December 4, 2008 11:35 am ET by Kyle Whelliston
KANSAS CITY -- Later today, I'll be posting the first version of the State of the Other 22, the mid-major (and A-14) subset of the complicated ratings system I put together last year (with the help of some great coaches who helped define the important ingredients) on the Basketball State site. The reason it's taken so long can be fully blamed on Alabama A&M, which did not play a game against a Division I opponent until Tuesday. The numbers are crunching right now as I write this, I have no idea what it's going to look like.
When we ran the overall formula on the 2006-07 regular season, we ended up with three of the Final Quartet in the top four, with Georgetown close by in seventh position. The 2007-08 real-time version was slightly less successful, placing dead-duck Duke at No. 3 (mostly because of home wins) and killing Memphis by placing the Tigers 21st. Kansas, national champion of everything, was in that lucky No. 7 slot.
But the thing that I was getting mail about all summer was Drake at No. 2. There is no question that you can't predict a Ty Rogers 3 at the buzzer in overtime, and we'll never know how much damage the Bulldogs could have done in that crazy Tampa subregional pod. On my PlayStation back at home, I won the theoretical Drake-UCLA Sweet 16 game two times out of three. I'm sure Keno Davis would have substituted in fresh legs every couple of minutes too.
Anyway, the formula has been tweaked for the new season. There are multipliers that measure momentum in certain stats (outrebounding your opponents many times in a row is good), and a bonus for having a lot of double-figure scorers (balanced scoring is also good). I've also pushed back the date of first run -- we started at Thanksgiving last year -- because early results put certain teams in high positions that dead February legs didn't fully shake them from. Ladies and gentlemen, Sam Houston State.
Normally, I'll be posting the snapshots on Wednesdays, just like last year. It's a fantastic debate-starter, generates a lot of Hump Day mail, and it's good fodder for the ESPN.com chats. By the way, my regular timeslot this year over there will be Fridays at 4 p.m. Eastern. That's tomorrow!
Red Line Upsets
Teams below the Red Line have now won 54 games against those above it in 377 chances, and the win percentage is now .143. This number had hovered around one-out-of-ten the last couple of years. While it's still not an indicator of "parity," things are getting better. Anecdotally, one would have to assume that four-year players instead of one-and-dones, neutral-court tournaments and system-ball is helping make this impact.
Yesterday saw five, with the WAC, Sun Belt, A-14, Horizon League and MAC picking up wins over teams from better-heeled leagues. Boise State edged out the Mountain West's Wyoming, New Orleans picked up a victory in an emotional (if not tough to watch) Crescent City Showdown against Tulane, and a young and exciting Ohio team slapped around Tulsa. In a result that surprised nobody, Xavier show 54 percent to knock off Auburn for the second straight season. The Tigers have lost four games against our level, but that's okay, SEC teams are usually defined by their failures. For the four teams that beat them, that's a nice win.
But we've saved the best for last.
Illinois-Chicago 74, at Vanderbilt 55 -- The Flames have a bonafide star in Josh Mayo, a rotation of bruising bigs (many with long names), a strong defense and a head coach in Jimmy Collins that is three parts wizened sage and one part Dolemite. So why aren't they taken seriously in the Horizon League this year? Probably their propensity to run themselves into dumb possessions. Last night in Nashville, Mayo got his 30, freshman Robert Kreps stepped forward for a career high 23, and UIC showed laser-sharp focus, dumping the SEC Commodores with a combination of muscle, ball control and skill. With a lost season in progress at Wright State and disappointments at Valpo, it may be time to put the Flames into that NCAA contender conversation with Cleveland State and Butler.
U'useful Stat of the Day
We begin with a guest stat, courtesy of Navy SID Chris Forman. While I'm at it, congratulations the Academy's men's water polo team on making the final four in that sport for the second straight season. To say that team has depth is an understatement (seriously -- there are like 30 guys on the bench).
I have a good stat for you from last night's Navy game with Texas-San Antonio. Navy won 78-65. Navy started the game 0-for-5 from the field, and went 25-of-30 in the last 34 minutes of the contest. In addition, Navy started 0-of-3 from three-point range but was 7-of-8 the rest of the game. We won the game despite shooting just 35 times and committing 27 turnovers.
Thanks, Chris. Navy's 71 percent shooting performance on Tuesday was truly remarkable. And a stat line like Kaleo Kina's (2 assists, 10 turnovers and 29 points on 9-for-11 shooting) is enough to make any coach crazy, figuring out whether to accentuate the big positive or the massive negative. But let's go back to that shooting percentage. It's the highest recorded by any team this year in any game so far... even counting the glorified exhibitions against non-Division I teams.
Shooting 70 percent in a game is hard. It happened only 10 times last year (including this high-tempo bloodbath at Radford), eight times in 2006-07, and only once the year before. And while 14 teams have turned the ball over at a higher rate than Navy's 36.5 percent on Tuesday (helloooo, Canisius!), there seems to be a Jekyll-Hyde connection between finishing possessions and running into empty ones.
Of the 10 teams that shot 70 percent last season, five turned the ball over at least 24 percent of the time. Keep in mind that a "good number" is 20 percent or lower. In that Radford game, the Highlanders scored 124 points against the Emory & Henry Wasps but turned the ball over 33 times. Neat!
|Hickory Picket Fences||27629|
|The Hopping Cats||21526|
|Under a Blood Red Line||10379|
|Jen Folds Five||6895|