Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld Does it Again...Fails

by John Huffstetler

Wizards get: Nene Hilario, Brian Cook, and a future 2nd rd pick

Nuggets get: JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf

Clippers get: Nick Young

Analysis: Ernie Grunfeld does it again. This trade makes absolutely no sense for the Washington Wizards organization. Back in January, I wrote and posted an article about the ineptitude of Grunfeld as a GM, and his obvious propensity for trading potential in the form of young players or draft picks for overpaid, out of their prime veterans. Acquiring Nene for the young, talented McGee is yet another example of his failures as a GM. Nene is having his worst statistical year since his rookie season. His true shooting % dipped to 55.4 so far this year, which is his first season below 60% (excluding his 07-08 season where he missed 66 games due to injury) since 2004-05. In the 2008-2011 seasons, he neared the league lead in shooting, which makes his inauspicious dropoff this season even more alarming.

This is also the first year in his entire career (again ignoring his injury-plagued 16 game season) in which his team's points allowed while he is on the floor is greater than his team's points scored. For his career, the Nuggets have scored 113 points per 100 possessions and allowed 103 while he is on the floor. This year, they have scored just 100 and allowed 102. This drop off in offensive production can be attributed to the aforementioned true shooting % drop and his drop in offensive rebounding % to 6.2 %, his lowest mark of his career. To make matters worse for the Nuggets this season, Nene was using 22.5% of the offensive possessions (his highest career mark), despite his major drop-off in shooting.

The Wizards also gave up a major piece of the future in this trade in JaVale McGee. Although McGee occasionally makes glaring errors on the floor he is only 24 with many years to learn the game and continue to improve. Even right now, McGee shows the potential to be a terrific player in terms of rebounding and defense. He ranks 21st this season in rebounding % (17.9) among players who average more than 20 minutes per game, ranking ahead of highly-touted rebounders such as Blake Griffin, Tyson Chandler and Serge Ibaka.

There were only two players on the roster (not surprisingly) who were positive in net points per possession: JaVale McGee and Trevor Booker. McGee has the strongest defensive rating on the team among regular contributors. The Wizards scored 105 points per 100 possessions with McGee on the floor, while allowing 104. Although this 1 point difference is not overwhelming, consider that with John Wall on the floor, the Wizards score 102 per 100 and allow 110, a net difference of -8. You can read the rest of the offensive and defensive ratings here, but more than half the team is strongly in the negative (Blatche is an appalling -21). What this statistic means is if the Wizards had played McGee with average NBA players with the same offensive and defensive rating, the team would have scored more points this year than they allowed. McGee and Booker are not the reason the Wizards failed to make stops defensively and lost games. Now they must attempt to replace his production with a potentially declining Hilario.

Now 29, Hilario has had major knee surgeries, and, more telling, the Nuggets felt comfortable enough jettisoning their franchise cornerstone of nearly a decade in the middle of a playoff run in order to give rookie Kenneth Faried more playing time. He is also in the first year of a 5 year, $67 million deal that will expire when Nene is 33 and in his 14th NBA season (if he lasts that long). Beyond the clear financial implications of the deal, the move make NO sense for where the Wizards currently stand as an organization. If they had acquired Nene four years ago when they had a strong but perimeter-oriented nucleus of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antawn Jamison, this move could have propelled them to an Eastern Conference championship in what was then a soft conference.

Now, however, the roster is no where near contention for a playoff spot, let alone a conference title. Assuming Hilario was still in his prime (which statistical analysis questions), the move still makes no sense because the Wizards won't have the pieces in place to make a playoff run in any of the next three seasons. If anything, it makes it more plausible that the Wizards could become a middling team again fighting for the last playoff spot, which, in the NBA, is a dreaded fate given the lottery structure and importance of high draft picks.

This move reeks of a desperate man in Grunfeld trying to salvage his job at the expense of an organization and a city. His complete lack of understanding of statistics, roster construction, franchise direction, and salary implications in regard to this trade make this move unconscionable. This cancer needs to be fired before he makes any more moves that cripple the future of the franchise. Hopefully, next season the Wizards can start yet again from square one and undo the severe damage Grunfeld inflicted on the organization.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2012 March Madness- West Region First Round Breakdown

by John Huffstetler

1 Michigan St. vs. 16 Long Island- With the new expanded field, teams like LIU with the talent of a 14/15 seed are now being placed on the 16 line. This squad can certainly play, but Michigan St. is still dramatically out of their class. 1 Michigan St. advances

8 Memphis vs. 9 St. Louis- This is probably the best match-up of the first round from both a level of play and potential tight game perspective. Both teams shoot at great percentages and play spectacular defense. Slight edge here to St. Louis because they have the ability to win the turnover and rebounding margin in this otherwise even affair. 9 St. Louis advances

5 New Mexico vs. 12 Long Beach St.- Another match-up here between two strong squads who impress from a statistical perspective. Long Beach St. shoots poorly from the free throw line (241st in the nation), which is usually and indicator of a team that fails come tourney time; however, they have 5 upperclassmen starters and showed the ability all year to hang with upper-echelon squads. New Mexico rates strongly (especially on defense) from a statistical perspective and had few poor outings this year. Another difficult game to call so lean toward the upset here. 12 LB St. advances

4 Louisville vs. 13 Davidson- The perception of Louisville right now is that they have found their rhythm and they are a serious contender for the final four coming off of their Big East tourney win. They play terrific defense (2nd in the nation) but rank below average offensively in effective fg% (226th) and turnover % (249th). Davidson proved early in the year that they can hang with elite teams by beating Kansas in Kansas City and losing tight contests to Duke and Vandy. The key to the game will be Davidson's strong offense matching up against the elite L-Ville defense. Another tough game to call, so Davidson is the play as the lower seed. 13 Davidson advances

6 Murray St. vs. 11 Colorado St.- Colorado St. should be in the NIT right now. For some reason, their RPI was high and they managed to steal an at-large bid. Don't be fooled by this fraudulent team. They rank just 76th on Ken Pom, a much better indicator of how good a team is, and they earned exactly zero impressive non-conference wins. Murray St. played at a high level all season and won impressively over Memphis, Southern Miss, and St. Mary's in their only opportunities to step up in class. They have tourney experience and a great draw to possibly make a deep run. 6 Murray St. advances

3 Marquette vs. 14 BYU- BYU completely shifted the outcome of their season with a dramatic second half comeback over Iona. They made their charge because of stellar defensive play after they shifted to an agressive wide zone. Employing the same strategy against a similar Marquette squad would be a logical way to approach this game. Marquette, however, is a smarter team that limits their turnovers and has a better in-game coach than Iona. BYU could give Marquette a fight but in the end, Marquette should advance. 3 Marquette advances

7 Florida vs. 10 Virginia- In another match-up between underseeded teams in this region (the strongest region in terms of depth in the tourney), Florida's 2nd most efficient offense takes on UVA's 5th rated defense. Both teams had similar seasons with strong non-conference results and late struggles in conference play. Another tough game to call, but Florida gets the edge based on their tourney experience and the strength of Billy Donovan as a coach. 7 Florida advances

2 Missouri vs. 15 Norfolk St.- Missouri has a favorable match-up here against a team that should probably be a 16 seed. This has the potential to be the biggest blow out of the first round if Mizzou doesn't rest their starters late. 2 Missouri advances

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2012 March Madness: South Region First Round Breakdown

by John Huffstetler

1 Kentucky vs. 16 Western Kentucky- Western Kentucky is a great story, but Kentucky will dismantle them. 1 Kentucky advances

8 Iowa St. vs 9 UConn- Iowa St. had few quality wins out of conference this year. They managed to win several close home games in conference against high quality foes Kansas, Baylor, Kansas St., and Texas, but they had little success on the road in conference with their one good road win coming at Kansas St. UConn is by far the more talented team, but struggled all season to find consistency amidst the turmoil surrounding Jim Calhoun's health. They found their rhythm late in the season and played their best basketball all year long in the Big East tourney. They also have the far superior defensive squad (19th in effective fg% compared to 147th), a good indicator in tourney time of success. 9 UConn advances

5 Wichita St. vs. 12 VCU- VCU uses a high pressure defense to attempt to disrupt the flow of the opponent's half court offense and force turnovers. The problem in this match-up is Wichita St.'s ball handling capabilities. Almost every position on the floor can handle the basketball. VCU is a solid team again this year, but without the turnovers forced on their side, their average shooting will become a major liability. 5 Wichita St. advances

4 Indiana vs. 13 New Mexico St.- The Verdell Jones injury doesn't hurt Indiana as much as the general public believes. Indiana is a strong team with an incredibly efficient offense (4th in the nation) and several wins over elite teams (Kentucky, Ohio St., Mich St.). NM St has an interesting squad that uses their offensive rebounding ability to create numerous extra possessions on offense, but the Hoosiers should win this game in the end. 4 Indiana advances

6 UNLV vs. 11 Colorado- The Pac-12 is terrible. Cal showed exactly what level of play typified the Pac-12 this season. Colorado does not impress in any facet of the game. They had precisely zero quality non-conference wins and didn't even perform that well in conference before the tourney. An 11 seed baffles me for this should be 14 seed. UNLV isn't great in any aspect of the game, but they don't have any glaring weaknesses either, and thus, they should win this game by double digits. 6 UNLV advances

3 Baylor vs. 14 South Dakota St.- Baylor's only glaring weakness is their penchant for turning the ball over. SD St., however, ranks only 220th in the nation in turnovers forced. Baylor is more likely to lose to a high pressure squad like Missouri (3 losses to them this year) than a conservative squad like SD St. 3 Baylor advances

7 Notre Dame vs. 10 Xavier- Xavier is a much better team than their seed indicates. They have tourney experience and several upperclassmen, and without their brawl earlier in the year, they probably would have 3 to 4 more wins. On the other side, Notre Dame probably maxed out their potential earning a 7 seed thanks to a terrific coaching job from Mike Brey again ths year. I don't know how much more he can get out of this, frankly, talent-lacking squad. 10 Xavier advances

2 Duke vs. 15 Lehigh- Lehigh is a solid team making this match-up much closer than the names would indicate, but Duke should still win this game. Duke has several defensive deficiencies, but Lehigh doesn't have an offense good enough to take advantage. 2 Duke advances

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Monday, March 12, 2012

2012 March Madness- 6 Things You Need to Know Before Making your Bracket

by John Huffstetler

1) The Mid-Majors are as strong as ever- There is more mid-major depth and strength in this field than ever before. This doesn't necessarily mean two mid-majors will make the final four again this year, but it does mean there will be several upsets in the early rounds. There were only a few strong mid-major teams (MTSU, Drexel, George Mason, and Nevada) that didn't make the tournament as automatic qualifiers or at-large recipients, which means many mid-majors have a chance to go deep in the field.

2) Which Mid-Majors have the best chance to make a deep tourney run- 6 Murray St.- The Racers have a section of the draw that could open up for them to make a deep run. 11 Colorado St. is a favorable first round match-up that they should win. If 3 Marquette does advance past 14 BYU, the Racers match-up relatively well against them and 2 Missouri. Neither team has the ability to overpower 6 Murray St. from a size perspective, which is the major roadblock that many promising mid-major teams encounter.

14 Belmont- Has there ever been this even of a 3 vs 14 match-up in the first round? Probably not. From the perspective of Vegas (line of GTown by 3.5) and Ken Pom (GTown by 2), this game is virtually a coin flip. This is by no means an indictment of 3 GTown but more an indication of the strength of 14 Belmont. Should they get past the Hoyas, they would be a favorite over either 6 SD St. or 11 NC St. After that, they would most likely face a 2 Kansas team that is known for their inability to live up to their usually lofty seeding. It would be an intelligent upset pick to take 14 Belmont to the Sweet 16.

3) Which teams are overseeded- 1 Syracuse- The Orange are only listed here because of the recent news that C Fab Melo will be ineligible for the entirety of the tournament. Suddenly, Syracuse is an undersized team significantly worse at rebounding the basketball and playing defense. The vaunted Cuse match-up zone depends on the length of their players, and they are losing their longest, most disruptive player. Syracuse still has a chance to make a final four run, but suddenly that bracket is soft and wide open for teams like 5 Vandy, 4 Wisconsin, 12 Harvard, and 8 Kansas St.

3 Florida St.- They beat 1 UNC and 2 Duke each twice. That's a great accomplishment. No one has done that since 1996; however, if you examine the rest of their season, they secured few impressive victories. They won a close home game over 10 UVA (by 3) and went on the road to beat 11 NC St. by 14 for their victories against other quality tourney teams. In addition, they lost 4 games to tourney teams, losing by double digits on the road to 7 Florida and 1 Michigan St. and in tight neutral games to 9 UConn and 12 Harvard. How good is this team? They are certainly not worthy of a 3 seed, but they are still a solid team that plays high quality defense.

6 SD St.- Of the 3 Mountain West teams that earned high seeds in this years tourney, 6 SD St is by far the worst. They're an average shooting team with a 50.3 effective fg % (123rd in the nation), they have a mediocre turnover margin, and they don't rebound particularly well. They played several solid tourney teams in their non-conference schedule with mixed results, beating 12 LB St. by 4 and 12 Cal by 1, while losing to 8 Creighton by 2 and 3 Baylor by 10. They are the quality of around a 9/10 seed, and 11 NC St. has a great chance at an upset.

4) Which teams are underseeded- 9 UConn- This team is obviously not the same squad that won the title last season, however, they still have the talent of a 4/5 seed. They won several games against high quality squads, but faced turmoil this year with the health issues of head coach Jim Calhoun and the frequent ineligibility of Ryan Boatright. If UConn comes out focused and playing their best ball, they have the talent to make a deep run. Unfortunately for them, they have to face 1 Kentucky in the second round if they beat 8 Iowa St.

10 Xavier- Before their crippling suspensions following the 6 Cincy brawl on December 10th, 10 Xavier was ranked in the top 10 with 3 wins secured over tourney teams in 5 Vandy, 10 Purdue, and the aforementioned Bearcats. Following the suspensions, they lost 5 of 6 games, dropping them outside of the top 25 for the remainder of the season. Certainly, 10 Xavier showed early in the year that they have the ability and tourney experience to make a run this year. With first and second round match-ups against teams with obvious flaws in 7 Notre Dame and 2 Duke, 10 Xavier could make it to the second weekend.

7 Florida- 7 Florida impresses mainly from a statistical standpoint. Ken Pom ranks 7 Florida as the 19th best team in the country (comparable to a 4 or 5 seed), mainly because they are an incredibly efficient offensive squad. They rank as the 3rd most efficient offense behind 2 Missouri and 1 Kentucky with a 54.8 effective fg% and a terrific turnover margin. They also have a track record of performing well in the tourney under Head Coach Billy Donovan. 10 Virginia will still pose a stiff threat in the first round, and then 7 Florida would need to face one of the only teams better offensively in the country in 2 Missouri.

5) The best potential first round upsets- 14 Belmont over 3 Georgetown- See explanation above. The statistical odds make this play too logical to ignore.

11 NC St. over 6 SD St.- 11 NC St. and 11 Texas are the two most "unlucky teams" in the field this year because they both lost an inordinate number of close games to quality teams. NC St. held 2nd half leads over 5 Vandy, 4 Indiana, 1 Syracuse, 10 Virginia, 1 UNC, and 2 Duke only to lose in tight affairs in the end. As shown above, 6 SD St. has some major weaknesses and the Wolfpack should be able to pull off the seeding (Vegas favorites) upset here.

12 Harvard over 5 Vanderbilt- The general public is currently enamored with 5 Vandy after upset win over 1 Kentucky. My bracket even has 5 Vandy to the elite eight, however, they have consistently struggled over the last few years as high seeds. Based on the performance of previous seasons, 12 Harvard has a strong chance to continue the line of early round upsets at the hands of 5 Vandy.

12 Long Beach St. over 5 New Mexico- 5 New Mexico is not a weak team, but they played a weak non-conference schedule compared to 12 LB St.'s non-conference slate. 12 LB St. managed to lose in close games to impressive teams on the road, losing by 8 at 2 Kansas, 6 at 1 UNC, and 4 at 6 SD St. They have shown clearly that they can win a few rounds in the tourney and this upset would be a great way to start.

6) Don't overthink the champion: just take Kentucky
- Say what you want about Calipari and the endless string of one-and-done players entering the program, but 1 Kentucky is by far the best team in the country. Anthony Davis is the nation's best player, thriving both offensively and defensively at an elite level. They are 1 of only 3 teams in the country (2 Kansas and 2 Ohio St. being the other two) to rank in the top 10 offensively and defensively in efficiency. The draw is difficult with potential match-ups against 9 UConn and 4 Indiana early, but this team should weather the strong competition to make a deep run. Several other teams could win, but the logical choice is 1 Kentucky.

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11 on 11 NCAA Bracket Challenge

We are offering a free March Madness Bracket Challenge on the website. The winner of all entries will receive a free $25 iTunes gift card, so unlike the "Million Dollar" bracket challenges on other sites, you actually have a great shot of winning a cool prize for free!! In addition, if you correctly pick the final four, finals, and winner, you will earn an extra $50 gift card from iTunes as well. Our writers will be participating as well but are ineligible for the grand prize (we just want the bragging rights). We have set up a group on CBS Sports Bracket Manager.

To sign up: 1) Visit and use the password 11on11.
2) Sign up using your real name and email (otherwise we won't be able to contact you if you win)
3) Fill out your bracket (Limit 1 Bracket per person)
4) Stay tuned to for updates on everyone's draws and bracket breakdowns.