Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday Night Musings - College Basketball Edition

As we begin to turn the page into February, this Saturday's theme was separating the men from the boys. This was evident in ESPN's showcase matchup between UConn and Notre Dame. That said, here are ten points from today's action.

  1. As I alluded to earlier this season, Notre Dame will not figure into real national championship until they decide to play defense on a full-time basis. According to the Pomeroy rankings, the Irish are 165th in adjusted defensive efficiency and 14th in the Big East.
  2. Meanwhile, UConn wins ugly and this is the mark of a championship-caliber team. They only shot 41% from the field and missed 15 free throws, but they manhandled the Irish despite a strong Joyce Center crowd.
  3. With a win at the Joyce Center preceded by an impressive win over Villanova (and a killer resume), do the Huskies hop the Blue Devils in the rankings? Who cares?! It's January.
  4. Greivis Vasquez should not be allowed to provide interviews. Prior to Maryland's game against Duke, he referred to Cameron Indoor as "my house". If you watched the game, I am sorry that you will never get those two hours back in your life. Also, there's no doubt that Gary Williams sweat through at least two suits. He'll be sweating for his job soon if the Terrapins continue to falter.
  5. With Cal's home loss to Oregon State (not a typo) on Thursday and UCLA's annual defeat in Seattle, the PAC-10 really is up for grabs. For those who are thinking, "Hey, why don't you think Washington will win the PAC-10 now?", I have reservations about the Huskies' ability to win on the road. If they split the next two weekends in visits to Arizona and Northern California, then we may be in for a surprise. As for Arizona State, their schedule will get serious in mid-February. I just don't know how many games they can continue to win with 1 scorer, 1 rebounder, and a bunch of wild cards whilst shooting 29% from the field.
  6. As pointed out several times on the family of networks, Marquette is now 6-0 in the Big East, the nation's deepest conference. In this weird age of 16-team conferences and unbalanced scheduling, let's do a little bit of data mining before we crown Marquette. Before the haters hate, let me point out that Marquette is a good team. HOWEVER, and this is a big however, only two of their six wins are against teams that are in everyone's projected bracket (Villanova, West Virginia) and both were at home. With a schedule that ends with @ Georgetown, v. UConn, @ Louisville, @ Pitt and v. Syracuse, it should be noted and reinforced that they are supposed to win these games. All of that said, they are 14th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 48th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Both are strong markers.
  7. When Monday arrives, MANY (if not all) bracketologists will change the CAA Champion to VCU. Not this bracketologist. Though this is not the VCU team of last year which was 28th in adjusted defensive efficiency, we are starting to see the pieces gel. Eric Maynor is a constant in the backcourt and Larry Sanders (no, not this Larry Sanders) is his ace in the frontcourt. But, we are seeing steadier contributions from players like Rodriguez, Burgess, Pischalnikov (with hideous headband) and Rozell. The team they defeated today, George Mason (my alma mater), fought hard, but made too many turnovers and could have used the services of John Vaughan, who missed the game due to a concussion suffered on Wednesday at Northeastern.
  8. After my last Bracket Projections, I received some criticism from Missouri. For those of you who know me, it's hard for me to admit when I am wrong about college basketball. However, I ... am ... wrong (so far). Here's why. Though Missouri has seemingly won three games they were supposed to win along with a decent win in Stillwater, it is how they have won. As a result, Missouri is top 14 in adjusted efficiency for offense and defense. When a team does that, they have Final Four potential ... the stats do lie sometimes.
  9. I have no idea what to make of the Illinois Fighting Illini. Coming into the season, all signs pointed to a lackluster year and perhaps the end of Bruce Weber's tenure as head coach (which would have been a big mistake). All signs were wrong and the Illini have defeated teams in several ways, the most stifling being the defense that Weber brought from Southern Illinois days. Today, it was the Demetri McCamey show. He had a direct hand in 13 of 21 made field goals against Wisconsin and accounted 13 of the team's 22 trips to the free throw line.
  10. How good is Butler? How good is Xavier? How good is Memphis? All three won today, with Memphis taking one in Knoxville behind a strong second-half effort from Tyreke Evans. I asked the questions in this order, because Butler won at Xavier, who won against Memphis on a neutral court. Though many bracketologists (including me) disagree with the incorporation of the transitive property into seedings (instead, favoring the entire body of work), the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has not been shy about using it as a talking point. It's something to chew on.

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