If you’ve been following the NBA Draft this year at all, you’ve heard countless times that this is a weak one outside of the top two, or maybe three, guys – depending on which expert you happen to be reading at the time. This prevailing thought is true, however, most NBA fans don’t seem to be realizing the ramifications of just how weak it is.
Tuesday night, Knicks fans across America sighed (or screamed) at the same time, when it was announced their projected-2nd draft pick would actually be 4th – making them the only team in the lottery to actually lose ground. Missing out on the two consensus top-pick big men in Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor is a tough pill to swallow, especially when the Knicks won’t get their first choice of a consolation prize, but there is plenty of reason for looking up in New York this offseason.
Now that the NCAA season is over and the first round of the NBA playoffs has begun, most professional basketball fans are focused on the now rather than the future. However, plenty of GMs are spending their playoff time looking over film from this past college season, breaking down statistics and play styles to find their next potential franchise player. This year especially will feature one of the most interesting drafts in recent memory, with the Thunder receiving their first lottery pick since James Harden and the T-Wolves “earning” their 10th lottery pick in as many years.
When deciding who to pick, there are two popular stances to take: selecting a player based off of their performance at the previous level, or choosing someone with tremendous physical attributes that signal a promising “upside.” Admittedly, these aren’t the only factors teams take into consideration when drafting a top pick, but they’re the most observable traits to measure and analyze. Looking at the top rookies from the past three NBA seasons, what carries more weight: athletic traits or collegiate success?
In the past two weeks, there has been a remarkable change in Evanston, Illinois. Northwestern’s basketball team, for the majority of the season, has been a walk-over for the rest of the Big Ten conference. To start 2015, the Wildcats went on a 10-game Big Ten losing streak, and going into their game vs Iowa at home, they were ranked #154 in KenPom’s rankings and were completely irrelevant. However, Northwestern has now won four games in a row, beating Iowa at home, Minnesota on the road, then Penn State and Indiana at home. Beating two probable tournament teams in Minnesota and Indiana would be impressive for any low-ranked team, but looking deeper into these four wins shows that the Northwestern squad has done something more incredible.
- Kentucky v Louisville
This is the big one this weekend. This game probably won’t end up being the highest scoring game, may not be the closest at the end of the game, and it is not the highest rated game by KenPom’s FanMatch statistic that rates games on their watchability, but this is the game you want to watch this weekend. Any time the previous two national champions match up against each other it’s a must watch game for any college basetball fan. Then you add that it’s a tournament win or go home game. Then you add that its Kentucky, a team that had the best recruiting class in decades. Then you add that its Louisville, and Russ Smith the best remaining college player in the tournament. Then you add that its Louisville versus Kentucky and it’s the one of the best rivalries in all of college basketball. And that’s how you get the biggest game of the College Basketball season so far.
There is a lot of fret about the Kansas Jayhawks and their tournament hopes after the injury of Joel Embiid, especially after the recent hype around Embiid potentially being the #1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft. This is no slight to Embiid, who is a great player, but the injury is being overhyped, because the Jayhawks’ best player is, far and away, Andrew Wiggins. How much better?
Conference: Big Ten
KenPom Rank – 47
RPI Rank – 42
Best Player – Terran Petteway
After winning its conference tournament this past weekend, the Wichita State Shockers became the first Division I men’s basketball team to enter March Madness undefeated since the 1991 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. Wichita State was also the first team to go 30-0 in the regular season.
Southern Mississippi (26-5)
KenPom rank- 60
RPI rank – 36
Best Player – Michael Craig
Welcome to March.
We are closing in on the tournament, and the bubble is starting to shrink. We can close in and analyze who has the best chance of getting in and who is going to the NIT. At time of this writing (Sunday Night, March 9th), I have calculated that there are 42 locks, and 17 more 1 bid leagues, teams that will get 1 team in but no more, that have not crowned their champion. That leaves 59 spots in the tournament already decided, and 9 total spots on the bubble. First, before touching on each team and their chances of moving into the tournament, I want to discuss what is dangerous for all of the bubble teams – bid stealing. A pet peeve of mine is when TV analysts begin to talk about the bubble and they talk about how if one team wins one game they could go from the middle of the bubble to a lock. Even more of a pet peeve is when analysts forget to include the lost bubble spots to bid stealing. Here is an example of what I mean by bid stealing: Toledo is a great example of a team that could really screw over some bubble teams this postseason. Toledo is a bubble team as well as the favorite to win their conference tournament because of their very strong RPI. If Toledo wins their tournament, the MAC will be a 1-bid conference and the bubble will stay the same size. However, if Toledo loses in their tournament (which really wouldn’t be too big of a surprise as they are not even the #1 seed in their conference), the MAC could become a 2 bid conference and make the bubble shrink. Other more common scenarios are when a low level team in a top conference such as the SEC or Big 10 comes out of nowhere and wins their conference tournament, like Georgia did in 2008, winning the SEC tournament and getting a 14 seed in the tournament. So pay attention, bubble teams. Along with your team, you are rooting for the favorites the rest of the way out. At the end of the day, based on the conference tournament win probabilities, we can expect around 2 bids to be stolen, which brings our bubble to 7. Now lets start breaking down the bubble teams and where they stand.
Locks: Arizona, Florida, Wichita State, Villanova, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan, Syracuse, Virginia, Creighton, Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Michigan State, Iowa State, San Diego St, Cincinnati, UCLA, Oklahoma, Connecticut, VCU, New Mexico, Harvard, Eastern Kentucky, St. Louis, Kentucky, Gonzaga, Texas, Memphis, Ohio State, Massachusetts, Oregon, Baylor, SMU, St. Joseph’s, BYU, Kansas State, George Washington, Colorado, Arizona State, Pittsburgh, Iowa
Beautiful, done with that. In my next post, we’ll start classifying some teams.
by Robert Garcia, Northwestern University