The folks over at A Sea Of Blue, SBNation's Kentucky site, are the initial hosts for the CBS Blog Poll round table discussion. They have posted a few questions, and the blogs that participate in the CBS Blog Poll have been asked to contribute their answers. At some point, A Sea Of Blue will put together a composite piece.
Here are my responses to the four questions. I look forward to hearing your thoughts as well. Take a look at their site for a ton of great basketball discussion and his answers to the questions.
Who really looks like the best team in college basketball this season?
As you all know, I have become a firm believer in the Pomeroy Rating scales and his advanced stats. I feel that provide an excellent evaluation of multiple statistical categories and provide insights in the subtle strengths and weaknesses of each team. He does some excellent writing over there and the Basketballprospectus.com is also an excellent source.
These are Pomeroy's top four teams, in order: Memphis, UNC, Pitt and UConn. Selecting which teams is the best out of these four is an extremely difficult task. As much as I love the ACC and believe that it is the strongest conference, I don't think that UNC is the best team in the country, currently. They could easily prove me wrong in the tournament, but I feel they have exploitable weaknesses.
UConn is falling to the injury bug. Plus, the lost to Pitt, so I don't think it would be fair to rank them over Pitt. I love their size inside with Thabeet and it will take them far in the tournament. They have the number 15 offense in the country and the number 4 defense. This is outstanding balance on both ends of the court, that I respect and appreciate. Their only two losses are to Pitt and a then 18th ranked Georgetown. (For those of you unfamiliar with I site, I usually refer to Pomeroy rankings. I will note exceptions). They have the 22nd most difficult schedule overall and play big. They have the tallest effective height in the country. We have the number 1 average height. They have a ton of experience as well, averaging 2.2 years per player. Their startes play essentially the entire game, with only 25% of their minutes coming from the bench.
So it comes down to Pitt or Memphis. Two very different teams. Memphis has the number 1 defense in the country, holding opponents to an Adjusted Efficiency of 81.4. Their offense is 31st in the country and they play a slow tempo game. Where they get knocked on the offensive end is their ability to shoot...from every where. 33% from 3 point land, a respectible 49.7% from 2 point land and a brutal 68% from the charity stripe. However, they make up for it on the defenisve end, playing a strong pressure man to man defense. They limit teams to an eFG% of only 42% an teams are shooting only 39.9% from the floor against them. The block shots like crazy and they steal the ball better than we do. You all know that I love defensive teams.They are also big and rank second in average height and 25th in effective height. SOS is ok at 61 overall. Their non-conference SOS was ridiculous at 43, not very common for a top team. Thei three losses were early season losses to Xavier, Georgetown and Syracuse. They have quality wins over Tulsa, Tennessee and Gonzaga.
Pitt on the other hand, has the number 1 offense and number 32 defense, almost the exact opposite of Memphis. Their offensive effiiciency is 124.8 (ridiculous) and they are holding their opponents to 91.1. they also play a slow tempo game and grind it out. Where they stand out is their ability to rebound and that all results from Deuan Blair. They have an OReb% of 42.9% and limit thie opponents to a 29% OReb%. They shoot the ball relatively well with a 53.4% eFG% and rarely turn the ball over. They, however, do not generate many turnovers. They do not get to the line nor do they shoot mainy free throws. They get their points inside. They play an unbelievable schedule, with an SOS of 9th overall but only 139th non-conference SOS. They did play us and we held them to their lowest offensive output of the year in what was considered a quality win for Pitt. One major disadvantage..their not that big. DeJuan Blair is only 6'7". Levance Fileds is 5'10". But they take care of business with only two losses at Louisville and at Villanova.
So let's look at Pomeroy's 4 factors for the two teams:
So my conclusion: I think I need to hand it to Pitt. They have a better eFG%, OR% and every so slightly better TO%. This was tough as I love what Memphis does on defense. I have had the opportunity to watch both teams and they are excellent. I would love to see a championship game between them. I almost pulled the trigger to say Memphis as it would cause quite a stir. I like that they are a bigger team who gets to the line and plays outstanding defense. I think that will get them farther in the tournaments...so why not...Memphis it is.
Is Blake Griffin the Player of the Year already, or can somebody catch him?
I currently believe the four best players in the country are Ty Lawson, Blake Griffin, DeJuan Blair and Stephen Curry. All very different players on very different style teams in vastly different conferences.
Let's look at a couple of important stats:
Blake Griffin stands out in so many statistical categories. He gets the press. He puts up huge numbers night after night. Sure, he has the lowest ORtg of the three, but it isn't far off. He grabs an unbelievable amount of rebounds, does not turn the ball over and actually distributes the ball well. He also plays 82% of his team's possible minutes. Obviously, more minutes more stats. But he consistently gets it done every night. I love the other players on this list. But, it's unlikely that any of them will beat out Griffin for the player of the year, despite being exceptional basketball players. Though, Kudos to Blair for man handling a much bigger player in Thabeet the other night. I just think that the press has already decided that is Griffin.
What currently ranked team is the biggest disappointment so far this year?
So this will depend on whose rankings you use. If I use the AP/ESPN polls, I would probably have to go with UCLA, as well. If you look at the Pomeroy ratings, Georgetown is currently 18th overall. 10 losses: Pitt: ND, Duke, West Virginia, Seton Hall, Cincinnati twice (We beat Cincinnati), Marquette, and Syracuse. They did beat Connecticut and Memphis. They were ranked 22nd and 18th in the AP/ESPN polls in the pre-season...so maybe this isn't as big as a surprise as I'm making it. Even though the have had one of the most difficult schedules in the country...this is a down year. But, if I were to use the AP/ESPN polls, I would have to say that either Louisville or UCLA, probably UCLA more so than Louisville.
Predict the next team to beat Oklahoma.
I think this comes down to Kansas or Missouri. Statistically, Missouri is the better team. Missouri is currently ranked 12th and 10th on offense and defense respectively and play an up-tempo game. They shoot the ball lights out and rarely turn the ball over. They force their poonents into a turnover on 26.3% of possessions. They play a pressure man to man defense. Kansas is ranked 27th on offense and 11th on defense and play a slower tempo game. They, however, do not cause turnovers. They turn the ball over almost as many times as we do at 22% of their possession. Kansas is one of the least experience teams in the country and they are playing Oklahoma on the road. Missouri gets them at home. Oklahoma shoots the 2 ball extremely well and Missouri does a decent job defending those shots. I think the defensive pressure that Missouri can apply in this game will be the difference, Oklahoma has a difficult final stretch. So, I give the nod to Missouri on this one. It should be a great game in both cases.
Hope you all enjoyed this. Make sure you check out A Sea of Blue for other blog responses.