College sports are great, but there are some things that set college sports apart from most professional sports. One of the differences is determining which teams make the playoffs and what seed based on opinion rather than straight record.
In the NFL and MLB, the teams that reach the playoffs are determined strictly on record. In college basketball there are polls to form a standings and a committee who determine which teams advance to the NCAA Tournament and the seed the team has.
The way college basketball and college football do it, in theory, is better in that playoff seeds are based on which teams are actually better and more deserving. In most professional sports, it’s possible for a lesser team to make the playoffs over a better team. It’s possible in college basketball that a team that wins its conference tournament automatically gets into the NCAA Tournament, but it’s less of an issue.
One other difference is that there are many more teams and conferences involved in college basketball than other professional sports. So many teams that every year there are distinct skill level differences between them. The eighth best team in the Atlantic Coast Conference might be better than every team in the Horizon Conference. Every year there are those teams that are hard to rank due to this. This year, two of those teams are the Villanova Wildcats and the Gonzaga Bulldogs. Those two teams are both highly ranked, but don’t play in the greatest of conferences. Are either of them overrated?
Currently, Gonzaga is No. 1 and Villanova is No. 2 in the latest AP Top 25 Poll. Gonzaga is the last undefeated team and has a record of 26-0 while Villanova is 24-2. Of the two of them, Gonzaga is the toughest to gauge. The Bulldogs play in the West Coast Conference, which only has one other ranked team, Saint Mary’s. After those two teams the quality really drops off.
The Wildcats play in the Big East, which isn’t great but is better. Apart from Villanova, the Big East includes two other ranked teams. Creighton and Butler, and possibly four tournament teams.
The answer to whether or not Villanova is overrated is pretty easy; they are not overrated. For one, their strength of schedule this season, despite playing in the Big East, is not that bad. According to KenPom.com the Wildcats had the 23 toughest strength of schedule.
Their non-conference schedule could have been tougher, but they defeated No. 16 Purdue, No. 25 Notre Dame, and No. 14 Virginia. In conference play, Villanova has defeated No. 20 Creighton and Xavier. The only two losses came against No. 24 Butler and Marquette, both on the road and both against likely tournament teams.
Maybe the biggest reason they are not overrated is because Villanova proved it last season. There are differences from this seasons Wildcats team, but they have many of the same players from the team that won the NCAA Tournament last year, Kris Jenkins, Mikal Bridges, Josh Hart, and Jalen Brunson. Losing Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu is big, but this team is just as good as the one that won it all last year. Forward Eric Paschall has stepped up this year to fill the void.
It’s harder to determine if Gonzaga is the best team. It’s understandable that the Bulldogs are ranked No. 1. Any team that is the last team undefeated at this point in the season should be No. 1. As time goes on, it seems like Gonzaga is for real.
At the beginning of the season, the Bulldogs’ non-conference schedule looked weak. While it still isn’t great, it has looked better thanks to Florida and Arizona. Gonzaga’s non-conference strength of schedule ranks 135th and overall strength of schedule ranks 118th. Those are not good numbers. However, Gonzaga defeated then unranked Florida 77-72. Florida is now 21-5 and is the No. 15 team in the nation. The Bulldogs also beat then ranked No. 16 Arizona, 69-62. Arizona is now 23-3 and ranked No 5.
That being said, apart from those two teams, Gonzaga hasn’t beaten anyone that great. The Bulldogs recently just defeated No. 22 Saint Mary’s for the second time this season, but that is the only other ranked team that Gonzaga has faced. It’s hard to say a team that is 26-0 isn’t great, but to prove it, playing another game or two against a top 10 team would be helpful.
All things considered, Gonzaga may be slightly overrated, but still a top five team. It may be possible if not likely that Villanova or Kansas is better, but they can go toe to toe with any of them. This is the best and most athletic Gonzaga team in years. They showed that by defeated Arizona and Florida. The advanced statistics also say that they are a very good team. ESPN’s RPI, which tends to look down on teams like Gonzaga has them ranked sixth. KenPom.com’s Pomery rankings which adjusts for strength of schedule says Gonzaga is by far the best team in the nation.
While some teams there are teams from poor conferences that are ranked highly and receive a high seed in the NCAA Tournament due to inflated numbers, this is not one of those years. Gonzaga and Villanova both deserve its current rankings and are not overrated.
The World Baseball Classic is a relatively new event for baseball that was started in 2006. Three events have been held (2006, 2009, and 2013) and have had mild success. It is modeled after the FIFA World Cup where 16 teams get placed in four groups. Each team plays one another and the best two teams come out of each group.
The United States has never won the WBC and, in fact, the best finish they had was fourth, in 2009. This year, the U.S. has a stacked roster, which is managed by former MLB manager Jim Leyland. With all the talent, can they finally win it all?
The U.S. is in Group C with Canada, Columbia, and the favorite and defending champion, the Dominican Republic. Canada and Columbia should be easy wins but the U.S.-Dominican Republic game will be one for the ages. Nevertheless, both teams should come out of Group C.
Last week, a fellow writer, Joel, predicted the lineup for the U.S. team. The roster has a combination of speed, power, and defensive excellence. There is just about everything in their for a dream roster. They even have a deep bench with players like Jonathan Lucroy, Matt Carpenter, and Eric Hosmer. Then another advantage the U.S. has is a stacked bullpen with players like Andrew Miller, David Robertson, and Tyler Clippard. The 2016 MLB playoffs showed that the bullpen is the key to winning in when it counts. After the round robin, the WBC becomes single elimination, and being able to generate matchups with your bullpen will be a huge advantage for the U.S.
If the Americans gets out of the first stage, they will face teams like Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Japan, South Korea, and the Netherlands. Puerto Rico knocked the U.S. off in 2013, Japan won the WBC in 2006 and 2009, South Korea has some of the best hitters in the KBO, the Netherlands has a lot of talent in their Caribbean Islands, and Venezuela is an underdog to watch. The message is it is not going to be easy for the U.S. but it is doable.
The biggest thing for the U.S. to overcome is themselves. There are so many stars on the roster that some personalities might bump heads. Also, the U.S. has not been successful in the tournament, and they will have to wipe away some of the bad luck from past years.
When the final game is played, it will be the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. The two teams are far and above any other team in the tournament. The talent on both teams is just too high for either one of these teams to struggle.
Talent plays a big role in any sport. However, as any good baseball fan knows, that in one game anything can happen. That is why the worst teams in MLB at least will win 35% of the games, even against good teams. It is just so hard to predict baseball. Who thought the Indians would make it to the World Series in 2016? Therefore, is it certain that the U.S. will medal or come in first? No; however, it is pretty likely that they do well in the tournament.
Getting more rest this season has been something that James himself has talked plenty about, but hasn’t been able to get.
Well Cleveland, there’s a simple solution to all of your problems.
Even though just 32-years old, James is in his fourteenth season in the NBA.
He’s been to each of the last six NBA Finals, and barring an enormous upset, will play in the seventh straight this summer.
En route to yet another chance to play for a title in the Association, James has been vocal this season about two things: him playing fewer minutes, and his team getting another playmaker. In both instances, LeBron hasn’t gotten what he’s hoped for to this point.
While bringing another playmaker to the Cavs is complicated, figuring out a way for James to rest his body prior to the postseason has a fairly simple solution.
That solution – get off to better starts.
Graphic created by Ryan Decker
Cleveland has played 20 games since January 1, playing to just an 11-9 record after struggling mightily in the first month of the new year.
During those twenty games, Cleveland only outscored its opponents by a total of 27 points, or an average of just over 1.3 points per game. Over that same time period, not only were the final scores close, but the score heading into halftime were even closer.
The Cavs led by just a combined 12 points at the break during the twenty-game stretch, or by less than one point per game.
These close games, many of which were played against teams with losing records, forced James to be on the court longer than he should be.
In Cleveland’s 13 games against teams with losing records, including four games against the two worst teams in basketball – the Brooklyn Nets and Phoenix Suns –, the Cavs only managed to outscore opponents by 3.7 points per game and less than five points per contest heading into halftime.
In James and company’s seven other games against teams with above-.500 records during the stretch, the Cavs are actually getting outscored, on average. And with the Cavs trailing for much of those games, it’s forced James to be on the floor for close to 40 minutes per game.
Cleveland may have the best record in the Eastern Conference y 2.5 games, or the fourth-best record in all of the NBA, but its struggles since the start of 2017 have been well documented.
James is averaging 37.7 minutes per game this season, which even though is his fourth-fewest of his career, is the most since his return to Cleveland two seasons ago.
It might be harder than it sounds, but a simple solution to the Cavs problems and James’ desire to spend less time on the court is to get off to better starts while he’s on it in the opening two quarters.