'Bag: On UVa, upsets and me vs. Tu

November, 30, 2011
11/30/11
3:00
PM ET
Every week, your humble college basketball hoops blogger (er, me) will respond to your questions, comments and nonsensical rants in this here Hoopsbag. To submit a query, visit this page by clicking the link under my name in the upper right-hand corner of the blog. You can alsoemail me or send me your entries via Twitter. (Honestly, the best way to get me is Twitter.) Per the usual, we begin with video.

@bwetsel writes: How is @eamonnbrennan going to call Virginia over Michigan an upset when Virginia is favored by 3.5? Do your research, bruh. ... .@eamonnbrennan might be the only person in the country who thought UVA over UM would be a huge upset. Which is why I don't follow ESPN ... @eamonnbrennan For real though, where's the logic for saying this UM-UVA game would be considered an upset?

Eamonn Brennan: Mr. bwetsel wasn't the only purveyor of feedback regarding my Big Ten/ACC Challenge Day 1 picks. (Which, by the way, I nailed 6-0. I don't mean to gloat, but when your past two NCAA tournament brackets have been as bad as mine, you have to take the small victories whenever you can. I'm like a high-major coach with a rebuilding program. I have to schedule down.) But he was the most vocal and apparently offended in regards to my pre-game analysis of Michigan-Virginia, a game Virginia won 70-58.

There are a few things to get out of the way here. One: I don't really look at betting lines when analyzing games. Maybe I should. But if you would have asked me before the game whether or not Virginia should have been favored, I would have scoffed. The things I do look at -- recent performance, tempo-free statistics, Synergy stats -- all pointed to the fact that Michigan was clearly better than Virginia in a variety of ways. The Wolverines were impressive in Maui. The Cavaliers lost to TCU in the Virgin Islands. The Wolverines were ranked significantly higher in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency rankings and, for what it's worth, were ranked in the top 25. Virginia had yet to sniff the poll. The matchups, with the exception of Virginia forward Mike Scott, appeared to favor John Beilein's team.

I picked Virginia because I thought the Cavaliers, with Tony Bennett's slow defensive style forcing a grinding game and the benefit of home-court advantage (and a presumably tired Michigan team just back from Maui) would give them the edge. But I didn't think Virginia deserved to be favored. Does that really seem so radical? (I have other questions, like, if you don't follow ESPN, how did you see my prediction? And why would you tweet me about it? Is this not akin to the commenter who takes the time to write "This is stupid" on an article he did not enjoy? We'll save those answers for another time, I suppose.)

@rmj_equals_hero writes: Is Mike Scott the most patient post player in college basketball? Dude refuses to be rushed by double teams.

Brennan: Of any player I've seen not named Jared Sullinger, yes, he is. Scott was brilliant Tuesday night. Perhaps these are the benefits of five years of college hoops experience. Younger, more talented guys (I'm thinking, say, Patric Young) might not see defenses the same way. They might lack the intuitive passing ability required to suck in a double team before finding a wide-open teammate on the rotation. Or maybe Scott's just really good at this. Either way, Michigan's doubles did little to help their cause on the defensive end Tuesday, and with Virginia's defense playing as well as it is, the Wolverines were always fighting uphill in the second half.

@nittanynation11 writes: Has the big ten closed the gap on ACC? For years the challenge has been owned by the ACC.

Brennan: In the short term, absolutely it has. The Big Ten has won the past two seasons, for starters. But more than anything, the ACC is not nearly as deep as it once was. Consider the list of current teams either beset by injuries, rebuilding, struggling or all three: Georgia Tech, NC State, Maryland, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Miami. The list goes on. The Big Ten hasn't been magnificent the past two seasons, but it has been good enough to eke out enough wins to take the Challenge. This year, the Big Ten looks much improved, while the ACC is still hoping Clemson, Virginia, NC State can fill out that vague middle area and compete for NCAA tournament berths behind the likes of North Carolina, Duke and Florida State. We discussed this in the offseason: The ACC is down right now. It won't be for long (especially not with Syracuse and Pittsburgh on the way), but as of this very moment, the league just isn't that good.

@schmitz_boilers writes: What are your top 5 teams in the Big Ten from what you have seen so far?

Brennan: Good question. I'll go with this:
  1. Ohio State
  2. Wisconsin
  3. Michigan State
  4. Purdue
  5. Northwestern

It's not entirely fair to compile such a ranking this early in the season, because all schedules are not created equal, and I wouldn't be surprised if Indiana or Illinois ended up ultimately having better seasons than Purdue or Northwestern. And let's be real: By the end of the year, Michigan will be there. But from what I've seen thus far (and that includes Michigan State's two losses to Duke and UNC; I still think the Spartans are better defensively and primed for a rebound year), taking all of the results into consideration, I think these are the rankings. I'm sure they'll change in a week's time. Or, you know, after tonight.

Matt B. from Philly writes: I'm writing this in the middle of the second half of this OSU beatdown over Duke. OSU is completely out classing them right now, but I feel like 70% of this blowout is due to OSU just making every shot they take, hard or easy, and Duke can't buy a bucket that isn't a Plumlee dunk or Rivers drive. Is OSU really this good or Duke really this bad (in terms of being a legit championship contender) or would this be a much closer game on a neutral court come March, which is really what everyone wants to know about?

Brennan: I think this game would undoubtedly be closer a second time, thanks both to development by Duke and the benefit of not playing in front of a rabid Ohio State crowd just a few days after returning from an intense three-day stretch at the Maui Invitational. But just because it would be closer doesn't mean Duke would win. In a vacuum, Ohio State is clearly a better team. When you start considering the matchups and what both teams do best -- Duke scores from screen action on the perimeter, Ohio State defends the perimeter as well as any team in the country; Duke is precise but unathletic, Ohio State is athletic at every position and then some; et al -- I think the Buckeyes are clearly better, and would be on a neutral court. But the differences wouldn't be quite so glaring in March.

Abe from Southeast Ohio writes: Do you recall saying Mizzou was least likely of all the teams ranked to stay ranked? I have to admit, even as a die hard Mizzou fan, that I kind of agreed with you. Are we both wrong? They have made a strong statement in the young season thus far. Is this team a legitimate Big 12 title contender?

Brennan: Entering the season, everyone had questions about Mizzou. Would the Tigers -- who played famously uptempo under Mike Anderson, a coach that recruited the current batch of players precisely for that reason -- be derailed by a new coach and new style under Frank Haith? Would the investigation into Haith's tenure at Miami serve as a distraction? Could an already suspect defensive team, and one without any frontcourt depth, win with injured defensive specialist Laurence Bowers sidelined for an entire season?

Missouri has put those concerns to rest thus far. It's a long season, sure, but look at what the Tigers have done to date. They beat Notre Dame (before Tim Abromaitis's season-ending knee injury) 87-58. The next night, they turned around and crushed a ranked Cal team that many expect to compete for the Pac-12 title by an eye-popping margin, 92-53. They're ranked No. 8 in the country in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency rankings; they're ranked No. 2 in the country in both effective field goal percentage and turnover rate. They have been, in a word, brilliant.

Again, long season. Tougher opponents will come a'calling. But it's hard to look at what Haith's team has done already -- not to mention the seemingly open nature of the Big 12 title -- and not see Mizzou as a conference contender. They have to be in that conversation.

Chris Smith in Tiffin, Ohio writes: Ok, I just read your preview of Day 2 of ACC-Big Ten Challenge and ... NO OHIO ST.-DUKE PREVIEW?!? OMG ... It's only the marquee matchup of the whole series. WTH? Come to think of it, you didn't even mention OSU in today's "thoughts on the new poll." Guess I'll just stop looking for your college hoops "insights" from now on. Have a great year, Eamon. P.S.: You really didn't talk about Duke-Ohio St.??? Wow.

Brennan writes: This email was written about 1 p.m. yesterday. I wonder if Chris hit send and then checked the schedule and realized Duke-Ohio State was not, in fact, on Wednesday night, but was actually happening in a few hours. I wonder if Chris had that vague feeling of dread one gets when one realizes he sent an email he should not have sent. Or maybe he flipped on ESPN at 9:15 and thought ... "Oh. Whoops."

Either way: Best. Email. Ever.

@TravisHeHateMe writes: Could you beat Tu Holloway in a one-on-one game to eleven straight if he spotted you ten buckets?

Brennan: Now this is a Hoopsbag question. I like to think of myself as a pretty solid, maybe even good, pickup basketball player. I like to think, if I only needed to get one bucket in the time Tu Holloway would score 10, that I could at least fire off one lucky contested stepback jumper that would fall. I like to think I could do it.

If I'm being honest, though, the answer is almost certainly no. The competition at my gym is good. A few former college guys come play. A few of them walked on at big programs, a couple were scholarship athletes at mid-majors, that sort of thing. The gap between them and I is pretty wide; they're just too big and physical and skilled to boot. The gap between those players Tu Holloway is certainly even wider. I wouldn't stand a chance.

But could Tu Holloway write a killer blog post? Oooh! Yeah! What now?

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