No foolin', it's time for the Final Four, and you'll want to talk about the action on the way with BasketballProspectus.com's John Gasaway.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Yo, hoops nation! Welcome to our final college hoops chat of the 2010-11 season. We have a wacky field of Final Four teams and three great games ahead of us and lots of improbably happenings in the rearview. Let's talk about all of it. This chat is officially tipped off!
roidrage (sea-town): Just a thanks for all the fantastic writing and analysis over the year- thank you and see you guys next season!
John Gasaway (Basketball): Now this constitutes an excellent question, ladies and gentlemen. I want everyone to take a page from this particular book, and send in those flowery tributes tout de suite, d'accord?
hoopsensei (socal): How bad is the "stats vs. scouts" debate in basketball? Seeing kenpom's twitter feed after Butler and VCU made the Final Four seemed to indicate there are a lot of traditionalists who are bad at understanding the concept of probabilities.
John Gasaway (Basketball): For my money basketball has never had a population quite as horse-whispery as pre-Beane old-school baseball scouts, so from my chair the debate you refer to isn't all that vicious. But I think the main point here is that most (not all) basketball fans like highly improbably events to occur now and again. What we offer here at Prospectus, we hope, is accuracy in surprise, when to use "stun" correctly, etc.
Ben Allaire (Raleigh, NC): Do you think Butler's success in close games is due primarily to luck or pluck? Or something else all together (Stats perhaps?)?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Hey, cool, a question I've already written on. Make haste!
And if you're not an Insider subscriber, I'll paraphrase: if a good break is something that can happen to any team or coach, by definition it can happen to a really good team and/or a really good coach.
wittman1984 (Lexington/Cambridge): So how'd our Kentucky/Gone with the Wind comparison hold up?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Pretty dang well! This is a team that lost games in Athens, Tuscaloosa, Oxford, Gainesville, Nashville, and Fayetteville. But for these Wildcats tomorrow *was* another day! (Music swells, fade to black.)
Portmanteur (NYC): Do you see the implications of "Fiestagate" reaching into College Hoops?
John Gasaway (Basketball): No, because there's no analogue for the fiefdom of bowls in college hoops. I like the sport we have here. No onerous ticket guarantees, way fewer concussions, postseason money is plowed back into overpriced tuition bills -- hoops has a lot to recommend itself.
Kevin B (Chicago): What are the five most memorable things about this college basketball season (to this point...)?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Yikes, five? Butler-Pitt comes to mind as numero uno. Help me out readers. Name four more.
Speaking of Butler-Pitt I'm enjoying the resurgence of competitive 1-8 games. For a while there it looked like no 1-seed could be touched the first weekend but between Kansas last year and the Panthers this season that worm has turned. I seem to remember a great round of 32 game between Gonzaga as an 8 and Arizona as a 1...? In Albuquerque, perhaps? And Sports Illustrated had an incredible two-page photo of the decisive moment. Or maybe I'm making this all up.
Anyway, now taking nominations for other great moments. It wasn't especially exciting but I will say I never thought I would see a game with just 42 possessions. That was memorable too.
Jerry H (the rez): John, I think it's funny that you stats folk have taken some heat for not seeing VCU and Butler coming ... as if any of the more traditional media guys were saying "Oh yeah, those Rams, keep an eye out." Anyways, of VCU and Butler, which do you think is more likely to win on Monday? And which of UK or UConn do you see as the better matchup for the Mid-Major National Champion?
John Gasaway (Basketball): I can only speak for myself but really I haven't taken any undue heat. No matter where you plant your flag -- be it stats, or wins, or scouting of the players -- absolutely no one was available three weeks ago to stand up and say VCU is one of the four best teams in the country. This week Pat Forde said if we played the tournament again right now we'd get four different teams, and I think that could well be true. If that were the case every year it wouldn't be my choice, but I think once in a blue moon is cool.
The Rams have been superior to Butler as a tournament team to this point. And, to each their own, but if I were Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens I would prefer to see UConn rather than UK. But either way I'm a 30-something mid-major coach in the national championship game. I'm happy with either opponent.
Duvall (Arlington, VA): Was the 2011 NCAA Tournament a failure? Not in terms of providing excitement or entertainment obviously, but in terms of identifying the best team of the 2010-2011 season. How excited should we be to have a champion with at least eight losses, and possibly eleven?
John Gasaway (Basketball): People said the same thing about the 2006 tournament. That was the year UConn "should" have played Duke in the title game, but the Huskies lost to George Mason in the Elite Eight and the Blue Devils were smothered by Tyrus Thomas, Big Baby Davis, and LSU in the Sweet 16. So, yes, this kind of tournament is possible every few years. And I'm enough of a Grandpa Simpson that I can remember pieces written in '06 about how terrible this was and something had to be done. And within three years of that we had a Final Four with four 1 seeds. I think this stuff evens out over time. Whatever your chalk/no-chalk preference happens to be, you'll see a bracket that suits you sooner rather than later.
Jordan (MD): #2 memorable thing: Wagner continuing their firm grasp on the all-time (since 2003) Luck record they set in 2008.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Good one. Jimmer Mania needs inclusion too. Other nominations? For anyone just tuning in we're picking top 5 memorable happenings of the 2010-11 season. Send those votes in!
Jen (D.C.): Memorable moment nom to Harvard/Princeton - even from my crummy Internet feed, it was quite a game to watch.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Yes, excellent choice. Great venue (Yale home floor), high stakes. Nicely done.
briankervick (Boston, MA): UConn already survived winning one regular season rematch (Cincinnati) in the NCAA tournament. Kentucky already avenged it's one other non-conference loss (North Carolina in the last round). Any statistical insight about NCAA tournament rematches?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Sorry none. Got a fun fact, though. In 2000 Wisconsin lost to Michigan State *four* times. Twice during the season, plus the Big Ten tournament and the Final Four. That was some serious rematchage.
garik16 (Durham): It seems like statistical ranking systems may be hampered by the fact that non-conference play ends in late December (since the comparisons to teams outside of conference is based upon OOC data from back then).
Any chance we could convince conferences to play the first half of conference schedules in December and the last half in Feb-March?
John Gasaway (Basketball): I propose a BracketBusters for the major conferences, a hoops Festivus for the rest of us, if you will. How cool would it have been in late February to just say: Alright, Ohio State, we have you going to Lawrence to play Kansas. I wouldn't put it past the awesome reach of the future. I tend to like games that programs did not schedule for themselves.
Bernie Fine (Syracuse, NY): Should Jimmy and I announce that Scoop Jardine has declared for the NBA draft so we don't have to contend with his disregard for the team concept and abuse of basic clock management strategy? Or do we need his scoring enough next year that we decline to pull a Devendorf?
John Gasaway (Basketball): If basic clock management is the applicable pass/fail there are a ton of players and coaches who will be washed out of D-I. Scoop made some threes this year. I say give him another shot (har!).
I do love the idea of declaring for a player. Anyone else remember last year when Patrick Patterson read on the internet that he was declaring for the draft? It was the hoops equivalent of Lucille Ball reading in the newspaper that she was pregnant. Both turned out to be true.
Jordan (MD): Are you excited about the Mike Anderson era in Arkansas?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Yes, very. It is good for the SEC and by extension college hoops in general if the SEC West snaps out of its coma. Anderson has the Fayetteville roots, I should think, to get talent in uniform there.
That makes two consecutive Missouri coaches who got to the Elite Eight during relatively short tenures in Columbia, yes?
John (Cambridge): How would you change the way the Committee selects NCAA Tournament teams specifically to incent major conference teams to take more games against good mid-majors?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Lots of ways to skin that cat, right? Tying a cinderblock to RPI and tossing it in the ocean is step one, of course. After this chat concludes everyone should go read Kyle Whelliston's recent Unfiltered post on mid-majors and RPI. He made a number of great points, one of which is that RPI is "just one tool" in the current process a little like structural steel is "just one way" that buildings stay up.
garik16 (Durham): Don't forget the 4 game set between Duke and Maryland in 2001: First game involved a 10 point comeback with a minute left, second game involved the road team winning, third game was won on a last second tip, and the fourth game involved the biggest comeback in final four history.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Good catch. Thanks.
Mike (Lowell, MA): Do you feel there are coaches who, must like some of the Moneyball scouts, disreguard the tempo free stats? I know some of the analysts do. I heard Wisconsin and Pitt referred to multiple times as stingy defensive teams.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Certainly there are, particularly head coaches. In Pete Thamel's NYT piece on Ken, I think Richmond was mentioned as a staff that doesn't use this stuff, right? And I always bring up the example of Matt Painter. Three or so seasons ago an analyst showed Painter a sheet of stuff that I'd come up with for the analyst to use on that night's game and Painter literally pushed it away, saying "We don't use that stuff." He's a very good coach anyway. I've never supposed our goodies are mandatory, I just think they can be helpful.
Back in the day I'd occasionally hear from assistant coaches who wanted to have an analytical affair with me behind the head coach's back, because the head coach didn't believe in the stuff. But, happily, it seems like that day is passing quickly with the success of Stevens and with characters like Buzz Williams spouting effective FG percentages at every post-game presser.
As far as analysts/broadcasters I want to again laud CBS for their occasional use of this stuff on their graphics. Anonymous reality-supportive associate producer in the truck at CBS, I salute you!
paulmanghera (chicago): In the Memorable Moments category, how about nominating VCU for beating a Pac 10 team, a Big East team, a Big 10 team, an ACC team, and a Big 12 team to reach the Final Four. If the Rams advance to Monday night and are tied with Kentucky in the waning seconds, might Jim Nance slip up and say "this one's for all the Tostitos"?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Excellent point. Let's do some scenario planning for Nantz's annual final-seconds pun. I'm afraid the surname of VCU's head coach will offer Jim some irresistibly low-hanging fruit should it come to that.
Yes, clearly VCU winning five games is up there on the same bleachers with Butler getting to two of these in a row. That both occurred in the same year is incomprehensible.
krissbeth (watertown, ma): Who are you picking in the Cinderella grudge match?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Grudge? In today's FF preview I hazarded a guess that Butler will deploy a Duke-style Berlin Wall along the three-point line aimed at encouraging 19-foot two-point attempts. That said, perhaps the most under-discussed part of a wacky unbelievable event like this has been VCU's defense, which has been magnificent in the tournament.
hoopsensei (socal): Nominate Kemba's J to beat Pitt in the Big East tourney. Overall, are the Butler/VCU runs better or worse for college basketball? Will the committee figure out some other way to protect the BCS conf. schools entries to the tourney and further limit the rest? Any way to encourage the BCS conf. teams to go out and play the good mid/low-majors teams?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Teams from outside the six major conferences making the Final Four is an unalloyed good for everyone involved, including the major conferences. I've documented some helpful suggestions I have for the committee, but I will say I believe them when they say that they don't consciously include or exclude a team because they are or are not a mid-major. Probably the only good thing to be said about RPI is that it does stir those categories together.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Whoops, went one minute over my allotted time. That's going to do it, folks. Thanks for the chat and indeed for all the great chats this year! It's been real. Now, onto the Final Four and what I trust will be three great games. Enjoy!