Basketball Report

This post was inspired by this Tristan Thompson (TT) hype from ESPN:

http://espn.go.com/blog/statsinfo/post/_/id/120082/tristan-thompson-the-real-mvp

That was the University of Texas connection to the stunning NBA Finals, and our TT’s play was in fact magnificent. Even his little midrange jumper in traffic seemed to float in again and again, and there was no denying his timing, his hustle, his D, and his connection to LeBron James.

But there was also no denying who was the MVP. LeBron James is the only  player ever who could play PG, PF, and defensive rim protector on the same sequence of plays. The man would be competitive with the best at every single position on the floor. In leading his team to a come back three consecutive wins he often eschewed scoring for finding the open man – as he did with Thompson on several memorable plays. On defense, he was the superb rim protector, the thief, and that spectacular late game block on Iguodala’s easy fast break lay up – just how fast can LBJ run the 40? -was one for the ages. Having a terrific shooting guard in Irving opened the floor for him, of course, and it meant that LeBron had to be played one-on-one. But Golden State is an excellent one-on-one defensive team; perhaps that was as crucial to their great regular season total as their extraordinary shooting.

Golden State’s game is Spurs 2014 taken to a different level because the requirement to guard three shooters 25′ or more from the basket opens passing lanes and driving lanes as nothing else. This is a type of game engineered for the reincarnation of Larry Bird. The combination of three great shooters, one agile rim protector who can score when needed, and a slasher/defensive stopper will be the model now that many will try to emulate. If the slasher/defensive stopper is LeBron, or Kawhi, or the second coming of MJ, all the better.

Tristan Thompson is a becoming one model for the agile rim protector in the three out offense. Surely Olajuwon would have been great in this offense, but we will never know. The agile rim protector must be aware of his shooters and get the ball out to them on offense, when he is not wide open underneath or when early in the possession, usually looking to score as the last option and on set plays. This is because three points are cumulatively much better than two per possession. So while Cleveland cannot yet match Golden State from three, and while the Cavs depended on stellar performances from Irving and Thompson and an overwhelming effort from LeBron, I think with one additional sharpshooter they would become nearly unbeatable.

It is to me interesting that in the three point era there have been some teams prior to GSW that could have played like them. I think, particularly, that Stockton-Hornacek averaged nearly 50% from trey some seasons, but did not shoot nearly as often as the Splash Brothers. I am guessing that trusting the three as a staple in the arsenal just took a long time to happen, or it took an assemblage of three sharpshooters at once.

It was a great series. And TT is also terrific in that commercial making fun of old Kobe.

“Don’t be Drake” is Always Good Advice

From SBNation, a primer on March Madness for an NBA fan:

We’re halfway into the month of March, which means the NCAA Tournament is right around the corner. Most of the country is about 7 days into their 30-day NCAA basketball attention span, trying to figure out which mascot they think will win in a fight between a Badger and a Cyclone so they can finish their bracket before the deadline. NBA fans are no exception; you’re in the stretch run of your own season, watching the standings to see if your team is in the playoffs or the lottery. You don’t have time to research who the leading rebounder is for the Green Bay Phoenix, or if there is a Green Bay, or if their mascot is actually a phoenix.

(Now you’re interested. Go ahead and Google it, I’ll wait.)

(You didn’t know that was even a team, did you?)

(Neither did I until a week ago.)

So with that in mind, let’s set the table for you on what to expect this week.

This isn’t pretty basketball

If you’re a NBA fan, you’ve spent the last few months watching Steph Curry redefine the concept of shooting. You’ve spent the past 3-4 years watching the San Antonio Spurs create an offensive system that’s as much poetry as sport. You’ve had a decade of Lebron James doing things no 250 lb man should be able to do. This is not that game. NCAA basketball is trying to improve the offensive flow with a number of rule changes to the block/charge call & hand-checking, amongst other things. Early returns are positive, but it’s a work in progress and you’re likely to see a game with a foul every minute at least a couple times the first weekend. NCAA basketball is moving away from being Murderball, but you’re probably going to have some flashbacks to mid-90s Detroit Pistons/New York Knicks games.

The players aren’t great

You’re used to seeing the best basketball players in the world, so you gotta dial back your expectations a little. Most of these guys are going to be accountants & project managers in 2 years, not the 6th man for the Brooklyn Nets. There aren’t any transcendent players this season; Buddy Hield & Denzel Valentine are great NCAA players and will likely have solid NBA careers, but they’re not Kevin Durant or The Brow. A guy like Georges Niang is going to have his jersey in the rafters for the Iowa State Cyclones sooner than later, but it’s highly unlikely he makes a NBA squad next season. There will be at least a dozen guys who make a name for themselves this month and are never heard from again because that’s how it is when you’re in a league with 350 other D1 schools (I’m not exaggerating, there are 351 D1 schools technically eligible for March Madness.)

The scores will be low

There are a number of reasons for this; the shot clock is longer (30 seconds v. 24 for NBA), the games are shorter (40 minutes v. 48 for NBA), and the players are on average worse shooters (trust me). The Connecticut Huskies broke 100 points a couple days ago…it took them 4 OTs to hit it. Expect your bracket to be full of final scores in the 60s & 70s.

I’m painting a really rosy picture right now, I know. I can imagine you’re wondering why you should even bother turning on the games, and it’s a valid question. One answer is because you’re a degenerate gambler and the first week of the NCAA Tournament is basically Christmas in Las Vegas, but that’s not really what we’re getting at here. We’ve made it through the cons, here are the pros.

Nobody is immortal

This NCAA season has no NBA D-League teams like last year’s Kentucky squad, there are a number of teams that could make it to the Final Four is larger than I’ve seen in years. Any of the #1 seeds could get popped early (alright, not in the 1st round, it isn’t that insane) or they could all make it to the end, it’s wide open.

There’s variety

Do you want to watch a team that runs the floor for 40 minutes? Watch Green Bay. Do you want a team that runs a full-court press? Watch the West Virginia Mountaineers. Do you like a team that owns the boards? The Baylor Bears are a good bet. Do you appreciate teams that value the ball? The Temple Owls turn the ball over less than anybody in the tournament. There’s something in this tournament for everybody, you just have to know where to look.

The results will be unpredictable

For all the NBA has going for it, when it comes to the playoffs the NBA is fairly predictable. Last year it wasn’t a surprise that the Cleveland Cavaliers made it to the finals, and it wasn’t particularly surprising that Golden State won the whole thing. This year feels like – barring Greg Popovich stuffing kryptonite in Steph Curry’s mouthpiece – one long coronation for the Warriors. In the NCAA, this year could be especially messy; there are a pack of 10-15 teams at the top who are all bunched up together and a bunch of teams being led by battle-tested seniors lurking in the middle seeds. There may not be a 15-seed making it to the Sweet Sixteen, but don’t be surprised to see a number of 10-13 seeds destroying brackets this year. Bask in the glow of not knowing who is the clear favorite, it’s part of the entertainment.

It’s…fun

If you’re a basketball purist and you think anything less than the Warriors is shit, you probably should just stick to the NBA. But if you have the capacity for normal human emotions and want to mainline 96 hours of basketball, this is the best weekend of the year. Pick a random team to root for – not Kentucky, don’t be Drake – and ride the roller coaster.

Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight

This weekend the NCAA women are in the Sweet Sixteen round. Today’s games:

University of Kentucky vs Baylor (12:00 noon EDT)(all games are on ESPN) UPDATE: Baylor 90 – 72

Oklahoma State vs Notre Dame (2:00 pm EDT) Go Irish! UPDATE: Notre Dame 89 – 72 Yay, Mrs NoVA!

BYU vs UConn (4:30 pm EDT) Go Huskies! (In the spirit of rooting for anybody who’s playing against BYU) UPDATE: UConn 70 – 51

DePaul vs Texas A&M (6:30 pm EDT) UPDATE: Texas A&M 84 – 65

Sunday’s games:

University of Maryland vs Tennessee (12:00 noon EDT) Go Terps! UPDATE: Maryland 73 – 62

LSU vs Louisville (2:20 pm EDT) UPDATE: Louisville 73 – 47

PSU vs Stanford (4:30 pm EDT) UPDATE: Stanford 82 – 57

UNC vs South Carolina (6:30 pm EDT) UPDATE: UNC 65 – 58


And of course, the men’s tournament is in the Elite Eight round. The games the last two days–and especially last night–have been some great basketball! Today’s games :

Dayton vs Florida (6:09 pm EDT, TBS)(Why in the world the “09”? Why not 6:10?) UPDATE: Florida 62 – 52

Wisconsin vs Arizona (8:49 pm EDT, TBS). For McWing’s sake, Go ‘Cats! But I have to admit, my heart is with the Badgers. UPDATE: Wisconsin 64 – 63 in overtime. The Badgers were trying to kill me tonight!

Tomorrow:

UConn vs MSU (2:20 pm EDT, CBS). Do you even have to ask? GO STATE!! UPDATE: UConn 60 – 54

University of Kentucky vs UM (5:05 pm EDT, CBS). Let’s Go Blue! UPDATE: UK 75 – 72

Dare I hope that 75% of the Final Four be BiG teams?

Sigh. There is no joy in Mudville tonight.

NCAA Men’s Final Four: A Word from Madame Commish

A number of the pundits I’ve read this week seem to think the championship is Kentucky’s to lose.  Ahhh, but tournaments are won one game at a time and today it’s Louisville vs. Kentucky, followed by Ohio State-Kansas.

The two Bluegrass State teams met earlier this season.  In that matchup, Kentucky committed a lot of turnovers and shot badly from the floor, yet still managed to win.  And the Wildcats have played very well during the tournament, averaging 88 points per game and shooting over 50%.  ‘Course, they haven’t met anything like the Cardinals’ defense in the last two weeks, either.  And it’s the Louisville defense that holds the potential for an upset.

The evening’s second game features two solid defenses with rugged playing styles.  Kansas beat Ohio State back in December, but OSU’s key player, Jared Sullinger, didn’t play that day.  Kansas has to stay out of foul trouble and have better accuracy with three-pointers, while OSU needs a balanced offensive attack.  Most of the pundits I’ve read are giving this one to the Buckeyes of OSU.

Madame Commissioner’s Sunday morning update

One Big Ten (but not really) team has managed to muscle its way into the Final Four.  Ohio State beat the Melo-deprived Syracuse Orange, 77 -70.

DogJS, Moderately Yello, okieboycat, and Mark in Austin correctly selected OSU as the East region winner.  Congrats to you all!

This morning’s standings are as follows (favored teams in today’s action in parentheses):

  • DogJS: 172 (Kentucky, Kansas)
  • Moderately Yello: 143 (Kansas)
  • USF Baby: 141 (Kentucky, UNC)
  • MIA#2 and #4: 136 (both UNC)
  • ashot:111 (Kentucky, UNC)
  • Michigoose#2: 100 (Kansas)
  • Okieboycat: 94 (UNC)
  • Blade Warriors: 93 (none)

Enjoy your Sunday!

Madame Commish’s Saturday morning update

With no upsets on Friday night, the Saturday morning ATiM Rocks leaderboard reflects how many of last night’s winners (Kentucky, Baylor, UNC, Kansas) were still present in a particular bracket.   The leaderboard now looks like this:

  1. DogJS (153 pts., 4 winners last night, 6 teams still standing)
  2. USF Baby (141 pts., 2 winners last night, 3 teams still standing)
  3. Moderately Yello (132 pts., 3 winners, 4 teams)
  4. MIA#4 (128 pts, 3 winners, 4 teams)
  5. MIA#2 (125 pts., 4 winners, 5 teams)
  6. ashot (111 pts., 4 winners, 5 teams)
  7. Michigoose#2 (100 pts., 3 winners, 3 teams)
  8. Blade Warriors (93 pts., 1 winner, 3 teams)
  9. okiegirl (88 pts., 2 winners, 3 teams)

A key factor going forward is whether a leading bracket’s eventual champion is still in the hunt.  The answer is Yes for ashot (Kentucky), MIA#2 and USF Baby (UNC), MIA#4 (L’ville), and DogJS (Kansas).

Oh, and can someone provide a link to a photo of our logo at the top of the page?  Madame Commissioner needs it to finish part of the grand prize.  Thank you.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday morning ATiM Rocks update

Thursday evening’s games were not kind to Madame Commissioner’s extended humanoid family.  Niece2JS is a recent Badger grad and Niece3JS attends Marquette.  DogJS, however, is quite the happy puppy, as he now sits atop the ATiM Rocks leaderboard.  Madame Commish neglected to realize yesterday he had picked Louisville over Michigan State, and that was enough for him to take a slim lead.

The standings are now:

  1. DogJS: 137
  2. USF Baby: 133
  3. Moderately Yello: 120
  4. MIA#4: 116
  5. MIA#2: 109
  6. ashot: 95
  7. Blade Warriors: 89
  8. Michigoose#2: 88
  9. okiegirl: 80

As for today’s games, all of the ATiM Rocks leaders favor some combination of Kentucky, Baylor, North Carolina and Kansas as the winners.  If anyone else has a bracket with Indiana, Xavier, Ohio and/or NC State winning, upsets are a must for you to move up.  On paper only Indiana appears to have a realistic chance, but Cinderella mojo is a curious thing.

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