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Chat: John Gasaway

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Thursday March 12, 2009 12:00 PM ET chat session with John Gasaway.


Talk tourney turkey with Basketball Prospectus' John Gasaway, and see what hopes you have for your pool and the on-court outcomes

John Gasaway: Yo! Great day to be into hoops, isnít it? The heavyweights are swinging into action in the Big East (powerful but prone-to-sporadic-hiccups Louisville faces a desperate Providence team that already has a game under its belt) and Big 12 (A&M lost in a relative shocker to Tech last night); 1-17 Indianaís taking the floor in Indy against a Penn State team that canít afford to lose; bubble teams (Miami) are playing bubble wanna-beís (VaTech); and preexisting rivalries suddenly carry huge bubble implications (AZ vs. AZ St.). I do love it so. Letís just gnaw on this whole big beautiful deal for a couple hours. Talk to me!

Alvin (Alabama): John, Are we witnessing the demise of the Arizona program with the last couple of recruiting classes bailing out once Olson left and the stars (Budinger, Hill and Wise - all Olson recruits) finishing their careers? Also, any signs of a bright future for Stanford basketball? Arizona and Stanford used to dominate that conference. How things have changed!

John Gasaway: Not the demise, more like the reboot. It'd be interesting to look at the aftermath at various programs when multi-decade legends leave: Wooden being the paradigmatic example, of course, but also Knight at Indiana; Dean Smith at Carolina, etc. Connecticut and Duke will face this challenge someday.

Stanford is almost sure to do better than the last major-conference program (Missouri) that hired a Duke assistant with no prior head coaching experience.

Matt A (Raleigh): What to the Gators have to do this weekend to make it to the dance? With Arkansas and Auburn, it looks like they've got about as easy a road to the semis as you could ask for, but I doubt that'll be enough. Do you think beating Tennessee in the third round would get them in? Or is winning the SEC tournament the only route left for UF at this point?

John Gasaway: Florida is much closer than most teams that trigger this question. The Gators aren't in right now but a couple wins could get them there. Only thing: don't look past Auburn. The Tigers are playing better than anyone else in the SEC right now thanks to very good D.

shorts (Detroit): How much of an advantage is there to being a 1 seed instead of a 2? Negligible or somewhat significant?

John Gasaway: I would say negligible. By the numbers the most unworthy 1-seed in recent years was probably Villanova in '06 and they got found out by the brackets (Florida mid-ascendance).

This year Louisville and Memphis look like they could be seeded as the fourth- and fifth-best teams respectively. Probably doesn't matter who's wearing the road unis should those two play each other in the Elite Eight, nor would Memphis get shipped to Boise for being a two.

Alex (Los Angeles): John, you claim Blair is your POY. His numbers are outstanding, for sure. But would an NBA team be justified in selecting him in the top 5 in this upcoming draft? It seems players like Harden, Griffin, Curry and even Lawson are better prospects. What kind of a player do you believe he could EVENTUALLY become? Millsap with more offensive rebounding?

John Gasaway: Would they be justified? Definitely. Will they do it? Of course not, not at Blair's height. Other players are "better prospects" in the sense that they conform better to the rigid and preexisting NBA cognitive schema. Blair's not the next Dwight Howard, of course, but I do think he has the capacity to change an assumption or two about what a player his height can do at the next level.

shorts (Detroit): Which conference deserves to get more teams in the dance the SEC or the MWC? Which one actually will get more teams in?

John Gasaway: Definitely the Mountain West, which admittedly has a team (Air Force) that's even worse than Georgia (though the Falcons did beat Colorado St. in the MWC Tourney last night) but is still better "top to bottom" than the SEC. In New Mexico, BYU, Utah, UNLV, and San Diego State, the MWC has a top tier that's better than the SEC's this year.

Big East (New York): So wait, why is our tournament five rounds long again? Isn't 16 the perfect number to have a balanced tournament?

John Gasaway: What? You want to do away with the byes? Wow, imagine some of the round-of-16 games that would result. DePaul vs. Louisville. Yikes. Big East, you know better than anyone that you never could have secured approval for your sassy new 16-team format if you'd gone to Calhoun, Pitino, Boeheim, et al, and said "Guess what, fellas? You need to play five games to win this thing!" No way.

Dexter Fishmore (LA): I couldn't verify this in the moments leading up to this chat, but I seem to recall that in the waning days of the Lavin regime, UCLA got T'd for having six players on the floor. It was a poignant coda to Lavin's tenure and a final, blazing indication that it needed to end.

John Gasaway: (For anyone just tuning in, Mount St. Mary's was assessed a technical foul for having six players on the floor in their NEC title game last night against Robert Morris.) I stand corrected. I guess a coach could always claim he thought it was an Iowa high school girl's game.

Laurent (DC): Hello John, This time I have a question. What is your take on the Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Thabeet? I see that he has a big advantage over Blair in the block% department but that's about it.

John Gasaway: Yes, Thabeet. This year he proved he can take care of the defensive glass at the same time that he blocks shots. We didn't know that before.

Dylan (NYC): Is it safe to say that Blake Griffin combines Yinka Dare's grace and fluidity with Bill Curley's explosive athleticism and unparallelled leaping ability?

John Gasaway: Well done! I might put it this way: Griffin is to the defensive glass what Raftery is to the frequent and affectionate invocation of post-game libations.

Jake (NYC): Tell me my Binghamton Bearcats can pull off a 1st Rd upset as a 14-seed! (assuming they get by UMBC this Saturday). Thanks!

John Gasaway: Possible! On paper potential three-seeds like Washington and especially Wake Forest are mere mortals. First things first. Get that far.

Ty Lawson (Chapel Hill, NC): Do you think we'll be able to win the ACC tournament without me?

John Gasaway: Last year your team did without you for a few games in the heart of the conference season by playing better D. (No offense, dude.) Of course last year you had Marcus Ginyard healthy and available. Not to flatter you, Ty, but you've had an incredible year. Your absence leaves a hole. Unjam that right big toe.

BR (NYC): John- Thanks for chatting! I'm going to be away at a meeting by the time you're up and running, so wanted to get this question into your queue. Is there any way Vandy gets into the show without running the table in the SEC tourney? They've finished the regular season strong, with some quality wins. Do they get any love if they make it to the SEC finals but lose? Thanks in advance!

John Gasaway: Your 'Dores finished strong, no doubt. Ogilvy was a true man-weapon at LSU. Still, you'll probably want to pull a Georgia, as they say, and win the whole thing, just to be sure.

Richie Perry (Las Vegas): Since we all know you're a gambling man, who better to ask?... I need a few darkhorses for this eyar's tourney... got any potential 4-6 seeds that you think could make a deep run?

John Gasaway: Regular visitors to the chat have probably heard this before but I'm saying it anyway: teams like UCLA (offense) and West Virginia (defense) have the ability to make life very difficult for one-seeds. I can't believe a team as good as Pitt, a mortal lock for a one-seed, has to play a team as good as the Mountaineers in the quarterfinals (!) of their conference tournament. Unbelievable.

JKiersky (memphis): I've been adding adjo and adjd on kenpom to get an idea of where the Tigers stack up with the rest of the top teams. It's not such a foregone conclusion that the Tigers can't compete for a national championship. Also, the defensive number is unbelievable. Is this one of the best defenses of the decade?

John Gasaway: If someone said it's a foregone conclusion that Memphis can't compete for the national championship, it wasn't me. Hey, if Louisville stubs its toe in the BET (though right now they're up 11 on Providence midway through the first half), the Tigers could get a one-seed. The problem is there was nothing this team could do in C-USA that would make the country say "Gosh! They're good!" Undefeated? Yawn. Seen it before. So, yeah, I think people will be surprised at how good this team is. (People besides me. I rock. And I'm modest.)

shorts (Detroit): What are your thoughts on the Big Ten bubble teams? Can 8 teams really make it if things go well? Which team has is 8th in the pecking order right now?

John Gasaway: Minnesota is up 11 on Northwestern with six minutes to go in the first half. If the Gophers win, if Michigan takes care of Iowa this afternoon, and if Penn State beats Indiana this evening, yes, the conference will be on-track for eight bids.

Mark (East Lansing): Couple questions for you, first how do you determine relative conference strength besides head to head matchups? Do you have some stat that involves math way more complicated than the multivariable calculus I'm taking or does everyone just "know" that the Big East is strong top to bottom but the Big Ten/ACC have weak middles? Second, when are you going to start ranking refs? I think Big Ten and Big East fans will agree with me that Ed Hightower is not good by anyone's definition, but we cheered him coming out of the tunnel the past 2 games because he was better than the previous crew.

John Gasaway: Ken's doing good work in this field simulating true home-and-away round robins for any team against any conference. One thing to keep in mind, though, conferences, particularly the big six, vary a lot less than we think they do. The spread this year between the SEC (bad) and the ACC and Big East (good) is the biggest you'll see. The key thing analytically to me, though, is that we still have to be able to look at the SEC, even in a down year, and say: OK, what Auburn did over the last six games (for example) was impressive. The wholesale discounting of an entire conference--homey don't play that game.

Kyle Whelliston is all over ref ratings at Basketball State. Some summer soon an aspiring Pomeroy is going to dive into that water and come up with some great stuff.

G&G (Illinois): Yesterday you indicated Billy Gilllespie could be "a regular Elwood P. Dowd." Coach Dowd has attributed his success at Chumley College to the performance of Harvey at point guard. Do you anticipate this might result in an influx of foreign students coming to this country to play basketball as other coaches attempt to recruit Pookas?

John Gasaway: Well there now you surprise me. I think the world and all of Dowd but I supposed he'd seen his day. He certainly is a whirlwind, isn't he? I understand he has Judge Gaffney making recruiting calls.

Jordan (DC): Conventional wisdom might say Arizona State is too reliant on outside shooting alone and that won't fly in the tournament. What say you? Does great shooting and limiting turnovers work? They're ranked 307th in consistency, btw.

John Gasaway: I'm not sure I'd say "reliant"--Pendergraph ain't chopped liver in the paint--it's just the system Sendek runs. I don't think they're Pitt or anything but they're not doomed. Good team and, obviously, the best one to come out of Tempe in forever.

Illinois in 05 and Ohio State in 07 both made the NC game shooting a lot of threes and never turning the ball over. Then again they both lost. Alas.

Dexter Fishmore (LA): Any advanced thinker in the field of ref ratings has a position waiting for him or her in the Dallas Mavericks organization.

John Gasaway: See Kevin Pelton's piece this week on that gathering of nuclear scientists he went to in Boston. Cuban made some smart remark along these very lines.

Kevin (Chicago): Any chance Northwestern gets a tourney spot without winning the Big Ten auto-bid?

John Gasaway: No. Too many folks ahead of them in that line.

Jordan (DC): How impressed are you that the top 3 usage guys in the country (Curry, Taylor, Hudson) have maintained such high ORatings through the year? Did you consider any of them over Blair for your Player of the Year column?

John Gasaway: Extremely. I believe I've praised all three at some point this year. Hudson this week in my POY piece, Taylor a while back in a thing on underrated players, and Curry in a piece on James Harden. Big Usage Three, I salute you anew!

Kevin (Chicago): John, what team has the most to gain from today's action? What team has the most to lose?

John Gasaway: Definitely Providence and Penn State, respectively. Friars are down 11 to Louisville with a minute left in the first half.

John (Princeton): John, I almost didn't believe Pomeroy's numbers that BC was the 5th best Offensive rebounding team in the country. I realized this was because they give up so many offensive rebounds (something like 315th) that the differential isn't that great. Can you think of a team with such a large differential in O-rebounding? Also, does the large amount of O-rebounds in a game mean that a team really gets more possessions than the pace gaives them credit for?

John Gasaway: I'm going to answer this without checking kenpom.com but my memory is that a couple years ago or so (definitely Green-era) Georgetown was incredible on the offensive glass and anemic on the defensive boards. It is possible. Weird, though. Far more common to see the other way around.

As far as the effect on pace it depends. Pitt obviously gets a ton of offensive boards but they just go back up and dunk so the effect on tempo is negligible. A Big Ten team, conversely (or Oregon State or Washington State), will take an offensive board as a cue to pull the ball back out.

Frank (Vegas): Providence, Rhode Island. Does either one make it into the tourney?

John Gasaway: Not looking good at the moment. Friars down 10 to the Ville at the half. Rhode Island gets Duquesne this evening. (P.S. Saint Louis is hanging with Xavier. Down seven in final seconds of first half.)

Dexter Fishmore (LA): Do you have a pick (an off-the-cuff one will do) for worst #1 seed in the 64/65-team era? Without really researching the question, I'll throw out 1996 Purdue as a strong candidate.

John Gasaway: No, sorry. I know only they've been solid in the tempo-free era with, again, the exception of 'Nova in '06. They're on-track to be solid this year.

OTSgamer (New Orleans, LA): Any thoughts on who would be a good hire for Alabama?

John Gasaway: Mike Anderson obviously comes to mind. I have no inside info on his potential interest but he has definitely achieved a performance-to-talent ratio this year that's made me sit up and take notice.

mattymatty2000 (Philly, PA): What do you make of the Georgetown program? It doesn't seem that this is their year, but in your opinion, are they on the upswing? Thanks!

John Gasaway: How come there haven't been any big detailed what-went-wrong stories for the Hoyas like we get for Kentucky? The preseason expectations were much higher (check out my write-up in the book) and the performance has been lower than the like measures in Lexington.

That being said, I am inclined to regard this year as a blip until persuaded otherwise. A little like UConn in 2007.

vandorn (Crystal MN): Do coaches comments about their NCAA bid prospects should they win or lose in a conference tournament contain any informational value at all? (I'm thinking of Keno Davis saying a loss to Louisville doesn't hurt, but there are many other examples.) Coaches aren't doing mock bracketology exercises and even if they were, they wouldn't say anything that would harm their chances. Why even ask them or report their answers?

John Gasaway: I've mused that it would be cool to have a pre-selection show, maybe 24 hours before, where bubble teams would get to stand at a lectern and put their case officially to the committee and, in turn, be grilled by skeptical committee members. Can you imagine? Ten times better than yet another canned answer at yet another postgame. This would have consequences! Might have to copyright this idea.

Jordan (DC): Is Paul Gause the most underrated defender in the country the past few years? Top 10 steal % every year. John Linehan reincarnated?

John Gasaway: Raftery had a great line last night during the Syracuse game when Gause launched the latest in a series of ill-advised quick-trigger threes: "I think half his steals are from his own teammates." I tell you, Raftery is a national treasure.

vandorn (Crystal MN): FYI . . . Iowa discarded 6 on 6 girls basketball in 1993. Not that it still couldn't provide an excuse.

John Gasaway: 93? Really? I would have guessed earlier. And they couldn't cross half-court, right? You had an offense and a defense like in football?

Mark (Milwaukee): Does Minnesota get in without winning the B10 tourney? I hear the class coming in is pretty good, thoughts for The Gophs for next year or two?

John Gasaway: Absolutely. In fact I think the Gophers can feel sort of safe simply by beating Northwestern today. Right now Minnesota is up six very early in the second half.

Jerry H (Saline MI): John, you watch the Portland St.-Montana St. game last night? Both teams finished over 1.3 points a possession! Best game of Championship Week, or does that go to Cleveland St.'s lockdown of Butler?

John Gasaway: No, I missed it. Montana State can at least console itself with the knowledge that it's home to one of the nation's leading exemplars of green design: the EPIcenter. Go, Bozeman! LEED on, you crazy dreamers!

The best games may be yet to come. Last year it came on Friday. One word: Hoffarber.

Kevin (Chicago): Which smaller conference champs look to be the most dangerous come tourney time?

John Gasaway: Don't know if the Missouri Valley meets your test of "smaller" but Northern Iowa is kind of unusual in that they have inside (Eglseder)-outside balance. (Though, and don't quote me because I haven't really looked at it, it felt like Moran's three-point shooting got less accurate as the year wore on.) The Panthers had a very good year on offense that seemed to peak in January, but they looked pretty good again in winning Arch Madness.

Matt A (Raleigh): Followup re: UF Saying the Gators don't make the mistake I did by looking past Auburn and make it to the Semis, only to lose by 10 to UT. Good enough for an at-large or not quite?

John Gasaway: In that scenario it will depend entirely on the number of bids that are available. Cleveland State, of course, took one away from someone. Whether it will turn out to be San Diego State, Arizona, or Florida, we'll see.

Chuck (Gainesville): How dangerous is Butler this year compared to previous versions? What kind of seed do you see them getting?

John Gasaway: The most impressive thing about the Bulldogs is that they really do D it up, particularly in the paint. It's always interesting to me when a defense is able to make opponents miss twos without blocking many shots. Butler is exhibit A. On offense they shoot a lot of threes without being a particularly good three-point shooting team (both parts of this were true last year as well), so a lot rides on how well they're hitting from long-range on that particular day.

What? More Butler?....

jbuofm (Peoria): How good would Butler's Gordon Hayward be in the Big Ten? I saw that Michigan was one of the schools he considered, and I'm trying to imagine how his freshman year would have played out against tougher competition. Seriously, a 125.0 ORtg? That's amazing for a freshman!

John Gasaway: That seems like a really smart 18-year-old, if the two coaches he was looking at were Brad Stevens and John Beilein. I hopped on the Hayward bandwagon as soon as I could. Definitely calendar 08.

John (Princeton): Is Creighton the most dangerous bubble team right now? If they get in, I could see them in the Sweet 16 very very easily. Also, rate NDSU's chance for an upset.

John Gasaway: I hear where you're coming from. The Bluejays were just phenomenal from the start of February on. That's why it was so odd to see them blown out by Illinois State. If Altman's team wriggles in somehow they can definitely make it to the second weekend, depending on what overrated 3 or maybe even (now) 4 they get bracketed with. Right now, though, it looks like they may not get in.

john (ct): Well we've now seen round two of UConn vs Pitt. What did we learn? Any hope of CT winning another Pitt-UConn showdown?

John Gasaway: Oh definitely. The weird thing about round 2 is that UConn didn't score very well. That doesn't figure to happen when this very good offense meets this kind of meh defense. I didn't think the Huskies were going to win at Pitt, of course. There's certainly no shame in dropping that one.

William S. (Chapel Hill, NC): What is up with the Jayhawks right now? 24-11?

John Gasaway: OK, nobody go anywhere. I'll have this chat wrapped up in time for you to catch the balance of the second half. Right now it's halftime: Baylor 37, Kansas 33.

(If KU can't score enough points to win against this defense, I will be shocked.)

Scott (Greenville, SC): Any chance Kentucky keeps their tournament streak alive?

John Gasaway: Yes. There is no huge favorite in the SEC tournament. I made this point in the piece that had the tournament odds: UK's chances of winning the SEC tournament are actually better than Villanova's chances of winning the Big East tournament or Clemson's chances of winning the ACC tournament.

Not that the Wildcats' chances are all that great, of course. They're not. Just that if I were Billy Gillispie there's more than enough truth lying around to make a really good speech for this particular Agincourt:

We few. We Wildcat few.....

Dexter Fishmore (LA): John, can your sources confirm this morning's rumor that Big 10 officials have extended a membership invitation to St. John's?

John Gasaway: I have had no sources for two hours. I give the chat my total attention. Let me check my IPhone here...

WHAT? Chris Brown and Rihanna record duet? NO way!!

GBSimons (Loganville, GA): Love the Harvey reference! I'm involved with a local community theatre that's performing the play this weekend.

John Gasaway: I saw an interview of James Stewart once where he said he didn't like his performance in the movie (!). Thought it was too wimpy. Apparently he did it on Broadway (or at least the stage somewhere) in the early 70s and did it much, I don't know, edgier? Not sure that would have worked for me.

MA (Recursion): What are the chances that Georgia pulls a Georgia this year?

John Gasaway: I believe they had a 0.3 percent chance of pulling a Georgia last year before they did indeed go on to pull a Georgia. I know for a fact that this year they have a 0.03 percent chance. So this year it would be even more incredible. We would need a new term. Pulling a Netherlands, maybe.

Jacob (Brooklyn): Mizzou's draw is on the verge of completely falling apart, with A&M losing last night and KU down four at the half. What seed do you think they get if they win out, and how do you think they'll do in the big tourney?

John Gasaway: I've had that same thought, though KU's actually on the other half of the bracket. Also keep in mind that upward mobility in seeding is going to be tough. Too many heavyweights locked in place above Mizzou. Of course, if they meet and beat Oklahoma I guess that would be one argument to make.

dcoonce (bloomington, indiana): I'm a very casual fan of college hoops, although I loved that Mt. ST. Mary's/RM game last night. Tell me: is Mike Davis' UAB team going to the tourney, or do they have to win their conference championship?

John Gasaway: No the Blazers are not going to the tourney. Every year is advertised beforehand as the year C-USA's second-best team finally gets a bid. Still waiting.

They will not win their conference tournament. It's being played on Memphis' home floor.

John (Charlotte, NC): As a Wake Forest fan, should I be worried about the somewhat mediocre EM heading into the Tournament? Could the Deacs rise to a #2 (or #1) with a strong showing in the ACC Tourney?

John Gasaway: Yes to the first question. It's been a long while since a team with an EM that meh made some serious second-weekend noise.

Yes to the second question. Win the dang thing. In theory that might be worth a 2, depending on what teams like Oklahoma and Michigan State do.


Probably going to wind down here in the next 10 to 15 minutes so stop spectating and get your question in.

Craig in North Carolina: Drop me an email with your question. Use the link at the bottom of any of my pieces on the main page.

mikeduin (Seattle): Thanks for the chat John. Gonzaga seems to be peaking at the right time. Any thoughts on the Zags making a run through the tourney?

John Gasaway: Indeed they do. Gonzaga's very much in Memphis-land cognitively: both teams disappear into an oubliette in January and we really don't know what we'll get when we haul them both out in March. in the Zags' case it looks like they'll have a 4 or a 5 as their second-game opponent, should they win round 1. Meaning second weekend is a definite possibility. Yay, you.

Sean (NYC): You mean you should trademark your bubble - committee idea. Once you've written it, it's protected by copyright. And no, I do not have anything better to do with my time than be on the lookout for semantic errors in chat rooms. Also, seeding aside, which conference do you think will wind up with the most Sweet 16 teams?

John Gasaway: Big East. Depending on the pairings I can envision myself predicting that four will make it to the Sweet 16.

Dexter Fishmore (LA): John, I agree that Bill Raftery's pretty good, but he needs to rein in his habit of trying to mine humor by implying that Jay Bilas was a mediocre player. (Example: someone on the floor swats a shot out of bounds, followed by a chucking Raftery asking, "Jay, you never sent a shot back like that, did you?") There are two problems with this: (1) Raftery does it about four times a game, bumping up quickly against the Law of Diminishing Comedic Returns, and (2) it's lacking any basis in reality, as Bilas was actually a really good player!

John Gasaway: Agreed. Particularly jarring since last night when Bilas, without any hint of self-puffery, was able to say truthfully "I was the first player Jim Boeheim ever tried to recruit out of California." It's OK when Bilas makes the point that he played against Jordan and maybe wasn't quite as talented, but for Raftery to go to that well too much is too much.

dianagramr (NYC): Hi John .... thanks for the chat ... After watching another horrendous showing in the Big East tourney, I have to ask ... when will my Red Storm be relevant again?

John Gasaway: Baylor came back from a scandal involving actual criminal behavior (not NCAA violations). I always believe there's hope for any program, even Big East programs with no football dollars. (Villanova's doing OK.)

Speaking of Baylor, they're playing a zone! So that's how they held Nebraska to 49. I wondered how that happened. Zone makes total sense for them. They weren't getting turnovers anyway. Make teams shoot threes. Right now they're tied with Kansas with 12 minutes left in the game.

Jacob (Atlanta): Are you on the North Dakota St. bandwagon along with your colleague Mr. Sheehan? Not many #13 seeds are 70th in the country in the kenpom ratings. And obviously that's not the only unusual thing about the Bison.

John Gasaway: Actually I would think 13 seeds would inhabit that kenpom neighborhood from time to time. Northern Iowa, a likely 13, is at 83. Yes, bandwagon. I sing Woodside's praises in an upcoming interview of yours truly due to appear soon at a major content provider (awed hush). If my words end up on the proofreading room floor, I'll use them myself.

jbuofm (Peoria): Why do I get the feeling that Minnesota is about to lose after having coughed up another ten point lead? If Northwestern makes it to finals, is that enough for an at large?

John Gasaway: Gophers up by nine with 41 seconds left. No Tubby vs. Billy in the NIT after all?

John Gasaway: That's going to do it for today. Be sure to join me next week: same day, same time, only you and I will be starting the NCAA tournament with our chat. It's my favorite one of the year. Til then, take care. If you're at work, go to 360.com and turn on Kansas-Baylor. Ciao.

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