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The Player of the Year debate: yet another view point

Posted by sawdog on March 4, 2012

By now you know all about the raging debate for Player of the Year between Kansas’ Thomas Robinson and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis.  To many the heated battle for the coveted award was Robinson’s to lose for at least the first two months of the season with “T Rob” churning out double-doubles and leading the Jayhawks slow climb from the middle of the Top 25 national rankings to a position firmly within in the Top 10.  Davis, however, spent the same first couple of months a little overshadowed by fellow teammate and freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who had huge performances against top rivals North Carolina and Louisville.  Since conference play started in early January, however, Davis’ enormous potential has been harnessed slowly but surely, and the overwhelming favorite for National Defensive Player of the Year started becoming more assertive on offense, shifting from a catch-and-dunk alley-oop specialist to a legitimate threat from just about anywhere on the court.

In case you aren’t up to speed here are the key stats for each player (the basics, if you will):

Robinson: 18 ppg, 11.9 rpg, 1.1 bpg

Davis: 14.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 4.7 bpg

The other categories are important, obviously, but at the end of the day no sane voter is going to base their final vote on turnovers per game.  Or a difference in 0.4 steals per game.  Or a difference in 0.9 assists per game.  These just aren’t significant enough to be sway factors one way or the other.

What does matter is points, rebounds, blocks, winning, leadership and sportsmanship.  If Robinson had these great numbers but had murdered someone he wouldn’t be in contention.  Ditto Davis.

To help me decide who my player of the year is (and with only the above numbers plus the eye test, I am having a very hard time deciding) I wanted to dig deeper.  What I did may or may not help you.  And it is flawed.  But it is yet another way to look at the numbers.  I wanted to know the best defensive teams each player competed against this year and how they fared in those games.  And I wanted to let the research do the talking.  I used the interwebs to locate a team defensive field goal percentage ranking and from there I made a list of the ten toughest defensive teams each player played.  Then I noted each player’s performances in the aforementioned categories (points, rebounds and blocks) and made comments about each performance based on the AP recaps written for those games on ESPN.com.  Here is what I found, starting with Thomas Robinson:

(Opponent) (Opp FG% National Rank) / (Points), (Rebounds), (Blocks), (FG %), (Result), (Comments)

Kentucky (1) / 11, 12, 1, 42%, Loss, Fouled out with 3:31 remaining
Georgetown (11) / 20, 12, 2, 50%, Win, “Hoyas couldn’t keep Robinson from getting to the rim”
South Florida (24) / 14, 8, 2, 67%, Win, “opened up the 2nd half with a 7-0 run keyed by Robinson”
Kansas State (33) / 15, 14, 1, 64%, Win, “Robinson fueled 18-4 run with a putback and 2 mid-range jumpers”
Kansas State (33) / 10, 9, 43%, Win, “…an off game for Thomas Robinson”
Ohio State (47) / 21, 7, 78%, Win, Ohio State forward Jared Sullinger did not play
Texas A&M (48) / 18, 10, 40%, Win, A&M w/out starting forward (injury); “T Rob bailed out Jayhawks…”
Texas A&M (48) / 10, 13, 30%, Win
Texas (60) / 17, 9, 50%, Win, Key free throw with 8 seconds left to help secure win
Texas (60) / 25, 14, 53%, Win, UT post players injured during game, T Rob soared post-injuries

And now Davis:

Louisville (5) / 18, 10, 6, 75%, Win, All 18 points in the 2nd Half
Kansas (6) / 14, 6, 7, 75%, Win
North Carolina (12) / 7, 9, 2, 50%, Win, Game-clinching block on John Hensen
Alabama (13) / 11, 9, 4, Win, 20%, Win, Struggled against physical play; key block and 2 FT’s 4 secs left
Old Dominion (31) / 11, 9, 3, 67%, Win
Mississippi (44) / 10, 6, 4, 80%, Win, Foul trouble in first half
Auburn (54) / 14, 6, 4, 67%, Win
LSU (82) / 16, 10, 3, 100%, Win, Tackled from behind on breakaway dunk attempt
Tennessee (85) / 18, 8, 4, 70%, Win, UT big man Jarnell Stokes first game as a Vol
Tennessee (85) / 18, 8, 7, 86%, Win, UT head coach: “A guy like Davis comes around once in a lifetime”

Summary

Robinson averaged 16.1 pts, 10.8 rebounds, and shot on average 51.7% against the top 10 defensive teams he faced. This is ever so slightly under the season averages of 18, 11.9 and 53%, respectively.

Davis averaged 13.7 pts, 8.1 rebounds, 4.4 blocks, and shot 69.0% against the top 10 defensive teams he faced. Each average is slightly under the season averages except for field goal percentage, which is up from the 66%. His season averages in pts, rebs and blks are 14.1, 9.8, and 4.7 respectively.

Against these top defenses Robinson led the Jayhawks to a 9-1 record, while Davis helped lead Kentucky to a 10-0 record. It’s worth noting that Kansas’ loss here was against Kentucky on a neutral court.

In looking at Thomas Robinson’s results against the top 10 defensive opponents it was worth noting he faced three teams with significant injuries in the front court. Personally I can’t envision Robinson’s production dipping much at all–it may have even elevated–but I note it because you should not assume he scored 21 on Jared Sullinger, when fairness dictates that Sullinger wasn’t on the court! I did not notice any key front court absences by opponents playing Davis, but it was interesting to note that UT freshman (and star recruit) Jarnell Stokes joined Tennessee in time to compete against the Wildcats twice.

I was hoping that one of these guys would average better numbers against top defenses, thinking that could be the tie-breaker and lead me to an easier decision. However, this was not the case. In the end the only thing that really stands out from this exercise is the head-to-head matchup. You look at Robinson with 42% shooting, 11 points, and fouling out of the game and you see what kind of damage the Kentucky frontline can bring to the table. And obviously Davis anchors that line, so yeah, it’s hard to ignore that IN THIS EXERCISE. One head-to-head game is not everything, but it’s the one thing that particularly stood out to me here tonight.

Do you vote for the guy with better numbers, elevating his team from pre-season #13 to probably #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. One Thomas Robinson.

Or do you vote for the best player on the best team, whose natural shot-blocking terror and freakish offensive game helped propel Kentucky to a perfect 16-0 record in conference play? Mr. Anthony Davis.

One thing is certain. They are both deserving.

Posted in Kansas Jayhawks, Kentucky Wildcats, Players | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Re-calculating Street and Smith’s Top Programs

Posted by sawdog on February 25, 2010

In 2005, Street and Smith’s produced a special magazine publication entitled “Greatest College Basketball Programs of All Time.” The 160 page tribute was a comprehensive evaluation of the games best programs, with at least one full page dedicated to the history of each team. To eliminate bias as much as possible a formula was created to mathematically calculate the winner and rank the teams 1-100. The evaluators felt some categories carried more importance (or weight) than others, and so some categorical values were multiplied by a specific factor to account for this rational. The following 14 categories were used in their analysis (with multiplication factor for that category in parentheses): NCAA Tournament Appearances (x10), NCAA Tournament Wins (x4), NCAA Final Fours (x14), NCAA Tournament Finals (x16), NCAA Championships (x25), NIT Tournament Championships (x10), Conference Championships (x12), Conference Tournament Championships (x6), Independent Champs (x6), All-Time Win-Loss Percentage (x40), Graduation Rate (x40), NCAA Infractions (x3), 1st round draft picks (x1), Mascot Ferocity (x1).

Some key notes to the formula: The last two categories, draft picks and mascot ferocity, are of little importance when trying to establish college’s best programs and thus received a multiplication factor of one to show for it. For mascot ferocity the team consulted with zoologists and other experts to grade a program on a scale of minus-5 to plus-5 (for example, Wildcats and Bruins received plus 5, while Hoosiers, Blue Devils and Tar Heels received 1, 2 and -3, respectively). Win-Loss and graduation rates were expressed as a percentage and were thus multiplied by 40 to amass points. Graduation rates were determined during a four year consecutive span in the mid-90’s, and thus do not represent today’s graduation rates for each program. Finally, independent champs apply to very few programs since almost all are associated with a conference. Thus, a value of zero was the norm and was in fact the case for all programs ranked in the Top 10.

Under all of these circumstances here were the results of the Top 6 programs (total points in parentheses):

1. Kentucky (2024.54)
2. UCLA (1711.20)
3. North Carolina (1601.90)
4. Kansas (1528.60)
5. Duke (1427.90)
6. Indiana (1124.50)

I stopped here because most college basketball fans recognize a “Big 6″ in college basketball, which this formula verifies.

Duke, Kentucky and Indiana have done little to enhance their stature in these rankings in the past five years. However North Carolina, Kansas and UCLA have excelled. The purpose of this post is to update these rankings to assess today’s top 6, although I chose to leave Duke and Indiana out of this equation for their lack of tournament prowess in this timeframe. How much have UNC, UCLA and KU caught up to Kentucky? Thus, we take a look at the Top 4 and update their rankings.

Today’s Top 4 would look like this: *sidenote: I assigned a graduation rate of 0.5 for each program simply because the era of 1 and done (or 2 and done) players has taken it’s toll on each program (Xavier Henry, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Ray Felton, Sean May, Kevin Love………). Let’s just draw equal straws here and call it even.

1. Kentucky 2,190.40
2. UCLA 1,989.88
3. North Carolina 1,929.44
4. Kansas 1,755.84

The order of the Top 4 programs did not change. However UCLA, UNC and KU all gained at least 220 points in the past five years, while Kentucky only gained just more than 160. In 2005, UCLA was ranked behind Kentucky by more than 300 points, but now sits a mere 200 points behind the Wildcats. North Carolina gained about 20 points on UCLA thanks to two NCAA championships. Kansas, while on an impressive run in recent years, still sits in a distance fourth place due mostly to a lower total of NCAA championships (3) and tournament wins (84 compared 99, 100 and 102 for the other three).

In my next post I will take a look at Pat Forde’s (ESPN) take on his top three programs and use this formula to discuss and debate.

Posted in Duke Blue Devils, Indiana Hoosiers, Kansas Jayhawks, Kentucky Wildcats, NCAA Tournament, North Carolina Tar Heels, UCLA Bruins | Tagged: , | 21 Comments »

What I learned from Kentucky/Mississippi State

Posted by sawdog on February 17, 2010

–I learned that Kentucky, as has been the norm for years, draws the biggest crowds.  Humphrey Coliseum was packed with a record crowd last night and it’s a safe bet that if Erin Andrews had her decibel calculator handy an all-time high in crowd noise would have been registered.

–I learned that Mississippi State, although fiercly competitive for 37 minutes, was not up to the task in the final three minutes to close the deal.  You can attribute that partially to Ravern Johnson and Jarvis Varnado being on the bench, but a timeout by Rick Stansbury to specifically steer his team home may have prevented the late collapse.  I saw them give DeAndre Liggins a lot of breathing room on a three, and then I saw at least two possessions in the final two minutes that were very tentative and poorly executed on offense.  With a 67-60 lead with 2:44 to play, Mississippi State has more looking in the mirror to do than stalking the referees phone numbers for what happened in overtime.

–Speaking of overtime, there is absolutely no question that Kentucky was the beneficiary of “close” calls.  Patrick Patterson, in my mind, got away with a charge (too much bullying  into the player with his shoulder lowered on a guy that was 90% in defensive position).  In addition, we all know now that Wall truly goaltended–another Kentucky break.  It’s unusual for the home team to “get hosed” in overtime, but there really is no other way to put it.  I’ve heard some Kentucky fans claim “you can’t get all the calls right in real time” but if I can see the block attempt and immediately think goal tend, then surely one fo three referees can too, right?  Again, what happened in overtime largely went against MSU, but these guys had built a 7 point lead in regulation and couldn’t get it done.  That’s the real story here.

–I learned that Kentucky’s freshmen have a lot of growing up to do.  The “Call Me” mock that Cousins gave the crowd; the smiling the like the game is over by Wall when there was still 1:30 remaining; the unnecessary bouncing of the basketball casually by Liggins with 12 seconds left.  Yes, the UK kids had a chip on their shoulder because of the ridiculous phone calls and texts DeMarcus received leading up to the game.  But if you want to be the better men and the better team, shut people up with your play and not your retaliations.  Schools will refer to those immature moments as to why they hate you and your team (never admitting a large part of it is because you are a threat, by the way).  There is just no need for it.  Frankly, John Calipari should crack down on his guys on this, and as a fan of Kentucky I will be looking for less and less of it as we move forward.  Treat the game like you expect to win–not like you want to show off the fact that you’re winning.

–I learned that foul behavior by crowds has somehow manifested its way into the game atmosphere this year.  I have no idea how anyone can throw coins or full drinks onto a court for any reason.  It’s pathetic.  I don’t care what your excuse is but putting people in harms way doesn’t solve the problem.  If you have a beef with the way the game was officiated use your school’s athletic director to file a complaint with the commissioner of the league.  A proper analysis of game film can be done so that the game can be cleaned up–if warranted.  We have an obligation to kids in this world to teach them to be men with our actions people.  Every time you pull a stupid act based off of emotion you teach kids the wrong way to do things.  This is not a hallmark commercial.  It’s a plea for sanity.

–Finally, I learned that I am more excited than ever about *the prospect* for a Kansas vs Kentucky final.  I don’t mean to belittle other teams in saying that, and I will fully support any other final that is played, but the matchups that each team would generate is made for television.  Wall vs Collins.  Aldrich vs Cousins.  A host of other talent squaring off.  Freshman vs experience.  It is quickly becoming this year’s “dream game” and I think both fanbases can agree this is the one matchup that would settle a lot of trash talk for one college basketball season.  The odds of it happening are small because if you’ve watched the last 15 NCAA tournaments you know how hard it is to win 5 games.  And Syracuse, Villanova and a handful of other schools will have a big say in the outcome.  But there is no denying that the Jayhawks and Wildcats are a sexy matchup for many of the right reasons.

Posted in Kansas Jayhawks, Kentucky Wildcats, Mississippi State Bulldogs | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Ranking next week’s Rivalry Week games

Posted by sawdog on February 5, 2010

ESPN brings us Rivalry Week next week, the annual week-long event showcasing some of our favorite in-conference showdowns.  Some years the Duke/Carolina tussle is worth the hype, and some years the attention deserves to be squarely on another dynamic rivalry.  Based on what we’ve seen this year, with some additional factors in play, I have decided to rank the following seven ESPN televised rivalry games in order of least intriguing to “can’t miss.”  Really, none are worth missing, but you know what I mean.  Someone has to dwell in the cellar when rankings are involved.

7.) UConn @ Syracuse (Wednesday, 7 pm, ESPN)–This is normally a titanic matchup but UConn’s struggles are well-documented this year.  Two different circumstances would make this much higher on this list.  1.) UConn coach Jim Calhoun back on the sidelines (he might be back, but it’s still unlikely) and 2.) the game being in Storrs, Connecticut instead of Syracuse.  If this were a home game for UConn it would give the casual viewer of this rivalry (myself) more reason to tune in and see if the home crowd could carry UConn to victory.  As it is now though this is all set up for Syracuse to continue their assault on the Big East.

6.) Tennessee @ Vanderbilt (Tuesday, 7 pm, ESPN)–Most people around the country probably don’t realize A.) that the state of Tennessee actually really likes basketball (UT women…) and B.) Vanderbilt, particularly, takes their basketball team seriously.  Vanderbilt is currently tied with Kentucky for 1st place in the East, and Tennessee is just one game back.  While some of the other rivalries on this list are out of state, this rivalry is an intrastate bragging rights battle.  The heat in this rivalry has been cranked up since Bruce Pearl and Kevin Stallings began squaring off against one another.  Let’s see if UT can dust off Memorial’s Magic.

5.) Duke @ North Carolina (Wednesday, 9pm, ESPN)–A Duke or North Carolina fan will probably try to sell you “this is why it’s the best rivalry” no matter what happens in this contest next week.  But on paper here is what this rivalry is this season: A second-tier Duke team facing a below vintage North Carolina team (that was nice on my part).  You will have to watch this game with one earplug in to keep yourself from believing that the winner of this game will use it to fuel a late-season charge towards the national championship.  But, with all my caveats said, this is a rivalry game worth watching to see if a near lifeless UNC squad can play with an intensity that has so far lacked this season.  You can bet the UNC fanbase is hoping this is the game that rallies all their talent.  If Carolina pulls it out in dramatic fashion UNC will remember this game in a way in which Duke views the Jeff Capel memories of 1995–so that in itself creates a nice storyline for the game.

4.) Purdue @ Michigan State (Tuesday, 9pm, ESPN)–Purdue is dominated with experience in the starting lineup, so nerves in hostile territory do not apply here–one reason this should be an excellent game.  The Breslin Center is one of america’s best venues, so the “Izzone” student section will no doubt be rocking.  You have to expect this veteran Purdue squad to be licking their chops to tackle the beast that is Sparty in East Lansing, and thus cut into MSU’s lead in the Big 10 standings.  There is plenty of motivation for Purdue, and time is running out to make a move to the top of the standings.  The one drawback to this game is the potential absence of MSU point guard Kalin Lucas, but news out of Lansing this morning is that his ankle injury is not serious and he may even play this weekend.  That sounds pretty good for his chances to play in this rivalry game Tuesday night.  The Big 10 offers up low-scoring games far too often, but a Purdue/MSU matchup is still very much a marquee attraction.

3.) Kansas @ Texas (Monday, 9pm, ESPN)–Reason #1 to watch this game?  How about because both teams have been ranked #1 this season and both teams have been on the short-list as national championship contenders all season long.  Texas’ recent “slump,” losing three out four games, kept this from being a bit higher.  What Texas team are we going to see?  Still, there is plenty of NBA talent on the floor in this one and if Texas has any hope of winning the Big 12 this is a must win game.  With a Kansas win the Jayhawks will have a stranglehold on the #1 national ranking and make it clear that they are the team to beat in the NCAA tournament.  We should expect to see lots of intensity in this game….from players and fans.

2.)  Tennessee @ Kentucky (College Gameday) (Saturday, 9pm, ESPN)–Kentucky sold out all available tickets for the Gameday event nearly two weeks ago.  Tennessee may not care though.  This is the same program that has finished ahead of Kentucky in the Eastern division for four straight years.  It seems that when you put John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins on the national stage they do something special.  They play better.  So it will be interesting to see if the highlight reel plays are once again on display when the lights shine bright on Rupp Arena.  You can’t watch Kentucky and not feel like you’re watching a college version of the Laker’s “showtime” era.  At any moment a freakish athletic feat could invade your television screen.  With the division lead possibly on the line, and ghosts of SEC East past in need of slaying, this game should needle past insanity on the crowd decibel meter.

1.)  Villanova @ West Virginia (Monday, 7pm, ESPN)–The first game of the Rivalry Week lineup is my vote for game of the week.  Which is the nation’s best basketball conference?  The Big East.  Which teams sit atop the Big East standings?  Villanova is perfect at 9-0, while West Virginia is 7-2.  If Villanova can keep from being hit with batteries or lead-weighted frisbies, this has all the makings of a great rivalry game.  Seriously WVU fans, control yourselves.  It’s embarassing.  Outside of fan madness and standings within the conference, I am interested in this game for one real reason: just how good is Villanova?  At the midway point of the college season we have identified four teams that would easily warrant the four number one seeds in the NCAA tournament if it started today: Kansas, Syracuse, Villanova and Kentucky.  That really isn’t debatable.  I’ve heard and seen much more about the other three than I have Villanova, who is quietly pasting people while flying at least a little bit under the “stud” radar.  I want to know if the Wildcats can go into the heart of the West Virginia mountains, face an unruly (and semi-moronic) WVU crowd, and come out of the game pooping gold.  We will all have an idea of how lethal Villanova is on Monday night!



Posted in Connecticut Huskies, Duke Blue Devils, Kansas Jayhawks, Kentucky Wildcats, Michigan State Spartans, North Carolina Tar Heels, Purdue Boilermakers, Syracuse Orange, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas Longhorns, Vanderbilt Commodores, Villanova Wildcats, West Virginia Mountaineers | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

One game, one ticket–where you going?

Posted by sawdog on January 31, 2010

I proposed this question to two friends this past week. The caveat, of course, being that it must be a venue you’ve never seen. Thus, for one friend at least, Rupp Arena was removed for any consideration (which he did say would have been his choice). With this rule established he chose Memorial Gym in Nashville, home of the Vanderbilt Commodores. I can’t blame him. My friend cited the unusual location of the benches, which are behind the baskets, as the primary reason for his choice. Here is a brilliant article outlining the history and aura of Memorial Gymnasium, including quotes from opponents discussing their disdain for the bench setup.  Did you know that Vandy has won four straight games in Memorial when facing the #1 team in the nation?

The other friend had a much more difficult time choosing just one, but when pressed he eventually chose Allen Fieldhouse (he too has seen Rupp Arena, but it wasn’t clear where Rupp would rank in the big picture).  The home of the Kansas Jayhawks has it all.  I’d be a rich man if I took Allen Fieldhouse and gave you the field, then asked the nation this same question with some betting on the side.  Odds are Allen Fieldhouse, in my opinion, would win that poll.  If college basketball were a family tree there is little debating (in fact, no debating–James Naismith anybody?) the seed from whence it all came to be was planted in Lawrence, Kansas.  This article captures the unique experience of gameday in Allen Fieldhouse, a venue that is “part hoops mecca, part Smithsonian.”

Me?  I have gone back and forth with this one and I am jumping on the Kansas State bandwagon.  I want noise.  Lots of it.  The more noise, jumping and unusual celebrating the better.  Duke cornered the market on the up-and-down jump years ago, but Kansas State fans extend this vertical party beyond the first several rows.  When the cameras pan out it’s almost like the entire side of Bramlage Coliseum is swaying back and forth or jumping up and down–whatever moment the current jubilation created.  I wrote this when Kansas State beat #1 Texas two weeks ago and the crowd was every bit as exciting during KSU’s overtime loss to Kansas last night.  As the sport has popularized universities have increased seating capacity and accommodated the masses, which has largely removed the students from impacting the decibel level of the game.  Not so at Bramlage.  I feel like I’m watching the entire KSU undergraduate enrollment when I’m watching their home games.  There are over a hundred tremendous venues in college basketball, but if I have one more game to see in my lifetime give me a ticket for a big game in “The Octagon of Doom.”

Posted in Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Vanderbilt Commodores | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Best crowds so far this year

Posted by sawdog on January 19, 2010

Watching the Alabama/Tennessee game tonight I am reminded that not all crowds are created the same.  I am seeing lots of empties in the lower level, so I hesitate to wonder what the upper level may look like.  49ways is texting me from the Georgia Tech/Clemson game and he reports a similar scene of empty seats with the game already underway.  It’s a reminder that we should be thankful for those nights when you finish watching a game and say “damn, does it get any better than that?!”  Last night’s high octane Kansas State crowd inspired me to blog about the best crowds I’ve seen so far this year.

Texas @ Kansas State–I think anybody who watched this with me knows exactly what I’m talking about.  The only thing missing from the student section were semi-enclosing rails and cell blocks, like the ones used to subdue AC/DC’s fans in the music video for Thunderstruck.  Nothing makes people go completely nuts like the chance to knock off number 1, and I had the distinct feeling from the opening tip that this was the night number one was going down.  There are games where the fans help you win.  And then there are games where the fans won’t let you lose.  Last night the latter crowd showed up.  The “We Own Tex-as!” chant in unison was the icing on the cake!

North Carolina @ Kentucky–There was an understandably nervous, one-foot-in-the-water, how-good-are-these-freshman UK crowd packed in Rupp against the defending champs for what could have been a season-altering win or a another disappointing loss for a fanbase desperately seeking the national spotlight once again.  When John Wall sped up court on a Secretariat-like blitz–and dunked the ball two handed while breaking Larry Drew’s ankles–it was like an entire decade of forgettable tournament basketball was lifted off the foundation of the building.  From that point forward Rupp Arena was the venue it has become renowned for, and the crowd carried the home team on a 28-2 knockout run that the visiting Tarheels would never overcome.  Nothing spells doom for an opponent like 24,500 rabid fans united by a breathtaking display of athleticism.

Kansas @ Tennessee–You can virtually cut and paste my paragraph from the Kansas State/Texas game in this slot.  Again, NOTHING brings out an opposing fanbase like the opportunity to defeat the number one ranked team in the country.  Tennessee fans may have been feeling even more optimistic considering Kansas had struggled to beat Cornell in Lawrence just a few days before.  The real story to this crowd, however, was the belief that gradually mounted through the course of the game when the fans were attune to the fact that their 6 scholarship players and three walk-ons were battling toe-to-toe with the loaded Jayhawks.  Think about that from the Tennessee fan’s perspective.  Not only are you amped up b/c #1 is in town, but now it’s late in the second half and you’re in disbelief that some kid named Skylar McBee is hitting HORSE shots as the shotclock nears zero.  Bedlam is the word to describe these moments.

Kentucky vs Connecticut–If the other games had the feel of the underdog trying to scream their team to victory, this one was more like the buzz you hear during a meaningful heavyweight title fight.  UConn fans consider Madison Square Garden a home away from home.  But because UConn and Kentucky NEVER play each other Connecticut fans could not have known that Kentucky fans consider every neutral venue a home away from home!  One UConn fan said he could not believe the number of Kentucky fans in New York for this game.  With a split crowd the scene was set for one fanbase to upstage the other.  UConn got it started with a Let’s Go U-Conn chant, in which Kentucky replied with an emphatic GO BIG BLUE!  All of this was during the Georgia/St. John’s contest that was taking place prior to the main event.  In typical MSG fashion the game did not disappoint with Kentucky’s star freshman John Wall saving his best for last–an and-1 to seal the victory with seconds remaining.  Every year, early in the season, college basketball fans are treated to a game that makes you say “that was an NCAA tournament game.”  That was this game.

Posted in Connecticut Huskies, Kansas Jayhawks, Kansas State Wildcats, Kentucky Wildcats, North Carolina Tar Heels, Tennessee Volunteers, Texas Longhorns | Tagged: , , , , | 5 Comments »

Tidbits from the last few days

Posted by sawdog on January 13, 2010

  • Take nothing away from Tennessee’s stirring victory over Kansas in Knoxville.  It might go down as the most memorable basketball moment of the season when it’s all said and done.  Great crowd, walk-ons hitting clutch shots, taking #1 down.  The Vols came together like the cast from Remember the Titans to overcome some off court adversity.  But lost in the great story of Tennessee’s togetherness is the fact that something is off with Kansas.  I never had Kansas #1 ahead of Texas before this game and it seemed obvious to me that this was coming to the Jayhawks sooner rather than later.  In fact starter Tyshawn Taylor has since spoken to the media about the uncertainty of roles this year.  Keep an eye on the chemistry of Kansas in the next couple of weeks.
  • Florida had more of the same in their loss last night to Kentucky: lots of missed 3 pointers and a largely overmatched frontcourt.  More on this in weekend SEC East power rankings.
  • You can make a solid argument that the two best second halves the Kentucky Wildcats have played this year came in road games against Indiana and Florida.  That’s pretty special.
  • The Player of the Week is going to be interesting.  On Monday night Scottie Reynolds scored a season high 36 points and dominated the second half vs Louisville for a come from behind Villanova victory.  Then on Tuesday night we witnessed three amazing peformances from Robbie Hummel, Evan Turner, and Eric Bledsoe–all scoring career highs.  Hummel popped in 8 three pointers for Purdue in the first half alone in route to 35 points for the game.  But Hummel was eventually outdone–on the final score at least–when Evan Turner scored 23 second half points (finishing with 32) to lead Ohio State to an upset over Purdue in Mackey Arena.  In the nightcap game Kentucky freshman guard Eric Bledsoe was unguardable from the 3 point line and the lane scoring 25 points in a convincing victory over Florida in Gainesville.  His play prompted Florida coach Billy Donovan to say “he’s faster than John Wall…”  Whoa.  Seriously??

Posted in Florida Gators, Kansas Jayhawks, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisville Cardinals, Tennessee Volunteers, Villanova Wildcats | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Live Game Chat: Tennessee vs Kansas

Posted by sawdog on January 10, 2010

We are testing live chat for the first time so we’ll be goofing off with a live chat blog, most likely a mock draft of some sort.  We’ll figure it out when we all get together this afternoon.  Should be entertaining.  Click the link below to view the chat.

http://www.coveritlive.com/index.php?option=com_altcaster&task=siteviewaltcast&altcast_code=a3759eaeec&height=550&width=470

Posted in Kansas Jayhawks, Live Chats, Tennessee Volunteers | Leave a Comment »

Breakdown: Top 5 Comparisons

Posted by sawdog on December 15, 2009

In this week’s national team rankings, both the AP Media poll and the Coaches Poll ranked the same five teams 1-5 (in this order): Kansas, Texas, Kentucky, Purdue, Syracuse. All five teams are undefeated. College Courtside was interested in the statistics for each team. Do the stats justify the rankings? Below is a graph with national rankings in several key offensive and defensive team statistics for all five teams. Some key observations for each team below the graph. Team rankings and statistics were taken from ESPN.com and/or SI.com, so data was limited to teams falling in the top 100 nationally. Strength of Schedule (SOS) and RPI were taken from collegerpi.com.

Purdue
Purdue is the only team well outside the Top 20 in FG%. However, they are the only team well inside the top 10 in free throw percentage. Perhaps surprisingly, Purdue ranks 50th nationally in opponents FG percentage. Although #50 is middle of the road compared to the other four teams here, it’s a bit unexpected considering the national praise they receive for team defense.
Why they are ranked #4 in the polls: They bring back a ton of experience; they won on Alabama’s homecourt recently coming back from a 16 point deficit in the second half; they beat Tennessee (UT’s only loss)

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Kansas Jayhawks, Kentucky Wildcats, Purdue Boilermakers, Syracuse Orange, Texas Longhorns | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Thoughts watching Saturday’s action

Posted by sawdog on December 12, 2009

Something I like to do when I’m battling a cold and it’s 20-something degrees outside is sit on my arse and watch a smorgasbord of college basketball action.  It started with the noon tipoff between Kentucky and Indiana and continues with a late afternoon tilt between the SEC’s Mississippi State and the Pac-10’s UCLA.  Here are some observations from a few of the games.

–John Wall for Kentucky was held in check……sort of. Wall was held to 11 points on 4 of 11 shooting, but he chipped in 7 rebounds and 8 assists, with only one turnover.
–Five players scored in double figures for the Wildcats in their 90-73 win. The play from the naked eye supports the statistics in this case–Kentucky put together their best team effort of the young season.
–Indiana is unquestionably improved from last season, if that was even in doubt. They shot lights out in the first half, but were smothered by Kentucky’s pressure defense in the second half. Maurice Creeks of IU came up large with 31 pts, but he was their lone true threat. Indiana will have to find some other scorers to make a move up the ladder in Big Ten play.
–Once I got home from watching UK/IU I flipped to Kansas/La Salle. This was my first chance to see the Jayhawks and I must say they are stacked. Their lineup has more muscle than the cast of Predator. At times early in the second half the Jayhawks would score, and then get back on defense like it was a scrimmage. Who can blame them for not having insatiable intensity when they are making games look so easy? For all the opposing fans saying “yeah, but Kansas hasn’t played anybody” I would reply with “it really doesn’t matter.” They’re going deep in March. Real simple.
–With Kansas on cruise control I switched to Louisville/Western Carolina. Score was Western Carolina 17-8. Yep. In Louisville. And Louisville is coming off a 20 point loss to Charlotte. Dysfunctional is the word. I’m not seeing a genuine floor leader for the cardinals, and when they aren’t hitting their 3’s this is not a very scary team. Pitino is notorious for some early season swoons, only to get his men together down the stretch. We will see. (I’m watching the finish here and Western Carolina still leads by six with just over six minutes left).
–New Louisville coach and former Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong is introduced to the crowd during a first half timeout. Freedom Hall erupts. In fact, Strong is directly linked to a brief blitz by the Cardinals who play their best basketball of the game following his moment. Sign Strong up for the basketball staff too.
–Last but not least I accidentally found Mississippi State/UCLA playing in the Wooden Classic. Someone call PETA because the Bruins are getting abused. You really don’t know where to start with UCLA. They lack effort and energy. They lack everything. The score at halftime is Mississippi State 40, UCLA 19. Before we write this off as a stinkfest from UCLA, let’s remember that Mississippi State is a very good team. Remember this name: Ravern Johnson. I watched him light up several teams from three point range last year, and he’s owning the perimeter in this one. With Vernado, Johnson and Bost, the Bulldogs have three weapons that most SEC teams would gladly take. If Renardo Sidney joins this team (if his eligibility is sorted out)….WATCH OUT.

–Lastly, I’m back on Louisville/Western Carolina. UL storms back to within a bucket, then gives up 3 straight three’s in embarassing execution fashion to now find themselves down by 12 points with under 3 minutes to play. This is one ????? team right now.

Posted in Indiana Hoosiers, Kansas Jayhawks, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisville Cardinals, Mississippi State Bulldogs, UCLA Bruins, Western Carolina Catamounts | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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