With college basketball gearing up, chat with John Gasaway of BasketballProspectus.com to talk about the shape of the season to come.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Welcome to the new season! Let's talk about it. Bring it on, readers!
wittman1984 (Lexington/Cambridge): Can you compare this year's edition of the Kentucky Wildcats to a book?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Definitely Gone with the Wind. Calipari’s Rhett (duh), zeal-filled UK fans form a collective Scarlett, DeMarcus Cousins is Ashley (gone but yearned for), Billy Gillispie’s the no-account Yankee Wilkerson (I love this!), Kanter is Dr. Mead (not there when you need him), etc.
Chatters, a high standard has been set! That was a cool question.
JT (Philly): Is Murray State good enough to be considered one of the top mid-majors with Butler and company?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Yes. I’d have to look but I think it was when I was researching January’s top 25 freshmen piece that I stumbled across Isaiah Canaan and co.(late, I know) and from that point on I was running around yelling that the Racers were a *highly* atypical OVC team. Very nearly took out Butler in second round.
ChicagoMac (Chicago): You have OSU improving after losing their leading scorer, their top assist man, their offensive rebounding leader, their top defensive rebounder, their leader in steals, and their 2nd best shot blocker and yet you think Detroit is the most interesting team?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Well phrased! Though I've merely predicted the Buckeyes will go 14-4 in the Big Ten for a second consecutive season. Not sure that constitutes improving. I see them tying for first (with Michigan State) just like they tied for first (with MSU and Purdue) last year.
Also keep in mind one year ago right now you could have constructed a fairly robust sentence along your same lines to describe Syracuse after Jonny Flynn and Eric Devendorf had left. Look what happened.
Kevin B (Chicago, IL): What preseason poll-ranked team would be most likely to fall flat and miss the NCAA tournament?
What preseason disregarded team would be most likely to shoot up the charts during the season and end up a high seed in the NCAA tournament?
John Gasaway (Basketball): What you describe is a long fall, of course, so by "most likely" I'm engaging in clear "tallest midget in the circus" talk. San Diego State (25 in AP), of course, is facing some off-court issues. And speaking of off-court issues who knows where March will find Tennessee (23 and 20, AP and ESPN/USAT). But if you're asking to I see any clear howlers in the preseason polls, no, not really. I've raised an eyebrow about the positioning of a team here and there in the "Poll Position" features, but there's good reason to think these 25 teams will be pretty good.
As for disregarded let's keep the Murray State love flowing. Racers lurking just outside AP 25; bit further into the fine print in coaches poll.
SevenJE (Boston, MA): Ken Pomeroy’s numbers suggest that the biggest keys to Duke’s success on the offense end last year were: 3-point shooting, offensive rebounding, and lack of turnovers. In short, they got off more shots and FT’s per possession than anyone else and knocked down their 3’s.
No question they have the shooters again this year with Singler, Smith, Dawkins, and Curry. But they lost their best offensive rebounder in Zoubek (plus Lance Thomas) and they’ll be using a freshman PG to help replace Scheyer, who was one of the best guards in the country at taking care of the basketball.
I still think Duke is the clear favorite this year, but isn’t it possible that they could shoot the ball just as well and still not be anywhere near as effective? They won’t be able to get off as many shots without Zoubek and Scheyer there to retain/save possessions.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Ken's numbers are correct! (Shocking, I know.) They got more shots: Ken has proposed calling this getting more bites at the apple, a coinage I will do all in my awesome power to popularize. I came fairly close to doing a Duke-is-doomed piece last year because their two-point percentage was so oddly low. You know the rest. Instead I went the opposite direction with a bunch of "Zoubek is good. No, I'm serious" pieces. Whew! That was close.
This year Duke's offensive rebounding won't be anywhere near as good, but the good news is there's no way they'll make so few twos again. They are indeed the "clear favorite" where that is understood to mean "mortal but really good."
JT (Michigan): Wait? College? Will you also discuss the NBA?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Um, I can try. It would supply some good comic relief for my NBA colleagues Kevin Pelton and Bradford Doolittle. OK, here goes (old man voice): "Bah! Ain't there no goll dern traveling in this here league! Bah!" That's it. That's all I got.
Will (Mactaquac): Marcus Thornton. WTF??? I mean, like, WTF??? Does he go for pizza instead of the defensive end? Chat up the cheerleaders instead of clogging passing lanes? WTFWTFWTF?? Thank you. No, I'm not calm about Marcus. Yes, I took him wayyyyyyyyyyy too early this year in fantasy. Who's talking? Who's voice is this?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Ooo, another NBA question. Alrighty, then: "Bah! Ain't there no goll dern traveling in this here league! Bah!"
andtinez (Houston): Why isn't the Citadel covered in the book?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Because the editor of that book was covering all of D-I for the first time. Think of that editor as a freshman. Fortunately Prospectus readers know you typically see the largest improvement in performance between the freshman and sophomore years. Wait until next year! That editor will be suddenly competent!
PDF now has all 345 D-I teams. So too, of course, will the beautiful glossy-cover version, available for order any day now.
Paul (DC): Give me some love on how 'Cuse bounces back from losing Wes Johnson, A-O, and Rautins.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Whoops, should have grouped this in with my earlier 'Cuse reference. OK then, love here is way easy to upload. Fab Melo bay-bee! You know, seriously, if all he does is be seven feet tall on defense the Orange 2-point D stands an excellent chance of progressing from "quite good" to "whoa." And if they can just hang onto the goll dern rock this season instead of giving the thing away on 21 percent of their Big East trips (Bah!) they can compensate for what is almost certain to be a drop-off in shooting accuracy from the field.
Note the "from the field." I stand second to none in my A-O love and his offensive rebounding was worthy of a hybrid player named DeMarcus Zoubek. But oh the missed FTs. That % should go up now.
jamin67038 (Wichita, KS): The three D1 Kansas teams should all clear 25 wins this year- do you think they win 90 games combined?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Really? Only three D-I programs in that whole expanse? Never thought of that. I know UMKC's just a few blocks away from Stateline, I could practically push it into Sunflower state.
Oui, all three of those teams should be quite beastly, you bet. The book has the Shockers at the top of the MVC (Gregg Marshall--good post-Winthrop times at last?) while KU and K-State are projected as duking it out at the top of the Big 12 standings. It's a good time to be in that state. Goodland is pumped! And maybe it will mean an entire year without a single "What's the Matter with Kansas" reference. Don't bet on it.
Kevin B (Chicago, IL): Every year, we wonder if this is finally the year the Big Ten stops being the slowest major conference in Division 1. With a reportedly newly-speedy Iowa offensive scheme, hopefully joining Indiana and Illinois in the group of "Big Ten teams that actually play above average tempo", is this the year that the Big Ten moves faster than at least one of the other major conferences?
John Gasaway (Basketball): There is a lot of ground to cover before the Big Ten climbs out of sixth in this six-league pace race. More book excerpting! Let's see, on page 119 I see where fifth-place Pac-10 averaged 65 possessions per 40 minutes (conf games only) while the Big Ten was way down at 62. Fran alone can't change that, even if he's given Red Bull to every Hawkeye. Three possessions is a big difference when you're talking about whole conferences. Mark me down as guessing the streak will continue in 2011.
Fran McCaffery (Iowa City): Did you see that my squad scored 111 in our exhibition game vs. a D-2 squad Sunday? Has there ever been a greater shift in philosophy/style/tempo from one year to the next in major college hoops?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Well if that don't put the dink in coinky-dink! We were just talking about you, Coach! Good of you to stop by. (NOTE TO MY MOM: This is not really Fran McCaffery. This is one of those internet memes I explain to you now and again.)
I actually have those numbers somewhere in the bowels of this very laptop, just not on my screen. Thank you for the writes-itself feature topic. Don't tell me editors. Watch for this soon.
Kevin B (Chicago, IL): Does Northwestern still have a reasonable shot at making the NCAA tournament for the first time ever, despite being without Kevin Coble and dealing with a reputedly "stacked" Big Ten conference?
And if they're among the first of the "First Four", does it still count the same?
John Gasaway (Basketball): What's that someone said? "More book excerpting"? OK, look, let's have this out in the open right now. Buy the book.
Page 132: "A few paragraphs up I suggested that last year’s offense comprises the crowning achievement in Carmody’s tenure to date in Evanston. On the other hand Northwestern fans and indeed much of the morbidly intrigued western world have a different “crowning achievement” in mind for this program. They want to see these Wildcats in the NCAA tournament. Can this be the year? Of course! That’s why this is such great theater. It’s not like we’re asking this team to win the Big Ten or make the Final Four. Just be as mediocre and forgettable as Minnesota was last year, for goodness sake. Heck there are even four more tournament bids available as of 2011. I say it’s time to scratch this itch."
Ben Allaire (Raleigh, NC): I posed my question on twitter.
John Gasaway (Basketball): That was rather cheeky. OK, group, here is the question: "Signing up for Basketball Prospectus Premium, where might I find coupons? So far checked: Real Simple, Ym!, Teen Vogue. Nothing, nada, zilch."
We've produced one of those inserts like tire places do for your Sunday paper. The photo shoot was a blast, although Pomeroy kept complaining that the dry ice was irritating his sinuses. (Went to his trailer and sulked.) I thought the wind machine was a nice touch.
MC (Holde): How well do you think BYU will do this year?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Splendidly. Cougar fun fact: Last year they were almost eerily balanced, with both the offense and D being 1.2 or 1.3 standard deviations better than the MWC mean (conf games only). And with so many possessions returning, particularly on offense, looks like another strong year. That said there will be much happiness and rejoicing in Tempo-Free World when a beastly MWC regular-season profile propels a team to the second weekend of the NCAA's.
jamin67038 (Wichita, KS): Who are some coaching names at non-BCS conferences that will get a look by BCS schools at the end of this year?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Shaka Smart? Question mark intentional, it's a total guess because so much rides on that one weekend in March. Odd but true.
Mike (STL): I was a little surprised to see you have Missouri going just 10-6 in the league, considering all the team brings back plus the possibility of Tony Mitchell for the second semester. Do you think this team can step up and challenge for the Big 12 title?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Well, "I" don't, the book does. Big 12 preview was done by the estimable Josh Reed. Let's see here....Oh, here we go. Page 67: "Missouri under Mike Anderson is precariously close to becoming the Big 12's version of Wisconsin." NOTE TO NON-BIG-TEN-AWARE CHATTERS: That is a huge compliment. Sounds like the answer to your question is "Yup!"
Mike (Tempe, Ariz.): Is this the year Herb Sendek leads his Sun Devils into the Sweet 16? And what can he do to improve his record in postseason (both conf. and NCAA tourney) games?
John Gasaway (Basketball): ASU's defense was way under-appreciated last year. I sometimes think fans have category trouble: "Sendek? Defense? Doesn't compute." But I speak of last year. If there's Pac-10 representation in the 2011 Sweet 16 I'd be more inclined to expect U-Dub or those 'Cats from over yonder in Tucson. Just me.
Stormy (Charlottesville, VA): How big a step back does Cornell take this year? Bill Courtney was a great hire, but the perfect storm of events that led to a Sweet 16 run for the Big Red is over.
Optional Bonus Question: When do we see the steel-cage match between you and Bylaw Blog's John Infante?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Big. They've lost their Big Three. (Wittman, Foote, Dale). I don't think they'll turn into Dartmouth overnight, but keep in mind last year's team was historically mighty for an Ivy League entrant. It's a safe bet that whichever team tops the Ivy standings in '11 won't be as mighty.
No steel-cage, I assure you. John's a really bright guy. I know I profit from having someone writing from so close to what has hitherto been the black box of NCAA compliance.
Besides he said my thing was the best five pages in history or whatever. Sounds like a good dude to me.
Ben (Austin): Delaware State is 301st in the Ken Pom rankings, yet picked to finish 2nd in the MEAC by Drew Cannon. What can you tell me about the MEAC and Delaware State that explains this divide. I was sort of surprised to not see them in the explanations of predicting the future in the book.
John Gasaway (Basketball): 301st this year or last year? If it's this year you're looking at a projection. A really smart one but a projection nonetheless. As for Drew let's head on over to page 294: "Most of the season will depend on sophomores like Terron Stowe (offensive rating of 98 on 26 percent of possessions) and Alibaba Odd (101 on 23 percent). If they produce, I wouldn’t bet against the Hornets to again be strong, since Jackson shows no history of trying to use this type of defense every year. If they don’t, though, DSU could be middle-of-the-pack or worse."
Purdidit (Chicago): Purdue is no longer conceding the rebound after they take a shot which may prove to be the best replacement for Hummel's efficiency at the offensive end. That combined with some Freshman named Terone Johnson and the 'juvenation' of Patrick Bade is reason not to count out Purdue this year. When will you commence the Matt Painter for Coach of the Year campaign?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Hey, I said Painter should have been named COY last year for getting that team to the 30th minute of a Sweet 16 game against the eventual national champion. Unbelievable. And yes, allowing the ball to ricochet into your post-Hummel team's hands off the backboard instead of fleeing like it's going to bite you is a great first step.
Steve (Houston): Am I crazy to think that Penn could win the Ivy league this season?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Plenty of returning possessions but the Quakers will need to play D. Page 277: "Penn’s in-conference opponents posted a 52.4 effective FG percentage, good for the worst eFG defense in the Ivy. The problem is evenly distributed inside and outside the arc as well. Penn can probably compete for the Ivy title this season, but there’s no reason to expect anything except marginal gains on defense."
Andrew (New Orleans): How wide open is the WAC? Could Hawaii finish middle of the pack and can Boise State finish 2nd (you have them 3rd)?
John Gasaway (Basketball): A lot less wide open than it'd be without Utah State? Aggies look pretty good. Past that, sure, way wide open. BSU can absolutely do that. Warriors could most certainly say aloha to middle of WAC pack. Wait, that means "goodbye" too, doesn't it? You know what I mean.
Craig (Virginia): I'm having a hard time what to make of Old Dominion for this season. Last season, they were a team that played great defense and rebounded as well as anyone in the country, and all of their best rebounders and defensive players are back. Last season, they also couldn't shoot, and by far their best shooter (and scorer) in Gerald Lee is gone. Can ODU be successful as a more extreme version of its 2009-2010 self? Do you see them winning the CAA and being in the top 35-40 nationally again this year?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Yes, yes, and yes. VCU will be right there with the Monarchs but that ODU D was the stuff of sonnets. Should be again. Yes, an occasional made three would help things along.
Dan (CT): Kenpom's numbers have Iona and Siena with the same record, who will win the MAAC and why not Fairfield?
John Gasaway (Basketball): The conventions of sportswriting required Asher Fusco to name one team as champion in the book. He picked Iona, but thinks it should be a lively race between the Gaels, post-Fran Siena, and Fairfield.
David (Sydney, NSW): How about the inverse Fran McCaffery situation: Wake Forest hits the brakes this year. Will they actually be as slow as a Jeff Bermdkniarenaszik typically is. (Apologies if I spelled that name incorrectly.)
John Gasaway (Basketball): Amazing. This has been the Fran McCaffery chat. Who knew? Bzdelik's CU team was weirdly fast last year but no one noticed because it was in Boulder. I have no idea what Coach B will choose to but people who have him down as a lockstep slow-ball devotee miss the mark. He changes speeds.
Drew (Due North): If we're using cultural benchmarks, can you describe what type of painting the University of Richmond Spiders would be in 2010-11? And do you like their chances of making it to the big dance again?
John Gasaway (Basketball): One thing I do know: the will NOT be Edvard Munch-level horrific! OK, that was for the old-timers. Haven't dusted that one off in a while. Yes, Richmond's tough, they're biggest obstacle is a tough league stocked with the likes of Xavier, Temple, Dayton, et al.
Nathan Walker (Boone, NC): Ken Pomeroy's regular season prediction for North Carolina has them finishing just shy of 20 wins.
So the simple question remains: will they make the NCAA tournament this year?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Yes. Barnes is projected as going first or second next June. And it's not like he will be a one-man show. Yes, they will.
RD (Boston): Do the authors in CBP rely on a mathematical formula for the conference record projections or do you rely on your own judgment? (Probably a little bit of both, I'm just wondering how much one outweighs the other.)
John Gasaway (Basketball): Judgment, though this year Ken unveiled a new projection system at the front of the book.
John (Cambridge): I have a theory (one I am working on getting the data to test out) that for teams in autobid leagues, OOC schedule is a predictor of exceeding conference expectations. I also think this relationship might be parabolic: past a certain level of schedule "toughness," you do more harm to your team than good by piling up road losses. What do you think? Does OOC scheduling affect performance in one bid leagues, where the only goal is to win the conference?
John Gasaway (Basketball): It seemed like last year Cleveland State did more harm than good by piling up road non-conf losses, along with an agonizing loss at home to West Virginia. Not sure if Horizon fits your criteria but the Vikings do come to mind.
Stephen NOT Malkmus (A Pavement): 'Aloha means Goodbye, and also Hello, it's in how you inflect'. Anyway, while I'm here, can Cleveland State get close enough to Butler to make the Tournament?
John Gasaway (Basketball): It's the Cleveland State chat. Amazing. Yes the Vikings can reach that realm in 2011. Norris Cole and a host of returning experience.
And with that I say: Aloha. And the way I'm inflecting it means goodbye. Great stuff everyone! Ciao.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Aloha.