Sunday, December 3, 2023

Montgomery YMCA, VCU Franklin Street Gym and Brushes With Hoops Hero Memories in New Great Teams

A couple of the newest great teams added to the Value AddBasketball Game included a personal connection with a couple of new player cards int he game. We posted pictures of all the new player cards here. We track all scores between our 184 great teams from the reigning UConn champs to the 1943 champs from Wyoming. More than 71,000 unique sports simulation fans have visited the free game.

Mississippi State’s 2005 team that destroyed Stanford in the NCAA tournament before losing to Duke included great 3-point shooter Jamall Edmondson, who was my teammate a few years later when we won the Montgomery YMCA championships. Calvin Duncan from VCU’s 1985 championship team was the star in a win over Steph Curry’s dad and #16 Virginia Tech – a game I watched in person not realizing I was so excited to be there I had left my car running outside the Richmond Coliseum the entire couple of hours.

The reason for the new teams to take us to 184  was a discovery this weekend ...

On the day of the SEC Football Championship that would put Alabama in the football playoffs, I discovered I accidentally did not have all-time great basketball teams in place for four of the SEC schools – both Mississippi schools, Vanderbilt and Texas A&M. My apologies. I double checked again all 80 schools scheduled to have a team in the one of the Power Conferences after the 2024 alignment, and realized I also did not have a Big East Providence team in the game.

Since five is an odd number of teams, I also added the likely the greatest “Mid-Major” team not yet in the game, the 11th ranked VCU squad that won a game in their 3rd straight NCAA tournament in 1985. I put all six teams in a tournament with two teams who had just had card adjustments when the block ranges were adjusted for Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell, to form the following 8-team tournament so that all 184 teams will have played a game once we play these four.

Here are the match-ups and we explain what the numbers mean at the bottom of the blog.

Match-ups in our 8-team tournament to try out all my new cards: 

1-seed vs. 8-seed

#54/#20 - Kansas - 1957 - Wilt Chamberlain (1-1, ave score 67.5-74.0), Rating 1.2 vs.

#170/#174 - Mississippi St. - 2005 - Lawrence Roberts (0-0) Rating -10.0

While the ratings of +1.2 to -10 indicates Wilt Chamberlain’s 1957 National Runner-up squad would be about and 11-point favorite against the 2005 Mississippi squad, I could see this match-up giving MSU a chance if you could really play the game.

Mississippi State did have two 7-footers in Marcus Campbell and Wesley Morgan, which would let them foul Wilt 10 times to send him to the line where he was human at 62%.

More importantly with Wilt being one of four players in history with the best block range in the game, the 65 and 66 dice rolls reject only 2-point shots, so the fact that Jamall Edmondson has one of the best 3-points made range in the game (1-5 on the 20-sided die) and Winsome Frazier shot a lot more and had almost as good a range (1-4) including hitting 6 of 8 three-pointers to destroy Stanford 93-70 in March Madness you could see them getting hot.

Jamall’s favorite play in our YMCA championship occurred when I cut to the hoop for one of his always perfect passes, but he lobbed the ball too high – I thought … It turned out the lob was actually for one of our other teammates who was a foot above me cutting from the other side for an alley-oop dunk.

As for our 1-seed in this tournament, Wilt was stopped from winning the title by two coaches with Marquette ties. UNC’s Frank McGuire forced  Kansas into turnovers to hold them to only 53 points in a 3-overtime game for the 54-53 win in the 1957 championship game. The next year former Marquette coach Tex Winter used a triple team against Wilt including telling the team all three needed to follow Chamberlain everywhere he went, even (he joked) to the rest room to give K-State a big upset. Back then you had to win your conference to go to the tournament, so that loss in the regular season left #7 ranked Kansas out of the tournament in Wilt’s only other year as K-State went to the Final Four.

The winner of that game will get the winner of our 4-seed vs. 5-seed game:

#85/#74 - Providence - 1987 - Billy Donovan (0-0), Rating -1.0 vs.

#74/#86 - Texas A&M - 2007 - Acie Law   (0-0), Rating -2.0.

Our middle game features an unbelievable offense directed by two of the greatest coaches ever – Rick Pitino and his point guard and future coach Billy Donovan. Their SRS was lower than most great teams in the game, but then they made an incredible Final Four run with one of the best offenses ever.

Texas A&M is almost the opposite, a dominant defense that ground teams down and made every shot tough, and won at least one game in six straight NCAA tournaments as a model of consistency, including this team that went to the Sweet 16.


2-Seed vs 7-Seed

#74/#45 - San Francisco - 1956 - Bill Russell (0-1, ave score 67-74), Rating +1.0 vs.

#113/#146 -  Mississippi - 2002 - Justin Reed (0-0), Rating -6.0.

Wilt’s old foe the great Bill Russell also has one of the four greatest shot-blocking cards and did lose their one Value Add Basketball Game against the great Arizona 2015 team, where they fell short 67-74.

Justin Reed rolled in as a rare 5-star recruit for Mississippi, and in this first freshman season was the go-to guy who took the Rebels to one of only two Sweet 16s in their history and one of only two times they finished the season ranked in the top 20. Reed stayed all four years before going onto the NBA.

The winner of that game faces one of the following two teams, including one I know very well:

3-seed vs 6 Seed

#80/#73 - Vanderbilt - 1993 - Bill McCaffrey (0-0), Rating -1.0 vs.

#125/#135 - VCU - 1985 - Calvin Duncan (0-0), Rating -5.0.

Bill McCaffrey’s transfer from Duke to Vanderbilt as a former McDonald’s All-American ignited an incredible offense that averaged 83 points per game and a Sweet 16 run.  Bill clearly brought great genes to the court as his brother Ed won three Super Bowls with the Broncos.

I grew up a mile from VCU’s court as an avid fan, and years later would once score 31 points in their gym as the state’s Republican legislative aides beat the Democratic legislative aides 52-51 with refs and a scoreboard at Franklin Street Gym.

Calvin Duncan led VCU to opening round wins in three straight NCAA tournaments and gave scares to big conference teams in the second round each year – battling near the end against Georgia, Syracuse and Alabama in consecutive years but falling short of a Sweet 16. It was a lockdown defense and patience offense that held teams to 62 points per game. With all respect to the stunning VCU run under Shaka Smart 25 years later, this was by far the greatest team in VCU history – finishing the season ranked 11th in the country, 12 points ahead of any other VCU team.

In Marquette intramurals I wore a "Cal" jersey, and once checked into the student health center on the way to a game to check out my ankles and knees. I was told to never play basketball again because at 20 years old my knee cartilage was already so worn. I took my crutches, walked five blocks to the gym, laid the crutches by the court and scored 21 points despite not being able to jump on my shots, and picked the crutches up and hobbled back home to throw ice in our tub and am still playing league ball at 58 years old.

VCUs coach JD Barnett focused the team on average points per trip down the court – basically fi 10guring out stats 17 years before they were calculated.

They were also ahead of their time with a stretch forward in 6-foot-8 Mike Schlegel who could pop out and hit what would later become a 3-pointer. Point guard Rolando Lamb battled Steph Curry’s dad Del for a win in the game I mentioned above watching without realizing I’d left my keys in the car. VCU closed the regular season by traveling to Memphis and battling them until near the end- a great showing that looked every better when Memphis went to the Final Four.

While no VCU player went to the NBA, Duncan was drafted but chose to join Athletes in Action, a Christian Group that played games to give their testimony at halftime. One NBA exec commented that they knew he was a good guy, but not THAT good. He is the pastor of Faith and Family Church in Richmond, Virginia.

This Sports Illustrated Story calculates Duncan hit 16 of 28 from 3-point range, and recounts him taking it inside to score on 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson in a narrow 69-63 loss at #1 UVa. Their two points loss to Georgia in the second round on the NCAA was the only close game in Georgia's run to the Final 4 that year.

Explanation for making the cards:

For each match-up we list the team’s current rank among the all-time Value Add Basketball Game teams, followed by the rank based just on where we rank them based on how good their cards are. So Kansas is ranked #54 all-time now after starting 1-1, but we actually rank them as having the #20 best cards in the game. 

The “rating” after each team indicates how many points better or worse, we rank the team than the “average” great team. Understand the “average” great team is based on a team that is about +17 points better than the average team and made it to the Elite 8. We start with the SRS (Simple Rating System) based on scores and competition, then adjust up for a team that went past the Elite 8 or subtract for teams that did not make it that far, and we also adjust up for teams that provide thei were legit with multiple tournament runs.

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