Sunday, April 20, 2014

Bucks need to be bigger

Back when Andrew Bogut was still with the Bucks, they made a move to sign Drew Gooden with the intent to play him at the 4 next to Bogut. That was right after the career changing elbow injury Bogut suffered at the end of the 2009-10 season. They wanted to play power basketball with 2 big physical rebounders. Gooden was hurt most of the 2010-11 season and only played 35 games, eliminating that plan. This allowed for more playing time for Ilyasova and rookie Larry Sanders. Bogut then played in just 12 games in the strike shortened 2011-12 season before being traded for Monta Ellis. Power basketball never came to Milwaukee.
The Bucks have played smaller lineups since Bogut has left, starting Gooden by necessity after the Bogut trade. Samuel Dalembert was brought in for 2012-13, but Sanders took over part way into the season. Sanders is small for a center, but is a quality shot blocker. The Bucks have also played undersized at the 4 playing players like Ilyasova, and Mbah-a-Moute who are either too short or too slight to play with big NBA power forwards.
People into metrics love Larry Sanders. His shot blocking, especially from the weak side does make a difference in games. I understand the value of rim protectors, especially mobile ones that can cover a lot of ground to help. I was not a fan of Larry Sanders as a starting center even before his crazy run this year, (broken hand in bar fight, animal neglect charges and other charges, orbital fracture injury in game, and finally failed marijuana test suspension) because he is just too small. Sanders is listed at 6'11" and 235lbs. His athleticism makes up for a lack of beef, but he and the Bucks struggle when the opponent has a lot of beef up front.
The NBA is filled with athletes that run and dunk and  do amazing things, but it is still basketball. In basketball generally the big guys win over the small guys. Just look a the beef of the starters for the top 5 teams in each conference.

Indiana Hibbert/West
Miami Bosh/Haslem (teams with Lebron don't really have to play by the same rules)
Toronto Valanciunas/Amir Williams
Chicago Boozer/Noah
Washington Gortat/Nene
San Antonio Duncan/Splitter or Diaw
OKC Ibaka/Perkins (same applies to teams with Durant)
Clippers Jordan/Griffin
Houston Howard/Jones
Portland Lopez/Aldridge

Every team would like to have a Lebron or a Durant, because it doesn't much matter who plays with them because they are going to win. Not too many of those guys out there, so it's probably not a good strategy for the Bucks. I don't know what the Bucks new owners will do with this team, but I hope they put an emphasis on bigger is better.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Bo Ryan tidbits

A couple of awesome facts about the Bo Ryan era:

1) With another 30-win season, Bo Ryan now has three 30-win seasons with the Badgers. These are, of course, the only 30-win seasons in program history. Even more amazingly, Bo and the Badgers now have as many 30-win seasons as any coach or team in Big Ten history. Michigan St. (Izzo), Ohio State (Matta), Michigan (Frieder/Fischer, Fischer, Beilein), and Indiana (Knight) all also have three 30-win seasons (correction: Knight has four). So, one of next year's goals should be to break this tie and take the 30-win crown for himself join Knight at the top.

2) The Badgers have now been a top-5 seed in the NCAA tournament five years in a row. Only three other schools can say the same: Kansas, Duke, and Syracuse.

EDIT: actually Knight had four with Indiana. Not sure how I screwed that up.

Friday, April 18, 2014


The Bucks announced they are being sold to a couple of New York investment guys who have tons of cash and a love of basketball. I have not been a big fan of Herb Kohl, in his capacity as owner of the Bucks. Kohl bought the Bucks in 1985, and at the time they were a perennial playoff team and occasional conference finals threat in an era dominated by Bird and Magic. The team’s success faded in the years after Kohl bought it. The Vin Baker era was painful. Big Dog and Ray Allen brought some hope, but limited playoff appearances and one conference finals appearance was the best they could do. There was some promise before Bogut destroyed his elbow, but that quickly faded. After that, there have been a bunch of bad teams and few wins. It would be hard from a basketball watcher's perspective to say the past 30 years are anything but an overall failure. Not as bad as being the Clippers, but still just not very good.

Kohl will leave ownership with 2 major achievements. He made a ton of money, and he kept the team in Milwaukee. He bought the Bucks for $18 million, and sold for $550 million, minus $100 million he is donating to a fund to build a new arena in downtown Milwaukee. A 2500% increase in value over 30 years is pretty good, and makes all the whines about Milwaukee as a small market team that loses money sound a bit hollow. As a fan, I don’t really care how much money Kohl makes, but I do like that he insured the team will stay in Milwaukee for the near future. With another $100 million from the new owners there will be a new arena, and likely a lease for 20 years or so. Beyond that, the Bucks success during those 20 years will determine if they stay in Milwaukee or not.

The Bucks will never be among the NBAs elite franchises. The NBA is just fine with LA, NY, and the other big cities maintaining their advantages to keep the ratings high. In order for a team like Milwaukee to be successful they need a few things: good owners, good management, and good luck. They need an owner who is willing to spend, but smart enough not to meddle. Despite the financial disadvantages of Milwaukee (less money from local TV contracts, less money from the arena) Kohl was willing to spend when the Bucks were winning. The Bucks were over the cap during part of the Allen, Big Dog, Cassell era, and Kohl paid handsomely to have an elite coach in George Karl during that time too. He doesn’t do so well when it comes to the meddling. Despite his low profile with the team, his fingerprints were on a lot of the moves they made. Not as bad as a Mark Cuban, but more than you want. Good management is another issue. I’m OK with John Hammond, but it’s hard to call his era a success. Larry Harris and others before him would definitely not be called a success. Being considered good management has a lot to do with good luck. San Antonio (another small market) is widely considered to have some of the best management, but they also had the good fortune to draft Tim Duncan who makes a lot of coaches and GMs look good. A lucky draft at the right time can make a huge difference.

Time will tell what this new ownership group brings to Milwaukee. They should have a high pick in a good draft to get them started. A new arena in a few years should help with revenues and keeping players. There is very little talent to build with, but outside of Larry Sanders there are also no massive long term contracts (beyond 2 more years) that will be major problems. The new salary cap should help teams like Milwaukee remain competitive. Lets hope the next 30 years are more successful.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I'm no Bo Ryan

Bo Ryan is all about the next game. It's one of the things that makes him a great coach. I am a fan, so I have the luxury of obsessing about the past and the future of Badger basketball. I don't remember being as emotionally crushed by a loss in a sporting event since the Packers lost to Denver in the Super Bowl. I was a much younger and more emotional fellow in those days, so I was a bit taken by surprise how affected I was by the Badgers' loss this year. I have finished my obsessing about the past, and I'm almost ready to move on to the future.

Watching this year's team was a great ride. The run to the Final Four was just one more notch on Bo Ryan's belt of amazing accomplishments at UW. I am very happy that it happened this year, as runs like that are not easy to come by. I can already hear the fans and pundits predicting a UW team that brings back 6 of 7 rotational players will be a lock to return next year. Just ask Virginia, Wichita State, Arizona, Michigan, Villanova ... you get the point. A lot of great teams every year aren't going to the Final Four, and it's highly likely that UW won't be one of those last 4 next year.
But I am one of those fans after all, so it's time to move on the future and start daydreaming about Bo making back-to-back Final Fours. Perhaps even more.

I'll throw out my far less scientific big ten predictions in the weeks to come, once we have a better feel for who is going pro.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Projected 2015 Big Ten Standings

As mentioned earlier, I'll be expanding the T-Rank (my preseason ratings) to all 350 or so teams this off-season. If you want preseason ratings based on careful thought and rigorous data, Dan Hanner is your man. If you want results based on a quirky project of mine, then the T-Rank is the be-all-end-all. In the coming days I will have some posts showing how well last year's effort did. The short story is: not bad. Not as good as Hanner, but on par with Kenpom, and better than Team Rankings. But it is a small sample size, so a lot is riding on next year's performance. (Just kidding: literally nothing is riding on it.)

This will be a lot of work, particularly trying accurately to incorporate transfers. There will be errors. But it gives me something to do in the off-season.

Anyhow, to whet your appetite, I've got preliminary ranks done for the Big Ten. I'm sure that I'm missing some transfer info, and this will be continually updated. But since T-Rank spits out a projected Pythagorean winning percentage, I can use that to project win totals for the Big Ten season. And because I can, I have:

So there you have it: the Badgers are pretty much guaranteed to win the Big Ten next year.

Edit: Typo originally had Ohio State's wins and losses reversed.


Prepare yourself for the most anticipated, hyped Badger basketball team ever. They will likely be preseason Top 5. They will likely be Top 5 in the preseason computer rankings (including the T-Rank, which I plan to expand to all 350 teams this year).

Can't wait.