Friday, November 17, 2017

Slant Pattern College Basketball Mailbag

By Kevin Beane

Hurrah, hurrah! College basketball season is upon us!

I thought I'd get into the swing of things by doing a Slant Pattern college hoops mailbag. As always, these weren't sent to me, they were sent to other, better writers and I'm swooping in like a vulture to answer them anyway.

It was harder putting this together than other mailbags, because strangely, there don't seem to be that many for college basketball. Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports appeared to discontinue theirs, and I don't know enough about, say, Creighton recruiting to intelligently answer questions intended for the Creighton Recruiting Mailbag. Still, I found just enough to put together a column.

"Georgia Tech Nation" asked Barstool Sports, "Does GT make NCAA tourney?"

I think they do, for a few reasons: No. 1 is Ben Lammers. I'm couldn't be higher on Lammers and he's on the Wooden watchlist. It will be exciting to see him develop into an even bigger star this season. No. 2 is Josh Pastner is one of those young, Brad Stevens-eque coaches that represents the future of basketball; I think he will not only get the Jackets to the Big Dance, but keep them there most years, as long as he stays. Finally, I think the suspensions of Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson may end up serving as a rallying point/building-off-adversity kind of deal for them. Seems to happen that way often, and those guys won't miss the ACC part of the schedule.

"Hovenaut" asked Eleven Warriors, "Your thoughts on the conference (the Big Ten) going to a 20-game schedule beginning next season?"

I hate it. I grant that my reason for hating it are very subjective and not necessarily persuasive, but it is my reason nonetheless:

NON-CONFERENCE GAMES ARE FUN! Or at least they can and should be. Why not have more opportunities for, say, Wisconsin to play Villanova or Purdue to play Texas or Michigan to play Gonzaga?

I understand that most teams instead fill their non-conference schedule up with creampuffs, but I'm not even asking for clashes of titans, just midrange teams from power conferences playing more, like opening night's Iowa State/Mizzou tilt. It's the spice of the college hoops season. We already have plenty of the main course.

The last two questions come to us via Mid-Major Madness. The first, from Ricky Dudek: "Why does @DetroitMBB keep scheduling @waynestate?"

If you're not aware, Wayne State is the big public school in Detroit. They compete in Division II and have about 27,000 students. They're one of only a few schools that big not in Division I.

Detroit Mercy is a small private Catholic school, but they are Division I, and they made the tourney in 2012. Perhaps their most interesting hoops factoid is that they were coached by Dick Vitale for a few years in the '70s.

Detroit playing Wayne State seems like a perfectly fine thing to do. It's in an intra-city game, and as long as UDM has a dozen or so non-conference games to schedule, I don't see any reason why to drop Wayne State when you can count on there being several teams to play that aren't much better than Division II anyway.

I think this question is borne out of the desire of many fans of mid-major schools, and that is to become the next Gonzaga. This is absolutely unrealistic for almost every mid-major, but if it happens, it's not gonna hinge on whether a school replaced Wayne State with Michigan State on the schedule. Mid-major fans tend to act like their AD can schedule literally anyone he or she wants to, and the only thing stopping them from becoming the next Gonzaga is managerial incompetence. It's really dumb.

The final question, from "Bill" to Mid-Major Madness, is "When Albany finishes the regular season 15-1 tied w/Vermont @ 15-1 (split regular season series) does the loser of the chip game get a bid?"

No, they won't. I'd like to say, "It depends on how they do in the non-conference season," but it doesn't really matter. Vermont lost to Kentucky by just 4, and that won't matter. They could beat Richmond and Marquette and that won't matter, because they'll drop a game they shouldn't have to someone else, and that's all the committee will see.

Albany has Louisville and Memphis coming up, but Louisville at least is likely down this year and it's just really, really hard for a mid-major team to finish with just the two or three losses it would take to get an at-large bid.

The bottom line is, the committee's standards and priorities have changed in the last 10 or 20 years, and now it is much, much harder for mid-majors to get in the dance than it used to be, even though there is more parity and less of a gap between the mid-majors and the high majors than there has ever been. It's a crying shame.

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