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    5,094 Games Down, 3 to Go

    by Ken Pomeroy on Thursday, March 31, 2005


    Michigan State has played its three fastest games of the year in the Big Ten or NCAA tournament. Knowing what we know about UNC, the second of Saturday's semifinal games figures to be played with 70-80 possessions, but only seven of those possessions are going to tell the story of this game.

    Much has been made about UNC's defense this week. Michigan State as a five-seed, is not a huge underdog, mainly because of their ability to score and the Tar Heels perceived inability to prevent the score. But is UNC's defense really a liability?

    They had ascended to the number one spot in the adjusted defensive efficiency rankings after holding Clemson to 56 points on February 19th. This completed a remarkable ten-week span of championship-level defense where over 21 consecutive games, UNC allowed a point per possession only twice. This period covered three quarters of the ACC…

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    I Love Me, I Love Me Not

    by Ken Pomeroy on Wednesday, March 30, 2005


    As the season concludes, it might be useful to see where we have come from. So here's a review of the season through nine notable predictions made on this site over the past year, some on the money, some so far off I wonder why anyone comes here:

    Good: September 20, 2004. It is interesting that [Wake Forest is] getting a little more press than a team in their own conference, North Carolina, who also returns everyone from last season and has the only impact recruit between the two teams. Nobody would dispute that UNC was the better of the two this season. But back in September, a majority favored Wake to have the better season, which didn't make sense to me at the time.

    Not so good: November 4, 2004. It's ridiculous to read anything into an exhibition game, but it's not ridiculous to point out that…

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    Predictable

    by Ken Pomeroy on Tuesday, March 29, 2005


    Few things in the NCAA tournament are predictable. But one thing that slipped under my radar before the dance started was the near impossibility of Washington making the Final Four.

    You see, since the field expanded to 64 in 1985, only one team has started the season outside the AP top 20, been selected as a one-seed, and made the Final Four. The first two parts are not unusual. Washington was the 11th team in 21 years to get a one-seed without being in the preseason top 20 (they started at #22). But only Minnesota in 1997 was able to carry that burden to the Final Four. UW became the seventh of those 11 teams to lose in the sweet sixteen or earlier.

    It's a shame I didn't remember this until now, especially because I wrote about it in September.


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    What If…

    by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, March 28, 2005


    There was no better illustration of how random chance can affect a game than on Patrick Sparks' successful three-pointer to send the Kentucky/Michigan State game to overtime. There were three main variables that could have flipped the other way from what actually occurred.

    1) What if Patrick Sparks' foot is a micron closer to the basket, and so it's only a two- point attempt?

    2) What if Kelvin Torbert (or "Torbit" as Jim Nantz says) is called for a foul on Sparks?

    3) What if Sparks' shot falls off the rim instead of through?

    Then consider each of the eight possible combinations to the yes/no answers of the above questions. Only one of those - Sparks makes a three, foul is called - potentially results in a UK win. Nonetheless, these are the things that will keep me up at night if the Spartans win two more games.

    And…

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    Speechless (Almost)

    by Ken Pomeroy on Sunday, March 27, 2005


    One day, two overtime games. The first time it's happened in the elite eight in the history of the tournament.

    West Virginia/Louisville: If you can't win in regulation by hitting 18 of 24 three pointers, then you just can't win. The 18 makes were a WVU record, and the second most in a tournament game. It was a performance that would have rivaled Villanova's in the '85 championship game had it resulted in a win. After three misses in OT, WVU finished 18 for 27 on threes. Here are the games (between D1 teams only) this season where a team made at least 15 three-pointers and made at least 60% of their attempts:

     2/19 Creighton (20-30, 66.7%) vs. Chattanooga 3/26 West Virginia (18-27, 66.7%) vs. Louisville 3/12 Louisville (15-23, 65.2%) vs. Memphis 1/17 Georgia Southern (22-34, 64.7%) vs. Chattanooga 12/20 Cornell (15-24, 62.5%) vs. Syracuse 11/19 Texas Tech (16-26… 
    

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    The Value of a Missed Shot

    by Ken Pomeroy on Saturday, March 26, 2005


    It sounds kind of goofy, but there is some value in a missed shot. For instance, just compare it to a turnover. There is no offensive value in a turnover because the possession ends right there. But the same is not true for a missed shot, because there is a chance of the possession continuing by an offensive rebound.

    Michigan State's missed shots were valuable last night. The Spartans are one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, and their 16 offensive rebounds were a big reason for their impressive offensive performance against Duke. Because Duke had 22 turnovers, much was made of the Spartans' defense, and rightfully so. But offensively, State scored 78 points in roughly 74 possessions for an offensive efficiency of 105. An impressive total against the nation's second stingiest defense on a points per possession basis.

    -

    Pertaining to the first of…

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    Viewer’s Guide: Louisville/Washington

    by Ken Pomeroy on Thursday, March 24, 2005


    The best game of the sweet 16 is Louisville vs. Washington. This is going to be real basketball - presses, fast breaks, dunks, long range snipers. There are other games that will be great over the next two days, but they won't have all of those elements.

    Louisville and Washington will score points, and that's not say there won't be defense. Francisco Garcia's influence on the defensive end might end up being the difference.

    For those of you unfamiliar with one or both of the participants, here's a breakdown in various categories with national rank:

     Louisville Washington OE 117.4(7) 119.6(4) DE 88.3(12) 94.9(64) Tempo 68.7(122) 73.2(17) 3FG% 40.0(7) 38.9(23) 3FGA/FGA 41.9(16) 29.3(246) Opp 3FG% 31.3(19) 33.3(92) OR% 38.4(39) 42.0(3) DR% 68.1(64) 64.6(243) B-ball Shrink Villanova Wake Forest 

    Louisville and UW are two of the most skilled offenses in the nation. Part of this is because they…

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    Ranking the Eight

    by Ken Pomeroy on Wednesday, March 23, 2005


    Eight more games are coming at us Thursday and Friday. Only two are mismatches, with the other six being close to toss-ups, so there are bound to be a couple of classics that fall out of these.

    Here's the list of games, in order of appeal, with rankings of tempo/offensive efficiency/defensive efficiency among the 16 remaining teams.

    1. Louisville (8/6/6) vs. Washington (2/3/15), Thursday 7:10 pm: This is the first sweet 16 game to tip and I'll have more on this one Thursday morning. Appallingly, this game will be seen a minority of the country, giving way to game #8 below.

    2. Arizona (5/7/10) vs. Oklahoma State (11/2/12), Thursday 10:00 pm: A very close second. It's the last college game for either the nation's best floor general (John Lucas) or best shooter (Salim Stoudamire). Nobody runs the fast break better than Lucas. Ivan McFarlin's composite line for the…

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    Revenge of the Low Seeds

    by Ken Pomeroy on Monday, March 21, 2005


    Cleaning up some first-round issues...collectively, this year's 1 vs. 16 and 2 vs. 15 games were the closest ever with an average margin of victory of 13.1 points. And by "ever," I mean since the tournament went to the 64 team format in 1985. The previous low (14.3) occurred during the magical 1989 tourney when two 16 seeds fell one point short in the opening round.

    This has relevance for the one seeds in this way: Since 1985, only 7 of 30 (23%) one-seeds that failed to win the first round game by at least 20 points made the Final Four. Teams winning by 20 or more fared much better, with over half (27 of 50) advancing to the Final Four. The only one-seed with such a victory this year was North Carolina.

    Now to the second round. The most shocking development was everybody's Final Four pick (including

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    Boeheimian Rhapsody

    by Ken Pomeroy on Saturday, March 19, 2005


    So the madness got put pack in March tonight. A fun night unless you had a rematch of the 2003 final in your Final Four.

    It just so happened that the Vermont/Syracuse contest was the first game that I tried to take notes on using the Oliver possession scoring method. I really struggled with it, but the end result was a fairly detailed play-by-play on what happened. The game was a defensive slugfest until Syracuse's Terrence Roberts was hit with an absolutely atrocious technical for hanging on the rim with 8:58 left. Honestly, there will be about 50 dunks in the tournament where a guy is on the rim longer than Roberts.

    After the two free throws, Vermont was up 36-31. At his point, Jim Boeheim decided to throw on a full-court press after a made basket or backcourt dead ball. Here were the results of the five…

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