The Pi-Rate Ratings

April 4, 2008

A ONEderful Final Four–April 4, 2008

 

A ONEderful Final Four

Wow!  All four number one seeds have advanced to the Final Four for the first time since teams began to be seeded in the NCAA Tournament.  I did a little research and went back 60 years trying to find a year where the top team in each region advanced to the Final Four, and I couldn’t find another season where such a thing happened.  I found only one year where the four semifinalists were all ranked in the final regular season Top Five.  In 1970, UCLA, St. Bonaventure, Jacksonville, and New Mexico State finished the regular season ranked second, third, fourth, and fifth respectively.  Number one Kentucky fell to Jacksonville in the Mid-east Regional Finals.  The 1970 Final Four entered semifinal play with an incredible combined record of 103-6 (143-9 this year).  Jacksonville, led by twin towers Artis Gilmore and Pembrook Burroughs downed St. Bonaventure, who was missing superstar center Bob Lanier.  UCLA, a team that was not picked to win its conference after losing Kareem Abdul Jabbar to the Milwaukee Bucks, turned out to have the best frontline trio in the nation with Steve Patterson, Sidney Wicks, and Curtis Rowe, combined with fabulous guards Henry Bibby and John Vallely.  The Bruins dismissed New Mexico State.  In the title game, Wicks did the unbelievable by blocking shots by Gilmore multiple times, leading the Bruins to their fourth consecutive title and sixth in the last seven seasons.

This Final Four is the first one in many years where a good case could be made for any of the quartet to win all the marbles.  All four teams have unique features that other teams will have a tough time stopping or attacking, yet all four teams have Achilles’ heals that can be exploited.   If the semifinal matchups were best of seven series, I would expect both to go seven games.  This doesn’t mean that the three final games will be nail-biters; it means that any of this group could potentially blow out any of the other teams.

Here is a breakdown of the two Semi-final Games.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

6:07 PM EDT

UCLA 35-3  vs. Memphis 37-1

UCLA

Stat

Memphis

73.8

PPG

80.3

58.5

Def PPG

61.6

47.9

FG%

46.9

41.8

Def. FG%

38.8

35.1

3pt %

35.1

32.3

Def 3pt %

30.3

73.0

FT%

60.7

+8.6

Reb. Margin

+6.6

+1.8

TO Margin

+4.2

7.3

Stls/G

8.4

4.3

Blk/G

6.2

11.8

R+T

15.1

15

PiRate

19

57.71

SOS

57.49

 

For explanation of R+T, PiRate, and SOS, see Bracketnomics 505 from March 17, 2008, and the subsequent blog story of March 18, 2008.  I have adjusted SOS by already multiplying by 100.

Starters

Center

UCLA: #42 Kevin Love, 6-10 260 Fr.

17.6 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 56.5% FG, 36.3% 3pt, 76.4% FT, 1.9 ast, 1.4 blk, 0.7 stl

Memphis: #3 Joey Dorsey, 6-9 260 Sr. (plays this position as a forward)

7.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 65.2% FG, 0-1 3pt, 37.8% FT, 0.5 ast, 1.9 blk, 1.1 stl

Power Forward

UCLA: #23 Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, 6-8 230 Jr.

8.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 48.3% FG, 20.0% 3pt, 68.1% FT, 1.6 ast, 0.4 blk, 1.1 stl

Memphis: #2 Robert Dozier, 6-9 215 Jr.

9.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 44.4% FG, 29.0% 3pt, 67.5% FT, 1.0 ast, 1.8 blk, 1.1 stl

Small Forward

UCLA: #3 Josh Shipp, 6-5 220 Jr.

12.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 43.7% FG, 32.4% 3pt, 78.6% FT, 2.2 ast, 0.4 blk, 1.4 stl

Memphis: #14 Chris Douglas-Roberts, 6-6 200 Jr.

17.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 54.5% FG, 41.6% 3pt, 70.9% FT, 1.8 ast, 0.4 blk, 1.2 stl

Shooting Guard

UCLA: #0 Russell Westbrook, 6-3 187 So.

12.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 46.2 FG%, 32.4% 3pt, 71.3% FT, 4.3 ast, 0.2 blk, 1.6 stl

Memphis: #5 Antonio Anderson, 6-6 200 Jr.

8.4 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 40.9% FG, 33.3% 3pt, 57.7% FT, 3.5 ast, 0.3 blk, 1.2 stl

Point Guard

UCLA: #2 Darren Collison, 6-1 165 Jr.

14.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 49.1% FG, 53.0% 3pt, 87.2% FT, 3.8 ast, 0.1 blk, 1.8 stl

Memphis: #23 Derrick Rose, 6-4 195 Fr.

14.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 48.1% FG, 34.7% 3pt, 69.8% FT, 4.7 ast, 0.4 blk, 1.2 stl

Key Reserves

UCLA

#14 Lorenzo Mata-Real, 6-9 240 Sr. C

3.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg

#12 Alfred Aboya, 6-8 235 Jr. F/C

2.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg

#13 James Keefe, 6-8 220 So. F

2.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg

Memphis

#20 Doneal Mack, 6-5 170 So. G/F

7.2 ppg, 1.7 rpg

#0 Shawn Taggart, 6-3 230 So. F/C

6.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg

#1 Willie Kemp, 6-2 165 So. G

5.3 ppg, 1.0 rpg

Note: Backup point guard Andre Allen has been suspended for the Final Four.

My Guess at the Game

UCLA will slow the tempo down in this game and force Memphis to beat them in a half-court game.  The Bruins talented backcourt should not have too much difficulty avoiding the costly turnovers that lead to cheap baskets for Memphis.  The Tigers will need a half-dozen cheap baskets to win this one.

UCLA will isolate Love and/or Mbah a Moute down low with the hopes of forcing Dorsey to foul.  Dorsey has a problem with fouling in the paint, and he will have to log at least 30 minutes for the Tigers to compete.

If the game becomes an issue of depth, the sons of Westwood have superior inside reserves, while the bullies from the Bluff have superior perimeter reserves.

Basically, when two outstanding teams face off on a neutral court, you look at which team will get more scoring chances by way of rebounding and turnover margin, and you look at which team is likely to get more high percentage shot opportunities.

When I look at all the statistics and talent, I definitely see evidence that UCLA will win the battle of the boards by a moderate amount, while Memphis forces the Bruins into a few extra turnovers.  It comes down to who gets the open shots.  I don’t think the Bruins will give up more than a handful of easy shots, while Memphis will gamble for steals and give up some open looks.   I look for Darren Collison to burn the Tigers from outside and open up the lane for Love about 12 minutes into the game.  It will lead to Dorsey committing some fouls and having to go to the bench.  When that happens, UCLA will get some offensive rebounds and putbacks.  Look for UCLA to advance to the title game.

Prediction: UCLA 67  Memphis 59

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Approximately 8:47 PM EDT

Kansas 35-3  vs. North Carolina 36-2

Kansas

Stat

N. Carolina

80.6

PPG

89.2

61.2

Def PPG

72.2

50.7

FG%

49.1

37.9

Def. FG%

42.3

40.1

3pt %

37.9

33.3

Def 3pt %

32.6

69.6

FT%

75.5

+7.7

Reb. Margin

+11.5

+2.6

TO Margin

+1.8

8.8

Stls/G

8.2

5.9

Blk/G

4.5

13.2

R+T

15.0

19

PiRate

15

55.94

SOS

59.21

Starters

Center

Kansas: #00 Darrell Arthur, 6-9 225 So.

12.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 54.3% FG, 16.7% 3pt, 69.6% FT, 0.8 ast, 1.3 blk, 0.5 stl

North Carolina: #50 Tyler Hansbrough, 6-9 250 Jr.

22.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 54.2% FG, 0% 3pt, 80.6% FT, 0.9 ast, 0.3 blk, 1.5 stl

Power Forward

Kansas: #32 Darnell Jackson, 6-8, 250 Sr.

11.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 62.0% FG, 2-6 3pt, 68.3% FT, 1.1 ast, 0.5 blk, 0.7 stl

North Carolina: #21 Deon Thompson, 6-8 240 So.

8.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 48.1% FG, 0% 3pt, 58.6% FT, 1.1 ast, 1.3 blk, 0.7 stl

Small Forward

Kansas: #25 Brandon Rush, 6-6 210 Jr.

13.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 42.3% FG, 42.9% 3pt, 79.0% FT, 2.1 ast, 0.8 blk, 0.9 stl

North Carolina: #1 Marcus Ginyard, 6-5 218 Jr.

7.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 44.7% FG, 42.9% 3pt, 64.9% FT, 2.2 ast, 0.1 blk, 1.1 stl

Shooting Guard

Kansas: #15 Mario Chalmers, 6-1 190 Jr.

12.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 52.2% FG, 47.6% 3pt, 74.6% FT, 4.4 ast, 0.6 blk, 2.4 stl

North Carolina: #22 Wayne Ellington, 6-4 200 So.

16.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 47.1% FG, 41.4% 3pt, 82.5% FT, 2.1 ast, 0.2 blk, 1.1 stl

Point Guard

Kansas: #3 Russell Robinson, 6-1 205 Sr.

7.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 42.2% FG, 32.1% 3pt, 77.5% FT, 4.1 ast, 0.4 blk, 2.0 stl

North Carolina: #5 Ty Lawson, 5-11 195 So.

12.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 52.3% FG, 35.8% 3pt, 82.9% FT, 5.3 ast, 0.0 blk (1), 1.6 stl

Key Reserves

Kansas

#4 Sherron Collins, 5-11 205 So. G

9.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg

#24 Sasha Kaun, 6-11 250 Sr. C

7.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg

#5 Rodrick Stewart, 6-4, 200 Sr. G

2.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg

North Carolina

#14 Danny Green, 6-6 210 Jr. F/G

11.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg

#32 Alex Stepheson, 6-9 235 So. F/C

4.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg

#11 Quentin Thomas, 6-3 190 Sr. G

3.2 ppg, 1.4 rpg

My Guess at the Game

This has the potential to rank among the best semifinal games in the last 50 years (a list of some great ones follows this preview).

Much like the first game, this game will be won by the team that gets the combination of the most extra scoring opportunities and best looks at the basket.  Can any team playing North Carolina keep the rebounding margin at a stand-off?  Kansas can probably keep the Tar Heel advantage at a minimum and then offset that advantage by winning the turnover margin battle.  That means this game will be decided by shot selection and prevention of good shots.  If that is the case, Kansas is one of the best, if not the best, teams at winning the battle for high percentage shots.

North Carolina still has the ace in the hole in Hansbrough.  He can neutralize the perceived Jayhawk advantage by matching the entire Arthur and Jackson combined in scoring and rebounding.  Again, I think the frontcourts of both teams are basically even.

In the backcourt, I see a decided advantage that I think will eventually tilt the game in the winner’s advantage.  North Carolina has a terrific trio in Ellington, Lawson, and Green.  The Tar Heel guards can destroy an opponent in a matter of two minutes with a fast-break outburst.  One momentary lapse can lead to a 10-0 Carolina run.

So, you see me picking the Tar Heels, yes?  No!  I see Kansas with the advantage in the backcourt.  The Jayhawks perimeter players, Rush, Chalmers, Robinson, Collins, and Stewart, are the best combined quintet of guards in the nation.  As a whole, this group has superior scoring ability from the outside (Chalmers & Rush), the best penetrator to the hoop (Rush), excellent passing (Chalmers, Robinson, Collins), excellent ball hawks (Chalmers & Robinson), excellent defenders on the ball (all five, especially Rush), and even some added rebounding strength (Rush & Chalmers).  Collins could not only start on most of the other NCAA Tournament teams, he could be an all-conference player on most of them!

I see Kansas controlling the tempo for most of the game and preventing North Carolina from making any great, extended scoring runs.  Kansas had its shock game against Davidson, and the Jayhawks have yet to play their best game in this tournament.  I think they will Saturday, and I think it will put them in the Title Game on Monday Night.

Prediction: Kansas 77  North Carolina 73

My List of the 20 Best Semifinal Games in Last 50 Seasons

1959: California 64  Cincinnati 58

1962: Cincinnati 72  UCLA 70

1968: UCLA 101  Houston 69

1969: UCLA 85  Drake 82

1971: Villanova 92   Western Kentucky 89 2ot

1973: UCLA 70  Indiana 59

1974: North Carolina State 80  UCLA 77 2ot

1975: UCLA 75  Louisville 74 ot

1977: North Carolina 84  UNLV 83

          Marquette 51  UNCC 49

1978: Duke 90  Notre Dame 86

1983: Houston 94  Louisville 81

1987: Indiana 97  UNLV 93

1989: Michigan 83  Illinois 81

1991: Duke 79  UNLV 77

          Kansas 79  North Carolina 73

1992: Duke 81  Indiana 78

1996: Kentucky 81  U Mass. 74

1998: Kentucky 86  Stanford 85 ot

2004: Connecticut 79  Duke 78

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