Halftime Adjustment Finding the Seams of Your Zone Since 2011

Why Your NCAA Team Lost: Elite Eight Edition

Posted on March 27, 2011

Four games, four losers. You could read detailed post-game reviews at other news sites, but they won't embed videos with foul-mouthed clown-faced rappers. These quick, fake reasons are why each team lost their NCAA Tournament Elite 8 game.

  • Florida -- Florida's team went 3-17 in three-point attempts; guard Erving Walker was 1-7 3FG by himself. Butler's Shelden Mack made 4 three-pointers.
  • Arizona -- Thought Derrick Williams could make miracles happen outside the paint. Desperation threes; how does that work? (Video below is NSFW for Insane Clown Posse reasons.)
  • North Carolina -- North Carolina held Kentucky freshman guard Brandon Knight scoreless for the first 3:26, then decided "eh, let's just watch him drain 3-pointers the rest of the game." Black Falcon was denied his chance for a FALCON PUNCH by Kendall Marshall.
  • Kansas -- Skeen, alone in the distance. Self, his hands around his throat. SHAKA, WHEN THE JAYHAWKS FELL!

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The Competitive Imbalance of Elderly Babysitters

Posted on February 14, 2011

Last week, The Wall Street Journal published an article about the University of Kansas' Athletics Department hiring senior citizens to monitor student-athletes' class attendance. Most everyone got caught up in the absurdity of old people chasing around young student-athletes. I was surprised that Kansas Athletics would open up to the WSJ, given that most of 2010 found Kansas over-exposed. But I think we all missed the bigger picture: Kansas athletics (and probably every school with a significant athletics department) spends money to ensure their kids go to class.

Re-read the WSJ article with money on your mind (like Flo Rida):

Schools have long enlisted other students to help keep tabs on their scholarship athletes, who are naturally tempted to skip class from time to time to catch up on the sleep they miss practicing, training and traveling for far-away, late-night games. Because college professors rarely grade based on attendance and can't be bothered to call the roll in big lecture halls, athletic departments often pay students a modest hourly wage to do the dirty work instead. Maryland has been using student "class checkers" for decades; Texas A&M, Georgia and Wisconsin have invested in similar class-checking operations.

...

Eight years ago, associate athletic director Paul Buskirk, who heads the school's Student-Athlete Support Services unit, hired a retired police officer and former Marine named Don Gardner to help oversee the class-checking operation and recruit a few more senior citizens to join. ...

The WSJ article doesn't list the actual number of class checkers on Kansas Athletics' payroll. If you've got a workforce large enough to track the hundreds of student-athletes under scholarship every school day, the operational cost has to be more than a couple of basketball tickets per senior citizen. Then again, maybe the class checkers don't care about Olympic sports: The article also focuses on the checkers' exploits with football and men's basketball student-athletes, without mentioning any issues with athletes of other sports or with women athletes. It wouldn't surprise me that Kansas's "brigade" of class checkers focus on just those two major sports, considering football and men's basketball comprise of nearly 42% of all 137 sports programs currently subject to penalties due to low APR scores. (In fact, there are more non-Division-I schools on this penalty list than Division-I schools.)

Of those 57 football and men's basketball programs currently under APR penalties, only one is from a BCS school (Colorado's Men's BBall). The NCAA "takes into account school resource levels when determining APR penalties" but doesn't seem to have any solution to help prevent APR penalties. In fact the NCAA solution for missing the APR baseline is allowing waver-based wiggle-room -- especially the schools that can spend money. From a 2008 post on MGoBlog's old archive (emphasis mine):

This waiver business is arbitrary and ripe for exploitation. Bruce Feldman points out this article in the State that breaks down the 492 programs that fell short of the APR minimum but did not get dinged. 315 programs avoided penalties because they have no money or did better than their student body at large; 253 of these avoided penalties because no one left ineligible. But then there are the 66 programs, including those from Ohio State, Purdue, Indiana, South Florida, Oregon, and South Carolina, that got waivers because they promised to do better, ie: spend more. This can't be done by smaller programs and we should have little sympathy for the pleas of big schools that fall below the minimum. Oregon was at 921 with all of Phil Knight's money: dock them the two or three scholarships. And how the hell did Arizona (APR 902, worst in the BCS) get off this year after getting hit last year?

The schools themselves set minimums for academic progress and the APR gives them a strong incentive to give students the most remedial classes they can find. End result: the numbers go up but the amount of education does not. The NCAA should institute an exit exam for revenue sports that tests basic reading comprehension and math skills and the like.

Of those teams who had conditional waivers from 2008-09, only two failed to complete the requirements of the waiver. Both are non-BCS schools.

"[The NCAA wants to] fully embed the expectations of academic success into the intercollegiate culture, so we don't have to talk about it as something new but something as utterly assumed," NCAA President Mark Emmert said in this November 2010 Wall Street Journal video interview. Yet only 14 athletic programs made a profit and the NCAA is not making it rain across every school. That leads non-BCS schools at an academic disadvantage AND a competitive disadvantage against BCS schools who somehow don't make money yet can pay for elderly babysitters. From the aforementioned WSJ article:

Mr. Buskirk says class checking is "not my first choice for how I would spend my resources" but adds that it's necessary because "19-year-olds don't always make the best decisions."

When you're one of the 14 fortunate programs to be making a profit in NCAA Athletics, you can afford to keep making your students go to class.

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TANSTAAFL!

Your NCAA Top-25 Team’s Weaknesses (Part Uno)

Posted on February 1, 2011

Much like this one-wheeled motocycle, expect my analysis to be haphazard and kinda embarrassing for both of us.

After 21+ games into the basketball season, the metrics for ranking and evaluating teams finally starts making some sense. Polls are mostly purged of teams who started the year overvalued -- we'll see Michigan State again as soon as they win one significant game in the Big 10 -- and the RPI and Strength of Schedule starts rounding into something tangible but not complete.

This year's fun revelation: There are no real dominating teams. (I know, I know: Duh.) In these series of articles starting on the 1st of February, I break down each AP Top-25 teams' weaknesses. This section focuses on the programs in the current top-5, who have looked equal parts incredible and perplexing through the start of conference play.

Note: Most stats taken from StatSheet.com, unless otherwise specified. Stats were current as of the start of January 31st, 2011.

#1 Ohio State (Overall: 22-0, Conf.: 9-0, RPI: #3, SOS: #47)

In nine conference games, Ohio State's has barely out-rebounded opponents (OSU 266, Opp 265). Ohio State has allowed more offensive rebounds than they've accumulated (OSU 77, Opp. 86). For the season, the Buckeyes have been forcing an average of 16.5 turnovers a game. Since hitting conference play, they've forcing just 13.3 turnovers/game while allowing 11.1 turnovers/game. (Conference stats from OSU's website.)

All teams see a drop in statistics entering conference play, especially in a stronger conference like the B1GT3N. But in the 6 games in which Ohio State won by single-digits (@Iowa, Minn, @Mich, PSU, @Ill, @NU), Ohio State has been out-rebounded 187-160. Ohio State won those games thanks to forcing turnovers and either high 3-pointer scoring or lots of made free throws (or both).

They also are one of the worst in the nation concerning rhythm, pitch and vocal control.

#2 Kansas (Overall: 20-1, Conf.: 5-1, RPI: #2, SOS: #15)

The Jayhawks are 229th in the country in Free Throw Percentage made (66.9%). Both of the Morris brothers shoot under 68% and Tyrel Reed, the Jayhawks' best free throw shooter, has only 43 attempts. The 2007-08 Memphis Tigers wishes that now was then.

Kansas also has a moderately-concerning 14 turnovers-per-game. The Jayhawks play at a robust pace since just 19.6% of their offensive possessions results in a turnover. The extra turnovers are offset by Kansas having more possessions a game to utilize their nation-leading field-goal percentage (51.9%).

Helping their cause, Kansas also leads the nation in the crucial "women with Allen Fieldhouse tattoos that cause national columnists to drool" statistic.

#3 Texas (Overall: 18-3, Conf.: 6-0, RPI: #11, SOS: #22)

Like their Big 12 rivals, Texas is also an awful free-throw shooting team (65%). Texas freshman forward Tristan Thompson can do just about anything except shoot free throws (49.7%); senior forward Gary Johnson is significantly better (67.3%) but not what you'd prefer for a post player. Opponents with a deep frontcourt could employ an effective Hack-A-Steer defense to negate Texas' post power.

Texas doesn't dig the long ball: Only 22.3% of Texas' points come from 3-pointers. They don't shoot very many 3-pointers (314 attempts is 302nd most in the nation) but they make threes at a good clip (38.2% three-point FG% is 41st best in the nation). It could be interesting if the Longhorn's great defense fails them and they are forced to jack more than 15 three-pointer attempts.

By the way: When Rick Barnes raises his eyebrows, his forehead wrinkles so definitely you could swear you were looking at a Klingon. Qapla'!

#4 Pittsburgh (Overall: 20-2, Conf.: 8-1, RPI: #8, SOS: #25)

The Panthers are yet another team top-ranked team with a crappy free throw percentage (66.8%, 234th best in nation). Junior Guard Brad Wanamaker leads Pittsburgh in free-throw attempts (107) and makes a reasonable 73%; teammate (and also guard) Ashton Gibbs makes 88.7% of his free throws but has only gotten to the line 62 times. Senior Center Gary McGhee only shoots 47.9% and has the 2nd-most free-throw attempts on the team (73).

The Panthers' have a good-but-not-great 3-point defense. They've allowed opponents 32% on three-point field goal shooting for conference games (34.1% for all games). Also, Pittsburgh depends on on defensive rebounding to help control pace-of-play (as Pitt averages a nation-best 1.2 points per possession). When Notre Dame made 9 3-pointers, kept Pittsburgh's rebounding margin respectable and slowed the pace-of-play way below their 65.1 possession per game average, Pitt got burned with a loss.

The Panthers still have to face a Big East gauntlet in long, athletic teams that could dictate pace-of-play: West Virginia (twice), Villanova (twice) and Louisville. Losing one or two games in that schedule should still give Pitt the crown for best Big East team (and probably a guaranteed #1 seed).

#5 Duke (Overall: 19-2, Conf.: 6-1, RPI: #13, SOS: #72)

Yes, yes. The loss of Kyrie Irving has made Duke vulnerable this year, and the loss at St. John's may have killed Duke's chance at a NCAA #1 seed. But there is a lot that has been hurting the Dukies since the start of conference play (and the end of their not-exactly-tough non-conference schedule).

For their entire schedule -- ACC and non-conference combined -- Duke's 3-point field goal percentage is 39%. In just conference games (and not counting the St. John's loss), Duke's 3-point FG is 33.1%. They've averaged 8 made three-pointers on roughly 24 attempts in their ACC game; in their non-conference games, they averaged 9.3 made three-pointers on just 22 attempts. They're trying more 3's because their inside game isn't exactly scary: Sophomore Forward Mason Plumlee averages nearly 8.7 rebounds a game yet scores 6.4 points per game on 52% FG shooting. Senior Forward Kyle Singler scores in the paint from drives and cuts, not power-post moves. The lack of offensive post threat might explain the disappointingly-average Free Throw rate (getting to the line only 38.7% of all field-goal attempts) for a team with such great free-throw shooters (75.9% team average, 15th best in nation).

Due to this lack of a post presence, Coach K has increased the rebounding capabilities of his team. The cost of Singler and others to help team rebound is just average 3-point defense: The Blue Devils allowed all their opponents to shoot 34.4% on three-pointers (176th nationally).

With Kyrie, Duke would probably just out-shoot and out-penetrate their opponents. Without Kyrie, Duke is not turning the ball over more or having less assists (thanks to the inspired play of Nolan Smith). Duke ironically needs more post play without their star freshmen guard.

Perhaps Shane Battier can get some advice from Texas Coach Rick Barnes to help Duke repeat as National Champions.

MOAR Weaknesses Yet To Discover

In the upcoming Part Dos: #6-#15 of the AP Top 25. Again, thanks to StatSheet.com for populating my nonsense with numbers.

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