Sunday, March 20, 2011

So, um, Colorado was left out because of the Big East?

The Big East "earned" 11 spots in the NCAA Tournament this year. What an embarrassment for the NCAA committee. Sort of.

Now, you could argue that the depth of the league is showing, as the University of Connecticut and Marquette advanced Sunday, but I argue that its a weak league that is propped up by the shear number of teams in the league and their proximity to large media outlets. Now, I'm always leery of blaming media for hype. They, typically, are just telling you how they feel. Sure, there is a bias, but they don't create situations like 11 teams from the Big East getting into the tournament.

The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee should be above that. They should be above any media hype that is created on the east coast, or anything of the sort. Yet, it seems, this year they weren't above it. And the Big East now is proving that it wasn't the top conference in the country, as most of us thought (yes, I will admit, I thought they were probably the best conference in the country, too). Pitt struggled and lost as a No. 1 seed. Louisville lost in an epic upset. Syracuse couldn't get past Marquette and, as I write this, Notre Dame is struggling against Florida State.

And that brings us to Colorado. Why were they left out, again? Not because VCU, or USC, or Clemson, or UAB didn't deserve a spot. Because the committee, incorrectly, thought that one conference deserved 11 teams in the field. Now, the Big 12 hasn't done all that well, either, but the conference clearly deserved to have more teams in than five, when another comparable conference had 11.

That's sad, frankly. Of course, I'm biased, I grew up in Colorado and have always rooted for the Buffs, but its still a shame.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Analyzing the LeBron, Melo moves - knee jerk-style

Melo Anthony and LeBron James underestimated the toughness that the Eastern Conference holds, and they underestimated the pride that other NBA players have.

LeBron simply thought if he teamed up with two of the league's stars that they'd automatically be a good team, and Melo automatically thought that if he was in New York he'd be more of a star than he could have been in Denver.

Both are experiencing some serious growing pains. I think, initially, both thought they were entitled to success. Neither player had ever really experienced anything less. Melo was a high school standout who went to Syracuse and guided that team to a National Championship with ease (and a little help from the free-throw line...here's looking at you Jayhawk fan). And LeBron, well he was the chosen one, and has been since the age of 16.

These two players expect automatic success, and without much effort. Their controversial moves haven't helped them. They are now amongst a group of peers that, if motivated, are far and above the talent they dominated at lower levels. And now they have reason. Before, as these players moved into the league, there was a sense of mystique surrounding them. Now, nearly eight seasons later, there's no mystique anymore. Call it the Tiger Woods effect. The players around them and on opposing teams are no longer afraid of what they can do, because they've been preparing to beat them. Meanwhile, these two players have not been doing the same. They have assumed that they can be better than all of them with little effort, simply because they are who they are.

Tiger Woods is struggling heavily, in ventures he once was beyond great at. I see a similar and parallel situation going on with Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James. They have to acclimate themselves to a league that is trying to make them fail. It's going to be a difficult road for both.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Understanding the solid depth of the Royals organization

I heard a segment on 810 WHB the other day with Soren Petro and Danny Clinkscale that concerned me. I think both are incredible baseball minds, as far as understanding the game and being able to aptly describe those opinions on air from a media standpoint. In fact, the best two in the city, past maybe Ryan Lefebvre.

My frustrations were with Petro's stubborn insistence on focusing on only the Top 9 prospects ranked by Baseball America. The depth of the Royals organization is clearly the strength, not just the Top 9 players in it. Sure, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers and Mike Montgomery are more can't miss than any other prospect the Royals have really seen in the last 10 years. Yes, it's nice to focus in on those four and the other five focused on by Baseball America. But even reading through Baseball America's various chats and articles after the release of the rankings, it becomes apparent that the true strength is the depth of the organization past those Top 9.

Petro referenced some statistical analysis by Scott McKinney of Royals Review citing the percentage of prospects rated in the Top 100 as his basis for his doom and gloom argument. The statistical analysis was well thought out, in my opinion, but it was simply a hindsight analysis and its something that can't really reflect what could happen in the future. Analyzing prospects based on previous prospects is a lose-lose situation. While interesting to us fans, it can't be considered statistically relevant. In it, the author said that 25 percent of Top 100 prospects made it, and 75 percent did not.

Petro disregarded the rest of the organization in his argument and focused on the Top 9.

If Dayton Moore does nothing else as the Royals General Manager, he's done one thing well, and that's changing the attitude of the minor league side of the Royals organization. He's amassed nearly 25 players, by my count, that most General Managers believe could be everyday major league baseball players. I think that's beyond outstanding. There are two waves of players set up in the organization, and Petro clearly ignored that in his analysis.

There is a lot to discuss regarding the Royals minor leagues and its depths and I could probably go on for thousands of words, but I leave it at this. I respect Petro's and Clinkscale's opinions enough that I was frustrated with their knee-jerk reactions to statistical analysis that can't really be analyzed as a true pattern.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Wait, Marion vs. Pippen?


It was recently brought to my attention that Scottie Pippen was nothing more than Shawn Marion. Quite honestly, the initial comparison made me give the computer screen I was looking at the full-on Eddie Griffin Crazy Eye.

However, there's some merit to the claim. I think after some statistical ramblings, you'll see that Pippen is clearly the better statistical player, but the potential for Marion to be a poor-man's Pippen was there. The difference was Pippen's elevation of his game without Jordan in that lost year, and Marion's decline outside of the D'Antoni system in Phoenix, after the age of 30, and Pippen's incremental decline over the course of his entire 30s, that is the difference between how they will be remembered.

Age 25-31 for both players (The seven seasons that encompassed Pippen's title run with the Bulls, amazingly it was his prime).

Regular Season
Pippen - 20 Pts, 7.4 Reb, 6 Ast, 2.25 Stls, .9 Blks
Marion - 17 Pts, 9.6 Reb, 1.9 Ast, 1.76 Stls, 1.3 Blks

So, I can buy Marion being a poor-man's Pippen during those years. Marion with a few more rebounds, of course it was in a much different style of play (we'll go into that later), but Pippen with much more assists, which is the difference. Pippen was not only a scorer, but also a facilitator.

Playoffs during those same years
Pippen - 19.6 Pts, 8 Reb, 5.5 Ast.
Marion - 17.48 Pts, 10.6 Reb, 1.4 Ast.

Still somewhat comparable, but Pippen is clearly the better player.

Now, the kicker, Marion has absolutely hit a wall when not in the Phoenix system. Even the last two years of those statistics above, Age 30 and Age 31, Marion has dropped from 17 and 9 to 12 and 7 per game, while Pippen was still putting up 20 and 6.5 each night, while still doling out 6 assists a night.

Marion had the potential of being a poor-man's Pippen, but never had the surrounding cast, i.e., a true super star. Grant Hill was a fantastic player, Steve Nash might be the second-best facilitator ever after John Stockton and Amare certainly fit the scheme well, but none of them can hold a candle to Jordan, nor did he have Horace Grant in the post...Amare is/was just way too soft to ever be considered in the same category of a role player as Grant, that Marion/Nash needed for a championship run.

In '05-'06, Marion was clearly the focus of the Suns offense, as he averaged a career high 21.8 points per game. Interesting enough, his rebound total went up that season and his assist total went down. Marion never was quite the facilitator that Pippen was, yet he never really had to be, because Nash was running the point. Pippen was essentially one of the first point forwards, giving Jordan the opportunity to play off the ball because of Pippen’s talent. Marion never could facilitate an offense, which is where the large discrepancy comes in. Much less, the declining numbers outside of the system.

Here's where my original premise (Pippen was a much better player than Marion) hits kind of a skid.
I figured that the Bulls took less shots than the up-tempo Suns, and clearly, they didn't play any defense, compared to the Bulls. I was really wrong, and this is where my original thought kind of got blown out of the water.

Interesting enough, in that big year of Marion's in '05-'06, the Suns actually had less shots per game than the Bulls in '92-'93. The Suns also had more rebounds, allowed a worse shooting percentage and allowed less free throws for opponents. Essentially, the Suns were extremely efficient that year, and Marion's numbers reflect that, and so did their record entering the playoffs.

Of course that simply led my random thoughts to a complete impasse. However, that season maybe was the best season the Suns had under D’Antoni, and with Nash and Marion. They reached the conference finals and couldn’t quite get past Dirk Nowitski. Marion and Nash, though they both averaged 20 points per game in the playoffs that year, and Marion averaged a double-double, couldn’t get to the Finals.

That, essentially was the difference between Pippen and Marion. Jordan.

Now, Marion’s decline has come much more rapidly than Pippen, and he has not been very effective after that season. System could be part of it, but I theorize it’s just simply because he’s not the player Pippen was. Even without Jordan, Pippen managed to win more than 50 games with the Bulls and come near a conference finals appearance, when Jordan went and played baseball for a year.

I don’t think Marion could have done that had Nash hung it up unexpectedly, and ultimately it’s the intangibles and not the talent that separate the two players. If you point to one specific stat that exemplifies that premise, it would be assists, where Pippen always had 5-6 assists per game, Marion never rose much above 2 per game, and that was only for two seasons.

Quite simply, Marion was a poor-man’s Pippen, and Pippen’s greatness was essentially his top-flight leadership and his ability, at 6-9, to control and facilitate an offense, which had never been seen before from a true forward.

Hello

By the title, you might think I'm a deep thinker, and will provide some sort of gravitas, or insight, into life. Well, sorry to disappoint you, I'll pretty much offer my random musings on all things sports, centered around my favorite teams, depending strictly on the season.

Spring: Royals, Rockies, NBA Playoffs

Summer: Baseball, Royals, Rockies

Fall: Broncos, Baseball, NFL

Winter: NFL Playoffs, Nuggets, Avalanche, NBA

It's that simple. Nothing too deep, just random thoughts of a sports fan.