The Electric Commentary

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Basketball Prospectus on Wisconsin - Davidson

From Ken Pomeroy:

I couldn't understand how the four-plus days each team had to prepare somehow benefited Bo Ryan more than his counterpart in this one. It's as if people thought Bob McKillop was just going to tour landmarks in southeast Michigan this week and not game plan. Davidson's run will likely end against Kansas on Sunday, but it's probably not going to end easily. Over and over, Davidson has caused problems for quality opponents this season, so if you're expecting a blowout, you'll probably be disappointed. The Wildcats were given no favors with their draw and yet they'll be playing for a Final Four appearance after averaging more than 1.2 points per possession in their first three games. If they should fail to make it to San Antonio, at least remember this about the '08 Davidson club: no team has shredded a Wisconsin defense over the past two seasons like Davidson did last night.

Davidson's Losses

If you are anything like me, you spent part of last night wondering how Davidson ever loses a game, since Stephen Curry can hit a three pointer whenever he feels like it. Sure Wisconsin played poorly, ignoring their huge advantage on the interior and settling for contested jumpers, and missing many free throws, but the Davidson offense was simply amazing.

So let's take a look at Davidson's 6 losses and see what we can figure out:

1. 72-68 "At" North Carolina

This is an easy one. They were playing the best team in America and only lost by 4 on a "neutral floor" (the Charlotte Bobcats arena, which I suspect was probably not very neutral). Tyler Hansbrough scored only 14 points and did not hit a field goal in the second half, giving us our first glimpse of Davidson's surprisingly quick and athletic defense. He did go to the line 10 times in typical Hansbrough fashion. What is perhaps more remarkable about this game is that the Tar Heels actually did sort of shut down Mr. Curry, who scored 24 points, but hit only 2/12 from outside the arc. Davidson easily could have taken this game.

2. 83-76 At Western Michigan

In Davidson's worst loss of the year WMU hit over 50% from 3-point range, and more importantly, managed to outscore Davidson by 10 at the charity stripe. This is an even bigger factor at second glance as Stephen Curry fouled out with 1:22 to play and with Davidson trailing by 6. Another thing that jumped out at me about this game is just how bad Curry's teamates were. Curry was his usual 5-11 from beyond the arc, but as a team Davidson was just 9/31, meaning that everyone besides Curry was 4/20. It appears that WMU played a very solid offensive game (like what the Badgers should have done last night) drew contact, and kept it out of Curry's hands. I can't find height stats, but I wonder how he does against taller guards.

3. 79-73 v. Duke

Once again, Davidson was outscored at the Charity Stripe by 9 points, although Duke had an atypically poor night at the line and probably should have won by more. If you look down the stat line, you'll see Davidson winning or very close in every category except 3-point shooting and free throw shooting. This is another game in which Curry was over 50% from behind the arc while the rest of the team was absolutely terrible (4/14). I wonder if Davidson's more recent success has been the result of fewer 3-point shtos by the non-Curry members of the team.

4. 75-68 At Charlotte

These two teams are cross-county rivals, and play this game for the Hornet's Nest Trophy every year. This game was also much close than the final score would indicate as Davdison trailed by only 2 points with just under a minute to play. It's actually pretty tough to tell that Davidson lost this game from raw stats alone. They dominated the glass (49 rebounds to 38) and the offensive glass (15-10), but ultimately it appears that tunrovers and three-pointers did in Davidson, as Curry's teamates once again put up brick after brick (3/20. Ugh.) As I go through the losses, I'm becoming more and more convinced that Davidson probably just reduced the number of 3s being taken by non-Curry members of the team.

5. 75-63 "At" UCLA

This is another "Neutral Site" game that definitely favored UCLA, as it took place in Anaheim. Davidson actually blew an 18-point lead in this game and suffered their third consecutive loss. Curry's game on this evening was very similar to his game against North Carolina, as he was held in check from outside (3/10), but unlike the NC game, Curry was not able to make up for it at the stripe, failing to go to the line. The only reason the game was this close is because the rest of the Davdison crew shot atypically well from outside, hitting 9/17 3s. The free throw disparity was ridiculous as UCLA hit 21 of 30 while Davidson hit 1 of 4. (Again why did the Badgers not pound away inside?) UCLA actually dominated this one after an early scare.

6. 66-65 At NC State

This is the last time that Davidson would lose before running off 25 straight wins. NC State hit a pair of free throws with 3.4 seconds left to eek out a 1 point win. Davidson was once again outrebounded, and couldn't get to the free throw line, but you do see a shift here to more Curry 3-pointers. he was 7/15 while the rest of the team was 4/13, and when you consider that NC State as a team matched the non-Curry Davidson players from outside (4/14) you can see how Davdison made up for their other statistical deficits.

After NC State Davidson went on a tear, destroying their conference in every game. A quick perusal of their NCAA tourney wins shows Curry has been seeing more and more of the teams 3-point tries compared to his teamates. In their early losses Curry was often getting about 1/3 of their total tries, while in their NCAA run he's been getting 50% or more. Against Gonzaga he was an insane 8/10 while the rest of the team was 3/11. Against Georgetown he was a rather pedestrian 5/15, but the rest of the team was a putrid 1/13. (In another reversal of early season trends, Davidson actually won this game at the line, getting there 13 more times than Georgetown and forcing Roy Hibbert to foul out.)

And of course, last night against Wisconsin Curry was 6/11 from behind the arc while everyone else went 6/13.

Basically, Davidson is really tough to beat if they can get Curry 50% or more of their total 3-point shots. The elite teams have managed to shut him down on occasion, but I would have told you that both Georgetown and Wisconsin were elite before the tournament started, especially on the defensive end, and they barely slowed him down. Early in the season Davidson featured a bunch of guys who liked shooting 3s, and all but one of them were terrible. Altering their game to get Curry more shots has probably also resulted in more FT attempts as the rest of the team takes it inside more.

Kansas is very good and will probably beat them, but Curry's shooting can cover up for so many deficits that any let-down at all by Kansas will keep Davidson in it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Biofuels Kill

The Biofuel scam is disastrous in every way. Biofuels are expensive, bad for the environment, and the resulting increase in food prices leads to starvation in poorer nations. Here's Michael Grunwald in Time Magazine:

The environmental cost of this cropland creep is now becoming apparent. One groundbreaking new study in Science concluded that when this deforestation effect is taken into account, corn ethanol and soy biodiesel produce about twice the emissions of gasoline. Sugarcane ethanol is much cleaner, and biofuels created from waste products that don't gobble up land have real potential, but even cellulosic ethanol increases overall emissions when its plant source is grown on good cropland. "People don't want to believe renewable fuels could be bad," says the lead author, Tim Searchinger, a Princeton scholar and former Environmental Defense attorney. "But when you realize we're tearing down rain forests that store loads of carbon to grow crops that store much less carbon, it becomes obvious."

Moving along a bit...

There was just one flaw in the calculation: the studies all credited fuel crops for sequestering carbon, but no one checked whether the crops would ultimately replace vegetation and soils that sucked up even more carbon. It was as if the science world assumed biofuels would be grown in parking lots. The deforestation of Indonesia has shown that's not the case. It turns out that the carbon lost when wilderness is razed overwhelms the gains from cleaner-burning fuels. A study by University of Minnesota ecologist David Tilman concluded that it will take more than 400 years of biodiesel use to "pay back" the carbon emitted by directly clearing peat lands to grow palm oil; clearing grasslands to grow corn for ethanol has a payback period of 93 years. The result is that biofuels increase demand for crops, which boosts prices, which drives agricultural expansion, which eats forests. Searchinger's study concluded that overall, corn ethanol has a payback period of about 167 years because of the deforestation it triggers.

Not every kernel of corn diverted to fuel will be replaced. Diversions raise food prices, so the poor will eat less. That's the reason a U.N. food expert recently called agrofuels a "crime against humanity." Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute says that biofuels pit the 800 million people with cars against the 800 million people with hunger problems. Four years ago, two University of Minnesota researchers predicted the ranks of the hungry would drop to 625 million by 2025; last year, after adjusting for the inflationary effects of biofuels, they increased their prediction to 1.2 billion.

Make no mistake about it. There is literally no upside to biofuel. If you support biofuel, you support environmental degredation and starvation.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

If You Do Not Like Wisconsin Basketball, You Do Not Like Basketball

Some people find Wisconsin's brand of basketball tough on the eyes. These people are morons.

That's a bit harsh. Wisconsin basketball versus your typical basketball is like Shakespeare v. American Idol.

During a typical NBA game, fans and announcers alike will generally make the following complaints:

1. There is not enough passing.

2. Defense in the NBA is terrible. (Not true, incidentally.)

3. There is too much selfishess.

4. There are too many bad shots.

5. It's just a game of one-on-one.

Wisconsin's entire offense is based on getting the ball to players in space for easy passes. It's not unlike a typical soccer offense actually. The ball will almost always travel into the post at least once. Every player will generally touch the ball on every possession. The Badgers, as a rule, almost never take a bad shot. They tend to get wide-open threes, or points in the paint.

They are also one of, if not the best defensive team in college basketball. They also take care of the ball. Earlier this year the Badgers played an entire 40 minute game in which the committed one turnover.

They play basketball as well as you can. They are the Tim Duncan of college basketball.

Some people are looking for more "entertainment" with their game. They want dunks and cool moves. These are fine things, but they don't help you win basketball games. If you're more interested in seeing Kobe dunk, you may as well turn on some figure skating. Figure skating is all spinning and jumping to no end. It sounds more like what you're looking for.

Leave basketball to those of us who can appreciate it.

Why politicians are lying hypocrites

Frankly, it's your fault. Obama has a racist moron for a pastor because, at least for awhile, many of his supporters wanted him to have a racist moron for a pastor. I doubt that Obama is himself a racist moron, which opens him up to charges of being a hypocrite who attended a church led by a racist moron. Just remember, Obama is doing this because you, or someone you know, wanted him to do it.

Obama had the same problem with NAFTA. His economic advisor, Austen Goolsbee, apparently told Canada that Obama didn't really mean all of his anti-NAFTA rhetoric. You see, NAFTA is good for the US, but it's not good for a bunch of Obama's supporters. Well, actually it is in the long term, but they're too stupid to know it. Anyway, Obama apparently believes in free trade but but thinks that you are too stupid to understand free trade. Hence, he's a hypocrite again.

John McCain has done the same thing with abortion. At least that's what conservatives tell me.

So don't be too hard on them. They're just giving the people what they want.

Always remember that in a democracy, it's your fault.

The Flight Of The Conchords

It's not for everyone, but it's pretty damn good. The Flight's biggest problem is that many of the jokes don't make sense for a few episodes, so you have to stick with it for awhile. And it helps if you like They Might Be Giants. Here's one of their musical numbers:

The show is about the two man band's attempts to make it big in New York, but they are rarely seen playing in the show. Instead their songs are woven into the plot, sometimes as inner monologue, but sometimes as actual plot action, as with this touching love song:

It's certainly worth a Netflix rental. I recommend a beer or two first.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Winter's Tale, by Mark Helprin

I had two favorite books. They are Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, and Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys. I now have a third.

I can't really do it justice. I'm not sure I want to try. Helprin is a brilliant writer. This is a first-rate modern fairy tale. It features one of the most well-developed characters in literature in Peter Lake. The supporting characters are nearly as familiar. After you finish, you feel you've lost friends. This is the sure signal of complete character development. Even the horse will probably draw a tear from a few of you.

Having me describe the plot would be pointless. The simplest model of the universe is the universe. So it is with this book. It is not short, but don't be intimidated. It's worth it. It is a book that I am almost sure to read again.

No Country For Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy

I've not seen the movie. This is just the book.

This is a hard book to talk about without giving away important details. I'll do my best. But you might want to skip it.

Let's talk about Chigurh. He's the fella in the movie with the funny hair. For just over half of the book, Chigurh is merely an assassin. He is a particularly invincible, psychopathic assassin, but that's basically it. At one point, however, Chigurh is shown to be more. He's not just a killer, he's a force of nature. He's inevitable.

Ed Tom Bell is the sheriff, charged more with cleaning up this mess than solving it. He's the opposite of Captain Ahab. He knows the white whale is out there, but that it's best to stay away. Bell is truly the main character. He watches, he tries to help, but there's really not much he can do.

Moss is the one he's watching. He's over his head, he just doesn't know how much. He's found some ill-gotten money, and he's on the run.

But let's get back to Chigurh. Chigurh is the law. What he says he does, no matter what. Several times he has no reason to kill, other than a prior commitment. It would be easier for him to walk away. Chigurh never goes back on a commitment. Not ever, not for any reason.

It's super violent and totally unpredictable, but I'm guessing it sheds some light on what I hear is a strange ending in the movie. So far, it's the second best book I've read this year.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Just Missed It

Every day I take a train home from work, and every day I just barely miss one as I pull up to the train stop. I used to chalk this up to bad luck, but recently I had an epiphany. I don't have especially bad luck. The reason that i miss so many trains is because there are so many trains to miss. Trains run pretty frequently (about every 7 minutes) and I can see the train stop for about two minutes while my bus pulls in. That means that It's very likely that I see a train pulling away.

I barely miss trains because I'm well-served by trains.

Contrast that with my bus. Rarely do I ever "just miss" a bus. Usually when I arrive at my bus stop, there are 20 other people already waiting. I used to think that this indicated that a bus would be here soon. What it actually tells you is that there are not enough buses. The bus shows up about every 20 minutes or so, but what actually happens is that two buses show up every 40 minutes or so. Unfortunately, "bus clumping" plagues almost every public transportation system.

So if you feel down because you feel like you're always missing something, don't worry. You are probably not expecially unlucky. It's more likely that you're being adequately served.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eliot Spitzer apparently pays for Babette Swallows

And not only is he soliciting prostitutes, he's also cavorting with know tax cheats.

For shame.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

How Voltron And The Cold War Unfairly Tarnish Favre's Legacy

Already today, people are talking about Favre's Super Bowls compared to other great quarterbacks. This may be the stupidest concept in all of sports.

The Super Bowl is just one game, and it's a weird game. It generally takes place after a bye for both teams, it's slower than a normal game, it's always against quality competition, halftime is extra long, etc. Plus, it's just one game! The Super Bowl is probably more subject to randomness than any other football game.

Judging any player based on how they performed in one game (or a handful of games) is idiotic. Ignoring how they played in that game and judging them solely by whether their team won or lost is even more idiotic, yet this is how the majority of people judge quarterbacks.

I blame Voltron.

If you've ever watched Voltron, you know how this goes. A big monster attacks the castle, the Voltron team tries to attack the monster with their stupid robot lions, which doesn't work. Then they form Voltron and try to punch it and shoot fire at it, which also doesn't work. Then, when all else has failed, they whip out the Blazing Sword, which always works. In Voltron-land, Voltron has the magical power to "play better" if you will, when it's all on the line. You see this paradigm recur in many children's action programs.

Of course, if you were a smart little kid like I was you spend most of an episode of Voltron yelling at them to just form the Blazing Sword already instead of dicking around with this other stuff. Then you get grounded for saying "dicking."

Anyway, Voltron is probably the Cold War's fault. The Blazing Sword is clearly a symbol of the atomic bomb, which is all powerful, but only useful in the most dire of situations. There is a good reason to not use the atomic bomb, as the collateral damage is massive, however this translates poorly into children's cartoons. You have to be able to use the big weapon for the show to be exciting, but you also can't use it right away, or the show will be boring and short.

So you end up with the Blazing Sword.

Unfortunately, this mentality of being able to summon up extra powers in dire situations seems to transfer over to sports analysis. We believe that great players should become magically brilliant when the game is on the line, and when the game is especially important.

Unfortunately, here in the real world, magical powers do not exist.

During an NFL season, every game is your most important game until you have clinched something. Players have to be at their best as much as they possibly can. It is a sad fact of human nature that we sometimes have let downs, but we do, and we really can't do much to control when they happen.

People are already making the "Elway was better: 2 Super Bowls to 1" argument. You know how much I hate that argument. The fact is that Favre played great against the Broncos in the Super Bowl, far better than Elway played, especially considering that Elway possessed a better RB and a superior corps of WRs/TEs. Yet Elway will always win with the Pundits, 2 to 1. That's so idiotic. Marino, Kelly, Tarkenton, they all get hit the same way. Kelly basically is considered an inferior QB because Scott Norwood missed a field goal. I heard Mike Wilbon on the radio the other day say that Ben Roethlisberger is the 3rd best QB in the league based on his Super Bowl win. Ben Roethlisberger's Super Bowl performance was one of the worst in Super Bowl History. That he won is a testament to the talents of the rest of his team.

The fact is that Favre was frickin' awesome. You can compare him to other great QBs in a bunch of different ways; in some he will appear better, and in others he will appear worse.

But if anyone reading this attempts to make any kind of Voltron argument to me, I'm just going to snap.

Long live the good ol' boy; the finest QB in Packer history, the toughest QB in NFL history, and a better QB than John fucking Elway.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Happy Casimir Pulaski Day

Some of Chicago is off today for this weird Polish holiday.

Here's the Sufjan Stevens song "Casimir Pulaski Day" off of the Illinois album:

So head home and have a Tyskie.

The Subprime Crisis Graphic Novel


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