February 07, 2011
The Bracket Big Board takes into consideration past returns, current performance and expected future gains in determining who should be included among the field of 68 (31 automatic and 37 at-large bids). Essentially, the Bracket Big Board is a cheat sheet designed for amateur bracketologists if they were filling out a Tourney Pick ‘Em '11 entry today. The Bracket Big Board is updated every Monday until the dance card is officially unveiled March 13.
Four seasons ago, a sophomore guard with a baby face, hair-trigger release and limitless range altered the tilt of the college basketball world. Stephen Curry, the product of a small private college in North Carolina, Davidson, was an instant revelation, averaging an astonishing 25.9 points per game.
Though the prolific scorer was well-known in analyst circles after a breakthrough freshman campaign, most casual hardwood fans were unaware just how incredible Curry’s game was. However, the 2008 NCAA Tournament educated everyone on the rising star’s abilities.
Entering the 2007-2008 season, Bob McKillop believed he had a team with special qualities. Knowing the SoCon wouldn’t adequately prepare his club for the postseason, the sagacious coach scheduled several marquee non-conference opponents, including the likes of Duke, North Carolina and UCLA. The Wildcats may have failed each major test, but the confidence they gained was immeasurable. They could compete with anyone.
After rolling unblemished through conference play, Davidson drew a 10 seed in the NCAA tournament. Few experts gave the tiny college any chance of advancing deep, but, in Hoosiers-style, Curry and company plowed through one titan after another – Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the ‘Cats’ magical season ended in the Elite 8, falling a mere two points shy to future champ Kansas.
Flash forward to the present.
Another guard with mesmerizing skills like Curry, BYU's Jimmer Fredette, has captivated a hoops nation.
Leading the country in scoring netting nearly 28 points per game, the curly-haired kid from Glens Falls, New York has become a pop culture sensation. Numerous NBA megastars, including Kevin Durant, have bow down to the senior on Twitter. T-shirts baring Jimmer catch phrases have sold like hotcakes in Utah. And, naturally, an unoriginal ditty featuring Fredette - and possibly the tallest guitarist in music history, Shawn Bradley - has surfaced.
Justin Bieber, it seems, ain’t got nothin’ on the Prince of Provo.
When pairings are announced in a little over a month, the hysteria created from the excessive Jimmer jabber will only swell the BYU bandwagon. Unlike Davidson, which played in a substantially weaker conference, the Cougars will be at least a three seed, prompting gigantic expectations.
Can ‘The Jimmer’ realistically carry his team to the apex of college basketball?
For starters, history is not on BYU’s side. Is hasn’t advanced past the second round since 1981 and has never reached the Final Four. In fact, in their seven tournament appearances this century only once (2010) have the Cougars survived Round 1.
Efficiency data also doesn't favor the Cougars. Juxtapose this year’s BYU team over Curry’s 2008 Davidson squad and the statistical similarities are eerie, a comparison which may not bode well for a run to Houston. According to KenPom.com, the Wildcats were spectaular offensively (14th nationally in offensive efficiency), but lacked superior qualities in the D department (31st in defensive efficiency). BYU, too, suffers from an identical personality split, currently ranking sixth and 32nd, respectively, in each category. Davidson was also grossly undersized, losing numerous battles on the glass against formidable competition. The same has happened to the Cougars, who check in at No. 208 in offensive rebound percentage. Finally, the SoCon Cinderella was very shallow. It finished 177th in bench minutes, 32 spots ahead of where BYU is presently slotted. The Cougars attract whistles, and they get thin very quickly.
Obviously, matchups will determine BYU’s fate. If it tussles with an opponent with strong interior play and sound perimeter D (e.g. Pittsburgh, Texas, Kansas, West Virginia, Florida St.), elimination will likely be a foregone conclusion, no matter how many buckets Fredette rains. Yes, it could easily advance deep with a soft road, but a bad draw and those who invest heavily in Jim McMahon-U will have a bracket decorated with red slashes.
Ultimately, the execution of those that surround the Jimmer will make or break BYU. Jason Richards, Andrew Lovedale and Boris Meno were instrumental in Davidson’s string of upsets. Their play took scoring pressure off Curry, allowing him to make the extra pass or exploit one-on-one matchups. Because defenses will continue to key on Fredette, the same is true for BYU. Brandon Davies, Noah Hartsock and, especially, Jackson Emery will have to contribute solidly for the Mormon machine to keep pedal-to-metal. Fredette's backcourt compadre agrees:
“They’re going to come after him, say stuff, try to get in his head,” Emry said. “When you can’t stop a guy as good as Jimmer, you’re going to get in his head. He’s so good at finding his teammates. That’s what makes us a tough team. Jimmer is a huge part of that, but the reason we’ll go far in the nation is the rest of the guys.”
The Jimmer’s rockstar ascension has been nothing short of riveting. But unless the sum of all parts operates efficiently, BYU, like Davidson in ’08, could fall just shy of reaching college basketball’s Promised Land.
Here are the movers and shakers on this week's Triple-B:
*For games played through Sunday, February 6
*RPI data provided by Rivals
*Efficiency stats from KenPom.com
*Orange teams on the rise, blue falling
On the Bubble: Alabama (15-7), Clemson (16-7), VCU (19-6), Colorado St (16-7), Penn St. (12-10), Kansas St. (16-8), New Mexico (16-7), Butler (15-9), Southern Mississippi (18-5), UAB (16-6)
Dropped Out: Clemson, Penn St., Butler, Missouri St., Maine, Ball St., Northern Colorado, Stephen F. Austin
Conference Breakdown: American East (1), ACC (4), Atlantic Sun (1), Atlantic 10 (4), Big 12 (6), Big East (10), Big Sky (1), Big South (1), Big Ten (6), Big West (1), Colonial (2), Conference USA (2), Horizon (1), Ivy (1), Mid-American (1), Mid-Eastern (1), Missouri Valley (1), Mountain West (3), Northeast (1), Ohio Valley (1), Pac-10 (4), Patriot (1), SEC (4), Southern (1), Southland (1), SWAC (1), Summit (1), Sun Belt (1), West Coast (1), WAC (1)
Image courtesy of US Presswire