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Can Bonzie Colson get ND off the bubble?

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

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Nervous Notre Dame helps tip off the ACC tournament Tuesday in Brooklyn. But star Bonzie Colson is back just in time to lead the Irish off the bubble. Tourney previews for the ACC and Big 12, plus Monday’s championship recaps right now in VSiN City. 

ACC Tournament: Tuesday tip off might launch Notre Dame to Cinderella run
It’s going to be the big story early in Championship Week. Recently returned Bonzie Colson (who won ACC Player of the Week honors in his first week back) has a chance to lead Notre Dame off the bubble and into the NCAA Tournament. That will require:

*Winning big as expected Tuesday vs. horrible Pittsburgh
*Beating Virginia Tech Wednesday in the second round

A loss to Virginia Tech makes things much more dicey. Yes, Notre Dame is a Dance-caliber team with Colson. But he missed almost two months. That’s a big mulligan to give a team that could only manage a #10 seed in the ACC with Colson in street clothes. Win the first two in Brooklyn…and the Irish are very likely in given current bracketology projections. A third win in three days with a defeat of #2 seed Duke would make it a lock.

Last week, our approach to analyzing the Big Ten proved helpful. We looked at margin averages in conference play because those differentials represent a large sample size within a contained strength of schedule framework. We also ran Ken Pomeroy’s publicly available “adjusted efficiency” numbers on offense and defense. Let’s use the same approach right now with the ACC, and then in a few minutes for the Big 12 tournament that begins Wednesday. 

ACC Margin Averages (League Play Only) 
Duke plus 11.2
Virginia plus 10.8
North Carolina plus 4.7
Clemson plus 2.6
Louisville plus 1.9
Notre Dame plus 0.8
NC State plus 0.7
Florida State plus 0.7
Miami -0.1
Syracuse -0.7
Virginia Tech -0.7
Boston College -3.1
Georgia Tech -4.8
Wake Forest -5.2
Pittsburgh -19.1

Impressive numbers for Duke and Virginia considering the depth of quality in this conference. Duke has a way of underachieving its math when the going gets tough. But you have to respect that large a margin differential. Notre Dame clocks in at sixth best even with Colson missing so much time. That’s a strong vote in the Irish’s favor. You can see why Pittsburgh shouldn’t prevent much of an opening-round challenge Tuesday. Disastrous season for the Panthers. Virginia Tech is good, but won’t represent a high hurdle Wednesday. 

If you weren’t with us last week, or aren’t familiar with Pomeroy’s “Adjusted Efficiency” data, that stat is simply scoring adjusted for pace AND strength of schedule. Very helpful for isolating skill sets in a sport where numbers can get polluted by very fast or slow tempos, or very hard or easy schedules. We use rankings rather than the decimal data so the vegetables goes down easier. 

Teams are presented in order of their seeds. So, Miami will be the third team listed even though the Hurricanes aren’t perceived as third best by margin averages or Power Ratings. 

Ken Pomeroy’s Adjusted Efficiency Rankings
1…Virginia #39 on offense, #1 on defense
2…Duke #2 on offense, #10 on defense
3…Miami #46 on offense, #41 on defense
4…Clemson #56 on offense, #7 on defense
5…NC State #25 on offense, #89 on defense
6…North Carolina #4 on offense, #49 on defense
7…Virginia Tech #33 on offense, #56 on defense
8…Florida State #30 on offense, #71 on defense
9…Louisville #61 on offense, #17 on defense
10…Notre Dame #19 on offense, #63 on defense
11…Syracuse #122 on offense, #11 on defense
12…Boston College #57 on offense, #123 on defense
13…Georgia Tech #189 on offense, #62 on defense
14…Wake Forest #74 on offense, #129 on defense
15…Pittsburgh #294 on offense, #167 on defense

Some quality defenses in the mix. And, Duke has performed even better with its recent switch to a zone. Remember that we did see some defensive fatigue over the weekend in the Big Ten tournament. Tougher to maintain peak energy inside when back-to-back’s pile up under playoff pressure. 

Notre Dame could play better than its offensive ranking with Colson. Will the Irish have enough defense? Tough to string together tournament wins for any team that ranks outside the top 50 in defensive efficiency. North Carolina is right on that cusp at #49. 

First point spreads up for Tuesday were Boston College -2 over Georgia Tech, Notre Dame -16.5 over Pittsburgh, and Syracuse -4 over Wake Forest. We’ve used those to sharpen up our estimates of how “the market” current rates all the ACC teams. Entering the event…

ACC estimated “market” Power Ratings: Duke 87, Virginia 86, North Carolina 82, Notre Dame 80 (Colson back), Clemson 79, Florida State 79, Louisville 79, Virginia Tech 78, Miami 77 on the road, NC State 77, Syracuse 76, Boston College 74, Wake Forest 72, Georgia Tech 72, Pittsburgh 63.

Now let’s look at the brackets. We’ve included those “market” Power Ratings in parenthesis to help you project out potential point spreads later in the week. 

Tuesday
Boston College (74) vs. Georgia Tech (72)
Notre Dame (80) vs. Pittsburgh (63)
Syracuse (76) vs. Wake Forest (72)

Wednesday
Florida State (79) vs.  Louisville (79)
NC State (77) vs. BC/Georgia Tech winner
Virginia Tech (78) vs. Notre Dame/Pitt winner
North Carolina (82) vs. Syracuse/Wake Forest winner

Thursday
Virginia (86) vs. Florida State/Louisville winner
Clemson (79) vs. NC State/BC/GT survivor
Duke (87) vs. Virginia Tech/ND/Pitt survivor
Miami (77) vs. NC/Syracuse/WF survivor

Last week’s Big Ten tournament delivered some great basketball, and a new legitimate threat to run the table in the Dance in the Michigan Wolverines. Same kind of potential with the ACC. 

Big 12 Tournament: Though 80% of the league could get a bid, free-falling Oklahoma is the #9 seed in the 10-team event
The Big 12 has been amazingly competitive this season. The #9 seed (out of 10 teams) finished with an 8-10 record in league play! Oklahoma was actually one of FOUR teams to finish with that mark, creating a complex tie-breaker that also involved Oklahoma State, Texas, and Baylor. 

Could be tough for handicappers and bettors to split hairs with so much equal talent. Let’s see what the margin averages show us. 

Big 12 Margin Averages (League Play Only) 
West Virginia plus 5.9
Texas Tech plus 3.6
TCU plus 2.9
Kansas plus 2.5
Baylor plus 0.5
Kansas State -0.9
Texas -2.1
Oklahoma -2.7
Oklahoma State -2.8
Iowa State -6.8

West Virginia has a knack for blowing out teams who can’t break their press. That actually creates some illusions here. The margin averages are only showing us that West Virginia is a bigger bully than the others when things are clicking. Amazing that Kansas only ranks fourth best. The Jayhawks had surprising trouble getting scoreboard distance in Lawrence. Those numbers suggest almost anything can happen in Kansas City considering how fickle shooting can be in neutral court tournaments. 

Ken Pomeroy’s Adjusted Efficiency Rankings 
1…Kansas #9 on offense, #47 on defense
2…Texas Tech #51 on offense, #3 on defense
3…West Virginia #13 on offense, #39 on defense
4…Kansas State #53 on offense, #48 on defense
5…TCU #6 on offense, #107 on defense
6…Baylor #65 on offense, #15 on defense
7…Texas #105 on offense, #8 on defense
8…Oklahoma State #60 on offense, #60 on defense
9…Oklahoma #29 on offense, #90 on defense
10…Iowa State #82 on offense, #139 on defense

Important to remember that the Big 12 didn’t perform to its perceived superiority in its late-season challenge vs. the SEC. You can see that Kansas is vulnerable on defense compared to other national powers. Basically a clone of North Carolina in Kenpom’s efficiency rankings. Worth remembering that “press-based” teams like West Virginia often underperform vs. opponents who have seen that press multiple times. That makes the Mountaineers vulnerable in Kansas City, but then they’d rise back up to dangerous in the Dance against any opponent with vulnerable guards. 

Big 12 estimated “market” Power Ratings: Kansas 85, West Virginia 84, Texas Tech 82, TCU 81, Oklahoma 80, Kansas State 79, Baylor 79, Oklahoma State 78, Texas 78 (76 without Bamba), Iowa State 72.

Should any of the old “Big 12 North” teams get “home floor” consideration in Kansas City? Obviously, Kansas has a good history at this site. We’ll see in a couple of days whether the market is giving any nudges to Kansas, K-State, or even Iowa State. 

Wednesday
Oklahoma State (78) vs. Oklahoma (80)
Texas (78, or 76 without Bamba) vs. Iowa State (72)

Thursday
Kansas State (79) vs. TCU (81)
Kansas (85) vs. OU/OSU winner 
Texas Tech (82) vs. Texas/Iowa State winner
West Virginia (84) vs. Baylor (79)

Before we leave college hoops for the day, a quick look at Monday night’s two championship games that launched Iona and North Carolina Greensboro into the Big Dance. 

Metro Atlantic Championship: Siena outpaces Fairfield to earn a trip to the NCAA's
We start championship coverage in Albany, NY.

Iona (-3) 83, Fairfield 71
Two-point Pct: Fairfield 40%, Iona 52% 
Three Pointers: Fairfield 11/29, Iona 4/13
Free Throws: Fairfield 10/20, Iona 23/27
Rebounds: Fairfield 37, Iona 40
Turnovers: Fairfield 13, Iona 12
Estimated Possessions: Fairfield 77, Iona 78
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: Fairfield 209-194-211, Iona 137-122-112

To estimate possessions, we use a quick formula of Shots…minus offensive rebounds…plus one-half free throw attempts…plus turnovers. A lot of pace to this one for a championship game. Both teams like to push the ball…which played into the hands of the superior favorite. Fairfield couldn’t take Iona out of its comfort zone. You can see Iona played better “classic” basketball with a huge 71-38 scoring edge in “1’s and 2’s” along with slight advantages in rebounding and turnovers. 

Metro Atlantic champs have made some headlines in past Dances. But, this Iona team isn’t top 100 in the respected computers…and was only a 3-point neutral site favorite over a team that is right around #200. Anything can happen in March…Iona just doesn’t have the profile of a dangerous floater. They will be able to score quick points against any unprepared or overconfident major conference favorites. Last year Iona (plus 15) lost in the first round to Oregon 93-77 in a #14 vs. #3 seed matchup.

Southern Championship: NC Greensboro grinds past East Tennessee State
This conference was likely to launch a potentially dangerous floater into the Dance brackets, as both finalists had a computer composite that would rate them in the top 100 nationally.

North Carolina Greensboro (plus 2) 62, East Tennessee State 47
Two-point Pct: ETSU 36%, UNC Greensboro 57% 
Three Pointers: ETSU 3/16, UNC Greensboro 7/29
Free Throws: ETSU 14/20, UNC Greensboro 15/20
Rebounds: ETSU 31, UNC Greensboro 39
Turnovers: ETSU 14, UNC Greensboro 14
Estimated Possessions: ETSU 63, UNC Greensboro 64
Kenpom-Sagarin-BPI: ETSU 89-100-83, UNC Greensboro 91-108-91

A slow-paced wrestling match that saw both teams only make 12 two-point baskets on the night. Greensboro did that at a much higher percentage, while also nailing four extra treys. Great “defense and rebounding” effort from the short dog. 

Greensboro looks positioned to be a #13 or #14 seed. Last year’s Southern representative was East Tennessee State, who lost to Florida 80-65 as a 10-point underdog in a #4 vs. #13 seed matchup. 

Two more teams to add to our list of estimated “market” Power Ratings for lesser known conferences…

Loyola-Chicago 75 
Murray State 72 
NC Greensboro 71
Iona 67
Lipscomb 65 
Radford 64 

We’ll keep adding to the list as more Dance invites are earned this week. 

NBA: Detroit Pistons now 2-13 ATS since Blake Griffin acquisition, couldn’t even cover in Cleveland
Everybody covers in Cleveland! But, the free-falling Detroit Pistons continued their recent horrible form since the trade that brought Blake Griffin to Motown. Detroit might already be a tanker considering their recent results. Now 1-6 straight up and ATS the past seven games, with all six losses coming by nine or more points. 

Detroit (plus 6.5) lost to Cleveland 112-90
Detroit (plus 5) lost at Miami 105-96
Detroit (-2.5) lost at Orlando 115-106 in overtime
Detroit (-1) beat Milwaukee 110-87 (Bucks in a back-to-back)
Detroit (plus 10) lost at Toronto 123-94
Detroit (plus 4.5) lost at Charlotte 114-98
Detroit (plus 2) lost to Boston 110-98

The six misses were by 15.5, 4, 2.5, 19, 11.5, and 10 in regulation. Since Griffin debuted, Detroit is a dismal 2-13 against market expectations. 

Cleveland (-6.5) 112, Detroit 90
Two-point Pct: Detroit 42%, Cleveland 56% 
Three Pointers: Detroit 12/34, Cleveland 12/33
Free Throws: Detroit 10/15, Cleveland 14/17
Rebounds: Detroit 40, Cleveland 53
Turnovers: Detroit 11, Cleveland 14
Estimated Possessions: Detroit 98, Cleveland 100

To the degree there’s any sports betting guidance here…it looks like we can assume that Detroit will continue to flounder, and you should think about fading them until the line “catches down” to this poor level of performance. Cleveland’s soft defense will continue to be a problem vs. quality, but might not matter against disinterested tankers. 

NBA Eastern Conference estimated “market” Power Ratings: Toronto 85, Philadelphia 83, Cleveland 82, Boston 82, Washington 80, Miami 79, Milwaukee 79, Charlotte 79, Indiana 78, Detroit 78, New York 75, Orlando 74, Brooklyn 73, Atlanta 72, Chicago 71.

NBA Western Conference estimated “market” Power Ratings: Golden State 90, Houston 88, Oklahoma City 83, Portland 82, San Antonio 81, Utah 81, New Orleans 81, Denver 81 at home…80 on the road, Minnesota 80, LA Lakers 77, LA Clippers 77, Dallas 75, Phoenix 73, Memphis 72, Sacramento 71. 

Back with you Wednesday to crunch the numbers from the ACC openers, and to preview the Big East and Pac 12 tournaments. 

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