Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Eye Test: Final Four Edition

Each week I compare my impressions of a player or team to statistics, to see if they confirm the "eye test." I first started out by looking at Bobcats legend Byron Mullens. This week I'm going to put the Final Four teams to the eye test.

Wow, what a tournament it's been. One for the ages. Think of all the memories we'll have: La Salle. Florida Gulf CoastAaron Craft's shotTrey Burke's shot. And of course, the injury to Kevin Ware (no freaking way I'm including a video) that was one of the more surreal scenes in recent sports history. While it was undeniably awful, his attitude and the reaction of athletes everywhere epitomizes everything we love about sports. Anyone not rooting for Louisville at this point is either a Wichita State, Michigan, or Syracuse fan. Or maybe you need one of those other teams to win for your bracket's sake. Or Louisville beat your team. Ok, not everyone is a fan. But if you didn't get choked up watching Ware's teammates cry when he was carted off, you don't have a soul.

Alright, where were we? This week I'd like to put the eye test on each Final Four team based on what I've noticed while watching the tournament this year. Without further ado:

Observation: Kevin Ware needs to drink more milk Russ Smith is the best finisher around the rim for a player 6'0" or less since Allen Iverson

This guy is an absolute magician. Russ has every shot in the book and he has been one of the 5 most exciting players in this tournament. He is especially good at shooting over larger opponents, with a variety of spins, floaters, high banking shots, up and unders, and prayers that always seem to leave his opponents scratching their heads. I actually have no way to verify this observation, but it's worth noting that Russ is absolutely dominating this tournament in overall scoring.


Wichita State
Observation: Wichita has been the most offensively efficient team in the tournament

I watched the Shockers eviscerate my Wildcats in person last year with one of the most efficient offensive attacks I've seen in my life. We looked like the Washington Generals playing the Globetrotters; they couldn't miss. Wichita has played similarly this tournament, just playing extremely smart basketball and taking what the opponent gives them. So do the stats back it up? Eh, kinda. They were the 51st most efficient team this year but the 8th most efficient team in the tournament. Alright, so my prediction was technically wrong; but I can almost guarantee they will make it a game against Louisville by playing the same kind of high percentage basketball.


Observation: Syracuse has played the most suffocating defense of any team in the tournament

Syracuse has had an inconsistent year, but that didn't show at all once the tournament started. I get short of breath just watching 'Cuse execute their 2-3 zone to perfection. They force their opponents into a ridiculous amount of contested and otherwise bad shots, as evidenced by holding Marquette to a measly 39 points in the Elite Eight. I looked it up, and the stats show that other teams can't buy a bucket against the Orangemen, especially in the past 3 games. I can confidently say that if our legendary intramural team "Chris Kaman your face" had 100 possessions against this zone, we wouldn't score once.


Observation: Mitch McGary has been the most valuable player on this Michigan team

"Mitch who?" some of you are probably thinking. It's easy to forget about the workmanlike power forward when he's surrounded by "name" players like Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway Jr, and Glen Robinson III. But Mitch has been arguably the most valuable player in the tournament so far - always in the right place, rebounds with a purpose, and has a surprisingly soft touch around the rim. Wonder what the stats say about him? Oh I don't know, only the 5th highest PER in the country over the past two weeks. Sure, Michigan wouldn't be in the Final Four without Trey Burke's shot. But they never would have been in a spot to take that shot without Mitch, who I'm hereby nicknaming "The Godfather" after Mitch Martin from Old School.


The only thing I know for sure: if you aren't watching these games on Saturday night you're out of your mind. God bless March Madness.

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