In this week’s Monday Musings, Charlie Zegers and Bryan Gibberman discuss both Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox re-aggravating injuries plus go back and forth on NCAA tournament observations.
Frank Ntilikina re-injured his groin. Kevin Knox got hurt. DeAndre Jordan played three times as much as Mitchell Robinson. And for the cherry on top of this crap sundae, we got to listen to MSG’s talking heads fawn over Emmanuel Mudiay again.
We really can’t have nice things, can we?
I’m glad, for your sake, you’ve still got the Wolverines in play. My college team of choice flamed out in Dayton, and my alma mater hasn’t made the tournament since 1992.
Bryan Gibberman: With all the injuries, the Knicks are a very tough watch right now. The three reasons to tune in yesterday were Ntilikina, Knox, and Robinson and you you just explained what happened.
The possibility we never get to see Mitch, Knox, Damyean Dotson, Ntilikina, and Dennis Smith Jr. play a single minute together is pretty depressing way to finish out the season.
The NCAA tournament?
Yes, let’s talk about that a little bit.
The first round was underwhelming and the second round perked up a bit. The way it played out should lead to a higher quality Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. The top 14 teams from KenPom.com all advanced to the Sweet 16. Oregon wasn’t one of those teams and they’re arguably the hottest program in the country with high-level recruits who underachieved early on in the season. LSU is the other and they were ranked 18th. It’s a monster Sweet 16.
Charlie: In a former life, I was the guide to college basketball on About.com. (For some reason they didn’t call us writers or bloggers, we were “guides”—which always struck me as odd. Like I was the Sacajawea of the NCAA tournament or something. Anyway.) The four days between Selection Sunday and the opening games were the worst of the year; I’d struggle to put together picks and predictions and analysis in anything like a timely basis. And I’d generate more traffic in those four days than in most of the rest of the year combined.
I don’t miss it much.
My favorite part of the Tournament—about college basketball in general, really—is the clash of styles. I wish there was more of that in the NBA, honestly. “Less-athletic, senior-laden small-conference team that shoots threes at a ridiculous clip” vs. “five one-and-dones with measurables that make Jay Bilas drool?” Yeah, inject that right into my veins.
I think the best game I’ve had the chance to watch thus far was Kentucky vs. Wofford. Team Calipari seemed vulnerable, especially after it was announced that leading scorer P.J. Washington wouldn’t play. But the Wildcats managed to hold Fletcher Magee—Division I’s all-time leader in made threes—to eight points on 4-of-17 shooting and hung on for the win.
Most of the recaps I saw seemed to focus on Magee just not being able to get it going in a big spot. I feel like the Wildcats aren’t getting near enough credit for executing a “don’t let their best guy beat you” game plan.
Bryan: I talked about this a little bit on Twitter over the weekend a little bit and I think you nailed it with the stylistic differences in college basketball.
Since teams in the NBA are all physically gifted, you’re going to end up at the same end point for the most part. How you get to the at the rim shots and threes can differ, but the profile mostly lands the same.
And now pretty much the entire NBA copies that formula from 12-13. Clean up on the defensive glass, don’t turn the ball over & shoot a high volume of 3s.
— Michigan basketball is my safe place (@BryanGibberman) March 23, 2019
In college, teams like Duke and Kentucky are horrible analytically yet because of how much stronger and athletic they are it’s still possible for them to win games.
It’s fascinating to watch.
Charlie: I get the same feeling watching some of those games that I get when watching a nature documentary where the small school is that cute and fuzzy snowshoe hare, and Kentucky or Duke or UNC is the lynx approaching stealthily through the snow.
It almost always works out really badly for the poor bunny. But it’s great when that bunny pulls a UMBC, or an Ali Farokhmanesh, or a Princeton-over-UCLA.
I think the other reason we don’t see the clash of styles as much in the NBA is that everyone is so familiar with everyone else. In college, most teams won’t see Tony Bennett’s Virginia defense, or Jim Boeheim’s 2-3, or a guy as quick and skilled as Ja Morant very often. It’s impossible to prepare for these things, especially given the quick turnarounds in the tournament. In the NBA, everybody plays everybody at least twice a year, and the real matchup/adjustment move/counter coaching chess games don’t happen until the playoffs.