Chat with Jordan Brenner
Brenner, @JordanBrenner, contributes to both ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Insider, covering pro and college basketball for the past decade amd launched Giant Killers in 2006.
ESPN.com's "Giant Killers" blog is Insider's annual metrics-based forecast of NCAA tournament upsets. A Giant Killer is a team that beats a tourney opponent seeded at least five spots higher.
Send your questions now and join Brenner Monday at noon ET!
Jordan Brenner (12:01 PM)
Hey everyone! Glad to be here. So, we're down to the Final Four. I'm happy to talk about anything and everything from the tourney so far -- and beyond. So let's get started.
Is Kentucky a "Cinderella" or a surprise to be in the Final 4? Less than a month ago they lost to my South Carolina Gamecocks, who aren't exactly a basketball powerhouse.
Jordan Brenner (12:03 PM)
It's awfully hard to label a team with Kentucky's pedigree or level of talent as a "Cinderella." But they are a Giant Killer -- because they beat a team seeded at least 5 spots better (twice) -- and it's certainly a surprise to see them in Dallas. I know they were the preseason No. 1 team, but they never looked that good at any point during the regular season.
Hawaiian Husky (Honolulu)
The "experts" pick UConn to lose every game. Will it take cutting down the nets for folks to finally realize what they have in Storrs?
Jordan Brenner (12:06 PM)
Well, that begs another question -- what do they have in Storrs? Is UConn the best team in the country? No. If the Huskies win the national title, will that mean they have the best team in the country? No, not really -- that's not the way a one-and-done tourney works. They will have earned a championship and have beaten some great squads to do it, but the sample size of six games is still really small.Look, we knew UConn had a great backcourt, and they have played terrific ball in the tourney so far. So we realize that. And they've earned this Final Four berth. But I'm not sure anyone has been "wrong" to pick against them, and they were an eyelash from losing to St. Joe's in the first round.
Well, since no team lower than a 4 seed has won the tournament in 30 years, and Wisconsin doesn't really scream title winner to me, that means that Florida's got this in the bag, right??
Jordan Brenner (12:07 PM)
Ha. I guess that's why the phrase "past performance doesn't indicate future results" exists.
Ed (Queens Village)
Do you see day when all Final 4 teams are seeded 5 or lower? Who is your pick to win National Championship?
Jordan Brenner (12:08 PM)
Sure, that could happen. But the better teams are still the higher seeds -- and will have easier roads -- so it's still highly unlikely. I picked Florida at the beginning of the tourney and see no reason to change my mind now. They're still my national title pick.
From a Giant Killer perspective, what did your findings at the beginning of the tournament say about UConn and Kentucky making the FF?
Jordan Brenner (12:10 PM)
Well, the GK model predicts individual games, not Final Four runs and such. That said. UK entered the tourney as one of the top GKs, and UConn had a strong resume as well. I can tell you that Kentucky had a better than 42% chance of beating Michigan yesterday, which is really good for a GK matchup.
When looking at the bracket, I don't think I can be that surprised that UConn is there, can you? They had Villanova and Iowa State as the 2 and 3 seeds in their part of the bracket. MSU was probably the best team/biggest challenge to them and they rose to the occasion there. But, otherwise, i don't think it was all that challenging for a team like that, that was peaking at the right time.
Jordan Brenner (12:12 PM)
UConn definitely caught a bit of a break. I never thought Villanova was a particularly scare No. 2 seed and losing Niang totally changed Iowa State's dynamic. (I don't think UConn would have won had Niang played.) But don't sell them short -- they beat a terrific Michigan State team yesterday, although one that clearly didn't have a full-strength Appling.
what's been the best game so far, in your mind?
Jordan Brenner (12:15 PM)
Kentucky-Wichita State was an outstanding game. The pace in Texas-Arizona State was great and made it a ton of fun. But I'm partial to yesterday's UK-Michigan game. Great execution, shot-making, drama.
isn't it kind of cheating by Kentucky? With all of that talent, there's no way they should be an 8 seed, but because they couldn't figure out how to play together until the end of February, that's where they fell. But now they're clicking and are in the Final Four!
Jordan Brenner (12:16 PM)
Well, I suppose they "cheated" themselves out of a better seed and an easier road. I imagine they would have preferred an easier game or two!
Jon (Seattle, WA)
MSU has an outstanding team and I know they can play better than what they showed against Uconn, so how did the Huskies get them out of sorts for that long of a stretch? It could've been much worse too. Giffey missed wide open 3 after wide open 3. And I don't care how tough they're defending your players in the post. 6 points in the paint is inexcusable
Jordan Brenner (12:18 PM)
For Michigan State, I think it started with Appling. Post-injury, the Spartans just never had the dynamic creator that he was earlier in the season. That hurt a lot against UConn. And I think you are right -- MSU didn't do a good enough job of attacking UConn in the post, especially considering the Huskies are relatively weak in side. But credit Kevin Ollie's defensive schemes and the Huskies' players for battling.
Jeff (NY, NY)
Florida can win the championship with out beating anything higher then a 7 seed. How remarkable would that be?
Jordan Brenner (12:20 PM)
Florida beat UCLA, which was a 4-seed. So that's not correct. But still, it's incredibly important to have some good luck in March, and the bracket has certainly opened up for them.
David (San Diego)
The lowest sum of all the seeds a team could have would be a 16 seed making a run to the title, and therefore beating a total of 17 (beating a 1, 8, 4, 2, 1, 1 seed), which would be the 'hardest' path to the title. If Kentucky wins the title, they would have a sum of 19. That's crazy.
Jordan Brenner (12:22 PM)
Actually, there are technically tougher roads. A 14-seed could beat a 3, 6, 2, 1, 1, 1. That's 14.That said, what Kentucky has done has been really impressive.
Why is it that every year the last-second playcalling and execution in the tournament is atrocious? It's so frustrating to watch.
Jordan Brenner (12:24 PM)
Interesting question. I'm not sure this is the case every year, but I do think late-game execution is somewhat lacking. Part of that is the reality of coaching 18-to-22 year olds, rather than pros. They just aren't as experienced or proficient in tight situations. I also think point guard play has been somewhat down this season, which makes last-second plays tougher. It's a lot easier to get a good look with a creative PG.
Was hoping for a UofM/MSU final but that didn't happen. Who are the two biggest rivals to ever face off in a championship game?
Jordan Brenner (12:27 PM)
Great question, and I'd love to hear what others have to say on that topic. You've had conference rivals meet before to decide the national championship -- Oklahoma-Kansas, Georgetown-Villanova, Indiana-Michigan But how about Cincinnati beating Ohio State back-to-back in 1961 and '62?
I didn't really have a chance to watch a lot of Michigan State this season. But watching them on Sunday, they took A LOT of 3s...was that their game all year? And if it was, then it makes total sense they lost. It seems like teams that rely that much on 3 pointers don't live up to expectations, because at some point, you're going to go cold.
Jordan Brenner (12:30 PM)
Michigan State took -- and made -- a lot of 3's this season. 36.3% of their field goal attempts were 3's. That's 86th in the nation according to KenPom.com. And they shot 39.2% from deep (16th).And I don't buy the idea -- at all -- that teams that shoot lots of threes don't live up to expectations. The 3-pointer is an incredibly efficient shot. After all, if you hit just a third of them, that's the same as hitting half your 2's. Teams can go cold from anywhere. It's not about too many threes.
ted (cape cod)
Do you have a problem with players going one-and-done in men's college basketball?
Jordan Brenner (12:32 PM)
Nope. I believe players should be able to go pro whenever they want. I also believe the NBA has every right to limit access. Now, personally, I don't think the one-and-done rule is the one that makes most sense. I'd support something closer to the baseball model, with a legit minor league. But no players should ever be criticized for taking the opportunity to play professionally.
Great question by Vince. I noticed that too. I think part of the problem is I don't see teams attacking the rim/STARTING their play until the clock gets to 10 seconds. That means, they're really not making their first move until around 8 seconds. That leaves them time to MAYBE make one pass. But if they do, that guy better be ready to shoot and have a good look, because that's the only option. It really is frustrating to watch. It's horrible at the end of some of these games.
Jordan Brenner (12:36 PM)
It's tricky, because in those situations (if it's a tie game), overtime is a decent alternative. You really can't give the other team another shot. That said, this isn't the NBA, so ...
Jordan Brenner (12:36 PM)
since, if you miss, the team can't advance it to halfcourt off a rebound, you can go a little earlier in college. And I like shooting with about 3 or 4 seconds left because it gives you a shot at an offensive rebound. Games are constantly decided on tip-ins. Gotta give yourself that chance.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
Kentucky opened up as a 2 point fav over Wisconsin. What do you think the spread should be?
Jordan Brenner (12:38 PM)
Well, the spread should be whatever will guarantee equal money on either side. That's Vegas' goal, after all. That said, my guess is that there is a lot of public money on UK right now. If I were a betting man, I think I'd like Wisconsin +2.
uggggg....can we please tell everyone to relax? Just because no one supposedly didn't pick your team to win, it doesn't matter that they hate your team. There's a reason that they are being picked to lose most games -- that's how they played all season. That's always why they're considered an underdog. That's also why they got a low seed.
Jordan Brenner (12:38 PM)
Amen, Derrick. Well said.
So, I guess the best matchup we can look for now is Florida-Kentucky? With the way those two are playing, that would be a real nice matchup.
Jordan Brenner (12:39 PM)
Hey, why are you sleeping on Wisconsin? The Badgers have been an elite team all year.
What do your prediction models say for what kind of chance Florida has to win this whole thing? I would imagine that they are overwhelming favorites?
Jordan Brenner (12:41 PM)
The model forecasts upsets not national champions. That said, Florida looks to relatively safe against UConn. They could play another GK, Kentucky, in the final, and the upset odds would rise slightly, but Florida would still be favored.
Jordan Brenner (12:42 PM)
By the way, folks, if you haven't done so yet, please hit up me and Peter Keating on Twitter with nominees for this years All-Giant Killers Team. (@jordanbrenner and @pkstatsblog).
what cost Michigan the game more? giving up a ton of offensive rebounds, or UK with an unusually good 3 pt shooting performance?
Jordan Brenner (12:45 PM)
That's an interesting question. Kentucky just destroyed Michigan on the offensive glass -- they grabbed an absurd 63% of their own misses. But you had to expect them to excel there. UK was the 2nd-best offensive rebounding team in the country this year (42%). That's why I think the 3-point shooting made more of a difference. You're talking about a team that makes 33.2% of its 3's going 7-for-11 from deep. Michigan had to expect to offset the extra possessions gained by the offensive boards by outscoring UK from deep. Didn't happen.
Jeff (NY, NY)
Has a team ever had a more impressive run to get to the final 4 then that of KY. Beating Wichita St, Louisville and UM?
Jordan Brenner (12:47 PM)
I'm sure I could find one, and I thought Louisville was overrated all along -- the hype following Selection Sunday was absurd. Let me open that up to everyone, though. What's the most impressive Final Four path in history? We can continue that conversation on Twitter all day. (@jordanbrenner)
What is UConn's best bet for upsetting Florida? Daniels pulling Young away from the basket? Napier or Boatright frustrating Willbiken?
Jordan Brenner (12:49 PM)
Beating Florida will be a really tough task. I think UConn is going to have to get some help from foul trouble -- a couple of early ones on Young and maybe Wilbekin would help a lot. I need to put more thought into this, but the Huskies are going to have to generate good looks from 3-point range (and take a lot of treys). And they are going to have to get some easy baskets in transition, because Florida's half-court D is too tough.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
97 Arizona had to beat three number 1 seeds
Jordan Brenner (12:50 PM)
That's a good one. Other impressive runs? What do you guys say?
Stand by my Lakers (Fresno CA)
If you could pick 4 teams to be in the Final Four, who would they be? Also will the Final Four ever be played in CA
Jordan Brenner (12:52 PM)
Tufts, the Heat, Real Madrid and VCU. (Hey, you said ANY four teams, right?)I've got to imagine the Final Four will get to California at some point, although not as long as the NCAA keeps going for domes.
Robert (Bala Cynwyd, PA)
Check Nova's '85 run ro the championship. UNC, Memphis State, Georgetown.
Jordan Brenner (12:53 PM)
And don't forget that Nova took out top-seeded Michigan in the 2nd Round.
George Mason - Beat Michigan St, N. Carolina, and UConn
Jordan Brenner (12:55 PM)
I covered Mason in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8. Neither UNC (a 3-seed) nor Michigan State (a 6-seed) was anything special, and they also got a break with Wichita State in the Sweet 16. So Mason doesn't go on my list.
Jordan Brenner (12:56 PM)
We've got time for a couple more questions -- keep them coming.
Michigan had a pretty good run last year beating VCU, Kansas and Florida before playing Louisville. All those teams were in KenPom's top 10 at before the games.
Jordan Brenner (12:57 PM)
You know you can always sway me with KenPom stats. Was VCU really in the top 10, though? They finished 20th on KenPom. That was a good run, but far from legendary.
Jon (Seattle, WA)
All three of the teams in the final four have threatened to win or beaten Florida (not 100% healthy florida, but still.....). Which team presents the most difficult matchup for them today?
Jordan Brenner (12:58 PM)
Most people are going to say Kentucky. But I think Wisconsin might be slightly tougher because Kaminsky presents some unique problems that can disrupt the integrity of Florida's halfcourt D.
Jordan Brenner (12:59 PM)
OK everyone, that's a wrap. Thanks so much for stopping by and for sending in so many smart questions. As I mentioned, feel free to hit me up on Twitter -- there's certainly plenty more to discuss!