Monday, March 12, 2007

Midwest ACC Pod Preview

Let's start with Maryland, the 4 seed in the Midwest region. Here's the pythagorean odds for advancing for the 4 teams in the pod (pythagorean winning percentage courtesy of

2nd Round Sweet 16
Maryland 86.39 62.85
Butler 72.30 27.27
ODU 27.70 5.64
Davidson 13.61 4.25

Maryland, ODU, and Davidson are all "hot" teams heading into the tournament. ODU's lost just once since January 20, Davidson just once since November 25(!), and Maryland just once since February 6. Butler, on the other hand, faded substantially down the stretch, losing to Wright State twice, Loyola-Chicago, and Southern Illinois, and failing to win either the regular season or tournament title in the Horizon league. A whole lot of people like ODU over Butler as the 5/12 upset. ODU actually rates out better than VCU in terms of stats in the Colonial. They go a legit nine deep, but are carried by the frontcourt combo of Valdas Vasylius and Arnaud Dahi. Drew Williamson and Brian Henderson are also very efficient offensive performers from outside. ODU's struggles have generally been defense-related. They haven't lost a single game in which they held opponents under a point per possession.

Butler's gone just 4-4 in their last eight. Like ODU, their defense has been torched in their losses. Unlike ODU, their offense has been exceptionally consistent. They were under a point per possession only 6 times, and most of those 6 times were within a bucket or two of the mark. Butler is basically a three-man team on offense - Graves, Green, and Crone take the lion's share of the shots, and no one else who plays more than 15 minutes/game takes more than 14% of the shots. Their matchup against ODU will be inside vs. outside. Butler's guards need to step up more than they have down the stretch to beat the Monarchs. I'm always wary of the popular upset pick, but I too think ODU has what it takes to make the second round.

Davidson smoked through the SoCon, losing only to App St on the way to a 17-1 record and a conference championship. They don't have a great field goal defense, but are the second-best defensive rebounding team in the country, and are pretty good at forcing turnovers. On offense, they thrive behind the three-point line - nearly 40% of their shots are threes, and they hit 37.4% from outside. Best of the bunch is Stephen Curry at 41.1%. The son of Dell inherited his dad's deadly touch from outside. Richards and Curry do it all from outside - Davidson has no real guard depth to speak of. In the frontcourt, Davidson rotates 5 guys who fall between 6'6" and 6'8". That's a big weakness against Maryland, who have serious talent in Gist and Ibekwe, plus 7'0" depth in Bowers, and a power post sub in Osby. Maryland also has the size on the perimeter to frustrate Davidson's shooters. Davidson is a very good mid-major team, but they ran into a bad matchup with Maryland.

In the second round, Maryland again would have a better matchup with Butler than ODU - again, Maryland has the size to frustrate Butler's guards, and their post players would have a big advantage. Against ODU, Dahi and Vasylius present matchup problems for Gist and Ibekwe, and could get them into foul trouble. Bowers and Osby are servicable backups, but no one you want to be giving 20 minutes to in a tourney game. Maryland's offense has been as hot as can be over the last 10 (except for the inexplicable struggle against Miami), and none of their potential opponents are dominant on the defensive end. Look for Vasquez and Strawberry to really try to force the pace against all of their potential opponents. This is about as good a draw as Maryland could have hoped for as a 4 seed, and they should be a heavy favorite (possibly even better than the 3-to-2 Pythagorean odds) to make the Sweet 16.

Georgia Tech is the 10 seed in the Midwest. Here's what their pythagorean odds look like.

2nd Round Sweet 16
Wisconsin 95.88 68.06
UNLV 29.80 6.11
Georgia Tech 70.20 25.40
Corpus Cristi 4.12 0.43

Georgia Tech rates very favorably in Pomeroy's ratings (14th overall). I think this is a bit of an overrating, reflecting some early season blowouts, but, as shown with neutral court wins over Memphis and home wins over UNC, this is a team that can beat anyone on any given night. Their starting five of Crittenton, Morrow, Young, Smith, and Dickey is very, very good, but there's a fall off on the bench outside of Mario West (defensive stud, and almost certainly on the court at the end of the game). Their first round opponent, UNLV, has finished on a 14-2 stretch, but the two losses have been big - by 27 at BYU, and by 15 at SDSU. UNLV is rather unimpressive on offense, with one exception - their ability to hold onto the ball. Their 16.8 TO% is 6th in the country. This could be a big key to the game, as Georgia Tech is generally effective at forcing turnovers, and thrives scoring points in transition. The other big key is on the glass - UNLV has not been good at keeping opponents off of the offensive boards, and Georgia Tech is the 4th best offensive rebounding team in the country. The Jackets' ability to get easy points on second chances and in transition may well dictate the outcome.

In the other first round matchup, Wisconsin is a heavy favorite, and should comfortably prevail. There are at least some positives about the Islanders that could present problems. In raw terms, Corpus Cristi's offense it excellent - 3rd in EFG%, 4th in FT Rate, and 27th in offensive rebounding (all national ranks). Their one big flaw on offense is turnovers (and it is a big problem, at 23.4%) is the one thing Wisconsin doesn't do well on defense - they play field goal and position defense, and generally don't force a lot of TOs. Josh Washington is deadly from the outside (47.6% from 3) and in Chris Daniels, they have a legit 7-footer in the post who scores extremely well (over 60% from the floor) and mops up on the defensive glass. As a team, they'll sub frequently, and have at least some size - 6'7", 6'7", and 6'8" besides Daniels.

If Wisconsin and Georgia Tech meet in the second round, there will be a real contrast in styles. Wisconsin plays very slow and loves to play inside. Tech prefers to go more uptempo and plays outside in - they have shooters in Young, Morrow, and Crittenton, and Dickey and Smith are much more secondary options - they score off offensive rebounds and dribble penetration more than they create their own shots. The battle of the boards in this game would be very good, and the availability of Brian Butch (one of the best defensive rebounders in the big 10) could make a big difference. Expect Mario West to see a lot of PT to try to check Alando Tucker - West has the size and strength to check Tucker down low, and the speed to stay on his drives. The other big key would be how Javaris Crittenton handles the defense of Michael Flowers. Flowers has basically been up in the jock of every good guard in the Big 10, and Crittenton has been prone to big turnover games. If Georgia Tech plays like they do in Atlanta rather than like they have on the road (minus a half against Memphis in Hawaii), this could be one heck of a game.


Josh Tucker said...

Awesome previews.

Paul Rugani said...

Thanks - much appreciated

Anonymous said...

For some Duke analysis, try

Anonymous said...

Great job!