Filed under: 2009 NCAA Tournament | Tags: 2009 NCAA Tournament, Champion, Final Four
Welcome to the second annual ‘Ballsy Tournament Predictions’. We’ve finally made it to the Final Four. It has been a strange trip to get to this point. You see, I don’t begin this project with a planned Final Four and then work my way to it. Instead, I literally take it day-by-day. I do round one, without thinking at all about round two. I try (my best) to just focus on each game. The irony is, by the time I get to Thursday and see my own Final Four, I’m usually left shaking my head.
Do I really think the Sooners, who only play seven players, can survive to final four? I have a Midwest bracket with Louisville, Wake Forest and Michigan State, yet I have West Virginia advancing? I don’t even remember how I accomplished that one. Do I really believe Ty Lawson’s toe is that bad and if so, will it really affect this talent Tar Heels team? I really don’t know. In fact, there are plenty of examples where I will look over my post the next day and wish I could go back and take the prediction back. I have to be nuts to think Syracuse will lose in the first round. Think about it, I have Pittsburgh losing to OSU, I have Duke beating Villanova and to be honest, if Gonzaga does beat North Carolina, they’re not really going to fold against the Sooners.
Anyhow, it is all besides the point now. We don’t go back and change predictions. This is the Final Four pick we made, and we’re going to finish this bad boy. Like I say over and over and over again, don’t listen to my predictions. Having said that, let’s move on to our Ballsy Sweet 16 & Elite 8 Predictions.
#2 Duke Blue Devils over #2 Oklahoma Sooners
Here it is, student vs. pupil (technically Jeff Capel isn’t pupil of Coach K. He was never an assistant). Having said that, it is certainly a great match up between two contrasting styles. In one corner, the motion offense, run basically by four small forwards/shooting guards, going against size, Blake Griffin. While the Sooners are by no means a one-man band, everything flows through him. The Sooners aren’t deep, only playing about seven players, but luckily for them, this isn’t a run-n-gun Duke team with the safe and conservative Scheyer running the floor. Duke will have no answers for Blake, so look for Coach K to swarm three players at Griffin every time he touches the ball. If the Sooners are going to beat Duke, they’ll need to beat them with other players. While Griffin is a solid defender, he’s not a shot blocker, which can give Duke trouble. Look for the Devils to spread it out and force Griffin to have to move on double teams.
Filed under: 2009 NCAA Tournament, media | Tags: 2009 NCAA Tournament, CNNSI, Luke Winn, Predictions
Luke Winn over at CNNSI, has his Fifty Thoughts on Selection Sunday. Oddly enough, many of his thoughts tend to focus on Duke and how they’re not going to be successful this tournament. Shall we:
4. The No. 1 with the most favorable No. 2 pairing … is Pitt, in the East. The Panthers were slotted opposite the one two-seed that has absolutely no answer for DeJuan Blair: Duke. The nation’s best rebounder should have a field day if he meets the Blue Devils. The secret to Blair’s rebounding prowess, he told us, is that “I pretend that every rebound is a million dollars.” He could become a very rich man in the Elite Eight.
According to Luke, because Blair in a great rebounder, so Duke won’t be able to get rebounds at all, thus not win? Granted, Blair is a great rebounder, but as a team, Pittsburgh only grabs under three rebounds more a game than Duke. Besides, didn’t Pittsburgh need a last second three to defeat Duke last season (with the same basic lineup)? Yes, Pittsburgh can win this game, but let’s not call it easy.
7. One Vegas-related observation … is that Duke is a curiously high-valued team in the eyes of the oddsmakers. I’m not expecting the Blue Devils to get past the Sweet 16, and yet LVSC thinks they have an equally strong shot as Memphis does of winning the national title.
Currently, Vegas has Duke at 10-1. Only Luke would be so impressed with a Memphis team that has basically beaten up Division II opponents in conference play. Duke and Memphis have played one similar opponent; Xavier. Memphis lost, Duke rolled. I’m not saying Duke is better now, I’m just saying, it’s not that far fetched.
14. The safest Sweet 16 upset pick … is No. 3 Villanova over No. 2 Duke, in Boston. Nova is the overlooked power coming out of the Big East, but it happens to have the league’s best set of guards. Scottie Reynolds, who powered the Wildcats to the Sweet 16 last season as a No. 12 seed, is an accomplished tourney scorer and he, Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and Reggie Redding are too much for the Blue Devils to handle.
It’s almost like he hasn’t watched a Duke game this year. As much as I can appreciate how good players like Reynolds, Fisher, Stokes and Redding are, are they really better than Henderson, Singler and Scheyer? So much so, the Blue Devils don’t even get a mention?
Now we have no problem with a reporter picking Duke to bow out early. Over the last few years, Duke has done nothing to deserve a ‘late-tournament run’ prediction from any expert, but later he delivers some stats that he believes are key to tournament success, throwing a wrench in his own predictions.
37. Statistics that matter, part I: Defensive efficiency is a better predictor of tourney success than offensive efficiency, and Memphis has, by far, the nation’s most efficient D. The Tigers allow just 0.794 points per possession. By contrast, Oklahoma, the other two-seed playing in Kansas City, allows 0.935.
Duke’s D is ranked 7th and they did that against teams like Carolina, Wake and Clemson. Memphis did it against…wait, who is in Conference USA?
38. Statistics that matter, part II: All of the national title winners since 2005 have finished in the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. There are only six teams who fit that profile this year, and only one of them happens to be a No. 1 seed. They are: UConn, Gonzaga, Duke, West Virginia, Missouri and Kansas.
So Duke is the only #2 seed who is in the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, but they are the easiest number two? I don’t get it. Where’s the mighty Villanova team that is going to roll over Duke?
In reality, we shouldn’t be surprised by any of this. This is the same guy who has failed to give us anything relevent about Duke all year long in his Power Rankings.
Filed under: 2009 NCAA Tournament | Tags: 2009 NCAA Tournament, Duke Blue Devils
Let’s just roll through some random thoughts.
- For Duke, I’m loving the #2 seed and I really like being in the East. Going out West or down South would not be fun. Duke will be the favorite, up until the Elite Eight. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume Duke survives the first-round Thursday. In round two, I think Duke can take care of either Minnesota or Texas. Unlike last year’s match up against West Virginia, I’m not scared of either team. If I had a choice, I’d like to see Minnesota. They don’t have the guards to keep up with the Blue Devils.
In the second weekend, Duke could take on both halves of Pennsylvania; first against Villanova and then Pittsburgh (if we beat the Wildcats of course). Despite Pittsburgh’s huge advantage inside, don’t forget, it took a last second shot for the Panthers to beat Duke last year in Madison Square Gardens. If there was one #1 seed I’d want to face, it would be the Panthers.
- It’s clear that North Carolina got the easiest bracket, at least until the Elite Eight. No one, not even Gonzaga will be able to challenge the mighty Tar Heels (unless Lawson’s toe remains a problem).
- While most people are writing off the Sooners, I’m not. I’m not going to judge them by what they did lately. They still got the best player in the land and tell me, would you not pay to see Blake Griffin go head-t0-head with Tyler Hansbrough?
- Although I’m not prepared to make any predictions yet, I’d keep my eye out on the #2 seeds in all the brackets. Jut a quick thought.