Friday, March 25, 2011

Joey Rodriguez

I figured I'd give the guy some props by using his first name. It's kind of a tacit sign of respect when I use guy's first name (I'll yell at Nolan all the time the whole game like I'm there). I know I've written a ton about VCU already, but it's a compelling storyline!

I've been telling the people around me for a week the Rodriguez is for real, and if you look back, I've thought since the USC game that VCU's drive and dish game was impressive (though I didn't mention Joey by name). But so far, he has been a great story this tourney, and if they top KU, I'm looking at potential player of the tourney, depending on what Kemba does. As far as great players left in the tourney, I don't trust Barnes, Sullinger is out, and I really believe the best individual players left are Joey and Kemba, with Butler's Mack as a distant third. These are guys that I'm terrified of if I'm the opposition.

I know that I just harped on Coach Cal, and I still think the basketball gods will strike him down. They've waited for a while, but I believe he'll go down. But I love the last play for Brandon Knight. Didn't call a timeout: if you need a timeout to set up a game-winning situation, you haven't done your job. I am a big fan of cutting the number of timeouts to three per half. Think about it. If all timeouts are called each half (including the automatic TV timeouts), you would stop the clock less than every two minutes, which ruins the flow of the game. I know a lot of timeouts are "saved" for later, but why have a flow to the game only to throw it out the window in the clutch?

Anyway, I loved the no timeout, trust your guys philosophy, even if it comes from Cal. The guy is still a smart guy.

VCU over FSU in OT!

WOW! What an ending to the game! First, FSU gets a nice pump and baseline drive for an easy finish inside and a one point advantage. Then, Rodriguez drives the lane (I said it and I think I was right!), and though he got blocked, VCU had 7 seconds left to inbound on the baseline. And then my boy Rodriguez steps up and makes an amazing bounce pass to a crashing big man and a great layup. With time winding down, Kitchen takes it all the way and kicks for a nice elbow jumper, but VCU BLOCKS IT! Still, if time is winding down, I want the ball in Kitchen's hands and I felt he made a heady play. All-around great basketball. This group of guards from VCU is something KU is not gonna want to see in the next round. Rodriguez is a foxhole guy, a guy you trust making that great, great, great pass, a guy that can take you all the way.

FSU and VCU update

Rodriguez makes a GrEaT play to get the steal and the foul, but he really needed those freebies to fall and he didn't get either one. Then VCU comes down with some good defense and forces a bad three, but then shoots a long clanker on offense. I want to see more drive penetration from Rodriguez: I know they are shooting the three better as a team than the two, and I know that FSU's big men are blocking and altering everything inside, but I've seen Rodriguez's skills drawing fouls and dishing for buckets, and I think this is the direction they need to go. FSU with the TO, let's see what they draw up with 53.5 seconds left.

FSU and VCU to overtime

More great, defensive, basketball. Great block by FSU to stop the great VCU drive (love aggressive plays towards the rim), but what was Kitchen thinking on that last play? It doesn't seem like he had a plan, and I know he's practiced enough to have one. Kids, you need a go-to move in crunch time, and even a few counters that will work too (see my posts a few weeks ago about the Heat endgame for why).

OSU the Third No. 1 Seed to Go Down

I loved Kentucky's aggression and momentum down the stretch. The Buckeyes certainly didn't do themselves any favors with the famous clogged toilet offense (as coined by Bill Simmons) down the stretch.

This is the clogged toilet offense: give your star player the ball somewhere at the border of his effective range, have everyone stand around, and expect him to do something. This works sometimes in the NBA, but is terrible in college. This is the reason: everyone runs the clogged toilet offense when your best player is better than the defensive player marking him. This happens a lot in the regular season, but in the tourney, where overall defense is better, it doesn't work as well. Especially a team like OSU which has played terribly down the stretch and had no momentum. UK's defense could sag on him, not believing anyone else could help them.

Compare this to what Arizona did to beat Duke, running a PLAY for their best player to go TOWARDS the rim. It was risky, but it was aggressive, and the basketball gods like aggressiveness. Don't just sit around and wait for your guy to do something. I liked how they fought and tied it with a three when everything was pointing towards UK, but it turned out to not be enough.

On a side note, I strongly believe that UK and UConn, two teams lead by cheating coaches, will have their inflated hubris struck down. If they both make the final four, I will burn that side of my bracket. Obviously the basketball gods have different levels of bad behavior they punish for: Pitino's error was more egregious and his team lost faster. But something inside tells me these two teams are going out.

Terrible Sequence for OSU

The refs just called a terrible foul on Craft; he read the screen and roll perfectly and got in great position. Then they get a turnover on Sullinger. Good thing they got a turnover back and Craft hit some freebies.

How Good is VCU?

I'll post more about the other games later, but I'm watching this one now, and my question is raised in the title. The thing is, Rodriguez is sitting and Burgess is torching FSU's vaunted defense. Kitchen is getting his and doing dirty work, but the Ramsh is playing great defense and making every point difficult for the Seminoles.

Ohio State has to be more patient and shoot a higher percentage. And they need to stop fouling. Or hope the young UK's don't shoot well from the line (which is a real proposition). But they need someone besides Sullinger to contribute, and Diebler has been invisible since the first half.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bulls v. Hawks

All I can say is wow. 72 points in a half for Chicago, who could do no wrong on offense AND defense. The performance reminded me of a conversation I had with a security guard in the Longsworth House Office Building (US House of Rep. office). Anyways, I told the guard that the Bulls were a legit playoff team, and he laughed it off, telling me to "enjoy the regular season." And I just deleted the word "bacon" that I absentmindedly typed because of the MJ Hanes commercial.

And enjoying it I am. I am a Bulls homer. The first Finals series I remember was Bulls-Lakers, and I've been a Chicago fan since. But outside my bias, this Bulls team is playoff good. 72 points in a half against Atlanta, a team that is a perfect example of what you should not do (overpay to make the second round of the playoffs). And they are making every shot.

And then there's the defense. Taj, Omar, and Miles play great defense off the bench. And CJ Watson has turned into a legit second-team offensive threat. This is a scary defensive team that can go big and small. Joakim and Omar to help on Dwight with the ability to play Taj at 5 and run.

The Hawks? No fight. Don't tell me their players are laying it out for the team, because it is painfully obvious that they are playing for the name on the back of the jersey. Don't believe me? Watch and make the call.

Monday, March 21, 2011

2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament First and Second Round Thoughts: SW and SE


Kansas: Tourney chops looking good. Can do it in many ways, and making the final is looking better.
UNLV: had the talent, but looked like a deer in the headlights. I trusted their tournament chops too much and looked to closely at that close loss to SDSU at home.
Richmond: Should have believed in them more. Louisville caught me and many others by surprise. Check back for more info. Richmond could be a danger to Kansas.
VCU: I knew that they could upset Georgetown, but beating Purdue? They eviscerated the Boilermakers' vaunted defense, playing the exact type of drive and dish game you need to beat "better" teams. Moore was terrible, and I didn't expect that bad of a showing from him.
FSU: I knew that their defense would cause problems, but I believed ND could have two good shooting games in a row. Obviously, I was wrong.

Butler: huge win over Pitt. I couldn't believe the colossal mental mistakes at the end of it though. I have to believe that living dangerously will catch up to the Bulldogs, but it could be that they are just hitting their stride. Pitt always had a tough road in my mind (contrary to what others said), so I'm not surprised by this as much as others are.
Wisconsin: I really had no faith in this team, thinking their only big win was at home to OSU, but obviously, I should have trusted the advanced stats more in this one. Belmont had the statistical showings of an upset candidate, but the Badgers played will against them AND the Wildcats. Surprise, surprise.
BYU: I thought the Gonzaga game would be closer, but the BYU roleplayers dominated and Gonzaga's big men did not get the dedicated usage they needed to slow this game down. Gonzaga succumbed to BYU's pace, and Jimmer is going to have another week of rest, which will only make him more dangerous.
Florida: I thought the UCLA game was a push, and it basically was. They did a great job closing, though. BYU will be tough: this is basically a re-match of last year's first round game with no significant personnel changes on either side. BYU has been playing well without Davies (when they are rested), so Florida cannot take a game off. My gut tells me that BYU will win on Jimmer's unbelievable stat line.

More to come: reflections on my bracket.

2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament First and Second Round Thoughts: E and W

Wow! What a weekend! Every March, I remember again the magical nature of the madness. Let's start in the East region and take a look at what happened.

Buckeyes: I thought going into the tournament that OSU is the most invincible 1 seed. Looking at their competition, I don't see a team in their region that can match up. They demonstrated that by dismantling the Patriots defense, and I see more blowouts coming.
Kentucky: Princeton's offense was beautiful with all the back cuts and layups, but ultimately, athletic talent won out. I don't see much of a future for UK though, as OSU looms, and so does the curse of the NCAA gods.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles really proved me wrong. I didn't believe they had tournament chops, having correctly tabbed them for upsets before. But then, I should have known that I couldn't trust Syracuse's Scoop Jardine. I trust Boehim, but not with a player that lets me down in the big games I've seen this year. I don't know that I could have picked against them prior to the Sweet Sixteen, but I'm not completely surprised by this. I'm more surprised that Marquette was the team that knocked them off, but props to them for doing it.
Tar Heels: I really thought Isaiah Thomas could carry Washington with his veteran talent, but ultimately, they fell short. I know that they though they were fouled on the long 3 at the end, but UNC played well. I still foresee an upset in the makings for the young UNC squad.

Duke: Michigan's offense was great in both the first and second rounds, but their defense left a lot to be desired. Specifically, no one could stop Nolan Smith as he shot an absurd percentage. Some shoddy Duke transition defense (they'll need to work on that) made the game close, but honestly, I didn't harbor any doubt that the Blue Devils would pull out the win.
Arizona: What a gutsy call to go to a pick and roll on the last play. There are so many things that can go wrong, with both the help defense and the difficulty of the pass, but everything went right for the Wildcats because (listen here, boys and girls), they gave the ball to their best player going towards the rim. In a day and era where everyone wants to take dagger threes and avoid contact (probably because of bad free-throw shooting), I still believe that teams that go towards the rim convert more clutch opportunities. I picked Derrick Williams as the best player in this quartet of teams, and he has proved thus far. I don't see the Wildcats advancing past the Dukies, though, for the addition of Kyrie Irving gives Duke too many offensive and defensive options.
UConn: No big surprise here. Kemba Walker going all Kemba on Cincy. SDSU better watch out less he turn into Jimmer on them and leads the Huskies to the win.
SDSU: they are better than Temple, but a few things held them up. First, dumb decisions in both transition and half-court sets led to low percentage shots. They needed to realize they had an athletic and size advantage, and use it. They needed to realize that Gay could get to the rim any time he wanted, and make something out of it with two-man action and kickouts for hoops or drives. Second, clogged toilet clutch offensive sets left them with their 3rd best player holding the ball 16 feet away from the basket with his back to the rim. From there, I would say that an awful jump shot is a foregone conclusion. They have the talent to knock off UConn, but Calhoun is smart and the Aztecs need to play smarter. Or trust that Calhoun will also be stricken down by the basketball gods.

Southwest and Southeast Analysis after the break.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: Moorehead State and Duke

Louisville played the better game but didn't execute down the stretch (missed free throws killed them). I knew that Moorehead State had a good chance of the upset, and they definitely proved themselves. The three pointer from Demonte Harper who had a terrible day from range took onions and a little bit of insanity. But March is mad!

Duke reports that G Kyrie Irving will play limited minutes in the opener. As I said before, even 15 minutes a game from him later on could help Duke blow out opposing second units and help them win another title.

2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament: First Blood, WVU and Butler

I think Clemson did get a little tired. Early on, their ball pressure was really bothering the typically sure WVU guards, forced some turnovers, and made going over with lob passes impossible. But as WVU settled into their groove and ran their offense, they started making shots and I think that was their game.

ODU just couldn't get anything to go inside. It was a great effort by Howard to stay in the game with foul trouble with that tough ODU front line, and Butler did a good job of protecting him. I think ODU had some great looks, but couldn't convert.

Comments on 2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Bracket

I know this post will come in after the first round has started, but I promise these are original opinions. These are my thoughts on the bracket.

1: I know I have Duke winning. Even on this blog, I will admit that I am a complete homer, and I believe that the Blue Devils will survive until either a) Kyrie Irving comes back or b) Kyle Singler figures out his game (getting boards and driving rather than shooting 3's). They have some tough matchups (Texas, UConn, SDSU) before the Final Four, but they are experienced, and I believe they can make it.

2: Here on, I will go straight top-to-bottom from my previous post

  • I know lots of people have WVU losing to Clemson. I think that UAB would have been tougher, and I think the late game plus early game for Clemson will show in the second half when they'll be a bit more tired than the Mountaineers. Plus I think Bryant is the best player in this game.
  • I know some have Xavier losing to the Golden Eagles. I think Xavier is veteran and won't lose this early.
  • I had Xavier beating 'Cuse, then I went through my entire bracket and took another look at all the Big East teams, many which had losses, but mostly to each other. I believe in the conference this year, and in many cases, I upgraded their teams.
  • I have the Huskies beating the Tarheels because I believe that UW is a veteran, tournament tested team. I saw them last year and believe their experience will serve them well against UNC's youth. I also believe that UNC will face ball pressure and that they didn't necessarily do well against Duke's pressure. Finally, I think Isaiah Thomas is the best player in this game. I will use the best player call often, because I believe in the one-and-done format, sometimes the bets player can transcend a game and put an inferior team on top. Example? Carmelo.
  • I think Thomas continues to be great for UW, better than Jardine for 'Cuse, and then the talent of OSU (Sullinger > Thomas) takes over.

  • I'm flipping between Arizona, Memphis, Texas, and Oakland for the first two rounds. Ultimately, I think Derrick Williams will be the best player among the four, and I believe that Texas has too many weapons for Oakland to handle.
  • I think Texas' youth comes out against the veteran Blue Devils. Also, I am a total disbeliever in Rick Barnes' tournament chops (c'mon, they lost in the second round with Durant). So I'm taking Duke here. 
  • I think that SDSU will beat UConn inside, and although they can be susceptible to great guard play, I think UConn will be a bit tired and just don't think they have it in them to go all the way.
  • I think Duke will play better pressure D against the Aztecs than they've seen and will win this one going away.

  • I am a big disbeliever in Vanderbilt, having watched them through the SEC. I just don't think they have the mentality to close games.
  • Lots of people have Louisville losing, I did too before my second look at the Big East.
  • Ditto for Georgetown, though I think this upset will probably happen. Oh well, I'll stick to my guns.
  • I think FSU's defense trumps A&M's offense.
  • I think the Jayhawks' second round game is dangerous. They could go out here. UNLV can be sneaky good or just not so good.
  • Big risk taking Louisville for two wins.
  • I love Moore and I think he may be the best player in this region if he's hot.
  • I think ND can have two good shooting games-they've done it in the Big East.
  • The Jayhawks have another tough game here. Two toughies in a row.
  • I think Moore as the best player beats them in the next game though.
  • Again, Kansas has to beat a tough team. I really was tempted to pick Purdue, but Kansas is solid all over the place, especially on D. We'll see though, as the Jayhawks have to play what seems to me to be three tough games in a row.

  • I think Utah State was seeded way too low. The problem is, I think Pullen is the best player in the top half of this bracket, or maybe even the whole bracket (if Jimmer is gone), and the Wildcats have gotten super hot. Still, I think Utah State will be playing with a chip on their shoulder.
  • St. John's lost their best player. Tough.
  • I have no faith in Michigan State this year. Maybe like last year, they will prove me wrong.
  • Pitt is going to find it tough against Old Dominion
  • I don't think Gonzaga can slow down Jimmer or punish BYU enough inside.
  • I think Florida is the weakest 2 (like many people). I think that UCLA is tournament-tested and can win this one. I think of this game as a push.
  • Pitt faces another hard game against either Utah State or Kansas State. I think this will be a physical game no matter who's in it.
  • BYU can't continue to play one man ball. This club can either make the final four, or lose in the first weekend.

  • I think Duke matches up well with OSU. And I think Nolan will prove to be the best player in this game. I'm not saying he's necessarily better than Sullinger, I just think Duke can cover Sullinger better than OSU can contain Smith. Also, if Irving is playing around 15 minutes a game by this point, look out.
  • I think the Jayhawks and the Panthers will both have tough roads to the Final Four. Ultimately, I think the Jayhawks have more talent and Pitt might be more worn out.

  • Playing Pitt will cost the Jayhawks as they find themselves in an early hole against Duke. In the second half, the defenses tighten it up and they get the game within a possession, but Nolan Smith hits a big three pointer off a Kyle Singler miss and offensive rebound, keeping the Jayhawks at bay, and they never get within 4 the rest of the way as Duke celebrates its second straight title.
3: Places I think I could be horribly wrong:
  • Having Duke win it all.
  • Not having OSU win it all.
  • Being too confident in the talent on Kansas and Pitt teams.
  • Not trusting SDSU's lack of tournament wins enough
  • Not believing in Kemba enough. 
  • Not believing enough/believing too much in Jimmer.
  • Overrating/Underrating the Big east.
  • Forgetting about George Mason too early.
  • Forgetting about Harrison Barnes.
  • Jordan Hamilton owning Derrick Williams.
  • Believing too much in Isaiah Thomas.
  • Over/Under-rating ND's shooting.
  • Picking too much chalk in the end.
Right or wrong, you make the call, and let's find out together!

2011 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Bracket

This will just be quick rundown of the bracket. I'll post my analysis in a comment.


(first round)
GM over Nova
WVU over Clemson
UK over Princeton
Xavier over Marquette
'Cuse over Indiana State
UW over Georgia
UNC over LIU

(second round)
Buckeyes over Patriots
KU over WVU
Orange over Musketeers
Huskies over Tarheels

(sweet sixteen)
Buckeyes over KU
Huskies over Orange

(elite eight)
Buckeyes over Huskies


(first round)
Blue Devils over Hampton
Volunteers over Wolverines
Arizona over Tigers
Texas over Oakland
Bearcats over Mizzou
Uconn over Bucknell
Temple over Penn State
SDSU over Norther Colorado

(second round)
Blue Devils over Volunteers
Longhorns over Arizona
UConn over Bearcats
SDSU over Temple

(sweet sixteen)
Blue Devils over Longhorns
SDSU over UConn

(elite eight)
Blue Devils over Aztecs


(first round)
Jayhawks over Boston
UNLV over Illionois
Richmond over Commodores
Cardinals over Morehead State
Georgetown over VCU
Boilermakers over Saint Peter's
Seminoles over Texas A&M
Irish over Akron

(second round)
Jaywaks over Rebels
Cardinals over Spiders
Boilermakers over Hoyas
Irish over Seminoles

(sweet sixteen)
Jayhawks over Cardinals
Boilermakers over Irish

(elite eight)
Jayhawks over Boilermakers


(first round)
Panthers over UNC-Ashville
Old Dominion over Butler
Utah State over Wildcats
Belmont over Badgers
'Zags over Red Storm
Cougars over Wofford
Bruins over Spartans
Gators over UC Santa Barbara

(second round)
Panthers over Old Dominion
Aggies over Belmont
Cougars over 'Zags
Bruins over Gators

(sweet sixteen)
Panthers over Aggies
Bruins over Cougars

(elite eight)
Panthers over Bruins

Blue Devils over Buckeyes
Jayhawks over Panthers

Blue Devils over Jayhawks, 69-63

I'll Admit When I'm Wrong

I posted over the summer that I believed the Heat got tremendous value from their vet minimum free agents and the MLE. I am now eating my words near the end of the season where the supporting cast has not played at a championship level.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I Was Right Again!

I'm excited by this. Watch the highlights of the 3/9 Knicks win over the Grizz. Look at the last shot, the game winner from Carmelo. Look at where he gets the ball. Look at what the play call was for. In my very last post, I espoused the notion that LeBron should get game-winning isos on the wing in the triple-threat. See that post for the reasoning.

Fast forward to last night's game. Carmelo gets it just inside the three-point line on the wing in the triple-threat...exactly what I called for! He then jabs (impossible with a live dribble), and because Allen is guessing over the multitude of offensive options, creates a little bit of space from where to launch a sweet jumper. Can LeBron do this? He certainly can (though to the eye, he's not a shooter like Carmelo).

Anyway, I think that play validates what I was trying to say, but you make the call.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Flaws in the Heat endgame.

This post is copied from a comment I made on another blog, ("Miami's Final Play Wasn't That Bad"). It is an excellent blog to follow for NBA strategy and fundamentals. You can find the videos I reference on that page.

I think there is a fundamental problem with the LeBron iso that teams are exploiting more than ever. He has become two dimensional in the set, and because teams see so much of it, they've figured it out. I think the coaching staff does a poor job of getting different looks at the basket, and LeBron does a poor job of setting himself up and hasn't figured out any effective counters to the looks he's getting. More and more, LeBron on Noah is not a 10 out of 10 possibility.