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Just The Sports: 2007-03-25

Just The Sports

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Bad News For UCLA

Similarities abound between last year's contest pitting the University of Florida Gators against the University of California at Los Angeles Bruins and this year's game featuring the same combatants and not simply because the cast of players for both teams is largely identical. The two teams will be facing each other at similar points in their season efficiency-wise, both offensively and defensively, which means that UCLA will be fighting another uphill battle to defeat the Gators.

Last season when the two teams met, the Gators held the advantage when it came to offensive efficiency. The two teams were virtual mirror images of each other on the defensive side of the ball, with Florida holding their opponents to 93.7 points per 100 possessions and UCLA only allowing their foes to score 93.6 points per 100 possessions. However, UCLA was no match for Florida on offense. Florida had scored 116.3 points per 100 possessions, 7.5 more points per 100 possessions than the Bruins' 108.8 points per 100 possessions. That advantage held out for the Gators as they won the national championship by 16 points.

This season, unfortunately for the Bruins, it is more of the same. Again, the two teams are each other's equals defensively, with Florida allowing 93.9 points per 100 possessions and UCLA giving up 93.7 points per 100 possessions. As you can see, each team has maintained a level of defensive consistency over the past two seasons. Offensively, each has improved from last season to this season, but the Gators have done so at a higher level than the Bruins. Instead of only scoring 116.3 points per 100 possessions, they are now scoring 119.6 points per 100 possessions; the Bruins have increased from 108.8 points per 100 possessions to 110.7 points per 100 possessions, impressive but most likely not enough. Given the advantage the Gators hold, if each team plays the way they have all season, the Gators should emerge from the game victorious.

Of course, games are not played on paper so the Bruins may very well walk away with the win and find themselves in the national championship game for the second year in a row. What they must bank on is a superb game from themselves and a lackluster performance from Florida. Florida, on the other hand, can handle the Bruins' best punch and still send them back to Los Angeles two days earlier than the Bruins would like.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant's last five games where he has averaged 53.6 points per game while attempting 34.6 field goals per game has some in the media opining that the Lakers have the best chance of success, also known as winning, if Bryant continues to play in this type of selfish manner. For them, the fact Bryant has been accountable for 41.9% of the Lakers' field goal attempts over the most recent five contests provides further evidence not for why he is a human black hole on the basketball court, but for why he deserves more than simply passing consideration for league MVP. If only it were that simple that the more shots Bryant takes, the better the Lakers do.

Finding out how many shots Bryant took during the course of the game will provide no clues toward discovering whether or not the Lakers were victorious. In actuality, Bryant has averaged 22.5 field goal attempts per game in wins and 21.2 field goal attempts per game in losses, a minor difference. The prudent and revealing question to ask is not how many times did Bryant launch the ball towards the rim, but what percentage of those shots actually went through the hoop. Therein lies the significant differences.

When the Lakers won with Bryant on the floor, Bryant had a 61.7 TS%, scored 1.23 points per shot attempt, and even found time to have a 9.1 rebound rate. His efficient shooting in turn helped him average 33.4 points per game. Conversely, in the Lakers' losses, he has only had a 55.5 TS%, 1.11 points per shot attempt, 28.1 points per game, and only a 7.7 rebound rate. Quantity matters not when it comes to using Bryant's stat line to predict the outcome of a Lakers game. Only quality does.


Aaron Rodgers

Whether or not the Green Bay Packers choose to realize it, they are in possession of the crown jewel of Jeff Tedford's quarterbacks, one who goes by the name of Aaron Rodgers. That is why if the Raiders had been able to Jedi mind trick the Packers into giving up Rodgers for a malcontent receiver in Randy Moss who is only able to run one route, it would have been a great trade coup. Yet, I'm sure for some, the labeling of Aaron Rodgers as the best of the quarterbacks coached by Jeff Tedford is not enough to convince them that Rodgers will actually turn out to be a proper NFL starting quarterback.

All of the criticism Tedford has received for the quarterbacks he coached in college turning into NFL busts is undeserved. His job is not to ensure his quarterbacks succeed at the NFL level as his salary is not commensurate upon how well they perform once they leave his teachings. As long as Akili Smith, Joey Harrington, Kyle Boller, and Aaron Rodgers were successful under Tedford's watch, he was completing all the bullet points on his job description, which is really the crux of the matter.

Besides Rodgers, none of the quarterbacks were actually excellent quarterbacks under Tedford, although to be fair, he was only able to coach Smith and Boller for one year apiece. Rodgers was the only one to complete above 60% of his passes in the seasons he had under Tedford's tutelage and his completion percentage with Tedford as coach of 63.7% (when attempting the most passes or throwing for the most passing yards for his team) was statistically significantly better than Harrington's (54.9%)and Boller's (53.6%) and was almost that much better than Smith (58.0%). This means when Rodgers is finally handed a starting quarterback mantle, he should not experience the same sort of failures as these three other Tedford quarterbacks who were also drafted in the first round.

Since Tedford has been relieved of the blame for these quarterbacks' struggles, it must be reassigned to someone and those someones who are to blame for turning Smith, Harrington, and Boller into first-round busts are the NFL teams who drafted them in those positions. Everyone, most importantly those who are paid to make NFL personnel decisions, should know never to draft a quarterback in the first-round or any subsequent round who didn't even complete 60% of his collegiate pass attempts.

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