Friday, February 13, 2009

Onwards and upwards

Not too terribly much to report from the Auburn women's 81-69 home win over Kentucky last night. The Tigers led by as many as 23 in the first half and 20 at the break, understandably started thinking about what toppings they wanted on their celebratory postgame pizza, and let the Wildcats back into it before coasting to the finish. The outcome, as they say, was never in doubt.

The best part was this little anecdote from Whitney "Steve Nash of the Plains" Boddie:
Assisting is usually Boddie's game, so she really wasn't surprised what she heard bringing the ball up court.

"The whole game I heard their coach saying, 'Back off, she's not going to shoot,'" Boddie said.

But Boddie shot 13 times, hitting nine of them.
LOLZ. Final line: 20 points, 10 assists. Well done, coach.

If the 24-1 record and top-5 ranking is probably the easiest reason to like this team, and the unselfishness and team focus of players like Boddie (who now leads the nation in assists) might be the best one, their honesty in front of the microphone might be another. Gene Chizik his own self stopped by to deliver the pregame pep talk, which drew this reaction from Boddie:
"That was so tight when he came in," said senior guard Whitney Boddie, who had 20 points and 10 assists. "My eyes were all big. He gave us a really good speech. I don't know if he practiced it. I was fired up. It might have had something to do with that first half."

What did he say?

"He talked about Triple-A," Boddie said. "Don't ask me what that means."

"Anyone, anywhere, anytime," teammate DeWanna Bonner interjected from the next microphone at the dais.

"See, DeWanna was listening," Boddie said with a laugh.
Awesome. Equally awesome was Fortner's reaction: she called it "coach-speak" and said that one of the best parts about it was proving to the team that her staff's speeches aren't all that different from the speeches the football teams get on fall Saturdays. I'm telling you, this team's more honest than Jimmy Carter.

Of course, honesty won't count for much Sunday when they travel to Starkville. The Bulldogs are riding a three-game winning streak that includes home takedowns of Vandy and LSU and a road pounding of Ole Miss. It's a game that's at least as dangerous as the trip to Georgia. There's not going to be any 23-point leads and halfhearted cruising in that one.

Which'll be fine. Analyzing postgame quotes is fun. But analyzing why the Tigers beat a good team on the road is better.

Bracketology update. It takes a big man to admit his mistake, and even if he doesn't come right out and say it, the fact that ESPN brackets guy Charlie Creme--most recently seen on this site getting a metaphorical earful for his decision to rank Auburn eighth on that week's S-Curve--has since bumped Auburn up to a No. 1 seed despite accomplishing nothing more substantial than the totally-expected rout at Alabama means he's at least big enough to admit and correct this one. It probably helped that Louisville and Duke both bit the dust in less-than-impressive fashion, but Cal didn't lose and Creme had them as the fourth No. 1 the week before. As I said: merely a needed correction, even if there's probably some Golden Bears blogger out there somewhere pounding out his own "Up Yours, Charlie" post as we speak.

Incidentally, the ratings agree. Mostly. Now, to be up front and honest about things, it's not particularly encouraging for future NCAA Tournament results that Jeff Sagarin's ratings place Auburn 11th overall, with the "Predictor" sub-rating (the one that serves as the closest thing we've got to the Pomeroy ratings for the men) ranking Auburn 16th. Basically, what it's saying is that if Auburn was quite as good as their poll ranking or record suggests, they'd be blowing out lesser SEC teams by more than just the 15 points or so they usually do, a la UConn's or Oklahoma's regular beatdowns of the dregs of the Big East or Big 12. Though I think there good reasons to expect Auburn to outperform that ranking--seniors like Boddie and Bonner shouldn't be as fazed by March pressure as younger players on other teams, the team clearly gets more bored and distracted than it should playing a team like Kentucky, against the two other teams in the SEC that matter Auburn won by a total of 30 points, etc.--I can't take Pomeroy's stuff as seriously as I do and ignore this out-of-hand. Hey, so maybe the Tigers are one the best 10 or so teams in the country rather than one of the best two or three. Big deal. We'll settle it on the court in March.

The biggest point to make here is that how "good" Auburn is has nothing to do with the quality of what they've accomplished. That's what determines who gets the privilege of showing up on the top line of the bracket, and even Sagarin's ELO-CHESS rating--yes, the same one you might remember from the BCS, which throws out margin-of-victory entirely and focuses solely on strength-of-schedule and victories--slides Auburn all the way up to sixth. A similar kind of ranking based on chess's computer ratings puts Auburn at fourth. Throw in a bonus for winning a league title, as Auburn should, and there's no real way to argue that Auburn doesn't have the inside track on a No. 1 seed as long as they continue to win.


Hobbes said...

Good job by the Chiznick. Of course I am sure he's waiting until SEC tourney time to give his motivational speeches to the men's team.

jd said...

Hobbes -

A phone conversation a couple of weeks ago...

Chiz: Hello?
Lebo: Hi, Gene, this is Jeff Leb-
Lebo: Hello? Hello?

Jerry Hinnen said...

NICE, jd.

A united method said...

cs lewis tie-in (post title) w00t

Jan said...

Actually, the Lewis quote is "further IN & further up"... but close... :)