Sweet 16 – Part 2

I stuck around to watch the ending of all the games, except UK/WVU because that one got out of hand very early. When Kentucky is up 18-2 only 9 minutes into the first half, it’s time to throw in the towel, Huggins. On to the picks from last night’s and tonight’s game…

Wichita St (-2.0) vs Notre Dame (+2.0) ~ O/U = 137.5

Final Score = Wichita St 70 / Notre Dame 81

I only caught the last 5 minutes of this one, but from what I saw, the Irish could not miss. Apparently this game was a lot closer at the beginning of the 2nd half, but Notre Dame just went into another mode and cruised. I thought the Shockers had a real shot to win this one, but Notre Dame was just too much.

UNC (+6.5) vs Wisconsin (-6.5) ~ O/U = 145

Final Score = UNC 72 / Wisconsin 79

In all honesty, I loved watching the final 10 minutes of this game; one of the best, hardest fought endings I’ve seen this year. The score definitely doesn’t lend itself to just how close this game really was. Wisconsin was grinding out some tough shots, and Marcus Paige splashed two big 3s to keep it within 1. Ultimately, free throws won it at the end for Wisconsin. With the 5 guys on the floor inside 2 minutes, their worst free throw shooter was still above 70%. It was a good run for an underrated UNC team.

WVU (+13.5) vs Kentucky (-13.5) ~ O/U = 136.5

Final Score = WVU 39 / Kentucky 78

I noted yesterday that if WVU got down early, it would pretty much be over. It was. Kentucky got up 18-2 by the 11 minute mark in the first. It’s hard to see just how big Kentucky is until you really see them stand next to someone else. I don’t think any of their starters are less than 6’7”. That’s a serious advantage. Good luck, Notre Dame.

Xavier (+10.5) vs Arizona (-10.5) ~ O/U = 136

Final Score = Xavier 60 / Arizona 68

Xavier had this one, but down the stretch, Arizona went on a 19-7 run and both McConnell and Johnson stepped up big. Arizona exposed Stainbrook’s weaknesses and that went a long way to keeping them in it. Their game against Wisconsin should be another tight one.

ATS: 0-4 ~ O/U: 3-1

UCLA (+8.5) vs Gonzaga (-8.5) ~ O/U = 144.5

Gonzaga is a tough out. They’ve got some length, they can play defense, but I like their offense a lot better. They’ve lost 2 games in the regular season by a combined 6 points. I honestly have not seen UCLA play, and I don’t think they’re going to win this game. So I’m not going to pretend I know anything about them.

Verdict: Gonzaga (-8.5) , Over 144.5

NC State (+2.5) vs Louisville (-2.5) ~ O/U = 129.5

Honestly, I don’t know much about either of these teams. I didn’t have either of them getting this far in the tournament. Both of them can play defense, and I think that’s the kind of matchup we’re going to get tonight. NC State handily held off a very good Villanova team, which shows a lot. I think NC State covers this one.

Verdict: NC State (+2.5) , Under 129.5

Utah (+5.0) vs Duke (-5.0) ~ O/U = 134.5

I’m kicking myself for not having Utah in this game in my bracket. This is a real team with some real defense. However, I think Jahlil Okafor is going to give them fits in the post. Duke is solid on both sides of the ball, and can come back if they get down. After seeing Arizona barely eek one out, I think Duke might be the only team that stands a chance against Kentucky.

Verdict: Duke (-5.0) , Over 134.5

Michigan St (-1.5) vs Oklahoma (+1.5) ~ O/U = 135.5

Another defensive-dominant game is in store for this one. People don’t know much about Oklahoma, but they match up very well with Michigan St. The Spartans get more recognition because of Izzo, but the Sooners only allow 63 points per game. And even though the Spartans are riding a lot of momentum, I like Oklahoma to cover.

Verdict: Oklahoma (+1.5) , Under 135.5

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Sweet 16 – Part 1

The only betting I do is at the blackjack and 3-card poker table. Occasionally when I’m in a drunken stupor or a under the effect of some other substance, I’ll make a small prop bet with one of my buddies along the lines of ‘Crosby will hook this field goal attempt’ or ‘Big Papi is gonna mash this one over the right field fence’ or ‘Derrick Rose is not gonna have a career ending injury before the All-Star break’. That last one hasn’t panned out for me or Chicago.

The great thing about betting, though, is that it makes games [more] watchable. One of my quoted lines is, “It doesn’t matter who wins or loses, it’s whether they cover the spread.”

Like most people, I don’t pay attention to college basketball until February or later. So here are my picks.

Wichita St (-2.0) vs Notre Dame (+2.0) ~ O/U = 137.5

What I’ve noticed about Wichita St is that they aren’t really great at any one thing; they’re very balanced. The Fighting Irish, on the other hand, have a very effective offense: great 3 point shooters, outstanding free throw percentage, and win if they can make you play their game. However, after winning the ACC Championship by taking down UNC and Duke, they survived the weekend by beating both Northeastern and Butler by a combined 7 points. If Wichita St can rattle Notre Dame’s shooters, I think VanVleet can take over, as well as drain a few 3s of their own. I’ll take the Shockers to cover in a decently high scoring matchup.

Verdict: Wichita St (-2.0) , Over 137.5

UNC (+6.5) vs Wisconsin (-6.5) ~ O/U = 145

It’s tough. With Kennedy Meeks likely sidelined for this one, it’ll be Kaminsky and Brice Johnson in the post. UNC is the hotter team, and has the better backcourt. Even though Joseph Young took over Oregon’s offense (despite a pretty bad shooting percentage), I think the Ducks exposed Wisconsin’s defense and Roy Williams will certainly take advantage. I think the game could go either way, but I’ll definitely take UNC to cover. Wisconsin has respectable defense, but I think this one’s gonna be a shootout.

Verdict: UNC (+6.5) , Over 145

West Virginia (+13.5) vs Kentucky (-13.5) ~ O/U = 136.5

This will be a big test for Kentucky. The Mountaineers have a very good defense, as did the Wildcats’ previous opponent, Cincinnati. The difference is that WVU is a little more well rounded, and have a nice 1-2 punch with Juwan Staten and Devin Williams. I don’t think I need to delve into Kentucky’s resume. Bottom line, I think WVU could make a game out of it. But if they get down by 15 or so, they’ll never relinquish it. They’re good enough to keep it close, but no one is good enough to take down the Cats. I’ll take WVU to cover, but still lose in a fairly low-scoring affair.

Verdict: West Virginia (+13.5) , Under 136.5

Xavier (+10.5) vs Arizona (-10.5) ~ O/U = 136

Some would peg Arizona as the best team in the country. I have them as 2nd between Kentucky and Duke. They’re great on both sides of the ball, they have NBA-type talent, and they’re just the better team. For Xavier, they lost to Villanova in the Big East championship despite being the 6th best team in the conference. They’re also the last Big East team in the tournament out of 6 bids. I like them, just not against Arizona. Pretty much the same way I felt about Ohio State. And Arizona held D’angelo Russell in check the whole game. I’ll take Arizona to cover, and I’ll take the under.

Verdict: Arizona (-10.5) , Under 136

Results + Friday’s picks tomorrow

Bo Doesn’t Know

A little background on Bo Ryan…

His first 15 years of collegiate coaching were for UW Platteville. The team went 39-39 in the first 3 years. The team did not lose more than 5 games in a given year after that, and they acquired 4 championships in the process with 2 of those being on the back of undefeated seasons.

He coached at UW Milwaukee for 2 years and went 30-27.

He was hired by the Badgers in 2001, and has made the tournament every year. That has come with multiple regular season and conference championships. The farthest they’ve gotten was a Final Four appearance last year, where they were bounced by Kentucky by 1 point.

On to current times – 7:04 PM. Sunday. March 22, 2015. CenturyLink Center. Omaha, Nebraska.

As expected by most of the nation, the UW Badgers defeated the Oregon Ducks, which pushed Wisconsin on to the Sweet 16 where they’ll match up with the Tar Heels.

I actually watched the second half of this game because of how close the score was down the stretch. I’m not sure exactly what time it ended, but somewhere around 9 – 9:30 is a safe bet.

The most surprising thing to me is that after the game, Bo Ryan was cited with concerns about how he thinks his team was slighted by the committee for having their game on a Sunday night, then having to take a day off and fly out to Los Angeles on Monday night for the regional games later this week. Mind you, the team still has class that will obviously have to be made up on the road, in addition to prep and practice for Thursday’s game.

I understand where Bo is coming from, but if you want to be a national headliner, this is how it works. If you’re ‘Directional State University’ or ‘Insert Mid-Major Team Here’, then you’ll have the most convenient schedule. If you want to hang with the Kentuckys and the Dukes of the world, you’ve got to be able to handle primetime, in addition to playing on primetime. No one tunes in to games in the middle of the day. You want an audience? You play at 7PM on a Sunday night.

I’ve never heard Coach Calipari or Coach K complain about scheduling. They can handle it, and they’ve trained their players to handle it. That’s why they are national powerhouses, and the Badgers are just another team in a small town in the middle of a cornfield.

You get the spotlight, you get the national attention, and you get the recognition when you can play outside of your local fans and farmers.

Bo Knows, huh?

I don’t think he has a clue.

One and Done

Have you ever heard of Jack Andraka? You probably haven’t. He’s just a guy that has developed a method to detect the early stages of pancreatic, ovarian, and lung cancer. With these, as with any type of cancer (or disease for that matter), early detection gives one the best chance of defeating it.

How about Eesha Khare? She developed a super capacitor prototype that can be fully charged in 20 seconds, and it holds the charge longer than other similar devices. Think that can’t be applied to cell phones, vehicles, or tablets?

What’s more baffling is that Jack is 18, and Eesha is 19. They’ve both won their fair share of awards, been on talk shows, and are just beginning their college careers. How many companies out there do you think have an open seat for these two?

So why is it that society embraces young entrepreneurs like these, and can’t wait to get them in the real world, yet NCAA basketball players are being discouraged from pulling a one-and-done?

The argument is that it’s bad for college basketball; nobody watches it because there are no stars’ careers to follow for four years. But unless you go to a certain school, nobody is following college basketball until February. The tournament is the only thing that matters.

The NBA rakes in relatively low numbers if you put the NFL in the conversation, but it’s still the more refined and polished game. It’s somewhat watchable. College basketball is largely unwatchable. Nobody wants to watch a mid-major team play against their Kentucky or Duke powerhouse. Nobody wants to sit around picking shit out of their asses while they wait for the 35 second shot clock to trickle down. Nobody wants to watch defensive-minded teams like Virginia slow down the game and end up with final scores similar to last year’s Super Bowl. That is what is really killing college basketball.

An audience desires a faster game, more action, more offense, and less stoppages. You stop the game, you stop momentum, and your audience is no longer captivated.

Think about it. Each team gets five timeouts per game, plus there is a game stoppage after every four minutes of each half. That’s 18 breaks minimum before fouls (20 per game), turnovers out of bounds, etc.

Yes, the NBA also has some work to do, but the game is more mature. When a team is down by 9 with 30 seconds left, they understand that the game is over, and don’t delay the inevitable by fouling. Many people don’t understand that college athletes see no revenue from playing sports. All the tv time, commercials, and advertisements go straight to the university. I saw a commercial awhile back advocating that the NCAA is on the students’ side. At the end of the day, it’s a business. The NCAA and students couldn’t be further apart.

Yes, not everyone who does a one-and-done pans out. But what has been the downside to Anthony Davis, John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, and Kevin Durant leaving college early to play professionally? They’ve put the New Orleans, Washington, Sacramento, and Oklahoma City teams, respectively, on the map. Without them, all four of those teams would be absolutely terrible. Similarly, but not the same as Lebron, those four players help the economy more than people know. Crowds will show up only if they have someone to watch. Philadelphia and Detroit are terrible…their arenas are ghost towns on game nights.

I just don’t understand why we can encourage young adults like Jack and Eesha to make it to the top, yet Jahlil Okafor and others will be ripped apart for their plans to go pro.

2015 NCAA Men’s Hoops Bracket

The very first year I filled out a bracket was in 2002, and I knew nothing about college basketball. And after 12 years of having my bracket busted, I could argue that I haven’t learned a thing. Picking Georgia Tech in 2004 was my only correctly picked champion. Unbelievable.

The difference between those other horrid years and this one is not measuring teams solely with an eye test, a team’s respective records, or any other stats that one could easily find on ESPN.

I now have started to measure teams in terms of their efficiency, both on offense and defense. A team’s offensive efficiency is how many points a team scores per 100 possessions. And defensive is how many are allowed per 100 possessions. Understandably, a team with the best offensive efficiency will likely have the best offense. This isn’t always the case because different teams in different conferences play at faster and slower paces…which in turn, affects how many possessions a team will have. But it’s almost always right.

Not sold yet?

Since 2002, only one team has won a championship that did not have both an offensive and defensive efficiency better than 25. That team was last year’s champion, Connecticut. Were they great in the regular season? Hell, no! They had 9 losses to their name going into the tourney. They won because Shabazz Napier took over and put the rest of the field to shame. A phenomenon that is henceforth known as the ‘Shabazz Napier Effect’.

Still need convincing?

Between 2002-2013, if one or multiple teams had efficiencies in the top 10, that one (or the best, if multiple) team has won the championship every year.

On to the picks…

Only one team this year has both a top 10 offensive and defensive efficiency. Kentucky will win it all. You’re welcome.

The hardest part about picking the rest of the field comes down to two things.

1) Upsets happen. A team with both a worse offensive and defensive efficiency can, but not often, win. There’s usually a couple. It’s what puts the ‘madness’ in March.

2) Picking between two team with similar, but opposite efficiencies. A good example will follow…

(From here on out, the teams will be listed as so, with O=Offensive Efficiency and D=Defensive Efficiency

(#) Team A O/D vs (#) Team B O/D

(1) Kentucky 5/2 vs (16) Hampton 301/141 – Kentucky

(8) Cincinnati 76/18 vs (9) Purdue 57/69 – These are the types of matchups that I previously referred to that can be difficult. However, I calculated an aggregate median average of all 8v9 teams, and Cincinnati came out on top

(5) West Virginia 33/47 vs (12) Buffalo 47/94 – This was one of my upset picks for a few reasons, but mostly because Buffalo won their conference, and West Virginia was 5th in theirs.

(4) Maryland 56/36 vs (13) Valparaiso 129/31 – Maryland

(6) Butler 67/10 vs (11) Texas 42/19 – I took Texas in this one because they averaged out a little better, they’re better in offense (which usually is the predominant of the two efficiencies), and because I’ve seen Butler play.

(3) Notre Dame 2/112 vs (14) Northeastern 90/171 – The 112 for Notre Dame is very deceiving, Northeastern is only in a mid-major conference. Notre Dame also won the ACC title beating UNC and Duke back to back. Kudos!

(7) Wichita State 20/15 vs (10) Indiana 10/216 – Wichita State

(2) Kansas 37/7 vs (15) New Mexico St 120/87 – Kansas

Going through the entire bracket would take many, weary hours. I’m just going to sum up the rest of my picks here. If you’d like to know the efficiency ratings of all the teams in the field, go to http://www.kenpom.com

Midwest

Round of 32 – Kentucky, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Maryland, Texas, Notre Dame, Wichita State, Kansas

Sweet 16 – Kentucky, Maryland, Notre Dame, Wichita State

Elite 8 – Kentucky, Notre Dame

Final 4 – Kentucky

West

Round of 32 – Wisconsin, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, Harvard, Xavier, Baylor, Ohio State, Arizona

Sweet 16 – Wisconsin, Arkansas, Baylor, Arizona

Elite 8 – Wisconsin, Arizona

Final 4 – Arizona

East

Round of 32 – Villanova, LSU, Northern Iowa, UC Irvine, Providence, Oklahoma, Michigan State, Virginia

Sweet 16 – Villanova, Northern Iowa, Oklahoma, Michigan State

Elite 8 – Villanova, Michigan State

Final 4 – Villanova

South

Round of 32 – Duke, St Johns, Stephen F Austin, Georgetown, SMU, Iowa St, Iowa, Gonzaga

Sweet 16 – Duke, Stephen F Austin, Iowa St, Gonzaga

Elite 8 – Duke, Gonzaga

Final 4 – Duke

Final 4

Kentucky, Arizona, Villanova, Duke

Championship

Kentucky, Duke

Champion

Kentucky

Notes

There are a few really tough matchups that I struggled with, and that you may want to go the other direction on.

Michigan St vs Virginia – Virginia has the best defensive efficiency, but I just can’t go against Tom Izzo. He’s too good. Unfortunately, Michigan State WILL lose at some point. With Villanova having a 3/14 O/D, I think that’ll end the Spartans’ run.

Iowa St vs Gonzaga – Iowa St won a better conference, but Gonzaga is 6/20 O/D. However, Gonzaga never makes it too far in the tourney, and they’re almost always ranked very high because they play in a relatively non-competitive conference.

Wisconsin vs Arizona – I already have been hearing it from Wisconsin fans about picking Arizona. Even though the Badgers have a 1/30 O/D, I believe they are a one-man ship that solely runs through Frank Kaminsky. If he gets in foul trouble, it’s over. Arizona also has some bigs of their own, and can splash from behind the arc.

In most tourneys, at least 3 of the 4 teams in the Final Four have at least 1 efficiency in the top 25.

Good Luck