Found March 27, 2013 on Juiced Sports Blog:
Tom Izzo’s first Final Four experience in 1999 was not a good one. The young Michigan State coach led his No. 2 ranked Spartans to the national semifinals in the decrepit Tropicana Dome in St. Petersburg, where they had the misfortune to be matched up against Mike Krzyzewski’s No. 1 ranked Duke Blue Devils. Michigan State couldn’t cope with Elton Brand (18 points, 15 rebounds) that night. A year later, Izzo would win the national championship with basically the team that lost to Duke in St. Pete. That triumph would help propel Izzo to the top ranks of the collegiate coaching profession. He would come to be renowned as the best postseason coach in the business. Is that renown justified? Well, when Krzyzewski’s Blue Devils beat Izzo’s Spartans in 1999, no one would have dared compare Izzo to Krzyzewski. At the time, the Duke coach had two national titles and eight Final Fours to Izzo’s one Final Four – and that one head-to-head meeting. So, when it comes to career accomplishment, Izzo can’t touch Coach K. But is there a point where Izzo has overtaken Krzyzewski as the best NCAA Tournament coach? Is he the best over the last 10 years? In this century? Over the last five years? It seems to me that the best place to measure Izzo’s stature is to start in 2000, the first year of this century, when the Michigan State coach won his first (and still only) NCAA title. If we track his NCAA record since that year, compared to Coach K, we get:   Year Izzo Krzyzewski 2000 6-0 NCAA champs 2-1 Sweet 16 2001 4-1 Final Four 6-0 NCAA champs 2002 0-1 2-1 Sweet 16 2003 3-1 Elite Eight 2-1 Sweet 16 2004 0-1 4-1 Final Four 2005 4-1 Final Four 2-1 Sweet 16 2006 0-1 2-1 Sweet 16 2007 1-1 0-1 2008 2-1 Sweet 16 1-1 2009 5-1 Final Four (runnerup) 2-1 Sweet 16 2010 4-1 Final Four 6-0 NCAA champs 2011 1-1 2-1 Sweet 16 2012 2-1 Sweet 16 0-1 2013 2-0 Sweet 16 2-0 Sweet 16   So what do we get when we compare the two coaching giants head-to-head in this century?   K has two national titles to Izzo’s one   Izzo has five Final Fours to K’s three   K has 11 Sweet 16s to Izzo’s nine   Both have lost in the first round twice   Izzo has lost in the second round twice to K’s once   Izzo had 34 NCAA wins to K’s 33   K has a better NCAA winning percentage — .750 (33-11) to Izzo’s .739 (34-12)   So which has been the better NCAA coach in this century? I should point out that Izzo is 1-0 against Coach K in NCAA play during this span. His Spartans beat Duke in the 2005 Sweet 16 round in Austin. Tx. It’s also worth noting that K is 4-1 head-to-head against Izzo since 2000 – the lone loss coming in that 2005 NCAA matchup. One other curiosity. K and Izzo have been the Final Four together three times (counting 1999) and Duke has lasted longer on each occasion. In fact, both of Coach K’s national titles in this century have come in years when Izzo’s Spartans also made the Final Four … but lost in the semifinals. I think the reason that Izzo has acquired such a reputation for postseason success has to do with the bigger gap between his regular season success and his NCAA success. Duke has been ranked No. 1 four times in this period and in the top 10 13 times. Michigan State has not been the final No. 1 team in this century, The Spartans have been top 10 four times (this year is a fifth). But it’s not like Izzo’s best NCAA teams have come out of nowhere. The 2000 MSU team that won the title was ranked No. 2 and the team that reached the 2001 Final Four was No. 3. The 2005 Final Four team was ranked No. 15. The 2009 Final Four team was No. 8 and the 2010 team was No. 13 in the final AP poll. For the record, K’s three Final Four teams in this century were ranked No. 1 (the 2001 champs), No. 6 (2004) and No. 3 (the 2010 champs). Duke was ranked No. 6 in the final 2013 AP poll, while Michigan State was ranked No. 9. It’s not like either of these teams is a Cinderella candidate or that either coach has a significant edge on the other in recent years – although if you compare careers, Izzo is still far behind Duke’s Coach K.. THE RYAN KELLY EXPERIENCE We all know that the 36-point performance that Ryan Kelly turned in against Miami in his first game back after missing almost seven weeks with a foot injury was something of a miracle. We didn’t expect to see that kind of performance again. On the other hand, we might have hoped for something like he was averaging before the injury – 14 points or so a game and just over five rebounds. But after a strong 18-point effort against Virginia Tech on Senior Night, Kelly has been an offensive no-show. He had eight points against both UNC and Maryland (shooting a combined 5-of-15 from the floor; 0-6 from 3-point range). The 6-11 senior was even worse – offensively – in Philadelphia. He had 8 points (on 3-for-8 shooting) against Albany and one point against Creighton. For the weekend, he was 3-of-13 from the floor and 0-4 from 3-point range. Since the Virginia Tech game, Kelly has missed 20 of 28 shots – including all 10 of his 3-point attempts. Obviously, Kelly is in an offensive slump. But against that, there are some signs that his defensive prowess is on the mend. Early in the season, Kelly was Duke’s most effective (and underappreciated) defender. He had a lot to do with the 2-of-11 night by Louisville’s Chase Behanan and the 6-for-14 night for Ohio State All-Americas DeShaun Thomas. He was kryptonite to a number of lesser power forwards. But Kelly’s defensive excellence did not return immediately after he returned from his injury. Miami’s Kenny Kadji had a strong game (17 points on 7-of-13 shooting) against him. UNC offered a different kind of problem with wing guard P.J. Hairston playing the four. Was Kelly responsible for Hairston’s poor night in Chapel Hill (12 points, but 4-of-12 from the floor; 1-of-6 from 3-point range)? Yet, if Kelly could stop Hairston, why did he have so much trouble against Maryland freshman Jake Layman, who burned Duke for two crucial 3-pointers (and was a solid 3-of-6 from the floor)? Kelly didn’t have a great matchup against Albany, although he did hold 6-6 Sam Rowley (who was used more as a guard than a forward) to 3-of-9 shooting. More significantly, Kelly showed his prowess as a help defender. He was credited with three blocks and two steals and seemed to have a lot to do with the fact that the Great Danes shot a woeful 29.4 percent from 2-point range. Obviously, Creighton offered Kelly his toughest defensive test of the season – 6-8 junior Doug McDermott is the nation’s No. 2 scorer and probably the most efficient offensive player in college basketball. Kelly, who got into some foul trouble, played just 28 minutes against McDermott. He got a lot of help when he was on the floor as Josh Hairston, freshman Amile Jefferson and guard Tyler Thornton took their turns guarding the beast. Still, the fact that McDermott fizzled – 4-of-15 of the floor and 1-of-4 from 3-point range – has to be taken as a sign that Kelly is returning to the defensive status that we saw before the injury. How much did his defensive focus take away from his offensive game? It’s interesting that Kelly struggled a bit offensively against Louisville (the night he shut down Behanan), but he was very effective against Thomas and Ohio State (15 points of 5-of-10 shooting; 3-of-5 3-pointers). The issue of Kelly’s defensive rehabilitation is important going into Sweet 16 matchup with Michigan State. Kenny Payne is a multi-talented 6-10, 230-pound stretch four with 3-point range and a lot of athleticism around the basket. Kelly will be tested at the defensive end. But Duke is also likely to need him at the offensive end this time. No more one point performances. I know that’s a lot to ask, but it’s going to be a tough weekend in Indianapolis. If Duke is going to survive Michigan State and probably Louisville, the Devils will all have to be at the top of their games. RETURN TO INDY The last time Duke played at the Lucas Oil Arena, things turned out pretty well for the Blue Devils. Gordon Heyward’s midcourt shot spun out, allowing Duke to edge Butler and claim the 2010 national championship. Indianapolis has been good to Krzyzewski and Duke. The Devils have won half their four national titles in the Hoosier city – winning the 1991 title in the RCA Dome and the 2010 crown in the current facility. Duke actually has a 4-1 record in the original dome – originally known as the Hoosier Dome. Coach K’s 1987 team won a pair of close games over Texas A&M and Xavier there in the first two rounds of that year’s tournament. His 1996 team lost to Eastern Michigan in the first round of that tournament. In the regular season, Duke beat UCLA in Canseco Field House early in the 2002-03 season. That’s the only regular season game the Devils have played in Indy. So overall, Duke is 7-1 in Indianapolis – with the wins spread out among three different facilities. Oddly, Duke has never played in the famous Hinkle Field House on the Butler campus. THE CONFERENCE RECORD The BCS conferences dominated the 2013 Sweet 16, led by the Big Ten, which put four teams into the regional semifinals: Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State. The Big East got three teams to the Sweet 16, although two of the survivors are future ACC teams: Louisville, Syracuse and Marquette. The ACC got two current members to the Sweet 16: Duke and Miami. Add two from the Pac 12 – Arizona and Oregon. The Big 12 (Kansas) and the SEC (Florida) managed one each. That’s 13 of the 16 spots. The mid-majors got two — Wichita State from the Missouri Valley and LaSalle from the Atlantic 10 – and the low majors got one – Florida Gulf Coast from the Atlantic Sun Conference. The mighty Mountain West, touted as the equal or superior to the BCS conferences all season, didn’t get any. Interesting that of the five MWC contenders, four lost to double-digit seeds: No. 14 Harvard over New Mexico; No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast over San Diego State, 13 LaSalle over Boise State and No. 12 California over UNLV. Only No. 8 seed Colorado State managed to lose to a top team – falling in the second round to No. 1 Louisville. Through two rounds, the conference standings (Sweet 16 teams):     Big Ten (4) 10-3 .769 Missouri Valley (1) 3-1 .750 ACC (2) 5-2 .714 A-10 (1) 7-3 .700 Pac 12 (2) 5-3 .625 SEC (1) 3-2 .600 Big East (3) 6-5 .545 Big 12 (1) 3-3 .500 West Coast (0) 2-2 .500 Mountain West (0) 2-5 .286   Interesting, that the Mountain West is the only multi-bid conference with a losing record. The A-10 has had the best performance of the mid-majors – LaSalle played their way from the play-in game to the Sweet 16; Temple came within one or two plays of knocking off top-seeded Indiana; and Butler had two late shots to beat Marquette. Also worth noting, the ACC is guaranteed its 26th straight non-losing season in NCAA play – that’s the longest of any conference.   CONFERENCE WINS I wanted to follow up on something I wrote last week. I noted that the Mountain West, despite its high collective RPI, didn’t really beat many strong teams out of conference. I noted at the time that the Mountain West had combined to beat six RPI top 50 teams from outside the league – exactly half as many as the much-abused ACC. I started to wonder how the ACC’s top 50 (and top 100) record measur3ed up with the other major conferences, so when I had time (driving to Philadelphia and back ate up most of my weekend), I crunched the numbers for the six BCS conferences and the top three mid-majors (the A-10, the Missouri Valley and the Mountain West). This is what I found (for the regular season only):   Non-Conference top 50 wins 1. ACC 12 2. Big Ten 11 3. (tie) Big 12 9 Atlantic 10 5. (tie) Pac 12 8 Big East 8 7. Missouri Valley 7 8. (tie) SEC 6 MWC 6   Okay, maybe it would be better to look at percentage of wins against the top 50: 1. ACC .500 (12-12) 2. Big 12 .391 (9-14) 3. Big Ten .379 (11-18) 4. Big East .364 (8-14) 5. Mountain West .316 (6-13) 6. Pac 12 .296 (8-19) 7. Missouri Valley .280 (7-18) 7. Atlantic 10 .243 (9-28) 8. SEC .171 (6-29) I was surprised that no conference has a winning record against the top 50, but the ACC’s 50-50 split is SIGNIFICANTLY better than any other league. That mark is inational football leagueated a bit by Duke’s 5-0 record in such games. The Big 12 also gets a boost from Kansas, which is 5-1 against non-conference top 50 opponents. Does anything change if we expand to the top 100, instead of the top 50? Here’s the new list: 1. ACC .600 (30-20) 2. Mountain West .594 (22-15) 3. Big East .545 (24-20) 4. Big 12 .513 (20-19) 5. Big Ten .490 (24-25) 6. Pac 12 .395 (17-26) 7. SEC .390 (23-36) 8. Atlantic 10 .318 (21-45) 9. Missouri Valley .317 (13-28) That list finally puts the Mountain West in a better light – thanks to an impressive 16-2 record against teams ranked 51-100 in the RPI. But the ACC remains the best league against the toughest competition.,

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