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Chat: John Gasaway (Basketball)

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday March 04, 2008 1:00 PM ET chat session with John Gasaway (Basketball).

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With the conference tournaments just around the corner, we check in with Basketball Prospectus' John Gasaway for the latest analysis

John Gasaway (Basketball): Yo, hoops nation! Good to be here with you on this pivotal Election Day. Seems like every time I do one of these it’s a big day in the electoral calendar but I’ll spare you the allusions to being the hoops writer best qualified to take your bracket emergencies at 3am and just get right to it. As custom dictates, however, I will say that I’m currently listening to the following on a continuous and addictive loop: “I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You” by Black Kids, “Wrath of Marcie” by The Go! Team, and “Running Away” by Polyphonic Spree. Now, let’s begin….

chavez3 (San Francisco): Stanford has looked good in Pac-10 play, but with their offensive and defensive reliance on the Lopez brothers and without quick guards are they prone to being beaten by a fast, pressing team a la Louisville last year?

John Gasaway (Basketball): I don’t think there’s another team near the top of the brackets that’s been the subject of more “they need the right match-up” talk than Stanford.

That’s fair as far as it goes—sure, the Cardinal don’t want to get into a track meet—but it’s also true that this isn’t last year’s team. Trent Johnson’s team last year outscored Pac-10 opponents by a mere 38 points over 18 games and turned the ball over on 22 percent of their possessions. That’s not the profile of a team that’s going to do much in the tournament and, lo and behold, they didn’t.

This year’s offense is a little better, the ball-handling is much better (TOs on just 19 percent of their trips), and, most crucially, the defense is day-and-night better. Stanford’s not in the same league as UCLA this year but they’re better than last year. Other things being equal their tournament performance should be too.

BennyAbelard (Champaign): Remember when the Illini were good Wonk? Is there a reason that we can't recruit anyone who can score or even, cough Pruitt cough, sink a free throw?

John Gasaway (Basketball): I remember when Illinois was good. I'm thinking of doing an oral history project on those days for today's young people.

Maybe the arrival of Alex Legion and the return of Jamar Smith will help the men in orange next year, although it’s hard to say with certainty. All we’ve had are fleeting glimpses of Legion in a Kentucky uniform. Smith was an excellent spot-up shooter as a freshman but his (cough) 60-something free throw percentage made me wonder how much of that was luck. Then he struggled with injuries and missed threes as a sophomore prior to his DUI. He’s more likely to make a three than any Illinois player was this year but as far as just how good he really is we’ll have to wait and see.

Looking even further into the future, Weber has commitments from a couple of elite-ish recruits but they won’t be on campus until the fall of ’09. And that’s assuming the commitments translate into actual players on scholarship, something that hasn’t always been the case of late in Champaign.

attorneysteve (ventura, ca): Is the Shaq trade in the top-ten of worst trades in NBA history? I'm a Suns/Nash fan, and I think so....

John Gasaway (Basketball): “Shaq”? “Suns”? “Nash”? What is this strange argot you peddle? We chat college hoops in this here chat. Stop by the next time Kevin Pelton or Bradford Doolittle hosts one of these. They know whereof you speak.

lbihced (Medford, N.J.): Looking at one of the smaller conference, the Patriot League, it looks to me to be pretty well balanced. Do you have any thoughts on who do you think will win their tournament?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Here’s a case where the numbers don’t argue too much with the standings.

American’s the favorite, though Holy Cross poses a surprisingly tough test right away in the quarterfinals (a game that will be played tomorrow night at AU). The Crusaders played a tougher non-conference schedule than any other Patriot team so they actually have the conference’s second-best RPI even though they finished 5-9 in league play. Go figure. Anyway, the Eagles’ D is bracing for a steady diet of Tim Clifford. Maybe the best D for the home team would be some threes from Garrison Carr.

As for Navy, they host Bucknell in the quarters. The Midshipmen push the pace like an ACC team: they love to shoot threes but they’re even better at turning you over. That could be a problem for the Bison, who’ve been known to cough it up.

Raymo (Louisville): Does Dayton have a prayer of making the NCAA's without winning the A-10 tourney? Will Chris Wright be healthy in time?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Alas, I claim no red phone linking me directly to the Dayton team doctor. I will second the obvious and say that having Wright would be huge. It’s not every freshman who's both his team’s best defensive rebounder and his team’s most efficient shooter from the field. If the Flyers played valiantly only to fall in the final seconds of the A-10 championship game (preferably to Xavier), they could conceivably get in. Even then, though, a lot of things would have to fall just right in terms of minimal upsets in other conference tournaments.

Big R (Washington DC): You mentioned the future of Illinois, but many of us east coasters are wondering when NU will attain even the level of the Illini's current mediocrity (not to mention their stellar 2005)and how Yale can compete with Tommy A.'s recruits at Harvard. Any thoughts?

John Gasaway (Basketball): "Even" the level of Illinois? O, the ignominy! Mocked by Northwestern fans--has it come to this for the Illini? Well, yes, I suppose it has.

The weird thing about the Wildcats is that they were somehow able to elevate their football program into a Rose Bowl appearance, yet they can't do that for their demonstrably less labor-intensive basketball team. This year NU has quite possibly the worst defense in major-conference hoops. Bill Carmody needs some of those big bodies that Bobb Hall regularly turns out.

As for Yale, they need to start accosting recruits' parents in grocery stores like Amaker does. Welcome to big-time recruiting, Ivy League!

Bearfrog (Dallas): Your #1 seeds? Memphis, Tennessee, UNC, and UCLA I'd assume with Duke and Kansas waiting to pounce?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Yes, that is precisely the CW right now, with the possible addition of Texas in the pounce pod. As to my own personal choices for the teams that should be 1-seeds, I hope to unveil those soon, perhaps during the relative quiet of early next week.

Andrew (Chicago): What happened to my Hoosiers against MSU? Sign of things to come or bump on the road in the Big Ten Tourney/NCAA Tourney?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Say this for short-timer Dan Dakich. In his post-game comments he nailed what happened to your Hoosiers. Once in a great while the other team’s going to shoot like Michigan State did on Sunday. Maybe IU helped that along a little by not getting out on shooters but, even so, it’s going to happen once in a blue moon. That much you accept. What you don’t accept is giving up multiple easy baskets in transition. It’s not like the Hoosiers go after offensive boards, so there’s no excuse for that happening. It was the first time this year Indiana has looked young.

As for any tea leaves provided by this game, though, I’m not sure there really were any. I know my opinion of the Hoosiers is unchanged: their numbers and my eyes are in agreement that this is a second-weekend team. Anything more would be a surprise. Anything less would be a bigger surprise.

shankweather (Louisville): After looking at certain "experts'" projected brackets, it seems like people are missing something that's obvious to me: the mid-majors are catching up. There's no way the ACC should have 6 teams and the SEC 5. That just doesn't make sense, and conferences like the A-10, MVC, and MWC will get snubbed. Heck, even the Sun Belt deserves two teams. Agree?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Mostly agree. I weep when I see brackets with six ACC teams. If it indeed comes to pass, Miami stands a good chance of having the worst in-conference efficiency margin (see my post from yesterday) of any tournament team since I started tracking this stuff. Five from the SEC, on the other hand, would be more defensible by my lights.

You didn't mention the Big 12 but I'm seeing brackets with six teams from that league. Wow. I hope teams like, say, Illinois St. and St. Joe's get a good long look at the table alongside the power-conference mediocrities.

Tony (Stillwater): If Oklahoma State were to beat Oklahoma and lose at Texas, how far would they need to get in the Big 12 Tournament in order to go dancing?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Speaking of six teams from the Big 12, behold the 'Boys. The problem with saying in advance "Team X needs this many wins" is that it's highly contingent on the outcomes from all the other tournaments. We'll actually have a much better handle on your question in about nine days. Hold that thought.

Eric J (Norman OK): Which of the projected 6 teams from the Big 12 do you think should be left out? Baylor?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Actually, I was thinking of a team much closer to your location. Sorry.

marlette (caliifornia): An other Wildcats . . . am I demented to think that Arizona is a, gulp, sleeper in the tourney (healthy for first time since Dec.) . . . assuming they make it?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Big assumption but let's say they make it. The worrisome thing about this year's Soap Opera 'Cats is that for all the talk about how O'Neill was going to toughen them up, they're giving up a prodigious 1.08 points per trip in the Pac-10.

Eric J (Norman OK): What, you don't think OU should get in just because of an incredibly lucky 4-point play, followed by two missed free throws on the other end? Them's fightin' words... Any guesses for teams you think will be seriously under-seeded, yet good bets for a deep run?

John Gasaway (Basketball): If Louisville loses at Georgetown on Saturday, they'll probably be a 3-seed. That would be much too low: I think they're one of the top four teams in the country right now. On the other hand, if they win at GU, the secret will be out.

Steve (North Dakota): Which Kansas is going to show up in the tourney? The one who played against Tech last night or the one that lost to OK State?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Kansas has a somewhat unearned reputation for morphing between Good Jayhawks and Bad. Looking at game-to-game variation, there's another Big 12 team that exhibits much wilder mood swings. And that's my teaser for an upcoming article. Watch for it!

Kenny (Asheville): Yo! John! Why are teams like Wisconsin and Stanford getting relatively* little hype (when consider that they are both top 10 teams). It seems wierd to say, but it feels like they would widely be considered "darkhorses" to win it all, but yet there they are in the top 10. What gives. do they deserve the ranking (and thus more hype), or are they simply there by default? Contenders or pretenders?!!!

John Gasaway (Basketball): I think these are kind of two different cases. With Wisconsin, they have struggled against small quick teams. The win at Texas was wondrous but they are 0-4 against the other fleet-yet-diminutive types on their sked: Purdue, Duke, and Marquette. As for Stanford, as I said in an earlier question, I think they're getting too little credit. They're no UCLA but whoever they get in the tournament they won't let them make twos. That's a good talent to have.

Matt Babes (S.C.): Is there any research showing long-term FT percentage by school? I only have anecdotal evidence, but I'll swear that Clemson has been horrible for decades. What could possibly cause this?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Cool, a research proposal for the book.

Watch for The 2008-09 College Basketball Prospectus by Ken Pomeroy and John Gasaway, in bookstores October 28.

Shameless plug delivered. Couple more questions before we sign off.

Steve F (Clearwater, FL): What does Florida need to do to get off the bubble, other than win the SEC tourney? If say, they lose to Tennessee but beat Kentucky, do you think 2 wins in the tournament will do, or they at least need to make the final? Is there any chance their status as two-time defending national champs mitigates in their favor in a tiebreaker among the committee members (I know I'm asking for some mind reading here, but curious what you think)?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Hey, why lose to Tennessee? The Gators have a golden opportunity tomorrow night. They're at home. Take care of the ball and win. That's the shortest distance between these two points. I would guess in any event that there will be a lot of points scored in that game.

JKiersky (Memphis): Forget all of the bubble talk for a second. Who's your Final Four and Nat'l Champ and why?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Before seeing the brackets, are you mad? I've got my read on the best teams, of course, but then the committee goes and aims them at each other. Best example: last year I had both Louisville and Texas A&M as among the best ten or so teams in the nation. They played each other in the second round. That being said, I will note that right now UCLA and Kansas are looking very beastly. I also can't wait to see what Carolina looks like Saturday night against Duke with Lawson back.

John Gasaway (Basketball): OK, then. Many more great questions in the queue but I must scoot. Hope we can do this again soon during this sublime month. Take care. j.


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