Finally, we are just one day away from the NFL’s main offseason event. Fans’ hopes are as high as they get, speculations continue to swirl, and those that are fortunate enough to have tickets are preparing to let their boos be heard when Roger Goodell takes the stage. For this mock draft, we are assuming no trades are made, and each team makes their own pick.
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.
The biggest matchup of the game is Louisville’s pressure defense against Andrew Harrison, Kentucky’s top rated point guard. All year, Harrison has been having turnover problems, with his 23.8 TOrate – which ranks the worst on the Kentucky team and is in the bottom 10% of remaining players in the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile, Louisville’s famed press defense has forced the 2nd most turnovers in the country at a 25.2% TOrate, barely behind Shaka Smart’s Havoc defense. How Harrison handles the press has a very good chance of being a deciding factor in this game.
Other fun things to watch in this matchup include Russ Smith doing Russ Smith things, Julius Randle proving why he should be a top 5 pick in the upcoming draft, and the matchup between experienced vets in Louisville, where all but one of their players who get any playing time played on the National Championship team last year against the killer recruits of Kentucky. This is the game of the Sweet 16 you can not miss.
- Shabazz Napier
Shabazz has been balling all year, but not too many people got to watch the American Conference this year, and he has been relatively under the radar. However, he was the best player of the first weekend, putting up 24/6/7 against St. Joe’s and then throwing up 25/5/3 in an upset win versus Villanova while shooting 100% from 2 and 50% from 3. So, next up in Shabazz’s path is Iowa State, a team that is not only known for not playing much defense, but for playing extremely up-tempo, averaging 71.5 possessions a game. In comparison, Arizona, who is the median team (in terms of tempo) of remaining teams in the tournament, averages 64.6 possessions per game, a full 7 possessions less. This equals the potential for a ridiculous statline from Shabazz on Friday, and an extremely enjoyable game to watch.
- Dayton’s Luck v Stanford’s Luck
So far in the tournament, Dayton has won their two games by a combined 3 points. Stanford has won by a combined 8 points. What’s in store for these two lucky teams when they play against each other? I personally would love to see another Dayton 1 point win, putting them at 3 wins by a combined 4 points, which would probably be an NCAA record.
by Robert Garcia, Northwestern University
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