We are nearing the end of another college basketball season. It has been a strange one for me. While my output on RotoWire has been about the same (if not more) and I have had a pocketful of fantasy college basketball teams, I have watched fewer games than in most seasons. We cut the cable cord and I did not have my precious DVR. That said, I am excited about Saturday’s games and I am looking forward to providing my annual lone live blog for the contests between Gonzaga and South Carolina, then North Carolina and Oregon. I don’t have a strong rooting interest and did not pick a single Final Four team correctly (I had Duke, Kansas, UCLA, and Arizona. Oh well. If I had to choose, I would pick the Pacific Northwest in both contests. I predicted that Gonzaga would win a close contest against the Gamecocks. The Tar Heel-Duck game should be excellent. Join me this evening and feel free to tweet @PerryMissner if you’d like.
[Pre-Game Rant] For the most part, I have been able to ignore the 539 site and their charts upon charts. I have found myself obsessed by their win probabilities during NCAA tournament games. The charts automatically updated, so I can know who is supposed to win. I’ll keep you updated on the probabilities throughout the game. (North Carolina is only a 52% favorite to beat Oregon.) Gonzaga has been installed as a 69% favorite to win against South Carolina. In fact, the Bulldogs have a 42% chance to win the championship, which seems a bit high. Gonzaga has blown out a lot of opponents, including a big win over Xavier in the Elite Eight. If you were wondering how 538 makes their projections, the explanation is here. I like that Mark Few does not wear a tie.
[16:00 minute timeout] I wonder if Gonzaga is giong to be able to take advantage of South Carolina’s aggressive defense. A foul on Johnathan Williams who stuck his chin against Chris Silva’s elbow. I have always wondered how that is a foul. Nigel Williams-Goss looks completely in control. I didn’t think Przemek Karnowski would be effective against West Virginia, but he did pretty well and he just had a nifty pass in the interior to Zach Collins. South Carolina’s perimeter defenders are very strong. What they lack in height, they make up in width. Gonzaga has somehow improved their projection to a 71% chance to win. That is usually how first halves go, the percentage doesn’t change too much.
[12:00 minute timeout] Usually I don’t like when the networks monkey with camera angles, but I like this floating camera that offers a different perspective. Both teams are getting some good looks, but they aren’t going down. That’s college basketball for you. It seems like Karnowski should be able to bully his way in the paint, but I don’t think the game is really played that way. He is so much bigger than any of the South Carolina bigs. And now he is taking advantage. I wonder how many minutes Karnowski will play as he sits down. I am sure Nantz will keep me apprised of foul trouble. Silas Melson has a nice soft touch. Puts the Zags up six. Grant Hill tells us that the Gamecocks’ best player has to get more involved. That’s analysis! I love when teams go back and forth to miss the TV timeout. We are going to get two quick timeouts. There we go a timeout at 9:19. Gonzaga now at 74%. This looks like it is going to be a good game.
[8:00 minute timeout] Jon Hamm shows that anyone can be Colonel Sanders. I wonder if Charles, Spike, and Samuel are friends outside of the commercials. Karnowski is not really a mauler, even though he looks like one. 25 years ago, he’d be a lottery pick like Joe Kliene or Jon Koncak. When will start hearing more about Sindarius Thornwell’s illness. Gonzaga is aggressive offensively. That’s one way to attack the match-up zone. Ticky tack foul as we head into another break. Gonzaga is inching toward a win! Now at 76%.
[4:00 minute timeout] Where’s Thornwell? Is he sick? It is a good sign that South Carolina is keeping things close without him. I thought it might be goaltending against Karnowski as well, but the replay shows it was very close. South Carolina’s fanbase looks like the Trump cabinet. Excellent team offense from Gonzaga. Karnowski gets hit right in the face and is down. No jokes from Bill Raftery on that one. His dad wants a foul call. Karnowski looks to be in agony. Collins fails in his Kevin Love impersonation. Williams-Goss has been hitting tough shots. Huge pick by Williams leads to a layup. Thornwell have problems with the big Bulldog defenders. I thought Collins stepped out of bounds, but lays it in. Collins with a big block! He could have a breakout game if Karnowski is unable to return. Gonzaga moves up to 79% despite the four-point lead.
[Halftime] I’d rather hear Reggie Miller sing than announce a game. Karnowski headed to the lockerroom. Rakym Felder looks like a football player who is moonlighting on the hardcourt. Is it Nigel or Ni-jell? Gonzaga pushes the lead up to nine points. How does South Carolina respond? Is Terrence Malick making commercials for diamonds? Wedgie! Or neckball, as Raftery calls it. Gonzaga with a three at the buzzer. A little too late. One pass too many. South Carolina goes cold as we neared halftime. Karnowski goes out and the Zags go on a 14-5 run. Gonzaga is now at 89%! Do I even have to watch the second half? Yes, I do.
[16:00 minute timeout] Considering there is a 20-point difference in field goal percentage between the two teams (57.6% for the Zags, 37.1% for South Carolina), things could be worse for the Gamecocks. I believe in regression to the mean more than the gambler’s fallacy. Karnowski back on the floor. OK, if PJ Dozier’s dad is named Perry, I’ll allow him not to go by my name. The lead hasn’t changed yet, but Thornwell is starting to heat up. The tough Gamecock defense has not been a detriment to the Gonzaga offense. I like when Raftery says “short” when the ball is in the air. Williams-Goss takes a fall, but gets up. It looks like he might be ok. I think we’ll get two time outs in a row, which is the downside of play going on without whistles. Why don’t they ever show the man’s face in the Viagra ads? Bad offensive possession for Gonzaga, but Maik Kosart can’t get a grip on the ball as it plops out of bounds. Gonzaga is at 93% on the winning projection chart.
[12:00 minute timeout] It happens again – South Carolina unable to corral the defensive board. That’s just bad luck for the Gamecocks. Collins is much more polished offensively than Karnowski. Gonzaga had an offensive drought, but South Carolina was unable to put a dent in the lead. That’s not a good sign. Great pass to the interior, but Collins erases it. Matthews with a 3-pointer. Teams are hard to beat when they hit all of their 3-pointers. Or at least half of them. The percentage has been increasing slowly. Gonzaga pushes the percentage up to 97%.
[8:00 minute timeout] Can Grant Hill really order pizza from his shoes? I am not sure if he is kidding. If Williams-Goss wanted a plan, does that mean there wasn’t one at Washington? Perhaps that is not surprising. Karnowski doesn’t look like he should still be in college. Gamecocks making a minor rally. Thornwell makes a 3-pointer to cut the lead to six. 538 moves the percentage down to 88%. Being an idiotic fan is not crazy to Wendy’s. Karnowski’s plus-minus is not going to be good. South Carolina tuning up the defense. The game is going to be higher scoring than I thought it would be. Johnathan Williams should sit while Thornwell is out. He had been playing fine defense on the Gamecock scorer. Yes! We have a good game! I was a bit worried. Now Gonzaga is quite worried. Gonzaga down to 64% despite the tie game. You’d think it would be 50-50, but that is now how 538 rolls. South Carolina had Gonzaga right where they wanted them!
[4:00 minute timeout] Shots not falling for Gonzaga. South Carolina takes the lead. Will Gonzaga ever score again? Collins gets a lucky 3-pointer to get the lead back. Tough shot from Dozier and Gonzaga scores on a nice dish on the other end. I think Collins is better than Creighton’s Justin Patton, although draft wonks seem to disagree. Gonzaga has steadied the ship with seven straight points. The odds were 50-50 as South Carolina made their run, but Gonzaga is back to 86%. Karnowski sets massive screens. Gonzaga back to 90% and it feels like South Carolina has run out of gas. Maybe they have Gonzaga where they want them again.
[Final] Williams-Goss and Karnowski suffered injuries. If they win, I wonder if these injuries will affect the Zags in the final. If this game were longer, I’d give South Carolina a better shot because the Gonzaga bigs are getting in foul trouble. Gamecocks are going to run out of time. I don’t know why, but I have started rooting for South Carolina. Perhaps I just want the 538 odds to be wrong. Ugh, the dull review. South Carolina ball! Felder attacks the basket, but is out of control. 538 also has an excitement meter which is a 10-point scale. Thus far, this is a 3.9 because South Carolina hasn’t made a charge. Last minute. South Carolina does not foul. There are going to be less than 15 seconds reminaing. It turns out to be a good decision as Gonzaga does not score. I think Williams will guard Thornwell. Perkins fouls out with 3.5 seconds. South Carolina looked like they were emulating West Virginia again. Thornwell shooting free throws – I thought they had one to give. Great missed free throw! Tillie ices it. Gonzaga going to the Finals. Good effort from the Gamecocks.
[Pregame] I have watched Oregon play this season as much as any team. Every time I watch them Tyler Dorsey has a big game. He is a great offensive player. Dillon Brooks is also very good. While I hate to play into the CBS foul situation preponderance, I think Jordan Bell could be the key guy for the game. Can he stay on the court and battle the Tar Heel frontcourt? I have not been able to put my finger quite on why I kind of dislike North Carolina. Is it the cheating scandal? Michael Jordan? I don’t know. I think this will be a high-scoring game, but I thought the first game would be low scoring. What do I know? Not much.
[16:00 minute timeout] I love talk about foul trouble. Let’s get that talk started right away. Bell with a huge block. Brooks with an early offensive foul, then playing out of control on the break. Take a breath, Dillon! North Carolina looks bigger at every starting position. Oregon is having trouble on the boards. Brooks sits early with Bigby-Williams coming in. Bell has been a revelation on offense: two nice moves. Tar Heels have missed some easy looks. Grant Hill reminds us that valuing the basketball is important. North Carolina has bumped their percentage to 53%. Unless one team or the other takes a big lead, the percentage won’t change much.
[12:00 minute timeout] Benson can’t get through the wall of Tar Heels. Dylan Ennis takes a pair of long 3-pointers and misses them both. It may have been a good thing for Oregon that Berry made his first 3-pointer. Perhaps he’ll keep trying and missing, which negates the Tar Heel advantage in the paint; also makes for long rebounds. Maye takes advantage of the interior mismatch. Maye goes to the classroom? At North Carolina? Too many jokes… I think the student section is too far away from the basket to affect the free throw. Don’t let me stop you, North Carolina fans. Bad offensive possession for North Carolina – too much standing around. Tar Heels down to 51%! Pinson got a hit – I won’t watch the replay.
[8:00 minute timeout] Pinson seems to be ok after knee-to-knee contact. Uh oh – the game is unavailable due to technical difficulties. I may need to vamp for a minute. I’ll try to get back in. This is the downside of watching online, I guess. Yipes, still not ready. I may have to do a recap of ESPN’s play-by-play, which would be somewhat less exciting. Hmmm… more technical difficulties. I don’t think this is my system… And we’re back! Hey, Oregon has the lead! Offenses coming alive. Bell a little lucky not to pick up a charge on Seventh Woods. Oregon takes the 58% advantage on 538.
[4:00 minute timeout] Now the Duck offensive looks out of sync. Brooks and Benson have not scored. North Carolina needs to pound the ball inside. Perhaps that is easier said that done against the Duck zone. Brooks on the board on the Benson missed. Oregon has been more aggressive and it has resulted in eight fouls. Only four on the Ducks. First mention of Chris Boucher, out with a torn ACL. Bell stepped on someone’s foot. I don’t like watching injuries. Small lineup for the Ducks with Bell out. Ennis knocks down a pair of 3-pointers from the same spot. Ducks up eight. 73%! Can Oregon keep this up against the much bigger Tar Heels?
[Halftime] Hey, Tracy Wolfson, what’s up with Jordan Bell? Bell is back out there. He looks fine. Jackson with the pretty floater. Dorsey finally having a quiet game, but scores his first point with three minutes remaining. Big dunk from Hicks. Big block from Ennis! It is for naught as Benson gets the foul. Did Raftery just make a fart joke? Barkley clearing things out with his derriere? Meeks is just in the right place for easy baskets. I think the Wonder Woman movie should have sprung for Led Zeppelin. Bell forcing the pass on the baseline. Jackson with another floater. Tar Heel turn to turn up the defense. North Carolina goes on a 17-6 swing and goes into halftime as the 62% favorite. This game has a 5.2 excitement index.
[16:00 minute timeout] The downside of Bell’s shotblocking ability is that he leaves Meeks open. I am starting to get sleepy – two games is a lot of basketball. I need some exciting plays to keep me awake and fully engaged. Ennis takes advantage of the match up for the layup. North Carolina pushes their advantage to eight points and 80% of 538. This game is over! Wait, is this game over? More technical difficulties. I get watch twice as many ads because of technical difficulties. Duck offense is stagnant. Meeks has equaled his season high with 20 points. His career high is 25 points.
[12:00 minute timeout] The threes aren’t falling for Oregon, even when they get open looks. The Ducks are aggressively attacking in the past couple of possessions. It wouldn’t hurt to get some fouls on Meeks. Swirling innuendo on academic fraud? Oh boy. It’s so unfair that it is hanging over the North Carolina program. Oh oh boy. College sports are the worst. Jackson could be a 3-and-D guy in the NBA. He is kind of thin. Jackson might be putting this game away. I thought the first game was actually a bit more exciting, particularly in the second half. We need a Duck run as the Tar Heels move their winning projection into the 80s. Now, right at 80%.
[8:00 minute timeout] Dorsey wakes me up with a deep 3-pointer. Oregon down just four points. Hicks is the anti-Meeks. Meeks and Jackson are back on the court as Oregon narrows the lead. North Carolina’s two-man act will not work against Gonzaga. They will need more balance. Ennis has been very aggressive, scores again. Brooks is bad on defense. Berry is the anti-Jackson. Brooks hits the floor hard. North Carolina goes to 92%. Maybe I can go to bed early?
[4:00 minute timeout] Nah, I’ll stay up until the bitter end. I don’t have to get up early tomorrow, even though I’ll have to write my Gonzaga finals preview for RotoWire in the morning. What do you think Gonzaga’s intangibles are? A couple of Oregon baskets narrow the lead to six, but Britt hits a layup. Oregon has a lot of interesting tattoos. After the scrum, Berry hits his second shot of the game, a second 3-pointer. A couple of missed 3-pointers for the Ducks. I hope Brooks doesn’t fall out because he has been known to hit a game-winning 3-pointer or two. Oregon hitting just 14.3% of their 3-pointers in the second half. Bradley is wearing pink shoes. The Tar Heels hold onto a five-point lead heading into the last TV timeout. There is only a 10% chance that Oregon will win. So I am saying there is a chance.
[Final] Nothing excites Nantz more than foul trouble. Nothing. Brooks misses a long 3-pointer. He has confidence! Sometimes it is irrational – maybe all the time. Tar Heels break the press and Brooks fouls out. There is going to be plenty of size in the Finals. I hope the Gonzaga injuries sustained in the Final Four win do not affect their chances. Maybe I’ll be back to a live blog of the Finals this year. Eh, the game starts at 8PM and I have to work the next day. Perhaps I’ll just watch. I don’t think Oregon can win without Brooks. Despite the 3-pointer by Dorsey, North Carolina is now a 92% favorite. Oregon needs just one stop. Well, this is exciting! Pinson sneaks in for the offensive rebound after Meeks misses both free throws. Another offensive rebound on a missed free throw seals the game. Ugh. That’s a bad way to go – the Ducks didn’t even get a shot. Two Final Four games decided by five points combined. Not a bad way to spend an evening. G’night, everybody!