2015 Women’s Basketball All-Superheroine Team

Heroine_hoopsThere are awards for All-American athletes and awards for All-Academic, but what about for both? That’s what the NC2A Nerd All-Superhero or in this case all Superheroine team is about. Here are the criteria.

1: Make the conference all-academic team.
2: Make the all-conference team.
3: Play on a team with at least a winning record with preference for conference champions and deep tourney runs.
4: No freshmen allowed with preference for seniors.
5: Only one player per team. This means UConn can’t have five on this list.
Here are my top 12 Superheorines of the 2014-15 women’s basketball season.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA1. UConn: Breanna Stewart
Easier to say what she has not accomplished at UConn. Stewart has won two straight Naismith Trophies and the same with AP Player of the Year. Making the American Athletic Conference’s Academic team is pretty easy as anyone with a 3.0 GPA gets in but she did it. Oh, I almost forgot, she has won three national titles in three years.

Elizabeth Williams2. Duke: Elizabeth Williams
Made the ACC Academic team with and earned a remarkable four straight selections to All-ACC team. Williams also won the Kay Vow Scholar Athlete of the year award and helped the Blue Devils to a Sweet 16 appearance.

Ruth Hamblin3. Oregon State: Ruth Hamblin
Making the PAC-12 Academic team is hard as the conference only recognizes 10. Enter Hamblin, who earned a 3.86 GPA in medical engineering while leading the Beavers. On the court, Hamblin earned PAC-12 player of the year with 13 points and 9 rebounds a game. She made it while also being on the All-PAC-12 squad.

4. Princeton: Blake Dietrick Princeton Blake Dietrick
Best player on an undefeated Ivy League team. What more can you say? Dietrick was the engine to the offense as she led the Tigers in points and assists.

SamanthaLogicIowa5. Iowa: Samantha Logic
Fought it out with teammate Ally Disterhoft for this spot but she got it with her first team All-Big Ten selection. Helped propel the Hawkeyes to the Sweet 16 and earned a spot on the Women’s Basketball coaches Association All-American team. Logic also made the Capital One Academic All-American team.

Now to the reserves…

6. Maryland: Lexie Brown Lexie Brown
Have Lexie Brown just edging out her teammate Brionna Jones. Brown led the Terps to a Final Four and made the All-Big 10 team with academic accolades to go on with it.

7. Pittsburgh: Brianna KieselBrianna Kiesel
Kiesel has made multiple ACC-Academic teams while at Pittsburgh and the senior guard made the All-ACC team thanks to 18.5 points per game.

Hoover, Andrea 2014-15 cropped8. Dayton: Andrea Hoover
Made the A-10 honor roll while helping her team to the Elite Eight. Hoover also competed well in the national 3-point contest as she shot a ridiculous 45 percent from beyond the arc.

Sunny Greinacher9. Gonzaga: Sunny Greinacher
Greinacher is a graduate student who earned a 3.52 GPA while pursuing her masters in counseling. She also led to the Zags on a Cinderella run to the Sweet 16 with 14 points per game. Greinacher just beat out teammate Elle Tinkle for this spot.

stafford_imani_201410. Texas: Imani McGee-Stafford
McGee-Stafford made the Big-12 Academic team majoring in accounting and made the All-Big 12 team despite missing games due to injury. She helped Texas to the Sweet 16 with a surprise upset of California in the round of 32 thanks to her double-double in that game.

An open letter to Coach John Calipari

Dear Coach John Calipari,DSC_1224

I know you don’t need another guy in the media (or loser blogger) telling you what to do. You’re tired of it I’m sure, or have developed the ability to not give a bleeping Saul Smith about what others think of you. Probably a bit of both.
You’ve done everything reasonable Kentucky fans (I’m one of the 15 percent) could have hoped for since your hire and so much more.

There’s nothing more for you to prove at Kentucky.

Please, go to the NBA.

It’s not just the best choice for yourself; it’s the best choice for Kentucky fans. Other friends I have in Big Blue Nation were not enjoying Kentucky games this year. Despite all the winning, any tight contest for the Cats turned into agony for the Commonwealth. Making it worse, all the winning made 49 states angry at our Cats and our fans.

Losing to Wisconsin was disappointing. Perhaps even worth shedding a tear or starting small fires. Wish I was joking about that last part. The Wisconsin loss though provided Kentucky faithful something else.

Relief.

Relief that we no longer have to sit through a game as if all the furniture in our homes are made of eggshells. Relief that fans will no longer have to defend their favorite team to other fan bases who just want to see them fail. Relief that we no longer have to listen to commentators make a big deal about Kentucky struggling during the course of a game as if it were a supernatural miracle. Relief that we no longer have to hear talking heads rant about how “insert school name here” can beat the Cats. Relief from those saying “the SEC is weak” when winning on the road in any league is challenging.

Kentucky was the only team networks promoted because they knew it was the only team they knew would drum up interest. Kentucky or the field was a serious question because no one cared who the field was. Sure, there were candidates but the “who” never mattered. It was only the “when,” and the “if.”

Coach Cal, your team wasn’t a part of the college basketball season. Your team WAS the college basketball season.
It’s hard to think back to when that wasn’t the case. So I looked back at your introductory press conference you had in 2009. It was six years ago but you look over a decade younger then.

Everything you hoped to do back then you completed.

You got talent to come to Lexington.
You achieved No. 1 rankings and 1 seeds.
You took Kentucky to multiple Final Fours.
You added to the championship banners.
And of course, you proved everyone wrong. This includes skeptics like myself.

Skeptics that thought all of the tournament banners you won at Kentucky would eventually be vacated.
Skeptics that thought you would fail to coach toe-to-toe with the best in clutch situations.
Skeptics that thought you could not win a championship with the bulk of the roster being freshmen.
Skeptics that thought you could not develop players in a year.
Skeptics that thought you would fall on your face.

You proved them wrong but now there’s nothing left to do here.

This entire season was your team fighting to hang on to a title it hadn’t won yet. Everyone knew you had the best team but the best team doesn’t always win the tournament. You knew that too well with how your squad as an eight seed nearly won it all a year ago.

Losing is part of basketball, it’s part of sports. Your team though didn’t react too well to it Saturday. Players walked off the court without shaking hands and one was caught on the microphone whispering obscenities in the postgame presser.

The fact is Coach, even if Kentucky had survived Wisconsin Saturday night, most of the country would have been yelling for Duke Monday night. People would rather see Duke win if it meant our team lost. I never thought that would be possible.

Kentucky is now the black hat. It will be as long as other fan bases have Coach Cal to target. You really want another six years of that?DSC_1253

I don’t think you do. At the open practice Friday you had your team walk off the court waving to fans with 15 minutes left in the hour long session. It was bold, to say you didn’t need the 15 minutes of court time. Jim Nantz was waiting to interview you after the practice like he did with the other three Final Four coaches and I can tell he was not happy you left without saying a word. Then again, I’m assuming you don’t care and probably needed a break from the media. I’m betting you are over this crap.

You’re over with the media analyzing everything you do and with presenting yourself as an image to appeal to the media and the fans. Let’s face it, your interviews sound more like campaign ads than basketball sound bites. How long can you do that before it takes a toll?

In the NBA you’ll still have media obligations but you will not have to worry about representing an entire state. You can be yourself. Plus, people won’t accuse you of paying players. Everyone of them is supposed to be paid.

You’ve done everything you can at Kentucky, now you need to move on.

Just make sure you give us a chance to say goodbye and most importantly…

Say thank you.

Photos from Final Four Friday

DSC_1180I was in the building for four hours of team practices of the Final Four and got off some good pictures. It’s a great time here in Indianapolis, seeing all these fan bases come together.

Michigan State had the most fun with its practice time, with a dunk show at the end. The Spartans also took some half-court shots in the final seconds. It kind of gave the impression that Michigan State was just happy to be there. Then again it may have shown just how loose the team is.DSC_1156DSC_1153DSC_1165Duke was the most business like in its practice. No fooling around under Coach K.DSC_1171DSC_1172DSC_1177Wisconsin ended its practice with a half-court contest of its own, but also shot free throws to get a feel for shooting them in a football venue. DSC_1182DSC_1194DSC_1209Kentucky also shot free-throws but ended its practice 15 minutes early. Coach John Calipari didn’t stick around to talk to Jim Nantz as the team walked off the court to wave to the fans. DSC_1214DSC_1224DSC_1236DSC_1254I’m still picking Kentucky to win it all but it’s a little shaky right now. Should be a great Final Four Saturday.

What is the most important stat in NCAA tournament games?

If there was one mistake I made this year with my bracket it was picking the wrong statistic to be my leading indicator for predictions. That was defense.
The result was picking Kentucky to beat Virginia in the title game. Whoops.
As you can see in the top 50 defenses, Virginia and Kentucky are at the top. While Kentucky and Wisconsin made the Final Four with elite defensesFinal Four Indy, Duke was outside the top 100 and Michigan State was outside the top 80.

Think offense is the key stat? Think again. The top 50 is a mixed bag of teams who did well in the tournament and teams who flopped like Davidson and Iowa State.

Three-point shooting? Only two teams in the top 20 of 3-point field-goal percentage even made it to the Sweet 16 in Gonzaga and Utah.

This leaves the stat coaches talk about all the time. Turnovers.

While it’s not overwhelming, the quality of teams in the top 50 is significant. Turnover margin was the key to getting West Virginia to the Sweet 16 and Georgia State’s big upset of Baylor.
Georgia State was plus 15 in turnovers in its upset of Baylor, turning over the Bears 21 times. Baylor’s rebounding and defense was not good enough to make up for it.

West Virginia was plus 5 in turnover margin against Buffalo and was plus 13 vs. Maryland. The problem for WVU is it met Kentucky in the Sweet 16; a team that also forces miscues because of its length and size. The Mountaineers were minus 3 against the Wildcats and that contributed to a 78-39 drumming.

Virginia Commonwealth is known for its pressure and forcing mistakes, but Ohio State was strong in the turnover game too. The result was the Buckeyes winning in overtime as the two squads ended with 11 turnovers each. Having the same number of turnovers as VCU is quite the accomplishment.

Wichita State shot a dreadful 15.4 % from 3 against Indiana but edged out a win thanks to plus six in turnover margin.

The Louisville Cardinals are always good in the turnover game as that’s Rick Pitino’s forte. An upset from UC-Irvine appeared likely but Louisville survived courtesy of a plus five in turnover margin. It was the only team stat the Cardinals clearly controlled. The turnover edge nearly propelled the Cardinals to the Final Four as lost to the Spartans in overtime in the East Regional Final. Louisville was just plus three in that game.

Remember the First Four? BYU came in as an offensive powerhouse and shot an insanely 15 of 29 from 3. Problem though was Ole Miss turning BYU over 15 times to its 7.

It’s also interesting that among the teams with the fewest turnovers per game you’ll find Wisconsin at No. 2. It’s an advantage that might neutralize the defense of Kentucky a tiny bit.

It’s not unanimous, but turnover margin has been a key stat throughout the tournament. Six of the Elite Eight are in the top 75 of the stat with Michigan State being the only true anomaly at No. 215.

Now I wish I could have just reworked the bracket with that in mind.

Conferences that need a strong NCAA Tournament

Those players walk over the logo the same way the NCAA walks over the conference.

Those players walk over the logo the same way the NCAA walks over the conference.

For some leagues, the NCAA Tournament is the only chance it has to build a reputation. That means the pressure is on these mid-major conferences.

5. Missouri Valley
Northern Iowa is a Final Four sleeper and Wichita State is also getting plenty of love in bracket pools. But what if they falter? Wyoming has potential to beat Northern Iowa in a classic 12/5 upset. Wichita State has traditional powers in Indiana and Kansas in the first weekend. Indiana is a top 10 3-point shooting team and can beat anyone because of that. Playing Kansas in the round of 32 is a dream for Shockers fans but with that dream comes pressure. This is a huge week for the Missouri Valley.

4. West Coast Conference
With BYU going out to Ole Miss in the first four it’s down to Gonzaga to carry the league, but the Bulldogs are use to that. The program has been criticized for not having the deep tourney runs to mirror its regular season success. The road is not easy with Davidson and Iowa State lurking, but this might be the best team Mark Few has had. It’s put up or shut up time for Gonzaga and the WCC.

3. Atlantic 10

Next from Atlantic 10 on Vimeo.

Dayton was a lightning rod for criticism for hosting a First Four game against Boise State. The fact that the committee felt the Flyers were the last team in the field screams disrespect. Especially with Davidson and VCU listed as 10 and 7 seeds.
The Atlantic 10’s “Who Wants Next Campaign” is in its second year and hopes to improve the perception of the league. The public relations firm in charge, 160over90, created the video above.

“Telling the story of the grittiness and uncompromising work ethic of the A-10, we’ve taken the ‘Next’ brand narrative to another level,” said Brendan Quinn, Creative Director at 160over90. “Highlighting the conference’s relentless commitment to advancing, this spot puts the spotlight directly on the hard work of the players. The hard work that starts in driveways, playgrounds, and gyms, and pays off in late March. The A-10 teams in the tournament are ready to make some noise. They know Next is now.”

Next may also be next year instead. VCU and Davidson will have a tough time getting to the Sweet 16 with Arizona and Gonzaga in the way. Dayton, the team who carried the A-10 in the tourney last year, may be the league’s best bet for a deep run yet again.

2. Mountain West

The Mountain West was trashed in an article on Grantland as a league to avoid in making picks.

“Until they can prove there’s any substance behind the hype, avoid MWC teams. This year, that means San Diego State (again), Boise State (somehow playing on the road against Dayton in the First Four), and Wyoming (playing a superior version of itself in Northern Iowa).”

That’s harsh, and it’s also all the ammunition the MWC needs to know this is a big tournament for its reputation. With Boise State losing to Dayton, the pressure is even higher on the remaining teams.

1. American Athletic Conference
The AAC had two bubble teams miss the field in Temple and Tulsa with the conference champion listed at a 6 seed. This is after the year UConn won the title. Damage control falls to Cincinnati and SMU in the tournament. Both teams are in tough positions for a round of 32 matchup in Kentucky and Iowa State. While proving the committee wrong is important, I doubt the AAC will be able to make much noise this time around.

Listening to Larry Brown and his disappointment about Temple and Tulsa shows just how real the situation is for the AAC.

My 2015 March Madness Picks

Last year’s bracket did fine considering it was a crazy year. Picking Mercer to beat Duke was enough credibility for me to roll my bracket on the internet again.

I have Kentucky winning it all and that sounds boring I know. The Wildcats are just that good. Sure, Kentucky will be tested (I have them playing Wisconsin in the semifinals and Virginia in the title game), but they should pass those tests. This Kentucky team is obviously superior to the team that scrapped past Wisconsin a year ago and came up short in the title game with UConn.

Virginia was the team I struggled with the most as I don’t know how healthy it will be. I just think the Cavaliers have gone too far to have another season end before the Final Four, though Michigan State and even Belmont could give them problems.

To the picks.

Midwest

My Midwest is crazy outside of Kentucky rolling through. Valpo is a solid team as I have it moving on to the Sweet 16. The Crusaders can defend and shoot 3s and that is a lethal combo. Texas is another surprise team here as the Longhorns are among the leaders in blocks in rebounds. When you look at their losses you see that most came to good Big 12 teams on the road and at Kentucky. Wichita State is the next hidden gem in the region as the Shockers have been waiting for a shot at Kansas for a long time. No way they let this slip.

In contrast the West is more predictable.

West

The East is about Virginia staying healthy. I added some upsets from the winner of Boise State/Dayton and Louisville having another deep run.

East

The South can be anyone but I like Utah as it is one of the few squads who can defend and score. This is also Gonzaga’s best chance at a deep tournament run. For a good upset, I’m going with Eastern Washington to shoot the 3 over a bigger Georgetown team.

South

1st round NCAA tourney games to love and hate

The first round is all about upsets and mid-majors getting their chance. Sometimes the committee enables the upsets and other times they deny them. Here are some examples.

Love: 13 Seed Eastern Washington vs. 4 Seed Georgetown
Georgetown is becoming the punching bag for Cinderella teams in the past few years (VCU and Florida Gulf Coast) and Eastern Washington gets crack at extending the streak. The team strength of the Hoyas is protecting the rim but the Eagles are a top 10 3-point shooting team and can circumvent the size of the Hoyas. That makes this interesting and a must watch as the opportunity for the upset or a close game is there.

Hate: 12 Seed Wyoming vs. 5 Seed Northern Iowa
See the problem here? Both these mid-majors could top a power conference team but have been denied that opportunity with this pairing. I love Northern Iowa but it would not benefit the exposure and prestige of the program by beating Wyoming. Wish this game was against a Texas or an Indiana team so that the nation would respect UNI more for after a win.

Love: 15 Seed Belmont vs. 2 Seed Virginia
Virginia is one of the best defensive college basketball teams you’ll ever see, but tiny Belmont of the Ohio Valley Conference can score, score, score. Belmont is a top 50 offense and 3-point shooting team. If the Bruins heat up from the field, this little 15 vs. 2 bracket buster could become a very real.

Hate: 8 Seed North Carolina State vs. 9 Seed LSU
Some 8/9 games are compelling but this is not one of them. LSU just lost to a 14-19 Auburn team in its first game of the SEC tournament. NC State was eviscerated by Duke in the ACC tournament in a game that was never competitive. The winner will probably get Villanova but I would rather pass on this game involving two teams combining for 23 losses on the year.

Love: 13 Seed UC Irvine vs. 4 Seed Louisville
Welcome to the block party! Both UC Irvine and Louisville are in the top 50 in blocks per game. The Anteaters have a 7’6” center in Mamadou Ndiaye and if you have a guy like that you have a chance. Louisville is a strong defensive team but UC Irvine can shoot the 3. That’s enough intrigue for me.

Hate: 7 Seed Iowa vs. 10 Seed Davidson
You have no idea how hard it was to write that. How is Davidson the underdog here? The Wildcats went 14-4 in the Atlantic 10 and was rewarded with a 10 seed? Iowa is a 7 seed despite losing to bottom of the conference Penn State team in the Big Ten tournament. The only way this game is worth watching is if Davidson takes to Iowa and blows it out to rectify the poor seeding from the committee.