Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring Training Round 2

I had wanted to get to Yankees Spring Training for quite some time, and last year I finally got down there and had a great time. With this week marking what will likely be my last official school Spring Break, I am taking advantage and heading down to Tampa Bay for the second year in a row.

Last year, with the entire experience being new, I felt like it was kind of a blur because I wanted to make sure I saw everything. This year I'm looking forward to going and not feeling like I need to see anything, kicking back and locking in on baseball. I should see either Sabathia or Hughes/Nova start, and I'm hoping Montero will be in the lineup and that at least one of Banuelos/Brackman/Betances will pitch out of relief.

It's a night game this time around which also gives it a little extra juice for me. I'm a modernist in that I strongly prefer night baseball to day baseball. Considering this will be the first night game I've ever attended where there will be absolutely nothing on the line, I'm looking forward to soaking in some March baseball. Good to have this game back again with Opening Day barely more than two weeks away.

All of this said, clearly this game will not be my primary sports focus this week. That will be occurring Thursday at 9:45 PM when The Johnnies square off with Gonzaga in the 1st (Now 2nd? Whatever.) Round of the NCAA's. It's good to be back no matter what seed, but I'm not exactly going out on a limb in saying SJU got worked a little bit here at a 6 seed. WVU, Arizona, Vanderbilt, and KSU were the 5 seeds. You could make a case that none of them deserved to be seeded higher than SJU, let alone all four.

I understand that seeding is a very imperfect science, especially when you are dealing with seeds that are only one spot apart. I also understand that seeding mistakes are never as important as in/out mistakes, and this year was awful in that regard (UAB and VCU, seriously?). Finally, I understand that me saying this seems like sour grapes. But the difference of one seed can impact moving on versus not. So let's just look at WVU, the "top" 5 seed according to the S-curve methodology the committee employs. WVU's SOS was #3 compared to SJU's #10, certainly better but both are elite. WVU's RIP was #21 to SJU's #26, both similarly very good. SJU had one more win on the season, finished ahead of them in conference play, and had more quality wins. Even if we call that even, SJU beat them IN MORGANTOWN. I understand the slightly tougher SOS, but come on now. If two teams from the same conference have similar resumes, and one team beat the other on the road, shouldn't that team get the nod? Especially when that team also beat two different #1 seeds, the only team in America to do so?

Just wanted to get that out there. Really not the most important thing however. Bad seed? Yes. Tough location in Denver in a bracket with to West Coast teams in Gonzaga and BYU? Yes. Pretty good matchups? Also yes, and that is what's most important. The committee had them one seed to low, but did them a solid in terms of their road. These certainly aren't easy games, it's just a matter of it being relative. Gonzaga is a great team with a great coach who knows what they are doing in this tournament, but the other 11 seeds are Marquette (who beat 5 seed West Virginia last week), Missouri, and USC/VCU winner. BYU has one of, if not the best player in the country and has done a lot of winning this year, but the other 3 seeds are Syracuse, UConn, and Purdue.

St. John's is going to have their hands full with Gonzaga and they'll have their hands full with BYU if they get past Gonzaga, but they would have had their hands full with any of these teams. I think these are pretty good matchups for SJU, relatively speaking. Losing D.J. Kennedy really hurts, and your heart goes out to a guy like that who plays his tail off for four years, finally gets to the NCAA Tournament as a senior and then can't play. Hopefully the team can rally around him and make a tournament run.

Go St. John's. Everyone have a great week.


Anonymous said...


You may be upset that St. John's only got a six seed, but they are in the weakest bracket and you have to be excited about that. Pittsburgh? What's the stat out there? No team that's lost it's first conference tournament game has gone on to win the NCAA tournament, right? And St. John's has beaten them anyway. Florida is inflated because the SEC was down this year, and BYU lost it's second best player. That bracket is open anyway, and could be even more open by the end of the first weekend.

The bracket that should be the most exciting is Ohio State's--Syracuse, Ohio State, North Carolina, and Kentucky are all right there and none of those teams would be a huge surprise if they made the Final Four.

The other really open bracket is Duke's. They're good, no question, but they don't even have their best player and have shown vulnerability in losing to Virginia Tech and Florida State. Outside of them, it's San Diego State (and who would really be shocked if they lost in the second round to either Temple or Penn State?), UConn (very hot, but probably would have been a 5/6 seed if not for their amazing conference tournament run) and a quickly fading Texas team.

--the Gunn

Patrick said...

Gunn -

Absolutely no doubt about it. Of course, as I said in my post "weak" is all relative, because as we know in this tournament unexpected scenarios develop (and I don't mean to point that out to be Captain Obvious). But is definitely the most favorable on paper. When watching the selection special unfold I was irate at the seeding, but would rather have a worse seed with good matchups than a better seed with bad matchups. The thing that concerns me most is actually location. An east coast team going west to play west coast teams, and then you have to deal with the altitude of Denver against teams used to that altitude. That said these teams have to deal with a team that just finished a Big East schedule and are not going to be used to this level of physicality and defensive pressure. SJU needs to hope for some combination of Big East, Big 10, or SEC refs who will let them play so that they can really play their style. West Coast refs have no idea how to deal with Big East teams as we saw when SJU played UCLA and the Bruns made 27 free throws to The Johnnies' 5. Its tough that these things factor in, but it's a reality and coulld play a big part in this game Thursday agaisnt Gonzaga. Oddly, the Zags are big but don't have great guard play, obviously unusual for Point Guard U. If SJU is allowed to be physical with their guards the way our guards like to be they will have a tough time setting things up inside, which is clearly what they want to do. SJU has had a week off, something they eeded dearly with so many guys playing so many minutes in conference play. If they have their legs back, and Hardy has that little extra bounce in his step, the Johnnies could make some things happen Thursday because I doubt Gonzaga has anyone of the caliner of 1st Team All-Big East Hardy. Always helps to have the best player on the floor, especially when he's rested.