Thursday, February 25, 2010
Afternoon Linkage: Jarvis Varnado does it
By Eamonn Brennan
Somehow, this escaped The Morning After's purview today, which, considering the season-long love for Jarvis Varnado, is a very weird oversight on my part. In any case, the Sporting News' Chris Littman reminds (tsk-tskingly, with good reason) that Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado did indeed break the all-time record for shots blocked in a college basketball career last night, stuffing eight shots against Alabama to overtake Wojciech Mydra's record of 535 blocks. Mydra played at Lousiana Tech, and while 535 blocks is 535 blocks, it is all the more impressive that Varnado broke the tally playing for four years against high-level SEC competition. Hat's off, Jarvis. Now, if Mr. Varnado can get eight stops a game throughout the SEC tournament, Mississippi State might just get themselves another automatic bid.
College Hoops Journal's Matt Norlander spends plenty of time and words deconstructing the latest NCAA tournament expansion talking point. It goes a little something like this: "Coaches (and writers) in college basketball consistently bash the snot out of college football. It’s practically a proud rite of passage for these guys (and, again, honks like me). Like most outside of it, and many in the game will acknowledge this as well, college football -- from a participation standpoint, at worst -- is a crock of a playoff system. For the past decade, once February rolls around, we’ve heard how great it is that college basketball’s championship is “decided on the court” and how silly it is to have more than half of its teams involved in the bowl system. [...] So why is it now a talking point of coaches to, basically, say, 'Well, since college football has half of its teams make the postseason why can’t our game involve more teams?'" Note to coaches: I'm no political strategist, but you don't have to be David Plouffe to know that of all the pro-expansion arguments to be made, "make it more like college football" is probably the worst. No thanks.
Seth Davis takes a somewhat novel approach to evaluating teams: Promising coaches off-the-record status, thus giving them free reign to say how they really feel about their conference opponents. The result is an interesting look at the major conferences' teams without any of the regular "they're a tough team, we need to play hard" postgame coachspeak.
Tar Heel Blue's Adam Lucas discusses how most UNC fans must be feeling right now. They're down, but they're not out, and even a bit defiant: "This is what he said: 'You have to sit through the bad ones to enjoy the good ones.'" The truth is, we don't sit through many bad ones as Carolina basketball fans. No one feels sorry for us. You know that, right?"
The more I hear Tennessee's Renaldo Woolridge, aka Swiperboy, talk, the more I like him: "Woolridge took time out of his schedule to visit with Gibbs' fifth graders and speak to them about topics ranging from his hip-hop career to the importance of chasing a dream. 'I told them about using writing as an expression of who you are and what you're feeling,' Woolridge said. 'I have reached a step in my life where I have achieved part of what I want to achieve. But every day I get up and work harder to reach my dreams. I told them they have to have that mindset, and the only person stopping you from trying is you. I wanted to tell them that so they could have someone to look up to. I had a few people like that when I was their age, and that direction really helped me a lot.'"
No one knows the status of Purdue's Robbie Hummel -- at this point, it could be anything from a tweak to a torn ACL -- but if he is out, Keaton Grant, who hit last night's game-winning shot for the Boilermakers, will have very large shoes to fill.
John Gasaway goes deep on whether and why the selection committee should use efficiency margin in their evaluations: "So why doesn't the selection committee avail itself of this "better and more detailed information" when selecting and seeding the field? In theory the committee does indeed consider a very wide range of information, even up to and including an efficiency-margin-based rating system like Ken Pomeroy's. But in practice the standing objection to a proper acknowledgment of efficiency margin's value can be boiled down to one word. Sportsmanship. It is feared that if the selection committee starts explicitly giving teams credit for beating the heck out of their opponents, then really good teams will start running up the score intentionally and wantonly. I can't help feeling that this fear is overblown. First off, I'm not advocating a selection process that simply parrots Ken's rankings or Jeff Sagarin's Predictor or my listings of efficiency margins step by mindless step. No one would advocate that, just as no one would suggest that such ratings should banned from the committee room outright. But in between these two extremes there's a sweet spot where efficiency margin is along for the evaluative ride without driving the bus."