Thursday, December 07, 2006

Letting Others Do The Work For Me...

Last night, after completing every annoying personal chore that I had vowed to complete, I finally plunked myself down to check out the Duke-Holy Cross game that I had been Tivo-ing. Unfortuantely, about two minutes into relaxing and watching the game, I noticed how ridiculously cold it was in my living room, and eventually spent my night freaking out about how I couldn't get my furnace to work, rather than enjoying the play of Greg Paulus and company (or Bruce Pearl's Tennessee team beating the tar out of Memphis, for that matter). As a result, I wasn't going to give an update today. But, in a lucky turn of events, two of my friends happened to send me excellent emails regarding the Marquette-Wisconsin game. So sit back, as I let my friends Brian and Beau do the work for me.

First, Brian does a detailed breakdown of the Marquette and Wisconsin programs:

Over the past couple of weeks, a number of people have sought out my seasoned analysis of what could be arguably the most anticipated game between two storied rivals, Wisconsin and Marquette. In an exhaustive search of my memory banks, I could not uncover a prior occasion on which these two teams entered their matchup legitimately ranked this high, making this weekend's latest chapter in their long history, a "game for the ages," if I may be so bold as to quote the eternally hokey Jim Nantz. Each time the question was posited to me, "Who will win, Marquette or Wisconsin?," I deferred such inquiries, with the intention of conducting a comprehensive and thorough examination of every detail that will, no doubt, determine the outcome. Having now reviewed an incalculable volume of pages, broken down every conceivable angle, and considered every minute force that might influence Saturday's clash of the in-state powers, I now provide my tale of the tape for Marquette vs. Wisconsin:

1. Tradition.
National championships: Marquette: 1 (1977); Wisconsin: 1 (1941). Series: Wisconsin leads 60-51. Legendary coaches: Marquette - Al McGuire; Wisconsin - Dick Bennett. Final Fours: Marquette 3, Wisconsin: 2. Marquette once turned down the NCAA to play in the NIT tournament. Wisconsin once went 40 years without a post-season tournament appearance. Edge: Marquette.

2. Facilities.
Marquette plays at the Bradley Center, an 18,000 seat arena, which, during many games allows fans to communicate by echo, but becomes crazed bedlam when the big boys come to town. Wisconsin plays at the Kohl Center, a 17,000 seat arena that constantly sells out, requires a season ticket (and a $500 donation) just to get in, and contains a charged atmosphere that intimidates opponents (see Wisconsin's 78-5 home record in the past five years).
Marquette - savvy basketball connoisseurs who don't want to waste money on pointless games or just big spenders who throw too many parties that no one comes to? Wisconsin - rabid, faithful fans who enjoy the poetry of the swing offense or country bumpkins hosed by a greedy athletic department? Edge: Wisconsin.

3. Spirit.
Marquette has an unimaginative band that seems to only know how to play a boring rouser repeatedly, thinks that two giant inflatable stick figures and a rigged decibel measurement instrument shooting confetti actually induce crowd noise, and when offered money to return to its old nickname, the "Warriors," instead adopted "Gold." Wisconsin has a fight song widely considered one of the top fight songs in the country, an energetic and creative band, and Bucky Badger.
Bucky Badger vs. the inflatable stick figure in a fight? Edge: Wisconsin.

4. Famous graduates.
Marquette has Chris Farley, Steve Rushin, and the Incomparable Hildegarde. Wisconsin has Stephen Ambrose, Greta Van Susteren, and the Zucker brothers.
How do you beat the "Incomparable Hildegarde?" Edge: Marquette.

5. Coaching.
Marquette has Tom Crean, the master of the NBA set, motivator extraordinaire, and the unfrozen caveman coach. Wisconsin has Bo Ryan, creator of the swing offense, winner of over 500 collegiate games, and when in a red blazer, looks like a used car salesman.
Now, Tom Crean might not know anything about "game adjustments" or "bench coaching," but he does know that if Jerel McNeal drives in the lane and is breathed on by an opposing defender, he is entitled to no less than two foul shots. Edge: push.

6. Alumni Relations.
Marquette has retired several numbers, including No. 24 worn by all-time leading scorer George Thompson, and then allowed new recruits to wear the same numbers, meekly claiming it retires "jerseys," not numbers. Wisconsin doesn't have any retired numbers.
Better not to retire, then to "re-gift" retired numbers to new players. Edge: Wisconsin.

So there you have it. Wisconsin 3-2. When you break it all down, it really is just scientific. On Wisconsin.

Thanks for that outstanding analysis, Brian. It was definitely better than I could have said it. On to Beau's contribution...

After just about every Marquette and Wisconsin game, my friend Beau sends me his statistical analysis of each team's players, summarized in two numbers that he refers to as the "Value Rating" and the "Efficienty Rating." These numbers have only been loosley explained to me and I have no clear understanding of how they are derived, no do I necessarily wish to. You see, Beau's an engineer, and since I've never been a stat-head, I don't know that I necessarily want to try to follow the calculations of a good engineer. He's welcome to explain them in comments below, or pass along a detailed formula to me, which I'll in turn provide to you in a later post. Nonetheless, here's Beau's top five to date for each team in each category:

Value Rating:

Alando Tucker: 10.32
Michael Flowers: 9.21
Brian Butch: 8.21
Joe Krabbenhoft: 8.13
Jason Chappell: 6.22

Dominic James: 9.57
Jerel McNeal: 9.03
Wesley Matthews: 8.90
Ousmane Barro: 8.67
Dan Fitzgerald: 6.23

Efficiency Rating

Alando Tucker: 4.42
Brian Butch: 2.55
Michael Flowers: .96
Joe Krabbenhoft: .83
Kammron Taylor: .77

Dominic James: 3.02
Jerel McNeal: 1.97
Wesley Matthews: 1.39
Ousmane Barro: .77
Lazar Hayward: .73

(For some historical perspective, the highest full-season efficiency rating in the last 10 years at Wisconsin is held by Devin Harris, who posted a 3.43 a few years back)

Based on all of this data, Beau tells me that he favors Marquette by 1.5 points. Putting the stats aside, though Beau predicts both Marquette winning by 4 points and Wisconsin winning by 8 points. Yep, like the rest of us, he has no idea how things are going to go.

Back tomorrow with some final thoughts before the big game. Assuming that I get my home heated, they may even be my own thoughts.


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