Archive for November, 2012

If You Care More You Do Better

Posted in Uncategorized on November 26, 2012 by cueball

Why?  Why does a sports blog only have to concern itself in rumors of the next big (or small) coaching hire?  Why does a sports blog only have to concern itself with attacking the silly rules, hypocrisy, and absurd nature of the NCAA instead of questioning the very need for the NCAA’s existence?  Why does a sports blog have to speculate who is going pro at the end of every college basketball and college football season instead of asking why the NBA and NFL don’t take the responsibility of paying athletes out of high school rather than blame the NCAA for all their developmental problems?

To me a sports blog should be more than just a regurgitation of conventional sporting wisdom.  It should be more than a pop culture reference machine.  It should be more than pseudo-literary intellectualism.  It should ask the fundamental question:  Why?

If you ask why enough, you eventually get to the fundamental questions that underlie the issues you are trying to find answers to.  For me the question isn’t if players should be paid cash money coming out of high school to play football or basketball.  The question is a who should pay.

Why it that the NCAA is expected to cover all these costs and why doesn’t anyone ask the NBA or NFL ante-up since they benefit so much from these athletes?

That, to me, leads to the next question of why does the NCAA exist as it does, what type of organization could it become, and what type of organization could replace it?  For the NCAA to pay players, I submit, would fundamentally change the NCAA as an organization to the point that it would not exist as it was envisioned.  So, why does it need to continue to exist?

Here is another question:  Why are our sports continuously tied to the scholastic model and do they need to be?  Our current sports model of sports being tied to first high schools and then colleges has done a disservice to both the development of players and the schools themselves.  Schools reason for existence is to educate, however college and universities through some fault of their own have become sports franchises.  This is done often at the expense of educating all students and developing athletes as athletes.

I believe the schools, the athletes, and the sports leagues would all be better served if sports were only a part of the educational experience of those playing and not this minor league system we have for the football and basketball.  If the NBA and NFL want minor league systems to develop their future stars, then they should pay for them.

Asking those questions is what a sports blog should be about.  ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports, NBC Sports, Yahoo!Sports, and other affiliated websites have all the reporters and paid opiners to berate a 19 year old for declaring or not declaring for the draft.  Blogs should ask the next question as to why the systems we have, have made idiotic “debates” like this possible.


New Content Coming Soon

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2012 by cueball

Working on a couple of multi-part ideas to drop next week.  Think conference realignment and NCAA absurdity.

Your Thanksgiving weekend college football viewing guide

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2012 by cueball

A Lot of Basketball Announcers Suck

Posted in college basketball, sports with tags , , , on November 12, 2012 by cueball

In trying to watch college basketball games and take notes about what is going on during the games so I can write about them, it has become clear that there are some very bad announcing teams out there.  It is not that they do not know basketball.  It is that they do not have the ability to explain what is going on the court in a coherent manner.

Sometimes the play-by-play guy seems too concerned with making his analyst laugh then resetting the game.  Sometimes the analyst is too busy telling a story about the head coach of one of the teams, his new best friend by the way, to explain why the defense/offense the team is running is so effective against the defense/offense the other team is running.

So, besides watching games this weekend, I’ve tried to come up with rules for what I think makes good announcing, particularly for the play-by-play guy.  I concentrated on that position because it is the key.  A good play-by-play guy is the one who sets the information flow of the game and he also has the power to get the announcer to focus on his job instead of babbling about nothing.

The major problems play-by-play guys have are:

  • They think there job is to make us and the analyst laugh. This is not an open mike night at some comedy club.  The play-by-play announcer’s job is just that: to provide play-by-play.  It is to convey information in the most succinct manner possible.  Making the audience laugh is a tertiary concern.
  • They haven’t called enough basketball games to get the rhythm of basketball.  There is a different type of rhythm for basketball, football, and baseball.  Football and particularly baseball has a lot of down time for the announcers to converse about whatever they want to talk about.  Basketball with its near continuous flow does not leave a lot of room for witticisms and stories.  There is too much information to convey on each possession for digressions and announcers who primarily do the other sports don’t immediately get that.
  • Some announcers have not done enough radio play-by-play in any sport.  This is an interesting idea.  I think it would help many announcers when they are you to announce sports on the radio for a few years.  The reason: you have to explain everything and not rely on the visual to do your job.  I think some announcers figure if you are watching the game you know who shot the ball or who committed to foul because you can see it.  That isn’t necessarily true.  The game is played fast and is often a jumble.  That is why we have announcers to tell us these things.

Here are three simple rules to make things better:

  • Coming out of timeouts, reset the game.  Give the score, the lineups currently on the floor and any other information that will affect the play.
  • Let the audience know who shot the ball, who rebounded the ball, who committed the foul, etc.  In short, convey the information of what is going on to the audience.  Do not rely on the visuals to take care of that for you.
  • Set up the analyst to tell us what he sees on the court and why it is working.  Do not set up the analyst to tell us about the dinner he had with the head coach over the summer and why he thinks the guy walks on water.  The play-by-play announcer’s job is to make the analyst sound smarter, not dumber.

If announcers would do these simple things, our basketball watching lives would be better.

Statistics are your friend

Posted in college basketball, sports with tags , , , , on November 5, 2012 by cueball

I have been thinking about statistics a lot over the last week.  I am getting ready for the NCAA basketball season and have been reading a lot from Ken Pomeroy and Basketball Prospectus.  So I have looked at advanced statistics and season projections for the last week to get a good feel for what to expect this season.

I have noticed a couple of things: 1) Many college basketball experts do not like the new use of statistics and 2) and the statistics are not that far away from many experts’ expectations.  The second point is rather surprising given the vehemence of many with the first point.

The new statistics are maddening for some for a two reasons:  1) Math is hard, 2) They make you question if what you are seeing is actually true, and 3) They make you question age old assumption about what makes a good team and/or player.

The first point is one that is due to laziness and not wanting to use a spreadsheet on one of those newfangled computer things.

The second two points are about making people question their own assumptions.  There are two questions the statisticians behind the new numbers ask: “Is what I am seeing with my eyes true?” and “What is a better way to show statistically that what I see is true?”  In answering those questions, you may prove that what you are seeing isn’t true.

If you are a 30 year professional at covering college basketball and some guy with a computer tells you, that a lot of what you believe makes good college basketball isn’t true, you are going to resist it a bit.

I try not to have that problem.  Yes, I have my own assumptions, but I try not to become enslaved by them.  I endeavor to stay open to new data that will either support me or change my mind and change how I see things.

That is what I am going to attempt to do with this project of writing about college basketball this season.  These statistics are a tool.  I plan to use them as such.  The most important thing will be what I see on the court and the statistics will only bolster what I see.  That is the difference between basketball and baseball.  In baseball a players offensive numbers are almost in a pure vacuum.  His numbers will translate from team to team with slight variations due to teammates getting on base in front of him and the parks in which he plays.

Basketball numbers are dependent upon your teammates, your opponent’s style, and game situations.  Your points, rebounds, and assists all depend on who you are on the court with at any given time.  That means it is hard to separate individual numbers from team effectiveness.  That is the beauty of basketball.

It is more like jazz, a free flowing conversation with your mates to an ultimate goal.  Baseball is more like a symphony orchestra where everyone has their individual part to play without worrying about what someone on the other side of the pit is doing.  Both can be beautiful, they just get there in different ways.

Yet I digress hugely.

Anyway, the interesting thing that I have found is that the statistics and the experts’ expectations coming into this season are not that far off from each other.  Part of that is the experience of the experts in knowing what makes a good team.  The other part is some of these experts are using the same statistics and just not telling everyone.

The season and my journey through it begins Friday.

I Love College Basketball

Posted in college basketball, sports with tags , , , on November 2, 2012 by cueball

I love college basketball.  As a matter of fact, I plan to write about college basketball all season.  More on that later.

As I was saying, I love college basketball, but I also really, really, like the NBA.  I am not one of those college fans who think NBA players are mercenaries who do not care about their team.  Sure, there are guys picking in the NBA just picking up a pay check.  However, do not think that your team’s prize recruit has the same love of State U as you do.  The main reason he has matriculated to your school is the NBA doesn’t let guys jump straight to the NBA.

Nor am I one of the NBA fans who do not understand how people can watch inferior players play basketball.  They don’t understand that it is about cheering for State U.  The university, its basketball team, and it coach are constants if you cheer for a historically good program.  Even with the best players coming and going in 1 or 2 years, good coaches get them to buy into the love of State U, even if it is just for a few months.  Yes, the talent level and skill level are not the same as the NBA, but the heart is greater.

Usually the love of one over the other is dependent upon where you grew up.  If you grew up in a major US city with professional teams (usually in the Northeast, Chicago or California) as your sports watching option, you are much more likely to not understand college sports in general.  If you grew up in a smaller town or more rural area (usually in the South and Midwest), you gravitated to your state’s biggest and most successful college teams.

So, I will watch both this season, but I will write about the one closest to my heart.  What am I going to write about?  You ask good questions.

I am not a math whiz.  However, in recent years, I have become very interested in the use of advanced statistics in basketball.  By advanced statistics I mean, a lot of the work originally done by Dean Oliver, John Hollinger, and Ken Pomeroy.  What they have been trying to do is take the basic statistics (points, field goal percentage, rebounds, etc.) and adding things like tempo and number of possessions to find out how effective teams and individual players really are.

Their main and most important contribution, in my mind, is to take away the effect of tempo.  What the advanced statisticians are trying to do is compare apples to apples by comparing team’s offensive and defensive production over 100 possessions.

What I want to do is take the things Pomeroy and Hollinger, in particular, are doing and use them as a fan to learn more about my favorite team (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tar Heels) and the ACC.

I have set up a spreadsheet for UNC stats using a lot of Pomeroy’s and Hollinger’s formulas to look at this season in basketball.

As all things with my writing, it may make sense and it may not, but I’ll have fun.