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Friday, February 10, 2012

NBA All-Star Reserves Announced - Tiger Shoots a First Round 68 - Ncca Power Rankings

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
si.com Feb 10, 2012
1 Last Week: 1 Kentucky Wildcats (24-1)

The Wildcats gave away Jordan-esque posters* of Anthony Davis to fans at Tuesday's rout of Florida, and the swag (which had a run of 30,000) is now being flipped for three-figure prices on eBay. As a non-collector of Wildcat ephemera, I consider the poster's main value to be scientific.

When Leonardo da Vinci drew his Vitruvian Man, he followed guides from De architectura, which detailed relative proportions of parts of the average human body. Vitruvius wrote, among other things, that a man's wingspan was equal to his height, and that his height is equal to 10 of his hands, measured from the wrist to the tip of the middle finger. These rules have guided many an artist, but they don't apply to Davis, who is either an exceptional human or not a human at all, depending on whom you believe.
We know from DraftExpress' invaluable measurements database that Davis' wingspan (7-foot-4) is 1.073 times his height in shoes (6-10). But the poster, by capturing Davis in face-on, outstretched-arm position, provides us with the most important piece of proportional data. If there were a Davis section in De architectura, it would have read:
"For the Anthony Davis is so designed by nature that the outstretched arms are equal to the length of 18.125 unibrows."
Behold the evidence:
* The poster photograph of Davis -- a very good one, I should add -- was taken by Chet White of UK Athletics. The unibrow-mapping was done by SI, not UK.

Next three: 2/11 at Vandy, 2/18 vs. Ole Miss, 2/21 at Mississippi State

2 Last Week: 2 Syracuse Orange (24-1)
On Wednesday, we published an extensive defensive charting project on Syracuse's 2-3 zone, which took into account every possession from 15 games -- the Orange's entire Big East schedule and non-league contests against Virginia Tech, Stanford, Florida and N.C. State. The study revealed Fab Melo's surprisingly high turnover-creation rate, and the gap between Dion Waiters and the rest of the backcourt, among other things.

Syracuse's best single defensive game during that stretch was against Seton Hall on Dec. 28, when it held the Pirates to just 0.728 points per possession. A condensed version of the defensive score sheet appears below. In it you'll see that Waiters and Kris Joseph both had virtuoso performances. In 19 minutes, Waiters forced 3.5 misses and four turnovers, and didn't give up a single basket or free throw; in 26 minutes, Joseph forced 4.5 misses and five turnovers, yielding just one basket and one made free throw. Fab Melo also forced a season-high 12 misses in this game:

Next three: 2/11 vs. UConn, 2/13 at Louisville, 2/19 at Rutgers

3 Last Week: 3 Ohio State Buckeyes (21-3)
I'm excited that the Aaron Craft Turnometer™ is catching on in the mainstream media -- so much so that Aaron Craft's turnover-creation percentage ("about eight turnovers per 100 possessions") was mentioned at halftime of ESPN's Florida-Kentucky broadcast on Tuesday. The only problem?* No mention of the Turnometer, no mention of the Power Rankings, no mention of SI.com. That hurt. It's a stat that only exists here, and it's tabulated through video review of every turnover created by Ohio State this season, combined with an Excel database tracking turnover types and possessions played.
The latest update, through the Buckeyes' win over Purdue on Tuesday, has Craft's FTO rate at 7.46 percent -- or 5.90 percent in Big Ten games only:
* ESPN apologized for it on Wednesday; Jimmy Dykes, who referenced it, explained that he was given the stat by a coaching source and didn't realize it was from SI. So we're cool. And for anyone who wants to use the Turnometer numbers on TV, please do. It's flattering. Just remember to credit the source.

Next three: 2/11 vs. Michigan State, 2/14 at Minnesota, 2/18 at Michigan

4 Last Week: 6 Missouri Tigers (22-2)
On Wednesday, Tigers guard Kim English, who's the best Tweeter in college basketball, offered up what seemed like an argument for Frank Haith as National Coach of the Year:

The only thing holding back Haith's candidacy, so far, has been the fact that he inherited a talented, senior-laden roster rather than having to assemble it through recruiting. But English is right. Mizzou never played this well under Mike Anderson, and Haith's "system, philosophy and personality all were a perfect fit" -- one that has allowed the Tigers to have the nation's most efficient offense.

What remains baffling is why Haith never had a team take off like this (or anything remotely like this) in seven years at Miami. Some coaches have an efficiency profile that follows them from job to job, but with Haith, we couldn't see this coming. He had some quality guards at Miami, too, in Guillermo Diaz, Robert Hite, Jack McClinton, Denis Clemente, James Dews, Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant. I guess the Hurricanes were just missing the harmony. It makes you wonder: Is Haith an anomaly, or are there a bunch of middling coaches out there who just need a change of scenery (and personnel) to really shine?

Next three: 2/11 vs. Baylor, 2/15 vs. Oklahoma State, 2/18 at Texas A&M

5 Last Week: 5 Kansas Jayhawks (19-5)
Bill Self doesn't give many minutes to his bench this year because Kansas doesn't have much of a bench after having multiple members of its 2011 recruiting class declared ineligible. The Jayhawks rank 315th in bench minutes (at 23.9 percent), according to kenpom.com, but that doesn't make me think any less of them as a Final Four contender. As much as we talk about depth, there are plenty of good teams this year and every year that have short rotations. Missouri (23.6 percent of minutes given to bench players), Kentucky (23.3), Wisconsin (21.8) and Michigan (20.7) are all getting by with even lower usage of their reserves. As long as Jeff Withey and Thomas Robinson continue to avoid foul-outs -- they've fouled out one time each this season -- I like KU's chances.

Next three: 2/11 vs. Oklahoma State, 2/13 at Kansas State, 2/18 vs. Texas Tech

Tiger Shoots a First Round 68
By Bob Harig

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- You'd be hard-pressed to have a bad experience on the Monterey Peninsula, where the weather was perfect Thursday, the golf courses used for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am pristine, the atmosphere juiced with the return of Tiger Woods for the first time in 10 years.
Woods might loathe the six-hour rounds that are common at this event, but he steeled himself for the long day. He might prefer to skip the pro-am experience, but lined himself up with a strong partner in Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. He even got tournament officials to put Isleworth buddy Arjun Atwal as the other pro in his group.
Then he got to play the Spyglass Hill course that has never really been that kind to him in the type of environment that he generally prefers, which would be (relatively) hard and fast, as opposed to the soft, soggy conditions that players often find when they come to this tournament in the winter.
Making his season debut on the PGA Tour, Woods continued along the solid path that has seen him play well since November in Australia, to his charity tournament in Southern California to the Middle East and now to Northern California, where he shot 4-under-par 68.
It was the fourth-best round on the course that is generally considered the most difficult of the three-tournament rotation -- Monterey Peninsula and Pebble Beach being the others. And it was marked by a good statistical day that saw the former No. 1 hit a bunch of fairways and greens.
Atwal praised his game, as did Romo. Coach Sean Foley was pleased, noting how good Woods hit it on the range prior to the round, and his ability to bring it to the course. A big crowd of spectators seemed happy to see Tiger make six birdies and just two bogeys.
But one guy was a bit miffed when it was all over. Not fuming, not aggravated. Just perturbed that the round wasn't better.
And that was Tiger.
"It's frustrating that I had wedges [into greens] and I didn't capitalize on it,'' Woods said. "You look at the board and you have [three] guys at 9 [under], two guys at 8 and two guys at 7. They're tearing the golf courses apart. This is the harder of the three, so hopefully I can get it going in the next couple of days.''
It was clearly a day to take advantage of the perfect conditions. Dustin Johnson made two eagles on his front nine at Pebble Beach and shot 63, as did Danny Lee. Charlie Wi shot 61 on the par-70 Monterey Peninsula course to also get to 9 under par. Ken Duke had 28 on the back nine at Pebble for 64.
There was a scoring onslaught on the three courses, with 87 players breaking par. Woods found himself nicely positioned in a tie for 15th, but annoyed it wasn't better.
And perhaps that is a good indicator in Woods' return.
Throughout last fall and into the first part of 2012 as he posted three top-3 finishes in stroke-play events while adding an impressive Presidents Cup performance, Woods was never willing to stray too far into negative territory.
Poor putting was due to being unable to figure out the greens, not a bad stroke. A few missed drives were not the product of a new swing failing to hold up, but simply being a fraction off. Irons shots that were not close to the hole were at least pin high. Nothing but positives.
But Thursday, despite a lot of laughs with Romo and Atwal, and a generally good score, Woods showed slight annoyance with himself.
"I didn't give myself enough good looks when I had wedges in my hand,'' he said. "I have to do a better job of that when I have the wedges in my hand. & I'm going to work on that.''
It looked pretty good when Woods knocked a wedge from 146 yards off the flagstick at the 10th hole -- his first -- and converted the 3½ -footer for birdie. And when he followed with a birdie at the par-5 second after missing an eagle putt from 15 feet.
Woods hit 12 of 14 fairways -- including all seven over his final nine holes -- and 13 of 18 greens, with 29 putts. All are good signs, even if he didn't hit the ball as close to the pin as he would like.
And despite the major flaw he pointed out, Woods certainly had his admirers.
Atwal was impressed with Woods' work on the par-5s, a particular sore spot during his struggles over a two-year-plus winless streak. Woods used to dominate those holes to the tune of typically being among the top five on the PGA tour.
"That's what he used to do back in the day,'' Atwal said. "He used to get an extra gear and get another 10 [yards] out of it and he did that today. Even the misses are a lot tighter.''
Romo seemed to have a bit of stage fright, which seems strange for a guy used to competing in front of 70,000 screaming fans. Of course, he's not playing golf in front of them, and even a strong player like Romo is going to have some jitters in a setting such as this.
A scratch golfer, Romo contributed three strokes to the team -- a birdie and two pars on holes where Woods made bogeys. Along with Woods' six birdies, they shot 7 under.
"He's an outstanding player and competitor,'' Romo said. "Anybody who walks along and sees the shots knows he's hitting the ball well. He's got a great shot this week.''
Whether he does or not will likely be determined by how he plays on Friday at Monterey Peninsula. The par-70 course is generally considered the easiest of the three. Wi had a legitimate shot at shooting 59 and with the weather expected to be ideal again, getting well into red numbers is going to be key if Woods is to have a shot at his first official victory since November 2009.
Perhaps the best thing Woods has going for him is that he got a tad angry with himself. That typically worked for him when he was racking up all those victories.
But since returning from injury last August, despite proclaiming his goal is to win each tournament, Woods undoubtedly had to go easier on himself. He missed four months of golf, not to mention the ability to train. He didn't get to work on the changes with Foley that were far from engrained. It was understandable if, deep down, he cut himself a break.
He wasn't doing that Thursday. Asked if it was a good sign that he seemed displeased with a 68, Woods said, "I don't know if it's a good sign or a bad sign.''
On a day and at a place where you could see forever, it seemed clear it was a positive development.

NBA All-Star Reserves Announced
NEW YORK -- Dirk Nowitzki's streak survives, despite one of the worst seasons of his career.

NBA All-Star reserves
The reserves for the Feb. 26 All-Star Game were announced Thursday.

Eastern Conference
Chris Bosh Heat F
Luol Deng Bulls F
Roy Hibbert Pacers C
Andre Iguodala 76ers F
Joe Johnson Hawks G
Paul Pierce Celtics F
Deron Williams Nets G

Western Conference
LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers F
Marc Gasol Grizzlies C
Kevin Love Timberwolves F
Dirk Nowitzki Mavericks F
Tony Parker Spurs G
Russell Westbrook Thunder G
Steve Nash Suns G

Two other old stars are no longer All-Stars.
Nowitzki was chosen Thursday to his 11th straight All-Star game, with coaches overlooking the lowest scoring average since his second NBA season in favor of his long-term excellence.
"It was a tough road back to full health for me, but I am honored that the coaches thought enough of me to make me an All-Star," Nowitzki said in a statement. "It has been a privilege to represent the Mavericks organization over the last decade and I look forward to doing it again in Orlando."
Paul Pierce will join him despite his own slow start caused by a foot injury and was picked for the 10th time.
But Kevin Garnett wasn't chosen after 14 consecutive selections, and Tim Duncan was left out after 13 in a row. Other All-Star regulars such as Ray Allen and Amare Stoudemire will be home, giving way to five first-timers among the reserves: Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol of Memphis, Andre Iguodala of Philadelphia, Indiana's Roy Hibbert, and Chicago's Luol Deng.
Also headed to the Feb. 26 game are NBA assists leader Steve Nash of Phoenix, Tony Parker of San Antonio, Russell Westbrook of Oklahoma City, Kevin Love of Minnesota, Chris Bosh of Miami, Atlanta's Joe Johnson and Deron Williams of New Jersey.
Already voted to start by fans in the Eastern Conference were Orlando's Dwight Howard, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade of Miami, Chicago's Derrick Rose and New York's Carmelo Anthony. The West starters are the Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin of the Clippers, and Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant.
Coaches voted for the reserves, and they had a tough task in this lockout-shortened season, when they were given only about 25 games to evaluate players. That threatened to make it tough for Nowitzki and Pierce, whose bodies weren't ready to go after the lengthy offseason and brief training camps, and have played below their usual standards.
"I think it's too early. I'm sitting on my couch when they announced the rosters and I'm floored. I didn't even know they had started the voting," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
But the coaches picked Nowitzki, the NBA finals MVP, even though his average of 17.6 points is his worst since he scored 17.5 per game in the 1999-00 season. The Mavericks shut him down for a few games to work on his conditioning, and even he wondered recently whether his streak would continue, given the depth of players in his position in the West.
Pierce has been a little better, winning last week's East player of the week award and hiking his average to 18.4 per game, but acknowledged during an interview on TNT before the Celtics played the Lakers that he was a little surprised to be picked.
But he'll go alone from Boston, a year after Garnett, Allen and Rajon Rondo went with him. Duncan was there last year, too, having never missed an All-Star game since entering the league in the 1997-98 season.
"They're getting older," Rivers said. "It's just, you know, change. It happens."
Age didn't stop Nash, averaging 10 assists and shooting 56 percent from the field. He became just the fourth player to earn an All-Star spot at 38 or older, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan and Karl Malone.
Coaches had to pick two forwards, two guards, a center, and two players regardless of position. They couldn't vote for one of their own players.
They favored team success, with only Nash, Williams and Gasol getting picked from teams with losing records.
This marks the 14th straight year the Warriors will be without an All-Star, easily the longest active streak in the NBA. Their last All-Star was Latrell Sprewell in 1996-97.
That left out All-Star hopefuls such as Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings, the Knicks' Stoudemire -- who misses a chance to play near his Florida home -- the Grizzlies' Rudy Gay, and Golden State's Monta Ellis. Houston's Kyle Lowry also fell short in the West, where coaches picked three other point guards.
Minnesota's awful record last season nearly cost Love, though he eventually made it as an injury replacement. Putting up big numbers again and this time with the Timberwolves on the right side of .500, he was an easy pick.
"It's a lot of joy," Love said. "It's really a respect thing. I've had a great season thus far and we've had some success as a team. For me, it's definitely a big deal. I put in a lot of work these last three and a half seasons and I don't intend on stopping."
The snubbed players still have a chance if there is an injury. Commissioner David Stern chooses the injury replacements.

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