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Chat: John Gasaway (Basketball)

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday March 12, 2010 12:00 PM ET chat session with John Gasaway (Basketball).


We've got a feeling you're coming down with March madness, so you'll want to ask John Gasaway of Basketball Prospectus about the rising temps on college courts.

John Gasaway (Basketball): Yo! The Madness reigns supreme! Let's take it all in. I have 90 minutes give or take. What's on your mind?

Kevin (New York, NY): What do we make of Vanderbilt? I love their size, free-throw shooting, and general offensive efficiency. But their rebounding and defense is suspect. Do you share that opinion?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Yes, yes, and yes. Classic old-timey SEC defense-optional team. They outscore people and they're good at it. Ogilvy and Taylor get to the line like maniacs. Hideous defensive rebounding, though. Worst in SEC by far.

Nick (Flossmoor, IL): Has anyone at BP attempted to track forced vs. unforced turnovers? When Team A, who turns it over a ton, plays Team B, whose defense doesn't force turnovers, I never know if Team A is just going to turn it over often anyways because they don't take care of the ball or if they'll minimize turnovers because they aren't facing a ball hawking defense.

John Gasaway (Basketball): Well, the devil would be in the definitions there. What's forced vs. unforced. Non-steal TOs (charges, traveling, passes OB, etc.) do get tracked all the time. *Generally* speaking Prospectus believes a turnover is an offense's vice more than a defense's virtue. Most defenses don't particularly try to create opponent TOs, and yet there are a lot of offenses out there committing them.

Warren M. (Washington, DC): As an IU alum, should I be worried about the lack of any sort of growth in Year 2 of the Crean era, or is this such a long-term rebuilding project that I should relax and stop fretting?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Tough not to be worried when you're outscored by a fifth of a point per trip in-conf. That doesn't mean the future is doomed. Year 3 of the Anderson era at Missouri was spectacular after a miserable Year 2. It just means there's a surprisingly large distance to be covered between "now" and just going .500, much less December 2007-level fun. (BTW, love Creek. Can't wait to see him healthy and whole.)

Robin Fishbein (Chicago): John, how have log5 projections compared with outcomes of conference tournament games in the last few years? Any trends? For example, does the underdog tend to under/overperform log5 in some rounds?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Don't know, but I will say that log5's are all about giving us accuracy in our surprised moments: "Wow! Nebraska only had a 13 percent chance of beating Missouri and they did it!" That's all they can do. The future's as inscrutable to a log5 table as it is to the rest of us.

Brian Kervick (Boston): With UConn done, I turn to my alma mater to carry the flame. IF Boston University can beat Vermont in the final of the America East tournament, do you think they have a shot to avoid the 16-seed line? A matchup with Purdue (and their relatively high 3pt% allowed) would be a dream in the 2-15 game. Of course BU is 1-7 in the last 4 years against Vermont...can't wait for Blakely to get the heck out of there.

John Gasaway (Basketball): First things first. That's a true road game tomorrow for your Terriers. If they win, sure, they have a shot at a 15. You need to find five other teams to fill up the 16-lines. But the Committee's all-powerful and you just never know. That's why the selection show is so cool. Anyway, good luck tomorrow.

Treebeard and the Big Three (South Carolina): Senor Gasaway, As a Duke fan, I enjoyed your article about Duke's seemingly annual February-March decline. I tend to disagree with the prevalent thought that Coach K is "tiring" his guys out (2006 JJ Redick, aside)- rather, I think that 07-09 Duke just wasn't all that talented, relatively speaking. Whatever the cause, I think your evidence from ACC play in recent years is compelling. It seems that Duke starts showing decline prior to the postseason, per your numbers. My question is: Given the evidence of the ACC regular season, do you see any reason to believe that THIS year's Duke team will be facing a drop off similar to years' past when entering postseason play?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Well, the dropoff has already failed to rear its ugly head this season. In each of the previous two years Duke declined (dramatically) in per-possession terms over the last several games of the *regular season*. This year they didn't.

marco (italy): Ciao from Italy, question directly about one result if i can : two reasons in your opinion about how Nebraska won with Missouri. Thanks!

John Gasaway (Basketball): Ciao, Marco. The shock there was that the Big 12's worst offense would rack up 75 points in a really slow (59-possession) game. Again, we're all about accuracy in surprise here at Prospectus. Also, Brandon Richardson will be boring his kids with this tape for years to come.

lagronem (Newark): Hi John, Loved your intro music on Homer's show...Am I blinded by rosy Bilas eyes to believe that we are living in a golden age of CBB color analysis? The aforementioned Bilas, Franschila,Gottlieb, Morris, Bob Knight...I am always learning something either from a numbers perspective or x's and o's.

John Gasaway (Basketball): Um, what *was* my intro music on Homer's show? (Seriously, you don't get to hear stuff like that when you're on hold.) I'm on the record as thinking by and large the WWL's PBP talent and analysts are just about the best thing Bristol has going. Speaking only for myself, I often (not always) notice a dropoff in the quality of the analyst when watching games from other providers.

(Well, second-best thing. Love the Dwight Howard Superman commercial.)

Nathan Walker (Boone, NC): How do you feel about Murray State's 30-win season (so far) and surprising #18 Ranking on the very competitive LRMC rankings page?

John Gasaway (Basketball): You know I'm all about Isaiah Canaan, one of my Top 25 Freshmen. Give him the PT, baby! (Actually IC's minutes are up a bit. Kennedy reads my stuff! Hi, Coach!) And, yes, on paper the Racers are far and away the strongest OVC team we've seen in...tempo-free forever? Last thing. Easley. Best shot-blocker no one's heard of. Although I probably over-estimate how many people have heard of Hassan Whiteside.

James (Stamford, Texas): John, what are you predictions for the Texas A&M Aggies down the tournament stretch?

John Gasaway (Basketball): If by "tournament stretch" you mean NCAA tournament, I'm seeing the Aggies projected as a six-seed I'd expect A&M to handle a potential 11 like Georgia Tech with ease. Florida or Virginia Tech would be tougher but I, for one, would still have Turgeon's men favored. Right now the most challenging potential 11-seed I'm seeing would be Utah State. I'd call that game more or less a toss-up.

mdccclxix (Seattle): Butler Gonzaga Memphis Xavier "The Big 4" Who's seeded where and who, if any, makes the Final Four?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Since the time when you posted your question, Memphis went out and shot itself in the foot by losing to Houston. My love for Xavier is well-documented. Butler on paper is more or less equivalent to the great '07 Sweet 16 team that lost to Florida by eight. Gonzaga is a riddle wrapped in an enigma shrouded in a remote eastern Washington town. Man they looked lifeless against SMC. (Granted, I give a lot of the credit there to the Gaels, who also made Portland look bad the previous game.)

Kevin (Chicago, IL): Regarding your Notre Dame piece, is there any reliable correlation between pace and defensive efficiency, or did it just happen to work out for Notre Dame this way? (i.e. is there any tangible defensive advantage to playing slower, or does it merely tend to keep the game closer because of the fewer possessions?)

John Gasaway (Basketball): Notre Dame's Extreme Makeover notwithstanding, the mere act of slowing down doesn't usually turn teams into Georgetown '84. Teams spread out all over the defense-and-pace map. Good defense, fast pace: Syracuse. Bad defense, fast pace: Providence. Good defense, slow pace: Wisconsin. Bad defense, slow pace: Northwestern.

GPW (Charlotte, NC): I'm a UW grad with UNC ties and so I see both fast/slow successful bball. Your article inplies that speed=wining. Of the top 20 NCAA teams in pts allowed only 4 have offense's in the top 200, and only 1 from a major conference (OSU). Of those top 20, only 6 are in major conferences. Of top 25, 3 are from the Big 10. Those 3 teams lost a total of 18 games combined. No other major conference has more than 1. Good D tends to slow tempo down but wins games. ND slowed pace down mid-season and started winning. UNC was fast this year and last with different results.

John Gasaway (Basketball): See previous answer. I wasn't trying to imply anything in the WSJ. I had a couple hundred words to work with and I usually take that long just to clear my throat. Anyway, I think this year Providence pretty clearly showed that speed does not equal winning.

Matt (Detroit): Does the committee look at advanced stats when setting up the bracket? Will they ever?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Not really. Yes, they will. I have my hopes pinned on 2012 or thereabouts. We will also be riding around in jet-packs by then and my dog will be named Astro.

Ben Allaire (Raleigh, NC): By the time you're answering this, I'm sitting down at the Greensboro coliseum to watch the ACC tournament. Granted, my wahoos will get killed, but still I'm taking the day off of work to watch some great ACC basketball. No question here. Just rubbing it in.

John Gasaway (Basketball): Good on you! Nothing to rub in, though. I'm chatting with a nation of really smart hoops fans. While wearing sandals. What's not to like about this gig?

Boeheim is my dad (Boston): I was surprised to see you mention Florida St. as a desirable NCAA second-round opponent for a 1 or 2 seed. They are 16 in the Pomeroy Ratings. Do you feel efficiency margin in conference play is a better indicator of a team's true strength?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Neither Ken nor I would ever advocate a blind down-the-line embrace of our respective numbers. To paraphrase David Ogilvy on research, the numbers shouldn't be used the way a drunk uses a lamppost: more for support than illumination. I don't know Ken's thoughts on the 'Noles, but for my part I'm seeing a team with a very good defense and a very weak offense. And that hasn't been a very successful NCAA profile in the time I've been tracking this stuff.

Wes (Columbus): Have you ever seen a team with a greater change in "luck" from year to year than Dayton? According to your colleague, Ken Pomeroy, Dayton was 5th in the entire country in luck last year. This year Dayton is 5th to last in luck. That seems amazing to me, but I was curious as to your take is on how rare it is and what the causes of it are.

John Gasaway (Basketball): Penn State also made a huge swing this year, also from "Billy Bob Thornton when he was married to Angelina Jolie" to "I am a New Jersey Nets fan." Invariably the cause turns out to be a tiki idol that the coach picked up on his Hawaiian vacation, one that made Greg wipe out while surfing.

dianagramr (NYC): Bracket-filling help needed: What 4 or 5 statistical categories should we focus on when trying to separate out the haves from the have-nots? Turnover margin? FG% against?

John Gasaway (Basketball): 2FG% for and against is always a good one. Just keep in mind that, Bob Knight's comments to the contrary notwithstanding, teams find a lot of different styles in which to win. That's one reason I like to look at the bottom line: how many points does this team score and allow on each possession (within their own chosen and perhaps wacky style)?

sytry14 (Seattle): Thanks for chatting. Are reports that Kobe Bryant has lost some of his "explosiveness" fair, or is he merely saving some of it for The Real Season?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Dunno. You'd have to talk to my colleagues, Kevin Pelton and Bradford Doolittle. They're NBA types who know tons about college hoops. I'm a college hoops type who knows zero about the NBA. They drew the short end of the stick colleague-wise, big time.

colbylee (LA): I'm 100 parts MLB fan, 75 parts NFL fan and 1 part NBA fan, though it wasn't always that way. My first step to get my NBA fandom back up was to dump the disappointing Warriors for the analytic Rockets and that has helped. What are a few highlights around the league that a born again like me should be paying attention to, to get it even higher?

John Gasaway (Basketball): See previous answer. I hear there's going to be a lock-out next year?

jtemplon (Chicago): How can a team like Northwestern be so efficient on offense and so bad at defense? I thought these things correlated on some level.

John Gasaway (Basketball): Northwestern (great offense, terrible D) and USC (terrible offense, great D) were both pretty unusual this year. You don't often see teams at the top of one measure and at the bottom of the other. What's particularly interesting about the Wildcats is that assuming they get Coble back next year they're already very very close to being as good as is feasible on offense. Almost all of the room for potential improvement is on D.

John M. (San Francisco): John - I'm a despondent Wake Forest fan, please give me some hope or put me out of my misery. Is Dino Gaudio the right guy? 0-4 in the post season, with none even being competitive is getting just a tad ridiculous. I'm afraid if the Deacs sneak into the Tournament next week, we might just see what rock bottom looks like.

John Gasaway (Basketball): I'm hardly unbiased when it comes to Gaudio. He loves tempo-free stuff and in fact might have been the first major-conf head-coach to come clean and say yes this is how we do things. What surprised me about the Deacs this year is that their interior scoring was so weak. Very Georgia Tech-like: NBA talent plus (relatively) low 2FG%s. Note however that the defense has been fine. Last thing: Wake was way over-seeded last year. Two-edged sword, I guess. You're supposed to get an easier opponent. But that wasn't a "real" four-seed that lost in the first round.

Peter Bean (Austin): True or false: Baylor's trifecta of wins over Texas is at least as much about the rise of Baylor as it is the fall of my Longhorns.

John Gasaway (Basketball): Incontestably true. When I get around to sifting the details in the calm of the postseason I will probably find that the year-to-year improvement of the Bears this season ranks up there with LSU and Missouri last year. Put it this way, I have Baylor as equivalent to if not better than K-State. Tremendous offense and meh D.

Rob Daniels (MSP): Are the Gophers the "best" team in the nation currently out of the NCAA tournament?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Depends on "currently." Dayton probably isn't in and by my warped lights they're in shockingly close performance proximity to a team like Pitt. Not that the Flyers should necessarily get in, mind you. I'm cool with a selection based on wins and losses. But reality-based seeding is something I'm working toward as well.

Austin (Potomac, MD): BYU is currently 5th on Pomeroy's rankings. The team that swept them (New Mexico) and is on a 15-game win streak is 44th. Are these outliers? Is BYU really that good? How many times have you seen them play, and do you think they're capable of making the Final Four?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Yep. Outliers. I've seen BYU probably six times this season and for the first 25 minutes of last night's game against TCU no, they did not look particularly bid-worthy much less Final Four-ready. But I can point to a game like that for every team. Kansas, goodness knows, has them. So does Duke. I definitely think the Cougars are *capable* of getting to Indy, for field-wide reasons cited in my Unfiltered piece today. I don't suppose anyone this year is exactly the second coming of UCLA '73.

Reed (Rochester, MN): What has been a very successful NCAA profile in the time you've been tracking this stuff? Final Four teams seem to always have top 25 (tempo-free!) defenses.

John Gasaway (Basketball): Yes, as one would expect Final Four types tend to be good on both sides of the ball. What you have to watch out for is Florida 2007 syndrome. On paper that year the Gators were merely OK on D. Well, that was because they knew they were good enough to coast through the regular season. Turned out they were exactly right.

Rick (Omaha, NE): Love your work. With some projected 7/8 seeds losing, where do you see Marquette landing if they can't pull it out against Georgetown tonight? Also, do you think we get enough credit for winning in our do-or-die bubble team games (i.e. South Florida, Cincy, Seton Hall, and Louisville)?

John Gasaway (Basketball): The word "DePaul" will of course be used like a blunt instrument in any Marquette discussion. Per my Unfiltered thingy today, seed matters less than opponent. In a different world those two would be more closely aligned, of course. But in this current world Marquette's popping up as a 9. They would be neutral-court favorites, to me, against an 8 like Clemson. Cal? Tougher to say.

Brian (Crystal): Any predictions on which team with a bad loss in Championship Week will surprise people by getting in the tournament anyway?

John Gasaway (Basketball): No, I just know that even if everyone loses someone has to get in anyway. Arizona State comes to mind as a possibility, but wow did they look bad against Stanford last night. Just lifeless.

ScottBehson (Libe Slope): What seed does Cornell get? and do they have a chance to win a game? Lets Go Red!

John Gasaway (Basketball): Cornell gets a 12, he said with unfounded certainty, so next week every casual fan in your office pool will be picking them to beat a 5-y team like Georgetown or Vanderbilt.

Sam (DC): The collapse of top seeds in the Big East tournament--no big deal, or indicative that the conference is softer than expected? Or, indicative of the weakness of 09/10 teams in general? Contrast that with the success of top seeds in the Big 12 tourney. For a while I was sold on Nova and Syracuse, and now I can't see either winning six in a row. I'm looking at Bracketology 101's current bracket prediction, and I know the whole thing is going to become a mess. It's gonna be a wild tournament.

John Gasaway (Basketball): No big deal. I loved the ESPN sound bite about no team losing its first conf tournament game has ever won the national championship. Well, that's because in any given year half of all of non-Ivy non-independent teams lose their first conf tourney game but 99 percent of all D-I teams do not go on to win the national championship. The Big East's coverage-to-reality ratio is out of whack, sure, but in a year with no dominant teams the Syracuses and West Virginias are as scary as the next guy.

BL (Bozeman, MT): Hey John, thanks a lot for the chat, and for your perspective on college hoops. Do you have a thought on how much a low-major team's chances for a win (extraordinarily remote to begin with) go up per seeding spot? I'm thinking specifically of the automatic qualifier from low-major leagues like the Big Sky, Northeastern, etc.

John Gasaway (Basketball): I either wrote a piece on this or just thought out loud about it in a chat last year, but intuitively the difference between, for example, a 15 and a 14 is huge. This year likely 2's or 3's that one could see as somewhat over-seeded could include teams like Pitt and New Mexico. By the same token Purdue will likely get a better seed than their current personnel could have secured. Those could be opponents I'd want to see if I were a 14 or thereabouts. The odds will still be way against me, of course. Just speaking relatively.

jamin67038 (Wichita, KS): With quite a few bubble teams losing yesterday, does it open up the possibility for Wichita State to make the Valley a two-bid league? Their resume definitely beats Illinois or Memphis.

John Gasaway (Basketball): The consensus of the bracketologists (and by the way you should be using bracketproject.50webs.com for all this stuff--it's an aggregator of dozens of mock brackets) is that not only the Illini and the Tigers but also teams like Arizona State, Rhode Island, and even UAB are ahead of the Shockers. FWIW, on my own "board" of reality I too have WSU as more or less equivalent to Memphis, ASU and URI, better than UAB and U of I.

BL (Bozeman, MT): How does one track possessions per college basketball game? Is there a function of the Stat Crew software that does so, or is it something that people are doing by hand somewhere?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Possessions = FGA - oreb + TO + (0.475 * FTA)

Run that using the totals from each team in a game and average the two results. Note that the 0.475 is for college only. Different FT multiplier in NBA.

Bonds Fan (Bay Area): Did St. Johns mess up by letting their coach go? The Big East is a tough conference.

John Gasaway (Basketball): It has not been a good couple years for 2001-era Illinois assistant coaches Billy Gillispie and Roberts. The former, I dare say, sabotaged his own situation. The latter at least was given a chance.

Kevin (Basketball Prospectus): Has anyone ever studied how much seeding truly matters in terms of improving chances of advancing independent of team quality? Seems like with several years of KenPom data that might be something we could try now.

John Gasaway (Basketball): Dude, where were you when the NBA geeks were asking me stuff an hour ago?

Yes, I started to do exactly that last season and then pressing book deadlines intervened. It will happen.

brian (brooklyn): You have mentioned having Dayton and Pitt ranked very closley to one another. Are your rankings available for public consumption?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Yep. Tuesday Truths. Confusingly the last one of the season ran this past Monday.

brian (brooklyn): Maybe my eyes are deceiving me but Texas looks absolutely awful. They cannot shoot, rebound or hold on to the ball. Is there any reason to believe they will win a game next week?

John Gasaway (Basketball): They do look lifeless and either they'll simply end with a whimper after 40 more minutes of clock or they'll scare the heck out of everyone by suddenly looking like they did in December, only as a 7-seed.

BL (Bozeman, MT): Who do you see as serious over-seeds and serious under-seeds this year?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Answered tangentially above. New Mexico and Pitt are two examples of teams that will likely be over-seeded by Prospectus criteria. I thought Maryland would be under-seeded because when I first started hollering about them they were appearing as a 7. I see now they're up to 5, so maybe they'll end up slotted correctly after all. Baylor, though, will probably be under-seeded. (Also reference above.)

dianagramr (NYC): Is there a link to current points per possession scored/allowed available?

John Gasaway (Basketball): The confusingly titled Tuesday Truths that ran on Monday is the most current info. I'm not a big believer in blending in stats from conference tournaments. The conference tournament is ontologically weird. By definition the best teams have the least to play for, the middling teams are absolutely desperate, games are played on consecutive days...None of which is analogous to either the regular season that precedes it or the NCAA tournament that follows.

Patrick (NYC): Financial Reasons aside, would you keep Paul Hewitt as your head coach? Sort of related: Could repeated years of bad "luck" be correlated to coaching? Georgia Tech is always at or near the bottom.

John Gasaway (Basketball): I don't know if I would or not, but the motto in Latin above the door here at Prospectus says that repeated years of bad luck are simply bad luck.

Sam (DC): Isn't there that one analyst who concocted PASE--Performance Against Seed Expectations?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Yes, indeedy. In the book this year Bradford Doolittle used a PASE-like object to rate the tournament performance of coaches.

BL (Bozeman, MT): Tempo-free team stats are terrific! What analytics are your favorite for looking evaluating individuals?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Can you make twos, if you shoot a lot of threes should you be, if you're a big can you take care of the defensive glass and/or block shots, etc. Also: be entertaining on Twitter, have a good fro-hawk, and never fall over at the foul line like Brady Morningstar did at Texas.

John Gasaway (Basketball): Well, I went over my allotted time but the questions were just so good. Sorry if I didn't get to yours. Time to catch the closing minutes of some noon tips. Enjoy!

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