Monday, March 27, 2006

Sweet Sixteen 2006: Science Does Not Lie

Gamblers take note!! Using the ESPN final poll of 2006 (pre-tourney), 9 of the top 10 teams are in the Sweet Sixteen. But only 13 of the top 25 teams are still alive. What does this mean? Top teams are, undoubtedly, the best teams while "good" teams are overrated, and the mid-major and minor conference teams are better than thought.

But let's go a step further.

American sports fans are getting both a little smarter and more humble these days. Recent Olympics and the World Baseball Classic have provided proof that if teams are given equal footing, the supposed "top" teams are not as great as originally thought. But sports need seeds because a round-robin format is impossible to use in most sports tournaments.

But to what extent is March Madness a self-fulfilling prophecy dominated by the major collegiate programs? Critics have rightfully argued that pre-rankings make no sense in sports since the pollsters already have set in their heads who is good and who is bad. But when it comes to the Tourney, why all of a sudden do the rankings mean so little? Isn't that what everyone so worked so hard for all season? Can hard numbers be used to show how the seeds for March Madness are flawed? Yes, we all know Tennessee sucked and did not earn a #2 seed but they were lucky to even lose in Round 2. But what about teams like UCLA? Would they last long if not given a #2 seed? Doubtful.

It really is not worth bitching and moaning about seeds when it comes to the NCAA Tourney because, despite strong opinions and some rational thought, it is a completely subjective ranking system. The selection process seems fair enough and everyone has their own take on who deserved a spot and who didn't. Still, one huge question looms: "why not just use the final poll rankings to determine who gets the seeds? What are the pools for if they are not used in the major event that determines the NCAA champion?" Let's see what happens when we apply a little hard science to the seeds and how they have fared so far in 2006.

Using the final 2006 rankings from the USA Today/ESPN poll (pre-Tourney)[note- #26-#42 based on votes received, in order], we give you thefollowing ...

Number on the left is the final poll ranking.
Number on the right is the seed each team received.
* Indicate teams that received an oddly high seed
+ Indicate teams that received an oddly low seed
X Indicate teams that are out of the tourney

Of the final Top 42 teams according to the polls:

6 teams (*) received high seeds that they did not earn. All of these overrated teams except Wichita State are out of the tourney. The losses indicate that, despite getting easier draws as high seeds, these teams'final rankings rather than their seeds showed that they were not very good after all. 15 teams (+) received lower seeds than they deserved. 3 of these teams are in the Sweet Sixteen. The underrated teams who were ranked in the top 25 have gone a combined 7-1.

Fact: 11 of the teams ranked #25-#40 got a lower seed than their ranking deserved. Almost all of these teams are from minor conferences (UAB, Bucknell, UNCW, Pacific, Murray State, etc.). If one compares final ranking to seed rankings, then GW and Pacific got fucked the hardest: GW should have earned a 3-4 seed based on final rankings but instead got an 8 seed; Pacific, despite being ranked #34 in the country in the polls, it earned a 13 seed which is the equivalent of being ranked 52nd in the

So the question that must be asked is: if the teams who unfairly (when based solely on final poll rankings) got seeds 9 or lower in the 2006 Tourney instead received fair seeds, would they be winning more? Yes-the numbers indicate that they would be getting more wins.

1. Duke (1 seed)
2. Connecticut (1 seed)
3. Memphis (1 seed)
4. Villanova (1 seed)

+5. Gonzaga (3 seed)
X 6. Ohio St. (2 seed)
+ 7. Boston Coll. (4 seed)
8. UCLA (2 seed)

9. Texas (2 seed)
10. Florida (3 seed)
X + 11. Geo. Washington (8 seed)
X 12. North Carolina (3 seed)

X 13. Kansas (4 seed)
X 14. Illinois (4 seed)
X * 15. Iowa (3 seed)
X 16. Pittsburgh (5 seed)

17. Washington (5 seed)
18. LSU (4 seed)
X * 19. Tennessee (2 seed)
X 20. Oklahoma (6 seed)

X 21. Nevada (5 seed)
X * 22. Syracuse (5 seed)
23. West Virginia (6 seed)
+ 24. Georgetown (7 seed)

X + 25. UAB (9 seed)
X + 26. Bucknell (9 seed)
X + 27. N.C. State (10 seed)
X * 28. Michigan St. (6 seed)

X 29.California (7 seed)
X + 30. N.C. Wilmington (9 seed)
X + 31. San Diego St. (11 seed)
X + 32. Southern Ill. (11 seed)

X * 33. Marquette (7 seed)
X + 34. Pacific (13 seed)
* 35. Wichita St. (7 seed)
X 36. Arkansas (8 seed)

X + 37. Kent St. (12 seed)
X + 38. Murray St. (14 seed)
X + 39. Texas A&M (12 seed)
X + 40. South Alabama (14 seed)

X 41. Alabama (10 seed)
X * 42. Indiana (6 seed)

[Mr. East note: The Final Four this year now features George Mason(11 seed), Florida(3), LSU(4), and UCLA(2). Would UCLA have made it if not for the high seed? We'll never know, but they're here aren't they? George Mason is a great story as only 2 other teams seeded 9th or lower have ever made the Final Four. Fuel for Mr. West's argument?]

Monday, March 20, 2006

Slam-ela Anderson

Yup. It happened. Candace Parker of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols threw down, not one, but two dunks in an NCAA Tournament game against Army. Oh shit!

Parker has been known to dunk for some time, and people have been waiting for this moment with great anticipation. A woman dunking in an actual basketball game, against human players, with arms and legs, is like Kobe's 81 point game. People lose their minds and rub their eyes and talk about it all week at the water cooler. Hell, I'm actually blogging about women's basketball today. That ought to tell you something.

I don't mind women's basketball as much as a lot of other guys. I don't expect to see the same kind of explosive athletic ability when I watch, and I can enjoy the team concept. I'm not saying that I could actually follow a team for an entire season, or spend a Saturday afternoon in front of the TV glued to the WNBA. Shudder. It takes cheerleaders dunking off trampolines to get most guys to pay attention to women and hoops at the same time.

But, there it is. The dunks that have us all talking. The first one was a facial by women's standards, as there was actually a defender involved in the play. The second dunk was in traffic too, but it was weak. Just because the person heading above the rim doesn't have a penis, it doesn't mean I have to think it's a good dunk.

The reason this is such a big deal is that only 3 women before her had actually dunked in a game. We've basically had one dunk per decade in women's hoops, so it's kind of like actually getting a decent Super Bowl in terms of frequency. Let's take a look at the pioneers of the Ladies Dunk.

1. 6'7" Georgeann Wells of the University of West Virginia Lady Mountaineers made history in December of 1984 by throwing down a dunk in competition. As the story goes, the game was played in Elkin, West Virginia's National Guard Armory during the Mountaineer Christmas Classic against Davis & Elkins College. Thrilling. She did it again once that season.

2. Charlotte Smith of the University of North Carolina, who is now an assistant coach at her alma mater pulled off the feat 10 years later. In 1994, Charlotte pulled off the "girl dunk" and wowed America all over again. She will always be remembered for her miracle shot against Lousiana Tech in the 1994 NCAA Tournament to give her team the victory 60-59. That is far more impressive to me, but whatever floats your boat.

3. July 30th, 2002. Lisa Leslie of the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks finally gets her dunk. For years people talked about Leslie's chance to throw down in a professional game, and she gave her fans something to talk about. Leslie scored 101 points in the first half of a high school game, and had been a superstar in the women's basketball world for a very long time before her dunk. The dunk capped things off for her, and she went on to lead the Sparks to a second consecutive championship that year as well.

4. Michelle Snow, 6'5" Center for the Tennessee Lady Vols threw down a sick dunk in the Maui Invitational in 2004. She stole the ball, ran the break, and woofed a dunk with legs dangling underneath her. The picture says it all. That's a dunk! None of this lay it over the rim, George Mikan business. Michelle went on to dunk 2 more times in her collegiate career, and sparked the serious debate about whether it's good for the game or not. Gino Auriemma and John Wooden both chimed in to say they didn't like it. Waaaaaaaaah!!! Waaaaaaaaah!! Which is better, obsolete sport or 10 year old girls everywhere in the world challenging themselves to be stronger, faster, and better? Thank you.

That brings us to Candace Parker. The debate is going to start again, and you'll hear plenty about how the women's game isn't about dunking. Blah. Blah. Blah. It's not like you're going to see players on every team suddenly jump out of the gym like David Thompson, just because the taboo is broken or something. Eventually, I expect to see more players able to do what Candace Parker did against Army, but it's not the mens game and you're not likely to see any women busting out the 1988 Dominique Wilkins moves anytime soon, even if you see a women's player actually named Dominique.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Ooooh, Does Baby Want a Bottle?

Mr. West Editorial

The NBA has a major fucking problem on its hands. And this problem is reflective of many issues the league, and the sport of basketball on the whole, faces. THERE IS ZERO RESPECT SHOWN TO REFS.

Maybe the USA's pathetic outing in recent hoops tourneys tells you something. NBA players are so used to NBA-style calls and the inevitable bitching about the calls, that they have no idea how tohandle true, pure basketball refereeing. In the Olympics and international tourneys, the refs are from all across the world-- and they interpret rules literally. And the poor dumb Americans have yet to adjust.

Anyone else remember Tim Duncan crying about refs for the first time in his life, Iverson getting called for traveling, and "stars" like Pierce and Marion expecting NBA-like fouls to go there way against supposed scrubs from Europe? Wake up, you morons, it's called fair refs calling the game as it was intended.

I literally cannot watch NBA games anymore because of the bitching from players on calls. Every call. Every goddamn call!! Players now dispute, contest, plead, scowl, cry and yell over every single foul called. Blatant hacks, obvious infractions, and clear arm swipes are constantly being subjected to players' screaming their innocence for the whole world to see.

Of course, we all know no one fouls in the NBA, right?

The hostility shown to refs from literally everyone on the court (players, coaches, any number of the 18 assistant coaches) for the most basic calls is unbelievable. No other league has these issues. Why? They actually have rules and protocol about disputing calls. MLB saved major time and respect when it fully banned players from disputing balls and strikes-- you argue the call, you get tossed. Period. And the rule has worked perfectly; arguments are minimal, play goes on, and,(surprise!) the quality of calls has remained the same.

If the current disrespect and challenge of ref authority, even on basic judgment calls, continues in the NBA, some player is going to attack a ref. The Ref Union knows it. All players have been shown that challenging NBA refs is not just acceptable, it is welcomed. Pardon the deep analysis, but the attitudes and approach of modern NBA players almost insists that they complain about calls or else they are viewed as weak, subservient, and a bitch/punk by themselves and their fellow players. It is an ego thing that has morphed into a self-image thing which now, as any sociologist will tell you, a very much real social code that almost must be honored.

Today's NBA players have almost all grown up in the 90's in terms of their basketball playing. The behavior of star players on TV, their AAU coaches, college coaches, etc. has been one that has perpetuated the challenging of the refs' authority. Coaches like Tom Izzo and John Calipari are a disgrace to respect: they flail, bitch, scream, and fight with the refs all game long. And I'm sure this has no impact on players whatsoever! Even old school coaches like Chaney and Bobby Knight have gotten worse over the years, swept up in violent acts against players while spitting venom at authority figures. High schools are now having to set strict rules about when, where, and who can do what from the bench at games now.

Thanks to the NBA, it is near impossible to watch a college game without kids bitching on every call. Add high school to the mix now, too. Players somehow actually feel the refs pain them more than their own stupidity or skills.

The NBA needs to institute a hard and fast rule. It is a simple one that can be done overnight: no players dispute fouls. Only coaches may dispute fouls, and that may only be done in such a way that does not require the ref to stop the flow of the game. Now, NBA players demand to have some back-and-forth with refs, and the refs, to their credit, like to explain things so the player understands. Therefore, only team captains may even talk to the refs about calls or problems they may have- not to dispute but to get the explanation. Anyone arguing calls gets a T. This will shut up the bitches something fierce.

Maybe the USA's pathetic outing in recent hoops tourneys tells you something.

(Mr East Note: My favorite moment of referee justice was when Rasheed Wallace was ejected from the McDonalds All America game for blowing a gasket after fouling out. I wish I could find a photo.....)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Who is Jason McElwain? How 'bout if I told you he is a high school basketball player from Rochester, NY who just scored 20 points in the final 4 minutes of his team's last home game. He made 6 threes and was carried off on his schoolmates shoulders. Is he headed to Duke? UNC? Wake? UCLA?

How 'bout if I told you he is the team manager. You're thinking NAIA, Scottie Pippen style right? He'll go to a Division 1A school next year or junior college and end up at Cincinnati or Syracuse, right?

How 'bout if I told you the guy is autistic?

No....I'm serious. Check out this story and tell me there is no God. This is the kind of human drama that only sports can bring us, and aside from the cynical rants that I love so much, I follow this maddening pursuit because things like this happen Way ta go kid!

Mr. East (aka Billy Batson)