Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Welcome to Bracketville, Population 9, Version 3.1

March Madness is the perfect formula of suspense and spectacle.

Being a sports fan requires a certain suspension of disbelief…just as you need in reading mysteries. We must pretend that teams can win the World Series with a low payroll and those NFL linesmen can’t possibly be on steroids and these athletes aren’t just hired guns. In the extreme, some actually believe wrestling isn’t fixed.

Kansas State’s coach, Frank Martin looks like Dick Tracy to me.

My-oh-Maya: The UConn women enter the Final Four with a 40-point victory over FSU. Maya Moore and Tina Charles are all-world talents. No team (men or women) in recent memory has played so flawlessly for so long---both starters and reserves.

I hope for a Stanford/UConn final on Tuesday. In their game in December, Stanford’s mega-talent, Jane Appel, was just coming back from knee surgery. She’s close to 100% now. Along with fellow, 6’4” forward, Kayla Pederson, Appel gives Stanford a duo that can compete with UConn for 40 minutes.

For the men, I’d like to see Duke and Butler tip off on Monday night. That matchup would display the fewest tattoos---and highlight players who can actually spell class because they have, in fact, attended lectures, seminars and the like.

Most recent graduation rates for Final Four teams: Duke 92%, Butler 90%, Michigan State 58% and WVU 44%.

Duke’s points-per-possession on Sunday was the highest Baylor allowed all season, and their performance Friday was the second highest allowed by Purdue.

Tom Izzo: 15 years at Michigan State, 13 NCAA Tournament appearances. In that time, no upper-classman who committed to Izzo has missed out in playing in a Final Four.

Michigan State retained seven of its top nine players from last year’s runner-up team. This season they made 52.2% of their two-point attempts and limited opponents to 41% shooting from the field. Six current members played double-digit minutes in last year’s championship final.

MSU has out-rebounded foes by 134-100 in their four tournament victories.

During Butler’s 24 game win streak, Matt Howard and Gordon Hayward are shooting at or above 50%.

Butler sixth man, junior Zach Hahn, is a career 41.6% shooter from beyond the arc.

Butler has recorded more turnovers than assists in eight of the last 13 games.

Duke’s Kyle Singler’s 0-10 shooting performance on Sunday was the first time in 109 career games he went without a field goal.

Statistical profiling: The NCAA champion in the past 21 years had to be a top-three seed, average at least 77 points, shoot 48% or better from the field, 37% or better from the three-point line and at least 68% from the foul line. This year, only Kansas and Baylor met all five criteria. Duke qualified in all except field-goal percentage (.440). WVU qualified in seeding and at the foul line.

Out of 5.4-million brackets submitted to ESPN.com, 200 picked this Final Four.

WVU’s Da’Sean Butler has made six buzzer-beaters this year.

This is the 11th Coach Krzyzewski-led Duke team to win 30 games.

Duke’s Jon Scheyer shoots 39.5% from the field. Pretty amazing as more than half his shots are three-point attempts.

In the 16 weeks of the season since November 30, Butler, Michigan State, Duke and WVU have combined for zero first place votes in the AP poll.

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