Sunday, April 20, 2008


When I've processed the next few sets of games on the simulator, I've run into some extremely counterintuitive results, and it's clear that I need to make some changes to the simulation to account for some of the extremely unbalanced state teams. In particular, the simulation overvalues rebounds and undervalues assists and turnovers--so that teams with an excess of big men come out too far ahead. Since I'm not prepared to implement wholesale changes to the simulation at this time, I'm unfortunately forced to put the blog on hiatus. Thank you for your eyeballs and support!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

#6 Illinois vs. #27 South Carolina

#6 Illinois
G Shaun Livingston G Dwayne Wade F Corey Maggette F Shawn Marion C Eddy Curry

#27 South Carolina
G Ray Felton G Anthony Johnson F Jermaine O'Neal F Kevin Garnett C Kwame Brown

Illinois has a team that is perhaps a bit disappointing for the #6 seed. Livingston has a degenerative knee condition that may never allow him to play again. Before the injury, he was a promising big point guard who made too many turnovers and didn't shoot well enough. It's scary to think so, but Wade might be on the decline already: he can't seem to stay healthy and his game is predicated on being able to get into the lane and taking contact. Maggette is another wing player who doesn't shoot well, but he's a very good post up player and one of the best in the league at creating free thow opportunities by abusing smaller players. It would be great to see him as the third wheel on a good team someday since he's been stuck on bad ones for his whole career. Marion's become invisible on offense since leaving Steve Nash, as many predicted. He can't create his own shot and the Heat don't have a point guard, and his odd shooting stroke means that he requires lots of space to get it off. He's still incredibly valuable as someone who can guard five positions. Curry is a dominant post scorer, but a famous whiner and a nonexistent defender and rebounder. Illinois will run offense through Wade, but teams will pack it in: no one wants to shoot threes except Marion, he doesn't shoot them too well, and the other four players score the vast majority of their points in the paint. Their spacing will be all screwed up, and somebody (Maggette? Livingston) is going to be missing a bunch of open jumpers.

Interesting South Carolina team that might give Illinois trouble, but they have one point guard too many and not enough wing guys. Felton has made himself into a solid starting point guard. Anthony Johnson is perhaps stretched as a starter at the point, but he's a better shooter than Felton. O'Neal has really faded on offense, but part of that might be due to the toxic situation in Indiana, and he's still an incredible defensive player. As is Kevin Garnett, my pick for league MVP this year. Brown might be the most disappointing number one overall pick in the history of the NBA, but at least he's still big and athletic, even if his heart and offensive game never came around. The offense should put O'Neal on the block and Garnett in the high post, with Felton and Johnson spotting up and Brown collecting garbage.

Team: Illinois
Wins: 570
PPG: 93.99
RPG: 41.09
APG: 17.98
TPG: 18.35

Team: South Carolina
Wins: 430
PPG: 91.289
RPG: 48.09
APG: 23.36
TPG: 19.363

This is pretty tight in the simulator. Illinois has the shooting advantage at about 50% to 45% overall, but S.C. makes up for that with a seven rebound per game advantage. South Carolina doesn' t really have any wing players; does that hurt them? I say no. They match up well with Illinois for two main reasons: 1) Felton can guard Wade. He's a quick, strong player who gives up a few inches, but it won't be the kind of mismatch that Wade can regularly exploit. 2) Maggette prefers to play on the block and doesn't scare you with his jump shot. O'Neal is a fantastic post defender; he can lay off of Maggette and make him take a bunch of jumpers that he doesn't want to take and make life difficult for him in the post. At the other end, O'Neal's size will force continual double teams by Illinois. This is a great matchup for South Carolina and I'm going to counter-act the simulator and say that they take it, on size advantage, shooting advantage, and K.G.'s heart.

Next: #7 Pennsylvania vs. #26 Alabama
Full Bracket Here.

Friday, March 21, 2008

#11 Georgia vs. #22 Wisconsin

#11 Georgia
G Louis Williams G Jarvis Hayes F Josh Smith F Shareef Abdur-Rahim C Dwight Howard

#22 Wisconsin
G Travis Diener G Devin Harris G Anthony Carter F Caron Butler C Chris Mihm

Georgia has a nice little team that could surprise some people. Williams might be the best player you've never heard of, an extremely quick slasher who has been a big part of the 76er resurgence this winter. Hayes is a nice piece, a great shooter who can defend wings well. Smith is an athletic enigma, who is capable of leading the league in blocks or steals, and could be a truly gifted rebounder, but who you don't really trust to score when you need a bucket and seems destined to be a good stats on a bad team guy for his whole career. Shareef is near the end, but he can still score and defend in the post. Howard, of course, is the next great big man. He's taken a massive leap forward this year, so he won't look quite as good in this tournament. Pick and rolls with Williams and Howard, with occasional dumps to Rahim in the post and Hayes in the corner three point position, will be the standard Georgia offense, with Smith cleaning up the garbage.

Wisconsin is undersized across the board. Diener is a good shooter, but tiny and can't get to the rim. Harris is a little overrated; he's a very good defender, but doesn't shoot as well as you'd like and struggles with quicker point guards. Carter is a classic pass-first point guard who can't shoot straight. If you're counting, that's three point guards so far for Wisconsin. Butler is having a great season, and is a borderline All-Star every year. He's above average at every skill but his only exceptional attributes are toughness and heart. Mihm nears the end, but he's still seven feet tall, and he still makes that twelve footer from the side.

Team: Georgia
Wins: 916
PPG: 102.11
RPG: 66.82
APG: 18.47
TPG: 21.87

Team: Wisconsin
Wins: 84
PPG: 82.05
RPG: 24.31
APG: 23.23
TPG: 15.24

Not a close result. The size advantage for Georgia is overwhelming, with a sixty-two rebound advantage. And unlike in the last game, Georgia has enough ballhandlers to defeat any gimmick defenses and end possessions with Howard dunks. Actually, a lot of possessions are going to end with Howard dunks, since he'll be too much in the post for Mihm. If Rahim has anything left, he's got a big size advantage over Butler and Georgia could also force double teams or get easy baskets by posting him up. Finally, Josh Smith is 6'10" and just as quick as any of the point guards from Wisconsin that will be trying to guard him. Georgia in a walk.

Georgia next plays on 4/3.
Next: #6 Illinois vs. #29 South Carolina
Full Bracket Here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

#14 Massachusetts/Arkansas vs. #19 Indiana

Sorry for the delays. We'll get back on course tomorrow with a double post.

#14 Massachusetts/Arkansas
G Will Blalock (M) G Derek Fisher (A) G Fred Jones (A) F Joe Johnson (A) F Corliss Williamson (A)

#19 Indiana
G Bonzi Wells F Jared Jeffries F Zach Randolph C Brad Miller C Alan Henderson

M/A are quite undersized. Blalock's NBA career consists of 14 subpar games for the Pistons last year; this year he's out of the league. He went 6/6 at the line last year; since I didn't want to hand him 100% made free throws across 1000 games, I used his college career mark of 65.3%. Fisher is still making good money at his gritty veteran shooter gig in Los Angeles. Jones is having a nondescript season as an eight/ninth guy for the Knicks; usually the ninth guy doesn't get any minutes, but since Isiah doesn't know what he's doing, they don't have a real rotation. His game is about as exciting as his name. Johnson here continues to fulfill his destiny as the star of bad teams. Williamson retired last fall; he's now an assistant coach at Arkansas Bapist College. It's hard to be a 6'7" post player in the NBA once you get into your thirties. Blalock and Williamson are among the worst players in the tournament. M/A have no size, but they'll also have problems with quick wing players on defense. On offense, whoever is supposed to be guarding Blalock will actually guard Johnson, who isn't good enough to fight through double teams consistently. As long as defenders stay home on Jones and Fisher, they'll be harmless.

Indiana have no point guard and they're going to try to play three post players at once. It might actually work out, because Randolph likes to play down low, while Miller prefers the high post, and Henderson is a terrible offensive player so it doesn't matter if he gets touches where he likes it. One problem is that Bonzi also prefers the low block, and Jeffries can't shoot. No one on this team can shoot, actually: Randolph, almost certainly for the first time in his life, leads his team in three point percentage. Anyone who plays them will play zone (well, as much zone as the NBA allows). The simulator isn't going to know how to deal with this team. Bonus: Bonzi and Zach are among the league's finest sulkers and pouters. Defensively, they'll struggle to defend quick point guards, but Henderson is a solid post defender and Wells and Jeffries excellent wing defenders. Randolph, of course, is famously terrible.

Team: Arkansas/Massachusetts
Wins: 5
PPG: 70.75
RPG: 15.86
APG: 15.49
TPG: 16.7

Team: Indiana
Wins: 995
PPG: 100.05
RPG: 76.29
APG: 18.24
TPG: 24.36

There's no way that the matchup is this lopsided. This is a problem with the simulation: it's designed for teams that have the basic composition of an average NBA team and these teams don't have that composition. One of these teams is playing three guards, a wing forward, and an undersized power forward, and the other is playing two wing guys and three post players. The simulation overvalues the size of Indiana against the quickness of M/A. So, we should basically toss out the wins and losses and look at matchups and statistics. A key to the game is: who has the advantage on offense, the undersized team or the team with no ballhandlers? When M/A have the ball, they'll be able to easily get down the floor into their offense. If I were Indiana, I'd play a triangle and two (or however close to that they could get without violating the NBA rules). Have Jeffries and Wells chase Johnson and Fisher, and put the big guys in the zone. The reason is that there's no way that the post guys can match up with all of M/A's perimeter players, and you can't play a 2/3 or a 1/3/1 because then the shooters for M/A kill you. This way, Indiana can harass M/A's best offensive players with excellent individual defenders and hide the lack of quickness of the big guys. The problem is Fred Jones: he's going to get a ton of open looks this way, and if he knocks them down, it could be a long night for Indiana. Jones shoots three pointers at about 30%; that's a sort of awful number, but it will surely go up with as many open shots as he'll see. Another weakness is Williamson: he's comfortable shooting from fifteen feet and there will be holes in the zone that he can exploit.
When Indiana has the ball, M/A must press full court after every made basket. Indiana has no one who is even an average ball handler, and they are all very slow-footed. Full court pressure from M/A's quickness will force many turnovers and create easy baskets--many more than the simulation knows about, since it doesn't consider defense. M/A should vary their halfcourt defense, playing mostly an aggressive ballhawking and trapping man to man, to attempt to force bad decisions from Indiana's ballhandlers and more turnovers, but they should sometimes fall back into a zone, to bait Indiana's lousy jump shooters into taking bad shots. Once Indiana gets the ball into the post, it's basically all over: it will be a parade of dunks and free throws for Indiana's bigs over M/A's tiny defenders. M/A should double team as often as possible when the ball arrives into the post, because no one on the Indiana side has a reliable jump shot save Brad Miller, and it's difficult to score against a post double team, even when the defenders are undersized. It would take a heady commitment and all out effort by all five M/A guys to make this work, and probably an outstanding defensive coach as well.
I'll be honest: I have no idea who would win this game. When in doubt, go with the big guys. Indiana is the pick.

Indiana next plays on 4/2 against Southern California.
Tomorrow: #11 Georgia vs. #22 Wisconsin.
Full Bracket Here.

Monday, March 17, 2008

#3 Southern California vs. #30 Iowa/Wyoming

#3 Southern California
G Andre Miller G Baron Davis F RIchard Jefferson F Craig Smith C Jason Collins

#30 Iowa/Wyoming
G Kirk Hinrich G Adam Morrison F Nick Collison F Raef LaFrentz C Patrick O'Bryant

SoCal has some weapons, but I'd say that the team is a bit disappointing for the #3 seed. First, Miller and Davis don't fit well together in the backcourt. They both need to dominate the ball to be effective; Davis is much better creating his own shot than he is spotting up, while Miller isn't much of a shooter at all. Jefferson has had some injury problems and seems like he's lost a step or two from his peak; he's not a top shelf shooter either. Things are worse in the frontcourt. Smith is a high energy player, but he'll never be a star or even someone you're happy starting since he is undersized. Collins is perhaps the worst offense player in the NBA. He's in the league for his defense, obviously, but even that has taken a step back in recent years. I worry that this team will play too much one on one with Davis and Jefferson, with Smith and Collins cleaning up the garbage--but that leaves MIller to stand in the corner and miss a bunch of jumpers. So, they could give Miller the ball and let him get into the lane and draw fouls and create shots for others--but are Smith and Collins going to finish easy opportunities? Is Baron going to be happy standing around on the perimeter. This team just doesn't seem to hang together very nicely.

Iowa/Wyoming aren't good enough to challenge them, probably. Hinrich has totally collapsed this year, but last year he was a strong defensive point guard with a decent jump shot. Morrison was very, very bad last year. He did not shoot the ball well, his defense was pitiful and he rebounded like a point guard. Collison and LaFrentz are at opposite ends of the tall slow soft jump shooting white guy career path. O'Bryant is very big and very raw and can't get on the court. This another low seeded team that will be forced to launch many bad jumpers because they don't have anyone who can play offense in the post or get to the rim. At least these guys rebound a bit better than Oregon...

Team: SoCal
Wins: 592
PPG: 85.78
RPG: 48.19
APG: 19.64
TPG: 19.48

Team: Iowa/Wyoming
Wins: 408
PPG: 82.591
RPG: 51.38
APG: 13.64
TPG: 17.79

This turned out to be a lot closer than I would have guessed. SoCal shot much better on two point attempts, but slightly worse from three point, were slightly outrebounded, and committed a few more turnovers per game. Though they attempted more free throws, Iowa/Wyoming shot a better percentage. I think that the simulation understates the advantage for SoCal. When they are on offense, who guards Jefferson? Morrison is terrible, and Collison and LaFrentz are lousy and too big. Hinrich matches up ok with Davis, but then who guards Miller? It has to be Morrison, since he at least has a chance to stay in front of him, but that leaves Nick Collison trying to guard Jefferson, and that isn't going to work. Look for a steady stream of isolations for Jefferson, with Iowa/Wyoming being forced to double team constantly. On their offense, Iowa/Wyoming won't be able to take advantage of Jefferson because LaFrentz isn't a strong post player, and Collison and O'Bryant can be handled by Smith and Collins. This is a solid win for Southern California.

Southern California next play 4/2.
Tomorrow: #14 Massachusetts/Arkansas vs. #19 Indiana
Full Bracket Here.

#4 Northern California vs. #29 Oregon

Before I get to the contest, a few administrative issues: 1) This contest was supposed to be played on Friday, but I had a laptop power adapter failure that left me computerless for the weekend. I'll post Monday's contest later tonight. 2) Everyone in America is using to create NCAA tournament brackets this week, it seems, and their servers are overwhelmed, so you might have trouble loading the full bracket in the near term. I expect things to be very busy until the tournament starts on Thursday, and hopefully things will settle down. I might have trouble loading the full bracket myself, so if you do get it loaded, I might not have been able to update it. If anyone has a possible different hosting solution for the bracket, suggestions are hereby solicited.

#4 Northern California
G Jason Kidd G Paul Pierce F Ray Allen F Drew Gooden C Tyson Chandler

A strong team that should be a contender for an overall title. Kidd is a future Hall of Famer whose play has declined considerably this year, but since I'm using last years stats for the simulation, that won't hurt the team. Pierce and Allen complement each other nicely, just like they do in real life on the Celtic wing. Both are perennial All-Stars who will have borderline Hall of Fame cases. Gooden is a solid fourth offensive option, who has a nice jump shot to eighteen feet and can be effective on the block; I'm really sorry that the Cavs traded him. Chandler is strong and athletic, with a weaker jump shot but excellent post defense and toughness. This might be the best rebounding team in the tournament: Gooden and Chandler are each excellent, Kidd has long been one of the best rebounding guards in basketball, and Pierce and Allen are adequate. This will be a running team, since every player is a superior athlete for their position and no one runs the fast break like Kidd. But they'll still have a lot of ways to hurt you: pick and roll with some combination of Kidd/Pierce and Gooden/Chandler; Pierce and Gooden on isolations; Pierce or Gooden or Kidd in the post. They'd be really fun to watch.

#29 Oregon
G Damon Stoudamire G Ronnie Brewer G Salim Stoudamire F Luke Jackson F Ime Udoka

This team doesn't have any post players; this is a terrible matchup for them. Damon is on the downside of what has been a surprisingly long and adequate career for a short point guard. Brewer has good size and strength for his position; he's more of a scorer than a shooter, but he's probably not up to carrying the load for this offense. Stoudamire has been in and out of the rotation in Atlanta. He's the sort of player that does everything sort of ok, but most teams prefer players on the bench who have an exceptional skill. Jackson is a bust who has fallen out of the league. Udoka has had some bursts of quality play with the Spurs, who need to get younger, but he's not a top shelf ball handler or athlete and is basically a three point specialists. With five guys who want to play on the perimeter, it's hard to know how the offense will work. Jackson is tall but soft and prefers shooting threes; the coach will have to make him play down low, along with Brewer, who is tough but severely undersized. They're going to be jacking up a bunch of contested three pointers (each player save Brewer has a two point rate of around 60%) and they're not tall enough to rebound the misses

Team: Northern California
Wins: 990
PPG: 112.72
RPG: 78.78
APG: 21.95
TPG: 20.618

Team: Oregon
Wins: 10
PPG: 78.7
RPG: 18.13
APG: 16.35
TPG: 12.737

It's the biggest blowout so far, says the software. Basketball rule of thumb: if you outrebound the other team by 60, you're probably going to win. It's all about the incredible size advantage that Northern California has at every position: Northern California goes 6'4", 6'6", 6'7", 6'9", 7'. Oregon goes 5'11", 6'1", 6'5", 6'7", 6'10". The simulation might overstate the California advantage a little bit, since Gooden and Chandler will have to try to guard a perimeter players at the defensive end, and that might turn out badly. But it can't turn out nearly as badly as at the other end, where Jackson and someone small will just get endlessly dunked on by the California bigs. That's before we even mention the five inch advantage that Kidd and Allen will have on whoever tries to guard them. When matchups like these actually happen on the court, everyone on the offense clears out to the other side while the little guy playing defense screams for help and then either fouls or gives up an easy basket; you see it once or twice a game. Northern California has that kind of advantage at four positions. This one wouldn't be too fun to watch.

Northern California next plays on 4/1 against #13 New Jersey.
Later today: #3 Southern California vs. #30 Iowa/Wyoming.
Full Bracket Here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

#13 New Jersey vs. #20 Tennessee

#13 New Jersey
G Brevin Knight G Mike Bibby G J.R. Smith F Troy Murphy C Shaquille O'Neal

#20 Tennessee
G J.J. Redick G Rodney Carney F Shawne Williams F Lorenzen Wright C David Harrison

Jersey has sort of a strange team. They've got Andrew Bynum on the bench; if I was using this year's statistics instead of last years, he'd be starting. Knight and Bibby have both slipped; Knight from solid starter to end of the bench guy, and Bibby from borderline All-Star to solid starter. Smith continues to be a talented enigma as his offcourt troubles and dysfunctional relationship with George Karl slide him up and down the Denver depth chart from game to game. Troy Murphy has one of the most ungainly jump shots in the league; it kind of looks like a shot put coming off his hand and he way jumps forward instead of straight up, but he's very effective with it. Shaq was actually very good last year when he was healthy-he just wasn't healthy all that often. The offense will consist in throwing it to Shaq while the other four guys stand around and wait to shoot a jump shot. Not too exciting, but it could be effective.

Tennessee is missing a point guard; Jersey has an extra one; perhaps they could work something out. As it stands, Redick can't really run an NBA offense, and Carney and Williams are poor ballhandlers. This team should commit tons of turnovers. Williams and Carney are athletes in search of jump shots and basketball intelligence. It's hard to believe that Lorenzen Wright is still in the league, isn't it? You can't teach size. Harrison has struggled with drugs and inconsistent effort and has been buried on the Pacer bench for most of this season. There's no star power for Tennesse, and no one really in their prime: Wright is just about done and the other guys are very young. It's hard to figure out how this team will score. Nobody on the wing can get his own shot regularly. Maybe they can try posting up Harrison? He's shown flashes of talent on the block in the past.

Team: New Jersey
Wins: 700
PPG: 97.25
RPG: 45.83
APG: 21.88
TPG: 15.86

Team: Tennessee
Wins: 300
PPG: 89.517
RPG: 48.51
APG: 11.235
TPG: 20.643

New Jersey has a solid lead in the simulation. Check out that assist to turnover ratio for Tennessee; there's really no one getting easy baskets for anyone else and even that number is understated because the simulation doesn't know that one of these guys has to try to run the offense. Bibby has to try to guard Carney; that's a size advantage, but I'm not sure that Carney is talented enough to get a significant edge-especially in the post. Shaq is a nightmare matchup for Harrison; too much size and strength, and Harrison doesn't have the quickness to take advantage. Even a 75% Shaq should be enough here. Big advantages at every position on offense for New Jersey. Redick will probably try to guard Knight, but he's nowhere near quick enough. Smith and Bibby should be mostly neutralized by the length and quickness of Williams and Carney, but Murphy is a big problem for Wright because Murphy loves to hang out on the perimeter. It's hard to know what Shaq does against Harrison; healthy, motivated Shaq kills him, but we don't see that guy too often anymore. I was surprised by the Tennessee rebounding advantage; looking more closely at the numbers, it turns out that both Bibby and Smith are terrible rebounders for their size and position, and that isn't compensated for by the averageness of the other players. That's going to hurt New Jersey going forward, most likely, but not today.

New Jersey plays next on 4/1
Tomorrow: #4 Northern California vs. #29 Oregon
Full Bracket Here.