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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 »

Kentucky displays killer instinct in route of LSU

Posted by sawdog on January 28, 2012

There are numerous amateur and professional writers online that cover Kentucky basketball in one form or another.  This is a well known fact.  When the Cats win big like they did today at LSU–a 74-50 pummel of the Tigers–the feel good articles will surely be written.  Some writers will focus on Terrence Jones’ outstanding resurgence, a 27 point and 9 rebound effort.  Many will note LSU point guard Anthony Hickey and his struggles throughout (because he is a former Kentucky Mr. Basketball).  And many more will note the ridiculous and dangerous flagrant foul LSU forward Malcolm White committed on Kentucky star Anthony Davis.

All of these storylines are relevant and capture the imagination of the game, but to me they are not the top stories.

What I will remember most, undoubtedly, are the back-to-back 3 pointers by UK’s Marquis Teague and Darius Miller late in the first half.

Kentucky started fast with two 3 pointers to take a 6-0 lead.  They built the lead to 22-10 with 8:26 remaining in the first half.  From there LSU started chipping into the lead.  The chipped and chipped so well they eventually cut the UK lead to just 25-24 with 3:19 remaining.  The LSU crowd was at fever pitch.  The Tigers energy level was through the roof.  At this point, the way this UK team has played in first halves, I worried.  Not that they would lose the game.  But I worried that they would lose the lead.  I worried that they would miss a few shots in a row and would go into the half tied, something like that.  In other words I didn’t expect a killer instinct.

But I saw just that in those two shots.  I saw Teague drill that first one to silence the crowd, giving the Cats a 28-24 cushion.

After another LSU bucket–and another resurgent act of bedlam from the LSU faithful–I saw senior Darius Miller calmly rise from the wing and bury another 3 pointer for a 31-26 lead.

I texted one of my favorite texts of the year to a family member: Killer Instinct.

They’ve shown the “will to win” time and time again in the waning moments of tight games all year but until the back-t0-back 3 pointers by Teague and Miller I had yet to be overwhelmed with the feeling of a killer instinct developing in this team.

The cats would eventually tack on four more points before the half to take a 35-26 halftime lead.  The dagger 3 pointers spurred a nearly double digit lead at the half, and effectively ended and silenced the Tigers attempt to take the lead and build fervor in the stands.

It wasn’t just the fact that they hit back-to-back 3′s.  It was the way in which they hit them.  It wasn’t at the end of the shotclock after nervous offense.  Miller, in particular, rose confidently and just bullied the ball thru the hoop.  I loved his reaction.  I saw in this moment a team building a tougher mentality.

This team will have a lot to prove in the coming weeks as they continue to defend their #1 ranking and they start to finally play the better teams in the league (Florida, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State).  Until today, I was sure they would have a couple of losses.  Now, I don’t know.  They may very well still end up with two or three losses in league play but the Cats took a major step forward today.  They went on the road, took on a packed house, and punched the Tigers squarely in the face when LSU put forth their absolute best effort.

Most importantly, they didn’t wait till the end of the game to do it.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Kentucky Wildcats | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Who are Kentucky’s best two players?

Posted by sawdog on January 5, 2012

Last week my good friend A-Train asked me what has to be the most impossible question to answer: Who are Kentucky’s two best players?

We’re talking Anthony Davis.  We’re talking Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.  We’re talking Doron Lamb.

Who are Kentucky’s best two players?

Why these kinds of tortuous questions are even dreamed up I’ll never know, but being the game-nerd I so love to be, I started thinking.  I took the bait not because I wanted to nitpick one of those three players games to the point it would seem I was “bashing” the one left out.  Not a chance.  Homie don’t play that.  Destructive criticism is not my game.  Instead, I looked at the question as an opportunity to think who this team could possibly live without if they had to try and win the NCAA Tournament this year without one of them.  Who could they best forge on without and still make a deep tourney run??  That would lead me to the one they could most live without.  Maybe.

On any given night this year Lamb, Davis or Gilchrist has played a starring role.  The accolades seem to rotate.  There’s the back-to-back 24 and 26 point outbursts by Lamb against Chattanooga and Samford, respectively.  “Big game” Kidd-Gilchrist has vaulted into NPOY discussions for inspired play against North Carolina, Indiana and Louisville–the latter of which Kidd-Gilchrist had about 75 rebounds.  And Davis is only leading the nation in blocked shots per game.  Ho hum.

I’m writing this blog post because I’ve passed this question on to my Kentucky-loving family.  I tested the waters.  Including myself and A-Train I have input from five people.

The answers are not the same.

The aunt said the two best players are Kidd-Gilchrist and Lamb.  So did the mom.  So did A-Train.

The stepfather said Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist.

Me?  I took Davis and Lamb.

How ridiculous does it look that I just left Kidd-Gilchrist off a best player on your team list??!

I cannot fully speak for the logic behind the other choices–they never went into great detail–but I can speak for myself.  First of all I love Doron Lamb.  He’s about 680 miles behind Mashburn on my all-time favorite UK player list, but that’s still 1,400 miles ahead of most everyone else.  I love Lamb’s game.  I love his confidence.  He is so difficult to guard because he has so many moves.  He’s shooting 46% from three (even though he’s in a mini-slump right now), 48% from the field and he’s a pretty decent option as a part-time point guard.  That’s an impressive resume.  I feel as though if you had to make a deep run in the tournament without a lethal scorer and shooter it would just be impossible to go far.  If Lamb is out for 40 minutes against North Carolina, who is Kentucky’s perimeter threat?  Wiltjer?  Beckham?  Miller can hit them but he doesn’t make an opposing team tremble.  See what I mean?  How do you replace that constant offensive presence from behind the arc??

I went with Davis because I have eyeballs.  Eyeballs and ears.  The eyeballs see ridiculous things.  The ears hear the sound of a basketball ricocheting off a cheerleader’s megaphone following a Davis rejection.  Blocks per game.  National leader.  He threatens to block every shot an opposing team takes.  In a frantic finish–the kind that often takes place in the NCAA Tournament–I want the nation’s rejection leader on the court.  Just like he was against North Carolina.

So in this exercise I basically found out a little more about myself.  I found that I don’t want to see my team without a true perimeter threat in the NCAA Tournament.  I found that if I can take a guy that opponents fear around the basket, I’ll take him too.

Apparently I’ll take those two over the high-motor, relentless jack-of-all-trades leader that Kidd-Gilchrist has proven to be.  I may not always choose this route though.  The concept that Darius Miller could come in and play the same position as Kidd-Gilchrist helps me make this decision.  He may not play it at the level of Kidd-Gilchrist, but on this year’s team, I’ll take those chances over the alternatives.

Plus, Kidd-Gilchrist would still make a hell of a leader on the sidelines.

Posted in Kentucky Wildcats, Players, Polls | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

All-Time Kentucky teams (with a twist)

Posted by sawdog on January 4, 2012

Online yesterday I saw this thread on the Cats Illustrated message boards and, as usual, I thought participating in this would be a lot of fun.  Kudos to trueblue#1 for a neat idea.

The challenge is this: create an All-time best Kentucky Starting 5 while only being able to take one player from each of Kentucky’s previous five coaches.  Those coaches include John Calapari, Billy Gillispie, Tubby Smith, Rick Pitino, and Eddie Sutton.  Any player you choose simply had to play at least one season under that coach.  If a player played for two different coaches such as Patrick Patterson (Gillispie and Calipari), you could use him for either coach.

Finally, we had to set a concept for our picks.  Are we building this team based on the premonition that this starting 5 will compete against other great teams around the world?  Or are we building our starting 5 based largely on career achievements?  You may take a guy like Rajon Rondo with the former, but Wayne Turner for the latter.  That kind of thing.  To clear any confusion A-Train and I agreed to build two different teams based on both criterions.  First, we’ll post our all-time starting five that we would put up against anyone, and take some time to discuss our logic.  Lastly, we’ll briefly note our all-time starting 5 based on a great career coupled with the idea that these guys are all-time greats partly because of their heart and soul, and their pride in wearing the blue and white uniform.

Sawdog’s All-Time Kentucky Starting 5 (from the last five UK coaches):

PG   Rajon Rondo  (Smith)
SG   Jodie Meeks  (Gillispie)
SF   Jamal Mashburn  (Pitino)
PF   Kenny Walker  (Sutton)
C     Anthony Davis  (Calipari)

When you play a game like this you have to first ask yourself “who would I take from the short two year stint of Billy Gillispie?”  Well, it’s either Jodie Meeks or Patrick Patterson.  I hate leaving Pat off my list, but with Kenny Walker available from the Sutton years it becomes a little less painful.  I considered what it would be like to take Tony Delk as my SG and go with Patterson instead of Walker, but that would mean leaving off my favorite UK player of all time Jamal Mashburn (who, like Delk, played for Pitino).  I couldn’t dream of doing that.  Mashburn was a terrifying college player.  Mashburn shot 3′s with the skill and confidence of Delk or Meeks, but was 6’8 and 240 lbs.  You weren’t going to block him.  Ever.  But it was his presence on offense–the ability to pass and shoot equally well–that made him a first team All-American and my no brainer for Small Forward on my starting 5.  So once I knew Mashburn, Meeks and Walker were my core I looked for point guard and center.  And I had to choose those two positions from the Tubby Smith and John Calipari eras.  The center position was easy.  Anthony Davis.  You may argue he’s not developed enough, or he’s not a multi-skilled threat, but it doesn’t matter.  Basketball is as much defense as it is offense, and Davis is a freakish athletic talent with uncanny shot-blocking skills and patience.  He is literally a threat on every possession to block a weakside shot attempt.  He and Walker form a kind of skinny frontline, but Walker played with the aggression of a bigger man while Davis can give pounds away due to his ridiculous length.  That left point guard from the Tubby Smith era, and luckily this was one of the bright spot positions during his tenure.  I could go with Wayne Turner or Rajon Rondo.  I went with Rondo.  I had a deadeye shooter in Meeks in my backcourt, so I went with the guy who was super fast with the basketball and incredible on defense.  He doesn’t have to shoot well for us to win.  Not with Mashburn’s all around arsenal and the firepower of Meeks.  I like the look of this starting 5 a lot.

Sawdog’s All-Time Kentucky Starting 5 (great play coupled with embodying the UK uniform):

PG  Wayne Turner   (Smith)
SG  Rex Chapman   (Sutton)
SF  Jamal Mashburn   (Pitino)
PF  Patrick Patterson   (Gillispie)
C   Josh Harrellson   (Calipari)

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Kentucky Wildcats, Mock Drafts | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Update: The Anthony Davis Block Party

Posted by sawdog on December 29, 2011

Kentucky’s Anthony Davis entered last night’s contest vs Lamar as the nation’s second best shot blocker with 4.3 blocks per game.  Against Lamar he recorded 6 more blocks, vaulting him this morning into 1st in the NCAA’s with an average of 4.5 blocks per game.  On the season the freshman has now blocked a whopping 58 shots in 13 games!

A completely healthy year from the Kentucky big man will likely see him shatter the school record for blocks in a season, currently shared by Melvin Turpin and Andre Riddick “The Rejector” in the 1982-1983 and 1993-1994 seasons, respectively.  Their record stands at 83.  With 58 Davis is already well on his way to the throne.

The bigger picture is this: how far up the Kentucky career blocks list can Davis climb in just one year?  If he manages to keep his current pace through conference play he’ll crack the top 10.  He really truly is in contention to be in the Top Ten Career Blocks list at Kentucky after just one year. 

With his 58th block last night against Lamar here is who Anthony Davis passed on the UK career blocks list:

Jamal Mashburn (3 years, 53 blocks)
LeRon Ellis (2 years, 53 blocks)
Marvin Stone (3 years, 57 blocks)

Davis is now ranked 30th all-time in UK career blocks.

Keeping track of this is going to be fun.

 

 

Posted in Kentucky Wildcats, Players | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

The harsh reality of national interest in college basketball

Posted by sawdog on December 5, 2011

If you’re like me you watched North Carolina play Kentucky on Saturday and came away with a feeling that you had just witnessed one of the true great non-conference, non-tournament basketball games in recent memory.  For forty minutes the Tarheels and Wildcats lived up to an incredible pre-season hype.  The first half of play saw North Carolina perform nearly flawless offensive execution, which included a heatseeking display of torrid three-point shooting that helped Carolina to a nine point lead nearing halftime.  The younger wildcats scrapped and clawed to within five points by intermission, leaving myself (and perhaps others) with the feeling that Kentucky was pretty darn lucky to be down only five considering the Tarheels hot shooting.  Kentucky immediately cut into the five point halftime deficit in the opening minutes of the second half, only to see North Carolina consistently–as was noted during live play by commentator Clark Kellogg–counterpunch the Wildcats efforts by stretching the lead back out to a couple of baskets.  I could be wrong, but I believe that neither team had a lead larger than five points in the second half.  Kentucky finally grasped control of the game when North Carolina entered a six minute stretch where they struggled to score (beginning around the 10:00 mark or so) while Kentucky shooting guard Doron Lamb hit two clutch 3 pointers, the second of which gave UK their largest second half lead at 69-64.  As you know, the game tightened down the stretch, culminating in a riveting final minute that saw Reggie Bullock of UNC drain a corner 3 ball in transition following a sloppy UK turnover.  Bullock’s three cut the lead to one and ensured a nailbiting finish.  Kentucky freshman point guard Marquis Teague missed the front end of a one-and-one, and with a Carolina rebound the Tarheels had the last shot to win the game.  An unbelievable contest would end in incredible fashion, with UK freshman Anthony Davis blocking a nearly unblockable shot by 6’11″ John Henson to secure the victory.  The game was so good it inspired tremendous praise from college basketball writers.  Consider the following heaps of praise:

“With all due respect to the other 342 Division I fan bases out there, who wouldn’t want to see this one again” (in reference to a potential NCAA tournament matchup).  If it never happens, though, at least college basketball fans will always have Saturday’s game etched into their memories.”   –Jason King, ESPN

“It (the game) lived up to the talent, and all the hype that accompanied it–no game this season has been played at such a high level and with such entertainment value to boot.”  –Eamonn Brennan, ESPN

“It’s not every day they play in such a frenetic, close, classic game more worthy of April’s opening weekend than a nonconference tune-up in early December.”  –Robbi Pickeral, ESPN

“The calendar said December 3, but it felt like March. Actually, it felt like April. And if the basketball gods are kind, that’s when North Carolina and Kentucky will meet again.”  –Seth Davis, SI.com

“Both teams played well, showing why they’re ranked in the top five and why the arena was jammed with NBA scouts and general managers. Neither team buckled when the other hit it with runs.”  –Pat Forde, Yahoo Sports

There are many more excerpts to be taken from various writers caught up in the awesome scene played out in Rupp Arena on Saturday, but you get the point.  This was as good as it gets when it comes to two elite teams squaring off in December.  One would think that a matchup with arguably the two greatest college basketball programs of all-time, Kentucky and North Carolina, clearly producing a memorable outcome of the ages would warrant some national attention on Monday, particularly the radio airwaves full of sports jock talk.  At least I would expect some coverage.  Wouldn’t you??  So I went to bed on Sunday night excited about some sports talk the next day covering the big game.

If you don’t listen to ESPN Radio much, here is what you typically deal with on a daily (weekday) basis.  You have three popular national shows throughout the day.  Between 6 and 10 am you get “Mike and Mike in the Morning,” hosted by Mike Greenburg and former NFLer Mike Golic.  As a longtime listener of this show I can tell you two things in general: 1.) they are like an old married couple and 2.) they really like NFL football.  I have no qualms with NFL football, but being a college sports fan first I typically look forward to the late morning/afternoon coverage on ESPN Radio.  At 10 am the polarizing Colin Cowherd takes the airwaves until 1 pm.  His show is considered to be a bit more controversial, coming closer to whatever “shock talk” is than what you get from Mike and Mike.  I happen to love Cowherd’s show, and he tends to mix more college discussion in than Mike and Mike.  Finally from 1 to 4 pm you get The Scott Van Pelt show, where you can hear the popular Sportscenter anchorman’s opinions along with his permanent sidekick Ryan Russillo.  Van Pelt is a Maryland graduate with a shameless passion for college football, and an almost kid-like fun interest in college basketball, so it is this show that I tend to enjoy most for its college sports coverage.  I realize the coverage of sports changes appropriately depending on the seasons (for instance, all three shows will discuss college basketball at length during the NCAA Tournament in March) but pound for pound that is how I would describe each show’s general priorities of sports action.

I turned my dial to ESPN 760 at about 7:30 this morning taking that general mentality of each show into mind.  That meant that I thought maybe Mike and Mike might get to college basketball in their last hour, knowing that they would talk about Tim Tebow, the Cowboys and other NFL action for most of their show.  I understood that NFL playoff races are in full swing, and that appropriate coverage would be set aside for this.  But I also felt that a thrilling contest ending in fantastic fashion that had the college basketball world celebrating (especially a game highly anticipated and between traditional powers like Kentucky and North Carolina) would generate at least a quick 5 minute discussion.  Nope.  Fear not though, I told myself, because Cowherd and Van Pelt are still to come.

Nope and Nope.

Ten straight hours of me listening to ESPN Radio, waiting patiently throughout the day knowing that college sports coverage generally increases as the day progessess and……yeah, no.  Nothing.  Not even Scott Van Pelt, a huge college supporter, made time for it.

This of course brings me to my point and my humbling conclusion.  Two college basketball powers can play in December, long before the NCAA Tournament begins, and produce a game that EXCEEDS its incredible hype, only to see the national radio media completely look the other way in favor of football.  As I said, I understand the situation….NFL deserves the majority of discussion, as well as college football, considering the BCS rankings and bowl pairings, including the national championship game, were announced.  That’s a big morning that requires a ton of commentary with various guests.  I get it.  But in ten hours of coverage not one time was the game between UNC and Kentucky mentioned.  Not even in passing.  Not even a “Wow, great game on Saturday in college basketball, wish we had time to discuss it more but…”  Not even that.  It didn’t even show up as a dust particle on the radar.

The perspective I’m trying to share is this: If December in basketball is to September in football (meaning these are the months when each sport’s season are just underway) we would still be inundated with NFL football talk in September by these same radio shows.  But the same early season coverage is virtually unimportant in basketball.  It was a bold reminder that NFL (and college to a lesser extent) is king in this land.  And no matter how compelling a college basketball game is in December it’s going to get buried under the latest developments in football.

Maybe I should stick to television.  Both “Around the Horn” and “PTI,” two afternoon ESPN sports shows, discussed the basketball game.

It only took me 12 hours to find it.

 

Posted in Entertainment & Sports, Kentucky Wildcats, North Carolina Tar Heels, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

How much would you pay to see UNC @ Kentucky?

Posted by sawdog on October 19, 2011

Let’s hear it.  How much cash would you fork out for a seat inside Rupp Arena for December’s North Carolina vs Kentucky showdown???

Which game storyline between North Carolina and Kentucky do you find most interesting?

Posted in Kentucky Wildcats, North Carolina Tar Heels, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

College basketball & football top winning percentages

Posted by sawdog on October 16, 2011

I recently noticed a blogger post an interesting fact: Kentucky Men’s basketball has the highest all-time winning percentage of any major american sports program or franchise. By “major” we are referring to Pro Football (NFL), Pro Basketball (NBA), Pro Baseball (MLB), Pro Hockey (NHL) and both NCAA College football and NCAA College Basketball.

In other words, of the major sports we celebrate in our culture at both the professional and amateur level, Kentucky Men’s basketball holds the highest winning percentage.

At first I found this to be a remarkable statistic for the University of Kentucky men’s basketball team. And while I still feel this is a tremendous achievement, it becomes apparent through research that professional sports and college sports do not operate on the same playing fields, so comparing their win-loss records against one another is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. For example the highest all time winning percentages for the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL are the Dallas Cowboys (0.575), New York Yankees (0.568), Los Angeles Lakers (0.620), and Montreal Canadiens (0.590), respectively. Of these four only the LA Lakers winning percentage would crack the Top 50 combined winning percentages found in college football and basketball. The proof is in the pudding: the talent gap in professional sports is not as severe as the talent gap between the best and worst collegiate level athletes.

Because so many more college programs in football and basketball have higher winning percentages than those in professional sports, I switched gears in my objective for this post. Now I simply want to give you a slightly different perspective than you are used to seeing. Below is a list of the top college football and basketball programs ranked in descending order beginning with highest winning percentage. Does anything surprise you? What are some of the most interesting observations?

Highest All-Time Winning Percentage (College Basketball and College Football Teams):
*Note that this list is composed of the top 25 basketball and top 25 football teams based on their winning percentages

  1. Kentucky (Basketball) 0.760
  2. North Carolina (Basketball) 0.736
  3. Michigan (Football) 0.735
  4. Notre Dame (Football) 0.733
  5. Ohio State (Football) 0.719
  6. Texas (Football) 0.717
  7. Oklahoma (Football) 0.717
  8. Kansas (Basketball) 0.716
  9. Boise State (Football) 0.715
  10. UNLV (Basketball) 0.712
  11. Alabama (Football) 0.707
  12. Nebraska (Football) 0.701
  13. Southern California (Football) 0.701
  14. Duke (Basketball) 0.699
  15. UCLA (Basketball) 0.694
  16. Penn State (Football) 0.690
  17. Tennessee (Football) 0.690
  18. Syracuse (Basketball) 0.687
  19. Western Kentucky (Basketball) 0.672
  20. Florida State (Football) 0.664
  21. St. John’s (Basketball) 0.658
  22. Louisville (Basketball) 0.656
  23. Utah (Basketball) 0.654
  24. Illinois (Basketball) 0.653
  25. Notre Dame (Basketball) 0.645
  26. Georgia (Football) 0.644
  27. Temple (Basketball) 0.643
  28. Missouri State (Basketball) 0.643
  29. LSU (Football) 0.643
  30. Arizona (Basketball) 0.642
  31. Villanova (Basketball) 0.641
  32. Arkansas (Basketball) 0.641
  33. Indiana (Basketball) 0.640
  34. Connecticut (Basketball) 0.640
  35. Murray State (Basketball) 0.637
  36. Miami FL (Football) 0.637
  37. Weber State (Basketball) 0.632
  38. VCU (Basketball) 0.632
  39. Auburn (Football) 0.632
  40. Penn (Basketball) 0.631
  41. Purdue (Basketball) 0.631
  42. Florida (Football) 0.631
  43. South Florida (Football) 0.624
  44. Miami OH (Football) 0.621
  45. Los Angeles Lakers (Pro Basketball) 0.620
  46. Washington (Football) 0.612
  47. Arizona State (Football) 0.611
  48. Virginia Tech (Football) 0.606
  49. Central Michigan (Football) 0.606
  50. West Virginia (Football) 0.600
  51. Colorado (Football) 0.600
  • As you can see the highest professional team is the LA Lakers, and their win percentage would rank 45th best in this list.
  • In situations where two or more teams have the same win percentage, the better ranking was awarded to the team with more total wins on their resume
Things I find interesting looking at this list:
  • The top 25 teams are separated by a total of 1.15 percentage points (Kentucky is 0.760 while Notre Dame basketball is 0.645). However the bottom 25 of the list are only separated by 0.44 percentage points. While I don’t have the skill to weight this statistically, you can see how much more common it is to find yourself historically at a winning percentage under 0.650 than over 0.65.
  • It’s hard not to notice the gap Kentucky shares over #2 on the list. At 0.760, Kentucky is well ahead of the competition. Many variables contribute to a team’s winning percentage so I’ll leave it to the reader to speculate this particular result.
  • I’m surprised to see Indiana basketball this low on the list. They are clearly a program that reeks history yet they have a lower winning percentage than Arkansas. Very surprising.
  • Four basketball programs from the state of Kentucky made the Top 35. If you shook out the football programs on this list that would give the state of Kentucky four basketball programs in the top 21. I guess this is just one measure to help understand the importance of basketball in the state of Kentucky.

Posted in Kentucky Wildcats, Records | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Our Thoughts on the Collegiate Landscape

Posted by 49ways on September 27, 2011

Well, it’s been awhile since either of us have posted on WordPress.  We’ve been pretty busy with our lives, but never too far from what the media forces down our throats.  I’m not a fan of the four-letter network or any of their counterparts, but all of the conference shuffling has been heavily on my mind.

Sawdog and I have been discussing the collegiate issues at hand, and I felt moved to write something.  Here is a question and answer session for all who care to read.  Please note that the questions are pretty random, and the answers are only opinions.

1.  What is the future of the SEC Conference for basketball and football?

Well let’s stick to football first here, since it’s football that is driving realignment.  I think the future is what many are expecting–a 16 team league.  I really do think in the end there will be four mega-conferences controlling the majority of the money brought in from college football.  It almost seems unstoppable at this point.  An even more compelling question is this: Could the four mega-conferences (with 64 teams) branch away from NCAA governance and have their own national championship?  I confess I don’t have any insider knowledge on this, but I’ve heard it rumored and it’s something to keep on your radar.  If so, does a school like Notre Dame finally try and join one of these mega-conferences so they are included in the new system??  Hard to claim a national championship if you’re an independent not included in the party…

Along those same lines, basketball could become the same.  Basketball should make enough revenue to keep the same alignment that football drives when it’s all said and done.  That means that if there are four megaconferences made of 64 teams, and the leagues can somehow branch away from NCAA rules, those 64 teams would play each other for the championship.  All speculation, but interesting to think about!

2.  What is the best team to add to the SEC?

Well the best option was Texas A&M, and that already happened.  It made too much sense for both the school and the SEC.  This is a complicated question which requires each of us to understand geopolitics and much more.  For example schools such as Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and South Carolina currently enjoy a revenue and exposure advantage with SEC television contracts over in state rivals Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville and Clemson, respectively.  So as much as you might sit around and dream of the SEC becoming even more competitive with a school like Florida State, Florida has the power to veto their addition into the conference.  And likewise for the other three schools mentioned.  However the current SEC schools will listen to expansion talks if they believe adding a new school from a new television market will bring in more revenue that can be shared for everyone.  So this is why the most likely candidates for addition as the 14th school in the SEC would be Missouri (St Louis TV market) or a school like Virginia Tech (Virginia and Washington DC TV markets).  This week Missouri publicly stated they have no current interest to join the SEC, so expect some heat to pick up in negotiations with a school like Virginia Tech which brings a very nice television market, has a very loyal fanbase and would certainly increase the academic reputation of the SEC.

3.  What is Texas’ future?

Texas is holding a lot of cards these days–a Royal Flush, in fact.  The recent television deal with ESPN called the Longhorn Network has shaken the foundation of college football greatly.  The reality is that Texas is so popular that everybody would love to have a piece of them–ESPN, the Pac-10, the Big-10, etc.  However, what exactly do any new conferences present for Texas what they don’t already have with their ESPN tv deal??  That’s what Texas will want answers to.  It’s understandable that an apathetic football league like the PAC-10 (when compared to the SEC and Big 10, certainly) would want to reach out to Texas and add them into the mix.  It would immediately increase revenue through television deals and make the PAC-10 as formidable a football conference as the SEC and Big-10 (especially if Oklahoma and two others join in).  Texas will want some sort of extra compensation though, understandably.  Texas would be doing a lot more for the PAC-10 then the PAC-10 is doing for Texas.  That’s just how powerful they are financially–now and for the foreseeable future.  Because Texas will most likely draw larger crowds throughout PAC-10 stadiums it’s possible Texas may pitch an idea to the PAC-10 that they should collect a percentage of the revenues that occur in opposing stadiums.  That’s a random idea of the top of my head, but the point still stands: Texas doesn’t want to share revenues equally when they already enjoy the competitive advantage they have through the Longhorn Network.  Any conference that adds Texas will have to concede some additional power to the Longhorns to make it all work.  One factor that could eventually force Texas’ hand to join a conference is this idea of having four 16 team Mega-conferences.  Those 64 teams could consider having their own national championship–admittedly through legalities that are over my head–and you don’t want to be an independent on the outside looking in.  Those are discussions for another day, however.  I think Texas will be content to stay fat and happy on their new Longhorn Network deal while other less fortunate schools jump for greener pastures.  In the end I see Texas in a situation where one of these conferences (PAC-10, Big 10, etc) has 15 teams and only needs one extra team to make it a perfect 16.  That’s when all the cards Texas holds will be most valuable, when a conference knows they can cap their realignment off with some icing and reel in the big fish with a fair deal for both parties.

4.  What is the Big 12′s future?

The Big 12 is hanging on with nine teams, and what was once a league on life support is now a league that is in critical but stable condition.  The loss of Texas and Oklahoma would destroy this league.  There is no way around that.  It is encouraging for the Big 12 that Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri have continued to resist departure in recent weeks.  But make no mistake the longer the Big 12 waits to solidify their standing as a power league, the more likely other leagues will offer a sweet deal that will be hard to pass up.  The Big 12 should be feeling an awful lot of heat right now.  They are geographically surrounded by the Big-10 who has the highest number of college football fans of any league in the nation and thus can afford to be patient and picky with adding stellar teams into the league.  I think the inability to add geographically reasonable teams (because they are already in the Big 10 or SEC nearby) is going to severely limit the Big-12′s status as a conference that can expand and thus the Big 12 will eventually die a slow death.

5.  What is the Big East’s future?

There is no future.  This league as a football conference is over.  In the words of my good friend 49ways “this league is freaking garbage.”  West Virginia tried to join the SEC but the SEC said no.  It’s no wonder Syracuse and Pittsburgh bailed as fast as possible to the ACC.  It’s rumored that the Big 12 may try to absorb what’s left of the Big East after a few more Big East teams (Rutgers and UConn perhaps) are plucked away.  The Big 12 and the Big East are in serious football trouble.  It’s so bad they are in talks to merge together to try and secure and be strong enough to secure a BCS bid.  I see no future for the Big East in football.

6.  Which is the best school to add to the Big East: East Carolina, Navy, Army, or other?

College football drives everything.  It’s the moneymaker.  The Big East is extremely poor from a football perspective.  Seven of the current teams in this league that are basketball powers (Villanova, for example) don’t even compete in football.  If you don’t compete in football you’re league is in trouble.  I really think it is inevitable that the Big East dissolves.  Basketball is not enough.  It’s possible the Big 12 absorbs the remaining Big East football schools, but the Big East adding teams is a complete afterthought at this point.

7.  Is Notre Dame to the ACC a possibility?

I love this question.  I think the crown jewel for the ACC would be Notre Dame, and it’s speculated that Notre Dame would prefer the ACC over the Big 10 if it is forced away from independent status.  Three of the top five Notre Dame television markets are on the east coast: New York, Boston and Philadelphia.  So Notre Dame and the ACC are seeing the same thing: television contracts and television money.  The ACC currently sits at 14 teams with the recent additions of Syracuse and Pittsburgh.  If they want to reach 16 teams they can be selective, and they’ll look to new tv markets and football revenues while trying to maintain strong academics.  I have a gut feeling that we are in fact going to see the ACC work out a deal with Notre Dame.  It won’t make sense geographically, except for the presence of so many ND fans in the large east coast cities.  And that’s what will push this through.  Bold prediction:  The ACC adds Rutgers and Notre Dame as the 15th and 16th teams.

8.  Who else is John Calipari pursuing for 2012?

The entire top 25 recruits in the country.  I don’t worry about Calapari because he’s proven.  He’ll get players and put them in the NBA.

9.  Who will be the leading scorer for Kentucky basketball this season?

I will say Terrance Jones just because he can do so much.  He’ll get opportunities on fast breaks, he’ll get offensive rebounds and putbacks.  And I have no doubt he’s improved his jumper at least a little bit which will help.  I say he edges out Anthony Davis and Doron Lamb, finishing with 17.9 ppg.  There will be plenty of balanced scoring with their ridiculous starting lineup.

10.  What will Kentucky’s final record be in football?

The start to Kentucky’s football season has been a major disappointment.  There is no reason for this team to look like they’ve never practiced together considering the coaching staff remained intact from last year and many of their players are veterans.  There are few positives right now.  The offensive line is healthy for the first time this year, which will help.  And young contributors like RB Josh Clemons have some much needed experience under their belts.  Still it’s asking too much for tremendous improvement.  I’m going to be the optimistic fan and say 5-7 instead of the popular answer of 4-8.  That’s the best I can do right now.

Posted in ACC, Big 12, Big East, Entertainment & Sports, Kentucky Wildcats, SEC, Texas Longhorns | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Big East/SEC Challenge Wish List

Posted by sawdog on December 17, 2010

The SEC and Big East announced today a two-year agreement to play one another in an annual challenge.  This follows on the heels of back-to-back seasons in which a mini-version of this challenge existed, in which four teams from each conference competed for the challenge bragging rights.  There was enough momentum from this subsample for the conferences to agree on including all members in the SEC (12 teams) against twelve (out of 16) teams from the Big East.  The twelve teams from the Big East will be chosen at a later date.

The fact that we still don’t know which Big East teams will compete makes for a great opportunity to blog.  As with any challenge it’s all about the matchups.  You have to select matchups that will ultimately be competitive but also have as much marketability as possible in order to draw the highest ratings.  I put pen to pad tonight and did my best to break down the matchups I would want to see and some logic behind the choice.  Below is my personal wish list.  The conferences are free to use this in their decision making.

Kentucky vs Syracuse

Hype factors:  Both are perennial power basketball schools; the teams met in the 1996 Championship game; they almost never meet adding to the sexy matchup factor; perhaps most importantly they are #1 or #2 in annual home attendance every year, something the announcers can hype up until you vomit; the famed Syracuse 2-3 zone defense against the Dribble Drive Motion Offense of Kentucky.

Tennessee vs Connecticut

Hype factors: I went with this matchup mainly because Tennessee has already played Pittsburgh and Villanova this year, so I feel like there’s some process of elimination here.  Next year’s matchup should have new blood.  Now that UConn has rebounded from last year’s disappointing campaign this matchup oozes excitement.  Tennessee continues to be a giant-killer with wins over several Top 10 teams in recent years.  Lets throw the Vols another chance to add a feather to the hat.

Florida vs Louisville

Hype factors:  Lock this up.  Done deal.  Ricky P vs Billy D.  Mentor vs Pupil.  Championship winning coaches.  This is long overdue.  Marketing dream.

Vanderbilt vs West Virginia

Hype factors: This is a coaching decision for me.  I appreciate what Stallings and Huggins get out of their players.  The Mountaineers stifling defense pitted against Vanderbilt’s persistent offense.  I really think this could be the best matchup of the entire challenge.  Both coaches are gracious competitors and I think they would provide a great scene for college basketball fans.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Alabama Crimson Tide, Arkansas Razorbacks, Auburn Tigers, Big East, Cincinnati Bearcats, Connecticut Huskies, Florida Gators, Georgetown Hoyas, Georgia Bulldogs, Kentucky Wildcats, Louisville Cardinals, LSU Tigers, Marquette Golden Eagles, Mississippi Rebels, Mississippi State Bulldogs, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Pittsburgh Panthers, SEC, South Carolina Gamecocks, South Florida Bulls, St John's Red Storm, Syracuse Orange, Tennessee Volunteers, Vanderbilt Commodores, Villanova Wildcats, West Virginia Mountaineers | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

 
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