03 March 2016

NCAA Week 3 rankings

1) Kansas 17-4
2) Villanova 13-4
2) Michigan State 12-5

4) North Carolina 14-6
5) Virginia 16-6
6) Oklahoma 16-6
7) Louisville (ineligible) 10-7
8) West Virginia 13-7

9) Kentucky 15-7-1
10) Indiana 11-4-2
11) Duke 13-8
11) Purdue 11-6-1
12) Wichita St 5-6-1
13) Xavier 12-4
14) Miami 16-4-1

15) Arizona 11-7
16) Iowa 9-8-1

17) Iowa St 13-9
18) SMU (ineligible) 8-4
18) Vanderbilt 9-11 (probably played their way to a bid over the last two weeks)
20) Texas AM 14-7

21) Maryland 12-5-1
22) Oregon 14-5-1
23) California 10-6-2
24) Utah 13-6-1
25) Gonzaga 4-7 (currently not listed on many brackets, which seems reasonable as they have few meaningful wins. As such may need to win their conference tournament to get in)

Edited to add another basketball note: there's been some complaining and discussion about the NBA three point line, mostly spurred by the shooting brilliance of Steph Curry. 

I see no pressing reason to move the line back. The quality of play by good teams remains very high, in particular the Warriors and Spurs this season but also the Thunder and Clippers teams, and these teams all have varying styles regarding threes; the Spurs in particular take very few of them relative to the rest of the league, and also defend them like crazy. Coaching via defensive offensive strategies should be allowed to evolve to deal with the shooting splurge to maximize it for their own teams. By attempting to optimize who takes such shots, and from where on the court, and by denying the other team their best shooters or allowing or even encouraging poor shooters to take more long jump shots. The Cavs did this with Curry in the Finals last year and he was not the Finals MVP because they were able to limit him specifically. They were not able to limit everyone on the Warriors team in order to win the series. Which is a different problem. 

Regardless, I do not think the best reason to move the line back is making any argument over Curry. The best shooters in the league will be unfazed by the distance of the line (within reason). A 25 ft line would have little impact on their ability to make three point shots. They may take somewhat fewer of them. I regard this as a poor effect as a result as we should want them to continue to take and make three point shots. The reason to move the line back before, when it was moved in for a few years, was that poor shooters like Antoine Walker or even old-style centers like Patrick Ewing were taking threes and this was producing a poorer quality product of play (many bricks), and also that there was poor offensive spacing because the line was too close to reduce post play. We still have poor shooters taking too many threes (LeBron James, Josh Smith), and centers (DeMarcus Cousins). But this seems more like a poor coaching decision now than a problem with the line being too close. Offensive spacing does not seem to be threatened by the current distances. And shooting percentages overall do not appear to be suffering. They suffered initially after the shift back to the current distance (for two seasons), but quickly recovered. I would be skeptical that such a change is needed to improve the quality of offensive play, or to improve the ability of defenders to defend. 

If I were to pick a single game strategy or tactic that needs to be looked at to improve the quality of game play, it would be intentional fouls of poor free-throw shooters (hack-a-Shaq as it was known when it started). As this breaks up the flow of the game, does not demonstrate high quality offense or defense, and doesn't really achieve much strategically as an advantage that I can determine in most games. Even for the worst shooters the expected points per possession is essentially a wash or a very small decimal figure at best. We also have intentional foul rules which differ at the end of quarters and games already. It seems odd that players are allowed to foul a poor free throw shooter when they do not have the ball and almost certainly do not affect the play on the court the rest of the game, and then that we would change this rule back at the end of games. 
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