With March Madness about to get underway, join John Gasaway to talk about brackets, playoffs, play-ins, and everything else involving college hoops action.
John Gasaway: Yo! You know the drill. I'm me, you're you, and March is nigh. Talk to me college hoops nation!
lagronem (Newark DE): Hey John,
Appreciate you taking the time to answer some questions for us tempo-free fans. I am an Oklahoma partisan, but the numbers say that Mizzou and KU are OU's equal. My eyes tell me the same thing, although if Juan Patillo continues to play well, he could be a separator. How would you slot those 3 teams?
John Gasaway: Kansas and Missouri are performing at the exact same (outstanding) level, though of course they differ stylistically. Each team plays its style equally well. Both teams are STILL being overlooked a little, at least by my lights. Oklahoma remains much more mysterious. I really hope Griffin is OK and able to come back 100 percent right away.
nfkrueger (Boise): Do you know Jim Gasaway here in Boise?
Anyway, what do you make of Ohio State's rather erratic-looking team? Three potential first-rounders and can't play man defense?
John Gasaway: Tell Jim he still owes me 20 bucks from college! No, just kidding. We Gasaways do get around. I'm sure Jim and I are connected somewhere back there around Abram G. Anyway, defense can be optional if your offense is good enough. See Florida 2007. Not that the Gators that year couldn't play D. They just didn't need to, particularly in that year's Dance. They were so insane on offense it was irrelevant. The Buckeyes aren't on that level but that's the direction they should be dreaming.
Reed (Des Moines): How incredible was Robert Vaden's performance last night against Memphis?
John Gasaway: (For anyone tuning in, Vaden went 0-17 from the field.) On paper, incredibly incredible. Watching it live, though, it wasn't like he was shooting air-balls all night. As always, achievement is cumulative, even achievement in the wrong direction.
lagronem (Newark DE): Hey John,
One more question. What sites or blogs do you follow? K Pelton submitted his for the NBA. What other sites should be checking out? Thanks!
John Gasaway: I thought it was tremendously brave of Kevin to do a list like that. I'd be petrified I'd leave one or a dozen off. Seriously, there are many more good reads out there than there were even two seasons ago. One shout I would give would be to Dan Hanner (Yet Another Basketball Blog). I was ramped up to call him sinfully under-read but he did land a link in the NYT's Quad Blog the other day so I guess the secret's out. Anyway, go there. After this chat, I mean.
Roger (St. Louis MO): I'm very interested in your conference breakdown of teams PPP and Opponents PPP to determine a positive or negative margin difference. This makes it nice to compare teams within a conference, but not teams among different conferences because there's a lot more fluff in some conferences that others (cough cough sec). Is there any value to looking at these same numbers JUST against top 50 or top 65 teams (or eventually ncaa tourney participants) to see who's ready for march and who is not?
John Gasaway: There's value in several different measures, none of which should be used alone. I don't use conf-only exclusively, it's just one dish I bring to the buffet. What I like about conf-only is it's descriptive: this really is how many points these teams have allowed and given up. And with leagues like the Pac-10 and the MWC where everyone plays everyone twice, the conference tempo-frees are the nearest thing to an X-ray.
DonS (IL): Why doesn't Ken Pomeroy write articles for Basketball Prospectus anymore?
John Gasaway: Ken decided to let the keyboard cool for a little bit but he's thinking deep thoughts, creating new funky stats in the garage out back, and generally providing vital information to all fans. He's been doing it now for, what, years. A lot of them. I have every hope that he and I will get to do a 09-10 book. Having done the 08-09 one we know that's virtually a season's worth of writing there.
JP (Lansing, MI): Is there any real way to tell just how much Robbie Hummel means to Purdue? When I've watched them with him in the lineup they have looked like a Final Four team. Without him, they've looked like an NIT team. Any numbers on this? Is he nearly as irreplaceable as Blake Griffin and Stephen Curry?
John Gasaway: Hummel is definitely huge, though teasing that out is tough. (He cannily chose to miss a lot of road games.) What's interesting is that last night it seemed like the absence that killed them (they lost at Michigan, Hummel played), was that of JaJuan Johnson, who logged only 14 minutes due to a combination of fouls and coach.
Kevin (Albany, NY): Your thoughts on Siena?
John Gasaway: Under-appreciated. Cool how they wrapped up the MAAC regular season so quickly. Clarence Jackson has one of the most interesting minutes (few) to shots (many) ratios I know of. He do like to shoot the rock, don't he?
Josh (Chicago): John,
You broke my heart with your piling-on piece regarding the Big Ten's slow play. Isn't that story getting a little tired these days? I don't remember much hand-wringing when Arizona State and Oregon State combined for 87 points. Though I appreciate that you push the "pace variety" angle, at least.
Michigan and Purdue combined to score 165 points last night (swear-to-God, it was a 40 minute contest). Do you think there's much chance the major media outlets will pick up on the story?
More seriously though, do you think that pace variety really helps teams do better in the tournament? Seems like when the B10 has quality teams, they tend to do just fine, even though the conference lacks pace variety.
John Gasaway: No broken heart! Soothe thy wounded feelings, bro. It's all about variety and you and I are agreeing. You wouldn't begrudge a couple Big Ten teams pulling a Missouri (or, to use a less glittering but equally fast example, Oklahoma State), just as I wouldn't begrudge Wisconsin for continuing to be Wisconsin (because, let's face it, they will). The Big Ten is the only conference that has no heterogeneity tempo-wise. That's all. We all want what's best for the Grand Old Conference.
Reed (Des Moines): Do you know of any coaches who use kenpom statistics in their scouting reports or game planning?
John Gasaway: Dino Gaudio and the Gonzaga front office are on the public record (in a Perrotto piece here this year and a Grant Wahl piece from a while back at SI, respectively) as using it. The key terms here are "use" and "game planning." I would guess there would be very few D-I staffs that haven't looked at the numbers at least a couple times this year. Maybe we even hear from some of them. But I also know of coaches, from my direct experience, who say flat-out: I just want my kids to play hard, I don't need this stuff. The second kind of coach can win too (the one I'm thinking of does) I just think it might be easier if he had some additional info on what's working for him.
Laurent (Washington DC): No question, just interested in reading the chat. :)
John Gasaway: C'mon, Laurent. Jump in. The water's fine. And welcome everyone, to what I can already tell is going to be far and away the busiest chat of mine ever here. No way I'll get through all these but my fingers are flying. I'll do my best. Forgive any typos.
jschmeagol (college park, md): What chances do the Terps have of getting into the big dance? How about if they go 8-8 in ACC play (19-11) overall, what would they have to do to get in? Would 20 wins be enough? Thanks!
John Gasaway: Remaining: road games a NC State and VA and home against Wake. Win them all and, sure, they'd look good at 9-7 with a win over UNC in their back pocket. The key words being "win them all." I think I've already seen a sound bite from Williams lobbying for a mandatory bid at 8-8 for any ACC entrant. Don't know, could be mixing up sound bites.
Jordan (DC): Do you think good teams with a dominant defense and weak offense (and vice versa), are better or worse off than teams with more balanced action? Teams like Memphis, Louisville, UCLA vs. Missouri, Kansas, Duke.
John Gasaway: My answer's going to tie in again with Florida '07 because they would be the best example of weak/stong (in their case defense/offense). Conversely both Kansas and for that matter near-miss Memphis were ridiculously extreme examples of the opposite pole: they were both outstanding on offense and on defense. Obviously that would be a coach's preference but it's been shown there's hope for the other type. (Though that particular team wasn't so much "weak" at D as disinterested. They knew they could cruise on that end and they were exactly right. More power to them.)
Alan Dallas (Las Vegas): Who do you feel controls the tempo of a game when two teams of a significant difference in pace meet? Does the better team usually do so regardless if they are at home or on the road?
John Gasaway: Seems like it doesn't have much to do with the quality of the team. Every November and December North Carolina gets dragged into some snail-meets. It's just a matter of whether the team that wants to go slow can take care of the rock and get back on D.
Doug (Chicago): Do you think Gerald Henderson will leave Duke after this season? His game is perfect for the NBA. If he stays, is Duke on the shortlist of 2010 contenders?
John Gasaway: It's interesting that up until a couple weeks ago I would have been dazed by your question. But I have indeed started seeing his name on some mocks and I think in that Seth Davis piece last week. (That piece, by the way, is a must-read every year--Davis quotes NBA scouts anonymously. I devour that article. I don't know why more stuff like that doesn't happen.)
Dexter Fishmore (NYC): John, you recently declared Washington to be the best team in the Pac-10, despite having a slightly lower in-conference efficiency margin than UCLA. (Note also: UW has had two swipes at the Oregon schools and UCLA only one, and the EM gap thus actually sells UCLA short.) In this instance, what caused you to abandon your faith in the per-possession numbers? Isn't the whole point of per-possession analysis that efficiency margin reveals robust, underlying truths about teams that can't be gleaned from, and may indeed run counter to, won-loss standings or personal observation?
John Gasaway: Excellent question! I guess I didn't abandon the faith as much as I augmented it. Triggers behind augmentation: the total and continuing collapse of the UCLA defense and the fact that Washington was .001 behind the Bruins. But, as you note, truth shall be revealed on the last day. Everyone plays everyone in the wonderful Pac-10, official conference of any tempo-free homey.
lbihced (Medford, N.J. ): How good is Villanova and what does the future hold for them?
John Gasaway: Villanova, particularly on offense, is way better than last year but maybe not quite as good as an 11-4 in the Big East would suggest. (Outscoring the Big East by 0.08 points per trip.) One step down from Marquette, let us say. The irony, of course, is that they'll have to do well next month to match what they did last year (Sweet 16) even though this is obviously a better team than 2008's.
Jacob (Atlanta): Memphis' defense is way ahead of everyone else in the efficiency ratings at this point. Shouldn't Calipari's name start coming up in coach of the year conversations for the instant rebuild?
John Gasaway: Every year I point out that if Calipari just looked and scowled more like Gene Keady did he would be much better understood. Outstanding D year after year.
Reginald (Birmingham): John, you've been about the only national writer to notice that Auburn hasn't been their usual sucktastic selves this year. What odds do you give them at making a Georgia-style run the automatic bid?
John Gasaway: You know the drill: get the tournament moved to Georgia Tech and see what happens! No, Lebo's team has progressed light years on D this season. Fun fact: Auburn's surprisingly close in tempo-free terms to 9-4 South Carolina. Yes, yes, East vs. West schedules. Just saying. Not as big a difference as people think.
NOTE TO JORDAN (DC) and RED CEDAR (SEATTLE). I'm not going to be able to get to your very good questions. Drop me an email. Use the link at the bottom of any of my pieces.
Alan Dallas (Las Vegas): Speaking of slow tempos, it seems as if the PAC-10 has gotten much slower. Haven't looked past years up, but the Bennett-Howland style seems to be creeping into other teams.
Do you see this also?
John Gasaway: Through last night's games the Pac-10 is at 64.3 per 40. The Big Ten, by comparison, is 61.4. UCLA, for one, has undergone a well-documented acceleration after about the first four or five conference games. Washington State and Oregon State, conversely, are Big Ten teams at heart.
Doug (DC): Where can I find Kevin's list of his favorite NBA blogs?
John Gasaway: He had a post on that. Get thee to Unfiltered and scroll down.
Josh (Chicago): Best team nobody is noticing right now (besides Memphis)?
And how the in the name of John Thompson did the wheels fall off so quickly for Georgetown?
John Gasaway: First question: New Mexico, posting an efficiency margin in the Mountain West very close to what UConn has in the Big East, yet still way outside the bubble. Not saying NM's as good, not saying MWC=BE. Just saying, literally no one's talking about them. Second question: absolutely baffling. I watched the Hoyas this past weekend and the look in Summers' eye was not a good one.
Flo (Eugene): Is G'town going to be the best team to not make the tournament in the past decade?
John Gasaway: Woo! All-Georgetown! Um, possibly the most talented. There was a Missouri team under Quin Snyder than was ranked something like 2 in the nation in December, right? And didn't get to the tournament. That would be another example I guess.
Irving (Toronto): who do you think can surprise during the NCAA tourney?
John Gasaway: West Virginia has a deceivingly meh record in the Big East and a really good defense. UCLA has a deceivingly meh record in the Pac-10 and a really good offense, keyed by supernatural shooting.
TGisriel (Baltimore): The Terps of Maryland seem to be a strange team. They look like toast for much of the season, and then upset North Carolina. If the Terps win 2 of their last 3 in the ACC, thereby ending up 8-8, what are their chances of making the NCAA tounament?
John Gasaway: Asked by a previous questioner. Scroll up and thanks!
TGisriel (Baltimore): In terms of high school basketball, how good is the Baltimore-Washington area for finding top recruits for college?
John Gasaway: Great run recently. Indy too: Gordon, George Hill, Courtney Lee, McRoberts, Conley, Oden (OK, by adoption), and now Jeff Teague.
David (NJ): Transported Badger here... what are the chances of Wisconsin getting in the big dance? Starting to get a little nervous...
John Gasaway: Home games remaining against Michigan and Indiana. Badgers are in.
Kevin (Seattle): Blogroll link: http://www.basketballprospectus.com/unfiltered/?p=119
John Gasaway: My gosh, Kevin reads my chats. Now I have to read his! Waddup, K! Thanks.
To the previous questioner looking for Kevin's favorite blogs, there is the link.
Jacob (Atlanta): This Seth Davis article is great: "Austin Daye, 6-11 sophomore forward, Gonzaga: 'This kid will get you fired. Soft? He invented soft.'"
John Gasaway: I do appreciate a finely crafted sentence and I did note that one. Other current favorite, from Calhoun of course: "My advice to you is, shut up."
Joe (Cincinnati): Sorry to put you on the spot, but if you had to pick four teams at this moment to make the final four and one to win it all, who would they be?
John Gasaway: All will be revealed in good time. Last year the baseball guys made us write down our picks and actually posted them right before the tournament. The nerve! Thank goodness Memphis couldn't make free throws. I came out looking smart for once.
No3Guard (Tampa, FL): How important is height to defense?
Will Dino Gaudio see the Deacons sliding down the defensive efficiency rankings if he is checking out these stats? Will he go away from the short line-up?
John Gasaway: I've been mulling a piece now for two full seasons along the line of: height is to D what talent and/or experience are to offense. But, actually, some not terribly long teams with a lot of minutes returning this year have improved on D. Penn State this year, for example.
Joshua (Seattle): Can you say something insightful about Jon Brockman and the Washington Huskies? Outside the local papers, they're getting the silent treatment.
John Gasaway: Not from me! I got in on that ground floor in a Four-Point Play a while back. Another national writer dismissed your Huskies as a mere "flavor of the month" subsequently and I've been way too classy to bring that up. Though I guess I just did. Anyway, Brockman: offensive rebounding man-weapon. In any year where the DeJuan Blair supernova wasn't occurring, Brockman would be more loved.
Rodney Guillory (LA): Shouldn't USC be better than this? There are at least a couple future NBA players in their rotation, and yet they're in the bottom half of the Pac-10 and looking very NIT-ish.
John Gasaway: Fun fact: there are at least two players on DePaul who can be found on some mocks, albeit in the second round. Anyway, the Trojans are struggling on offense. They're neither making nor taking a lot of threes in-conf, opponents are packing the proverbial paint and it's working. (Note however that the Cal loss last night was an instance of efficient scoring that, obviously, could have gone either way.)
John (MI): Who do you have for Big Ten player of the year? No one seems to stand out.
John Gasaway: Michael Santa. Google that up and hop on this bandwagon. Woo!
Kevin (Seattle): KenPom's numbers have the Pac-10 as the second-best conference, and when he looked at the difficulty for a top-tier team, he found it close behind the Big East and ACC. So why all the continued talk about a down year for the Pac-10? Is it that East Coast Bias I complained about in my bio in the book?
John Gasaway: Egad! Kevin submits questions to my chats! Yo, KP! Tying in with an earlier questioner, that I think wasn't you, Washington in particular is sporting a performance-to-hype ratio that is out of whack. UCLA: great numbers, wrong trend currently. (OK, they won at Palo Alto last night.) One thing I was noticing about the Pac-10 just this morning is that is has seven teams with efficiency margins of zero or greater. In other words, the rest of the league is kind of feasting on the Cardinal, Oregon St., and Oregon.
John (Cambridge): Any thoughts on the Wolverines? Did last night's win put them over the top for the tournament—and do you see them making any noise if they get in?
John Gasaway: It really really helps, yes. Once there, if it comes to pass, noise might be difficult. Beilein's bringing things along but this offense is not to be confused with West Virginia 2007, i.e., the one that got Beilein the gig in Ann Arbor.
OK, a few more and then we'll wrap up. If you're just watching this unfurl and not yet participating, now would be the time to jump in.
Teraxx (Phoenix, AZ): Do you feel that the exodus of 'to be' sophomores from the NCAA has diluted the Tournament in any significant way in recent years?
John Gasaway: The tournament has been great even without the to-be sophomores. But of course we'll never really know what price we've paid in terms of rivalries that never were, right? Whether you assume two, three, or four years, it would be fun to see, for example, Durant and Julian Wright or Darrell Arthur squaring off over an extended period. Although, come to think of it, I guess that's what they do now at the proverbial next level.
mwball75 (Dayton, OH): What does Dayton need to do to make the tournament? We don't host the A-10 tournament this year so it's gonna be tough to win it. Are we in the running for an at large?
John Gasaway: A win at Xavier next Thursday would come in handy, wouldn't it? Not that I think the Flyers are definitely out if they don't.
Andy (Chicago): I understand the Illini are nowhere near their 2005 big ten wonk-level on offense, but does their style (get open shots and make them, no getting to the line) give them a chance to make a surprise S16 or E8 trip?
John Gasaway: The Basketball Prospectus writer in me says not bloody likely. (Illinois is nowhere near their 2006 Big Ten Wonk level on offense either. In fact this year's offense (0.98 points per trip in-conf) is right where last year's finished (0.99). Strange but true.)
But the Illinois graduate in me knows better than to listen to that Prospectus weenie! Go Illini! Drive to Detroit, bay-bee! Woo!
John Gasaway: And on that note of sheer delusion I bid you adieu. I'll be doing this regularly from here on out. The questions were excellent and numerous. It was fun. Thanks!