Kentucky Has No Chance

You know why?  They are the least battle tested of any of the teams left in the tournament.  The least.  Sure they are undefeated.  And yes earlier in the year they beat a few quality teams in Arkansas, North Carolina, Kansas, Bobby Hurley’s Buffalo, UCLA and Louisville. Actually, Arkansas was the last really good team Kentucky faced in the SEC championship game. However, the Wildcat’s tournament run has been unimpressive – Hampton (16), Cincinnati (8) and West Virginia (5). Ok, they blew West Virginia out of the gym, but West Virginia was no match at all and if you think the Mountaineers prepared UK to face Notre Dame, you are delusional.

The thing is, many of Kentucky’s wins this year came against horribly inferior teams that a good high school team could have taken down, teams like Grand Canyon, Columbia, Texas-Arlington (known more for debate, than basketball), Montana State, Boston University and Missouri. The sobering truth is that the ACC has been a much stronger conference than the SEC this year. All the other SEC teams that made the tournament fell early including Ole Miss, Arkansas, LSU and Georgia. Whereas, the ACC still has 3 teams standing in the Elite 8: Louisville, Notre Dame and Duke.  And while Kentucky beat Louisville in December at Louisville by 8 and held the Cards to only 1 assist, that’s right 1 assist, they only had 2 blocked shots, a season low; they average almost 7 a game. Apart from Louisville, the Cats haven’t played any of the other Elite 8 teams, while Notre Dame has beaten Louisville, Michigan State and Duke twice.  Ok, they did also lose to Duke once by 30 points, but it was a fluke game @ Duke.

The point I am making is that Notre is battle tested and Kentucky is not.  Kentucky may think they are better than they are which could lead to them underestimating the talent and fight of the Fighting Irish.  And if overconfidence and a weak schedule don’t bring down the Cats, the pressure of being and staying undefeated will.  There have only been 7 teams to finish the year undefeated, and the last team to do it was Indiana almost 40 years ago before the age of the 64 team tournament.  The only teams that made it to the Final Four undefeated since the 64 teams era were Indiana State in 1979, who lost to Michigan State in the Finals (Bird v. Magic); UNLV in 1991, who lost to Duke in the Semis and now Kentucky.  Could this young Kentucky team with only three Seniors, all guards who play less than 2 minutes a game, actually pull it off?  If history is any indication, there’s simply no way, not a chance – March Madness ends today for the Wildcats today.

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Analysis of Sweet 16 matchups with Stats and Stuff

How do the Sweet 16 teams matchup?  At least in the first 4 games tonight, pretty evenly, except for the Kentucky game. In 3 of the first 4 games, the seeding differences are just 4, 3 in the case of UNC and Wisconsin.

Kentucky (1) v West Virginia (5)

Notre Dame (3) v Wichita St. (7)

Wisconsin (1) v North Carolina (4)

Xavier (6) v. Arizona (2)

Statistically, Wichita State v Notre Dame should be the closest game.  Notre Dame is one of the best offensive teams in the country and Wichita State has one of the best defensive teams in the country. Playing in Cleveland affords Notre Dame the home court advantage.  Notre Dame played a much stronger schedule during the regular season, but Wichita State has played stronger teams so far in the tournament.  So which team is really more battle ready?  Good question.  This could be the upset of the night, but not quite a Shocker.

Based on the numbers, Kentucky should blow West Virginia out of the gym.  Kentucky has one of the most balanced teams in the tournament.  West Virginia has the worst defensive team probably of any remaining from the Midwest and West Regions.  During the regular season, they ranked 346th in defensive rebounds,and 246th in blocked shots. By contrast, Kentucky was 3rd in points allowed and 2 in blocked shots.  This does not bode well for the Mountaineers who also ranked 282nd in field goal percentage. Ironically, they weren’t totally bad on offense, ranking 36th in points per game.  And as horrible as they were overall as a defensive team, they excelled in one area – steals.  West Virginia led the nation in steals per game.  I’d like to think Bob Huggins could somehow throw Kentucky off their game, you know, find a way to steal it, but they just don’t have the weapons to compete with the Wildcats. It won’t be a blowout, but it won’t be very close either.

I don’t think Arizona and Xavier will be much of a game frankly.  First, Arizona has a decisive home court advantage playing in LA.  Like Kentucky, Arizona is one of the most balanced teams in the tournament.  Statistically, they ranked high on offense and defense: 6th in points per game and 15th in points allowed; 13th in defensive rebounds.  Xavier ranked 195th in points allowed and they blocked about as many shots per game as West Virginia did, which is to say not very many.  Now admittedly, the Big East had a decent league this year, but Xavier lost to some really crappy teams in the regular season like Long Beach State, DePaul, Seton Hall and Creighton, programs that were once competitive, but are on the decline.  Plus Xavier had a rather uninspiring season finishing 6th in the Big East. Now you could say, “but they are on a roll.” True, but look who they’ve played so far in the tournament – an 11 seed, Ole Miss and the 14th seeded Georgia State Panthers, the feel good but not real good team. Likewise, Arizona hasn’t been challenged either playing pitifully weak teams in Ohio State, a 10 seed and Texas Southern, a 15 seed out of the Southwest Athletic Conference.  Xavier will be in it for a while, but Arizona should pull away and get the bench some playing time.

The Wisconsin North Carolina game may be the best one of the night.  North Carolina has one of the best offenses in the country:  2nd in rebounds, 2nd in assists, and 17th in points per game. By contrast, Wisconsin ranks 204th in offensive rebounds, 165th in assists and 67th in points per game.  It’s a wonder they won so many games this year.  On the defensive end, Wisconsin is in the top 10 in points allowed, BUT they are horrible at rebounding, one of the worst teams in the country in forcing turnovers and an abysmally weak shot blocking team.  The question in my mind is can the Tar Heels stop Frank Kiminisky? If UNC can shut down or limit the lanky 7 footer from Lisle, IL, to say 12 points or less, they’ll win the game handily.  It won’t be an upset exactly, despite the seedings because the ACC has proven to be a much more competitive conference this year than the Big Ten with 5 teams still in play vs. the Big Ten’s scant 2 in the mix, one after tonight.

Let the #Marchmadness continue!

NCAA Conference Madness

From the disheveled old growth oak Sports Desk of Ribbie’s Weblog

Now down to the Sweet 16 of the 2015 Men’s NCAA Basketball tournament, let’s have a look at the conferences that remain.  The 16 teams represent 8 different conferences, the number of teams left for each is in parenthesis.

  1. ACC (5)
  2. PAC 12 (3)
  3. Big 12 (2)
  4. Big 10 (2)
  5. Big East (1)
  6. Missouri Valley (1)
  7. SEC (1)
  8. West Coast (1)

But there’s something odd about these conferences to which which no one seems to be paying any attention.  And the oddity is this: they are not true to their names, most of them anyway.  Let’s look at the conferences still standing in the Sweet 16 and have a peek at a few more.

  • The PAC 12 Conference actually only has 11 teams, so why isn’t it the PAC 11?
  • The Big 10 is way out of whack with 14 teams in the conference.
  • And get this, the Big 12 isn’t so big after all and should be renamed the Big 10; boy wouldn’t that be confusing – two conferences with the same name, or the Big 10 could become the Big 14.  Or the two conferences could merge and become the Big 24.
  • Now the West Coast Conference is curious in that member BYU in Provo, Utah is no where near a coast, let alone the West Coast.
  • Look at the ACC.  Most of the schools are no where near the Atlantic Coast, except Boston College.  Notre Dame is nearer the Great Lakes and Louisville closer to the Mississippi River and nearly 1,000 miles from the Atlantic Coast.  Both schools are more geographically suited to be in the Mid American Conference.
  • And as far as the SEC goes, Missouri would be hard pressed to prove its Southeasterness.  Arkansas switched from the Southwest Conference to the Southeastern Conference.  Geographically speaking, Arkansas belongs in the Southland, Southern or SWAC.
  • I don’t know how tiny Creighton of Omaha, NE became a member of the Big East; it is neither big nor east.  Go figure.
  • Though not a conference with any teams still in the tourney, the Atlantic 10 now has 12 schools.  And not sure how St. Louis became a member, being no where close to the Atlantic, Mid Atlantic or even Atlanta for that matter.

Let the March Madness continue!

2015 March Madness Sweet 16 Fun Factoids and Matchups

Updated 3/25/2015

From the cluttered Sports Desk of Ribbie’s Weblog, here are some fun factoids about the 2015 NCAA Sweet 16 and some intriguing matchups to consider for the Final Four and Finals.

  • 5 of the 16 teams or 31% are from the ACC:  Louisville, NC State, Notre Dame, Duke and UNC.
  • There could be an all ACC final four: UNC (West), Duke (South), Notre Dame (Midwest) and either NC State (East) or Lousiville (East)
  • If UNC, Duke and NC St. make it to the Final Four, there’d be three North Carolina teams from the ACC.
  • All NC Final: UNC v Duke, UNC v NC State
  • All people mascots/nicknames Final Four: Sooners (East), Fighting Irish (Midwest), Musketeers (East), Utes (South)
  • PAC 12 Final: Arizona v. Utah or Arizona v. UCLA
  • Big 12 Final: Oklahoma v. West Virginia
  • 7 of UCLA’s 11 losses this year were to Sweet 16 teams including a loss to Gonzaga by 13 and a 39 point loss to Kentucky.
  • 7 of North Carolina’s 11 losses this year were also to Sweet 16 teams including a 14 point loss to Kentucky.
  • Utah went 0-2 against Arizona and was 1-1 against UCLA.
  • 2 of Duke’s 4 losses were to Notre Dame.
  • Michigan State lost to Wisconsin twice, including an overtime loss by 11 points.
  • Oklahoma lost to Wisconsin earlier in the season and went 1-1 against West Virginia.
  • 6 of Louisville’s 8 losses were to Sweet 16 teams including going 1-2 against North Carolina and losing to NC State in their only meeting during the year.
  • Two ACC teams face off in the Sweet 16:  Louisville and NC State
  • ACC Finals:  ND v Duke, ND v Lou, ND v NC St; UNC v Duke, UNC v Lou, UNC v NC St
  • Underdogs Final Four: UCLA (11), North Carolina State (8), Wichita State (7), Xavier Musketeers (6)
  • Underdog Final:  UCLA v Wichita State
  • Straight Final Four – 1234:  Kentucky (1), Gonzaga (2), Oklahoma (3), North Carolina (4)
  • Straight Final Four – 4567:  Louisville (4), Utah (5), Xavier Musketeers (6), Wichita State (7)
  • Two Pairs Final Four – Duke (1) Wisconsin (1) Michigan State (7) Wichita State (7)
  • Number of players on Kentucky’s Roster from Kentucky: 3
  • Number of players on West Virginia’s Roster from West Virginia: 4
  • Homegrown talent: North Carolina – 9 players on roster from NC
  • Importers:  Arizona – 9 players from California
  • Gonzaga has two 7-1 players and 5 players from 4 different countries: Canada, Poland, Lithuania, Brazil

Arkansas and UNC: a Preview and Prediction

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The two teams are pretty evenly matched in most categories, except strength of schedule. UNC was 7-10 against ranked teams during the regular season.  By contrast, Arkansas played only 2 teams that made the round of 32:  Dayton and Kentucky, beating the Flyers and falling twice to the Wildcats.  With common opponents, Arkansas is 1-4 beating Wake Forest and losing to Florida, Clemson and Kentucky twice.  UNC is 3-1 beating Clemson, Florida and Wake Forest and losing to Kentucky by 14 points.

And while Kentucky is arguably the more battle tested team, Arkansas may have an edge with its press.  UNC is more of a  turnover prone team and may be bothered by constant pressure.  However, it should be noted that Arkansas’ press had zero impact on Wofford in their second round meeting; the Terriers only turned the ball over 7 times.  In fact, Arkansas turned the ball over more than Wofford; It turns out that turnovers in basketball are less of a factor than turnovers in football.  In half of the 32 games in the second round, the loser committed fewer turnovers than the victor.  Case in point:  Coastal Carolina only committed 6 turnovers and still lost to Wisconsin by 14 points.

The Razorbacks and the Tar Heels have a history in the tournament dating back to 1990, each with 2 wins and 2 losses.  Arkansas will be looking to take revenge for being blownout the last time they met Carolina at the Big Dance in 2008. Simply put, the Hogs are hungry.

In the 2015 edition of the tournament, with all the passing, fouling, poor shooting and strong defense we’ve seen so far from most of the teams, look for a low scoring and very close game.  And look for Arkansas to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996:  AR 66 – UNC 63.

Let the madness continue! #Marchmadness #WPS

And then there were 32

From the Sports Desk of Ribbie’s Weblog, bringing you up-to-the day coverage of stuff not so typically covered.

  • Of the 16 games to be played in the third round, the combined seeding numbers for 12 of them equal 9.
  • One game in the South Region has a total seed number of 25:  UCLA (11) v UAB (14)
  • Breakdown of the 32 by seeds:  All the 1, 2, 4, 5 and 8 seeds remain.  3 7th seeded teams are still alive.  2 of the 2 seeds made it. Just 1 10 seed survived:  Ohio State.  There are 2 each 11 and 14 seeds that made it to third round:  UCLA, Dayton, UAB and Georgia State.  All the 9, 12, 13, 15 and 16 seeds were knocked out.
  • By Conference with two or more teams:  ACC (6), Big Ten (5), Pac 12 (4), Big 12 (3), Missouri Valley (2), SEC (2)
  • Three of the ACC teams still alive are in the East Region:  Louisville, NC State and Virginia
  • By state:  Ohio (4), NC (3), 2: KY, CA, IN, KS, IA.  Texas started with 5 but all were eliminated in the 2nd round.
  • By mascot with two or more:  Northern Iowa Panthers, Georgia State Panthers; Butler Bulldogs, Gonzaga Bulldogs; Kentucky Wildcats, Arizona Wildcats, Villanova Wildcats
  • In the “West” Region, Georgia State (14) from Atlanta practically plays a home game in Jacksonville against Xavier (6) from Cincinnati.  5 hour drive from Atlanta; 12 hour drive from Cincinnati.
  • Dayton, the 11 seed in the “East” Region, will practically play a home game in Columbus vs. the 3 seed Oklahoma. Dayton is about an hour from Columbus.  Norman to Columbus is a good 13 hour plus drive.
  • Easiest region remaining as calculated by combined seeds:  South (52)
  • Toughest region remaining as calculated by combined seeds: Midwest (36)
  • All the tops seeded teams are playing the 8th seed.  And all the winners will play either a 4 or 5 seed in the Sweet 16.
  • Two teams from Indiana face off in the Midwest Regional third round:  Notre Dame (South Bend) and Butler (Indianapolis) If Butler makes it to the Final Four, they would have a clear home court advantage.
  • Two second round games played in the South Regional in Louisville had the same final score:  UCLA 60 SMU 59; UAB 60 Iowa St. 59.
  • In the 32 2nd round games, half of the losing teams had fewer turnovers than the winning team.  Coastal Carolina had the fewest turnovers in a losing effort:  6.  Wofford, Harvard and Albany all lost with just 7 turnovers.
  • Baylor had the distinction of committing the most turnovers in a second round game: 21

Let the madness play on.  #Marchmadness

2015 NCAA Tourney 2nd Round Odds and Ends

From the Sports Desk of Ribbie’s Weblog, your source for twisted coverage of March Madness.  Here are some stats and facts you might not have seen yet:

  • The lowest winning score in a game:  56 – (3): Arkansas, Dayton, Butler
  • The lowest combined score in a game: 104 – Butler 56 – Texas 48.
  • Lowest losing score in a game:  48 – Texas
  • Highest number of bids by state: 5 – Texas and Indiana
  • Most # of loses by a state in second round play:  5 Texas – Texas, Texas Southern, Baylor, Stephen F. Austin, SMU
  • Highest scoring game:  BYU 90 v Ole Miss 94 (First Round)
  • Most teams by conference still alive:  6:  ACC, Big East, Big Ten
  • Most teams by state still alive: 4 – Ohio: Cincy,  Dayton, OSU, Xavier; IN: Indy, Valpo, Butler, Notre Dame NC:  UNC, Davidson, Duke, NC St.
  • Rhyming Couplet Matchup:

The high and mighty Dayton Flyers

Will play the saintly Providence Friars

Stay tuned for continued “coverage” of or more aptly, musing, rantings and ravings on the 2015 NCAA Hoops Tournament.  Let the madness continue!

Odd Facts and Weird Final Four Matchups

From the Sports Desk of Ribbie’s Weblog, here are some fascinating and theoretically possible matchups for the Final Four as of 8:26 pm March 19, 2015, after half of the first day second round games, plus some odd and interesting facts.  Were you aware that an Anteater and a Badger could face off in the Finals? Stranger things have, well, never happened!

  • 3 Strange animals and a Lumberjack:  UC Irvine Anteaters (East), Wisconsin Badgers (West), Cincinnati Bearcats (Midwest), Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (South)
  • 4 Birds: Eastern Washington Eagles (South), Kansas Jayhawks (Midwest), Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (West), Louisville Cardinals (East)
  • 3 Bulldogs and a Terrier:  Butler (MW), Gonzaga (South), Georgia (East), Wofford (West)
  • Historical Reenactment:  Michigan State Spartans (East), Valparaiso Crusaders (MW), Ok State Cowboys (West) and Robert Morris Colonials (South)
  • All Wildcat Final: Arizona (W), Davidson (South), Kentucky (MW), Villanova (East)
  • Strange Fact:  Indiana has 5 teams in the tournament and all are in the Midwest Bracket:  Purdue, Butler, Valparaiso, Indiana and Notre Dame.
  • Another oddity:  Texas started with 5 teams and is down to just one, Stephen F. Austin.  SMU, Baylor, Texas and Texas Southern all lost on Thursday, March 19.

2015 NCAA Selection Committee Suffering From March Madness

Well the field of 68 has been whittled down to 66, with two games left in the first round, also called the First Four.  As I look at the brackets, I see something a bit odd.  Some of the second round games, which will be the first games for 60 of the teams, will be played in cities that are not located in the region they represent.  For example, some second round games for the West Region are held in Jacksonville, Florida, which, to my thinking is more South or East than West.  About the only place near the U.S. where one would have to travel West to get to Jacksonville would be the island nation of Bermuda.

Another example is Omaha, NE, which hosts a second round Sub Regional game in the West.  Ok, Nebraska is more Westerly than Jacksonville, but it feels more middle western to me.  Oddly, Omaha also hosts a Midwest Sub Regional game.  How is that fair?  When did Nebraska become a basketball mecca?  It doesn’t even have a team in the tournament.  No, Creighton (Barrel) did not make the cut this year.  Somebody in NE knows someone with powerful NCAA connections.

Looking at the South Regional, we have more of this March Madness shenanigans in play.  Seattle, WA and Portland, OR play host to South Sub Regional games.  I was not a Geography major in college, but from what I can remember, the only place that can call Seattle South is Canada.  I suppose Portland was approved because it is South of Seattle.

And because of these geographic fails on the part of the NCAA tournament logistics committee, some teams have a clear home court advantage in Sub Regionals that were not earned.  Let’s look at the “West” games being played in Jacksonville, Florida.   Wofford, out of Spartanburg, SC, the 12th seed, practically has a home game against 5th seeded Arkansas, and were they to win, would have a slight home court advantage over 3rd seeded UNC.  Wisconsin sent to the West Region got the least respect having to play in Omaha, a good 7 hour drive from Madison.  All the other 1 seeds get second round games in their home state and Villanova, plays just 30 minutes from campus in Philly.

A couple of Texas teams – Stephen F. Austin (12) and SMU (6) have smooth sailing back to Texas if they advance to Houston for virtual home court advantage – both Dallas and Nacogdoches are only a few hours from Houston.  And of course all of the Indiana teams (how did they get 5 in?) could advance to Indianapolis.  There must be some big wigs on the NCAA committee from the Hoosier state.  I mean really, how did Indiana even get an invitation with 13 losses?  And Valparaiso, isn’t that a city in Chile? Come on, and they didn’t play a single ranked team all year.  And if you think Butler has a chance of advancing very far, well I think you are delusional or put another way, suffering from an acute case of March madness.  And to demonstrate that I too may not be quite right in the head, here’s my prediction:  Cat v. Dog – Villanova Wildcats (1) v. Wofford Terriers (12) with the Wildcats winning it on a buzzer beater, 45-44.  You watch.

2015 NCAA First Four – Bird of Prey vs. Founding Father

Robert Morris

JS Bach

The Robert Morris Colonials play the North Florida Ospreys in one of the first games of the NCAA tournament in what is known as the First Four Round. It’s a play-in essentially to the Second Round, with the winner of the game playing the top seeded team from the South, Duke. So who wins? A Colonial versus an Osprey.  A formidable bird of prey should have no problem with an colonial unless said colonial is armed with a hunting rifle.  But the colonial in question was not just any colonial, he, Robert Morris to be precise was a founding father and U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania who signed the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.  A man who bears a striking resemblance to J.S. Bach, Morris was said to have largely financed the American Revolution but ironically landed in debtors prison some years later. Given the outcome, I would have thought he’d have gotten a more favorable return on his investment.

Morris lived in Philadelphia just a stone’s throw from Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, a wildlife preserve for birds of prey in Kempton, PA.   As a prolific dealer in land, and a Naval proponent, I have to believe that Mr. Morris had enormous respect for wildlife and birds.  As such, I do not believe he would have any animosity toward the Osprey.  Nor do I believe the Osprey have any particular qualms with Robert Morris or other humans as these particular hawk species only attack and eat fish.

What this all means in terms of the game is that both Robert Morris and North Florida will play defensively and try to control the pace, but not bloody the opponent.  It will be a low scoring game – say 56-55, North Florida winning in a squeaker, or squawker as it were or will be.