Sunday, March 30, 2014

NCAA Tournament, Day 8

Connecticut 60 - Michigan State 54
This is starting to feel like 2011 all over again, where UConn storms through the bracket behind terrific guard play to reach the Final Four on their way to a national title. I don't think they'll get there, as I don't think they'll beat Florida. But then again, I didn't believe they would beat Michigan State, let alone look like the better team in the game. 

And that's the real shocker for me. Connecticut was the better squad, partly because the Huskies played a terrific game, and partly because the Spartans played like...well, manure. Michigan State had almost as many turnovers (16) as made baskets (18). And frankly, many of the turnovers were ones you'd expect from a group of pick-up players who we're playing together for the first time. 

But just as important was MSU's complete inability to get good looks around the paint. Aside from the occasional put-back, The Spartans got nothing close to the basket. Their guards couldn't penetrate, and their bigs couldn't establish themselves on the blocks. Essentially, their offense was swinging thr ball around and hoping they could hit at least 40% of their threes (not quite: 37.9%). 

Conversely, UConn consistently got into the paint, leading to points at the rim and free throws. UConn shot 22 free throws (and made 21 of them) to Michigan State's 8 attempts (making 7). In a game where the winners shot 34.1% from the field! free throws and turnovers were the difference. 

Here is where not watching college basketball pre-tournament hurts me. I can't tell you whether UConn is just that good defensively, whether Michigan State is that pathetic offensively, or whether Michigan State simply picked an inopportune time to have a Turrible game. 

Kentucky 75 - Michigan 72
Michigan is a terrific shooting team, they will put up offense against most everyone in the country. But their ability to spread the floor so we'll comes at a cost, as traditional big men don't usually fit well in their offense. They're athletic, but they can be attacked with size and strength. 

And that is exactly what Kentucky did, went after Michigan in the paint. It helped them shoot 53.4% from the field and set up good long range looks (they equalled Michigan's three-point makes on 7 fewer attempts, including the game-winner with 2.3 seconds remaining). Only heir free grow shooting was below par 6-for-11). 

And in the interests of a good semi-final matchup, I believe this was the optimal result. Kentucky is better-equipped to take on Wisconsin with their 7-footer, Frank Kaminsky taking over games both in the paint and from behind the arc. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

NCAA Tournament, Day 7

Florida 62 - Dayton 52

Dayton shot the ball well from behind the arc (8-for-18), and this weapon allowed them to take an early lead and stay tight for most of the first half. Florida's size was giving the Flyers problems, but the Gators weren't able to assert themselves on offense.

That all changed with about 3 minutes to play in the first half, as the floodgates finally opened. What was a 3-point UF lead with 3:11 to play in the first half became a 14-point advantage by halftime.

In the second half, Florida's size took over. The Gators kept Dayton out of the paint, leading to a 28-to-8 UF advantage in free throw attempts, and they pounded the Flyers on the offensive glass (12-to-5 edge for Florida). In fact, if Florida had anything resembling rhythm offensively in the second half, the second half would have been a Gator walk in the park. At least twice in the last 3 minutes of the game, Florida had 3+ shot attempts on a possession that ended in zero points.

Fortunately for the Gators, their defense kept Dayton from taking advantage of their frequent cold spells. And so Florida is the first team to punch its ticket to the 2014 Final Four.

Wisconsin 64 - Arizona 63 (OT)

Well, Sean Miller has now lost to a lower seed in the NCAA Tournament.

This felt like a Wisconsin game for at least the last 30 minutes of game time. Wisconsin executed their sets and got good looks. Arizona needed their athleticism to keep their offense off of life support, whether it was via offensive rebounds or pushing the pace.

At the beginning of the game it looked like Arizona was going to be the first Wisconsin opponent to have any sort of answer for UW's 7-footer with three-point range, Frank Kaminsky. But that wasn't true, as Kaminsky ended the game with 28 points and forced Arizona's coach to try all sorts of matchups to slow him down. It didn't work, which made Wisconsin's decision to not get him the ball on the last possession of regulation curious.

This is the first close game I can remember in this tournament where the referees really weren't up to snuff. I thought Wisconsin got the short end of the stick all night with the calls. Then the referees ended Arizona's second-to-last offensive possession in OT (with AZ down by one), with a very debatable offensive foul call. And then they took over 5 minutes to decide an out-of-bounds play (where they admittedly had no clear view) with 2.3 seconds left in the game, and it's debatable whether or not they got the call right. This isn't meant to say Arizona got robbed, they didn't. But the officials were too big a part of the story in this otherwise classic matchup.

NCAA Tournament, Day 6, Part 2

Wow, what a pair of games.

Kentucky 74 - Louisville 69

Unbelieveable game. At the beginning, it looked like Louisville was going to run Kentucky right out of the gym as they jumped out to an 18-5 lead. But Kentucky weathered that storm and got back within 3 at halftime. And they simply kept grinding down low against Louisville.

Louisville was swarming around the ball, but Kentucky limited the damage (12 turnovers is a respectable number against the Cardinal defense).

Two big reasons UK pulled the upset?
1) Three-point shooting: UK wasn't good (4-14), but Louisville was worse (4-15)
2) Free-throw shooting: UK was 22-27, Louisville a putrid 13-23

Michigan State 61 - Virginia 59

This was a great defensive, physical battle. Michigan State hit just a couple of extra shots in this one, and they made their free throws. That was the difference.

Adrian Payne gets MVP honors for this game. He was a consistent presence in the paint at both ends, and came up with a huge three-pointer followed by an assist to push Michigan State ahead to stay in the final minute.

Friday, March 28, 2014

NCAA Tournament, Day 6, Part 1

Michigan 73 - Tennessee 71

This game was going according to script for about 85% of the game: Tennessee was playing well, and couldn't keep pace because Michigan was shooting out of their minds. But in the last 4 minutes, Tennessee started getting stops, and that allowed them to get within 10....within 7, within 6, within 5.

At this point Tennessee was pressing and denying the inbounds pass. Michigan (up 72-69 at this point), subs in guard Spike Albrecht to be the designated inbounds player. I find this interesting, as Albrecht is pretty clearly the smallest player on the floor in this game. But what do I know?

The next three inbounds passes go as follows:
- Pass leads teammate right to the sideline boundary, teammate forced to throw ball wildly, which leads to a turnover. Tennessee cuts the lead to 72-71.
- Pass leads teammate right back to end-line, teammate steps on end line corralling pass, turnover.
- Timeout called before 5-second violation

Albrecht inbounded all 3 of those balls, AND the next one. At this point, I'm thoroughly confused:

So what does Tennessee do with the ball facing a one point defecit? Give it to their big man and have him charge into the paint. Unfortunately, he does this through his defender and is called for an offensive foul. It's a very close call.

Michigan escapes by the skin of their teeth and presumably will spend the next 48 hours diagramming new inbounds plays.

Connecticut 81 - Iowa State 76

For 90% of the game, Iowa State couldn't chain stops together. Their offense wasn't bad (it wasn't as good as it was last round against North Carolina) but they couldn't keep UConn's penetrating guards out of the paint. It was just too easy for the Huskies offensively.

I'd like to tell you more about Iowa State's comeback to make things interesting, but Michigan was busy trying to give their game away which a) made it difficult to switch over and b) kept the UM-UT game going and going Energizer bunny style so by the time that game finally ended there was less than a minute to go in UConn-ISU.

But while Iowa State made the game interesting, they could not get it within one possession. Why?
2nd half free throw shooting:
UConn: 19/20
Iowa State: 0/5

That's not a recipe for success.

Now if you will excuse me, I'm going to watch the state of Kentucky go to war with itself.

NCAA Tournament, Day 5, Part 2

Florida 79 - UCLA 68

UCLA put up a really good fight, but in the end Florida was too good and too deep. Despite some substantial foul trouble in their front line, the Gators used a balanced attack to keep the Bruins at bay. Florida imposed their will at both ends, shooting 50% from the field at one end, and holding UCLA to 16.7% from behind the arc at the other end.

But again, give UCLA credit. Florida started the game running, gunning, and hitting from behind the arc. Michael Frazier had three 3-pointers before we were halfway through the first half, but UCLA never let the game get away from them. Whether it was through stops or shots, they managed to hang around right until the very end. Unfortunately, they were never able to put enough of either together to take the lead in the second half.

One note: even though Florida has now reached their fourth straight Elite Eight berth, they do not yet have a Final Four appearance during this stretch.

Arizona 70 - San Diego State 64

This game was exactly what was expected on paper: two terrific defensive teams making each other's life miserable on the offensive end. The expectation was Arizona would eventually pull away, thanks to their superior offense, but that never really happened.

The main reason for that was their main scorer, guard Nick Johnson, was 0-fer on his first 10 shots from the field. That all changed with just under 3:00 remaining in the second half, when Wildcats point guard TJ McConnell stole the ball. In the loose ball scrum, McConnell got the ball to a teammate, who passed it to Johnson, who made a layup. Finally untracked, Johnson proceded to score the next 13 Arizona points, and 15 of their final 17 (mostly at the free throw line).

Finally, I found this interesting:

1-seed Arizona will face 2-seed Wisconsin on Saturday for a berth in the Final Four.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

NCAA Tournament, Day 5, Part 1

Dayton 82 - Stanford 72

Dayton was simply the better team tonight. Stanford had the height advantage, but Dayton was clearly quicker and overall just more athletic. In response, Stanford played almost exclusively zone defense in the first half, and Dayton torched them. They drove into the paint and either finished at the rim or kicked the ball out for an open look.

Stanford, on the other hand, got their most consistent offense in the post. The problem was, their biggest player, Stefan Nastic, was in foul trouble all game long. He finished with 15 points, but was not able to control the game long enough to a) keep Dayton from jumping out to the early lead or b) allow Stanford to get back even with Dayton in the 2nd half.

In the second half, possession after possession saw the Flyers work the shot clock down to ~10 seconds, then drive into the paint and finish with layups. The offense was simply too easy for Dayton for long stretches of each half (hence the 82 points scored). And when it wasn't, Dayton slipped into the cracks of the zone defense and came up with big offensive rebounds.

In sum, Dayton executed better, were much less bothered by foul trouble (since they typically play 10+ and Stanford relies on 6), and had an overwhelming advantage on hustle plays. All of it adds up to an 11-seed in the Elite Eight.

Wisconsin 69 - Baylor 52

That tweet basically sums it up, Baylor's first half featured 16 points. That's not good. Wisconsin took some time to get going too (they had 29 points at intermission), but they finished the night shooting 52% from the field, compared to Baylor's 31%. Baylor had no answers for Wisconsin's paint play, at either end of the floor.

While we're talking about this game, let's talk about Baylor center Isaiah Austin. He's a 7'1" sophomore who averages 11 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. Oh, and he's completely blind in his right eye. An amazing story.

Monday, March 24, 2014

NCAA Tournament, Day 4, Part 4

Virginia 78  - Memphis 60
Initially it looked like Memphis was winning the tempo battle, playing fast (but still in control) and swarming Virginia on defense. But by midway through the first half Virginia had taken the lead and set about methodically building it up, until halftime came and Virginia was up 15 points. They shot well (55.6% from the field, 45.5% on threes, and 81.3% from the line), and Memphis didn't (40.7% FG, 23.1% 3PT, 42.9% FT). 

Arizona  84 - Gonzaga 61
Even when Gonzaga is ranked among the best teams in the country, they usually don't make it out of the first weekend alive. So it really came as no surprise that Arizona wasn't taxed much in this game. Gonzaga actually didn't shoot the ball poorly, but they didn't get enough shots off, thanks to Arizona hounding them into 21 turnovers (Arizona had just 6 of their own). 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

NCAA Tournament, Day 4, Part 3

UCLA 77 - Stephen F Austin 60
UCLA was simply much better. Especially offensively. The Bruins shot over 54% from the field AND only had 3 turnovers. In fact, both teams combined for just 11 turnovers. 

On a personal note, a series of blowouts at the end of 4 straight days of basketball does not make my job any easier. Get better quick games. 

Baylor 85 - Creighton 55
Baylor was too big and too fast for Creighton. They did a terrific job of frustrating one of (if not the) top offensive player(s) in the country in Doug McDermott. Oh, and Baylor shot 11-for-17 from behind the arc. Put all that together and you get a game that was over early in the first half. 

Congratulations to Doug McDermott, who finishes his career as the 5th leading scorer in NCAA history. And he did it playing for his Dad all four years. That's a heck of a career, good luck to him in the NBA.

NCAA Tournament, Day 4, Parts 1 & 2

Stanford 60 - Kansas 57
In a development that should surprise no one, Bill Self's team flamed out of the tournament to a decided underdog. In a development that I found very surprising, Stanford put to bed the notion that you can't miss all of your three pointers in a game and win (the Cardinal were 0-for-9). 

Kansas had fewer turnovers, shot better from behind the arc and at the free throw line, and more offensive rebounds than the Cardinal. So how to explain the loss? The moment was too big for freshman phenom Andrew Wiggins (4 points on 1-for-6 shooting), and the team shot very poorly (32.8% from the field). 

Kentucky 78 - Wichita State 76
The energy in this game was off the charts. It felt like an Elite 8, or Final Four game, not a round of 32 one. The game was very evenly matched, the Only stat that provided any separation between the teams was offensive rebounds (UK had a 10-4 edge). 

I can't even say one team out-executed the other down the stretch. Wichita State simply missed their last shot attempt (the would-be game winning three-pointer). early front-runner for game of the tournament. 

Iowa State 85 - North Carolina 83
Fast-paced offensive show. Both of these teams brought their offensive A-games, resulting in a third extremely entertaining game in a row to start off Day 4. 

I really liked Iowa State's last possession: DeAndre Kane drove to the hoop rather than settle for a long two/three point shot. He scored in traffic, and then it got weird. 

With 1.6 seconds left, UNC immediately inbounded the ball, and their guard sprinted to mid court and then called a timeout. However, the clock ran out before he was granted the timeout. The referees checked the monitor, and found the following:
1) Timeout was called before the clock hit zero
2) The clock did not start right away when it was caught off the inbounds pass

The amount of time the clock was delayed was judged to be enough that the game clock expired before the timeout was called, so after a lengthy discussion, the game was declared over after all, and it was the correct call. 

My main question is, how did the clock operator screw that up so badly? These are supposed to be the best of the best (players, referees, and presumably other staff as we'll). 

Tennessee 83 - Mercer 63
These guys didn't get the memo that all games today were supposed to be nail biters. Instead Tennessee simply overwhelmed Mercer, who had already won their Super Bowl. 

NCAA Tournament Day 3, Part 4

Michigan State 80 - Harvard 73
Harvard did a hell of a job making this a game. It looked like MSU would pull away when it was 45-33 at halftime. But Harvard chipped away with a combination of defense (11 MSU turnovers), limiting the Spartans to one shot (their 33 rebounds matched Michigan State), and getting to the line (they shot 30 free throws to MSU's 22, and that's including 8 free throws from when Harvard was trying to extend the game). But in the end, the Spartans were just a little too good at both ends of the floor.

Connecticut 77 - Villanova 65
Live by the three, sometimes you die by the three. Duke found out, and now Villanova. They started out hot, but ended up just 11-for-31.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

NCAA Tournament, Day 3, Part 3

Dayton 55 - Syracuse 53
Wow. That was a heck of a game. First off, I have to say this: Syracuse is ridiculously fast recovering in their zone defense. Having not watched much (okay, basically any) college basketball before the tournament, I know Syracuse plays zone defense, but actually seeing it is pretty amazing.

That being said, this game came down to the following statistic: Syracuse was 0-for-10 on three point shooting, including the potential game-winner released by Tyler Ennis as the shot clock expired.

Of course, Ennis only had his shot at glory because Dayton was so terrible at the free throw line (they were 10-of-18 as a team). From the field though, Dayton hit 43.8% from downtown, and also hit a ridiculous number of floaters/reverse layups/etc. off of penetration against the Syracuse zone.

Wisconsin 85 - Oregon 77
Closer than the final score indicates (there was a flagrant foul with less than a second left that gave Wisconsin a bunch of free throws). But this game turned on a Wisconsin possession that started with 1:58 left in the game and Oregon leading 75-74.

Wisconsin got 4 shots on this possession, thanks to 3 offensive rebounds. But it wasn't the usual terrible boxing out form that led to the offensive boards. Instead, twice multiple Oregon players got hands on the rebound, which led to neither of said players securing the rebound. This possession ended with a Wisconsin three-pointer with 1:09 remaining, giving the Badgers a lead they would not relinquish.

NCAA Tournament, Day 3, Parts 1 & 2

Florida 61 - Pittsburgh 49
Florida was ice cold from behidn the arc (5-for-20), and they still won comfortably. Pitt simply could not break down the Gator defense, at elast not with any sort of consistency. Possession after possession ended with Pitt players putting up contested looks as the shot clock wound down, and Pitt's not nearly good enough offensively for that to be viable.

Louisville 66 - St. Louis 51
This was not a game of offense. The score was 25-16 at halftime. St. Louis shot 0-for-15 on three-pointers. That's right, depsite taking 15 threes, St. Louis made none in the entire game. They also turned the ball over 18 times (though to be fair, Louisville had 19 turnovers).

Michigan 79 - Texas 65
Here's the flipside, Michigan essentially put this game away in the opening 13 minutes, during which they amassed an 18-point lead. Michigan hit half of their 28 three-point attempts, which Texas simply couldn't counter.

San Diego State 63 - North Dakota State 44
That thud you may have heard was North Dakota State coming back to earth. They shot 31.3% from the field, 18.2% from behind the arc, and 70.6% from the free throw line (can't blame SD State's great defense for that one).

NCAA Tournament, Day 2, Part 4

Virginia 70 - Coastal Carolina 59
This was a tight game up until about 6 minutes remained in the second half, when Virginia finally pulled away. So in the end, the only 1 seed to play a leave no doubt game in the opening round was the one most people have questions about: Wichita State.

Kentucky 56 - Kansas State 49
In a game where neither team shot the ball well at all, Kentucky won on the back of making more than twice as many free throws as Kansas State did.

Iowa State 93 - North Carolina Central 75
From what I saw of this game, Iowa State's offense was simply operating at another level. NCC hung with them for a half, but eventually they simply could not keep up.

UCLA 76 - Tulsa 59
This game started right about the time I went to bed, so here's a quick summary of yesterday's NFL quarterback moves.

Raiders trade a 6th round pick for Matt Schaub, assumes his contract that will pay him about $11 Million this season barring a restructure - While on the surface it's surprising anyone would give up anything for Schaub, Oakland has money to burn and a reputation that does anything but attract free agents. As for Houston, it's only fitting that on his way out he nets them a "pick-6" after throwing so many of them in 2013.

Texans sign Ryan Fitzpatrick (2 years, $7.25 Million) - This gives Houston someone who can keep the seat warm if they draft a quarterback who's not ready to start right away. Though Fitzpatrick's turnover-happy ways seem doomed to frustrate a team with most other pieces in place around the quarterback.

Jets sign Mike Vick (1 year, $5 Million), cut Mark Sanchez - Had to happen. Even if you believe Sanchez has value left (I don't), he would never have succeeded with the Jets. Vick is a good value signing, for whatever role he's going to play.

Friday, March 21, 2014

NCAA Tournament, Day 2, Part 3

Memphis 71 - George Washington 66
A great back-and-forth game featuring a good comeback attempt by our country's first president, but said comeback ended very anti-climatically with an air-balled three-pointer

North Carolina 79 - Providence 77
Tremendous game, and I'm not juts saying that because of the local flavor. PC guard Bryce Cotton is an amazing talent, as he played all 40 minutes (not uncommon, PC goes just 6 deep and Cotton actually averaged over 40 minutes per game in Big East play) and carried the Providence offense for long stretches of the game.

In the end, Providence gave up to many offensive rebounds (UNC had 21 in the game) due to a combination of giving up a little size, fatigue, and lots of zone defense. Sure enough, with the game tied at 77, UNC rebounded a missed shot, was fouled, hit 1/2 free throws, rebounded the miss, hit 1/2 more, and Providence fumbled that rebound away.

Wichita State 64 - California Poly 37
Wichita State has a brutal quarter of the bracket between it and the Final Four. But that brutal road did not begin with Cal Poly, who was 14-19 on the season. Easy win for the still undefeated Shockers.

Stephen F. Austin 77 - VCU 75 (OT)
This game went to overtime because a) VCU missed 4 of their last 5 free throw attempts, and b) VCU, while up 4,  fouled a 3-point shooter (who made the shot and then converted the 4-point play) with 3.6 seconds left in the game.

In overtime, VCU struggled to break down the SFA zone. They got plenty of good three-point looks, but missed the bulk of them (including the potential game-winner as time expired).

And so VCU violated Rule #1 of the NCAA Tournament: Don't lose to a team named after a single person.

NCAA Tournament, Day 2, Part 2

Tennessee 86 - Massachusetts 67
NARRATIVE ALERT: Since Tennessee won, they clearly benefited from playing a First Four game to get their feet wet. Other First Four alum NC State's abysmal finish yesterday will be ignored as it does not fit the narrative of the day.

In reality, Tennessee is just a better balanced team than UMass. When UMass couldn't generate turnovers early on with their pressure (Tennessee only had 3 turnovers in the first half), their mediocre offense was exposed and they could not keep up with the Volunteers.

Creighton 76 - Louisiana Lafayette 67
Yes, Doug McDermott led the way, with 30 points. But his teammates did have to show up too, as McDermott was held scoreless for a 14 minute stretch inf the second half.

Kansas 80 - Eastern Kentucky 69
In a development that should shock no one who's been paying attention, a Bill Self-coached team let an undermanned, unworthy opponent to hang around at least 20 game-minutes longer than one would have expected, based on Kansas' record and high seed. In the end, Kansas finally asserted themselves down low, and ended up with a comfortable, double-digit win.

Gonzaga 85 - Oklahoma State 77
There were 51 field goals made in this game. There were 61 fouls, 33 of them called on Oklahoma State. The Cowboys hit the foul trifecta, as they were hit with a flagrant, a technical, and an intentional foul in this game. To call it sloppy would be too kind.

NCAA Tournament, Day 2, Part 1

Mercer 78 - Duke 71
No, this isn't a typo.

This was a pretty amazing win for Mercer, considering Duke hit 15 of 37 (40.5%) three-point shots, and the Blue Devils had 16 offensive rebounds.

On the other hand, it's pretty amazing that Duke kept the game that close considering they shot 7 of 25 from inside the arc, shot less than half as many free throws as Mercer, and had more turnovers than the 14 seed.

Baylor 74 - Nebraska 60
Frankly, Nebraska making the tournament is such a shock that everything (including this blowout loss) is gravy.

Dishonorable mention to Nebraska coach Tim Miles for getting ejected for getting his second technical foul for walking onto the court to alert the officials to the fact that shot clock wasn't working.

Stanford 58 - New Mexico 53
Stanford was comfortably ahead until late in the second half, when New Mexico rallied to tie it, but they could never take the lead. Eventually Stanford put the game away with good late free throw shooting.

Arizona 68 - Weber State 59
This game looks closer than it was, Arizona was up by 21 halfway through the second quarter before they (prematurely) let up and let Weber State make it look close by the end. It wasn't the colossal mismatch you'd expect from a 1 versus 16 matchup, but it wasn't quite a Florida on Thursday level performance either.

NCAA Tournament, Day 1, Part 4

Texas 87 - Arizona State 85
I had a whole paragraph here about how I can't take Texas coach Rick Barnes' coaching acumen seriously (he's a heck of a recruiter though), but it disappeared and, rather than re-write it now I'll simply save it for later in the tournament (most likely Saturday) since Texas held on to win.

I'm glad I stayed up for this ending, as it was a classic buzzer beater, with Texas' Cameron Ridley (built like a Mack truck) got his putback attempt over the outstretched hand of ASU's Jordan Bachynski (quite a feat considering he's 7'2").

This picture says it all:
Embedded image permalink

Villanova 73 - Milwaukee 53
Villanova was leading by only 4 points, then clearly realized 1 of 2 things at halftime:
1) "Guys, we're playing the Milwaukee college team, not the NBA one."
2) "Guys, even if we're playing the Bucks, we should be winning by a lot more than 4 points"

If you don't get it, take a look a NBA Milwaukee's record.

Louisville 71 - Manhattan 64
Rick Pitino spent much of yesterday complaining about having to face Manhattan in the first round because they are coached by his former ball boy, player, and assistant coach who knows Pitino and his program inside-out. Turns out, Pitino was on to something. That's the thing about self-serving highly paid head coaches like Pitino or Saban: when they complain they sound self-absorbed and ridiculous, but they're usually right.

San Diego State 73 - New Mexico State 69 (OT)
Why did a 4 seed have such trouble with New Mexico State? They had to try and guard this guy:

Yeah, his name is Sim Bhullar and he's 7'5". Luckily for SD State, after letting a 14 point lead slip away in the second half, they were able to pull this one out in overtime.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

NCAA Tournament, Day 1, Part 3

Connecticut 89 - St. Joseph's 81 (OT)
Admittedly I missed most of this game, but I did see that, with a 3-point lead, St. Joe's fouled UConn's Amida Brimah as he shot a put-back, giving him the chance at a three-point play (which he converted). And then UConn made 15 free throws in the overtime period.

Michigan 57 - Wofford 40
My first thought was, "How on Earth did Michigan score just 57 points??" Then I looked at the box score and saw that the Wolverines missed 15 of their first 18 shots in the second half. Yikes. Maybe they should get some offensive tips from Ohio State.

St. Louis 83 - North Carolina State 80 (OT)
This was an absolutely abysmal showing down the stretch by NC State. The Wolfpack had a 14-point lead with eight minutes to play, and a 6-point lead with 57 seconds to play. From that point they missed 4/6 free throws. They also had some terrible turnovers against the St. Louis desperate press in the last three minutes. All-in-all, just awful play from the ACC team.

Overtime wasn't much prettier, for either team. Missed free throws, brainfarts, this game had it all. In the end, St. Louis made one or two fewer mistakes.

North Dakota State 80 - Oklahoma 75 (OT)
Oklahoma spent most of the second half trailing, until finally taking the lead with 1:30 left in the game. Again, finishing was a problem, as the Sooners missed two of their last four free throws, allowing North Dakota State a chance to climb back in, which they took advantage of, hitting a three-pointer to tie the game with 12 seconds left, sending the 3rd game of these 4 into overtime. In OT, Oklahoma simply couldn't hit their shots, and another 5 seed fell at the hands of a 12.

NCAA Tournament, Day 1, Part 2

Syracuse 77 - Western Michigan 53
NARRATIVE ALERT: Western Michigan clearly wasn't ready for the 2-3 zone of Syracuse. Syracuse presents a unique defensive look and it's hard to simulate this look without actually playing the Orange during the season.

Checks box score, sees Western Michigan shot 34.7% from the field, and 22.2% from behind the three-point arc. 

Narrative approved. 

Oregon 87 - BYU 68
Hmmm, another not very interesting game. Would it be bad form to bring up Super Bowl XLVIII again? You guys all remember that one, the one where Seattle won their first Super Bowl? Anybody? Anyone? Hello......?

Florida 67 - Albany 55
I have to give Albany lots of credit as they hung in all game long. There was one stretch in the second half where their point guard got accidentally kneed in the head and missed maybe 1-2 minutes of game time. In that short period, Florida went on a 6 or 8 point run as no one else on Albany could deal with Florida's press. By the time the point guard came back in, it was too late. Florida had a lead they would not relinquish.

Michigan State 93 - Delaware 78
Holy cow. Adrian Payne had 41 points in this game. That's the first 40-point game since Stephen Curry did it back in 2008.

NCAA Tournament Day 1, Part 1

Dayton 60 - Ohio State 59
Ohio State's offense reminds me of the Pitt teams from a few years ago. That's not a compliment.
The Buckeyes climbed back into the game by simply attacking the rim. They did a great job getting to the rim, but only an average job finishing.

I give Dayton credit on their last offensive possession: their guard started his drive with 7-8 seconds left, not 4 or 5. This allowed him to make his move (which was essentially to spread the floor and take Aaron Craft off the dribble which seems like it shouldn't work on paper). Sure it gave Ohio State a chance to tie, but better to have the option to pass, or pump fake than be locked into a bad shot if Ohio State had played better defense.

Warren Buffet must have loved this game, as a large majority of the country had Ohio State winning this game. Usually the basketball gods give us peons more than 2+ hours of hope of picking a perfect bracket. Not this year.

Wisconsin 75 - American 35
In the first half, the big guy from American was just throwing up ridiculous stuff and it was going in. Then that stopped, and American didn't have much else to throw at Wisconsin. .
It was 32-22 Wisconsin at halftime. As for the second half, wow, that escalated quickly. I mean that really got out of hand fast.

Pittsburgh 77 Colorado 48
Wow this was a snoozer. The Broncos were almost more competitive in the Super Bowl than Colorado was in this game. Pittsburgh was up 46-18 at halftime. That's mind-boggling, it usually takes Pitt two halves to put up that many points.

Harvard 61 - Cincinnati 57
I didn't see much of this game, but what I did see wasn't pretty when it came to Cincinnati's offense. Harvard did a good job not letting Cincy's big man dominate in the paint, and they definitely out-executed the Bearcats offensively. COngratulations to Harvard, the first Ivy League school to win tournament games in back-to-back years since 1983-84.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Happy New (NFL) Year!

Yes, it's officially the 2014 NFL league year, and with the kickoff of the new year comes the official opening of free agency, where unrestricted free agents can sign with any of the league's 32 teams.

With the caveat that the team that "wins" free agency tends to not end up winning the final game of the league year, it's still a very exciting time for fans. Let's recap the opening 6 hours of free agency:

Offensive Tackles Won the Day:
Brandon Albert - Miami - 5 years/$46 Million/$25 Million guaranteed
Eugene Monroe - Baltimore (re-signed) - 5 years/$37.5 Million/??? guaranteed
Jared Veldheer - Arizona - 5 years/$37.5 Million/$17 Million guaranteed
Roger Saffold - Oakland - 5 years/$42.5 Million/$21 Million guaranteed

Oakland Lost the Day:
The Raiders have been building toward this offseason for 2 years (since GM Reggie McKenzie was hired). McKenzie has been biting the bullet and cleaning off all of the terrible deals Al Davis signed before passing away. Finally, the skeletal rosters were going to pay off, as Oakland entered this offseason with about $66.5 Million in cap space, most in the league. The Raiders also had two quality free agents: OT Jared Veldheer and DL Lamar Houston. Surely, then, the Raiders would take care of their own before going on a spending spree to start their climb back to repsectability? Houston signed with the Bears (who lost out on their first choice, Michael Bennett) today. And Veldheer signed with tackle-desperate Arizona. So Oakland went 0-for-2 on keeping their quality free agents.

Okay, but McKenzie can still salvage this by using his cap space to replace these players with better players or better value...right?

You tell me:
They repllaced Veldheer with Roger Saffold. Veldheer missed 11 games this past season, but played in the previous 48 and had solidified the left tackle position for the Raiders. Saffold has missed 17 games in the past 3 seasons, has bounced from left tackle to right tackle to guard, and he cost more than Veldheer signed for.

That's right, Saffold is probably a downgrade, and he's costing more money.

The more things change...

The Seattle Brand has Value:
Clinton McDonald (backup DT), got 4 years and $12 Million
O'Brien Schofield (7 tackles in 2013), got 2 years and $8 Million

Jacksonville FINALLY Admitted a Colossal Mistake:
The Jaguars traded QB Blaine Gabbert (2011 1st rounder, 10th pick overall) to the San Francisco 49ers for a 6th round pick.

The 49ers, in turn, somehow downgraded at backup quarterback from Colt McCoy.

The Market is getting even More Crowded:
DeMarcus Ware got cut
Darrelle Revis is about to get cut (Tampa signed a different cornerback rather than pay Revis $16 Million this season)

Jonathan Martin has a New Home:
He's reunited with his college coach, Jim Harbaugh, in San Francisco for a conditional draft pick.

Monday, March 3, 2014

I have no words for this

After a bit of a hiatus, I am hoping to get back in the saddle in advance of March Madness. Content will be coming, but for today let me juts leave you with one of the worst ideas for a professional sports team uniform you will ever see: 

This is the actual uniform the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will wear in games in the 2014 season.

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