23 March 2012

Hear me

LTP: "I do think that you as members of the NU and specifically LTP community did have a voice [to fire Carmody] and it was heard leading up to this decision [to retain Carmody]."

LOL!  Maybe.  What's worse?  Being heard and told you're wrong or not being heard at all?

Either way we find it strange to pat oneself on the back!

Phillips: Carmody is still our guy

A good athletic director has the ability to coolly make decisions with the bigger picture in mind and untainted by emotion.  On Thursday Jim Phillips demonstrated his chops by making the right decision to retain Bill Carmody as Northwestern's coach.

Over recent weeks the media fanned the speculation flames over Carmody's future.  This speculation sped up Phillips' annual review process at the end of each sport's season and forced an unprecedented and impromptu press conference on Carmody's fate.  This is unfortunate.

It is one thing for fans and bloggers to openly speculate with only a loose grasp of the facts.  For the most part bloggers are not professionally trained and simply are avid followers of a specific topic, fans of Northwestern basketball in this case.  Fans are emotional, opinionated and oftentimes short-sighted and  irrational.  We here at Carmody Court do our best to keep our emotions in check and provide a rational outlook on NU Basketball, but we are fans at the end of the day and far from perfect.

But the media are professionals and make a living by providing the public with solid information and not rumor mill gossip.  The media would be wise to remember this when using message boards and blogs as sources for ideas at best and facts at worst.  We have seen a disturbing trend over the past few years as members of the media have implicitly (and even explicitly in some cases) sourced blogs and message boards for their articles.  This is unprofessional and lazy, and it can have unfortunate consequences such as yesterday's press conference. 

Enough of the media rant.  We are certain that it will fall upon deaf ears and the quality of journalism will continue its slow descent, but at least we have said our peace. 

Phillips struck the right tone in the press conference.  He said that NU had a solid season but that "no one" is satisfied.  That he decided to retain Carmody is a reflection of his belief, after a thorough review of the program, that the program is on the right track.  Damn straight Jim!

Carmody echoed much of what Jim said and spoke in more specifics.  First he spoke to how the program is drastically improved over where it has been historically.  Yep.  No doubt about that.

Then came the red meat tossed to the Fire Carmody crowd: program is in a position finally that it no longer uses internal benchmarks for measuring success but rather external ones.  Most people interpret the external benchmarks as making the NCAAs in the near term, and we agree with that.

Carmody then said that the caliber of players is improving and expects that trend to continue with the kids coming in and those still on the recruiting radar including local kids.  Yes!  Local kids are the long-term lifeline of this program, and it bodes well that recruiting continues to improve locally!

The media then asked a bunch of questions that really weren't all that informative save for the fact that Carmody's contract goes beyond 2012-13 and that TCU transfer Cerina is the best athlete on the team.

Kudos to Jim Phillips for not caving into pressure from the squeaky wheel types who want Carmody fired.  Based on polling results it appears that NU's fan base is split roughly down the middle but that outsiders are decidedly in Carmody's corner.  Time will show that you showed wisdom and foresight in your decision to retain Coach Carmody.

19 March 2012

WASHINGTON 76 Northwestern 55 (F)

Things looked promising for NU for about the first 10 minutes of the game.  NU's 1-3-1 defense flummoxed Washington and held them scoreless for 5 minutes while NU built a 17-9 lead.  From there the Huskies would score 23 points over the next 6 minutes to take a 32-23 lead.  Not coincidentally it was during this run that NU went away from the 1-3-1 defense and Washington's superior athletes took advantage.  NU switched back tot the 1-3-1 which again created another 4 minute dry spell for the Huskies, but NU only managed to close the game to 28-32 during that span.  By halftime Washington held a 39-32 lead.

The second half.  There is that.  Lots of bad things happened.  Not many good things.  Washington quickly built a 19 point lead by the 16 minute mark, and it was over.  It was a sad end to Johnny Shurna's career, but he did go out scoring in bunches (24 points) at least. It was too bad no one else joined him.

We wish Johnny well as he strives for the NBA.  It was a real pleasure to watch you play these past four years.  And we thank you for four winning seasons which hasn't happened in forever (if ever?) at Northwestern. Know that if and when NU makes the NCAAs in the near future you had a major hand in getting NU in position to make that leap.

NCAAs Recap: Round of 32 Edition

Conference Expected Actual
BE  Total (4-2) (4-2)
B1G  Total (5-0) (4-1)
B12  Total (3-2) (2-2)
ACC  Total (3-0) (2-1)
SEC  Total (1-2) (2-1)
MWC  Total (0-3) (0-2)
WCC  Total (0-2) (0-1)
MVC  Total (0-2) (0-1)
A10  Total (0-1) (1-1)
OVC  Total (0-1) (0-1)
CUSA  Total (0-1) (0-0)
MAC  Total (0-0) (1-0)
P12  Total (0-0) (0-1)
CAA  Total (0-0) (0-1)

Major conferences started to get dinged in the Round of 32.  #10 Purdue made up for Michigan's upset loss to Ohio in the Round of 64, but they weren't able to hold up the conference banner and fell just short of upsetting #2 Kansas.  The B12 continued to suffer the fallout of #2 Missouri's Round of 64 upset as neither of its #8 seeds Kansas St or Iowa St could get an upset over a #1 seed.  In the ACC #11 NC State upset #3 Georgetown to make up for #2 Duke's absence in the Round of 32, but #3 Florida St gave that conference another black eye (figuratively speaking but also possibly literally) in their loss to #6 Cincinnati. 

On the upside the SEC "outperformed" when #7 Florida ended #15 Norfolk St's Cinderella story.  Similarly the A10 continued to outperform with #10 Xavier ending  #15 Lehigh's NCAAs journey.  MAC Daddy #13 Ohio University is the lone low major still dancing after scoring a mild upset over #12 South Florida from the Big East. 

All in all when we look forward to the Sweet 16 teams we really don't see much of a storyline.  Much to our chagrin there were no Big Least type major conference flops this year.  There were a couple of headliner upsets in the Round of 64, but only Ohio University remains as the feel good story for this year's tournament.  The other surviving  lower seeds that have survived are from major conferences (NC State, Florida, Cincinnati) or the unlovable mid major gangsta X-Men whom no one in America outside of a segment of Cincinnati OH's residents care to see advance any further. We can't rally behind those teams. So...

We're all in for the Bobcats now!  #1 UNC is ripe for the upset with Marshall getting screwed (he had one inserted into an arm bone that he broke in their win over Creighton).

NCAAs Recap: Round of 64 Edition

Conference Expected Actual
BE  Total (6-3) (6-3)
B1G  Total (5-1) (5-1)
B12  Total (5-1) (4-2)
ACC  Total (3-2) (3-2)
MWC  Total (3-1) (2-2)
SEC  Total (3-1) (3-1)
A10  Total (1-3) (2-2)
WCC  Total (2-1) (1-2)
MVC  Total (2-0) (1-1)
CUSA  Total (1-1) (0-2)
P12  Total (0-2) (1-1)
OVC  Total (1-0) (1-0)
ASun  Total (0-1) (0-1)
BSky  Total (0-1) (0-1)
BW  Total (0-1) (0-1)
CAA  Total (0-1) (1-0)
Ivy  Total (0-1) (0-1)
MAAC  Total (0-1) (0-1)
MAC  Total (0-1) (1-0)
SC  Total (0-1) (0-1)
Sum  Total (0-1) (0-1)
WAC  Total (0-1) (0-1)

The Round of 64 was not kind to the mid majors.  There were 5 conferences that underperformed during the Round of 64, and 4 of them were mid-majors.  These were the MVC (#5 Wichita St), MWC (#6 UNLV), WCC (#7 St. Mary's), and CUSA (#8 Memphis).  The only major conference to underperform was a doozy: the B12 (#2 Missouri).

Three low-major conferences fared better than expected with the Patriot League's #15 Lehigh scoring the glorious upset over #2 Duke, the MEAC's #15 Norfolk St's lovely humiliation of #2 Missouri, and MAC Daddy #13 Ohio U taking down #4 Mighty Michigan.  Despite the A10's highest seed going down (#5 Temple) two lower seeds rallied to improve that mid major's stock (#9 St Louis and #10 Xavier).  The Pac12 was saved from complete humiliation when #11 Colorado defeated UNLV. 

Carmody Polls

The Trib, Wildcat Report, SoP, and LTP have binary polls on Carmody's future which essentially boil down to the following:  Fire him?  Yes or No.

The Trib has the most respondents (1750+ at the moment).  67% say keep him.

SoP had 207 respondents of which 60% said to keep him.  SoP, which is reluctantly in favor of firing him, has reissued the poll under the premise that the wording may have led to erroneous results.  About 200 respondents on the re-vote, and still 60% want to keep him.

LTP of course had been champing at the bit all season to preach from his bully pulpit that Carmody should be fired.  Not surprisingly like minds are attracted to that website and 2/3rd are in favor of firing Carmody.

Wildcat Report poll has 58% of respondents are in favor of keeping Carmody.

What to make of all this?  None of these polls are scientific, but we have to believe the Trib comes closest to the 30,000 foot view on Carmody given its broader readership. 

We find it completely unsurprising that LTP is quite negative.  Totally useless for benchmarking the broad view on Carmody since it is mostly comprised of squeaky wheel types. 

It's interesting to us that SoP which is a blog that is fairly balanced in tone on Carmody still is clearly in Carmody's corner despite the bloggers speaking out otherwise.  Perhaps a third vote is in order to get the results you want Roger?  We just messing with ya.  We know you just wanted to clear up any possible confusion on the first vote.

Our own poll finds that 100% of respondents are in favor of keeping Carmody.  This should carry the most weight of all with Dr Jim Phillips.  Obviously.

16 March 2012

Keeping Talking Heads Honest - 2012 NCAAs Edition

Every year the talking heads point to conference W-L records in the NCAAs to determine which conferences are under-performing or over-performing. Gross win totals for a conference are all well and good, but if you're talking relative to expectations, which is inferred by under- or over-performance then most of these folks fail to take into account expectations in said analysis.

Under the fair assumption that seeds were appropriate here is how conferences which have at least one projected first second round winner OR at least two bids are expected to perform during the second round (sorted by number of bids, then by number of wins):

BE  Total (6-3)
B1G  Total (5-1)
B12  Total (5-1)
ACC  Total (3-2)
MWC  Total (3-1)
SEC  Total (3-1)
A10  Total (1-3)
WCC  Total (2-1)
MVC  Total (2-0)
CUSA  Total (1-1)
P12  Total (0-2)
OVC  Total (1-0)

So there you have it. On Thursday there were just 2 upsets out of 16 games. The PAC12 had the humiliating expectation of having both of their teams losing in the first round, but Colorado defied the odds and defeated a pretty pathetic looking UNLV team.  For the other Thursday upset Shaka Smart did it again and took his 12 seeded VCU squad and took down pre-tourney mid major darling Wichita St out of the MVC. 

What will Friday have in store?  We hope for more upsets because Thursday was a snooze fest.  We'll give a recap after the first round results to discuss which conferences are over- and under-performing.

15 March 2012

NORTHWESTERN 76 Akron 74 (F)

That was bloody unnecessarily close!  This game was on the cusp of becoming a blowout with a couple of minutes to go in the first half and NU up 15 points.  It was at that point that Coach Carmody decided to finally take the wraps off the 1-3-1 defense.

Predictably Akron immediately turned the ball over, but Davide Curletti immediately passed the ball right back to an Akron player who spotted a teammate down low for an easy layup.  Instead of further deflating an already demoralized Akron squad with a turnover and easy NU hoop there was new life for the Zips.

NU continued with the 1-3-1 defense for the remainder of the half and caused more Zip confusion.  The Zips narrowly and luckily avoided turning the ball over several times and even converted their possessions into points.  By halftime the lead was just 8 points, but we felt good about NU's chances since the 1-3-1 looked like it would pay dividends.

Yeah.  Not so much.  Akron continued to walk the tightrope against the 1-3-1 early in the second half and in so doing built some confidence.  The Zips actually looked down right competent on a couple of possessions with their new found confidence.  Self doubt crept into the NU psyche.  NU began to fall in love with the three ball and began to miss often.  We are convinced the 1-3-1 would've paid more dividends if only NU believed in it, but due to the missed opportunities and lucky bounces for Akron it was shelved prematurely.

NU clung to a three point lead with under 15 seconds to play when NU elected to foul a Zip with just under 4 seconds to play rather than risk a Zip 3 pointer to send the game into OT.  The Zips knocked down the first free throw and then brilliantly quick shot the intentionally missed second free throw to catch NU off guard and gain better position for the rebound.  The ball was swatted out of bounds by Drew Crawford, and we could feel our stomach knotting up.   The Zips would get an open look at a three for the win at the buzzer but the shot was just off to the right.

Whew!  A feeling of relief washed over us, but it was intermingled with frustration over letting an overmatched Zip squad nearly win.  Somehow the old adage of "a win is a win" rings hollow even two days after the game ended.

Drew Crawford, JerShon Cobb, and Johnny Shurna scored all but seven of NU's 76 points.  Crawford and Cobb were especially efficient scoring 27 and 19 points on 15 and 10 attempts respectively.  Shurna had 23 points on 22 shots.

For the second straight game Dave Sobolewski had zero points.  He even missed a critical front end with 12 seconds to play to set up the game ending theatrics.  Reggie Hearn was able to get 4 points on some backdoor layups but he also continued his disappearing act of late.  Davide Curletti played some ok defense but was given a very short leash after his costly first half turnover. Alex Marcotullio's shot was off, but at least he created some havoc out there and got three steals.

Next up is a trip to Seattle for a game against Washington (22-10) on Friday night at 9pm Central.  The Huskies won the Pac-12 regular season title and are the most deserving team from that conference to make the NCAAs.  Instead the Pac12 is down to pinning their hopes on tourney champ Colorado after its other representative Cal was obliterated last night by South Florida over in Dayton.  But we digress.

The Huskies are an athletic and underachieving team.  They started out the season ranked #39 by kenpom but currently take up the #65 position.  They are not a particularly good shooting team but make up for that by crashing the offensive boards very hard and effectively.  We can already hear the whining from NU fans about the number of second chance points that Washington scored against NU.

The game will be a clash of tempos.  The Huskies like to play games with possessions close to 70 while NU is closer to the lower 60s.  NU will be well served to methodically go through the offense and drive the ball to the hoop where the Huskies have demonstrated a propensity to foul.  On defense NU can afford to sag in a bit until the Huskies shooters heat up.  Kenpom has Washington as a 3 point favorite with a 62% chance of winning.  NU has a chance of pulling the upset, but we're not feeling so optimistic about it.  Maybe it's Washington's long and athletic players.  Maybe it's a hangover from the Akron game.  Whatever the case we hope that we are wrong.

13 March 2012

Vegas Odds: Akron at NU

NU is favored to win by 6.5 points with an O/U of 141.5.  We're taking NU to cover and the over.

12 March 2012

Minnesota 75 Northwestern 68 (EF-OT)

We are sick and tired of typing "F-OT" with Northwestern (18-13) coming up on the short end of the stick.  It is not surprising that NU loses in OT with its short bench, but rationalization does not make us feel much better about the OT losses that have been piling up and, more to the point, have landed NU in the NIT yet again.  If it happens again we will first pull out all of our hair and hereafter call it "EF-OT" until the NCAAs-hex is lifted.  Never mind.  We like the idea so much that we're going to go ahead and make it rule starting now.  Mother ef'ing overtime!

Things looked promising when NU had the ball and a 61-57 lead with just under 4 minutes to play.  But from that point on NU simply did not execute on offense:

LAYUP MINN [61-59]
MINN LAYUP [61-61]
OT (EF!)

To sum up NU went 0-4 from the field and had 2 turnovers on its final 6 possessions.  It's a minor miracle that NU didn't lose in regulation with such an ugly stretch run, but Minnesota didn't take the bull by the horn themselves with two turnovers.

The most frustrating part of this whole sequence was the Sobo turnover.  Coach calls a timeout to setup a play, and you throw the ball right to a Minnesota defender on the inbounds pass?  Horrific decision.

Overtime was a blur.  All we can remember was JerShon Cobb booting the ball off his leg and out of bounds with less than a minute to play and NU down 3 points.  A microcosm of NU's season and poise down the stretch right there.

This post has turned out much harsher than we intended.  Pent up frustration over missing the NCAAs welling up to the surface.  That and I have some psychosomatic sickness from the fallout of the Thursday loss that has made me all achy and irritable. 

For balance we do feel compelled to say that JerShon Cobb had a breakout game.  24 points on 8-12 shooting including a perfect 3-3 from distance.  5-5 from charity stripe, 8 rebounds including 3 offensive, 2 steals.  Oh baby!  This is the JerShon we had hoped to see this year.  We lie -- this was above and beyond what we had hoped to see.  If Cobb can sustain even 3/4ths of this level we would be ecstatic.

Johnny Shurna was the other standout.  24 points, 3 boards, 2 blocks.  Marcotullio had a nice game we thought -- 2-4 from distance -- but he was limited by dizziness spells and could not play during the pivotal ending minutes of regulation.

Other than that it was a forgettable day for the rest of the team.  Sobo had one of his worst games of the year.  Ditto that for Crawford and Hearn.  We should credit Minnesota's defense since they definitely did a good job bothering this trio.  Still there were some ugly looking shots even on open looks.  'nuf said. 

Next up is a first round NIT game when the Akron Zips (22-11) visit the Welsh on Tuesday at 8pm.  We don't know anything about the Zips except that they won the regular season MAC title.  That doesn't impress us much since the MAC was always going to be a one-bid league this year.  NU will be favored in this game.  If nothing else NU has demonstrated an ability to take care of business against lower ranked teams (kenpom has Akron at 79 and NU at 58) -- especially at home.  So long as NU isn't hungover with disappointment then we expect NU to win this game.   

11 March 2012

Bubble Watch: March 11, 2011 Edition

Bracket Project has made our job easy and done our dirty work for us by showing just the 37 brackets with a March 11 update.

Last Four In (# of brackets out of 37):
NC State (34)
South Florida (28)
Seton Hall (27)
Drexel (21)

First Four Out
Mississippi St (15)
Washington (7)
Miami Fla (7)
NU (4)

Next Five Out
Iona (4)
Tennessee (2)
Marshall (1)
Dayton (1)
Oral Roberts (1)

Bubble Games Today:
Xavier vs St Bonnies: Xavier must win to prevent bid theft.

Things don't look good, but all hope is not lost.  Jerry Palm is our biggest advocate, and NU fans everywhere have been trying to rationalize his genius and demonize Joe Lunardi and his NU-pessimism.  We don't know about all that, but judging by last year's bracket matrix results three of the first four out made it into the field.

There is good reason to watch the Selection Show today.  How optimistic/guarded/pessimistic/whatever you want to be while watching is entirely a personal decision.  Let's just keep our fingers crossed for Dayton!

10 March 2012

Bubble Watch: March 10, 2012 Edition

Selection Sunday is tomorrow!  Bracket Project matrix was updated again late last night.  67 brackets listed with a March 9 date which forms the basis for our Watch List (13 teams).  It is safe to assume that many of these brackets do not incorporate all of the game results last night.  Since many bubble teams lost yesterday it is likely NU's position is better than what is shown below.

Watch List (# of brackets out of 67)
12 South Florida (53)
12 - Miami Fla (49)
12 Seton Hall (49)
13 Drexel (44)
13 Washington (39)
Mississippi St (32)
- Tennessee (24)
+ NC State (20) $
Iona (17)
NU (14)
- Dayton (13)
- Oregon (7)
+ Arizona (6) $

$ denotes game today
- denotes loss yesterday
+ denotes win yesterday

Yesterday's Bubble Games Recap
- NC State beat Virginia -- Could be a backbreaker for NU
- Tennessee lost --  Bye Vols!
- Miami Fla lost -- Bye 'Canes?
- Dayton lost -- Bye Flyers!
- Arizona won -- Need autobid most likely.
- Central Fla lost -- Bye CF!
- Long Beach St -- Won! Keep it up Fightin' Dan Monsons!
- Cal -- Lost!  Raises prospects for a criminal 3 Pac12 bids

Today's Bubble Games
Arizona (61%) vs Colorado -- Winner in; Loser may be in but hopefully not.
NC State (18%) vs North Carolina -- Go Heels!
Mississippi (25%) vs Vanderbilt  -- Go Commodores!
UCSB vs Long Beach State (68%) -- Go LBSU!  No bid thefts!

NU has about a 25%-35% shot of making the tourney based on collective wisdom.  NU is either 4th or 3rd out depending on how far Miami Fla has fallen.  We like our chances against Iona which gets NU to either 3rd or 2nd out.  We continue to be confused why S Florida and Miss St are outclassing NU.  NC State could drop if they lose to UNC.  Seton Hall is a no brainer below NU in our opinion, and Drexel could go either way.

It's going to be close, and we'll be sweating it on Selection Sunday.  For the first time.

09 March 2012

What went wrong last night

We can dig into the details until we're blue in the face, but it all boils down to one very basic problem:  NU played on ESPN2 and not ESPNU.

Bubble Watch: March 9, 2012 Edition

Thud!!!!  Brace yourselves for what you know is coming.  A loss to Minnesota last night has severely damaged NU's chances to make NCAAs.  It ain't over, but it is going to very important that many games fall NU's way tonight.  We're not above backing into Dayton so keep the dream alive!

Bracket Project matrix was updated again late last night.  29 brackets listed with a March 9 date which forms the basis for our Watch List (18 teams).

Watch List (# of brackets out of 29)
12 BYU (28) **
12 Xavier (27) $
12 Seton Hall (23) **
12 South Florida (22) **
12 Miami Fla (21) $
13 Washington (20) **
13 Drexel (15) **
Mississippi St (14) **
Tennessee (8) $
NU (6) **
NC State (5) $
Iona (5) **
Dayton (4) $
Mississippi (1) $
Oregon (1) **
Arizona (1) $
Central Fla (1) $

$ denotes game today
** denotes no more remaining games

Changes in Watch List
- California, Colorado St, Texas In
- Mississippi, Arizaona, Central Fla up to low bubble

Yesterday's Bubble Games Recap
- NU lost another heartbreaker.  Now out of the field for the first time in our bubble watches.
- Colorado St punched their ticket with a win over TCU
- Texas punched their ticket with a very nice win over Iowa St
- South Florida lost to ND in OT.  That OT loss is holding up better than NU's OT loss at least for now.
- Mississippi St lost bad game to Georgia but haven't been dinged as much as NU.
- Washington lost an ugly won to Oregon St but haven't been dinged as much as NU.
- Oregon suffered an ugly loss to Colorado.  They're NIT bound.
- Miami Fla beat a bad Georgia Tech team as expected.
- NC State took care of business against BC. 
- Cal won.

Today's Bubble Games (Bubble Team Win Probability %)

- NC State (36%) vs Virginia -- Wolfpack loss = NIT
- Mississippi (41%) vs Tennessee (59%) -- Vols loss = NIT and Ole Miss with work to do
- Miami Fla (45) vs Florida St --  Hurricane loss could not knock them below NU
- Dayton (50%) vs Xavier (50%) --  We'll toss the dice and hope that Xavier loss brings them down to NU's level and then Dayton loses next game (St Louis most likely) to knock them down to NU's level.
- Oregon St vs Arizona (62%) -- Wildcat loss = NIT
- Central Fla (11%) vs Memphis -- CF loss = NIT

Other Games of Interest Today
- Long Beach St (92%) vs UC Irvine -- No bid thefts is paramount.  We're all in on LBSU now.
- Cal -- we want them to win the Pac12.

08 March 2012

Bubble Watch: March 8, 2012 Edition


Bracket Project matrix was updated again last night.  61 brackets listed with a March 7 date which forms the basis for our Watch List (18 teams).

Watch List (# of brackets out of 61)
11 California (59) $
11 Washington (57) $
12 Colorado State (57) $
12 BYU (55) **
12 Mississippi St (48) $
12 Xavier (47)
12 South Florida (46) $
12 NU (46) $
13 Seton Hall (45) **
13 Texas (42) $
Miami Fla (33) $
Drexel (27) **
Oregon (13) $
Tennessee (9)
Iona (7) **
Dayton (5)
NC State (5) $
St Joseph's (4)

$ denotes game today
** denotes no more remaining games

Changes in Watch List
- Connecticut safely in
- Arizona down to NIT

Yesterday's Bubble Games Recap
- Connecticut defeated WVU.  Both teams unanimously in.
- Seton Hall lost to Louisville.  Top 50 RPI unlikely.  Might as well lost to Providence.
- South Florida beat Villanova.  Literally and figuratively.

Today's Bubble Games (Bubble Team Win Probability %)
Minnesota vs NU (52%) -- Go NU! Duh!
TCU vs Colorado St (66%) -- Go Ex-Cerinas!
Texas (51%) vs Iowa St -- Go Tornadoes!
South Florida (41%) vs Notre Dame -- Go Domers!
Georgia vs Mississippi St (62%)  -- Go UGAs!
Georgia Tech vs Miami Fla (73%) -- Go RPI 190 Ramblin' Wrecks!
Stanford vs California (65%) -- Go Trees!
Oregon St vs Washington (59%) -- Go POTUS BiLs!
Colorado vs Oregon (61%) --  Go Buffs!
Boston Coll vs N Carolina St (91%) -- Go Fluties!

Other Games of Interest Today
Marshall (52%) vs Tulsa  -- Want Tulsa to get into RPI Top 100.
Arkansas vs LSU (55%) -- Want LSU to keep RPI in Top 100.
Arizona vs UCLA (62%) -- Either way.  Just want winner to lose before Pac12 finals.
UC Davis vs Long Beach St (97%) -- Want LB St to lose in quarterfinals. Else win the Big West tourney.

GO U. NU!!
GO U. NU!!!
GO U. NU!!!!
GO U. NU!!!!!
GO U. NU!!!!!!
GO U. NU!!!!!!!
GO U. NU!!!!!!!!
GO U. NU!!!!!!!!!
GO U. NU!!!!!!!!!!

07 March 2012

Bubble Watch: March 7, 2012 Edition

Bracket Project matrix was updated again last night.  60 brackets listed with a March 6 date which forms the basis for our Watch List (20 teams).

Watch List (# of brackets out of 60)
11 Connecticut (59) $
11 California (58)
11 Washington (58)
12 BYU (56) **
12 Colorado State (56)
12 NU (51)
12 Mississippi St (48)
12 Xavier (45)
12 South Florida (44) $
13 Texas (43)
13 Seton Hall (36) $
Miami Fla (29)
Drexel (28) **
Oregon (12)
Tennessee (11)
Iona (8) **
Dayton (5)
St Joseph's (4)
NC State (3)
Arizona (1)

$ denotes game today
** denotes no more remaining games

Changes in Watch List
- None

Yesterday's Games Recap
- Harvard got the Ivy League berth since Princeton defeated Penn.  Good news!
- UConn and Seton Hall won first round Big East games as expected.
- St Joseph's and Dayton won first round Atlantic 10 games as expected.

Today's Games (Bubble Team Win Probability %)
- Connecticut (51%) vs West Virginia -- Both teams are pretty safe. A win locks it.
- Seton Hall (41%) vs Louisville -- We're torn.  If SH wins today and tomorrow (Marquette) then they will be Top 50 which is good for NU.  That would be ideal. 
- Villanova vs South Florida (54%) -- Go Wildcats!

06 March 2012

Bubble Watch: March 6, 2012 Edition

Bracket Project matrix was updated again as of this morning.  41 brackets listed with a March 6 date which forms the basis for our Watch List (20 teams).

Watch List (# of brackets out of 41)
11 Connecticut (40) $
11 California (39)
11 Washington (39)
12 BYU (38) **
12 Colorado State (38)
12 NU (34)
12 Mississippi St (32)
12 Texas (30)
13 South Florida (30)
13 Xavier (29)
13 Seton Hall (23) $
Drexel (21) **
Miami Fla (19)
Oregon (9)
Tennessee (9)
Iona (7) **
Dayton (5) $
St Joseph's (3) $
Arizona (1)
NC State (1)

$ denotes conf tourney game today
** no more remaining games

Changes in Watch List
- VCU in with automatic bid
- Drexel on bubble
- Connecticut and Colorado St back down on bubble

Yesterday's Games Recap
- VCU defeated Drexel.  VCU in with an automatic berth and Drexel is somewhere on bubble.  It is unclear as to where on bubble the Dragons have landed since data are affected by uncertainty of Colonial finals result.  We hope that SoP and others were correct that VCU was the desired winner. 
- Oral Roberts lost in semis and is NIT bound.
- We're hungover from our drinking game.  Rowley was all over the place, and there were mentions of NU and our NCAAs history.

Today's Games (Bubble Team Win Probability %)
Depaul vs Connecticut (79%) -- A Connecticut win puts them safely in
Providence vs Seton Hall (65%) -- The Hall is out with a loss
Pennsylvania at Princeton (73%) -- Harvard gets berth with Tiger win
Charlotte at St Joseph's (84%) -- Hawks need to go on a run
George Washington at Dayton (86%) -- Dayton needs to go on a run

05 March 2012

Bubble Watch: March 5, 2012 Edition

We can't tell you how impressed we are with the effort and devotion that Bracket Project has given to keeping its matrix up-to-date.  The matrix was updated yet again this morning with 29 brackets listed with a March 5 date.  We'll go with those 29 for our Watch List (18 teams).

Watch List (# of brackets out of 29)
11 California (28)
11 Washington (28)
11 BYU (27)
12 Mississippi St (26)
12 Xavier (23)
12 NU (22)
12 Seton Hall (21)
12 South Florida (21)
12 Texas (21)
VCU (15) $
Miami Fla (13)
Oregon (6)
Iona (4) **
Dayton (3)
Tennessee (3)
St Joseph's (2)
Arizona (1)
NC State (1)

$ denotes conf tourney game today
** no more remaining games

Changes in Watch List
- At least one bracketologist (Rivals) now sees Cal out of the field after losing yesterday to Stanford.
- Iona is now on low bubble after losing to Loyola-Maryland in the Metro Atlantic tourney semis.
- St Josephs is back on low bubble after some more bracketologist returns with some Hawk-love were updated since yesterday.

Yesterday's Games Recap
- Arizona lost an ugly one to Arizona State and will need to win Pac12 tourney to go dancing.
- NC State scored the minor upset at VaTech but bracketologists weren't impressed.  We're not sure why not, but we ain't complaining.
- VCU hung on against GMU and advanced to the Colonial tourney finals against Drexel
- Creighton won in OT and preserved an at large bid for bubble teams.  We love us some BJs!

Today's Games (Bubble Team Win Probability %)
Drexel (46%) "at" VCU (54%) - Colonial Finals
Western Illinois vs Oral Roberts (75%) - Summit Semis

We want Drexel to win.  We included Oral Roberts since there is the ever slightest chance they could get an at-large bid if they lose a close game in the Summit tourney finals.  So cheer on Western Illinois. 

Since there is not much bubble action we recommend tuning in Gonzaga vs St Mary's since it's a good game.  You can also make it into a drinking game.  Drink whenever Kyle Rowley is seen on the tube (bench or otherwise).  If the announcers mention that he went to NU then drink twice.  If they mention that NU is on the bubble then drink thrice.  If they mention NU has never been to the NCAAs then shotgun a beer.

04 March 2012

NU's Third Trimester Report Card

Back in December we analyzed NU's B1G schedule and provided our readers with a road map to the NCAAs.  We broke the schedule down into trimesters and categorized games within each trimester to help track NU's progress towards making the NCAAs.  We graded NU's results over the first two trimesters last month.  A first trimester C+ and a second trimester B put NU into position.   The regular season is now in the books so it is time to send in the grades for the final trimester.

NU finished at 8-10 which is one game short of our 9-9 goal.  We had estimated that a 9-9 finish would put NU on the bubble, but NU is fortunate to find itself on the NCAAs doorstep with an 8-10 finish thanks to a better than expected B1G.

Third trimester
Original expected result: 4-2 (Minnesota, Michigan, at Penn State, at Io_a)
Revised expected result: 2-4 (Minnesota, at Penn State)
Actual result: 3-3 (Minnesota, at Penn State, at Io_a)

Analysis: NU exceeded revised expectations and finished 3-3.  This is short of the original 4-2 goal which included also a home win against Michigan and a win at Io_a.  At 3-3 NU outperformed by scoring the mild upset at Io_a.

In the eyes of the Selection Committee the two road victories will help.  The three games that NU lost were very close and are nothing to be ashamed about.  NU lost in OT to Michigan and lost in the final minute of games at Indiana and against Ohio State.

Grade: B

At first we were apprehensive about handing out two Bs and a C+ since NU still has a little work left to do to make the NCAAs.  At most schools being on the bubble is somewhere in the C range.  Then again NU is not like most schools.  A little bit of grade inflation should be familiar to most anyone who has matriculated through Northwestern and with NU's basketball history is entirely appropriate.

It must be March

For eleven months out of the year we manage to block out the existence of that tool of tools Seth Davis.  Then March comes around and the Clueless Wonder becomes unavoidable to college basketball junkies such as ourselves.

Is Seth so out of touch that he truly believes that NU needs to win three games in Indy to make the NCAAs?  What are we saying.  Of course he's out of touch.  Just look at these terrible picks for this weekend's games.

There is a good chance NU will be dancing with just one victory.  Two wins is a lock.  Three games and we're talking seeds and desired match-ups. 

Northwestern 70 IO_A 66 (F)

Northwestern (18-12,8-10) outscored Io_a 19-2 over the final five minutes of the first half to erase a 33-23 deficit and waltz into halftime with momentum and a 42-35 lead.  Io_a looked very good early on Senior Day building a modest lead against NU's man defense and extending the lead with a couple of bombs from the corner against the 1-3-1.  It was at that moment that we feared yesterday would not be NU's day.

To Coach Carmody's credit he stuck with the 1-3-1 and did that decision ever pay dividends.  Over the last 10 minutes of the first half Io_a looked increasingly uncomfortable against the 1-3-1, and by the time half time rolled around the game looked very similar to the NU blowout of Io_a in Evanston a few weeks ago.

To Io_a's credit they steadied themselves enough to keep the NU lead to 10 points midway through the second half.  Io_a then stepped up the defensive pressure during the final 10 minutes, but offensive rebounds on two straight NU possessions were converted into buckets and kept NU's margin at a comfortable 6 points.

Things felt as if they were starting to slip on NU's next possession that began shortly after 4 minute mark.  For the third straight possession the Wildcats grabbed an offensive rebound which Davide Curletti quickly passed back out to Alex Marcotullio.  Marcotullio instinctively decided to force the ball down low for an easy bucket, but Io_a's Aaron White easily intercepted the pass.  This was a poor decision that we were convinced was going to haunt NU.

Matt Gatens nailed an NBA bomb from the top of the key to close the gap to 2 points with 2 minutes to go.  OK now we're officially worried.  What the heck were you thinking Marcotullio?  Where are some ROLAIDS when you need them?  Shurna misses the front end of a one-and-one with 1:18 to play.  Arghhh!  We're hyperventilating!  Quick someone get us some paper bags to breathe into.

Cartright turns the ball over with 0:53 to play.  Phew at last some relief!  Dave Sobolewski drives it to the bucket with the shot clock winding down, misses the desperation layup from under the basket but grabs the carom.  Yes!  But wait.  Did the ball hit the rim?  Please let it have hit the rim since it means with just 21 ticks left on the clock Io_a would be forced to foul.  Breathe.  The refs say it did glance off the bottom of the rim.  Yes!

NU can't get the ball in-bounds and needs to take a timeout.  Good heady call.  NU again can't get the ball and is forced to take another timeout.  Good lord we just have one timeout left.  Get the dang ball in-bounds.  Yes NU in-bounds it to Dave Sobolewski and founled immediately.  Please make at least the first one!  First free throw draws lots of iron then falls through the net.  Yes!  OK please make the second one.  Second free throw hangs on the rim before falling back through the cylinder.  YES!  NU up 4 points with just 16 seconds to play.

Io_a's Cartwright slices through NU's defense and scores an easy layup.  OK, that's not the end of the world to be up 2 points with just 11 seconds to play.   Ball safely passed to Johnny Shurna who is fouled immediately.  He just missed a front end, but Johnny is our best player and the guy who coolly knocked down the winning free throws at Penn State.  This is a good thing as he can't miss two straight front ends.  We think.  Clank.  Oh shiiiiit!

Io_a is down two and rushes the ball down the court. WIDE OPEN is Josh Oglesby behind the arc.  Not again!!!!!!!  Yes it's just off to the left!  The ball bounces out of bounds.  Please let it be NU's ball.  It is!!!!!!!!  OK let's not get it to Shurna this time.  Get it to Marcotullio who has been shooting the ball well.  Yes they got it Marco!  Swish.  Yes just one more to ice it with 2 seconds left.  Swish.  YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We sit down and soak in the feeling of joy and relief.  It's on to Indianapolis with the NCAAs still very much in play.  One more win and we like our chances.  But first it's time to party and avoid trouble from Ha_keye fans.  Good news.  It's not homecoming and Ricky Stanzi is nowhere to be seen.  Ahh!!!!!!!!!!

Next up is the game we've all been waiting for.  Beat Minnesota in Indy-town on Thursday at 4:30pm and we're likely dancing!  NU couldn't ask for a better B1G tourney opponent.  Minnesota which NU recently beat and just snapped a six game losing streak by defeating lowly Nebraska at home on Saturday.  It's so close we can taste it now.  LET'S. DO. THIS. THANG!!!!!!!!!!!!

Bubble Watch: March 4, 2012 Edition

Even though fellow bubble teams fared well as expected NU's win over Io_a meant yesterday was still a good day for NU.

Bracket Project updated its matrix again this morning.  There are 13 brackets listed as a March 4 update.  We'll go with those 13 for our Watch List (15 teams).

Watch List (# of brackets out of 13)
11 BYU (12)
12 NU (11)
12 Mississippi St (10)
12 Xavier (10)
12 Washington (9)
12 Seton Hall (9)
13 VCU (9)$
13 Texas (8)
South Florida (8)
Miami Fla (6)
Arizona (4)*
Tennessee (3)
Dayton (3)
NC State (2)*
Oregon (2)

* denotes game today
$ denotes conf tourney game today

Changes in Watch List
West Virginia, Colorado St and Connecticut up to NCAAs.
St Josephs went 0/13 bracketologists- now in NIT.
Seton Hall dropped down onto bubble with loss at Depaul.
South Florida down onto bubble with home loss to WVU.
Tennessee moved up to bottom bubble with win over Vandy.

Yesterday's Games Recap
NU won! West Virginia scored a minor upset at South Florida.  Amazingly every other bubble game went as expected which meant that only Washington and Texas lost. 

Today's Games (Bubble Team Win Probability %)
George Mason "at" VCU (73%)
Arizona (85%) at Arizona St
NC State (43%) at Virginia Tech

At Large Bid Threats
Illinois St vs Creighton (68%) - MVC Finals

03 March 2012

Bubble Watch: March 3, 2012 Edition

Let's Get Ready To RUMBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!  Tons of bubble action on the last Saturday of the regular season.  NU is facing a tough battle at Io_a with a win necessary to stay on the bubble.

Bracket Project updated its matrix again yesterday.  32 of 104 brackets were updated as of March 2nd.  We'll go with those 32 for our Watch List (16 teams).

Watch List (# of brackets out of 32)
11 South Florida (32)!
11 West Virginia (31)!
11 Washington (30)*
12 Colorado St (30)*
12 Connecticut (29)*
12 Texas (28)*
12 Mississippi St (24)*
12 NU (18)*
12 Arizona (17)
Xavier (15)*
VCU (15)$
Miami Fla (11)*
Oregon (4)*
NC State (3)
Dayton (2)*
St. Josephs (1)

* denotes game today
! denotes bubble death match today
$ denotes conf tourney game today

Yesterday's Games Recap
None.  In a sign of how much we may need to sweat these next 8 days, Harvard won in OT over lowly Columbia.

Today's Games (Bubble Team Win Probability %)
NU (46%) at Io_a
West Virginia (45%) at So Fla (55%)
Washington (32%) at UCLA
Colorado St (63%) at Air Force
Pittsburgh at Connecticut (76%)
Texas (15%) at Kansas
Arkansas at Mississippi St (72%)
Charlotte at Xavier (81%)
Northeastern vs VCU (kenpom asleep at wheel)
Boston College at Miami Fla (94%)
Utah at Oregon (97%)
George Washington at Dayton (83%)

It doesn't shape up to be a good news day from the bubble with so many sizable favorites on paper.  NU and Washington have road challenges but real opportunities to gain some ground with wins.  WVU and So Fla winner will be in good shape and loser will need to make a little noise in Big East tourney. 

First priority is NU win.  After that we're keeping our fingers crossed that VCU somehow loses its quasi home game against Northeastern and that Colorado St continues to play poorly on the road at Air Force.

02 March 2012

B1G Rematch Analysis and Io_a Game Implications

After the season was over last year we reviewed NU's performance in rematch games for intellectual curiosity.  We were reminded of this analysis with a crucial game upcoming against Io_a tomorrow.  The findings are from definitive, but they are interesting enough to dust off.

In a nutshell what we found is that when looking at overall Carmody Court Ratio ("CCR") efficiency statistics the losing team from the first game inevitably closed the CCR gap in the rematch.  Sometimes the gap was closed only marginally.  In other cases the gap was closed most of the way.  In several cases the gap swung the other way.  The NU-Io_a series fell into this last bucket -- an ominous sign for tomorrow's game.

Last year the first meeting was at Io_a.  As you may recall NU raced out of the gates and never looked back.  NU's overall CCR was 0.22 -- the best overall CCR for the entire B1G conference slate.   NU won the rematch, but Io_a hung tough for the entire game in Evanston with NU holding only a one or two possession lead for most of the second half.

This year NU used the 1-3-1 defense to completely discombobulate the Ha_keyes.  If history repeats itself tomorrow one can expect Io_a to have a much easier time against the 1-3-1 and give NU all it can handle.  We are especially nervous about this year's rematch because it is on the road and not at the Welsh.

Is Dayton Desirable?

It's hard for us to believe, but we continue to see a trickling of opinions from some NU fans that they'd rather be in the NIT than Dayton.  We have already dismissed this opinion out of hand because it is so ridiculous given NU's embarrassing O-for-NCAAs history.  We do appreciate these opinions as it has given us reason to reflect upon the prospects of going to Dayton, and we have come to the conclusion that Dayton may actually be the best destination for NU.  Hear us out.

  1. Location.  Dayton is a 5.5 hour drive from Evanston.  NU alumni are spread out around the country, but there is a significant concentration in Chicago/Midwest as well as on east coast.  
  2. Second Round Location.  Dayton winners play next game in either Columbus or Louisville.  Same locational arguments for Dayton as Columbus/Louisville.
  3. Timing.  Games on either Tuesday or Wednesday.  NU's opponent would have limited time to prep for NU's atypical offense/defense.  Advantage NU.
  4. Opponent.  NU would play a peer.  Given game timing we like our chances in a peer game.
  5. Second Round Opponent.  NU would be playing in prime upset game in Second Round.  Early on in the game NU would have the advantage of already playing through NCAAs jitters on Tue/Wed.
The biggest downside we can see is that a thin NU squad is not ideally suited for an extra game and a two day turnaround for Round 2.  This counterargument against Dayton has merit but ultimately we think all of the above factors easily eclipse this concern.

Bubble Watch: March 2, 2012 Edition

Bracket Project updated its matrix late last night.  Although there are now 105 brackets included in the matrix, just 18 of them were updated on March 1st or 2nd.  We have excluded from our analysis older brackets since so much bubble action took place on Leap Day.

Watch List (# of brackets out of 18)
11 West Virginia (17)
11 Texas (16)
12 Colorado St (16)
12 South Florida (16)
12 Connecticut (12)
12 NU (12)
12 Mississippi St (11)
12 Miami FL (11)
Xavier (10)
VCU (9)
Arizona (8)
+ Oregon (3)
Dayton (2)
St. Josephs (2)
NC State (1)

+ denotes win on March 1

Changes to Watch List
* Connecticut has dropped down from the field and onto bubble after a bad loss at Providence on Feb 28.
* NC State played itself back onto bubble bottom with a win over Miami Fla on Feb 29.
* Washington, BYU, and Cincinnati are all now unanimously in the NCAAs field.

Yesterday's Games Recap
Washington and Oregon won as expected. 

Today's Games
None but we still would like to see Harvard win at Columbia.

Bubble Notes and Analysis
* Even in ideal and unlikely scenario that conference tourneys result in zero bids taken by non-cannibalizing cinderellas there are three fewer seats at the NCAAs table than there are primary bubble teams.
* Big East has 10 teams in the field per the bracketologists.  Among those 10 teams Cincinnati, Seton Hall, West Virginia, South Florida and Connecticut still have work to do.  If there is any justice then one or two of these teams get left out.
* Atlantic 10 has 2 teams in the field.  Xavier is in prime bubble territory while Dayton and St. Joseph's are clinging to the bottom edge. 
* Pac 12 has 2 teams in the field.  Washington is in but has work to do, Arizona is in prime bubble territory, and Oregon is lingering near the bottom edge.
* Among the "smaller" conferences the Colonial is the biggest wildcard.  If Drexel and VCU make it to the conference finals then that league could have two bids.
* If NU wins at Io_a and in the first round of the B1G tourney then it's likely that NU will hold its current bubble position or even slightly improve upon it.  So long as it is not an extraordinary year for conference tourney cinderellas that should be just good enough for NU to make it to Dayton.

01 March 2012

Addendum to Ohio St game recap

We've run the Carmody Court Ratio ("CCR")** figures for the Ohio State game last night.  NU's offensive CCR was 0.26 points per possession and its defensive CCR was -0.18.  On the bright side only Purdue had a more efficient offensive game against OSU's vaunted defense this year than NU last night.  On the down side Ohio State's offense has been more efficient on only three occasions (Purdue, Duke, and their NU beat down in Columbus).

Overall NU had a CCR of 0.09 points per possession which is NU's second best B1G performance this year.  Normally this would be good enough for a victory, but it wasn't quite enough against OSU because they are just that dang good.

** CCR is the term we've coined for our efficiency statistics discussed over the past year.  It is equal to Opponent's Efficiency net of Opponent's Average Efficiency within Conference Play adjusted for game location.

Bubble Watch: March 1 Edition

Same 16 team Watch List as the last two days.

Turning the page to March is going to be distressing to some.  With NU's loss last night and some nice wins by other bubble teams NU is going to fall to around the cutoff line.  And that's before any at large berths are taken by upset minded teams in conference tourneys over the next 1 1/2 weeks.  Just confirms what we already know: gotta win at Io_a this Saturday.

Watch List (# of brackets out of 57)
11 + West Virginia (54)
11 Washington (54)
11 BYU (53)
11 - Xavier (53)
12 - NU (50)
12 + Cincinnati (49)
12 - Miami FL (49)
12 + Texas (48)
12 + Mississippi St (43)
12 Arizona (29)
++ South Florida (19)
+ Colorado St (18)
VCU (16)
- St. Josephs (13)
- Dayton (12)
Oregon (5)

++ denotes big wins on 28th/29th
+ denotes win on 28th/29th
- denotes loss on 28th/29th

Yesterday's Games Recap
South Florida made the biggest move last night with a big road victory at ranked Louisville to plug up a hole in their resume.  Cincinnati continued to solidy its resume with a nice home win over Marquette.  Colorado State also scored a home upset over UNLV.  Misissippi St avoided some damage by winning at South Carolina in OT.  Texas continues to dangerously flirt with popping their bubble with a narrow home win over lowly Oklahoma.  Miami FL missed an opportunity for a nice road win at NC State.  Colorado St missed out on an opportunity to become a serious bubble team by losing to UNLV at home.  St Joseph's and Dayton lost on the road and now are in need of A-10 tourney runs.

Today's Games (2)
Washington (75%) at USC
Colorado at Oregon (71%)