Monday, March 27, 2017

2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament 4 Teams Left

Well we are down to the final four and it's an odd collection of teams.  We have four different conferences represented and the two coasts.  Here are the teams.

South Carolina vs Gonzaga
Oregon vs North Carolina

At this point in the tournament North Carolina will be the heavy favorites to win it all as they came in second last year and appear to be the best team standing, but people thought Kansas looked to be the best team and Oregon handled them with little problem.  Since we missed out on a final 8 entry let's cover what's happened since we last got up to date on the tournament. 

Florida and South Carolina met in the East championship game.  Not sure anyone except for diehard SEC fans thought that would happen.  In the West Xavier surprised everyone by knocking off Arizona, but then ran out of steam as they got rolled by Gonzaga.  In the Midwest we got Oregon and Kansas as expected, but then Oregon surprised everyone by beating Kansas and beating them pretty easily.  In the South Kentucky played a brilliant game to beat UCLA while UNC easily rolled over Butler, then managed to beat UK with a last second jumper and as you would hear from any UK fan a lot of help from the refs. 

Here is where I should talk a little bit about myself.  When I was a kid I had three big teams that I rooted for.  UK basketball, the Oakland A's, and the Miami Dolphins.  I rooted for other teams like the 76ers as a kid, but those were the big three for me.  The first big blow to me as a sports fan was the Dolphins loss to the Charger in the 1982 playoff game.  The second big blow was the A's first game world series loss to the Dodgers in 1988.  The last and final blow for me was the 1992 UK loss to Duke in the NCAA tournament.  I have never been the same kind of sports fan since that game.  Just can't sit and watch a game for a team I really like, makes me too nuts.  So with UK playing UNC yesterday I found myself constantly checking in on the score and hoping against hope that UK would pull it out.  I'm so glad I was not watching. 

I say all of this to say I wish I could write more in depth about the Kentucky game the way GoHeath did on this site in the past, but I can't.

Of course for me the NCAA is also an exercise in my programs' abilities to predict the tournament.  This has been a very bad year for me.  Here are where things stand. 

Sagarin 81 pts / 145 possible
Model4 79 pts / 95 possible
KenPom 76 pts / 140 possible
Model1 68 pts / 68 possible
RPI 61 pts / 61 possible
Model2 59 pts / 59 possible
Model3 58 pts / 106 possible

I've been doing this for 20 years, this is the worst Model1 has ever performed.  Luckily my latest model, Model4, the one I forgot about until after the tournament had started has performed well, but that model has Kansas winning it all over Gonzaga so that model cannot win the championship.  Model3 now is my lone hope.  That model has Oregon winning it all.  It should be noted that the Sagarin bracket has UNC and Gonzaga in the final as does the KenPom bracket so unless Oregon is the champion Sagarin will win. 


  1. I was thinking about Go Heath during this game, too, particularly at halftime. I didn't go back and check how often, but it seemed like he wrote several times after March basketball games about the weather--about how so frequently there's snow on the ground when the tournament starts and then how it's springtime by the time the tournament finishes.

    I had watched the first half of Sunday's game at home alone. My spouse was working, and the daughter was playing in the backyard with some neighborhood friends--it's warm enough now that I could have the window open to listen to her. I was very tense but still confident after the first half, with UK trailing, 38-33. I was just so angry at UNC's cheating, cheating and lying in general, the seeding of the tournament, the NC2A's bias against John Calipari and the officiating that had forced him to play all kinds of crazy rotations of players. I went outside and started raking dead, wet leaves from under the shrubs. I thought about Go Heath and you and your mom, and I actually thought about just skipping the second half and finding out the score after the game. I like raking, and it felt good to be getting the house back in shape after the winter.

    We had a raccoon walk up and go to sleep and die on the bed of brown leaves below our shrubs outside our bedroom window one evening this winter. It was an interesting thing. Our cat sat in the window and moaned. The raccoon did not appear to be injured or sick--just old. We were kind of flattered that it chose our house as its final resting place. Our daughter is very interested in animals and cycles of life, and we used it as an opportunity to talk about death and age and blessing. It was a really rich experience, and I didn't mind at all having to retrieve and dispose of the dead animal the next morning after we were certain it was actually dead and not just sleeping. It was a rich experience.

    Anyway, I was thinking about all of this stuff and enjoying the light exercise and damp, winter-to-spring air, and, like I said, I talked to myself about skipping the second half. This was a happier experience than watching the game, and my wife would be so happy to see everything tidied up after she got home from working all weekend. She never pressures me to do stuff around the house, but she's always so appreciative.

    But I didn't do it. I went on in and watched--and even took notes to write a game story.

  2. I saw something on the internet--I think I might've even reTweeted it--where someone wrote about this UK team lost just as UK fans were falling in love with it. That was one of the smartest, broad-strokes observations I read after the game.

    I am so happy with Coach Calipari. It is so much fun to have your team coached by one of the best coaches in your team's league. Actually, what I should say is it so much fun to not have your team coach by not one of the best coaches in your team's league. That is the more correct representation of what I feel. One of the things about the Coach Cal era so far, though, is that it is freaking emotionally exhausting, and I find myself not ready to root in the same way I did during the Coach Hall era.

    Coach Cal preaches at us about Love all season long, and we do fall in love with his guys by the end of the season. And other fans hate our guys so much that it makes us love them even more. And there are always bumps along the way in January and February when these teen-agers start going places like Starkville and Oxford and Tuscaloosa and start getting really, really, really screamed at for the first time in their lives. And all of those people who hate us start sending us snarky emails and texts. And then the fighting starts among those of us who root by saying everything's awful and those os us who root by saying everything's great. But then you get to very late February or March, and, most all of the time, the teen-agers are starting to really play well together, and they've gotten a little tougher. And Coach Cal has figured out who can play with whom and when and all of that kind of stuff. They go to the SEC tournament, and they play better and sharper and tougher than you ever imagined back in January this group of kids could possibly play.

  3. But the NC2A announces it's tournament bracket, and it's always just total jive. Total, total, total jive.

    It is just nuts the NC2A committee meetings are closed to the public. How can that possibly serve the public good? There is huge money at stake, and, really, who even cares about that? There are millions of people out here who get so excited about this stupid basketball tournament that we print brackets and fill them up and put the games on at work or school, etc. And there's a little group of administrators--and UK's Mitch Barnhart was one of them this year--who go into a little room somewhere for the weekend, and they come out and announce their bracket. And it never matters who actually wins the SEC-tournament final on Sunday afternoon, and the ACC always gets in two dozen teams because everybody loves James Taylor music, and Illinois State always gets left out. And then some guy in a suit sits down on a set with Jim Nantz or whomever and just outright lies to us that the committee doesn't try to stage stories, like pairing UK with Wichita State again or sending Calipari back to Memphis. Honestly, how mean is that? It's the equivalent of the NC2A planning your wedding and staging the rehearsal dinner at your ex-girlfriend's house. Obviously, they do that garbage on purpose, but they just come out and lie and lie and lie, and nobody cares about lying or cheating anymore. Nobody cares. I voted for the guy twice, but I really do wish that President Clinton should've resigned. And I will always hate the cheating Patriots for ruining the NFL for me. Lying and cheating are wrecking us as a people.

  4. The other thing I saw after the game was that Calipari said the refs tried to "foul out my team" or something like that. It's absolutely true. You can say it's whining or whatever, but there's no question that it's true.

    The ironic thing is that I think UNC might've won had that not been the case. Fox and Monk seemed not as sharp to me after having to play so brilliantly against UCLA just two nights before in what should've been a Final Four game (except the NC2A obviously is doing anything it can to make sure that Calipari doesn't go down as a multiple-times tournament winner). And I think Adebayo was on the verge of freaking himself out after being so frustrated by double and triple teams through the weekend. But then the officials called them each for two fouls, and Calipari ended up playing guys like Hawkins, Humphries and Mulder more than than he normally does. And the thing was that those guys totally rose to the occasion. Even Mulder, who wasn't hitting his shots, played very aggressively and forced UNC to actually defend him. It was 38-33 at halftime after all of these ridiculous foul calls; had Adebayo, Fox and Monk been allowed to play, I think UK might've been 10 or more points down.

  5. UK came out the half and surged with six straight points. Adebayo was still not yet hitting his field goals and sometimes having a hard time even holding onto the ball, but, after his long hiatus in the first half, he appeared to have settled down and figured out what he could do within the game's limitations--draw fouls and pass to open teammates.

    Meanwhile, the UK offense was mostly running through Briscoe at this point. He's a strangely effective player for someone who's both a poor-shooting guard and a too-short forward. He's kind of like the knight in chess. He's limited in what he can do, but he moves in a unique way relative to every other player on the floor--and, yet, because of his limitations, you're even willing to sacrifice him as part of some elaborate strategy.

    Anyway, Briscoe penetrated and hit Willis for a jumper; then, Adebayo passed out of a double for a Briscoe driver, and, then, Adebayo drew a foul and hit his free throws. It was suddenly 39-38, UK, with 17:35 to go, and CBS showed Gabriel pumping his fists on the sideline and yelling, "GO! GO! GO!" #BBN was going crazy. Now I thought UK was going to pull away.

  6. But here's the thing ... UNC is really good, even without all of the officials' help. The Tar Heels had gone 11 or 12 straight possessions without a single point over the end of first half and beginning of the second. But here they came--Meeks free throws, Monk's third foul on a Jackson three-pointer (free throw good), May takes Adebayo for a layup off the dribble ... Nantz: "Carolina, out of sync for so long, now on a 9-2 run ..."

    With 10:39 to go, UNC made a free throw to extend its lead to 53-47, and now I thought UK was going to lose by 15 points, just as I thought they were going to after watching the first possession or two of the game.

  7. UNC decided to rest Meeks at this point, which is understandable--I think that guy's, like, 35 years old. He's really great, but he's been playing basketball forever. He's no spring chicken.

    Adebayo got fouled on a rebound and hit two more free throws, and then he hit a spinning jumper from deeper than he usually hits. It was back to 53-51, Tar Heels. UK got within one, 55-54, a bit later, after Fox was fouled in a transition after a steal and made one of two free throws.

    At this point, with 8:25 to play, UNC got Meeks back into the game.

  8. But now Bam was on, baby, and that opened things up for Humphries, the teen-aged backup 7-footer from Australia.

    I want to say something to Isaac Humphries right now. I saw a thing just this morning suggesting that Humphries might've played himself Sunday into an NBA opportunity. It's hard for me to imagine that's true, but I watch these guys all season long, and so I see they're still just kids and their youthful mistakes, and I'm always surprised how many UK underclassmen the NBA goes after every draft. Maybe this person I was reading this morning was right. And, if so and that's what Humphries wants to do for whatever reason, go in grace, son.

    But here's what I want to say to Isaac Humphries: If you are on the fence and you have the chance to come back to UK, two things ... one, I think you are ready to become Calipari's next great improvement project (along the lines of DeAndre Liggins and Josh Harrelson), and, two, you have the potential to go down as one of #BBN's truly beloved players. Your effort Sunday, even in the loss, will never be forgotten, and we were all there with you in the awful technical foul last season. If you end up playing a major role in one or two more excellent UK seasons, you will have a lot of an entire U.S. state in love with you. And, seriously, how many kids in the history of Australia can say that?

  9. Bam passed to Humphries across the lane for a short banker: 57-56, UNC ... Fox drives and misses, but Humphries is fouled on the follow attempt: 58-57, UK ... Briscoe drives and feeds Humphries for a middle-range jumper: 60-59 ... Bam steals, and Fox switches to his left hand for a soft banker in transition: 62-59 ... Fox passes to Humphries for a jumper on something one of the announcers called a "roll and replace:" 64-59 ... 4:58 to go ...

  10. You can blame me if you want. At this point, my wife got home. She had been gone all weekend, working a church retreat. We watched, but I put the game on mute and talked with her mostly. Here's what happened the rest of the way, per ESPN:

    5:03 North Carolina Timeout 64 - 59
    4:41 Theo Pinson made Jumper. 64 - 61
    4:23 Isaac Humphries missed Jumper. 64 - 61
    4:23 Kennedy Meeks Defensive Rebound. 64 - 61
    4:19 Foul on Isaiah Briscoe. 64 - 61
    3:53 Justin Jackson made Jumper. 64 - 63
    3:27 Edrice Adebayo missed Layup. 64 - 63
    3:27 Kennedy Meeks Block. 64 - 63
    3:27 Theo Pinson Defensive Rebound. 64 - 63
    3:22 Foul on De'Aaron Fox. 64 - 63
    3:22 Official TV Timeout 64 - 63
    3:22 Theo Pinson made Free Throw. 64 - 64
    3:22 Theo Pinson made Free Throw. 64 - 65
    3:07 De'Aaron Fox missed Jumper. 64 - 65
    3:07 Theo Pinson Defensive Rebound. 64 - 65
    2:44 Joel Berry II missed Three Point Jumper. 64 - 65
    2:44 Justin Jackson Offensive Rebound. 64 - 65
    2:41 Foul on Dominique Hawkins. 64 - 65
    2:41 Luke Maye made Free Throw. 64 - 66
    2:41 Luke Maye made Free Throw. 64 - 67
    2:27 Derek Willis missed Three Point Jumper. 64 - 67
    2:27 Luke Maye Defensive Rebound. 64 - 67
    1:58 Joel Berry II made Jumper. 64 - 69
    1:45 Kentucky Timeout 64 - 69
    1:38 Malik Monk Turnover. 64 - 69
    1:38 Joel Berry II Steal. 64 - 69
    1:12 Foul on Joel Berry II. 64 - 69
    1:12 Joel Berry II Turnover. 64 - 69
    1:05 Malik Monk missed Three Point Jumper. 64 - 69
    1:05 Theo Pinson Defensive Rebound. 64 - 69
    0:54 Foul on De'Aaron Fox. 64 - 69
    0:54 Theo Pinson made Free Throw. 64 - 70
    0:54 Theo Pinson made Free Throw. 64 - 71
    0:49 De'Aaron Fox made Three Point Jumper. Assisted by Isaiah Briscoe. 67 - 71
    0:47 Kentucky Timeout 67 - 71
    0:47 North Carolina Turnover. 67 - 71
    0:40 Malik Monk made Three Point Jumper. Assisted by Derek Willis. 70 - 71
    0:34 Justin Jackson made Layup. Assisted by Luke Maye. 70 - 73
    0:17 Edrice Adebayo Turnover. 70 - 73
    0:17 Luke Maye Steal. 70 - 73
    0:17 Jump Ball won by North Carolina 70 - 73
    0:17 North Carolina Timeout 70 - 73
    0:15 Foul on Malik Monk. 70 - 73
    0:15 Justin Jackson missed Free Throw. 70 - 73
    0:15 De'Aaron Fox Defensive Rebound. 70 - 73
    0:10 Malik Monk made Three Point Jumper. Assisted by Isaiah Briscoe. 73 - 73
    0:03 Luke Maye made Jumper. Assisted by Theo Pinson. 73 - 75
    0:01 Kentucky Timeout 73 - 75
    0:01 Derek Willis Turnover. 73 - 75
    0:00 End of Game 73 - 75

  11. De'Aaron Fox's and Malik Monk's three-pointers in the last minute were amazing, but so was Luke Maye's make with three seconds to go. It was a terrific game.

  12. Fox, Monk and Derek Willis each finished with four fouls. Edrice "Bam" Adebayo never got another foul in the second half. All of them were on the floor at the end of the game. Kentucky finished 32-6 and won the SEC. Since 2010, UK has advanced to seven of eight NC2A tournaments. Its season ended in the rounds of 32 once, eight twice and four twice. Twice it has gone to the final, and, in 2012, it won the championship.

  13. UNC wins it all in part because Gonzaga got into foul trouble early in the 2nd half. And that's that.