Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Random Madness to Wrap your Head Around

No No. 1 seeds this year. And no No. 2 seeds either.

None of the four head coaches with teams in this year's Final Four graduated from Division I institutions. Jim Calhoun played DII at American International College. John Calipari transferred from UNC-Wilmington and played at DII Clarion. Brad Stevens went to DIII DePauw University where he was up for Academic All-America. Shaka Smart played at DIII Kenyon College.

Calhoun is 68 years old. Stevens and Smart are 67 years old, combined.

All of the teams have mascots with four legs.

According to kenpom.com, there is a 58% chance the Wildcats (ranked 4th) will beat the Huskies 70-68 (ranked 11th) ... The Bulldogs (37th) will beat the Rams (50th) 70-68 as well (55% chance).

The Massey Ratings have UConn 4th and Kentucky 5th. Drop to 23rd for Butler and 31st for VCU ... Masseyratings.com says Kentucky is predicted to win 71-69 against UConn (win probability 54%) ... Butler is predicted to win 70-69 against VCU (win probability 52%).

Kenpom.com lists VCU with the highest average experience of the Final Four teams at 2.17 (48th nationally). Butler = 2.02 (76th nationally); Kentucky = 1.16 (312th); UConn = .95 (332nd) ... there are 345 teams ranked ... Kansas was 82nd. Ohio St. was 220th. The tournament team with the most experience was Wofford, ranked 2nd at 2.71.

In possession usage rate, three seniors (point guard Joey Rodriguez, forward Jamie Skeen, and wing Brandon Rozzell) lead the way for VCU. Butler uses junior guard Shelvin Mack as its go-to guy and senior forward Matt Howard as a significant contributor ... Kentucky's freshman big Terrence Jones is its go-to while frosh point guard sensation Brandon Knight leads as a major contributor. UConn's junior combo guard Kemba Walker is the go-to for the Huskies and freshman guard Shabazz Napier is a significant contributor.

VCU wants to set the pace against Butler. The Rams play with the highest tempo of the four and do better with speed. They need to score 70-plus points to win. Butler, on the other hand, doesn't like teams to get that much. Of its nine regular season losses, seven of them occurred when the other team scored 69 or more points.

Kentucky can play fast, too. And it is the best shooting team and best defensive team of the four (effective field goal percentage on offense = 52.7 ... eFG% defense = 44.2).

All four have stood out in full court conversion opportunities and half court execution, with VCU being the most impressive. A team that is so good playing fast isn't always spectacular in the half court (e.g., the Washington Huskies, according to Kenny Smith). The Rams, though, have been able to speed it up and score off makes, misses, and steals AND they can be patient with their sets. They set screens, they enter to the post, they cut hard, and they share the ball. Watch for a spin and immediate backdoor cut with the shot clock winding down ... or a back-to-back pick-and-roll to get off a shot opportunity.

Players to watch:

Hard hat, lunch bucket = Matt Howard

Heat check = Brandon Rozzell

Cool calm = Brandon Knight (and a 4.3 high school GPA to boot)

Game time = Kemba Walker in one game, Shelvin Mack in the other

“Right now he's as good of a player in the country, midrange jump shot, he can make threes. To me he's the most valuable player in the United States,” Calhoun said. “So when I recruited him, I thought I was going to get a quick New York City point push guard, defender, all that type of thing. And he's evolved into even more than that.”
"You have to tell him to take days off," the coach said Monday. "Here is how hard he works and how important I think it is: If we have a time limit on an open practice, we'll stop early so he can get his shots up individually because I know how much it means to him."
Last year, it was all "all mental" for the Kansas Jayhawks. Looks like it was this year, too ... mainly because VCU drained them with everything it had in its own tank.

What does it take to make it this far?

Butler has shown what experience can do. And belief stemming from a team's ability to manage adversity during the season.

Stevens speaks:
“I think the teams that play the best basketball in the tournament are the teams that have a chance to win the tournament,” Stevens said. “It doesn't matter where you're from or how big your football program is or how much money is in your athletic department. It's about a group of kids coming together that five guys play on a court a once hopefully believing together that give you a great shot to compete.
“I think VCU and Butler played with a lot of pressure in January and February,” Stevens said. “When you get into the tournament, that pressure may flip a little bit. We're playing loose, we're playing for the first time in a lot of ways in a couple months where you've already been playing basically where you feel like you can't lose. So you're already used to that.

“So the NCAA tournament is a welcome. I think both teams have played really, really well because of that. Certainly they've got a lot more reasons than that. They are a loaded team that is really well‑coached.”
Calhoun said after the Final Four clinching win that he loves being around this year's team and has thoroughly enjoyed coaching it. His assistant Kevin Ollie says Calhoun is the toughest guy he knows.

Suite101 - "This year's Cinderella team, the No. 11 seed Virginia Commonwealth Rams, is no fluke. They earned their berth in the Final Four with four impressive offensive performances and a lot of mental toughness."

Boston Herald - "Ambition is in ample supply at Butler. Likewise, physical and mental toughness."


Atlanta Roofing said...

I mean seriously... VCU had lost 11 total games and 6 in the CAA. It was never if VCU could win games in the tournament, it was always did they deserve to be there in the first place. The answer before the tournament and still is Yes.

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