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Savannah State Preview, "National Title Game" Thoughts

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Tonight the K-State basketball team concludes its nonconference season, with the game played opposite a football game between some state university in Ohio and another state university in Louisiana.  But more on that later.

The Cats' opponent tonight is the Savannah State Tigers (8-11), an independent school from Savannah, Ga.  The Tigers http://www.kenpom.com/sked.php?&y=2008&team=Savannah%20St.
rank No. 260] in Ken Pomeroy's RPI rankings.  The Tigers are, statistically, fairly strong defensively,[ giving up 98.6 points per 100 possessions
, which ranks 131st in the country (strong compared to their overall ranking).  However, the Tigers are pitiful offensively, scoring only 78.9 points per 100 possessions, which ranks 339th in the country.

The Cats come into the game with surprisingly solid defensive numbers, giving up only 87.7 points per 100 possessions, which ranks 22nd in the country.  Unfortunately, we have also been extremely average offensively, scoring 104.4 points per 100 possessions, which puts us 120th in the nation by that metric.

Two newspaper articles from this morning mention this issue.  Both the KC Star and the Topeka Capital-Journal have articles noting the Cats win when they shoot a lot of free throws.  Specifically, the Star article notes the Cats are 9-0 when they shoot more free throws than the other team.

This really should not come as a surprise to any K-State fan.  The Cats have been awful from the three-point line, making only 28.8 percent of their attempts from range this year.  Our best offense is not standing around and chucking long jumpers, but rather driving to the hoop and finding Bill Walker, Michael Beasley, or someone else who can finish.  I made mention of this after the Florida A&M game at the Sprint Center; while the newspapers called the win ugly, it was really just slow because of the number of fouls and free throw attempts.

As an illustration of how well free throw shooting can work for a team, let's look at David Hoskins' statistics from last season.  Hoskins scored 508 points last year, and 171 of them came from the free throw line.  By contrast, only 39 of them came from three-point field goals.  I realize free throw shooting is not the most glamorous way to score points, but I would rather a possession result in two made free throws than one missed three-pointer.  In other words, Frank Martin's message should be simple: attack the basket.

Although this story isn't really new, it's always worth mentioning.  Clent Stewart's mom is in the advanced stages of cancer, and hasn't been able to make it to some of the games this year.  My hat's off to Clent for playing hard and being able to focus on basketball through this, and my thoughts are with his family.

From the previously mentioned KC Star article...

"And losses to Notre Dame, California and Xavier don’t look too bad based on how those teams have done since beating the Wildcats."

I will never know how the hell that made it through the Star's copy editors.

For now, that's enough about basketball.  BOTC will be diving headlong into the conference basketball season later this week as the Cats prepare to travel to Norman, Okla., to take on the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday.

But for now, I have a few thoughts about tonight's BCS "National Title Game" that I want to discuss.  As always here at BOTC, reader response is encouraged in the comments or diaries, and its free to sign up for an account to comment.

Anyway, I came across a thread on a Nebraska message board today where someone asked if the AP Poll might vote KU No. 1 if Ohio State were to lose tonight, given that KU would only have one loss, while LSU would have two.  We'll skip the obvious arguments against such a stupid assertion, and rather focus on what we are really getting tonight in the BCS "National Title Game."

We are getting a contrived matchup between two teams who were just sort of, maybe, kinda, we think, better than everyone else at the end of the season.  The way the system is set up, only two teams can play in the "national title game," so two have to be chosen, even if there are four, five, six, or even more teams that are fairly indistinguishable from each other.

This season, no real team went undefeated (sorry Hawaii...well, not really), which left the college football pundits scrambling to figure out who should play for the title.  So accustomed had we become to having at least one undefeated, clearly deserving team at the end of the season that we now have no idea what to do when the picture is muddled.  So what do we do?  We go with the preseason favorites (LSU) and the team that is always good, even if they didn't play anybody good in the non-conference and got tagged with a Big 10 loss to a team that lost to USC by 32 (some state university in Ohio).

Anyway, back to the message board.  The consensus on the board was that the poster was stupid for suggesting that anybody other than the winner of the game tonight, because, well, it's the national title game!  All the people on TV tell us it's the national title game, so the winner must be the national champion!  Matt over at the excellent SBN blog, Sunday Morning Quarterback has dealt with this issue extensively, so I won't get too deep into it here.  Suffice it to say, I consider the BCS title game as the equivalent of playing the NCAA basketball tournament until you get to the Elite 8, and then choosing the two teams you think should play in the title game rather than making them earn their way.

Two final thoughts on this issue.  First, though Ohio State wants to prove it belongs in this game, and Jim Tressel is going to great lengths to motivate his team, a win over LSU does little to prove they are a deserving "national champion."  Two other teams beat LSU this year, and as I mentioned above, the two teams didn't have to prove on the field that they are better than Georgia, USC, Missouri, Oklahoma or West Virginia.

Second, if you really want things to change in college football, you're going to have to make some changes in your college-football watching life.  The Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Wendell Barnhouse wrote an excellent article about how the BCS is duping college football fans, who are a willing participant in the swindle.  Basically, if you are one of those who watch the game just because it's a big game on TV, rather than actually being a fan of one of the teams, you are providing ratings and helping perpetuate the BCS system.  What's my recommendation?  Well, as a Wildcat fan, if you have tickets to tonight's basketball game, go cheer on your Cats.  You're not going to miss that much by not watching OSU and LSU duke it out in New Orleans.  But if you don't have tickets or are a fan of another team and don't have anything going on tonight, watch the game but change the channel during commercial breaks.  The ratings people, not to mention the advertising people, can tell when you change the channel.  Just figure out how long the average commercial break is and change the channel for that amount of time.

Good luck.