Sunday, March 11, 2007

ACC Finals and Initial Bracket Thoughts

NC State's run through the ACCs was truly remarkable - not just for the fact that they beat Duke, Virginia, and Virginia Tech and then took UNC right down to the wire using a squad that (generously) goes seven deep, but for how they actually played. UNC, Duke, and Virginia finished 1,2,3 in that order in defensive efficiency on the conference season, and Virginia Tech was no slouch itself. NC State proceeded to torch them all, to a tune of a 113.67 combined O Rating over the four games. Their EFG% was .600 or better in each game, and their combined PPWS was 1.32 (it was better than 1.30 in three of the four games). They hit inside (61%), they hit outside (43%), and they hit from the free throw line (78%). They posted the best offensive performance of any Duke opponent, and the third-best of any Tar Heel opponent. My hats go off to the Pack for their run.

My hats off to the Tar Heels as well. They played two games of great defense (FSU, BC), and two games of great offense (NCSU, BC), on their three game run to the ACC title. They took advantage of some tired legs on State's part and shredded their defense, posting a 132.05 offensive rating, second-best of the conference season. They posted a conference-season-best 1.404 PPWS on the back of great shooting from the line (23-24) and from the field (30-52 overall, .635 EFG%). And kudos also to the two UNC seniors - this team gets a lot of pub for all of its talented youth (who also played well today), but the big clutch baskets for UNC came from Wes Miller (2 huge threes to give them their 8 point halftime margin) and Reyshawn Terry (big shots down the stretch just as NC State was threatening to steal all the momentum).

I will make three comments about Ty Lawson's dunk:
1) Little man has hops - until he actually finished it, I thought he wouldn't get up high enough.
2) I still don't like taking a shot at the hoop when you have a chance to run out the clock, but I understand it a little in this circumstance - hard fought game, winning a championship, youthful energy, and a wide open breakaway. Don't get me wrong, I wish he had just dribbled it out or chucked the ball into midair to celebrate, but given the context, I understand the emotion and exuberance getting the better of him.
3) The things that some NC State fans are saying about him are reprehensible. There were a lot of angry words thrown at Gerald Henderson in the wake of The Foul, but to my knowledge, no one went this far. To any of you who called Lawson a n****r on that forum, go up to your coach, Sidney Lowe, and ask him if he thought Lawson's dunk was "pretty mad n****rish." (actual quote from the post by StingrayRush at 2:08:35pm). Those fans who choose to make those kind of verbal attacks on an opposing player only embarrass the University they say they support, and the rest of the NC State community should be up in arms. And while part of me hates to call attention to this kind of ignorance and intolerance, the other part of me knows that shining the spotlight on it (however weak a spotlight this site may cast) is the only real way to try to combat it.

Now, on to more pleasant topics - the NCAAs!

On the whole, the ACC was very well treated by the committee. Maryland, UVA, and Duke all seemed to not get punished in any way for their early ACC tourney exits, nor did Virginia Tech take a hit for the loss to NC State. BC got knocked a little for its fade down the stretch (against the toughest part of its schedule), and Georgia Tech may have been knocked down one line for losing to Wake (though 10 isn't too unfair for that team). I think 6 was better than a lot of Duke fans were expecting, but none of the 7 seeds really scream for a bump up in the seed line (Nevada has the best case, but that case might be hurt if the Kyle Shiloh injury is serious). I thought the bigger overseed was Virginia - they struggled mightily outside the JPJ, going only 3-9 in road/neutral games against D-I opponents, and their 11-5 record in conference was a big product of their schedule (as has been discussed here, maybe ad nauseam). This is not to say that Virginia is not a good team - they certainly are, and any team with Singletary and Reynolds is dangerous in a one-and-done format. But a 4 seed?

This site will be doing pod previews over the next 4 days:
3/13: Midwest Regional - Maryland and Georgia Tech
3/14: East Regional - North Carolina and Boston College
3/15: West Regional - Virginia Tech and Duke
3/16: South Regional - Virginia

Plus 3/16 will feature a Duke recap from the VCU game and (hopefully, knock on wood) a preview for the Round of 32 matchup on Saturday. Stay tuned!


Unknown said...

Without having studied the bracket in much detail, I'm quite confident that UVA as a #4 seed is the biggest gaffe of the Selection Committee's product. (On a side note, I seem to recall that UVA's AD used to be one of the members of the Selection Committee. Is that still the case? Can I manufacture a scandal with this?!).

The other thing I found interesting about the bracket is actually a factor of folks' reaction to the bracket. Namely, the reaction to Duke's seeding. hosted a chat yesterday with 4 of its experts. Searching through the chat transcript afterwards, every mention of the word "Duke" is followed by someone's outrage (or in the case of a couple experts, mild surprise) that it was seeded too high - "Another example of the pro-Duke bias," etc.

Even after it's first round loss to NCSU, Duke is #14 in the RPI, is #13 in Sagarin's computer rankings, and is #10 in KenPom, probably the most precise statistical rankings available. It finished with 22 wins against the #3 schedule in the country, including 9 wins against Sagarin's top-50 and no losses against teams outside of the top-100. This is a team that throughout the season has seen its placement in the subjective rankings lag considerably behind its placement in all of the objective ones, yet the consensus appears to remain that Duke is "overrated" because of the name on the jersey.

I understand that the Bracket Selection is a highly subjective process and that the Selection Committee also attempts to gauge for factors such as player injury (of which Duke hasn't had any major injuries this season) and recent performance (in which Duke hasn't helped itself). But I also think that there is no other team for whom popular perception and reality diverge more starkly.

Finally, so as not to end on a sour note, I'm pleased with the Bracket. I think seeding matters probably less this year than in any year I can remember, as the field is so remarkably balanced, and there promise to be a number of terrific matchups. Moreover, by all of the objective indicators, VCU is a weak 11 seed (knock on wood), and there seems nothing particularly objectionable about playing in Buffalo.

That said, if Duke plays defense like it has for the last couple of weeks, none of this matters at all because it would get bounced from the second round of the NIT.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I will say some things about Duke, as a UNC fan and alum, but there is always a grudging respect. Most NC State people are simply not worth bothering about. StateFansNation is the type of site where the administrator encourages people to post obnoxious things. It was full of high-fives and congratulations to Gerald Henderson for hurting Tyler Hansbrough. Win something again, NC State, and maybe you will have reason to cheer for something besides your opponent's injuries.

Be careful, though, because under your theory I guess Houston should have been furious because Valvano didn't shake Guy Lewis's hand instead of running all over the court.

One joyful play or reaction is not rubbing it in. Don't turn the ACC into the No Fun League II.

Paul Rugani said...

Please try and keep any further comments here civil. It does no one any good to call an opposing player or opposing school trash.

Unknown said...

Indeed, Craig Littlepage, the UVA AD, is one of 10 current NCAA Selection Committee members and served as the 2005-2006 Chair.

Perhaps some explanation as to how a team that wasn't ranked in the top-16 of either the AP Poll, the ESPN/Coaches Poll, or ANY of the objective rankings at any point during the entire season ended up with a 4 seed?

Anonymous said...

UVA is an arguable overseed at 4, but no worse than Vandy at 6, Tenn at 5 or Wash St at 3 just to pick on one side of the bracket.

In terms of top seeds getting tough draws, I'd say FLA and WISC have reason for concern about potential 2d round matchups vs. very dangerous teams in AZ and GT.

And who is the most underseeded? How about 'nova at 9?

John Thompson III must be feeling pretty good right now.

Paul Rugani said...

The Big (L)East kind of got hosed - Nova at 9, Marquette at 8, Notre Dame two seed lines below Virginia, and Syracuse left at home. The treatment of the Big East and Big XII was in marked contrast to the treatment of the 4 other power conferences (favorable seedings - ACC, Pac-10 - and favorable bids - Stanford, Arkansas, Illinois).

Paul Rugani said...

I should say that I think those conferences really got hurt by their bottom teams (although the Pac-10 didn't seem to get punished for ASU and OSU, nor did the Big 10 get docked for Minnesota, N'western, and PSU).

Anonymous said...

No one likes having to delete posts, but I saw the one on here earlier and you are to be commended for your discretion in removing it.

With respect to Virginia:

Pomeroy has Virginia at number 48 and Sagarin at number 39. Their RPI is 55! These numbers are so low that Virginia is in the midst of other teams that ended up in the NIT. I think what happened is that the committee felt fenced in by Virginia's tieing for first in the ACC and ignored these numbers.

The ACC may be forced to add more conference games to the schedule because the current scheduling practices resulted in an anomoly in which the records of the first 8 teams in the ACC seemed to be weakly correlated with the teams' overall strength. That is, the regular season did not do what it is supposed to do: distingush between the teams in terms of strength. UVa only played Carolina and Duke once apiece. Duke had to play Maryland twice and Carolina twice, something that only NC State had to do also.

State and Duke were both better than their ACC records, as was Carolina and probably Maryland. Virginia obviously was worse and no one will be surprised to see them go out in the first round, even with a four seed. Wake Forest was actually worse than its record, as it was fortunate enough to play Miami and NC State twice each.