Gophers 90, Bison 76

November 30, 2008

Minnesota is off to its best start since the 1999-2000 season. Tuesday’s game against Virginia in the ACC/Big Ten challenge should be a lot of fun.

http://bigtennetwork.com/news/article.asp?story_id=3179625

Gophers 88, Huskies 80

November 4, 2008

The new-look Gophers definitely have a lot of work to do, but the two freshmen big men – Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson III – could be a fabulous duo in the years to come if they add some bulk. Minnesota has plenty of athletic ability this year so shouldn’t have much, if any, drop-off even with the departure of its three leading scorers from a year ago. It should be fun to watch this team develop, and if the recruiting classes like this one and the 2009 class keep coming this will be a squad that has no excuse for NOT bringing home a Big Ten title in the next two or three years.

How’s that for drawing conclusions after one preseason game?

http://wcco.com/localsportswire/22.0.html?type=local&state=MN&category=s&filename=BKC–StCloudSt-Minnes.xml

Bulls 85, Timberwolves 75

October 23, 2008

The last two times I’ve covered an event at Target Center, a player has left the court with a significant injury. Coincidence? Likely.

The Bulls had to hang on Wednesday night after jumping out to a 22-point lead in the second quarter, so in all honesty neither team played that well. My favorite part of the game was when Brian Cardinal played for less than a minute, earning himself two fouls and a seat back on the bench. The human floor burn? Perhaps the human saddle sore may be more appropriate at this point.

http://scores.espn.go.com/nba/recap?gameId=281022016

Lynx 86, Fever 76

September 10, 2008

What was supposed to be an easy night of work at my last WNBA game of the season turned into a busy evening as the Lynx lost Seimone Augustus to a head injury in the first quarter. So I spent much of the game running back and forth between the game and the concourse to try to catch a glimpse of what was going on with Augustus, and later first-round pick Candice Wiggins, who also was lost for the game in the first half with a sprained knee. 

Ultimately I wrote in the neighborhood of eight versions for two total stories, which made for a long night. Fortunately it appears that Augustus should be OK — I saw her walking under her own power as she left the building to get a CT scan. 

By the end of the night I guess I wrote a bit too much now that I see what the editors pared it down to, but too much is better than not enough I guess.

http://sports.espn.go.com/wnba/recap?gameId=280909008

Lynx 91, Liberty 69

June 26, 2008

The Lynx snapped a five-game losing streak, and I couldn’t care less…

http://sports.espn.go.com/wnba/recap?gameId=280624008

You better believe this is your place to go for all the WNBA action that’s fit to print!

OK, not really. But I did cover the Lynx’s victory over San Antonio on Sunday, moving the surprising club to 6-1 and in FIRST PLACE in the Western Conference. Sure, there were more people on the most cramped press row I’ve ever encountered than there were in the seats, but you can bet there will be more fannies in the stands for the return of Lindsay Whalen to Minneapolis on Tuesday.

Personally, I find it hard to believe that Charde Houston has never lost back-to-back basketball games in her life, but maybe I’m just jealous…

http://sports.espn.go.com/wnba/recap?gameId=280608008

I simply cannot find my game story anywhere. The Canadian papers all have their own peeps covering the Jays, although I did only check three of them. As for the Yes Network, they apparently have made the switch from Ticker to AP sometime in the last week or so.

I would just copy/paste, but I don’t have the story saved on this particular computer. Needless to say, I’m sure it would’ve been the greatest thing you read all day.

To summarize, Roy Halladay OK on birthday, Scott Rolen makes odd play on basepaths, but Twins screw up defensively for the second straight night ultimately leading towards their demise. Oh, and John Gibbons makes a joke about Canadiens because both Matt Stairs and Justin Morneau went yard in the first inning. He also admitted that he has no fans. Per my blog post early last week, I’m in agreement.

Unrelated note — did anyone watch the end of that Lakers/Jazz game last night? Maybe I’m just seeing things, but on Pau Gasol’s two big rebound putbacks late in the game it certainly appears he pushed off to get the board. They ended up being the nails in the coffin for the Jazz, which was disappointing despite the fact I’m not much of a Utah fan.

Resting my case

April 10, 2008

A long time ago (it seems) I made a case for Chris Paul as my choice for the NBA MVP. I got to see the Hornet (unless the Oklahoma City franchise becomes the “Hummingbirds” I don’t think any team mascot could more aptly encapsulate this guy) up close and personal on Wednesday night. There isn’t much to learn from a single player dismantling the Timberwolves, but seeing the skill, poise and aggressiveness he displays only reaffirm my beliefs. He plays much bigger than the 5-foot-8 he appears to be and 6-foot-whatever he’s listed as. There is no wasted movement and never a moment when he isn’t trying to break down his opponent on either end of the court. It’s absolutely a pleasure to watch him play. And thanks to Stensaas and his ticket generosity, I actually got to yell about it rather than sit idly by courtside with the rest of the ink-stained wretches.

Sorry I haven’t posted much recently — these 80+ hour work weeks don’t leave much spare time.

It’s OK, though, because the lady and I are taking the weekend to escape the winter weather in Minnesota to go watch the Twins at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. What’s that you say? Rain and snow and low-40s in Kansas City this weekend??? Well…f#$%.

(Almost) Just in time

April 1, 2008

I’ve chronicled my fantasy basketball failings on this blog in the past, but with a couple news items this week I believe it is worth revisiting. First, Jermaine O’Neal returned to the Pacers’ lineup on Monday after missing 33 games thanks to his chronically injured knees. He came off the bench to add nine points, two rebounds, two assists and a block to Indy’s bottom line. Now the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Elton Brand will return to the Clippers lineup this week.

 

Too little, too late.

 

When Brand injured his Achilles tendon back in August, he would reportedly be out until at least the All-Star break. As fantasy draft season drew nigh, Brand was early in his rehab, but indications were he was on pace to have no setbacks. That left this 20-point, 10-rebound per night fantasy stud with an upside of a February return. I took the bait in a pair of leagues and paid for it dearly.

 

In the meantime, with Brand out, Ron Artest hurt and Gerald Wallace at the top of his game in January, I took the drastic move of trading Artest, Wallace and Al Harrington for Paul Pierce and Jermaine O’Neal in order to stay afloat in the playoff race while waiting on Brand. But Artest came back a week early, O’Neal went down for the count a week later, and my season was flushed down the toilet a week or two after that. Selling high on Wallace turned out to be fortuitous, but not enough to make much of a difference.

 

I give myself somewhat of a pass on the O’Neal thing simply because I was making a desperation move to stay competitive – its not a significant keeper league, so it’s not like I’m stuck with him next year. But I should be scolded about Brand for not considering all the elements prior to drafting him.

 

If the Clippers were in the Eastern Conference it might have been a different story. But as it turns out, they are on the West Coast and in the hyper-competitive Western Conference. Although it was tough to predict things being this crazy, it doesn’t take a Hubie Brown hoops IQ to figure out that L.A.’s red-headed stepchild of an NBA franchise would not be in the hunt for a playoff position. And with the current setup of the NBA draft lottery, the Clippers would likely be a month away from employing the “tank” strategy even if Brand returned by the All-Star break. Then you must take into account that if Brand is rushed back, he won’t be playing full minutes right off the bat as he reacquaints himself with teammates and gets his legs back. So in all likelihood, a best-case scenario for Brand coming into this season was maybe 2-3 weeks of prime, Brand-like production – and this would not have come during the fantasy playoffs, which is what I was hoping for in order to make a championship run.

 

There are exceptions to the rule, as Pau Gasol showed last year by returning for Memphis and having a great season. But he was back before the calendar turned – a big difference from waiting until at least the All-Star break.

 

When it comes to drafting injured players as value picks, as I had hoped to do with Brand in the middle to late rounds of my drafts, looking at the whole picture is crucial. If we’re talking about a top player on a contending team, the risk may be worth the reward. But in an instance like Brand’s this season, I should have been smart enough to realize the cons far outweighed the pros in this instance.

 

I paid for my mistake, as I was forced to jettison both injured players as the fantasy playoffs began – or in my case, the consolation bracket with a chance at earning the first overall pick next season. I was blown out in the first round, and now get to watch the final week and a half as playoff teams grabbed both O’Neal and Brand off the waiver wire in hopes of using them to get over the hump. Not a bad move for them – at my expense.

The 12-Seed Anomaly

March 18, 2008

There are two things that every good NCAA tournament bracket-filler-outer should do immediately upon receiving their tournament layout hot off of the company copy machine each year. First, put the name of the No. 1 seeds in each region on the next line. Second, put the name of the No. 2 seeds in each region on the next line. No matter how much you like some low-level school’s mascot or team colors, it’s just not worth trying. No. 1 seeds are 100-0 all time against No. 16 seeds since the tournament increased to 64 (now 65) teams. As for No. 2 seeds, only four times in 100 games have they lost to an opponent seeded 15th – so write those in ink as well.

This brings us to step number three: the 12-versus-5 matchup. This, my friends, is where the magic happens. The spirit of the tournament lies in the upsets, the little schools outplaying the big ones, the Cinderella squads finding out that the slipper actually does fit. This pairing is always the next to consider because of its unique history.

The 12-versus-5 matchup doesn’t follow mathematical logic. Assuming all else is equal, the tournament selection committee should be able to rank and seed teams over the long run to fall in line with statistical probability. For example: a number one seed should never lose to a number 16 seed. To this point, the No. 1 seeds have won 100 percent of those games. The game between the eight and nine seeds, conversely, should for all intents and purposes be 50/50. In the history of the tournament, the record between the two sides is 54-46, in favor of the nines.

So, the winning percentage of the underdog teams (16 through nine seeds) should progress somewhat evenly from zero to 50 percent. If I’ve already lost you, it might be time to quit while you’re behind. In fact, we’d recommend calling a few of your former math teachers and clarifying how much your parents actually spent to get you through school.

The winning percentage of No. 15 seeds versus No. 2 seeds, as illustrated earlier, is 4 percent. Moving up to the 14s, they are 15-85 all time against third-seeded teams, giving them a winning percentage of 15. The 13 seeds keep the trend going, winning 21 percent of the time (21-79 overall).

Let’s skip No. 12 for now and go to 11. Against No. 6 seeds, the 11s have a winning percentage of 31 from a 31-69 overall record. And finally, the 10s beat the 7s 39 percent of the time (39-61 overall).

So, judging by those numbers the No. 12 seed should have a winning percentage around 25 percent, right? Well, the math makes sense, but reality doesn’t. With a 34-66 record all time against No. 5 seeds, the 12 seed wins 34 percent of the time – better than the No. No. 11 seeds by 3 percent.

The overall numbers have skewed in this direction in large part because of recent history – with the exception of three years ago when the No. 5 seeds went 4-0 while the No. 6 seeds split games with the 11s.

Since 1999, 12 seeds have done a better job in the first round of the tourney than 11 seeds. In the last 11 years, 12 seeds have gone 18-30 against their No. 5 counterparts, while No. 11 seeds are just 13-35 overall against the 6s. This averages to 1.6 first round victories per tournament for the 12s and 1.2 for the 11s.

Now that I’ve beaten the living daylights out of you with statistics, let’s talk strategy. Every so often its fun to throw a 13 or a 14 seed on the line to advance to the next round and see what happens. This is fine, just realize that both of those seeds average less than one victory per tournament over the last 23 years. But when it comes to those 12s, you’ve actually got to take a serious look at all four games. First, look at the trends. Find out what teams are hot heading into the tournament and what teams have struggled as of late.

The next piece of the puzzle to look at is strength of schedule – particularly late in the year. If a team has a mediocre record down the stretch, but is playing top competition, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are playing poorly. That’s where a few box scores come in handy. And just because a team is on a winning streak doesn’t mean they’ve beaten anyone of note (exhibit A this season is Butler).

Another key factor is matchups. Does one team have two quick guards that no one on the other team will be able to defend? Perhaps an opposing big man will cause some problems. Again, this is where you dig up the season schedules and look for teams similar in makeup to the upcoming opponent and see how the games went. To be quite honest, this is the way to look at any matchup. But when it comes to picking the one or two key upsets – in particular at the 12-versus-5 level – generally you can look back and find the glaring statistic after the fact that should’ve pointed you in the right direction. Finding the stats in advance is the hard part.

But don’t quit until you find at least one 12 seed you’ll put your money on the line for. The 2007 tournament marked just the second time since 1989 that at least one 12-seed did not move on to the second round. Six times in the last nine years, two or more 12 seeds have moved on to round two.

Keep in mind, however, the magic generally ends there. Of the 56 No. 12 seeds to play in the tournament since 1995, only eight have advanced past the second round into the sweet 16. Just one of those eight teams has made the elite eight. In all, 16 No. 12 seeds have made the Sweet 16 in the 25 years of a 64-team bracket (or 65), making for roughly one No. 12 in the final 16 every two years. But as stated, more recent history dictates even fewer appearances, as eight of those 15 No. 12 seeds made the Sweet 16 from 1985 through 1994 – leaving eight for the last 15 years.

Three No. 12 seeds advancing in 2009 skewed the numbers even more in the direction of the No. 12 seeds as statistical anomalies. And keep in mind, 25 tournaments isn’t a gigantic sample size. In the next 50 years, the numbers are likely to fall along a normal curve – meaning 12 seeds would have to start losing at a higher rate. But as the numbers above indicated, the 12 seeds have been the exception to the rule the last 20 years, so until they prove otherwise, there is something special about the 12 vs. 5 matchup. Be sure to take note before turning in your bracket.

Want even more seed history stats? Check out my other tourney post: https://puntingbaxter.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/more-bracket-busting-fun/