The Sports Report

A Statistical Take on Sports and Politics

The Boots (March 25, 2009)

Boot Up: Connecticut Huskies – The Connecticut Huskies came into this year’s NCAA Tournament as the least likely #1 seed to win the national championship at only 7.07%. Through two games in the tournament, the Huskies without starting junior guard Jerome Dyson and even without Coach Jim Calhoun for one game, managed to erase many of those previous doubts. In the regular season, the Huskies were clearly dominant and one of the best teams in the country, but disappointing big game losses at home against Georgetown and Pittsburgh, in Pittsburgh and in the Big East conference tournament against Syracuse gave Louisville the #1 overall seed in the tournament and in the conference overall. These disappointing affairs and the recent injury of Dyson combined to give the Huskies an only 61.48% chance of even making the Sweet 16.

What a difference a week makes, however, and with their two dominant wins over Chattanooga and Texas A&M, the Huskies are playing some of the best basketball in the nation. Their 36-point margin of victory over the #9 seeded Aggies in the second round was by far and away the biggest margin of victory on either Saturday or Sunday, with Villanova’s 20-point win over UCLA coming in second place. In addition, in their victory over the #16 seed Southern Conference champion Chattanooga Mocs, the Huskies went on a mind-blowing fourteen and a half minute, 46-5 run after a relatively slow start to the game. In post-season play, including their loss to Syracuse, they are averaging a victory of the margin of 84.67 to 64.00 per forty minutes of play.

One huge reason why Connecticut is doing so much better recently is the improved all-around play of junior forward Stanley Robinson since the loss of Dyson. Before Dyson’s injury, for the entire season the 6-9 Robinson was averaging 13.40 points and 9.16 rebounds per 40 minutes of play and received 19.63 minutes of playing time per game. In his last nine games, Robinson is now average 16.00 points and 10.71 rebounds per 40 minutes of play and received 31.11 minutes of playing time per game. The Huskies already have three potential NBA players in 7-3 junior center Hasheem Thabeet, 6-7 senior forward Jeff Adrien and 6-2 senior guard A.J. Price, and the emergence of Robinson has made them a very, very dangerous team. Their odds of winning the championship are now 10.34%, making them a more likely national champion than the much more popular picks of Pittsburgh and North Carolina.

Boot Up: Cleveland Cavaliers in the East – Do you remember Christmas Day 2008? Hard to imagine that it was already three months ago already, but this day will go down in history for a very special reason in the NBA. With a constant year and a half stranglehold on the entire NBA, the 27-2 Boston Celtics came into the Staples Center in Los Angeles to take on the 23-5 Lakers. Meanwhile in Cleveland, the 24-4 Cavaliers had the extreme pleasure of hosting their former rivals, the 4-22 Washington Wizards. As the story goes, the Lakers hold on to beat the Celtics by nine, the Cavaliers survive an incredibly ugly game to win by four, and the season continues unsuspectingly. Shockingly and pretty much without warning, the Boston Celtics began their downfall on this very day, and including this loss in Los Angeles are now an unimpressive 27-16 in their last 43 games.

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March 25, 2009 Posted by | The Boots | , , , , , | Leave a comment

2009 NCAA Tournament Analysis

Most Likely Sub-10 Seeds to win in the first round: On average over the 24-year history of the 64-team NCAA Tournament, there have been 4.17 teams with a seed of 11-16 in the second round. Just last year, #12 seeds Villanova and Western Kentucky advanced to the Sweet 16, while #13’s Siena and San Diego along with #11 Kansas State all moved to the second round. Looking at the tournament this season, who are the most likely teams to pull off a significant upset?

East #12 Wisconsin versus #5 Florida State – It might be hard to bet against ACC Defensive Player of the Year Toney Douglas, but according to the numbers, this game is actually a toss-up. Neither team really has a significant advantage in any regard thus Wisconsin should be able to effectively slow down the pace of the game (they have the 334 fastest pace with 59.9 possessions per 40 minutes. CHANCE OF UPSET: 49.02%

Midwest #12 Arizona versus #5 Utah – Arizona may have been the last team into the field of 65, but it certainly looks like they have a decent chance of upsetting the Mountain West champions out in Miami. Arizona has the #7 offensive efficiency in the nation, according to Ken Pomeroy, and when future lottery picks Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger are both on the court they are a dangerous team. CHANCE OF UPSET: 42.97%

West #11 Utah State versus #6 Marquette – CHANCE OF UPSET: 42.75%
South #11 Temple versus #6 Arizona State – CHANCE OF UPSET: 36.62%
West #13 Mississippi State versus #4 Washington – CHANCE OF UPSET: 33.05%
East #11 Virginia Commonwealth versus #6 UCLA – CHANCE OF UPSET: 31.62%
Midwest #13 Cleveland State versus #4 Wake Forest – CHANCE OF UPSET: 31.15%
Midwest #11 Dayton versus #6 West Virginia – CHANCE OF UPSET: 29.25%
West #12 Northern Iowa versus #5 Purdue – CHANCE OF UPSET: 29.20%
Midwest #14 North Dakota State versus #3 Kansas – CHANCE OF UPSET: 28.06%

The definite locks for the Sweet 16: Last season, for the first time in NCAA Tournament history, all four #1 seeds advanced to the Final 4 (National Semifinals). This season, every single bracket projection agreed upon a consensus top eight teams in the country, and all time on average, only six of the top eight seeds advance to the Sweet 16 every year. In addition, approximately 9.7 of the top 16 seeds advance to the Regional Semifinals, while last season 6 of the top 8 seeds and 11 of the top 16 advanced to the Sweet 16. Which are the most likely top seeds to advance past the first weekend?

Midwest #1 Louisville – The overall #1 seed in the entire tournament is the regular season and tournament champion from the Big East. Louisville averaged a scoring margin of 12.6 throughout the season, a very impressive feat considering they played the #11 strength of schedule according to the RPI, and the #19 according to Ken Pomeroy. The Cardinals still have to be careful however, as five times in the last nine years the Big East tournament champion has failed to make it past the first weekend. CHANCE OF MAKING SWEET SIXTEEN: 67.46%

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March 17, 2009 Posted by | College Basketball, Dayton Flyers | , , | 2 Comments

Championship Week – Final

Here is my final listing of teams that have already punched their ticket to the NCAA tournaments, along with possible at-large selections on today, Selection Sunday. To find my definition of the “lower” and “upper” mid-major conferences, check out my article from last week breaking down the possible teams that could make the tournament:

Big Games to watch on Selection Sunday, March 15:

Lower Mid-Majors (semifinals or championship)
Southland Championship
@ Katy, TX – #6 Texas San Antonio vs. #1 Stephen F. Austin
Game 7: No. 6 Texas San Antonio vs. No. 1 Stephen F. Austin, ESPN2, 1 p.m.

Majors (all games)
ACC Championship
@ Atlanta, GA – #4 Florida State vs. #3 Duke
Game 11: No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 3 Duke, ESPN, 1 p.m.

Big Ten Championship @ Indianapolis, IN – #5 Ohio State vs. #3 Purdue
Game 10: No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Purdue, 3:30 p.m.

SEC Championship @ Tampa, FL – West #3 Mississippi State vs. East #1 Tennessee
Game 11: W3 Mississippi State vs. E1 Tennessee, 1 p.m.

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March 15, 2009 Posted by | College Basketball, Dayton Flyers | , | Leave a comment

The Boots (March 4, 2009)

Boot Up: Here comes Joe Smith – After weeks upon weeks of rumors, it appears that forward Joe Smith is finally coming to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The 6-foot-10 former first round pick out of the University of Maryland signed with the Cavaliers Wednesday morning, and will be able to play in the big game in Boston on Friday night. While many different blogs and reporters across the Northeast Ohio area have praised the return of Smith, a steady 33-year-old veteran presence in the locker room, I warn them of thinking too much about the fourteen-year NBA pro.

Sure, the Cavaliers have had problems defending the paint against teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat this season, but they are still #7 in the NBA in points in the paint allowed per game. The Cavaliers are only #23 in the league in points scored in the paint per game, according to TeamRankings.com, but that sort of happens when you have two top perimeter guards starting every single game. An odd fact, however, is that the Cavaliers have the #13 best points in the paint differential at home, while they are #20 on the road. This relates to an article I wrote recently on how LeBron James tends to be more productive at home, as he usually looks to drive it to the basket more often than not.

Joe Smith will continue to be a decent player, as he has averaged at least 17.36 points and 9.65 rebounds per 48 minutes in every single season of his career. Last season, in which he spent his final 27 regular season games with the Cavaliers, was one of his finest of his career on a per-minute basis. He averaged 21.64 points and 11.15 rebounds per 48 minutes, and advanced past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in his career. He is not by any means a legitimate starting post presence for one of the best teams in the NBA, but he is a very good fit for the team for the remainder of this season. I will certainly cheer for him to do well in Cleveland, but I do not think this automatically makes us the favorites, nor does it make us a very different ball club.

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March 4, 2009 Posted by | The Boots | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

NCAA Tournament Breakdown

Disclaimer: The rankings used in this report are the same as my most recent report on Dayton’s chances in making the NCAA Tournament. In addition, the mid-major rankings highlighted here in the beginning are a more recent update of the same ranking formula I used in last week’s post. If you have any questions at all regarding my analysis or rankings, please feel free to e-mail me back. All statistics, records and rankings are current as of the games played on Sunday, March 1, 2009.

There were a few things left unsaid in my post last week about the relation between the Dayton Flyers and the rest of the mid-major at-large possibilities. Thus, here is an updated and vamped up rendition of an e-mail reply I sent to my father the day after my Dayton report:

As much as Dayton can control their own destiny with their important games coming up, I did not mention how much luck will factor in to this. For example, if UAB pulls off the upset of Memphis in the C-USA tournament, or a team other than Utah, BYU or San Diego State wins the Mountain West tournament, then Dayton could find themselves outside of the at-large field no matter what. Here is a list of the mid-major conferences in order of likelihood for producing a mid-major at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament:

#1 M-West: 3 Brigham Young (21-6 overall, 10-4), 4 Utah (20-7, 11-3), 9 San Diego State (17-8, 9-5), 11 UNLV (20-8, 8-6) and 12 New Mexico (19-10, 10-4)

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March 3, 2009 Posted by | College Basketball, Dayton Flyers | , , | 1 Comment