Monday, February 17, 2020

Best NBA Teams Since 1979

So here's what I did.  I went to basketball-reference.com, and looked up the offensive and defensive ratings for each team to win the NBA title since 1979.  (For me, the 1979-80 season is the beginning of the modern NBA.)  Then I subtracted the defensive rating from the offensive rating.  Here's an example, using the 2002 Lakers.

The 2002 Lakers had an offensive rating of 109.4, meaning that they scored 109.4 points per 100 possessions.  Their defensive rating was 101.7, meaning that they allowed 101.7 points per 100 possessions.  If you subtract their defensive rating from their offensive rating, you get a score of 7.7, which is slightly above average for an NBA Champion.  (The 2019 Raptors had a rating of 6.0.)

Using this method, here are the 10 best teams to win the NBA title since the 1978-79 season:

1.  1995-96 Chicago Bulls:  13.4
2.  1996-97 Chicago Bulls:  12.0
3.  2016-17 Golden State Warriors:  11.6
4.  2007-08 Boston Celtics:  11.3
5.  1991-92 Chicago Bulls:  11.0
6.  2014-15 Golden State Warriors:  10.2
7.  1990-91 Chicago Bulls:  9.4
8.  2006-07 San Antonio Spurs:  9.3
9.  1985-86 Boston Celtics:  9.2
T10.  1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers:  9.1
T10.  1999-00 Los Angeles Lakers:  9.1

Six of the top seven teams feature Michael Jordan or Stephen Curry, which certainly matches my memory.  The biggest surprise to me was the 2007-08 Celtics, but that was a strong team that almost won another title in 2010, and which led the league in defense that year.  The others on the list all come from well-known dynasties.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Life in the SEC

Auburn just completed the following stretch of games.  Home teams listed first:

1/28:  Mississippi 82 - 83 Auburn (Double Overtime).  Auburn was down 48-31 with 12:34 left in the game.  36 free throws for Auburn; 32 for Ole Miss.

2/1:  Auburn 75 - 66 Kentucky.  Auburn was down 54-49 with 8:53 left in the game.  Auburn shot 44 free throws, while UK shot only 24.  Ashton Hagans fouled out in only 20 minutes of game time.  Immanuel Quickley also fouled out.

2/4:  Arkansas 76 - 79 Auburn (Overtime).  Auburn was down 65-54 with 5:59 left in the game.  30 free throws for Auburn, 26 for Arkansas.

2/8:  Auburn 91 - 90 Louisiana St. (Overtime).  Back at home.  Auburn was down 32-17 at one point in the first half, and trailed 71-63 with 1:26 left in the game.  20 free throws for Auburn, 20 free throws for LSU.

2/12:  Auburn 95 - 91 Alabama (Overtime).  Auburn led the whole way, but Alabama (which took 59 three-point shots, making 22), hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to create Auburn's fourth overtime game in its last five match-ups.  Auburn had 39 free throws; Alabama had 16.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

KHSAA Top 20 Boys' Basketball

Here is the latest top 20 in KHSAA Boys' Basketball, according to MaxPreps.  Private schools in italics:

1.  Lou. Male:  23-4
2.  Lou. Ballard:  22-4 (won the King of the Bluegrass and the LIT)
3.  Cov. Catholic:  22-4
4.  Lex. Catholic:  23-2
5.  Ashland Blazer:  24-0
6.  Oldham Co:  24-2
7.  John Hardin:  26-2 (won the Class 2A Championship)
8.  Lex. Henry Clay:  19-5
9.  Collins:  19-7
10.  Lou. Fern Creek:  20-6
11.  Bourbon Co:  21-5
12.  Elizabethtown:  20-2
13.  Lou. Butler:  16-7
14.  Madisonville-North Hopkins:  23-3
15.  Lou. Jeffersontown:  15-6
16.  Ft. Thomas Highlands:  22-2
17.  Erlanger St. Henry:  19-4 (won the Class A Championship)
18.  S. Oldham:  19-8
19.  Conner:  18-5
20.  Warren Central:  19-6

The top team in the First Region is McCracken County, which has a record of 23-5.

Vanderbilt 64 - 78 Kentucky (No. 2,312)

The best way to understand this game is to think of it as four different quarters:

First quarter:  Vanderbilt 23 - 13 Kentucky
Second quarter:  Vanderbilt 13 - 14 Kentucky
Third quarter:  Vanderbilt 10 - 24 Kentucky
Fourth quarter:  Vanderbilt 18 - 27 Kentucky

At one point, the Cats were down 36-22 with 3:30 left in the first half.  From there to the end of the game, they outscored Vandy 56 to 28.

Here's what it looked like when the same two teams met in Lexington a few weeks ago:

First quarter:  Kentucky 16 - 13 Vanderbilt
Second quarter:  Kentucky 12 - 22 Vanderbilt
Third quarter:  Kentucky 21 - 15 Vanderbilt
Fourth quarter:  Kentucky 22 - 12 Vanderbilt

At one point in that game, the Cats were down 40-30 with 17:44 left in the second half.  From there to the end, they outscored Vandy 41 to 22.

I cannot remember seeing any UK team that turns itself on and off the way this one does.  The 2002 team -- famously remembered as "Team Turmoil" -- had some of these qualities.  But I never felt like those guys were in control of their own situation -- sometime they were great, and sometimes they were terrible, and you never knew what you were going to get.

This team is different.  They will play well only when they face adversity.  If they face a real challenge -- like Michigan State, or Louisville, or Tennessee on the road -- they'll give you a good effort.  But if they play a team like Vandy -- or Evansville, or Utah -- they simply will not play good basketball until they are well behind.  Similarly, they won't play well against anyone once they have a 10-point lead.  Because of this habit, I have no idea how good they really are.

But they have swept the two Tennessee schools on the road, and the only other Calipari teams to accomplish that feat were the 2012 National Champions and the 2015 team that started off 38-0.  So that's a very nice accomplishment.

Three-point watch:  The Cats went 6-9 from three-point range last night, so they went 11-19 in their two games in Tennessee.  They now lead the SEC in three-point shooting percentage, with a shooting percentage of 37.5 percent in SEC play.  But they are last in three-point attempts, as they shoot threes only 22.5 percent of the time.  Those two numbers seem odd together, but they are actually perfect, given this team's makeup.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

OVC Update

Just to remind ourselves, here is the list of OVC Tournament winners since Belmont joined the league after the 2012 season:

2013:  Belmont (beaten by Arizona in first round of NCAA Tournament)
2014:  E. Kentucky (beaten by Kansas in first round of NCAA Tournament)
2015:  Belmont (beaten by Virginia in first round of NCAA Tournament)
2016:  Austin Peay (beaten by Kansas in first round of NCAA Tournament)'
2017:  Jacksonville St. (beaten by Louisville in first round of NCAA Tournament)
2018:  Murray St. (beaten by W. Virginia in first round of NCAA Tournament)
2019:  Murray St. (beaten by Florida St. in second round of NCAA Tournament)

So the OVC continues its tradition of hard-fought conference battles and occasional NCAA upsets.  Good for them.

Here are the current standings, with Ken Pom ratings next to each team:

137.  Murray St.  11-1

151.  Austin Peay:  10-2

109.  Belmont:  9-3
303.  E. Kentucky:  9-3

235.  Tennessee St.  7-5

310.  Morehead St.  6-6

236.  E. Illinois:  5-7
261.  Jacksonville St.  5-7

329.  UT-Martin:  3-9
339.  SIU-Edwardsville:  3-9
340.  Tennessee Tech:  3-9

338.  SE Missouri St:  1-11

Last week, Belmont swept Murray State and Austin Peay at home, thus making up for the fact that the Racers and the Governors swept Belmont when the Bruins visited them in January.  On paper, Belmont's toughest remaining game is at Tennessee State on February 29 -- the last game of the year.

Murray has three difficult games left:  at Austin Peay (Feb. 13), at Eastern Illinois (Feb. 20), and home to Austin Peay (Feb. 29).

Austin Peay has that same set of games, except the Governors will be at Eastern Illinois on February 22.

Eastern Kentucky still has to play Austin Peay and Murray on the road, and Belmont at home, so it will be very difficult for them to keep pace.

Of course, all of this drama is merely a prelude to the real showdown -- the OVC Tournament, which used to be in Nashville but is now in Evansville.  It should be a dandy.