It's Sweet 16 time, so check in with Basketballprospectus.com's John Gasaway on how the tourney's gone so far, and what's to come.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Yo, hoops nation! I'm me, you're you, and the Sweet 16 tips off tomorrow night. Let's take in the whole sweeping splendid March vista. Upsets, controversies, coaching carousels, and commercials. I'm here at Prospectus HQ with an oldie but goodie playing -- Foster the People, "Pumped Up Kicks" -- and I'm feeling chatty for the next 60 minutes. Commencez!
briankervick (Boston, MA): Is there any statistically known impact of playing "close to" but not "at" home? (E.g. San Diego St. in Anaheim..1 hr 45 min drive) Studio analysts and savvy bracketeers have been using that as a metric to prognosticate games for a while, but I am curious to know the actual impact it has.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Yes! Prospectus Emeritus Nate Silver was all over this last week at the NYT. Enjoy:
Austin Gray (Faried At Last) (Nashville, TN): Texas' dominant January made their em stats and kenpom ratings pretty gaudy. Thusly, log5 gave them a pretty good chance of getting out of their region, and they were a popular "buy-low" Final Four candidate in tournament pools (and they came recommended by Slate.com). Those who paid attention, though, knew that the Texas of March was not the Texas of January. The question is, then, is there a way to incorporate some kind of "trending" into log5 projections? Are they already incorporated, and I'm just not aware of it? Or will it remain completely up to the reader to distinguish between the numbers and reality? Keep up the good work!
John Gasaway (Basketball): Yes, most if indeed not all laptop-dwelling evaluative systems rightly place more emphasis on your more recent games than on whatever cupcake you opened the season with in early November. But whether we're talking computers or humans the challenge here is formidable. Sure, March Texas was not January Texas.
But look at VCU. Their late season was arguably as feeble as Missouri's or Villanova's. The Rams lost their last four CAA games, one of which was a 20-point drubbing at home at the hands of George Mason. Now look.
iamse7en (Woodbury, MN): With Jimmer and the Fredettes shooting like they did against the Zags, don't they have a title shot? Who can stop Jimmer? Brandon who?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Absolutely they have a title shot if they keep draining threes like that. But that game was the exception to the rule. Since the tip of the MWC tournament the Cougars are hitting less the a third of their threes. Florida's not exactly Florida State on D, of course, and I expect points will be scored by both sides in that game. But the Gonzaga game was different. And therefore fun. Unless you're a Gonaga fan.
boynamedsioux (Lawrence, KS): Are the Morris twins the best set of twins to ever play college basketball? I gotta think they could take the Lopez twins to school in a game of 2 v 2.
John Gasaway (Basketball): My knowledge of twins through the decades is not what I would like it to be. A former CBS analyst would be all over this. "Best set of twins since the Van Clyburns and Fordham played the Gussies in old Madison Square Garden!" or some such.
How 'bout it readers, best twins ever?
Rick Barnes (Austin): Am I cursed, unlucky, bad at my job, all of the above?
John Gasaway (Basketball): I'll take a little from column B there. I think this whole column C thing might have started when you had Kevin Durant and everyone just assumed you should win the national championship. But that team didn't play much D. Then every year since has kind of added new wrinkles. Though even I have to say that last year looked weird.
Bobby (Las Vegas): Who's going to win the Stanley Cup this season?
John Gasaway (Basketball): O, the irony! I am the least qualified person currently sitting in Canada to answer that question. On the flip side I was hurt deeply when "TSN" (which in Canada stands for the ESPN offshoot) didn't ask me to be in the studio for their March Madness coverage. The Successories poster here in the office says if I don't blow my own horn no one else will, and I will go so far as to consider myself one of the five people in the country most interested in U.S. college basketball. Instead they got Andy Rautins' dad, go figure.
Anyway, returning to the States soon. Look out Jersey!
Matt (KC): Please tell me the Jayhawks won't blow this.
John Gasaway (Basketball): The Jayhawks won't blow this. In addition to complying with your request I also happen to believe it. As long as "this" means reaching Houston.
lagronem (Newark DE): Hi John,
How excited should I be as an Oklahoma partisan by the possibility (rumor sustains me here) that Buzz Williams might helm OU next year?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Buzz makes every Prospectus-type human swoon with admiration. Be sure to read Ken's Sweet 16 preview today where he quotes Williams comparing the defense they played on Rick Jackson to strategy at the craps table. I have no idea if he would take a job in Norman, of course. It would be quite a cultural jump, from no football to hegemonic football. But, yeah, you should be excited by the possibility.
paul (socal): Wisconsin/Butler: Leuer/Taylor + 3-pt shooting role players vs. Howard/Mack + 3-pt shooting role players. Who wins? A return trip to final 4 for Butler possible? If so, has anyone had a coaching career start like Brad Stevens?
John Gasaway (Basketball): The numbers say Butler will lose. The numbers always say that and the game always comes down to the last possession, and Butler always ends up either winning or coming within three inches of winning.
A coaching career start like Brad Stevens...Roy Williams? Bill Guthridge? Others? Part of the fascination with Stevens is his youth. And he's probably wondering where all these supporters were six weeks ago when he lost at Youngstown State. But, yeah, he's a FOP (friend of Prospectus).
Marissa (LA): Are you suprised Adam Morrison became a bust while JJ Redick has established himself as a solid role player?
John Gasaway (Basketball): I don't know what takes place in the NBA, but assuming the premises of your question jibe with what I was actually I happened I would answer "No" and "Yes," respectively.
Ray L (Seattle): What's the statistical background/rationale for saying that home court advantage is worth a given number of points? Is it just that, over a long period of time, home teams have been shown to win more games than visitors?
John Gasaway (Basketball): More like over a long period they've been shown to score more and allow fewer points per possession, yes. Extending observed past behavior into the near-future to hazard a guess. It's how we roll!
Ben Allaire (Raleigh, NC): You and Kenny Pomeroy are picking teams for a pick up game of the players left in the tournament. You make a three giving you first pick. Who ya got?
John Gasaway (Basketball): I get Bruesewitz!
Brian Estabrook (San Diego): Everyone seems fully on the Buckeye bandwagon against UK, but shouldn't everyone be more concerned about UK's perimeter length? Liggins, Miller and Knight are all pretty disruptive perimeter defenders going up against a Buckeye team that thrives on unmolested 3 point attempts.
Not to mention that OSU's best lineup vs. UK's best lineup leaves 6-5 225 Lighty guarding 6-8 250 Jones. *gulp*
*full disclosure: Buckeye alum/diehard fan*
John Gasaway (Basketball): If by everyone's on the bandwagon you mean your team's the tournament's overall 1 seed, of course we're all clambering aboard. But as Ken said in his preview today, UK is arguably the best team in the Sweet 16 that's not a 1 seed. It just stinks that these two have to play already. True Kentucky looked human against Princeton but then OSU was taken to OT by Northwestern in the Big Ten tournament. I will say this. If Josh Harrellson is allowed to survive just two more games his transformation into Brian Zoubek circa April 2010 will be complete.
Drew Cannon (Durham, NC): Rank the seven rounds of the tournament in order of awesomeness.
John Gasaway (Basketball): I actually think it can vary by year. Butler-Pitt is The Game this year and it will be awfully tough to top. On that metric last year the best "round" was the national championship game. Maybe awesomeness is heedless of silly human constructs like rounds. But I do love the morning before tip off of the round of 64. Always have.
Stevey (Vancouver): College Basketball players should be paid, Yes or No?
John Gasaway (Basketball): http://www.basketballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=1343
Austin Gray (Nashville, TN): Jon and Joe Ross. Obviously.
John Gasaway (Basketball): OK.
Ben Allaire (Raleigh, NC): The best twin basketball players in college basketball?
The Burge sisters, of course. They were awesome AND had a Disney movie made about them.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Got it.
Patrick Bailey (NYC): We finally did it! We fired Paul Hewitt! Now the question becomes, do you think young, smart coaches like Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart are available? I seem to remember Stevens getting lots of offers last year and agreeing to stay put in Indy.
John Gasaway (Basketball): No idea what Smart wants to do, though it's probably worth noting that, unlike Stevens, Smart's already hopped around a bit as an assistant and has had brushes with livin' major-conference large. Yes, Butler renegotiated Stevens' contract after last season. I don't suppose Stevens will still be at Butler when he retires in 2045, but would a guy who's been so throughly central-Indiana for his first 35 years choose to jump to...Atlanta and the ACC? Maybe. Stranger things have happened.
Brohio (NC): What are your thoughts on UNC the rest of the way? They seem to me like they're one of the luckiest teams in all of the NCAA and therefore very overrated (9-1 in games decided by 3 or fewer pts or OT).
John Gasaway (Basketball): Memphis also compiled quite a body of work in that area this season. When they lost by two to Arizona I had to rub my eyes. But there's nothing illusory about the Carolina D. Would not be surprised to see them in the Elite Eight for the winner of UK-OSU.
Judging from my email it appears some writers looking at Carolina still confuse pace with offense and alleged lack of defense. That's fine. It gives us a shtick.
Steve (New Jersey): If a team not named Wisconsin was on pace to break the all time NCAA record for FT'% and fewest turnovers per game while having 2 NBA prospects in Leurer & Taylor they would be the darlings on the tournament. Why does Wisconsin not get the attention for this pretty astonishing season ?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Are you mad? "Record for FT% and fewest turnovers"? Bor-ing! Invent a dance! Wear one of those cool elbow-warmer sleeve thingys! I'm seeing a Bruesewitz bobblehead. Who's with me?
mehmattski (Durham, NC): Given the performance of Utah State and Belmont, is it possible that the adjustments on efficiency margin in small conferences are not strong enough? Do we really know enough about a team by seeing them blow out 20 terrible opponents?
John Gasaway (Basketball): This is where humans come in handy. Nuclear energy and knowing what to make of statistically dominant teams outside the top seven or eight conference are the two topics currently occupying some of our nation's brightest minds.
There's no shame attached to losing to Wisconsin or Kansas State on a neutral floor. And of course Butler didn't get to sniff any opponent worthy of an at-large last year after New Year's until they got to the Dance. They turned out OK. So it's a tough analytic nut to crack.
Last thing to keep in mind. Tuesday Truths is mere reportage, not an attempt at a rating "system," per se. That really is how many points those teams scored and allowed on each possession. What we do with that info is up to us.
iamse7en (Woodbury, MN): SDSU reminds me of 2010 Butler: tough defense, ugly games, but they gut out wins. Doesn't SDSU have a legit shot at the Final Four?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Interesting parallel. Of course they have a legit shot. They're just 80 minutes away. Also has anyone else noticed the Aztecs' coach -- with the choice in glasses and the hair type in particular -- is taking on a strange visual resemblance to a certain head coach who also worked in SoCal and lived from 1910 to 2010? Maybe he thinks it will help.
OK couple more and then we'll wrap up. Get those questions in now!
horsecow (Iowa City): The words used to describe Matt Howard are always "humble" and "low-key", but he seems to me like the most devious (in a good way) player in college basketball: the flopping, the sneakiness, the selling fouls. Doesn't he seem like a perfect fit for the Spurs (although as a 10th man)?
John Gasaway (Basketball): "Humble" and "low-key" have become synonyms for "He doesn't have tattoos." Wouldn't read too much into it. Yes, he's devious in a good way, and I think the green light on an occasional three has energized his game. I gave him much love in today's Sweet 16 preview. Yes, I can picture him sitting next to Popovich until the 3rd quarter and then suddenly making a three and bleeding for some reason. It's not a game until he starts bleeding.
StL reflections (Saint Louis, MO): Is there enough data to make a good prediction on BYU Florida with a few more games of data with Davies out? BYU is clearly worse, but it doesn't seem like they are get blown out by New Mexico worse.
John Gasaway (Basketball): No really, no. Lost to SDSU in MWC title game, scraped by Wofford rather unimpressively, then suddenly turned into UCLA '73 against Gonzaga for some reason. If they make it to the Final Four they will have compiled enough post-Davies possessions for me to feel like I can pontificate a bit more confidently.
John Gasaway (Basketball): That'll do 'er for today, folks! Thanks for the chatting. Enjoy the games! Ciao,