-court even better than the Hoyas. NC State might not be a truly elite team this year. But there can be no mistake that Mark Gottfried has changed the team’s culture. NC State basketball is back.

Other Notes

- Cincinnati vs Florida St. was a phenomenal basketball game with more lead changes than just about any game this season. But as I predicted last Monday, Cincinnati was able to win it by forcing key turnovers near the end of the game.

- I was shocked that Bill Self tried to use a triangle and two with the season on the line, but either it disrupted Purdue, or the Boilermakers just got tired. Bill Self has long been an advocate that when the season is on the line you have to play man-to-man, but his team came back from double digits in part because of the confusion his novel defense caused.

- It gets a little old praising Michigan St.’s Draymond Green, but it is impossible not to love what he does on the basketball court. The final 3 minutes against St. Louis were a classic highlight reel. First Green hit a tough leaning jump shot in the lane. Then he blocked a shot on the other end. Then he had a great drive and assist to Keith Appling for three. And then he followed it up with a hard-fought defensive rebound. He is the pure definition of a complete (and elite) basketball player.

- John Henson announced he was back for North Carolina by hitting a long jumper 50 seconds into Sunday’s game against Creighton. Then he got called for a technical after a Creighton player took a cheap shot at his wrist. But it wasn’t the only contact he got in the game. With 3 minutes left in the first half, Creighton again slapped for the ball and pounded his injured wrist. Henson did not look happy as he headed to the sideline. He can obviously still play basketball at a high level, but I do believe his wrist will bother him the rest of the tournament. Meanwhile Kendall Marshall apparently fractured a bone in his wrist late in the game as well. Obviously if Marshall is out, that is devastating to North Carolina’s odds of winning it all. But he was back on the floor late in the game, and I suspect he may be able to play through this injury.

- USF seemed to be in control against Ohio, but two dumb fouls swung the rare 12/13 matchup. Up 5 with 15:52 to go, a USF player held the jersey of an Ohio player, leading to a flagrant foul. Ohio made both free throws and swished a three to tie the game. Then minutes later, USF was up 5 again when USF got a technical for hanging on the rim. Again Ohio hit both free throws and sunk a three. The second time was finally enough. Ohio had momentum and put the game away.

- When Lehigh went up 15 points, they looked like they might become the first 15 seed to advance to the Sweet Sixteen, but Xavier eventually gutted it out. After watching center Kenny Frease score a career high 25 points for Xavier, I am very curious to see how his power matches up with Baylor’s interior talent in the next round.

Expected NCAA Tournament Wins (Excluding Opening Round)

Own: If you lose in the round of 32, your expected wins go to one. If you win, your expected wins go up.

Other: Other team’s outcomes can also impact your expected wins.

Marg: The margin of victory for all tournament teams can impact your probability. This essentially reflects the daily change in the Pomeroy Rankings.

Team

Seed

StartSun

Own

Other

Marg

EndSun

NC State

11

1.38

0.97

-0.09

0.02

2.29

Kansas

2

2.77

0.64

0.20

-0.05

3.56

Michigan St.

1

2.97

0.82

0.00

-0.03

3.75

Cincinnati

6

1.58

0.67

0.00

0.01

2.26

Ohio

13

1.53

0.73

-0.07

0.01

2.21

N.Carolina

1

2.96

0.59

0.01

0.01

3.57

Xavier

10

1.74

0.58

0.00

0.02

2.35

Florida

7

2.66

0.13

-0.04

0.08

2.83

Kentucky

1

3.82

0.00

-0.03

0.03

3.81

Ohio St.

2

3.85

0.00

0.00

-0.01

3.84

Wisconsin

4

2.95

0.00

-0.02

0.01

2.94

Indiana

4

2.60

0.00

-0.01

-0.01

2.58

Syracuse

1

2.86

0.00

-0.01

0.00

2.84

Baylor

3

3.13

0.00

-0.04

-0.03

3.05

Norfolk St.

15

1.08

-0.08

0.00

0.00

1.00

Louisville

4

2.51

0.00

-0.10

0.00

2.41

Marquette

3

2.86

0.00

-0.09

-0.05

2.72

Creighton

8

1.41

-0.41

0.00

0.00

1.00

Purdue

10

1.44

-0.44

0.00

0.00

1.00

Lehigh

15

1.55

-0.55

0.00

0.00

1.00

St. Louis

9

1.58

-0.58

0.00

0.00

1.00

Florida St.

3

1.70

0.00

-0.70

0.00

1.00

USF

12

1.78

-0.78

0.00

0.00

1.00

Georgetown

3

2.30

-1.30

0.00

0.00

1.00

Though Kentucky has a higher probability of winning it all, Ohio St. has a higher probability of winning in the next round, so OSU’s expected wins are trivially higher at this point.

- Florida’s “Own” win over Norfolk St. was not a surprise, so it did little to improve their expectations, but Michigan St.’s “Own” win over St. Louis was critical to their tournament odds.

- Georgetown’s loss was a huge gift to Kansas. The Jayhawks saw their odds increase significantly because of that “Other” game.

- Florida’s impressive margin of victory in the Round of 32 (see Marg) has further enhanced their expectation of advancing.

2012 MAC Power Rankings

One game separated Akron and Buffalo in the standings and the statistical rankings reflected the closeness between the teams.

In order to determine our team rankings, we calculate the difference between a team's own FIC per game and their opponents' FIC for the entire conference season.

The FIC is a single statistical measurement that encompasses things such as scoring efficiency, rebounding, blocked shots, etc. Its purpose is to combine the box score into one statistic, both on a team level and for players.

1. Akron: 13.14  
2. Buffalo: 12.34  
3. Kent State: 8.89  
4. Ohio: 8.32  
5. Bowling Green: 7.37  
6. Western Michigan: 2.13  
7. Ball State: -2.00  
8. Toledo: -4.66  
9. Eastern Michigan: -5.34  
10. Miami (OH): -6.30  
11. Central Michigan: -11.28  
12. Northern Illinois: -22.60

Best Individual Games Of 10-11 NCAA Season

Jared Sullinger, Kemba Walker and Jimmer Fredette have each had some of the best single games in the country this seaosn.

 

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