The Confidential

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Archive for the tag “big dance”

Syracuse Plays Itself Back Onto the Proverbial “Bubble”

Heading into Syracuse’s matchup with Florida State, Syracuse may have been on “the bubble,” but it was sitting pretty nicely on the right side of same.  A win over a mediocre Florida State team would be enough to start planning for one of the eight nice destinations reserved for the Big Dance.  Instead, Syracuse lost–for the same reasons that it often lost this year–placing itself right on the bubble and allowing other teams to share control of the Orange destiny.

This is what ESPN’s Bubble Watch had to say about Syracuse before the FSU game:

Syracuse [19-11 (9-8), RPI: 52, SOS: 37] When your career wins tally runs just shy of four digits, you don’t much go in for moral victories. Were Jim Boeheim inclined, even briefly, to entertain such a heretical notion, Monday night’s 75-70 loss at North Carolina would be a fine time to do so. The Orange played a very good team to a near-draw on the road; they even cut a 13-point second half lead to only one with two minutes left to play. And they did so despite guards Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney’s combined 3-of-13 effort from 3 and 9-of-27 night overall. Even forward Tyler Roberson — who spent the past week in the deepest and darkest recesses of Boeheim’s doghouse — grabbed 11 rebounds. It was a good night in every way but the final score. Whether that will mean much to Syracuse’s currently solid but nonetheless still vulnerable odds of making the NCAA tournament probably will have more to do with Saturday’s trip to Florida State (and, most likely, how the ACC tournament unfolds). But if the eye test can be graded on a curve — and really, isn’t that the whole point — Monday was a win.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, meanwhile, had Syracuse fairly comfortable as a 9-seed.

With the loss, Syracuse drops to 19-12 overall and 9-9 in ACC play.  This is 10th in the ACC, as Virginia Tech and Clemson each got to 10-8, while Pitt’s 9-9 includes two wins over the Orange.

If that was not bad enough, Syracuse now has to play that very same Pitt team in the ACC tournament.  Even when Syracuse is dominant, Pitt gives it trouble.  With a middling Syracuse team, the law of averages is not quite what it might ordinarily be–a third loss is far from unlikely.  If so, Syracuse will be merely 19-13.  That makes for some short nails on selection Sunday.

If Syracuse can beat Pitt, it will get more comfort, but then have to face the #1 seed in the ACC.  Whomever that is, it will be a daunting matchup, leaving Syracuse very likely to lose and end up at 20-13.  So there it is–a best case scenario of 20-13.

But this is not shocking.  For a good shooting team, Syracuse does not shoot well consistently.  This is because you can count on several poor shots from a shot-selection standpoint every game.  These might as well be turnovers–which are also on the rise.  With spotty rebounding and very little inside presence on either side of the court, all there is most night is a hope that they will out shoot the opponent.  Which brings things back to the aforementioned inconsistency and shot selection.

To be sure, if Syracuse was to get into the Big Dance and then get into the 2nd round, some higher seeds would have to be pretty nervous about Syracuse having a great shooting night and pulling the upset.  Even that is only likely to happen once, meaning that the prospects of a deep march into March are as slim as for those who win the tiniest of conference automatic bids.  It will be nice to be on the bracket, but a second weekend would be the upside and a not very likely one at that.

For a down year muddied by NBA defections and NCAA suspension follies, the season could have been much worse.  Much much worse.  Nevertheless, this is a team that is doing everything it can to not control its own destiny, which usually ends poorly.  This team is on the bubble because it is a bubble team.

Around the ACC: The NCAA Lacrosse Tournaments

There are several NCAA tournaments in play right now.

Men’s Lacrosse.

With all 5 ACC teams having good/great seasons (all seeded 7th or higher), expectations were high.  #1 Notre Dame did what it needed to, defeating Towson, 12-10.  #2 Syracuse had its way with Marist, 20-8.  #3 North Carolina held serve against Colgage, 19-12.  #5 seeded Duke was upset by Ohio State, 16-11.   #7 Virginia was obliterated by Johns Hopkins, 19-7.  So that’s three of the final 8 teams for the ACC.

Next up, Notre Dame will play unseeded Albany on May 16, with the winner to face the winner of Ohio State vs. Denver.  #2 Syracuse will play Johns Hopkins, with North Carolina playing Maryland in the other quarterfinal.

Womens Lacrosse.

The women are also down to 8 teams, including (again) 3 ACC teams.  #1 seeded Maryland will play #8 Northwestern in one quarterfinal, while unseeded Loyola will play #4 Syracuse.  In the other quarterfinals, #3 Duke will play Princeton and #2 North Carolina will play Penn State.  Virginia was eliminated by Penn State.

The Big Dance: ACC Update

The Brackets are set.  The field is locked.  The bubbles have burst.  And the ACC is well-represented moving forward.  Here is our early analysis.  (Stay tuned for the Confidential bracket contest details!)

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Who Should Syracuse Fans Be Rooting For in the Big Dance?

March Madness!  The Big Dance!  The Bubble!  Every March, college basketball fans obsess about these topics.  And then the brackets come out and everyone fills one out… trying to decide whether to be a homer or hedge against your school losing early.  But what if your school is not in the bracket?  If your schools stinks (see Northwestern), so be it.  But when you are Syracuse and used to being in the field… it is extremely difficult for fans.  Some may not even bother.  For the rest of the Syracuse fans (and other schools’ fans stuck watching from afar)…regardless of who you PICK to win… who do you ROOT for?

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Confidential Bracketology: March 15, 2014

Let’s have some fun projecting the NCAA’s top 4 seeds for the Big Dance.  This is based on what the Confidential thinks will happen tomorrow.  We limit it to the seeded teams.

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Confidential Bracketology: March 10, 2014

Let’s have some fun projecting the NCAA’s top 4 seeds for the Big Dance.  This is based on what the Confidential thinks will happen… not going by “if the season ended today.”  Projecting out how the regular season tournaments will finish and what the committee will actually do.  We limit it to the seeded teams.

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Confidential Bracketology: March 9, 2014

Let’s have some fun projecting the NCAA’s top 4 seeds for the Big Dance.  This is based on what the Confidential thinks will happen… not going by “if the season ended today.”  Projecting out how the regular season tournaments will finish and what the committee will actually do.  We limit it to the seeded teams.

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Confidential Bracketology: March 3, 2014

Let’s have some fun projecting the NCAA’s top 4 seeds for the Big Dance.  This is based on what the Confidential thinks will happen… not going by “if the season ended today.”  Projecting out how the regular season tournaments will finish and what the committee will actually do.  We limit it to the seeded teams.

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Critiquing the Bilas Proposal

Duke alum Jay Bilas has a good opinion article on ESPN.com about why the NCAA tournament should eliminate the automatic bids.  It is a good opinion article because it is well written.  Like any good lawyer, Bilas lays out a cogent argument in support of his opinions.  In the end, however, the Confidential believes that Bilas is fixing something that is not broken.  And there are better reasons not to chance the system.

The Bilas proposal 

It is a pretty simply concept–eliminate the automatic bids: “In fact, the more I consider how the automatic bid affects the fairness of the NCAA tournament, the more I am convinced that automatic bids should be eliminated altogether.”  As Bilas accurately points out–the bubble is replete with teams every year that are mid-majors.  But, instead of allowing the 22-8 mid-major to enter the tournament, we allow a team that is 13-18, but won its Mid-Delaware-Valley conference tournament to have keys to the Big Dance.  A team like Murray State could be excluded because a team that lost most of its games got hot for a weekend in March.   And as Bilas also points out, no team from outside the AQ football conferences has won a national title in 20+ years.  Finally, Bilas notes that a 1-64 game, where team #64 was the sixty-fourth best team in the country at least presents the chance for a first-day upset.  That does not exist now.

The Analysis

The Confidential believes that Bilas makes a great point about how the automatic qualifier system harms mid-majors.  It is true that a team that runs away with its conference–but plays in a one-team conference–will be excluded for the inferior team that did win its conference.  It places an onerous burden on a team that was good from November to early March to not have a slip up on one weekend.  So while the Bilas proposal may favor some teams in power conferences, it will also benefit the best teams that would currently be on the bubble.

But here are the problems.  First, for better or worse, the conference tournaments are a reason for every team in every conference to have a chance of mattering.  While these tournaments may be money-making schemes, one cannot discount the value to students and fans.  And the coaches and players also deserve a chance to compete in high pressure situations that they will remember forever.  Even if the end reward might be a play-in with Dayton, rather than #1 Duke.  There is no reason to take away all of that excitement.

Second, Bilas misses a huge point.  While the power conferences have provided all the national champions recently, the lowest seed to ever win the National Championship was a #8 seed, Villanova.  At best, Villanova was the 32nd best team in the country that year.  A fair argument can be made that only the top 32 teams have a realistic chance of winning a national championship.  If Bilas is correct that the only reason to be in the Big Dance is to win it all, then the NCAA should eliminate the automatic bids and scale back to 32. Anything beyond 32 already includes teams that have no chance of winning.  That is what history suggests anyway.

And if the at-larges from 32 through 37 have never won it all, how likely is it that 38 through 64 will?  Will a 5-11 team from the Big East have a real chance to win it all?  Better to give that spot to a 25-5 team that dominates its conference and won its tournament.  That actually gives more reward for the season by rewarding teams that beat more foes.  Any team that finds itself from 38 to 64 has already lost enough games to question whether they can actually win it all anyway.

Bilas notes that Kentucky/Pitt would be an interesting first round game between a #1 and #64.  But Pitt lost to Wagner.  At home.  For this year, Pitt is more name than game.  You cannot lose seven in a row in a non-daunting part of your Big East schedule and think that a deep March run is even possible.

Besides, there are lots of great things about the Big Dance that do not have anything to do with winning it all.  Ask Butler.  Ask Virginia Commonwealth.  How about the upsets by the #15 seeds–teams that would be excluded under Bilas’s scenario?  Without the automatic bids, Richmond never beats Syracuse and Belmont never beats Iowa State.  And whomever Kansas loses to in the first round every few years.  And think of the coaches that have worked their way through the ranks by being given a chance to perform well in a mismatch.  It does not take a win to get noticed.  At many places, “success” is broader than cutting down the nets in April.  There is no reason to change that now.

Finally, college basketball is different from college football in that the Big Dance allows everyone in.  The trade-off is that the regular season is downgraded.  You can be .500 after December, but still rally to win it all.  Look what UConn did last year.

But the other trade-off is that it is single-elimination.  Is it unfair that a team from a one-bid conference could lose its shot at the Big Dance by losing in the tournament?  Perhaps.  But it is equally “unfair” when a top 4 seed is upset in the first round and has to go home early.  A team with outstanding national championship potential is eliminated for one bad game.  A team with high hopes is eliminated.  That is the nature of the one-and-done tournament.  It might as well start a week early in the conference tournaments.  If the champion is being crowned by a tournament (rather than the college football model), there is only so much fairness that can be built in.  And it is very fair right now.

So, while Bilas deserves a lot of respect for presenting a logical argument, the Confidential believes that there is no reason to fix what is not broken.

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