Sunday, February 10, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook

Now there's no reason to go to Indianapolis.
Unless it's an elimination game, the following statement is almost always true about court-stormings: it's better to be the team quietly slipping away down the tunnel than the team partying with its fans at center court. What's worthy of storming the court? Beating the best when you're not among the best yourself. Defeating Michigan basketball is worth storming the court again. That's a good sign.

No denying it though: that loss hurt. That loss fuck-fuck-fuck-fuck-fucking hurt and there are no non-profane words to describe how much it hurt. Getting the #1 overall seed in March will be tough. Getting to play at close to home at the Midwest Regional in Indianapolis will be tough. But, you know what? The day after, once the pain has died down a little, not having those things may not be so bad.

Michigan has lost three tough, close games on the road, in three extremely hostile environments, to three teams ranked in the kenpom's Top 15. Michigan also one road win (@Minnesota), one home win (vs. OSU), and one neutral-site win (vs. Pitt) against the kenpom Top 15.  It's not that they can't win against the top teams. They've never been blown off the court for a whole game like Duke or Florida have. This team can't quite seem to get it done in a hostile road environment. Fortunately, there are no true road games in March. The question is: are there practical road games, where the arena will be pulling against the Wolverines?

Barring a total late season collapse, Michigan has already done enough to earn the right to play its first and second round second and third round games in Auburn Hills in front of a friendly crowd. It won't be as good as Crisler if Michigan State is playing there too, but it's still the best place to be.

But what about the regionals? I took a look at today's kenpom Top 40 teams and, for each team, I looked at which regional site they're closest to and ordered them from closest to farthest. Teams that are within a four-hour drive of their nearest regional site are bolded. Georgetown is included in the Midwest Region because they are hosting the East Regional and can't be played there.

ButlerVCUBaylorSan Diego State
IndianaVirginiaOklahoma StateUNLV
LouisvillePittsburghWichita StateArizona
CincinnatiDukeKansas StateStanford
Ohio StateN.C. StateKansasSt. Mary's
KentuckySyracuseSouthern MissGonzaga
St. LouisFloridaMississippi
Michigan StateMiamiNew Mexico
Colorado State




Iowa State




Not only is the Big Ten the best conference in college basketball this year, but a lot of Big East powers are located at its western edge, and Butler, Kentucky, and St. Louis are also nearby. On top of this, Notre Dame and Illinois are located in the 40s in kenpom and a short distance from Indianapolis.

Michigan showed it can acquit itself well against potential high seeds at a neutral site with its Preseason NIT victory. Based on where the top teams are located, Indianapolis is the worst place for them to be: it's the only place where Michigan fans could be drowned out by any number of opposing fanbases. The only other possibility that comes close is have to face a resurgent UCLA at the Staples Center.

So, let's posiblog. If Indiana gets the top seed in Midwest Regional, Michigan is probably not going to be forced into hostile territory. No regional site is within four hours of Duke, Kansas, Florida, Arizona, or Gonzaga. Outside the Midwest, the highest-ranked schools that are close to a regional site are #21 VCU and #22 Virginia. No major power is particularly close to the Georgia Dome.

If Michigan ends up a low #1 seed or a #2, we'll travel. We'll be all right. Someone's going to have to go to Arlington. It'll probably turn out better than the last time.

But still, Ben Brust: fuck that guy.

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