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NCAA Tournament: Lessons Learned
by: Michael Jeffries - Volume Shooter
March 31, 2006
In four days, life resumes its dreary pace. Brackets get thrown away and the American workforce becomes productive again, as we slowly start forgetting the drama and glory of the NCAA tournament. On your slow roll back towards normalcy and away from basketball heaven, I encourage you all to remember what the Tournament has taught you about college basketball these past two weeks. Here are some Tournament lessons about players, teams, coaches, and conferences to keep in mind for next year and beyond.


1. Conference tournaments donít tell us how good teams are, they tell us where teams will get seeded.


Whatís the matter with Kansas? They were the hottest team in the country, storming through the Big 12, intimidating teams with ferocious athleticism on offense and defense, and then they wet the bed at the dance. The problem with the conference tournaments is that we get to see the teams that win over and over again, and we become convinced that the successful teams are peaking at the right time, or theyíve got destiny on their side. There was magic in Madison Square Garden as Syracuse walked through hell to gain the automatic bid and a five seed. Gerry McNamaraís folk hero status was bolstered and justified by a savvy coach with plenty of experience, and it seemed crazy to pick against them in a 5-12 game that screamed upset. But Texas A&M didnít care about what happened in the Big East, and the Cuseís rhythm didnít carry over into Jacksonville.

Itís easy to say that the success of Florida and UCLA gave those two teams momentum going into the Tourney. But if Florida wasnít at the top of its game in the SEC finals (they only beat the Gamecocks by 2), and if they had lost to South Carolina, the Gators and LSU both fall a couple of seeds. South Carolina would have had the automatic bid, and itís possible that George Mason doesnít even make the field. Considering who theyíve beaten along the way, itís pretty obvious that Florida and LSU are two of the countryís best, and should they meet again in the finals, I promise the spread will be fewer than the 16 points the Gators beat the Tigers by a few weeks ago.

2. Senior leadership and tournament experience are overrated.

Duke, Michigan State, Oklahoma, and West Virginia were monumental disappointments in this Tournament, but a couple of things explain the collapse of teams with a bunch of guys who have been there before. First and foremost, the players you face in the tournament donít give a ratís ass about personal history, no matter how glorious it is. When ACC players go up against Duke, they all know that Redick is the best scorer in conference history, and they remember him hitting all kinds of clutch shots for the Blue Devils against their own team and other conference opponents. When LSU played Duke last week, Garrett Temple and Tyrus Thomas had no personal experience with the Chronicles of Redick. They did have personal experience with spot up shooters they are longer and quicker than, and with that knowledge, they pressured arguably the best shooter in the history of college basketball into a John Starks-esque 3 for a million shooting performance when it mattered.

The second reason to discount experience is the new rule that prevents high schoolers from jumping straight to the pros. Talent wins titles, and Carmelo Anthonyís carrying Syracuse to a title shows that there will be some, not many, but some exceptional NBA-ready players who are forced to go to school and play the role of man among boys for a year or two before making the jump. Next year, Greg Oden leads a recruiting class at Ohio State that is going to take the Big Ten by storm and play deep into the NCAA Tournament. Donít listen to anyone who warns you that the pressure is too much for freshmen and sophomores to handle.

3. If your bracket has a team from the Big 12 winning it all, rip it up and start over.

Iíve officially sworn off of this conference, despite the fact that Kansas and Texas could be top 5 teams for the duration of next season. Forget winning the championship, the Big 12/Big 8 has had only two teams make it to the final game (Kansas in í03 and í91), and both times they fell short. Quality of play in the Big 12 is severely lacking, and itís only going to get worse in the next 2-3 years with Missouri, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Kansas State going through transitional phases. The immediate future will bring some quality teams from non-traditional places, as programs like Texas A&M, Texas Tech, and Nebraska are all on their way up, but the painful late-round tournament history of Kansas and company is too much to ignore.

4. Guard play has to be good, not great, to make a run, and guards donít win championships by themselves.

One of the more popular maxims about the NCAA Tournament and college basketball in general is that itís a guardís game to win or lose. There are not enough skilled big men to dictate the pace of games, and especially in close games, if you canít handle the ball and shoot from the perimeter, especially from the reduced three point line, you canít win. All of these things are true, but itís a short and stupid step from this sort of logic to a rule that says the team with the best guards will win, or a team whose strength is at guard is better than a team whose strength is at forward. The five best guards in the country all year were Redick, Randy Foye, Brandon Roy, Rodney Carney, and Dee Brown. None of them are in the Final Four. Last year, Illinois featured three starting guards, each of whom is or will be in the NBA, and UNCís front line wore them down. This year, Villanova features three starting guards, each of whom will be in the NBA, and Floridaís front line wore them down. Coincidence? I think not.

That said, the guards left arenít slouches, whether theyíre NBA players or not. With all the talk about Tyrus Thomas and Big Baby, Darrell Mitchellís game winning shot against Texas A&M has been all but forgotten. Joakim Noahís life story and draft stock have flooded the airways, overshadowing Taurean Greenís steady ball handling and 18-19 free throw shooting through three games. Greg Paulus killed Dukeís chances by failing to get the ball to Shelden Williams, and Boston College got nothing from Louis Hinnant and Tyrese Rice against ĎNova in the Elite Eight. So you need something from your backcourt, especially late in games, but guard play alone wonít get it done.

5. Never listen to a pundit who refers to himself in the third person.

The Volume Shooter had a hitch in his stroke this tournament season, picking zero of the finalists, one of the Final Four, and two of the Elite Eight. He mistakenly believed that J.J. Redick would shoot better than 17% with Dukeís season and his legacy on the line, and that someone would tell Rudy Gay that these games are important. Consider this an apology to all the fans out there who took The Volumes Shooterís words to heart. All he can do now is extend the olive branch, by personally guaranteeing the outcome of the Final Four:

UCLA over LSU Ė Okay, okay, Glen Davis is jolly, graceful, funny and charismatic. Since CBS refuses to take the microphone away from him and actually tell us something about his game, allow me: heís a 320 pound power forward who plays like a shooting guard, and shoots more fade away jumpers than dunks. He canít defend at all, and picks up foolish fouls around the basket. Fortunately, most of Big Babyís shortcomings get erased by Tyrus Thomas, who has been the MVP of the Tournament so far, so stopping the Tigers comes down to containing T-Time. UCLA will be able to do exactly that, primarily by boxing him out on the offensive glass, and forcing him to take fouls at the rim with strong drives by Afflalo, Farmar, and Bozeman, all of whom finish better than Redick, Paulus, Kenton Paulino, and Daniel Gibson. Because both teams are so long and athletic on defense, and so patient on offense, this game has the potential to be uglier than sin. But Ben Howland loves it ugly, and Afflalo and Farmar will hit a shot or two down the stretch to ensure a win.

Florida over George Mason Ė There are no words for what George Mason has done, beating two Final Four teams from last year and this yearís Tournament favorite on the road to the Final Four. They space the floor and give opponents fits with their ability to share the ball exploit cracks in the defense, no matter where they may be. The Patriots are living proof that parody is more than just a catch phrase or talking point in college basketball, as Coach Larranga has taken a roster full of local heroes and turned them into national symbols of underdog glory. With a swagger that wonít wash off, GMU seems to have completely forgotten the fact that they hadnít beaten a ranked opponent before March, and lost twice to Hofstra, among other average teams. I, however, have not forgotten.

UConnís problem is that they donít give consistent effort for 40 minutes, and Florida has the same talent, but no such motivational shortcoming. If the Gators play their best, theyíll win by 15. If theyíre a bit off, theyíll still win by 5. Despite a roster full of future pros, Donovan and company see themselves as underdogs in their own right, a psychological edge that none of George Masonís previous opponents can claim. Horford and Noah are going to beat up the Patriots, just like they beat up Villanova, and the Gators will eat well on April 1.

Championship Game: Florida over UCLA Ė This is going to be a war. My take on UCLA is basically that theyíve punched all their opponents in the mouth, and only Gonzaga has really stood up to them yet. I think theyíll punch LSU in the mouth and the Tigers will fold. But when they punch Florida in the mouth, the Gators will smile and punch back harder. The backcourt battle is a wash, with Afflalo, Bozeman, and Farmar evening out with Green, Humphrey, and Brewer. In the frontcourt, UCLA isnít nearly as talented or skilled as the Gators, and Hollings will get in serious foul trouble without putting defensive pressure on Noah or Horford. In the end, the forwards will win it for Florida, just like they did against Villanova.

Two other factors have me leaning the Gatorsí way. First, Iím still not sure who the Alpha Dog is on offense for UCLA, and sometimes Farmar overestimates his one on one ability a bit too much instead of setting up Afflalo and Bozeman. I think the Bruin guards, and Farmar in particular, will be a bit too quick to panic if things arenít going their way, because they rightfully feel the pressure to get it done by themselves without the luxury of throwing the ball down to the block for a bucket or two. Second, Billy Donovan is more ready to win this game than Ben Howland is. Donovan has been deep into the tournament before and heíll be coaching with no added pressure. Howland is charged (by others and himself) with resurrecting UCLA, and he is a bit erratic with his substitutions and rotations at times, pulling the trigger when someone misses a switch or fails to box out. Coach Wooden should be proud of this group, and the program in Westwood has pride again, but Howland needs another year or two to close the deal.
 


Feedback for this article may be sent to volumeshooter@gmail.com .

 

Gerry McNamara
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 0"
Weight: 177 lbs.
Birthday: 08/29/1983
31 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Bishop Hannon
Previous Team: Syracuse , PRO
Drafted: Undrafted in Draft
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
7.1 Pts, 1.2 Rebs, 3.6 Asts


Garrett Temple
Full Profile | Player Stats
Physicals
Height: 6' 5"
Weight: 176 lbs.
Birthday: 05/08/1986
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School: University
Previous Team: LSU , PRO
Drafted: Undrafted in Draft
Positions:
Current: PG/SG,
NBA: PG/SG,
Possible: PG/SG
Quick Stats:
4.4 Pts, 1.3 Rebs, 2.1 Asts


Tyrus Thomas
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Physicals
Height: 6' 8"
Weight: 217 lbs.
Birthday: 08/17/1986
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School: McKinley
Previous Team: LSU , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #4 in 2006 Draft
by the Trailblazers
Positions:
Current: PF,
NBA: PF,
Possible: PF
Quick Stats:
6.8 Pts, 4.3 Rebs, 0.7 Asts


John Starks
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Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 180 lbs.
Birthday: 08/10/1965
49 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Tulsa Central
Previous Team: Oklahoma State , PRO
Drafted: Undrafted in Draft
Positions:
Current: G,
NBA: G,
Possible: G
Quick Stats:
4.4 Pts, 1.0 Rebs, 1.1 Asts


Carmelo Anthony
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Physicals
Height: 6' 7"
Weight: 233 lbs.
Birthday: 05/29/1984
30 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Oak Hill Academy
Previous Team: Syracuse , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #3 in 2003 Draft
by the Nuggets
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF
Quick Stats:
15.2 Pts, 5.2 Rebs, 2.8 Asts


Greg Oden
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Height: 7' 0"
Weight: 257 lbs.
Birthday: 01/23/1988
26 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Lawrence North
Previous Team: Ohio State , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #1 in 2007 Draft
by the Trailblazers
Positions:
Current: C,
NBA: C,
Possible: PF/C
Quick Stats:
2.9 Pts, 2.3 Rebs, 0.0 Asts


Randy Foye
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Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 212 lbs.
Birthday: 09/24/1983
31 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Newark East Side
Previous Team: Villanova , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #7 in 2006 Draft
by the Trailblazers
Positions:
Current: SG,
NBA: PG/SG,
Possible: SG
Quick Stats:
5.8 Pts, 2.5 Rebs, 3.3 Asts


Brandon Roy
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Height: 6' 6"
Weight: 207 lbs.
Birthday: 07/23/1984
30 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Garfield
Previous Team: Washington , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #6 in 2006 Draft
by the Timberwolves
Positions:
Current: SG,
NBA: SG,
Possible: PG/SG
Quick Stats:
5.8 Pts, 2.8 Rebs, 4.6 Asts


Rodney Carney
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Height: 6' 6"
Weight: 204 lbs.
Birthday: 04/05/1984
30 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Indianapolis Northwest
Previous Team: Memphis , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #16 in 2006 Draft
by the Bulls
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF
Quick Stats:
5.0 Pts, 2.0 Rebs, 0.0 Asts


Dee Brown
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Height: 6' 0"
Weight: 179 lbs.
Birthday: 08/17/1984
30 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Proviso East
Previous Team: Ploiesti , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #16 in 2006 Draft
by the Jazz
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
16.0 Pts, 4.0 Rebs, 10.0 Asts


Joakim Noah
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Height: 7' 0"
Weight: 223 lbs.
Birthday: 02/25/1985
29 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Lawrenceville Prep
Previous Team: Florida , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #9 in 2007 Draft
by the Bulls
Positions:
Current: PF/C,
NBA: PF/C,
Possible: PF/C
Quick Stats:
5.7 Pts, 6.8 Rebs, 3.0 Asts


Taurean Green
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Height: 6' 1"
Weight: 173 lbs.
Birthday: 11/28/1985
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Cardinal Gibbons
Previous Team: Villeurbanne , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #22 in 2007 Draft
by the Trailblazers
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
14.0 Pts, 3.0 Rebs, 5.5 Asts


Greg Paulus
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Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 180 lbs.
Birthday: 07/04/1986
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Christian Brothers
Previous Team: Duke , PRO
Drafted: Undrafted in Draft
Positions:
Current: PG,
NBA: PG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
4.9 Pts, 1.3 Rebs, 1.3 Asts


Shelden Williams
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Height: 6' 8"
Weight: 258 lbs.
Birthday: 10/22/1983
31 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Midwest City
Previous Team: Chalon , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #5 in 2006 Draft
by the Hawks
Positions:
Current: PF/C,
NBA: PF,
Possible: PF/C
Quick Stats:
22.0 Pts, 11.8 Rebs, 1.1 Asts


Tyrese Rice
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Physicals
Height: 6' 1"
Weight: 183 lbs.
Birthday: 05/15/1987
27 Years Old
Teams:
High School: L.C. Bird
Previous Team: Khimki , PRO
Drafted: Undrafted in Draft
Positions:
Current: PG/SG,
NBA: PG/SG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
19.0 Pts, 2.5 Rebs, 5.0 Asts


J.J. Redick
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Physicals
Height: 6' 5"
Weight: 190 lbs.
Birthday: 06/25/1984
30 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Cave Spring
Previous Team: Duke , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #11 in 2006 Draft
by the Magic
Positions:
Current: SG,
NBA: SG,
Possible: SG
Quick Stats:
12.8 Pts, 1.5 Rebs, 2.0 Asts


Rudy Gay
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Physicals
Height: 6' 8"
Weight: 222 lbs.
Birthday: 08/17/1986
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Spalding
Previous Team: Connecticut , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 1, Pick #8 in 2006 Draft
by the Rockets
Positions:
Current: SF,
NBA: SF,
Possible: SF/PF
Quick Stats:
13.2 Pts, 3.8 Rebs, 2.8 Asts


Glen Davis
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Physicals
Height: 6' 9"
Weight: 298 lbs.
Birthday: 01/03/1986
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School: University
Previous Team: LSU , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #5 in 2007 Draft
by the Supersonics
Positions:
Current: C,
NBA: PF,
Possible: PF/C
Quick Stats:
4.0 Pts, 2.3 Rebs, 1.0 Asts


Daniel Gibson
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Physicals
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 190 lbs.
Birthday: 02/28/1986
28 Years Old
Teams:
High School: Jesse Jones
Previous Team: Texas , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 2, Pick #12 in 2006 Draft
by the Cavaliers
Positions:
Current: SG,
NBA: PG/SG,
Possible: PG
Quick Stats:
5.4 Pts, 1.3 Rebs, 1.8 Asts


Billy Donovan
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Physicals
Height: 5' 11"
Weight: 171 lbs.
Birthday: 05/30/1965
49 Years Old
Teams:
High School: St. Agnes
Previous Team: , PRO
Drafted: Rnd 3, Pick #22 in 1987 Draft
by the Jazz
Positions:
Current: G,
NBA: G,
Possible: G
Quick Stats:
2.4 Pts, 0.6 Rebs, 2.0 Asts


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