Yes, today is not only St. Patrick's Day, but also the day you need to fill out your basketball brackets for the office - which also makes it the one day a year most of you get a sports email from me.
Last night after wading through the Madison Square Garden confetti drop blocks from where the Empire State Building was lit up for the Big East tournament, I interviewed Villanova's Phil Booth about defending the second hottest player in the country on the last second shot that decided the Big East title. I then ran the calculations at www.valueaddbasketball.com (which you can click on to sort by teams) to update the rankings on all 4,000 players and put together the grid below of each team from the March Madness basketball brackets, with explanations and details on my interviews below the table to help you use this to to fill out your brackets even if its the only time all year you pay attention to college basketball.
Third and perhaps most important is the injury report. A negative numbers shows how much of a team's Value Add is with players they lost for the season, so the bigger the negative number the worse - and Kansas,Oregon and Michigan State are among the teams who lost major players. Finally we list the number of NBA prospects on the team (7 for Duke, none for Abilene), Top 100 players (three for Duke and none for Abilene) and and top 400 players (in the top 10% of all players) which includes seven Duke players and just Maxwell for Abilene. I'm comparing Duke to Abilene party because the Abilene fans were waving signs last night in jest saying Zion was scared of Abilene, but in other cases you might see a match-up that makes you think upset.
For example, Seton Hall is just 48th based on their team Value Add link, and only 51st in NBA talent based on one prospect Myles Powell. However, Powell is the second hottest player in the country behind Williamson, rising almost 20 spots in the rankings during the Big East tournament and is now the 8th best player in the country, and if you couple on unstoppable player like that on a team that started the year by beating Kentucky and finished by beating Marquette twice and falling just short of beating Villanova for a second time to claim the Big East title.
After meeting with Powell and doing a story on him a few days ago (see Western Journal story here), I tracked down Villanova's two-time national champion Phil Booth in the locker room last night to ask about the perfect defense he played when Powell got the ball with a few seconds left to try a game-winning shot.
"We practice contesting and not fouling in those situations for hours and hours. Powell can make ANY shot so you just need to get as tight on him as you can to try to make it as hard as you can," Booth told me, before I asked what he honestly thought would happen when Powell let go of the shot, and he continued. "Man, it looked like it was going in when I turned around." It hit centimeters too deep on the rim and bounced out, the difference between a 75-74 Seton Hall championship and the actual 74-72 Villanova win.
Have fun with your bracket! - John Pudner