CRAWFORD | Eight thoughts for Monday: On Louisville, Kentucky, killing the RPI and more
Eric Crawford has thoughts on Louisville's offense at Virginia, Kentucky's unbeaten run, Saturday's TV ratings, 9 o'clock tipoffs, the RPI and more.
Monday, February 9th 2015, 8:59 am EST by
Monday, February 9th 2015, 3:25 pm EST
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Purging the writing reservoirs of this weekend's varied thoughts and notations, ready for a week ahead, a drive to Baton Rouge, and new things.
1. PITINO PERTURBED.
Not a few people were a bit surprised to hear Rick Pitino ranting quite the way he did after Saturday's five-point loss to Virginia. There were reasons for optimism in the Cardinals' second half against the Cavaliers. They outscored the nation's No. 2 team and ran pretty effective offense without having to be spectacular. They were one of only two teams to shoot better than 50 percent in Charlottesville in the second half this season (Duke was the other).
While ESPN extolled Virginia's defense the whole game (perhaps you heard), when you looked at the numbers, the Cavaliers' vaunted D actually had given up a higher shooting percentage than U of L's defense did. One factor in that was that Virginia lost its best offensive player for the second half of the game. But lets be fair — the Cardinals lost their entire offense for a quarter of it. The ten-plus minutes Virginia held Louisville scoreless still had Pitino steamed after the game.
On the postgame radio show with Paul Rogers, Pitino struggled for strong enough terms with which to express is disappointment in his team's first-half offense. His guards enabled the game plan completely, he said. They broke out of the offense and shifted into one-on-one play far too early in the shot clock, and used what he called the team's “stupid high pick-and-roll” far too often, instead of at the end of the shot clock.
When Rogers tried to shift into a more positive subject, noting that the Cardinals shot it well in the second half, Pitino shot back, “I told you, we ran our freaking offense. That's why we shot well. We didn't go one-on-one. We had openings in the gaps, and we ran an offense. When you just go one-on-one against Virginia, you're not going to score. It had nothing to do with us shooting the ball better, it had to do with running an offense.”
2. MOTION MATTERS.
Pitino's point was that you can't drive straight into a defense without moving the ball first. I haven't had access to a great number of college practices in my life, but I've seen Bruce Pearl, back when he was a Division II coach at Southern Indiana, run his practices, and I've been around Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport's teams more than most. Both coaches, like Pitino, preach the importance of motion. Bellarmine is annually one of the best shooting teams in the nation at any level, largely because of their motion and passing ability. Pearl ran a style of offense learned from Dr. Tom Davis, which sent sweeping cutters through the defense with the purpose of making the defense move. I remember being with Bellarmine when they went to Duke, and Davenport pleading with his players in the locker room to reverse the ball before trying to drive. “If you go straight at them, it's a steal. They just slap down.”
That's the lesson Pitino hopes his team learned at Virginia. Having re-watched the first-half scoring drought, the Cards had some hard-luck during the run. They missed some shots they normally make. Rozier drew a foul that could've been a shooting foul, but wasn't. Still, they did go to the high ball screen too much and too early.
“I said (to Rozier and Jones), ‘When are you going to learn you can't go one-on-one until you create good movement?'” Pitino told Rogers after the game. “And, you know, sooner or later, they learned it, but it was too late.”
3. FAST BREAK POINTS.
I keep hearing that Virginia has allowed only 42 fast-break points all season. The official stats showed the Cavaliers outscoring U of L on the break 15-0 on Saturday. How was the block by Montrezl Harrell, and the subsequent lob on the other end, not credited as a fast-break basket? The defense wasn't set. Nor was it set on a Rozier drive into the lane earlier on the game. I counted six fast-break points from the replay. So while Virginia's defense is excellent — that's one stat I may have to look at differently moving forward.
4. KENTUCKY CONTINUES ITS UNBEATEN RUN.
The top-ranked and still unbeaten Wildcats did what they had to do to stop an inspired Florida attack in Saturday's Bluegrass State ESPN nightcap. Aaron Harrison was better than he's been all season. Karl-Anthony Towns keeps getting better. Even without Trey Lyles, the team has kept it going.
It was a good win on the road in a hostile environment. It also was this — a win over what likely will be an NIT team. Georgia coach Mark Fox went on a bit of a rant after his team's loss to Kentucky in Rupp Arena last week, chastising reporters to stop calling every close game UK plays a product of the Wildcats having an off night.
Here's the SEC's problem — quality non-conference wins. Joe Lunardi had six SEC teams in the field as of his last bracketology on Feb. 5. That's impressive — until you break down the actual resumes and where the teams are seeded.
For instance. ESPN says LSU has the best chance of anyone left on UK's schedule to beat the Wildcats in the regular season. LSU, according to Lunardi, is a 10 seed. And LSU has one of the best non-conference wins of any non-UK SEC team, a one-point road win over West Virginia in December. It also has neutral-court losses to Old Dominion and Clemson, as well as setbacks to Mississippi State and Auburn. Let's look at the rest. Georgia? Best non-conference win? Seton Hall. It lost to Georgia Tech and Minnesota. Arkansas is the second-highest seeded team in the Lunardi's projection. A No. 6 seed. It's best win? SMU. It also lost to Clemson, as well as Iowa State. Texas A&M? Played UK to overtime. Projected No. 10 seed. It's best non-conference win is Arizona State, a team not expected to make the tournament, and it lost to Kansas State. Ole Miss also is a projected 10 seed. It lost to Western Kentucky, TCU and Charleston Southern. Its best non-conference win is over Cincinnati.
What SEC teams did was a good job of scheduling. They didn't play terrible teams in the non-conference, and most of them played at least one really good team — even if they didn't beat any of them. Georgia lost to Gonzaga, Texas A&M lost to Baylor. They all have decent RPIs. They might well make the field. But the SEC has a winning record against only one Power 5 conference — the Pac 12. It has a losing record against the Big Ten (1-4), ACC (6-9) and Big 12 (8-13).
None of this, by the way, is to say that Kentucky is anything less than anyone says they are. You don't have to play in a great conference to be a great team. This doesn't imply that UK is in for trouble later on or anything else.
It's just stating a fact of life for the SEC. It has Kentucky. But not much else.
5. EVERYBODY'S SUPER BOWL.
UK has played five SEC road games, at Texas A&M, Alabama, South Carolina, Missouri and Florida. Those five, together, have an average home attendance of 9,209 (not counting the UK game). Those five, when they played Kentucky, averaged 13,881. That's a 40.5 percent higher attendance when UK is in town.
The UK home game represents at least 10 percent of the total season attendance for all five of those programs.
6. DEATH TO THE RPI.
I appreciate the simplicity of the RPI, I do. I appreciate that it really shouldn't be held accountable for what it says or does until after the last game is played. But for any index in college basketball to rank Kansas above Kentucky should immediately invalidate it. Yet the RPI is baked into everything the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee does. Every computer screen you pull up bases Top 20, Top 50 and Top 100 win based on the RPI's antiquated metric. It's like trying to launch a satellite with a Commodore 64.
7. DEATH TO 9 P.M.
TIPOFFS. If ESPN wants 9 p.m. games, let it go to the West Coast and televise them. We don't see enough of teams out there anyway. Why require players to play games at 9 p.m. and then bash them if one turns up academically ineligible. Someone at ESPN should speak to this, but I doubt you'll hear it. Bob Knight was right. It's a reprehensible practice and should stop. It won't. UK played at 9 and will head back to LSU today. It'll probably be faced with at least one 10 p.m. game in the NCAA Tournament. U of L has had 9 o'clock games of its own. It's wrong.
8. SATURDAY HOOPS TV RATINGS.
ESPN did big numbers for both the UK and U of L games on Saturday. In Nielsen numbers from the Louisville market (which is Jefferson County and 29 surrounding counties in Kentucky and Southern Indiana) U of L-Virginia drew a 21.6 rating, 34 share, while UK and Florida drew a 23.4 rating, 36 share.
Just for perspective — both of those numbers were higher than the College Football National Championship game in this market (20.1/29). Pretty remarkable when you think about it.
I'm always hit with a number of fans claiming victory for their fan bases based on what ratings say every week. A few particulars.
First, broadcast always beats cable. If a game is on one of the broadcast networks, it's going to get a better number — doesn't matter how big the game. Louisville on a local station, not even a network broadcast, did a 16.8 rating against Miami last week while UK-Georgia did a 9.8. UK-Texas A&M on CBS (15.8/23) did a higher rating than U of L-North Carolina (12.9/22) on the same day earlier in January.
Second, the rating for a particular team is not a measurement of how many fans a team has in the market. More than just a team's fans watch a particular game.
One guy actually Tweeted to me that on Saturday, UK fans boosted U of L's viewership, which I'd say is true, but he refused to accept that U of L fans boosted UK's viewership in the same way. Which also is true.
UK's game against Kansas last November was a pretty big game. Tradition-rich programs, both ranked in the national top five. Without a U of L game next to it (or even opposing it), UK drew a 13.6 rating on ESPN for that game, nearly 10 points lower than it drew for a matchup against Florida with a Louisville lead-in.
Bottom line — there is a heavy crossover viewership in this market, which is what makes it the No. 1 college basketball market in the nation every year.
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