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Prelude To The Madness: Some Thoughts

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With less than 24 hours to go understandably everyone is fired up. Emotions are running high as everyone thinks their team has a shot.

Obviously each and every member of the larger Bruin Nation is a little excited about the chances of our Ben Ball warriors heading into tomorrow night's game against what should be tough and feisty Mississippi Valley Delta State.

But before Thursday arrived I wanted to get some thoughts out of my way. I have been very amused over this week to read comments like this:

But UCLA looks like the team best equipped to complete the journey and win its first national championship since 1995, in part due to the path of least resistance that the committee has provided the Bruins.
That was from Dick Weiss of the New York Daily News, who I have always had a lot of respect for his knowledge on the game. Joe Lunardi on WWL is saying that the "weakest collection of 2s, 3s, and 4s sits in the West":



Really Joe? (I like Joe’s analysis a lot). But this whole narrative that UCLA somehow has a "cakewalk" ahead of him (being perpertred both in the MSM and in the blogpshere) doesn't really hold  up when you actually look into the numbers.

Last night I went into Kenpom.com again and ran the numbers re. 2008 Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings for all 64 teams who are going to put their dancing shoes on starting tomorrow afternoon:

Seed West South East Midwest
1 UCLA (2) Memphis (3) UNC (5) Kansas (1)
2 Duke (6) Texas (7) Tennessee (14) Georgetown (8)
3 Xavier (18) Stanford (10) Louisville (9) Wisconsin (4)
4 Connecticut (21) Pittsburgh (26) Wash St. (11) Vanderbilt (48)
5 Drake (24) Michigan St (17) Notre Dame (27) Clemson (13)
6 Purdue (25) Marquette (12) Oklahoma (36) Southern Cal (20)
7 West Va (23) Miami (47) Butler (32) Gonzaga (28)
8 BYU (44) Miss. St. (34) Indiana (19) UNLV (53)
9 Texas A&M (16) Oregon (37) Arkansas (40) Kent St (66)
10 Arizona (22) St. Marys (46) South Alabama (75) Davidson (33)
11 Baylor (39) Kentucky (61) St. Joesph’s (55) Kansas St (15)
12 Western Kentucky (64) Temple (65) George Mason (93) Villanova (51)
13 San Diego (117) Oral Roberts (79) Winthrop (109) Siena (113)
14 Georgia (81) Cornell (132) Boise St (131) Cal State Fullerton (110)
15 Belmont (160) Austin Peay (170) American (159) UMBC (145)
16 Miss. Valley St (318) Texas- Arlington (186) Mt. St. Mary (169) Portland St. (126)
Avg Rating 62.3 58.3 61.5 52.1

Again, the numbers parenthesis denote the teams' Kenpom ratings. Here are some of the points that stuck out from those numbers:

  • By the numbers the team's in the Western bracket have the lowest average rating (62.3) per Kenpom.com, however it's by the tiniest of margin, only 0.8 lower than the bracket in the Eastern region (61.5).

  • But look at the numbers closely though. If you look at the 4 seeds, UCLA has the second toughest 4 seed - Connecticut (21) - in its region. UNC has the toughest 4 seed in its region in Washington State, a team UCLA thoroughly dominated at home and beat without LRMAM on the road.

  • Kansas may be in the toughest bracket when you factor in average rating of all 16 teams (52.1), however, they have the lowest rated 4th [Vandy (48)] and 8th seed [UNLV (53)] in the tournament

  • Joe Lunardi noted above that "weakest collection of 2s, 3s, and 4s sits in the West." If you average the ratings of 2s, 3s, and 4s you get: 15.0 for West, 14.3 for South, 11.3 for East, and 20.0 for Midwest. So actually the "weakest collection of 2s, 3s, and 4s" sits in the Midwest according to the ratings of Kenpom.com.

  • UCLA has the highest ranked 9th seed [Texas A&M (16)] in its region.
So taking a look at those numbers you just have to LOL when you hear arguments about how UCLA has a "cakewalk" ahead of them in the coming days (if we are lucky enough to advance round by round).

So I think it will be prudent for all of us not to take any game or any opponent for granted in the coming days (including tomorrow night) and feel entitled to our third straight Final-4.

Just think back to the time out right before this happened:



The feeling I was going through during the TO right before that moment is still burned into my memory. It was a devastating and empty feeling I just cannot describe. I can still remember back to that afternoon when we were sitting around our living room at our Landfair apartment with empty stairs. Up until then UCLA had probably put together its most complete regular season (finishing the reg season as the over all number 1 team in the country) and had the most complete squad since the days of JRW.

Well heading into tomorrow, I think we can say this is probably the most complete season our program has put together since 1994-95. Deep down we are all feeling that we have a chance as good as anyone in the country. But it would be in all of our best interest, to just think back to the feelings we were collectively going through during the TO right before Edney's drive. It will give us a dose of humility that I believe we all need going into tomorrow night.

I will reiterate again what I echoed last Sunday. No matter what happens from hereon out we should be proud of what Coach Howland has given us in Westwood. Let's forget about all the nonsense of a "cakewalk" or look ahead beyond our next opponent, and jump into this madness with pride in the program that will be representing those magical four letters, while maintaining a healthy dose of perspective and humility.

GO BRUINS.