What is going on recently? Top 25 teams over the last couple of weeks have been anything but safe, with nine ranked teams falling this weekend alone. It’s been fun, though. Last year, the whole concept of “parity” really dominated the landscape of college hoops, from beginning to end of the season. It hasn’t really been like that for this entire season, but the last couple weeks have been a friendly reminder that it certainly still exists. And I love it. But that may just be because I like to watch the world burn. An added bonus: this unpredictability means that brackets will be super wide-ranging, which I guess goes without saying, but I love to look at other people’s brackets and think “mine is so much better.” Until it isn’t. But I digress. It’s mail time!
“What is your take on the VCU vs. St. Bonaventure ending?” –Trevor Deimel
Shout out to Doug Brooks. Doug, I hope you’re reading, because you should be a VCU legend. So basically, Matt Mobley (baller) hits a 3-pointer to take a 1-point lead with .4 seconds left. Following the shot, St. Bonaventure players and students ran onto the floor in celebration as the ball rolled into the corner. But the game wasn’t over! There were still .4 seconds on the clock! It was then that Doug Brooks, the hero of our story, ran over and grabbed the ball to inbound it to Jonathan Williams, who took an errant three-quarter court heave that didn’t go in, but it didn’t matter. Brooks then ran over to the scorers’ table immediately after the last shot to plead his case, and thank goodness he did. Because the game wasn’t over, and because Brooks wisely grabbed the ball to continue play, the fact that the Bonnies’ bench had ran on to the court constitutes a technical foul. Craziness. If the St. Bonaventure students want to be mad at anyone, they can be mad at the officials, who seemingly made no effort to corral the players or fans, nor to signal that the game was still on. In the craziness, there wasn’t much they could do, but they certainly can’t just stand idly by. So I guess if you’re looking for a take, I think that the technical was legitimate and VCU definitely won the game in overtime, and it’s a crushing loss for the Bonnies.
“Is Louisville up there with Gonzaga as the team to beat?” – Brett Siegel
Absolutely. Last night’s showing against Virginia aside (the Cardinals were missing two of their most important players), Louisville has been one of the more consistently impressive teams. Their success starts with their defense, as it does with most Rick Pitino-coached teams. It’s the best defense in college basketball. You want to know why? Well, dear reader, I will tell you. The Cards are loaded with skilled athletes with high basketball IQs, which allows Ricky P to switch up his defense seamlessly, based on the situation. A team like Press Virginia thrives in their press by making teams play out of control, but if teams solve that press, the ‘Eers’ defensive game plan is shot. Louisville can also force teams into chaos with a press that makes them uncomfortable, but they can also press teams to slow them down in the full court and work extremely hard to find an open shot. In the half court, they have a suffocating 2-3 zone and an efficient man-to-man. Lots of teams can play a variety of defenses to match up with the opposition, but Louisville does all of them so well that makes them so scary. The problem is their offense can go cold, as evidenced by their opening stretch in the second half last night. If they get matched up with a tough defense in the NCAA tournament, they’ll need to rely on their own defense to keep them in the game. But I certainly think they can. I also like to imagine that every team brings their A-game to the Big Dance, so a Louisville team at full strength that boasts Donovan Mitchell (15 ppg), Quentin Snider (12.1 ppg), Deng Adel (11.1 ppg) and a handful of other players that can get a bucket when they need it. If I had to give my Final Four right now, without a bracket to base it off of, Louisville would be pressing teams all the way to Phoenix.
“Do you think that home-court advantage in the NCAA is losing its value?” – Josh Chodor
This is a really interesting question. According to STATS (and this graphic courtesy of David Gardner at Sports Illustrated), it is. There really can’t be an exact answer, but here are a few reasons maybe as to why:
- Officiating: Referees are the most hated-upon people in the world, regardless of sport. Sometimes fairly so, but often it feels as though they have a bias towards one team, and that’s sometimes the home team. Before the benefit of replay, a ref was pretty easily swayed by a loud and aggressive home crowd in the case of a tough call. Nowadays, they have a ton of replay angles. The rules have also tightened up a lot over the last few years, so refs call a lot more fouls on both teams that aren’t close enough to be left up to a convincingly obnoxious student section.
- Technology: This tacks onto the replay factor some, as refs have a great replay technology (which they use a little too much if you ask me). Outside of officiating, there’s a lot better technology that helps coaches prepare for the team they are traveling to play, and a lot more metrics to be aware of. It makes scouting easier and faster, giving them more time to prepare.
- Talent: With recruiting juggernauts like Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, UNC, etc., that leaves their lower-tier conference foes with a severe lack of talent. They get dominated on their home floor at the hands of a traditional blue-blood. And because those teams are so bad (and I feel like more and more teams are becoming perennially bad as opposed to fluctuation), fans lose interest. It just seems to be a cycle. I don’t know, maybe that’s just because I go to the University of Missouri, where I see it happening first-hand.
So, yeah, home court advantage is statistically down, but who knows why? Those are just some theories I have. For all we know, home court winning percentages could jump way back up to the mid-60’s. It’s sort of an unexplainable idea because there are so many different factors. But it’s fun to think about.
“Are any ACC coaches in jeopardy of losing their jobs? If so, who and why?” – Josh Neighbors
I think there are a couple ACC coaches at risk of losing their job, Brad Brownell at Clemson and Jim Christian at Boston College. Brownell took Clemson to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in his first year there (2010-11), but since then, they’ve missed out on the Big Dance every year, and have only made the NIT once. He hasn’t been effective recruiting-wise either, so it seems to me it’s time for the Tigers to move on. Jim Christian should be on the hot seat, as he’s made the NCAA Tournament twice in the last 14 years, both times at Kent State. But, the Eagles seem to be pretty satisfied with mediocrity at the moment, so who knows what they’ll do. A name a lot of people have been throwing around is Mark Gottfried over at NC State. True, Gottfried is having a pretty disappointing season considering the talent he has on his roster. But given his track record, and his surprisingly good ability to recruit in the ACC, I think he’ll be around at least another year. In his five full seasons in Raleigh, he’s made the Dance four times, twice making the Sweet Sixteen. When you’re a part of Tobacco Road, you feel the pressure. I don’t think this is his last year, but he needs to break through the ceiling.
Fun Fact of the Week: In the last 25 seasons, 11 teams have made the NCAA Tournament 20 times: Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, UNC, UCLA, Louisville, Michigan State, Texas, Wisconsin, Arizona, and a team I talked about recently as a team to watch out for – Cincinnati.
Photos via ESPN, CBS Sports, and Associated Press