Two More Brackets: Strong Predictors vs. Strong Predictors and My Instinct

Who knew analytics could be so much fun? I write about them for a living, but applying them to sports has made them come alive for me. As a result, I took the advice of the Watson Analytics March Madness Prediction worksheet I created and decided to base another bracket on what the worksheet says is a stronger predictor based on Pomeroy’s data: the combination of tempo rank and Pythagorean rank.

WAP2

Watson Analytics provided even stronger combinations, but they were all related to how losses drive wins, so I had to discard them. Anyway, 71% strong was good enough for me.

The result of applying this combination to the bracket was a lot more interesting than using Pythagorean rank alone. I now have a better understanding of why there’s a trend of a 5 seed losing to a 12 seed. My problem is that I haven’t been able to figure out which 12 seed. However, according to my prediction worksheet, Wofford’s combination of tempo rank and Pythagorean rank was more likely to lead to a win than Arkansas’s combination, so that’s where that upset could come.

I did have to make some judgment calls. Based on the statistics, Kentucky is one of four teams that have the combination most likely to lead to wins. The other three are Villanova, Gonzaga, and Notre Dame. This means that Notre Dame and Kentucky must meet in the Final Four. I went ahead and picked Kentucky to win based on the fact that Kentucky is undefeated and John Calipari’s NCAA tournament resume.

I’m also sad to report that Harvard’s combination of tempo rank and Pythagorean rank was better than UNC’s, so apparently my karma for enjoying Duke’s early exits has come due.

There were other surprises, such as UCI’s much better combination than Louisville’s. Also, the analysts who have been saying that Utah is most likely to challenge Duke are correct; Utah’s combo is just a tad less winning than Duke’s. Interestingly, Duke will be no match for Gonzaga when they meet. I’m hoping that because this is a statistical bracket, Gonzaga will make it far enough to play Duke, because usually when I have them going far, they lose early or if I have them lose early, they go far. This. Happens. Every. Single. Year. Enough whining. Here’s the bracket.

Midwest

Midwest 2

West

West2South

South2East

East2

Final Four and Champion

FF2

And finally, I decided I would also take the Watson Analytics information and combine it with some other factors such as the team’s coach’s tournament resume and my personal bias. I’m exhausted from all this cutting and pasting, so I’m just going to show my Final Four and Champion from that bracketFF3. If it turns out this bracket is more of a winner than the others, I’ll post it at the end of the tournament.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my friend Mark Buerger has suggestions for people who would like human help with their brackets. (Hi, buerg!)

Of course, if the Tar Heels would like to defy all statistics and win it all in memory of Dean, I would be content.

 

 

How I Decided to Take a Different Tack for my Brackets This Year

In 1997, I won my company’s March Madness pool and that’s the last time that one of my brackets did not turn into a sea of red by the end of the first weekend. I blame Gonzaga. Since they started getting into the tournament, they never do what I predict and the downward spiral begins. So, this year I decided to avoid going with my gut or listening to analysts, since the results have been disastrous. It is time for drastic action; it’s time to be more scientific.

My decision to try a new process coincides with my work with IBM’s cloud analytics service that anyone can use for free (with limitations) just by registering at www.watsonanalytics.com. You can upload a spreadsheet of data and get information about it with the service, which is called Watson Analytics. I’m a subscriber to Ken Pomeroy’s data (http://kenpom.com/), so I decided to use his data combined with win-loss records and upload it into Watson Analytics to help me fill out my NCAA bracket.

I uploaded the data and decided to use the predict function to see what most influenced wins. I decided to do a very simple analysis where I would simply see what 1 factor was most likely to affect wins based on Pomeroy’s data. After discarding the information that losses were a strong predictor of wins, I found that Pomeroy’s PythagRank was the next strongest predictor of wins.

WinsSo, I filled out my bracket based on Pomeroy’s Pythagorean Ranking. It’s not full of huge surprises, but it’s interesting and it has teams going far in the tournament that I would not have picked on my own. So maybe I’ll have more success with this one. I’m also considering creating another bracket based on a combination of factors such as RankPythag and RankTempo, which Watson Analytics tells me is an even stronger predictor of wins.

For now, I’m going to post screen shots of my bracket where the winners of each game was picked based on Pomeroy’s Pythagorean rank, and I’ll return after the first four and next round of games happen to see how this bracket is doing.

Midwest

MidwestEast

EastWest

WestSouthSouth

Final Four and Champions

FF

 

 

 

 

 

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my friend Mark Buerger has suggestions for people who would like human help with their brackets. (Hi, buerg!) After all, the human element is rarely more evident than during March Madness.

UNC Men’s College Basketball Preview (sent to me by Dan Kane)

Despite my best efforts, UNC will be playing basketball this season. I have done everything I can, scouring PackPride for the latest rumors and gossip and seeking out classes where students wrote papers instead of taking exams for their final grade, to link the AFAM scandal and football player plagiarism directly to Roy Williams but so far I have not been successful. I remain hopeful, however, and refuse to let the matter die.

Don’t worry, folks, I’m taking the UNC basketball ship down!

So, unfortunately, UNC will take the court in the first game of the season with Roy still at the helm and no academic suspensions caused by my investigations this summer. The pressure will be on Reggie Bullock, Leslie McDonald and Dexter Stickland to be strong leaders on a very young team with players that will be question marks (and I don’t just mean about their eligibility). James Michael McAdoo, who by virtue of his last name stinks to high heaven of cheating, will have to step up and deliver on the promise he showed while filling in for John Henson after he was injured in the tournament.

P.J. Hairston continues not to dazzle, so it won’t be so bad for him when the season is vacated after I uncover that one of the classes he took last year did not have a text book, which is just another example of UNC’s long history of academic fraud. Whoever heard of a class without a textbook?

UNC is expecting big things from Marcus Paige, who I’m sure was paid $200,000 by UNC to attend because of some designer clothing I think I’ve seen him wear, but I just can’t prove it yet. UNC fans are also excited about J.P. Tokoto, who is being compared to that cheater Vince Carter, but I doubt he’ll get much playing time because he’s from Wisconsin, which is Big 10 country, a conference that features known cheaters Ohio State. I’m sure there’s a connection somewhere that will lead to his suspension midway through the season.

Final predictions: 0-28 (season will be vacated)
Vacated ACC tournament runner-up
Vacated 2nd round of NCAA tournament appearance

Magic’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Predictions

Note from Al: It’s my honor and privilege to post the Stanley Cup Playoffs predictions made by the EJSIC message board’s very own rocket scientist, Magic. (Yes, I have resorted to posting the work of guest writers because I have been seized by writer’s block and am unable to write anything brilliant of my own. I blame the forward thinking granular jargonistic writing leveraged by my colleagues across all projects.)

Ah yes, the time has finally come for one of my absolute favorite sporting events: The NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. And while I know that Gary Bettman has done his best to kill this sport off by putting this fantastic event on a television channel that all of about 3 people nationwide have access to, he can’t get rid of me that easily. So here it is, my preview of this year’s playoffs and my predictions.

Western Conference: 1st Round
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Los Angeles Kings
The Vancouver Canucks have been the most talented team out West this year, but it was only a late season blistering hot streak that allowed them to lead the NHL in points. And oddly, after star and perennial crybaby and diver Daniel Sedin was lost for the rest of the season with a concussion from a vicious elbow, Vancouver has gotten even better. With an extremely talented offense, strong netminding, and decent defense, Vancouver has the makings of a team that could win the cup. The Los Angeles Kings, meanwhile, only made the playoffs because of their own late season hot streak. The Kings, who had struggled offensively most of the year, suddenly started finding the back of the net, and, considering how solid this team is on defense and in net, if they can get some consistent offense, they’re a very dangerous playoff team. When I think of goalies that can single-handedly win a series for a team out West, the first name that jumps to mind is Jonathan Quick and his 1.95 Goals Against and 92.9% Save Percentage. To win this series, L.A. is going to need Quick to steal them a few games and be able to put the puck in the net when they get their high-quality scoring chances. I don’t see Vancouver losing this series, but expect these games to be a lot closer than they would appear on paper.
Magic Prediction: Vancouver in 6

(2) St. Louis Blues vs. (7) San Jose Sharks
St. Louis has certainly been the surprise team out West, leading the incredibly strong Central division with some great defense, timely offense, and phenomenal goaltending in the form of Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott. And while they have 107pts, they enter the playoffs struggling, losing 7 of their last 10. Yes, this could just be complacency from wrapping up their division, but it is very tough to “flip the switch” in hockey come playoff time, especially if you aren’t a team with a whole heck of a lot of playoff experience and you’ll be considered a favorite. San Jose, meanwhile, has struggled mightily this season. They were expected to challenge for best record in the West and have really fallen short of those expectations. That said, they put a heck of a last two weeks together, playing some very good hockey, and “sneaking” into the playoffs. With Cup Winner Antti Niemi in net and playing much better hockey, and with San Jose having a lot of playoff experience on this roster, I really think the Sharks might just pull the shocker this year, especially because they will be a bit out of the spotlight for once. While St. Louis has only lost 6 games in regulation all season, and has a 4-0 record against San Joe in the regular season, I have a feeling they find themselves in an early hole this series, losing 1 or 2 at home and falling flat against a team playing much better hockey than them at the moment
Magic Prediction: Sharks in 6

(3) Phoenix Coyotes vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks
The Phoenix Coyotes ended the season on a tear, winning the Pacific Divison from behind, catching the Dallas Stars, L.A. Kings, and San Jose Sharks in surprising fashion. Phoenix is a team that doesn’t really do a single thing in an impressive manner, but they do a lot of things well. Very balanced and consistent team with a good 1st line in Vrbata, Whitney, and Doan. The Hawks also come into the playoffs streaking, only losing 1 game in regulation in the past 10, but they have given up late leads in the past three games and that is a bit worrisome. The big question mark is will the Hawks get their captain back? Jonathan Toews has been sidelined with a concussion for a quarter of the season. The Hawks are optimistic they’ll get him back, but in what capacity? The Hawks when healthy are a very dangerous offensive team. Their problem has been special teams, goaltending, and defense. While they’ve made strides in the latter two, Power play and Penalty Kill have been a killer for them and could lead to an early exit. I just don’t see it happening against this team.
Magic Prediction: Hawks in 6

(4) Nashville Predators vs. (5) Detroit Red Wings
An incredible matchup pitting two of the best teams in all of hockey against one another. There’s the youngblood Nashville Predators, a team built on speed, the counter, getting to the net, and really punsihing teams for going to the penalty box. Then there’s the old guard Detroit Red Wings, a team with extremely skilled forwards with phenomenal net presence, and they’re extremely well disciplined to boot. The one thing really holding them back this year has been injuries. This should be an absolutely phenomenal series, and the Wings are used to long 7 game 1st Round Series. I really like the Preds, but I don’t think they’ll get over the hump if this series goes 7, even in their home arena. Shame these 2 Central teams have to meet so early in the playoffs
Magic Prediction: Red Wings in 7

Eastern Conference: 1st Round
(1) New York Rangers vs. (8) Ottawa Sentors
Similar to the Blues in the West, the Rangers in the East have been absolutely surprising this season, coming out of nowhere to lead the Eastern Conference standings. With extremely strong goaltending in Henrik Lundqvist, solid defense, and a great 1st line of Gaborik and Richards, this team is built for very consistent play. Ottawa also didn’t have all that much preseason buzz, but they had a good start to the season and with a strong final week road it to a playoff spot. Their play has certainly been spotty at times this season, especially on the defensive end where they have had problems all year keeping the puck out of the back of their net, but offensively with Spezza, Michalek, and Alfredsson they certainly can light the lamp. Problem is, in the NHL playoffs, great defense and toughness with a decent offense beats great offense and spotty defense almost every single time
Magic Prediction: Rangers in 5

(2) Boston Bruins vs. (7) Washington Capitals
Boston is as steady as they come. They have a great playoff goalie in Tim Thomas, a Stanley Cup caliber defense, and they have multiple lines that can score with no single offensive name jumping out at you. These are the types of teams that win Stanley Cups. One half expected a Stanley Cup layover for this team, but it just didn’t happen. And they will be an awful matchup for most in the playoffs. The Capitals have been a major disappointment this year, and the reason for that is that their team is the exact opposite of Boston’s. They have a player in Alex Ovechkin who, while phenomenal, overshadows his teammates and doesn’t play within the structure of their team. They have a defense that seems like they couldn’t care less some games and goaltenders in Neuvirth and Vokoun who don’t scare anyone. Washington might have a game or two where they put on a dazzling offensive display in this series, but it won’t get them anywhere.
Magic Prediction: Bruins in 6

(3) Florida Panthers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
Similar to the weak Pacific division out West, the Panthers won the very weak Southeast to face an extremely dangerous team from the powerful Atlantic division in the New Jersey Devils. Florida stumbled and bumbled their way into the playoffs winning just 2 of their last 10 games and one has to think that at this point they are happy just to be there. New Jersey on the other hand has the likely immortal Martin Brodeur in net for his 60th or 70th Stanley Cup Playoffs and has great scorers in Ilya Kovalchuk, Zach Parise, and Petr Sykora and the strong Patrick Elias in center. The one worry for this team is their defense, but Brodeur, when on, could win a hockey game 1 on 6. Mainly because he’d keep it scoreless until everybody on the other team died of old age, pnuemonia, and dysentary. I almost never would predict a sweep in the NHL playoffs, but this might be it
Magic Prediction: Devils in 4

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Philadelphia Flyers
Just like Predators-Red Wings, this is an incredible matchup pitting two of the best teams in all of hockey against one another. It’s an absolute shame and almost a catastrophe that these teams have to meet in the first round as both teams are Stanley Cup caliber teams and one for sure won’t make it through the first week. In this case, there are the extremely flashy, highly potent Pittsburgh Penguins featuring numerous scoring lines, highly skilled players and the top offensive team in the NHL. Then there are the high scoring and physically nasty Philadelphia Flyers. Both teams have problems on the defensive end with the slight edge going to Pittsburgh and both teams are very questionable in goal with a Marc Andre Fleury who seems to struggle come playoff time in high pressure situations and an Ilya Bryzgalov who has struggled to find his game since he was on the Coyotes. Here’s the thing: In a series where you expect a ton of scoring and little goaltending, the team that has the most fight in them and gets the ugly goals is the team that will end up taking it. Whoever wins this series has a good chance to win the Stanley Cup. I just think it’ll be the Flyers who win out, sending the Penguins home early yet again.
Magic Prediction: Flyers in 7

Western Conference: Semifinals
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (7) San Jose Sharks
The Sharks, after pulling the upset, will have to face a step up in competition, and Daniel Sedin or no Daniel Sedin, I see Vancouver moving forward rather easily in this one.
Magic Prediction: Vancouver in 5

(5) Detroit Red Wings vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks
This made for a great regular season series with two very similar teams. If the Predators make it through the first round, I think they win this series, but since I have a feeling it’s Detroit, I see a very tough series unfolding where goaltending and defensive ability will be the key. Chicago has played fairly well against Detroit in recent years and with Jonathan Toews I think they win this series in 6. Without him they lose in 6 or 7. Either way, if this goes 7, I think Detroit takes it.
Magic Prediction: Blackhawks in 6

Eastern Conference: Semifinals
(1) New York Rangers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
New York has had a tremendous season and a ton to be proud of. I know they’d like to add a Stanley Cup Finals appearance to that list, but I don’t see it happening as the Devils pepper the net and Brodeur does all the rest
Magic Prediction: Devils in 6

(2) Boston Bruins vs. (5) Philadelphia Flyers
This would make for a great great series with two physical teams going at. The winner of this series, I have a good feeling will be playing for the Stanley Cup. Boston is the far superior defensive team and has a much better goalie. But the Flyers just seem to know how to score bunches of ugly goals no matter the goalie. I see Philly beating the Bruins in an OT or double OT game in Game 7.
Magic Prediction: Flyers in 7

Western Conference: Finals
(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks
I’d have Chicago going out earlier especially because of their deficiencies on the power play and penalty kill, but I cannot possibly foresee a Stanley Cup Playoffs where these two teams don’t meet up for the fourth consecutive year. This series is extremely nasty with their most recent meeting resulting in Daniel Sedin getting T.K.O’d with a vicious Duncan Keith elbow. Both teams clearly hate each other. Vancouver is still a team of headcases. And if these two teams met again, I see Vancouver looking to “settle the score” and forgetting the game in hand, resulting in yet another year of Canada not bringing back home the Stanley Cup.
Magic Prediction: Blackhawks in 6

Eastern Conference: Finals
(5) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (6) New Jersey Devils
For the 5 vs. 6 matchup I’m projecting, what a great matchup this is. Two very solid teams and I could see each winning this one. That said, I think the Bruins, Penguins, and Flyers are all beter than the Devils, and Brodeur, while he certainly can steal a series will have trouble with the hard charging Flyers.
Magic Prediction: Flyers in 5

Stanley Cup Finals
(5) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (6) Chicago Blackhawks
Can you say rematch? I sure can. The talented Hawks facing the gritty Flyers would make for must see TV. And this time, I think Philly gets the best of the Hawks with timely goals, hard hitting, and good net presence
Magic Prediction: Flyers in 6

 

From Al’s inbox: An important announcement

You swine! A vaccine is too late for Al.

You swine! A vaccine is too late for Al.

To my fans: I apologize for my long absence. It appears that I might have contracted the swine flu, since I was properly vaccinated against the other flu more than a month ago. But I’m back now and as witty as ever.

Today, in my inbox, amidst the usual offers for a better sex life, $6 million from Ethiopian princes (who knew there were so many?), and a reduced rate on the H1N1 Swine Flu vaccine (it’s a little too late for that),  I received the following important announcement:

Slap Your Co-Worker Day is coming October 23rd!!

October 23rd  is the official Slap Your Irritating Co-workers Holiday:  Do you have a co-worker who talks nonstop about nothing, working your last nerve with tedious and boring details that you don’t care about?  Do you have a co-worker who ALWAYS screws up stuff creating MORE work for you?  Do you have a co-worker who kisses so much booty; you can look in their mouth and see what your boss had for lunch? Do you have a co-worker who is SOOO obnoxious, when he/she enters a room, everyone else clears it?  Well, on behalf of Ike Turner, I am so very very glad to officially announce SLAP YOUR IRRITATING CO-WORKER DAY!  Here are the rules you must follow:

  • You can only slap one person per hour – no more.
  • You can slap the same person again if they irritate you again in the same day.
  • You are allowed to hold someone down as other co-workers take their turns slapping the irritant.
  • No weapons are allowed…other than going upside somebody’s head with a stapler or a hole-puncher.
  • If questioned by a supervisor [or police, if the supervisor is the irritant], you are allowed to LIE, LIE, LIE!

Now, study the rules, break out your list of folks that you want to slap the living day lights out of and get to slapping  on October 23rd….. and have a great slapping day!

Of course, the difficulty with this is that I’m a telecommuter who works from home and often, the people I want to slap, are hundreds of miles away. When I mentioned this to the guy who sent the e-mail, he responded with:  “Take that, you swine.”

And life comes full circle.

Breaking Down the Current BCS Championship Game Situation

Who will make it to New Orleans?

The BCS standings currently have LSU at No. 1 and Alabama at No. 2. There is a lot of speculation currently on sports message boards and in the media about who will get the No. 2 spot in the BCS championship game should all the teams in the BCS top 6 win out. So, being one to follow the crowd, I’ve decided to share my thoughts on the subject. Here’s how I see it playing it out if everyone wins their next games with only Alabama done for the regular season.

LSU vs. Houston
This would be my personal choice for the game, but I know it’s not going to happen. Houston has not had a schedule that is comparable to the other teams in the Top 5. Their toughest test is their game with against Southern Mississippi, which hasn’t happened yet. The win over UCLA might seem good, considering that UCLA is in the historically powerful Pac 10 (I’m using the old names because I’m old), but UCLA is 6-6 and was manhandled by Texas. However, the main reason this won’t happen is that the BCS voters believe that it will not earn the ratings, attendance, or revenue the BCS is seeking.

LSU vs. Alabama
This is not likely to happen despite Alabama’s resume, which includes strong wins against Penn State, Arkansas and Auburn. Normally, the mistakes of a young quarterback would not mean much in most games, but the fact that McCarron came up short against LSU at home will be used as the reason that Alabama should not be in the game. The real reason, however, is that LSU vs. Alabama would end up being too regional and not the moneymaker that the BCS seeks, even though they have as much right as Oklahoma State (and some would argue more right) to play in the game.

LSU vs. Oklahoma State
This is the most likely scenario. Unlike LSU vs. Alabama, the game will have nationwide appeal and Oklahoma State’s resume is very similar to Alabama’s. They will have only one loss, to Iowa State, and when people make what I consider silly arguments that losing to a team ranked in the Top 30 is exactly the same as losing to a team ranked #1, then Oklahoma State is the top choice. Also, they will have beaten Oklahoma, which is a tough team, whereas Alabama will have been idle and a lot of these rankings are based on recent history.

LSU vs. Stanford
This is a long shot. Stanford, too, has only lost one game. I would argue that their loss is better because it was to a team ranked in the Top 10 at the time, whereas Oklahoma State’s wasn’t. I am firmly of the belief that not all losses are equal, much like Sagarin or Kenpom. This game would also have nationwide appeal, which is good for revenues. However, the perception that the Big 12 Conference schedule is tougher than the Pac 10 schedule and the fact that Stanford despite its 1-loss record will not be playing in the Pac 10 championship game is what will hold Stanford back, even though Stanford has also beaten a number of teams in the Top 50.

LSU vs. Virginia Tech
Hahahahahahahaha. The only way this would happen would be if every team ahead of them lost and Houston was given the death penalty by the NCAA next Saturday. I am probably the only person who is not a Hokie fan that would like to see this matchup only because of Virginia Tech’s history of blowing BCS Bowl Games. At least this time, it would be against the No. 1 team in the nation.

Final thoughts
So, there you have it. That’s how I see it all playing out should all teams win out. But, I don’t see that happening. I believe that Southern Miss will upset Houston and that Oklahoma will upset Oklahoma State. Then you have Stanford, Alabama and Virginia Tech all in the spotlight because Houston is the kind of team where 1 loss is equal to two losses in the Big 6 conferences. At that point, Stanford’s stock will rise and people will be clamoring for them to get in over Alabama. Will the BCS listen? Probably. It’s all about the money, after all.

2011-2012 College Basketball Series Preview: UNC

Yes, yes, I know the season has already started. But since I haven’t watched Carolina play any games yet, I think I can still slip this in on the eve of the big game on the carrier against Tom “Roy’s my Daddy” Izzo’s team.

So, to get started, I would like to indulge my inner homer. UNC: All starters return. Giraffes will be slapped. 40-0.

USS Carl Vinson all decked out and ready for the Heels and Spartans

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get down to business. Analysts and fans alike are very excited about this UNC team and, for that reason, UNC is ranked No. 1 in the pre-season polls, the eighth time they have earned that preseason ranking since its inception. My inner hater is happy to report that that is one more time than Duke (another thing we now dominate them in), and ties us with UCLA, which is also very nice. It cements that blueblood label that bluebloods are proud of and that any team that isn’t one denigrates.

Last season’s results
29-8
14-2 ACC
ACC Regular Season Champions – the real ACC championship
Lost 56-55 to Kentucky in the Elite Eight

Returning players that will make an impact/slap giraffes
Does anyone really not know? Okay, just in case:
Tyler Zeller
Harrison Barnes
Kendall Marshall
John Henson
Dexter Strickland
Reggie Bullock

Freshmen to watch
James McAdoo
P.J. Hairston

I have now muzzled my inner homer so that I can write with the slight pessimism that many long-time Tar Heel fans exhibit, especially alumni. I really shouldn’t be a pessimist because I’ve been alive for and watched 4 of UNC’s national championships (and my father was at UNC for their first).

Strengths
This team really does have what it takes to win it all. Harrison Barnes has the kind of work ethic that makes him keep trying to improve his game even when others might feel he’s on top of it already. Reggie Bullock is back and he’s the team’s dark horse, but I’ve had a good feeling about the guy since I saw some youtube clips of his performance when he was still in high school in Kinston. I also hear he played well in games over the summer. Kendall Marshall has adapted to the intense pressure that Roy Williams puts on his point guards faster than I think I’ve ever seen one adapt. So, he might not have the speed of Ty Lawson, but he got the savvy faster than Ty or even Raymond Felton.

Look for some awesome long-armed antics from John Henson, who has put on a few pounds in the weight room, but still has the wingspan of an aircraft carrier (what an amazing coincidence) and the amazing ability to know just when to block a shot. There’s been some questions about Tyler Zeller and some analysts feel that he has not lived up his recruitment hype, but people tend to forget that he’s been seriously injured two times and those injuries have not been ones that it is easy to come back from. He really stepped up at the end of 2010-2011 and, if he doesn’t get hurt again, I think he is the key to the possibility that the Tar Heels could win it all.

James McAdoo and PJ Hairston also have the talent and promise to contribute off the bench. I don’t really like to make predictions about freshmen based on their recruitment because college ball is different from high school ball and kids that look great in high school don’t always transition well to college and kids that were maybe 2 or 3 star recruits out of high school often end up thriving in the college environment and upping their talent and play antes.

Then there’s the 2011 ACC Coach of the Year, Roy Williams. He’s won two National Championships in a span of four years and has demonstrated what many other excellent coaches (especially the young ones) have been unable to: he knows how to coach a team to a championship—and we’re not talking conference tournaments here—we’re talking the real deal.

Weaknesses
Losing Leslie McDonald to injury is a blow. That makes UNC very thin at the point guard position, so I know that a lot of Tar Heels are hoping, praying, rubbing lucky stones or whatever that Kendall Marshall doesn’t get hurt. Also, except for Justin Watts, our bench is kind of an unknown. The freshmen could be great or they could make a lot of mistakes. However, as I see it, our biggest weakness is also our strength: Roy Williams and his substitutions. The guy substitutes like he’s the coach of an NHL hockey team instead of a basketball team. His crazy substitution patterns were why we lost games that we shouldn’t have in the 2006-2007 season. He just doesn’t always seem to understand that although a team should be the sum of interchangeable parts to a certain extent, a rhythm is often established on the court during the game and incessant substituting breaks the rhythm and causes mistakes.

Predictions
I hate this. I really do. I’m afraid to predict that we’ll win it all in case we don’t. I’m afraid to say we won’t win because that doesn’t show support for my team. What is also hard is that everyone knows that a UNC National Championship is difficult to come by without a loss to Wake Forest (the only time we haven’t lost to them before winning it all was in 1957 and that’s probably because we went undefeated that season) and possibly Georgia Tech (we lost to Wake Forest and Georgia Tech in 1993, 2005 and 2009). As you can see, we Tar Heels take our superstitions seriously. However, with Paul Hewitt out at Georgia Tech and Wake Forest slated to be at the bottom of the conference and with a new coach, losing to either team won’t be easy. However, I can guarantee a loss to Seth “Cry Me a River” Greenberg’s team at Blacksburg, because he has to have some kind of argument for getting them into the tournament even though a win over us is their only decent win in their whole schedule.

I guess the best I can do is to say, once again, that there is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t win it all, barring an injury to Kendall Marshall or Tyler Zeller. The ACC is down this year, with only Duke being a threat (and mostly because of the rivalry and not because K has assembled a set of formidable opponents—except maybe mouthy Austin Rivers and Seth “I Flop Like an Italian Soccer Player” Curry). The rest of basketball is down, too, but we have a tough game against Kentucky at Kentucky, which I don’t see us winning.

Final record: 36-4
ACC Regular Season Champs
ACC Tournament: Who cares? That’s for also-rans
National Champions, I think. GAH!

Al’s Completely Biased NCAA Tournament Bracket Thoughts

Never one to quibble about originality, I am hot on the heels of Small Arms McGee with my thoughts in the aftermath of a SethNonSelection Sunday I am now calling “Weakest Year Ever Day Brought to You By Weakest Committee Ever.” In my mind, this has been one of the ugliest years in basketball, with everyone swimming in a sea of mediocrity that was most notable for the number of dolphins identified as sharks (aka the Big East teams). In keeping with the season, one of the ugliest selection committees in basketball created a truly lopsided bracket that puts the hammer down on OSU, the supposed No. 1 overall seeds. (I was going to link to the Meet the Committee page to laugh at how ugly they are, but apparently they’ve taken that page down due to fear of backlash or personal threats to their families made by Seth Greenberg. So now I’m laughing at them.)

Seth Greenburg's Tears for Fears

So, here are my thoughts on the brackets.

East
I was worried that Gene Smith’s ties to Ohio State would mean that their road to the Final Four would be strewn with rose petals ala Duke last year, so I was shocked to see how difficult that bracket is. However, it’s difficult for everyone, I think. I used to wonder why UNC always gets put in these difficult brackets until I saw that one of the committee members is from Wake Forest, and their feelings about UNC border on some sort of psychotic pathos. I’d almost rather have someone from Duke be in charge of our seeding. UNC might end up playing Ohio State, but I’m not optimistic. Unless Roy told the team to hold back and not wear themselves out in the ACC Tournament (knowing that Duke had the Number 1 seed once they made it to the ACC Tournament final, just as I had expected–not even a loss would have stripped them of that seed), UNC looked wretched in all three of its ACC Tournament games. A fall before the Sweet 16 is looking likely for the Tar Heels.

West
I don’t expect Duke to be challenged in the West. They put some teams that on paper look like they could challenge Duke, but Duke should come through all that unscathed and make it to the Final Four. If Texas makes it past the second round, I’ll be shocked. If Arizona and Tennessee make it past the Sweet 16, I’ll be even more shocked. Pearl is too out of control and Arizona has the same problem that UNC does – youth and inconsistency. Duke has gotten their second wind now and should be able to beat any of them. And, of course, one of the weaker 2nd seeds, SDSU, will be right there to fall apart in the face of Singler’s nipple twisting intimidation and Seth Floppy.

Southwest
This could be the most exciting bracket of them all. I don’t have a lot of confidence in Kansas this year, which probably means they’ll win it all. Why? Because I stopped being able to make decent predictions about the NCAA Tournament in the mid-1990s. I hate Pitino, but Louisville always makes whatever bracket they’re in exciting. I don’t think Florida State will make it out of the first round because they have no offense to counter their defense. Sure, they beat Duke, but that’s because Duke went in there overconfident. After they beat Duke, they got scouted more and people began to see that defense doesn’t always “win championships.” If Singleton plays and is healthy, they might make it to the Sweet 16, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Southeast
Could the announcers on CBS yesterday have been more scathing about Pitt’s number 1 seed? I couldn’t help laughing. I think they were upset that it wasn’t Notre Dame. No one thinks that Pitt can make it to the Final Four, and I agree. The Big East really needs to put its money where its mouth is in this tournament, but I don’t see Pitt as being the one to do that. I think Wisconsin will have no trouble with Belmont – unlike lots of UNC fans, I don’t think that “almost beats” count as wins. I’m hoping St. John’s takes out Gonzaga so we don’t have to put up with them after the first round. They always mess up my bracket. ODU could make some noise this year; they’re the sleeper of the CAA but they haven’t had many tough opponents.

Overall
I still can’t decide who’s going to win it all, though. I don’t feel as strongly about Kansas as everyone does and I fear that if Singler is out of his slump, Duke could beat any one of the one seeds. OSU would be most likely to challenge them, but by virtue of their being in the toughest bracket, they could lose before they face Duke or be so exhausted that they just lay down and die in the face of a Duke that will have cruised into the Final Four (even with out Kyrie “The Toe” Irving). Of course, if Duke loses early, we’ll hear nothing but wails that there should be an asterisk on the game because they didn’t have the point guard on the All-Galaxy team–otherwise they would have beat all their opponents by 40+.

So, there you have it. My completely biased and basically irrelevant thoughts on March Madness. See y’all in Houston (I wish).