General NCAA Tournament Links
Kyle Whelliston argues for a return to a 32-team tournament composed only of the 31 conference champs and a single at-large team. His view is obviously influenced by his love for mid-major basketball, and I confess it has a certain elegance to it. But it obviously stands the same chance as a return to the pre-1920 deadball in Major League Baseball.
Joe Sheehan has a more practical suggestion: The selection committee should ensure there are more match-ups between big conference teams and mid-majors in the first round. He notes the following:
Of the nine minor-conference teams, six have been matched against one another, and a seventh is playing one of the tweeners (that’s the Kent State/UNLV game). Of the 19 BCS schools, 14 have been matched against one another.
In thinking back to past tournaments, I definitely tend to watch more games with a big conference/mid-major match-up than those between teams in the same class of conference. Wait, who am I kidding? I’ll be sitting in front of the TV for the duration, regardless of the match-ups. But Mr. Sheehan’s line of thinking is still a good one.
Big Ten-Related NCAA Tournament Links
Chris West notes that 3 seed Wisconsin may match up better vs. 6 seed USC in the second round (with Flowers guarding O.J. Mayo) than against 11 seed Kansas State (as Brian Butch doesn’t match up very well with Michael Beasley–although Marcus Landry may).
Off the Tracks likes 6 seed Purdue’s draw as there’s no dominant big man to take advantage of their perimeter-oriented lineup until the regional final.
College Basketball Chronotope takes issue with IU falling to an 8 seed. He wonders whether Indiana’s refusal to impose a postseason ban on itself played a role.
NIT check: Ohio State is a 1 seed, reflecting their “last four out” status for the Big Dance. Minnesota is a 4 seed. There are no Big Ten teams in the new-fangled College Basketball Invitational, which features progressive rules like reseeding after the first two rounds and a best-of-three final.
MSU-Specific NCAA Tournament Links
Seth Davis said he liked Temple to beat MSU on national TV yesterday. On-line today he takes a slightly less direct approach, labeling the MSU-Temple game “the best first-round match-up.” The more people picking Temple, the better, I say. Seems like the popular 12 seed upset special never actually materializes. Update: Yet Another Basketball Blog declares Temple to be his “five star, lead pipe lock, upset pick of the first round.”
Grant Wahl breaks down the South regional. He picks 2 seed Texas to advance out of the region, citing the Houston homecourt advantage they’d have over 1 seed Memphis in the regional final. He doesn’t have much to say about our Spartans, commenting only, “I think the [Oral Roberts] Eagles [his bracket buster for the region] match up well with Michigan State, their likely second-round foe, which has a tendency to play down (or up) to its competition.”
A Statistical Look at MSU’s Tournament Draw
At this point, one hesitates to make any statements about what factors drive MSU’s success or failure from game to game. But I will say I think they’re most likely to be successful against teams that (1) play at a faster tempo or (2) play a zone defense. Both these factors tend to reduce the number of possessions MSU gets bogged down in the half-court offense against good man-to-man defense. (I’m less concerned about the defensive end, as I still have supreme confidence in Izzo’s ability to game plan for an opponent’s offensive tendencies.)
So how do MSU’s first three likely opponents stack up from this perspective?
Temple: Hard to say. This article on the Owls’ conference tournament win says the following:
In the past two years, Dunphy changed the way the Owls played basketball. They went from a halfcourt team on offense to a uptempo style, and they threw away the old matchup zone that Chaney used to baffle opponents and replaced it with a tough man to man.
The up-tempo thing is good–although the stats beg to differ. Temple ranks just 236th in the nation in adjusted tempo at 65.1 possessions/40 minutes; maybe their offense is only up-tempo relative to the deliberate, avoid-turnovers-at-all-costs offense that John Cheney employed. And no zone anymore.
Pittsburgh: Their tempo stat is similar to Temple’s. They rank 229th in the nation in adjusted tempo at 65.3 possessions/game. And they play man-to-man defense pretty exclusively.
Memphis: If MSU can get this far, it will be interesting to see how they play against a top-five team that plays at a fast pace. Memphis ranks 74th in the nation in adjusted tempo at 69.7 possession/40 minutes (11th among the 64 tournament teams). Of course, they also play a very aggressive man-to-man defense designed to create turnovers.
So to sum up: No zone defenses on the horizon. The first two teams play at a fairly slow pace, and Memphis’ up-tempo pace may not be the kind that’s conducive to MSU limiting its turnovers.
Two silver linings on the first two likely opponents:
- Temple’s and Pittsburgh’s tempo stats would still put them in the top half of the Big Ten, so we’re not talking about Iowa or Wisconsin here.
- Neither opponent forces a ton of turnovers. Their defensive turnover percentages are 19.1 and 20.6, respectively. That should increase the odds of MSU continuing their recent trend of holding on to the ball.
The goal is to have a more detailed stats-based game preview for the Temple game up tomorrow night . . .