Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Saturday Quickness, aka 15 for 16

The most impressive stat from yesterday was minutes played:

Kyle: 24
Nolan: 24
Miles: 22
Mason: 22
Seth: 21
Andre: 20
Kyrie: 20
Ryan: 17

Nice work by Coach K.

Hampton was a really, really poor team. Judging by how the other 16 seeds (Boston U., UNC-A, UT-SA) sorta kinda hung around for a little while, Hampton was probably the worst team in the tournament. I wrote yesterday that it would surprise me if they broke 55, but I was giving them too much credit; 45 should have been my number.

All of which was to be expected. Their offensive metrics were terrible, and on top of that they came out nervous. So while it would be nice to rave about this or that aspect of the game, the main takeaway is that our players got a nice break. By holding everyone under 25 minutes, Coach K assured that we'll be at least a little fresh for Michigan.

For what it's worth, our chances of winning were 100% at about the 11-minute mark. That has to be some kind of record, right?

So, how about Kyrie?

As was to be expected by anyone with a realistic mind (a trait I briefly jettisoned in the excitement before the game), he looked pretty rusty in the first half. Things got better in the second half, and he even dropped a couple threes in the last two minutes. He ended with 14 points, 4 boards, an assist, 2 steals, and 2 turnovers. With his 2-2 performance from 3, he's now 16-33 on the year.

I'm actually really curious to hear everybody's take, so please leave a comment. My feeling, from what I saw, is that he's lacking a little game quickness. It would be ridiculous to expect the Kyrie of old to return immediately, but didn't it look like he was limping in the first half, or at least treating things a little tentatively? Sound off.

Last, a personal story. I've always wanted to go 16-for-16 on the opening Thursday or Friday in March Madness. Hitting all 32 games is almost totally unrealistic (doesn't like one entry manage the feat every year?), but 16-16 is a feat that's simultaneously unbelievable and marginally possible. People have done it before.

I think 13 was my previous high. Yesterday, things started to fall the right way. Texas and George Mason pulled out close ones, Michigan killed Tennnessee, and Notre Dame beat the hell out of Akron. 4-for-4. Then the Dukies won, FSU rode a stifling defense to an "upset" of A&M, Arizona squeaked by Memphis and OSU rolled. 8-for-8. Night came, and Kansas, UNC, and Purdue all won fairly easily. Marquette did their part with another predictable "upset" of Xavier. 12-for-12. At this point, going into the late games, it was starting to look very real. Illinois got off to a wonderful start against UNLV, and pretty soon it looked like I could put that one in the bag. Washington came out cold, but by the second half it seemed clear that they'd run Georgia off the floor and win by at least ten. Syracuse flirted with Indiana State, the way Syracuse flirts with a lot of bad teams, all the while holding at least a 6-point lead. 15-for-15.

That just left Georgetown. When I picked them to advance, I cynically chose to believe that they'd be playing USC. VCU sucks, right? Everyone's pissed that they made the tournament, so they must be terrible. When they managed to win their First Four game in Dayton (and by "managed to win" I mean "kicked the hell out of USC"), I didn't even bother looking at the stats; Georgetown would still send them home packing.

If I had gone to the numbers, nothing would have changed my mind. The 109th-ranked defense in the country? Losses in 5 of their last 8? 307th in the country at giving up offensive boards? 242nd at defending the two?

Georgetown, cut and dried. Instead, this happened:

Is that free throw rate a joke? Un-friggin-believable. Georgetown got whistled for 26 personal fouls to VCU's 16. The winners attempted 39 free throws. During the year, they were 169th in Division 1 at getting to the foul line. I mean, what happened?

My guess (I was watching Washington-Georgia, so maybe someone can fill me in if I'm wrong): Georgetown always stinks in the tournament, and they're particularly vulnerable to a phenomenon that seems to hurt Big East teams in the early rounds. After playing a physical brand of basketball that's all but de rigueur in conference, they enter the tournament unable to adjust if they get more proactive referees. Once the zebras establish that the shoving and grinding so common in the nation's best conference won't fly, teams like Georgetown find themselves at sea.

Just a guess, but we saw that a lot last year when the Big East had a terrible time in the first two rounds. And so the dream of 16-16 dies for another year. GAH.

Okay, that'll do for me. I'm out to buy some deck chairs. Let me know what you thought of Kyrie, and enjoy today's games.




  1. I don't think Kyrie was limping in the first half, but I think he was a little tentative and may have been favoring the right foot some, particularly (I think) on that charge. In the second half, this no longer seemed to be an issue.

  2. Kyrie looked like a teenager that was coming off a major injury. Basically he looked a little scared and a little hesitant. However, I thought once he got into groove he started to show glimpses. Those two threes at the end looked to be a big lift to his confidence. Can't wait to see what he does Sunday

  3. I'm not so sure that chart represents "win probability", since it doesn't make sense for our win probability to be ~0% at the outset.

  4. He was nervous at first, but by the end of the game he was clearly having fun. Plus, he didn't even get to show off his skills with the A team -- he had the B team for most of the game. I think he is back, and our next five (*please let us have five more games*) opponents should be peeing their pants right now. So exciting!!!

  5. re: georgetown
    My opinion is that, contrary to popular belief, the big east as a whole is never actually good. They have one or two really good teams like any other conference and then mediocre teams and bad teams. However, the difference is the big east usually has 6 (this year only 5) TERRIBLE teams that provide about 8 free wins for all of the rest of the teams in the conference. The mediocre teams manage to go .500 against the other medicore teams and the elite teams lose a couple. What you're left with is 11 teams that have 13 joke non-conference wins and 8 joke in-concerence wins. I could be completely wrong on this one, but the big east should never get more than half of their teams in the tournament.

  6. Sean, that sounds pretty logical. I mean, at the very least, their tourney performance usually does nothing to back up the ridiculous hype the conference gets every year. It's not like this is SEC football, where they always in the BCS championship and somewhat justify the hype.

    Emmett, good call, misnomer by me and I'm changing it in the post. That dotted line is called "Duke lead safe" at statsheet. Meaning, our chances of winning were 100% at the 11-minute mark. My B.

    Tim, agreed. I've had two sprained ankles playing basketball, and it's always a little scary the first couple times back. You've got that injury in your mind and it limits your play. Of course, I'm sure Kyrie has a better capacity to get over that fear quickly than a rank amateur like myself.

    NotAnon, just wanted to say I like your comment name.


  7. The Hoya' what can I say? I took a chance on them in the brackets even though this is a Hoya team which hadn't won a game in exactly 1 month, and boy did I get burned with fire on that one.

    They were the only team that I lost into my sweet 16 yesterday. Cris Wright shot like his hand was still broken, and VCU, the team everyone was claiming shouldn't even be there shot 12-25 from beyond the arc! WTF! It was even worse than that because that number counts the wild ones they threw up when they were up by 20.

    This won't be bad for my brackets if VCU also manages to beat Purdue too, but that would be a miracle worthy of beatification.


  8. check out the chance of duke winning on kenpom

  9. I'm not worried about Kyrie on offense, but Kyrie on defense? He got beat a few times off the dribble (!), got caught up in screens, was late closing out on several (made) threes...did anyone else see this or am I crazy?


  10. The defense was what bothered me the most too. Hopefully that will come around as his conditioning does (though truth be told, he was prone to defensive lapses even before the injury).

  11. The Big East gets the hype of being the "Best Conference" for one simple reason: they are huge. If you tell the people from that conference how amazing they are, they are more likely to watch games. More viewers, better ratings, more money. Plus the Big East doesn't have built in draws like a lot of the other conferences. No one gets excited about U Conn playing Syracuse the same way they do for Duke v. UNC, Michigan v. OSU, or Kansas v. Texas/OU/Kansas State. So you need this "Best Conference" crap a lot more in the Big East than in the other big conferences.

    Maybe I am just overly cynical though.

  12. Kyrie's biggest two ways to help this team are on offense.

    First, he penetrates better than anyone on the offense to Nolan, who has improved tremendously, but Kyrie has a quicker first step and can finishes with more layups than floaters, which helps draw defenders and led to Plumlee's good early season performance. Even his charge in the first half was a good sign, I thought, as he beat the initial defender and showed the initiative to drive.

    Second he can really push the pace on the break. Hampton didn't allow much of that, not crashing the offensive boards, but there were certainly a couple of breaks that he led and finished. He will not be the shut down defender he could have been, but that's not what Duke needs. Instead, they need someone who can create offense when(if) the 3s aren't falling. I think he can serve a small role that is exactly what they need...maybe after two weeks of practice it will be more, but now that should be more than enough.

  13. Andy, that seems like a pretty good summation. And you're completely right about his penetrating abilities. Much as we love Nolan, even he doesn't compare to Kyrie. I really think Kyrie would've been in the NPOY top 3 if he'd stayed healthy.

    And you're right, we should take any alternative we have to chucking threes when things aren't going well. Kyrie is a pretty great alternative.

    Forrest, that's an interesting theory. They do have teams in the major metropolitan markets, and ESPN has a lock on the Big East like they don't have on the ACC (Fox Sports) or some of the other leagues. It's not as crazy as it sounds.


  14. haha loved the pic. its my new background.

    as for the game. kyrie looked pretty good after the last 10 minutes or so he played. I still want to see how he does playing with Nolan.

  15. Kyrie reminded me of a QB coming off a big knee injury. They always seem jumpy in the pocket at the first sign of pass rush, make a couple bad reads and seem content to hand the ball off a few times. Once they take that first big hit and pop right back up, their competitiveness starts to take back over.

    To me, I think Kyrie's best play was getting that long rebound, streaking down court and blowing past 3 defenders to finish at the rim.

  16. We should have a chat for this game again!