Time For A Break

February 17, 2011

In the past, when my writing has fallen off over an extended period of time, I began my “I’m back!” post with an apology of some sort. The more I think about it, the more presumptuous it seems. The self-importance that such an apology suggests is completely undermined by my admittedly modest readership. So, I’m not going to apologize for not writing, because I’m sure your lives have been just fine without it.

I’m also not going to say “I’m back!”, because I’m probably not. Intellectually, I knew that I was going to be busy this semester. But now that it’s picking up steam, I’m really starting to feel it. Between graduate school class time, graduate school work itself, my job, my friends, my family, and my girlfriend (and the fact that each of those obligations is in a different location than all the others; hooray Unlimited MetroCard!), I simply don’t have the time to write about sports with any consistency. Right now, the focus is on staying productive and sane, not railing on Len Elmore’s most recent love affair with senior leadership.

I will be back. Baseball season and the NCAA tournament are around the corner, and you know I won’t be able to resist writing about those. If you hate yourself and are interested in stream of consciousness, cranky thoughts about Vanderbilt’s woeful 2-3 zone and other random excoriations, my Twitter feed will remain active. But what I’m trying to say is this: don’t expect anything new to appear here for a while.

Have a great spring!




Bad Senior Performances of the Week: January 23rd-29th

January 30, 2011

January 23, 2011

  • Casey Mitchell, West Virginia: 6/19 FG, 13 pts

January 24, 2011

  • Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame: 29 mins, 2/2 FT, 2 pts, 2 rebs
  • LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor: 4/17 FG, 6 pts, 5 TOs
  • Jacob Pullen, Kansas State: 4/13 FG, 17 pts, 5 TOs

January 25, 2011

  • E’Twaun Moore, Purdue: 4/13 FG, 16 pts
  • Rick Jackson, Syracuse: 6/16 FG, 12 pts
  • Alex Tyus, Florida: 3/12 FG, 6 pts
  • Justin Harper, Richmond: 4/13 FG, 14 pts
  • Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech: 3/11 FG, 8 pts, 8 TOs

January 26, 2011

  • D.J. Gay, San Diego State: 0/7 FG, 2 pts
  • Jackson Emery, BYU: 1/7 FG, 4 pts
  • Corey Fisher, Villanova: 2/10 FG, 7 pts, fouled out
  • Corey Stokes, Villanova: 2/16 FG, 7 pts
  • Gary Johnson, Texas: 3/10 FG, 9 pts
  • Preston Knowles, Louisville: 3/16 FG, 10 pts
  • Dwight Hardy, St. John’s: 4/16 FG, 10 pts

January 27, 2011

  • Kyle Singler, Duke: 5/14 FG, 14 pts
  • Demetri McCamey, Illinois: 2/11 FG, 6 pts, 3 ast, 5 TOs
  • Mike Tisdale, Illinois: 2/10 FG, 8 pts
  • Steven Gray, Gonzaga: 6/14 FG, 14 pts, 1 ast, 5 TOs

January 29, 2011

  • E’Twaun Moore, Purdue: 3/13 FG, 9 pts
  • Kevin Anderson, Richmond: 4/16 FG, 10 pts
  • Brad Wanamaker, Pittsburgh: 1/7 FG, 9 pts
  • Tyrel Reed, Kansas: 1/6 FG, 5 pts
  • Justin Safford, Missouri: 1/10 FG, 4 pts, 4 TOs
  • Melvin Goins, Tennessee: 2/7 FG, 5 pts, 5 TOs
  • Chris Warren, Mississippi: 6/21 FG, 16 pts, 1 ast, 3 TOs
  • Marshall Moses, Oklahoma State: 5/13 FG, 13 pts, 3 TOs
  • Rashad Bishop, Cincinnati: 1/9 FG, 3 pts

Do The Green Bay Packers Have Trouble Putting Opponents Away?

January 26, 2011

Before I get to the Green Bay Packers, I just want to quickly comment on three items that appeared in my Twitter feed this morning. My criticisms are petty and brief, but I can’t let these slide. The common thread? A mainstream sports media that is seemingly incapable of delivering commentary simply or without hyperbole.

  • Seth Davis comments on Kansas’ Thomas Robinson losing his mother to a heart attack this past weekend. Of course, it cannot just be called a “heart attack.” It must be an “untimely heart attack,” which is so obviously dissimilar from those auspiciously-timed myocardial infarctions. I suppose timely heart attacks exist – right before Kim Jong-il presses the “Initiate Nuclear Launch” button would qualify – but in this situation, it goes without saying that the heart attack was a bad thing.
  • Andy Katz says that Kansas deserves tons of credit for winning a conference road game while grieving for Robinson’s mother. At the risk of being insensitive, there is no way that her death made it more difficult for Josh Selby, Tyrel Reed, Tyshawn Taylor, and the Morris brothers to play basketball. Kansas does deserve credit, however, for winning a conference road game against an improved Colorado squad.
  • In the wake of Michigan State dismissing guard Korie Lucious from the team, Seth Davis says that “a tough season just got a lot tougher.” Right, because losing a junior who can’t hit 40% of his twos or 30% of his threes is a huge loss.

Now, please watch this clip:  Read the rest of this entry »

You’ll Never Guess Who’s Writing About Leadership Again

December 23, 2010

That’s right, it’s Andy Katz.

In his most recent column, Katz attributes the Kansas State Wildcats’ troubles to an absence of leadership. Apparently, seniors Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly – who both displayed their veteran savvy by getting suspended by the NCAA – do not have the leadership necessary to lead a team. To fair to Katz, this wasn’t his idea. He’s merely parroting and expanding upon what coach Frank Martin said:

“Everyone said Jacob was our leader last year,” said Kansas State coach Frank Martin, a day after the suspensions were announced. “But last year it was [departed seniors] Denis Clemente, Luis Colon and Chris Merriewether. Jacob talked. The media talked to him. Denis didn’t like talking to the media because he was challenged in English. Luis scored two points a game so no one talked to him. Denis, Luis and Merriewether taught people how to work. Those were the guys when the game started that got us through games. We lost that.”

Of course, that doesn’t stop Katz from interjecting his own brand of contradictory silliness into the discussion. Even though Pullen and Kelly are apparently inadequate leaders, “the absence of Pullen and Kelly, the only two seniors on the team, is a crushing blow for the Wildcats.” Why is their loss crushing? Presumably because Pullen and Kelly are the team’s first and second-leading scorers. That is, their loss is crushing because they are arguably the team’s two best players. Not best leaders – best players. Then later, Katz writes: “But what [Pullen and Kelly’s suspension] has underscored is the issue of where Kansas’ State leadership is going to come from if it’s to achieve those goals.” This is after he writes in the second paragraph that Pullen is not performing as a leader on this year’s team. So the Wildcats need to replace the leadership that Pullen and Kelly weren’t providing?

Katz doesn’t know it, but he is inadvertently arguing the same point that I’ve been hammering away at for a while now: that talent, not leadership, wins games. He can repeat and agree with Martin’s words all he wants, but Katz is singling out Pullen and Kelly not because the team will have trouble replacing their leadership, but because the team will have trouble replacing their production.

As for coach Martin, I hope he actually knows that a lack of leadership isn’t why the Wildcats are struggling (if a 9-3 record can be called struggling). They’re struggling because their offense is light years worse than it was last season. They hit a below-average percentage of their twos and threes, turn the ball over constantly, and absolutely, positively cannot shoot free throws. That’s all there is to it. It has everything to do with the loss (or immaturity) of talent, and nothing to do with the absence of leadership.



What To Make Of The 2011 Phillies

December 19, 2010

It has not been an easy two weeks for me and my teams. On December 8th, Vanderbilt lost a heartbreaker to Missouri in Columbia, where the Tigers had won 50 straight games. The Commodores were doomed by horrific free throw shooting, bumbling point guard play, and an improbable Marcus Denmon three-pointer. One week later, the Knicks took on the Celtics at Madison Square Garden in what was probably the team’s most important regular season game in years. Certainly, the only thing on the line other than a win was pride, but the game was rightly called a serious test for the Knicks, who at that point had been racking up wins against the league’s weakest schedule. The Knicks hung right with the Celtics until a Paul Pierce jumper went in and an Amare Stoudemire three-pointer was waved off, leaving me standing in the center of my friend’s living room in total disbelief. And today, this happened. I still don’t want to talk about it, but let’s just say that my reaction to the meltdown caused my girlfriend to give me the richly-deserved title of a “doodyhead.”

Noticeably absent from this cohort is the Yankees, although that hasn’t stopped much of the media and fanbase from wringing their collective hands over the team’s perceived inertia. The Yankees often make big moves this time of year. They were expected to make their typically aggressive plays for the prime free agents – Jayson Werth, Carl Crawford, and Cliff Lee, with maybe a little Adam Dunn and Rafael Soriano sprinkled in. But it is now December 19th, and other than retaining Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera and signing Russell Martin and Pedro Feliciano, the Yankees have been uncharacteristically quiet. This is, of course, huge news here in New York. With the team very publicly striking out on acquiring Cliff Lee and theoretical Plan B Zack Greinke now off the market, people around here are concerned that the Yankees are an organization in disarray, or at least an organization caught without a plan.

It’s tempting to launch into a 2,000 diatribe on the state of the Yankees (CliffsNotes: chill out, it’s basically the same team as last year’s 95-game winner), but that’s not why I’m writing. I’m writing because I have heard and read some pretty crazy things about the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies’. The Phillies, as you may have heard, now have a rotation featuring Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt. This is an incredible collection of pitching talent, so incredible that it has compelled analysts, fans, and even Las Vegas (9-5 odds!) to proclaim the Phillies favorites to win the World Series. On a general level, this is an insane thing to say. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but baseball is not like basketball or even football. The best or most talented team does not win the championship the majority of the time, and often doesn’t even advance to the final round of the postseason. Weird and unpredictable things happen in the tiny, luck-infused samples of baseball’s playoffs (or even the entire regular season, see the 2010 Padres), so aggressively declaring any team the favorite to win the World Series in December is simply crazy talk.

But this is an objective, statistically-minded space, so naturally I have a concrete reason for my doubts about the 2011 Phillies. Specifically, I have serious questions about their ability to score runs. A glance at both the team’s 2010 performance and the names on their roster might make you wonder what the big deal is. After all, the Phillies scored the second-most runs in the National League and finished with the fourth-highest OPS. Plus they have Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Raul Ibanez, and Carlos Ruiz. They’re the Phillies. How can this offense not be good?  Read the rest of this entry »

Three Players Who Can’t Shoot Straight… And How Analysts Might Not Be Straight Shooters Either

December 11, 2010

In 2009, a tall and lanky freshman named Gordon Hayward played the highest percentage of the Butler Bulldogs’ minutes. This playing time was well-deserved, since he finished the season with the second-highest offensive rating on his team, thanks largely to his 65.7 True Shooting percentage. Even more specifically, Hayward shot a phenomenal 44.8% percent in 154 attempts from beyond the arc. In 2010, however, Hayward’s offensive performance declined from excellent to very good. Although he hit nearly 60% of his 213 two-point attempts, he shot a measly 29.4% from three-point range – in 160 attempts. Nevertheless, the Utah Jazz took Hayward with the ninth overall pick in the NBA Draft. He went 2-for-6 from long distance in the 2010 Summer League, and has gone 2-for-8 in the NBA regular season so far.

Brad Tinsley is Vanderbilt’s starting point guard. He is more of a combo guard by nature, but due to Jermaine Beal’s graduation, John Jenkins’ off-ball ability, and Kyle Fuller’s youth, Tinsley has been charged with the task of running the Commodores’ offense in the 2010-2011 season. Like Hayward, Tinsley had the second-highest offensive rating on his team during his freshman year because of his proficiency from three-point range; he shot 41.1% in 168 attempts. His sophomore year, Tinsley’s three-point accuracy dipped to 29.5% on 105 attempts. He’s shooting 33.3% in 27 attempts this season.

Mike Marra is a sophomore guard on the Louisville Cardinals. He arrived on campus last season with the reputation of being a great shooter, and as a freshman on a team of veterans like Edgar Sosa, Preston Knowles, Jerry Smith, and Reginald Delk, Marra was asked to do little other than fire from beyond the arc whenever he was given a decent look. Unfortunately, he shot 24.4% in 82 attempts, and has continued his poor shooting this season. He sits at 29.8% on 57 attempts after today’s 0-for-5 showing against UNLV.

You might be wondering what these three players have to do with each other, aside from their apparent shooting futility. Ironically, they’re similar because all three have been recipients of the same label – a “knock-down” or great shooter. Yet, as we’ve seen, there is little evidence that they can shoot. Hayward shot 29.4% from three-point range his final year of college and has hit four of his 14 attempts as a professional. Tinsley shot 29.5% last season and isn’t doing much better this time around. Marra has never shot particularly well at any point, and that includes his senior year of high school when he hit just 36% of his threes. Despite their spotty track records, broadcasters and analysts consistently call all three excellent shooters.

Now, if there is one thing that I have learned over the last few years, it is that I am not a scout. I can’t look at a player’s mechanics or movements and predict how he’ll develop or improve in the future. I am the person who thought Marcus Williams would be a star point guard, who thought Matt Ryan would be a bust, who thought Brian Brohm was the best quarterback in his draft class, who killed Donnie Walsh for drafting Landry Fields, who said that Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy would be better than Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz because their minor league ERAs were better, who thought Danilo Gallinari was a brutal pick, and who thought Shan Foster would have a long NBA career as a three-point specialist. Given that ignominious history, it is entirely possible that a professional scout sees Hayward, Tinsley, and Marra’s shooting forms and, observing nothing wrong, concludes that all three have been the victims of prolonged bad luck. It is entirely possible that all three will become consistently excellent shooters in the future, and that I am some combination of too dumb, blind, or untrained to see it. None of this would surprise me, because I simply don’t know this kind of stuff.

But I do know that 30% is not a great or even good accuracy rate from long range. And given that all of these guys have been hovering right around that mark recently, I do know that none of these guys can be considered a great shooter. It is annoying to be repeatedly told otherwise when the numbers simply do not bear that out. Hayward in particular somehow earned widespread and very public benefit of the doubt. NBA.com said Hayward “shoots with range and has excellent mechanics” in its draft profile. ESPN’s Chad Ford excused Hayward’s statistically poor shooting with one of the more remarkable sentences I’ve ever read: “He’s also a terrific shooter — despite the fact that his jump shot hasn’t been falling all season.” ESPN’s draft profile even said Hayward was a “sharp shooter with deep range.” All of this is in addition to the countless broadcasters who told me during games that Hayward was a better shooter than his numbers indicated, and who are currently telling me that Tinsley and Marra are victims of the same improbable streak of bad luck.

It’s possible that everyone is smarter and sharper than I am. It’s possible that these professional analysts and talent evaluators see these guys’ strokes and conclude that it’s only a matter of time before the shots start falling for good. But I fear that nothing like that is happening, and that instead, people are seeing three guys that look like this… :

… and are automatically concluding that shooting is their forte.

Bad Senior Performances of the Week (11/27/10 – 12/4/10)

December 5, 2010

This week’s list of poorly playing seniors includes several marquee names from around the country; Jon Leuer, Tim Abromaitis, David Lighty, Kalin Lucas, Kyle Singler, JaJuan Johnson, Malcolm Delaney (worst performance of the week), Tre’Von Willis, Jimmer Fredette, Jacob Pullen, and Corey Fisher are listed below. It also includes poor Joe Trapani of Boston College, who met my arbitrary criteria for the fourth time in two weeks. On to the misery:

November 27, 2010

  • Chris Wright, Georgetown: 1/3 FG, 3 pts, 9 asts, 6 TOs
  • Zach Hahn, Butler: 2/10 FG, 11 pts, 2 asts, 3 TOs
  • Preston Knowles, Louisville: 2/12 FG, 6 pts
  • Delroy James, Rhode Island: 6/17 FG, 15 pts, 2 ast, 3 TOs
  • Chris Wright, Dayton: 1/9 FG, 4 pts, 0 ast, 2 TOs
  • Adrian Thomas, Miami: 3/9 FG, 12 pts,0 ast, 1 TO, fouled out
  • Dwight Hardy, St. John’s: 4/14 FG, 14 pts

November 28, 2010

  • Jon Leuer, Wisconsin: 6/16 FG, 19 pts
  • Tim Abromaitis, Notre Dame: 3/11 FG, 10 pts, 0 ast, 2 TOs
  • Joe Trapani, BC: 4/14 FG, 12 pts
  • B.J. Holmes, Texas A&M: 2/6 FG, 7 pts, 2 ast, 7 TOs
  • Justin Safford, Missouri: 2/4 FG, 4 pts, 0 ast, 5 TOs
  • Chandler Parsons, Florida: 2/6 FG, 5 pts, 1 ast, 4 TOs
  • Dorenzo Hudson, VT: 0/7 FG, 0 pts, 4 ast, 5 TOs

November 29, 2010

  • Donte Smith, USC: 1/7 FG, 3 pts

November 30, 2010

  • David Lighty, Ohio St.: 4/14 FG, 10 pts, 2 ast, 4 TOs
  • Jon Diebler, Ohio St.: 3/12 FG, 12 pts, 1 ast, 2 TOs

December 1, 2010

  • Kalin Lucas, Michigan State: 5/13 FG, 14 pts, 2 ast, 2 TOs
  • Kyle Singler, Duke: 5/14 FG, 15 pts
  • Brad Wanamaker, Pitt: 1/6 FG, 4 pts, 1 ast, 7 TOs
  • Alex Tyus, Florida: 0/5 FG, 0 pts
  • Chandler Parsons, Florida: 1/9 FG, 2 pts
  • JaJuan Johnson, Purdue: 11/24 FG, 29 pts, 5 rebs (*he’s 6’10” and played 44 minutes)
  • Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech: 2/18 FG, 9 pts, 2 ast, 4 TOs
  • Mickey McConnell, St. Mary’s: 1/6 FG, 2 pts, 2 ast, 4 TOs
  • Jai Lucas, Texas: 2/8 FG, 6 pts, 2 ast, 5 TOs
  • Tre’Von Willis, UNLV: 3/10 FG, 8 pts
  • Jimmer Fredette, BYU: 5/15 FG, 13 pts, 3 ast, 4 TOs
  • Joe Trapani, Boston College: 3/11 FG, 9 pts
  • Javier Gonzalez, NC State: 1/6 FG, 3 pts, 2 ast, 5 TOs
  • Talor Battle, Penn State: 7/21 FG, 21 pts, 2 ast, 5 TOs

December 3, 2010

  • Jacob Pullen, Kansas State: 2/11 FG, 8 pts, 5 ast, 6 TOs
  • Corey Fisher, Villanova: 3/13 FG, 14 pts

December 4, 2010

  • Matt Howard, Butler: 5/12 FG, 13 points, fouled out
  • Steven Gray, Gonzaga: 3/12 FG, 10 pts
  • Casey Mitchell, WVU: 5/15 FG, 18 pts