Monday, March 31, 2008

Still More March Madness Math

Let's go through the four Final Four teams and see how they play, because the media and announcers routinely mess this up:

From Slowest to Fastest in Terms of Possessions Averaged per Game:

1. UCLA -- 65 possessions
2. Kansas -- 68 possessions
3. Memphis --70 possessions
4. UNC -- 75 possessions

Because of the way that normal distributions fall, the rankings of the four vis-a-vis all Division I teams is 258 for UCLA, 127 for Kansas, 64 for Memphis and 5 for Carolina. It is interesting to note that UNC is playing almost identically fast to its 2005 national title team.

In terms of Offensive Efficiency:
1. UNC
2. Kansas (tied for first)
3. Memphis

There is not much difference among these squads in terms of offense per possession.

In terms of Defensive Efficiency:

I am not going to break this out completely because the top three are essentially tied at the top, with UNC somewhat behind, but still in the top twenty.

In terms of rebounding, UNC is the best on the offensive boards; UCLA is the best on the defensive boards, and Kansas and Memphis are a bit farther back, but still very good.

Ultimately, I think that UCLA and UNC both have the edge in their games against Memphis and Kansas, due to their each having an All American guy to go to on offense, with UCLA having Kevin Love and UNC having Tyler Hansbrough. Memphis doesn't have any offensive players of this caliber, while Kansas has Mario Chalmers, who is just a step back, but doesn't get the ball nearly as much as Love and Hansbrough.

But if you want to look for an upset on Saturday, slight upset though it may be, it is likely to be Memphis over UCLA, due to UCLA's low-scoring pace and generally high inconsistency rating. I don't think Kansas can work out its scoring problems well enough to defeat North Carolina. Kansas didn't have anybody who seemed to want the ball down the stretch against Davidson and putting Sasha (no relation to Chaka) Kaun up against Hansbrough seems likely to expose Kaun's lumbering lack of mobility.

Kansas beat a 12 and a ten seed in the regionals to get to the Final Four, while UNC defeated a Louisville team regarded as at least the fifth best team in the country. UNC and Kansas are currently 1-1 in the Semi's of the Final Four, with Kansas defeating perhaps Dean Smith's worst Final Four team ever, in 1991 and then losing languidly to Duke; and with UNC beating a far better Kansas team in 1993 and then defeating Michigan and the Fab Five for the title that year.

In 1957, in one of the most famous games ever, UNC completed an undefeated year by beating Wilt Chamberlain in Kansas in triple-overtime, 54-53 for the national title under Frank McGuire.

Only one Big 12/Big 8 team has won the national championship since Dean Smith left Lawrence, Kansas back in the early 1950s and that team had Danny Manning. Apart from the generally weaker competition that the Jayhawks generally face in the Big 12 (Texas got annihilated in its home state by Memphis, which hardly could have given Kansas much confidence), this Kansas team doesn't have a single player in Danny Manning's zip code. Bill Self is likely to have to content himself with making the Semi's this year and save avenging Wilt and the 1957 Jayhawks for another day.

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