Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Conference Calling: America East

With conference play getting underway, it's a fine time to start looking at individual leagues and handicapping how the teams may stack up by the time their conference tournaments get started. Alphabetical order dictates that we start with the America East.

  • Last things first: Apologies to UMBC, Binghamton, and Hartford, but your teams appear likely to serve as speed bumps in what is not exactly a highway-speed league to begin with. A combined 1-31 record against schedules ranking around the 290's doesn't hold much promise. If credit must be given, it should go to the Hawks for keeping their last three losses inside single digits. Hartford also has five freshmen among its top seven scorers, accounting for two-thirds of the team's output. One of those, Nate Sikma, tried his best to singlehandedly beat Marist, going for 23-8-2-3-2 before fouling out in the dying minutes. So, Hartford, perhaps we'll see you next year?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Rugged Roads: The 10 Roughest Non-Conference Schedule

Part of the beauty of college basketball, especially when compared to college football, is the ability for teams to schedule heavyweight non-conference opponents. While football teams try to protect their undefeated records by trucking in FCS opponents with little shot of pulling the upset, basketball's royalty routinely face off before getting into the meat of their conference schedules.

Scheduling major opponents can enhance any team's credibility with the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, and a few huge wins can rescue a team that gets upset in its conference tournament. Each year, a few teams step up and prove that they're not afraid to hunt big game.

These 10 teams will have tremendous tournament resumes...if they can survive their early-season meat grinders.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Starting Five: All-Americans, Walk-Ons, and RIPs

At least a couple of times a week, you can look forward to TBI producing the Starting Five, links to five stories that catch the eye and beg for comment. We start this week with a melancholy moment for a player already struggling to work himself back into game shape.

1. Kevin Parrom's Mother Passes Away
Arizona swingman Kevin Parrom already had his own rehabilitation from gunshot wounds to worry about. At the same time, his mother was "in the final stages" of her fight with cancer. Sunday night, Lisa Williams lost that battle.

Parrom was home in New York to visit her when he was shot last month. The last time he saw her was when he went back to the Bronx to identify the shooting suspect and meet with a grand jury.

Combining this and his rehab, many of us might be inclined to take a season off. Unfortunately, Parrom might not have much choice in the matter. That brings us to number 2, and other on-court stuff after the jump.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Joey Brackets' "Best Conference": Is Big 12 Just Top-Heavy?

Last month, Joe "Joey Brackets" Lunardi made an argument that the Big 12 was, in fact, college basketball's best conference. It's an Insider piece, so if you're not slipping the WWL some money, just take my word for it.

Lunardi based his arguments on five-year RPI averages, 10-year averages of NCAA bids by conference, and NCAA win averages and winning percentages.

While the ACC had the best five-year RPI average, the Big 12 topped the charts in NCAA bids, NCAA wins, NCAA winning percentage, and percentage of possible NCAA bids. However, there are a few caveats.

Joey went ahead and applied the results of Conference Roulette 2011, such as Texas A&M to the SEC, Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC, and Colorado and Utah shipping out to make the Pac-10 into the Pac-12. I'll go one step further and add TCU to the Big 12, although they make absolutely no difference in the numbers, having not been to the tourney since the Billy Tubbs era. (However, the Big East's latest round of invitations are not included in my data.)

For me, though, the biggest red flag came when Lunardi named the six schools that have been in each of the last 10 NCAA tournaments: Duke, Pitt, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Kansas, and Texas. Two from the Big Ten, two from the Big 12, and two from the "new" ACC.

So, here's the question: is the Big 12 really tops in college basketball, or is it simply being propped up by the consistent success of the Jayhawks and the Longhorns?

This experiment will cut the heads off the snakes, so to speak. Take out each conference's top two NCAA Tournament performers and examine which conferences spread out the production, and which ones are dominated by two powerhouse programs.

Read the figures after the jump.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Welcome to the Back Iron

It's a somewhat depressing time to be a college basketball fan.

There's the NBA forcing players to come to school that have no interest in staying beyond one year (and usually, no interest in winning a championship as a result). There's the football-driven realignment apocalypse that has threatened teams with ludicrous road trips like Piscataway, New Jersey to Fort Worth, Texas to Tampa, Florida. There are technological advances that allow coaches to keep toeing the line of acceptable and unacceptable contact with recruits, occasionally at the coach's own peril.

But, at the end of it all, there's March.

There are games that matter.

There's an event that allows for the possibility (slim though it may be in many cases) of every team in the country being part of the action and a potential national champion. This stands in stark contrast to football, whose system mandates that half of its teams are already wasting their time before the season even begins.

Even the vehement debates over who got left out of the NCAA Tournament add to the fun of the event, unless it's your team that got snubbed (it's okay, Blacksburg, your day will someday come).

So, I inaugurate this new blog with the hope that I can entertain college basketball fans and remind them that their pleas for sanity in college sports are not being completely drowned out by the drunken yahoos camping outside the football stadium.

Let's talk some roundball.