By Rohan Rao
Recently, organizations such as the NCAA have been attempting to increase viewership of tennis by implementing rule changes to reduce the length of the individual matches. The logic behind these changes is to increase the relative importance of each point making the overall experience more exciting. I think this is a particularly interesting problem for the sport of tennis, which is currently fighting falling ratings (losing 1.4 million viewers this year for the men’s U.S. Open finals) but is increasing the uncertainty of games the best way to gain viewership or increase the excitement of the sport? The process for determining which rule changes lead to more viewers can be a complicated question; however, I would say that by statistically examining the shot selection across a variety of tournaments and players, we can get an alternate and useful metric to determine how exciting or interesting a match is, which could provide some insight into the issue.
By Chris Murphy
With the season coming down its final weeks, it is crunch time for any and all College Football Playoff hopefuls. It is also crunch time for College Football Playoff predictions. Perhaps the question you will hear most over the next two weeks is “who’s in?”, and everyone has an answer along with an explanation.
If you take a survey of all these answers and write them down, you will probably end up with the following list of teams: Alabama, Ohio State, Washington, Clemson, and Penn State/Wisconsin. Of these 6 teams, some will have Penn State, some will have Ohio State, and some will have Wisconsin. But very few will have multiple Big Ten teams, even two seems a little much to have.
In a season of big risks and outlandish statements, I’m going to make one myself: Three Big Ten teams deserve to be in the College Football Playoff. Those three teams should be Ohio State, Michigan, and the winner of Penn State/Wisconsin. These three, combined with Alabama, should be the top four come the final Playoff Rankings. Along with this idea, I’m here to try and convince you why this Playoff scenario should be considered.
By Chad Horner
Yesterday, I posted my picks for the tournament games that will be played tomorrow; I’m back with my picks for Friday’s games.
Once again, I encourage you to join our Tournament Challenge group and compete against our writers and readers!
On to the picks. As with yesterday, games appear in the order that they will be played.
The Rebels are peaking at the right time, and their fast-paced style of play is something that the Badgers aren’t used to seeing in the Big 10. However, in four games against tournament teams this year with more than 66 possessions (the midpoint between the Rebels’ (71) and Badgers’ (62) averages), Wisconsin is 3-1, beating Michigan, Illinois, and Cal, and falling to Creighton. If Ole Miss manages to control the pace, which I don’t expect to happen, Wisconsin still has a good chance. I’m going with the Badgers here, but it’ll be closer than people expect.
Full disclosure: I am an avid NC State fan. However, this is a great matchup for the Wolfpack. The Owls have a mediocre defense, and I don’t see them stopping NC State from going for at least 75 or 80 points. The Pack’s two biggest weaknesses are forcing turnovers and preventing opponents from getting offensive rebounds; Temple doesn’t turn the ball over very much anyway, and they don’t do a good job of offensive rebounding. I don’t see them being able to take advantage of any of the holes in NC State’s game. The Wolfpack should win comfortably.
Since knocking off Marquette in overtime back in January, Cincinnati has played 7 games against the tournament teams from the Big East – they’re 1-6 in those games, with the one win coming at home against Villanova. There was a point in time this season when they were playing like an elite team, but that was a long time ago. Creighton – the best shooting team in the country – should be able to overcome the Bearcats tough defense.
Kansas State’s opponent, and my confidence in this pick, hinges on the outcome of tonight’s First Four matchup between Boise State and La Salle. I really like the Broncos’ chances of upsetting Kansas State. They’ve proven that they can beat, and compete, with top teams away from home – they defeated Creighton on the road, and lost on the road to Michigan State, UNLV, and San Diego State by a combined 9 points. I can’t trust La Salle as much, although they have beaten VCU on the road, and defeated Butler and Villanova at home as well. Either way, this is mainly a pick against a Kansas State team that I find incredibly overrated. Unlike whoever their opponent will be, they do not have a single impressive road win this season – yes, technically they defeated Florida on a neutral court, but the game was played in Kansas City. I feel very good about the Broncos’ chances of pulling off the upset, and pretty good about the Crusaders’ as well.
Colorado has two strengths that match up particularly well with weaknesses in the Illini. First, they have a strong shooting defense. When is the last time Illinois shot over 45.3% from the field? January 5th! Over two months ago! They’re also in the bottom 100 in the country in terms of defensive rebound rate, while Colorado is in the top 100 in offensive rebound rate. It’s a good matchup for the Buffaloes, and I expect them to advance.
Each of these teams has seen drastic improvement over the second half of the season, and both are coming into the tournament playing their best basketball of the year. Villanova relies on free throws for points more than any other team in the country, by a lot. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the Tar Heels don’t foul people! Without the points from free throws that they normally rely on, I expect Villanova to fall to North Carolina to win this one.
This has to be one of the least enticing matchups of the first round. It should be quite a defensive struggle. Although the Aztecs have a great defense, Oklahoma has proven they can beat a great defense, two of them actually: Kansas and OK State. I think it’ll be very close, but I’ll go with the Sooners here, more on a hunch than anything else.
Both teams have elite offenses according to Kenpom – Notre Dame 12th, Iowa St. 8th – but they do it in very different ways. Iowa State is 34th in the nation in adjusted tempo, Notre Dame is 320th. There aren’t any teams in the Big East who play at a pace faster than the Cyclones, except for DePaul, the worst team in the league. How did Notre Dame do against the Blue Demons of DePaul? They beat them twice. But both games went to overtime. I don’t think that bodes well for them here. The Cyclones will be able to control the pace, and that will allow them to be victorious.
At first glance, this seems like an obvious pick based off of the way the teams will match up inside – the Gophers are first in the country in offensive rebound rate, while the Bruins are 267th in the country in defensive rebound rate. Tons of second chances for Minnesota right!? Well, yes. Unfortunately that doesn’t always seem to matter. The Golden Gophers have played 3 teams this season – Florida State, Illinois, and Northwestern – who do a worse job than UCLA of preventing their opponents from getting offensive rebounds, and yet they are only 3-3 against these teams. So why pick them anyway? Well, all of that aside, they’ve just played better than UCLA has this season, and the Bruins just lost Jordan Adams, who has been their best offensive player (sorry Shabazz), for the rest of the year.
By Chad Horner
It’s official, the bracket has been revealed, and now it’s time to start looking for those 1st round upsets! Here we’ve laid out some of the first round matchups that look particularly enticing as an upset pick.
Before we get to the picks, Princeton Sports Analytics invites you to challenge us in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge! See how you do against those of us who will be writing about these games for the next few weeks. Here is the link to the group; pick your best entry and join!
Now, on with the picks:
(11) Belmont Bruins over (6) Arizona Wildcats
For the past two years, the Belmont Bruins have come into the tournament as a popular upset pick, and for the past two years, they’ve been soundly defeated. But this is Belmont’s best chance yet. Arizona boasts the country’s 274th-ranked 3-pt defense, and the Bruins are 33rd in the country in 3-pt shooting. The Wildcats have only faced on team all year who is better than Belmont at shooting the 3: Florida. Yes, they defeated Florida, but the Gators controlled the entire game – well, the first 39 minutes – and they were 10/18 from behind the 3-point line. I like Belmont to knock off the Wildcats.
By Chad Horner
The Duke Blue Devils, the number one team in the land for the past month, were finally knocked off their perch Saturday afternoon by the North Carolina State Wolfpack team that was favored to win the ACC in the preseason.
In fact, if you had examined Duke’s schedule in the preseason and tried to find which game would be their toughest, it likely would have been this one. However, after plowing through five potentially elite teams – Louisville, Ohio State, Minnesota, Kentucky, and VCU – in a two week span earlier this season, while NC State was run off of the floor by Oklahoma State in a twenty point loss, their positions in the rankings flipped. Duke came into this game as a modest favorite, despite the absence of Ryan Kelly, who they lost to injury earlier this week, and the fact that this was their first true road game of the season. But there was one sign that the Pack was not an ideal matchup for the Blue Devils.
By Chad Horner
Tomorrow night, Oregon and Kansas State will face off in the Fiesta Bowl in a matchup that many expected to see as the National Championship game until both teams lost in the final weeks of the season. Here’s a quick preview of what to expect from each team. We’ll focus on offense here, as both teams are in the top 10 in the nation in scoring.
By Julian HK
Lou Holtz said yesterday that these two teams were matched up, with similar stats, but that South Carolina’s stats were more impressive since they were in the SEC. And while I’m the first to acknowledge the S-E-C and #SECspeed™, I wasn’t convinced the numbers backed this up. Consider that 3 out of Michigan’s 4 losses came against Alabama, Notre Dame, and Ohio State; that is, they lost to two undefeated teams and the National Championship favorite. Their fourth loss to Nebraska was largely due to an injury to starting QB and human dynamo Denard Robinson and the subsequent struggle of freshman QB Russell Bellomy. Perhaps the Wolverines go on to win that game if they played Devin Gardner instead.
Taking a look at Jeff Sagarin’s ratings which are one of the six BCS computer rankings, we can see that Michigan’s schedule is ranked slightly tougher than South Carolina’s (30th to 33rd). South Carolina was still ranked higher at 9th of course because of their better season performance, but this just serves as a reminder for Lou Holtz and other analysts that SEC schedules (while still tough) aren’t necessarily the toughest schedules.
*Little side note, don’t tell the SEC but according to the Sagarin ratings, and Congrove rankings, the Big 12 actually has a harder strength of schedule! SEC fans can still take solace in many other algorithms which have them on top.
By Max Kaplan
I am a freshman experiencing the first real winter of my life. However, at this moment, it is winter break and I am sitting at home in my backyard writing about college football. It is 65 degrees here in Torrance, CA.
Why did I leave?
There is a more pressing question. Why does today’s Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium exist? The weather forecast has the game below freezing with a high chance of snow.
Wouldn’t everyone want to travel to somewhere warm to see the final game of the season?
It turns out that the Pinstripe Bowl is only the third coldest bowl in the country. Here is the full list:
Bolded are the indoor stadiums. Notice that the majority of these are in the warmer cities.
- Bowls in Texas fall only in the middle of the spectrum.
- There are two bowls in the same city only in the warmer cities.
- The Sun Bowl is colder than average.
Cold bowls are a recent innovation. Only five bowls average below 50 degrees. All five of them are in the newer half of bowls (since 1997) and three of them (Pinstripe, New Mexico, and Military) started in 2006 or later.
By Max Kaplan
Today, Duke plays Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl and Baylor plays UCLA in the Holiday Bowl.
Baylor is only one of seven schools in Division 1 FBS (out of the 124 members) to have a religious affiliation. All seven are a denomination of Christianity. The full list:
- Baylor: Baptist
- Boston College: Catholic
- BYU: Mormon
- Notre Dame: Catholic
- SMU: Methodist
- TCU: The Christian Church
- Tulsa: Presbyterian
On the other hand, Duke are the Blue Devils, the seeming anti-Christ. While Baylor and Duke are not playing each other directly, I wanted to see who has come out on top in history: God or the Devil?
In addition to Duke, Arizona State are the “other” Devils. If we include other “bad” mascots, we get an even 7-on-7 matchup of Good Vs. Evil. The full list of “bad”:
- Arizona State: Sun Devils
- Duke: Blue Devils
- East Carolina: Pirates
- Idaho: Vandals
- Ole Miss: Rebels
- Texas Tech: Red Raiders
- UNLV: Rebels
So who triumphs? Here are the all-time bowl records of these fourteen teams:
The universities with religious affiliations have played in far more bowls, indicating better regular seasons and a longer history of success. However, evil has the ever so slight lead in winning percentage, though both are only hovering around .500. There is a seeming parity between good and evil. It’s as though the forces of good and evil are hanging in the balance.
Though God may be on their side, schools with religious affiliations do not seem to have an advantage during Capital One Bowl Week. Just don’t be surprised to see a Hail Mary anyway.
One more thing: Wake Forest’s mascot is the Demon Deacon. I couldn’t figure out which category he fit into (both?). Can anyone explain to me who the Demon Deacon is?
By Max Kaplan
Today, the BYU Cougars defeated the San Diego State Aztecs in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl is a whopping 7-word title with a length of 39 characters. A close second is the 6-word Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, coming in at 37 characters.
This got me thinking. What are the best bowl names (or corporate sponsorships) in bowl history? Have you ever made fun of the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl or wondered why there is a Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl?
My personal favorite bowl name is the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl sponsored by the Idaho Potato Commission.
Worst 5 Bowl Names
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl (2012): Because nothing says football like filing your taxes.
Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl (1990-96): Just why?
Dallas Football Classic (2011): You cannot create a brand-new bowl and suddenly declare it a ‘classic.’ This year they changed it to the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Not much better.
magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl (2008): magicJack is a USB appliance that lets you make unlimited phone calls.
Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl presented by Bridgestone (2003–2007): The longest bowl name ever. One title sponsorship was not enough…
Funniest Retired Bowl Names
Salad Bowl (1947-51): Precursor to the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix.
Epson Ivy Bowl (1988-96): The Ivy League All-Stars played the Japan All-Stars in Japan each year. The Ivy League won every game. The games did not count towards official NCAA records because the two teams were not NCAA-affiliated schools.
Gotham Bowl (1961-62) in NYC: They tried to have one in 1960 as well, but only one team was willing to play.
California Raisin Bowl (1981-91): Naming rights purchased by the California Raisin Advisory Board.
Others (I am not making these up): Bluebonnet Bowl, Cherry Bowl, Cigar Bowl, Glass Bowl, Oil Bowl, Oyster Bowl, Pecan Bowl, Pelican Bowl, Refrigerator Bowl, Shrine Bowl, Tobacco Bowl, and Vulcan Bowl
Top 5 “What is that company?” Bowls
Ourhouse.com Florida Citrus Bowl (2000): Apparently, Ourhouse.com now redirects you to Amazon’s Home & Kitchen department.
Culligan Holiday Bowl (1998-2001): Culligan is a water treatment company in Illinois.
Insight.com Bowl (1996-2011): Insight Enterprises is a business to business technology provider.
Roady’s Truck Stops Humanitarian Bowl (2007-09): Nearly 350 locations in 45 states!
USF&G Sugar Bowl (1987-95): The United States Fidelity and Guaranty Company (Financial Services) went out of business in 1998. They also sponsored the USF&G Classic at English Turn Golf and Country Club in the PGA.
Name Changes in Bowls
The Pointsettia Bowl seems unique in that it has had the same corporate sponsor since its establishment in 2005. How volatile are bowl names?
- The Chick-fil-A Bowl formerly was the Peach Bowl until 1997.
- The Outback Bowl formerly was the Hall of Fame Bowl until 1994.
- Corporate sponsorships did not appear until the 1980s so the older bowls have fewer sponsorships per year.
- The average sponsorship looks to be 5-6 years.
- The average bowl is over 30 years old. However, only one-third of them are over 30 years old.
- The BCS National Championship has had 6 sponsors (tied for the most) since its advent in 1998. Its purpose is to make money.