Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sheehan’s bubble

Joe Sheehan takes a look at who’s on the bubble at Basketball Prospectus. The guy obviously knows his stuff, but I’m not sure if I agree with his Big East bubble teams.

His BE locks are (with KenPom ratings in parenthesis): UCONN (3), Louisville (8), Pitt (4), Villanova (20), Marquette (23), Syracuse (21), and West Virginia (9).

Bubble: Georgetown (24), Providence (76), and Notre Dame (36).

I don’t have a problem with Georgetown and Notre Dame, but why Providence and not Cincy? Providence’s rating is 76 and UC’s is 82 (Seton Hall is also right there are 78).

I think it’s safe to say that the selection committee probably relies more on RPI, but 1) KenPom ratings are probably better and 2) I don’t believe there’s any way I can access RPI online for free. Anyway, let’s do a little comparison, Providence vs. Cincy, using KenPom’s great data:

Teams Cincinnati Providence
Record 18-13 18-12
BE record 8-10 10-8
SOS 29 46
vs. KenPom top 50 5-9 3-7
vs. KenPom top100 7-12 6-11
Offensive rating 64 (ncaa rank) 43
Defensive rating 106 129

It looks to me like the two teams are pretty equal. The advantages for the Friars is their slightly better overall and BE record and their two wins against the Bearcats. The advantages for UC is a slightly better SOS and (again, slightly) better performance against top teams.

The point is not that one team is better than the other; just that, if one of them is considered a bubble team, they both should be.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Fun night of college hoops

Right now you’ve got College of Charlestown vs. Chattanooga on espn (it’s 63-51, Chattanooga; a mild upset in the making). Despite being 26-7, Charlestown isn’t a huge favorite, as their SOS is 314th in the country, according to KenPom. Chattanooga is 17-16, but has a 236 SOS, making them a bit stronger than they appear, relative to C of C. Anyway, it is a must win for both teams, and it looks like Chatt. is going to the NCAA tournament.

On espn2, Virginia Commonwealth is headed for a victory over George Mason, as they lead 53-37 with about six minutes to play. These were the two premier teams in the CAA, though it looks like George Mason is going home with this lose (KenPom rating of 86).

Western Kentucky and North Texas are locked in a close battle to decide the Sun Belt Conference (edit: Duh, this wasn't the conference championship ...). Western Kentucky is the better team (104 rating; North Texas is at 160), but it’s obviously a must win for both teams.

Let me add that I know there are other tournaments, outside of the NCAAs, that some of these teams will be eligible for. So when I say “must win,” I’m assuming everyone is shooting for the NCAA tourney.

Later on, you’ve got the two marquee games, imo.`Patty Mills is back in action for St. Mary’s (51 rating), as they take on WCC (and national) powerhouse Gonzaga. Mills is having another fine year, shooting 48% from two point range, 36% from three, and averaging 18.4 points a game. His return is certainly big, as he came back last night against Portland, but make no mistake, this St. Mary’s team has a very good supporting cast, led by Omar Somhan (his offensive rating is ranked 109th, block percentage 93rd, and offensive rebound% 17th in the nation, all by KenPom). St. Mary’s probably has an outside chance of getting in the tourney with a loss, but I’m sure they’d rather not leave it in the hands of the committee.

The other game is Siena against Niagara in Albany (Siena’s home court). The teams line up back-to-back in Pomeroy’s ratings, Niagara 68th and Siena 69th. Both teams have tourney hopes with a loss, but both desperately want the win. Like I mentioned, Siena’s at home, where they are very good.

Alright, alright, a few predictions … just for fun:

St. Mary’s beats Gonzaga 78-75
Siena beats Niagara 88-83

Check in later tonight to make fun of those …

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Collapse, 2009 edition

Over the last three years, Cincinnati has collapsed, in some way or another, down the home stretch of the season. Sure, part of it is switching from a much easier non-conference schedule to Big East play, but part of it is also, well, ugly basketball.

In 2007 (the 06-07 season), UC started out 9-3 and had quality wins against teams like Xavier and NC State. They looked like a decent team. After that start, however, they went 2-16 the rest of the way and lost 11 of their last 12 games.

Last year’s team was sitting at 13-12, coming off a nice three game winning streak. They did not win again, and finished the year 13-19.

This year’s collapse, if you wish to call it that, was much more of a quick, punch in the gut, than a long, drawn out string of poor performance. Again, after a three game winning streak, the wins coming against Notre Dame, Georgetown, and St. Johns, the Bearcats sat at 17-8 (7-5 in the BE) and were in prime position to make the NCAA tournament. They lost back to back tough games against Pitt and Louisville, but came back to get a big win against Bobby Huggins’ West Virginia team. Then UC lost the final three against Syracuse, South Florida, and Seton Hall, making an at large bid extremely unlikely. Losing five out of the final six just isn’t going to cut it.

The good news is that we’ve still got the Big East tourney left this year. The 2007 and 2008 seasons are over : ) UC will face the #16 seed DePaul, who went winless in conference play, on Tuesday. Assuming a win there, a solid Providence team is up next. Then it’s number one seed Louisville. To really reestablish a possibility of an at-large bid, I think Cincy has to win those first three games, and that is no easy task. Heck, if we get that far, we may as well just win the final two games and get the automatic berth.

The other good news is that we should be happy that we’re disappointed with an 18-13 season. Cincinnati was expected to play much worse than they did this year, and I think progress is being made. If you look at Pomeroy’s ratings over the last three years, you can see it:

2007: 113
2008: 98
2009: 81

It may be slow, but it’s progress. If you trust Pomeroy’s ratings, this team picked up a lot of good wins: UNLV (57), UAB (38), Georgetown twice (24), Notre Dame (36), and West Virginia (9).

Anyway, while I’m upset with the regular season finish, we can salvage things -- to a degree anyway -- with a good tournament performance. I’m looking forward to that.