Assessing remaining unbeatens, Gonzaga's struggles and more mail
We begin, appropriately enough, with a query from Sin City asking me to predict the future.
I am happy to offer my reply, Shane, especially since we lost two members of the undefeated ranks Tuesday night when
I've offered my list in order from least surprising to most. Herewith:
Now on to the rest of your e-mails.
The basic answer is no, I don't believe one system is more effective than another. The bottom line is, the team with the greater talent usually wins. If a team with lesser talent wins, it has more to do with that coach's ability to teach his guys his system, rather than which system he has chosen to teach.
Jim Boeheim is a great example. Syracuse doesn't win so often because a zone is a better way of playing defense than man-to-man. After all, Bob Knight won 902 games and you can count on two hands the number of possessions when his teams played zone. The reason Boeheim's teams win is because a) he recruits great players, and b) he is totally committed to playing zone all the time. He knows the system and he teaches it very, very well.
This is largely a matter of taste, but if I were a coach -- or if I were looking to hire a coach -- I would favor a high-possession, high-scoring attack over ball-control systems like the flex (Gary Williams, Bo Ryan) or the Princeton (John Thompson III, Bill Carmody). A running game is easier to recruit to and more fun to watch. Plus, you have a chance to keep guys from transferring because you can play a deep rotation. I'm thinking Bruce Pearl, Mike Anderson, Billy Donovan and Rick Pitino. There's lots of ways to skin a cat, but that's how I'd skin mine.
On Monday, I assessed
I generally looked for teams that were either really good or really bad from the foul line. Both these teams fell somewhere in between. However, since Alan and Jim took the time to write, I'm happy to oblige.
FT percentage: 69.0 (156th nationally)
FT percentage: 70.0 (126)
It's still early ... but it's getting late a lot earlier than it used to. Gonzaga has a close win over Marquette in neutral-court Kansas City, but beyond that the Zags came up short in all of their other significant nonconference tests. Their game against Baylor in Dallas on Saturday is critical. If they lose, their best chance for a decent nonconference win comes at home against Xavier next Wednesday.
The Bulldogs' problems are not hard to pinpoint. I spy three. The biggest issue by far has been their defense. Check out these national rankings: Defensive efficiency, 108th. Scoring defense, 256th. Field-goal-percentage defense, 224th. Three-point defense, 314th. Blocks, 258th. Steals, 197th.
The second concern is the play of junior point guard Demetri Goodson. He is a starter who plays nearly 25 minutes a game, yet he is only averaging 4.6 points. Goodson does a pretty good job of taking care of the ball, but on the whole Gonzaga is committing 15.2 turnovers per game. If you're not going to lock up opponents on D, the least you can do is limit your opponents' possessions.
Finally, sophomore forward Elias Harris suffered a bruised Achilles tendon a few weeks ago, and he is clearly not the same player he was last year. Harris is averaging 10.4 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, down from 14.6 and 6.7 as a freshman.
Finally, as usual, I got several questions regarding
These are all reasonable questions, and they speak to the subjectivity of the rankings. Generally, two answers come to mind. The first is that I only have 25 spots and there are many more teams that are worthy of consideration. Second, while I try not to be totally beholden to my rankings from previous weeks, it is hard to really shake things up in the absence of significant losses. Thus, teams like the ones listed above can amass "quality wins," but they might not move up in a given week because the teams above them don't deserve to be knocked down.
With respect to Joseph's question, my main definition of a "quality win" is one that happens a) against another team that I have ranked, and b) away from home. I thought about ranking Texas A&M, but I just didn't think a one-point win at home, even against a good team like Washington, warranted a ranking. I do not have Temple ranked right now, so it was hard to rank them based on that. Plus, I had to account for the Aggies' neutral-court loss to Boston College. Texas A&M is good and I considered ranking them, but I just didn't have the room.
Meanwhile, Washington may have lost to Texas A&M, but I watched the game and the Huskies passed my eye test, just as they did when they played Kentucky and Michigan State tough in Maui before losing. Like I said, it's a subjective exercise.
Finally, I actually did take a close look at Old Dominion. The Monarchs lost a close one to Georgetown, but it was at home. They also dropped one on the road at Delaware, which Joe from Virginia Beach conveniently forgot to mention. The good news is, ODU can still convince the voters it deserves to be ranked. All it has to do is win at Missouri on Dec. 30. Easy, right?