There was a national championship game last night
#1 in a series of last-day posts
(1) Florida 84, (1) Ohio State 75
The thing that was supposed to be so important turned out not to be. Greg Oden wasn't in any foul trouble the entire night and thus posted a 25-12 dub-dub with four blocks. And yet Ohio State lost, due to 10-of-18 shooting from beyond the arc by Florida.
Thad Matta did what any coach blessed with Oden would have done against Florida: he kept his big man in the paint (even when Oden's man came out top to set screens) and took his chances with the Gators on the perimeter. The paint part worked—Florida's 2FG pct. was south of 50 for the first time in the tournament—but, alas, the Gators on the perimeter were unconscious. (Lee Humphrey and Taurean Green shot a combined 7-of-10 on their threes. Al Horford went 6-of-8 from the line and led the Gators with 18 points.) For their part, the Buckeyes were meanwhile posting their worst perimeter shooting of the entire 2006-07 season: 4-of-23. And that would fall under the category of really bad timing.
The Gators are different
My first season of blogging ended with North Carolina winning the national championship in very much the same fashion that they played during the regular season. And since that year was my formative hoops-analysis experience, I've been dutifully looking for that kind of team ever since.
But Florida the past two years challenges that model. They don't win national titles the way they win games during the regular season. Last year, for example, Billy Donovan's team flipped a switch come tournament time and played outstanding defense. That, along with their already very good offense, enabled them to win six games and sport some really neat ball caps.
This year, by contrast, their defense actually got worse during the tournament. (High school coaches, don't let your players read this part.) But little things like defense don't matter one bit when you're making 61 percent of your twos and 41 percent of your threes. Florida upped its number of attempted threes dramatically in the tournament and reaped a West Virginia-like benefit in improved accuracy on their (already quite accurate) twos. (Michigan fans take note.) Result: over six tournament games, the Gators scored 1.23 points per possession. And that will win you some hardware.
Fantastic, erratic, dynastic, elastic Gators of Florida, Wonk salutes you!
BONUS continuation of tradition!
This year's poison pill was New Mexico State. The Aggies lost to Texas, who lost to USC, who lost to North Carolina, who lost to Georgetown, who lost to Ohio State, who lost to Florida.
In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
West Virginia (note correct spelling) coach John Beilein has reportedly accepted an offer to become the next head coach at Michigan. According to reports, Beilein will meet with his players today in Morgantown to inform them of his decision.
Butler coach Todd Lickliter will be the next head coach at Iowa. He will be introduced today at a press conference in Iowa City.
Note that with Lickliter joining Tubby Smith in the Big Ten coaching fraternity, eight of the conference's 11 coaches will enter next year having taken a team to the NCAA tournament in 2007. And coach #9 (Beilein, we think) has the current NIT title to his credit. Not bad.