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Tag: Duke

March Madness is Just What Major League Baseball Needs

ROBBINS NEST

By Lenn Robbins

File photo Neil Miller/The New York Extra

  Pitchers, catches and cheaters report in less than four weeks.

The winter stretch from late-January to March has traditionally been a slow spell in sports. That’s one recent Sports Illustrated used to give us the swimsuit edition in February. Now it’s May. Enough of that.

This is not your typical year. MLB is giving us the Rocky Horror Sign Stealing Show.  Need to focus on the something less tainted? Consider this:

 Based on the many college basketball results in this week alone we’ve seen enough head-scratching results to make a safe bet, (sorry MLB)  that this has the potential to be the most maddening, thrilling, impossible to predict NCAA Tournament in recent time – if not all time.

Considered these results:

Unranked Alabama crushed No.4 Auburn, 83-64.

No. 18 Seton Hall slapped No.5 Butler, 78-70 in Indianapolis. South Carolina stunned No. 10 Kentucky, 81-78. Fear not Kentucky, here’s as good a place as any to point out that the Gamecocks got plucked by Northern Iowa, 78-72.

Struggling Georgetown edged No. 25 Creighton, 83-80.

Clemson shocked No. 3 Duke, 79-72.

Wisconsin tripped up No.17 Maryland, 56-54.

Minnesota banged No. 19 Michigan, 75-67.

Oregon State humbled No. 24 Arizona, 82- 65.

And Purdue humiliated No. 8 Michigan State, 71-42.

Defending national champ Virginia is not ranked.

Indiana and Syracuse (see 1987 NCAA National title game finalists) are not ranked.

Man, this his is fun:

Duke was upset at home by Stephen F. Austin, 85-83.

“We played young,” Coach k told reporters. “You gotta get old. You get old by experience, and I can’t teach them to be 22. They’re 18, a lot of them.”

Young gets you beat in the big Dance.

Kentucky fell at home to Evansville, 67-63.

“Stuff like this happens,” Kentucky coach John Calipari told reporters. “You wanna grow from it, you wanna learn from it. We may look back in a couple weeks and say ‘this is the greatest thing that happened to this team.'”

Or not.

Georgia was blown out at Dayton, 80-61.

“I knew we were going to be coming in against a whole different level of intensity, physicality, the way guys play,” Bulldogs coach Tom Crean told reporters. “That’s where we’re at and we got exposed by that.”

Exposed.

LSU got manhandled at home by East Tennessee State, 74-63.

“Obviously, this was a tough night,” LSU coach Will Wade told reporters. “East Tennessee had a great game plan. They shrunk the paint on us and then just pinned their ears back and killed us on the offensive glass. They got 15 more shots than we did and that really, really hurt us. It was too much for us to overcome.”

Killed us.

Boston College has become an attractive game for every mid-major, having lost to St. Louis, 64-54, and Richmond, 64-44. Richmond also owns a 93-92 win over Vanderbilt.

Santa Clara might be pushing for membership in the Pac 12 after knocking off Washington St., 70-62 and Cal, 71-52.

And our most convincing argument for March insanity is this:

North Carolina isn’t even listed in ‘Others Getting Votes.” North Carolina. Take that Rob Nelson, Channel 7!

“I want to apologize to all the North Carolina fans, the people that care about our basketball program, former players, everyone that cares about us,” Roy Williams said after a 79-76 home loss to Clemson, which had lost 60 straight to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.

Why apologize? It’s not like anyone cheated. In fact, North Carolina could have a starring role in the maddest March of all time.

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Four Things We Learned From the Champions Classic

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Robbins Nest

By Lenn Robbins

  By now you have learned certain things in life are meaningless.

  The fortune inside the cookie. Meaningless.

  The LCD boards in every subway station. Meaningless.

  ToyotaThon…You get it.

  Such is the case with preseason college basketball rankings. Pathetically, utterly meaningless.

   Michigan State, one of the nation’s premier programs, came into the season with its first-ever preseason No.1 ranking under coach Tom Izzo. That lasted all of one game.

  The Spartans were upended by No.2 Kentucky, 69-62, Tuesday night in the Champions Classic in The Garden. No. 4 Duke technically upset No.3 Kansas, 68-66, in the other game.

“There’s a chance we could be ranked No. 1 for the first time in the history of our school to start out the season, which means — unfortunately — nothing,” Izzo said at the team’s media day.

Why the sport continues this tradition isn’t a mystery. The angst of the rankings makes for a lot of headlines and handwringing. A lot of diehard college hoop fans don’t start paying attention until January so this is good for the sport – theoretically.

The coach of the team picked No.1 usually reacts in one of two ways:

Exasperated indignation: “Obviously no one has seen us practice. If they did, we might not be in the Top 25.”

Or, outright dismissal: “Doesn’t mean a thing. If we’re No.1 at the end of the season, then I’ll be excited.”

The early rankings are more meaningless than ever, fortunately, because they don’t matter when it comes time to select the 68 teams that make the NCAA Tournament.

The NCAA, masters of making the simple complicated, introduced the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) last season. Although it relies too much on analytics for my taste, it is as objective as an IRS accountant.

The NET is comprised of five valuations – team value index, net efficiency, winning percentage, adjusted win percentage and scoring margin.

The team value index rewards teams that beat good teams. It takes into account the opponent, location and outcome.

Net efficiency is a team’s offensive efficiency minus its defensive efficiency. Waaay to nerdy for me.

Winning percentage is just that.

Adjusted win percentage factors in location of games and result.  A road win is worth 1.4. A home loss is -1.4. A neutral site loss, such as the Champions Classic, is +1 or -1

Scoring margin is a team’s total points minus its opponent’s points. The winning margin was capped at 10 points per game so it doesn’t matter if the Spartans beat Binghamton by 12 or 50 in its next game. (Disclaimer: author is a Stony Brook grad).

So what did we learn about the nation’s top four  ranked teams. Oops, those rankings.

Izzo has decided to challenge the best player on what might be his best team. After guard Cassius Winston scored a game-high 21 points (1-of-7 on 3’s) and had just four assists, Izzo had this to say to ESPN.

 “Cassius was a little tired tonight,” he said. “I was surprised because he’s in really good shape.”

 Calipari said he didn’t start freshman Tyrese Maxey because he wanted his five-star recruit to come off the bench firing. Maxey had a game-high 26 points on 7-of-12 shooting. More impressive is that the freshman got to the line 10 times in his first college game, making nine.

His 3 with a minute left proved to be the game winner. Don’t expect Maxey to be coming off the bench for long.

“What I saw today is what I saw in high school,” Calipari said. “I [had] not seen it to this point. I’m in practice, where’s the sniper that I recruited? … But the two days prior to this, all I talked about was you be that sniper — play. We need you to get baskets for us.”

Duke has been a perennial power under Coach K because of one word – defense. Yes, teams usually look bad on offense this early in the season but that doesn’t excuse the 28 turnovers Kansas committed.

 If the Dukies, who shot 35.9 percent from the field (Kansas shot 46-percent0 weren’t this relentless on defense, they don’t eke out the two-point win. Which means Duke’s offense has a loooong way to go. Freshman Cassius Stanley was the only Duke player to shoot 50-percent or better from the field.

‘Overall, we were able to stay fairly fresh defensively,’’ said Krzyzewski. “And that’s gonna have to be a key for our basketball team.”

Bill Self certainly wasn’t laughing on the inside after those 28 turnovers. When asked if it was a positive sign that his Jayhawks only lost by two, he quipped, “I guess if you are Tony Robbins you could look at it that way.”

Kansas has NBA-type height in the 7-foot Uduke Azubike, 6-10 David McCormack, 6-9

Silvio De Soussa, 6-8  Tristain Enaruna and 6-5 Marcus Garrett.  The Jayhawks outrebounded Duke, 40-30.

But if the Jayhawks don’t get better point guard play, that height gets negated. Devon Dotson (six turnovers, one assist) was outplayed by Duke’s Tre Jones (seven assists, three turnovers).