Tag Archives: Kansas Jayhawks

Long gone are the days when I make any effort to predict anything that will happen in the NCAA tournament, let alone explain why things are happening.  It’s way too crazy for me to make any sense of.

But, even as surprising as many of the upsets have been, there is one thing about them that is particularly stupefying to me: in almost all of the big upsets, it was the lower-ranked team that had the highest scorer in the game:

When Murray State (a 13 seed) beat Vanderbilt (a 4), Isacc Miles led the game with 17 points.

When Ohio (14) beat Georgetown (3), Armon Bassett led the game with 32 points.

When Saint Mary’s (10) beat Villanova (2), Omar Samham led the game with 32 points.

When Cornell (12) beat Wisconsin (4), Louis Dale was the high scorer with 26 points.

And when Northern Iowa (9) beat Kansas (1), Ali Farokhmanesh tied for the game high with 16.

This is surprising to me, because when I hear people explain why there are more upsets now than there used to be, I generally hear them say that the “mid-major” schools typically have players who stay for 4 years, while the top talent at the “major” schools leaves early.  As the thinking goes, the “mid-majors” have an advantage because they have multiple guys with experience playing together in a particular system, and that experience winds up winning out against superior talent.  That makes sense on its face, but, if it were really the reason for so many upsets, wouldn’t we expect the victorious lower-seeded team to have a bunch of dudes in double digits, rather than having one dude leading them to a victory over a more talented team?

I have no idea why this is happening, and I don’t know what to make of it.  I know this, though… ESPN, CBS, and the other venues that cover college hoops are missing some huge stories.  There are some very talented players on teams that never seem to be on tv.  As a college hoops fan, I feel kind of jipped.  If I had known about Omar Samham at the beginning of the season, I would have been following him closely.  (For reasons that I’d rather not get into, there is a soft spot in my heart for players who have no perceivable muscles, and can’t seem to jump over a stamp.)  But, he wasn’t mentioned in any of the pre-season stories that I read.  Instead, the “experts’” pre-season All-America teams included Willie Warren on Oklahoma, Ed Davis on North Carolina, Craig Brackins on Iowa State, and Jarvis Varnado on Mississippi State.

At least I feel better about one thing… my skills at predicting what will happen stand up quite nicely against the “experts.”

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It’s All About The Matchup. Huh?

As I’ve blogged a few times, I am unable to make sense of college hoops.  Hoopserving the tournament recently, I’ve heard multiple people say that the upsets can be explained by the “matchup”  — the higher seeded teams lost because they had “bad matchups.”

Pardon me if I’m the only idiot who hears this talk and has no idea what the hell it means, but, um, I hear this talk and have no idea what the hell it means.

If you’re predicting a game, how do you know which team has the “better matchup”?  If one team has experience and the other has talent, who should win?  If one team is strong on the perimeter and the other is strong in the post, who should win?  If one team is athletic and the other team is disciplined, who should win?  What about if one team is good in transition and the other is good in a half-court game?

Maybe I’m missing something, but, in the abstract, it’s impossible to answer any of these questions.   Yet, once the game is over, if the lower-seeded team has won, we say that the “matchup” favored the lower-seeded team.  But, if the higher-seeded team has won, we just say that the team was BETTER.  Huh?

To make it a bit clearer, consider Northern Iowa and Kansas.  Northern Iowa won, and people are saying they were a “tough matchup” for Kansas.  Really?  A tough matchup?  Why don’t we just say they played better?  What made them a “tough matchup” other than the fact that they played their tails off?

So I’m not exposing myself to too much ridicule from whoever is reading this, let me be clear… I’m well aware that every team is vulnerable to certain types of opponents more than others.  But in the grand scheme of things, the better team generally finds a way to impose its style on the weaker team.  Millions of people picked Kansas to win the tournament not because they expected Kansas to play the same type of team for 6 straight games, but because they thought Kansas was the best team, and, therefore, was the team most capable of making whatever adjustments were needed to beat whoever wound up in its path.  If Kansas beat Northern Iowa, we wouldn’t be talking about how it was a “good matchup” for Kansas, we’d just be saying that Kansas is damn good.

When the weaker team wins, it could have something to do with the “matchup,” but, so far as I can tell, it generally has much more to do with the fact that, in a single elimination tournament, made up of teams with primarily 18 and 19 year-olds, playing a sport in which a team can hit a few 3’s and neutralize a talent disadvantage, it is more often than not those things – rather than the “matchup” – that explain the upsets.

And when the better team wins… well, that’s because it’s the better team.

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