Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/13/2006 04:25:00 PM
It's Dancing Week, With The Big Baby
That's the unmistakable Glen "Big Baby" Davis above, posing for his Sports Illustrated photo shoot with LSU dance students on March 3. I spent a couple of days with the Tigers forward in Baton Rouge last week, riding around through his old neighborhood, getting an education in New Orleans rapper Lil' Wayne -- "You don't have this up on the East Coast," Davis said to me, a New York indie-rock fan. Not only did I get schooled on Lil' Wayne, but I also found out that behind Davis' lovable, 315-pound exterior, there's a magnanimous man who emerged, improbably, from a childhood fraught with adversity. Read the full story from last week's SI here (subscriber login required) or pick up the Barry Bondsissue to see it in print.
For our first video post of this blog, we bring you two clips of the Big Baby. The first, on the left, was taken with my digital camera at the SI shoot in LSU's Long Fieldhouse (it was captured much more professionally by photog Al Tielemans above). The second, on the right, is brilliant: During a stop at the house of his girlfriend, Southern University student Brittany Carter, Davis showed me a VHS tape from his sixth-grade talent show at Baton Rouge's Capitol Middle School. In it, he brings down the house with a routine of James Brown's Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine. If you like Davis' nimble moves on the court, you're going to love this. (Click the pictures to play the clips.)
Enjoy. Texas A&M's Chris Walker should've taken lip-syncing lessons from Davis, who is now, officially, my favorite college basketball player.
Can Craig Smith and the Eagles play enough D to keep their hot streak going into the dance?
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
No sleepers. No Cinderellas. No locks. No players to watch. No geographical analysis. In this bracket guide, all we offer are numbers. And this is what you want, right? Some sacred data the rest of your office pool doesn't have?
Back in December, I examined the efficiency profiles -- on offense and defense -- of the Elite Eight teams from the past two NCAA tournaments. (Efficiency basically boils down to how many points a team scores or yields per possession; it puts teams that play different speeds on the same level. Each team's rating is based on points per 100 possessions, and adjusted by whiz Ken Pomeroy to factor in strength of competition.)
What did I learn then? That stellar offense is almost a given for the highest seed, but defensive efficiency -- or lack thereof -- was frequently the red flag for an underperformer in the big dance.
Take these three examples from the 2005 NCAA tournament -- all high seeds that had efficiency ratings in the top 25 offensively and were sub-75 defensively:
The Tigers, Zags and Deacons all wooed us with NBA-caliber stars like Brandon Bass, Adam Morrison and Chris Paul ... enough that many bracketeers didn't pay attention to their weak defenses. And guess what? None of the three made it past the first weekend. LSU was upset by UAB. Gonzaga lost to Texas Tech. And Wake was gunned down by West Virginia.
Now, let's look at the teams that did advance to the Elite Eight in 2005:
Team Rd. Off. Eff. Def. Eff. (Nat'l Rk.) (Nat'l Rk.) UNC NC 122.1 (1) 85.1 (7) Illinois FR 120.0 (3) 85.5 (11) Louisville FF 118.0 (6) 87.8 (16) Mich. St. FF 118.0 (7) 89.3 (25) Kentucky EE 111.4 (25) 85.0 (6) Wisconsin EE 110.6 (28) 86.2 (12) Arizona EE 116.3 (9) 90.3 (34) West Va. EE 113.6 (12) 94.6 (83)
Six of these squads eight were in the top 25 in defensive efficiency, and seven were in the top 34. There was only one outlier -- West Virginia, at 83 -- and the Mountaineers were the team that miraculously shot their way into the final eight. North Carolina won the national title with the No. 7th-ranked D.
Examine the Elite Eight teams from 2004, and the trend only intensifies:
Team Rd. Off. Eff. Def. Eff. (Nat'l Rk.) (Nat'l Rk.) UConn NC 115.7 (8) 83.0 (3) Ga. Tech FR 111.1 (27) 83.7 (5) Duke FF 118.7 (2) 83.5 (4) Okla. St. FF 116.3 (5) 85.8 (9) St. Joe's EE 115.1 (9) 85.8 (10) Kansas EE 111.2 (23) 86.5 (14) Xavier EE 112.3 (17) 87.9 (19) Alabama EE 112.0 (18) 92.2 (49)
Seven of the eight were in the top 20 in defensive efficiency, with the lone outlier (and only a mild outlier, at that) being Alabama, at 49. UConn and Georgia Tech squared off in the title game with defenses ranked Nos. 3 and 5, respectively.
Now, let's get to the useful information. Every No. 1 seed in this year's bracket is ranked in the top 20 in defensive efficiency; however, there are six teams seeded 2-6 that have Ds rated (like the '05 versions of LSU, Gonzaga and Wake Forest) outside the top 75:
For all the attention focused on Gonzaga, the Bulldogs are even worse defensively this year (a rating of 100.7) versus last year (97.0) by a significant margin. Boston College has been surging into the NCAA tournament, but it was knocked out in the second round in 2005, when it had a much better D (91.0, compared to the present 96.8). And while West Virginia is a statistical mirror of itself from last season, will the Mountaineers be undone this time around by their defense?
If you buy into this defensive theory, then you'll hesitate to put more than one or two of the squads above into your Elite Eight -- and you'll slot at least a few of them for early knockouts. The Zags, Eagles, Spartans, Vols, Sooners and Mountaineers aren't incapable of making deep tourney runs. They've just put themselves at a serious statistical disadvantage.
(Readers: Do you put stock in this data, or think it's just a nerdy waste of time? For accountability's sake, we'll revisit this topic in the week leading up to the Final Four.)