Why So Many First Round Upsets?

  • Hypothesis: More and more coaches are emulating Self’s gambling strategy of sending the team out flat for the easier first game, in order to amp for the second game, and long benching the first game to ensure plenty of energy for the second game.

  • @jaybate-1.0 I didn’t know that was one of Self’s specialty. It seems logical to conserve energy for the first game with the second in 24 hrs. Other coaches just figured this out? Are you sure JB? Or is it because teams go out so flat that worked against them, like ISU? I knew B12 wouldn’t do well in the tourney, I knew it I knew it. Why can’t they??? So frustrating. Are they too beat up?

  • @HawksWin

    A hypothesis is never certain. It is proposed as perhaps a possible explanation for possible subsequent consideration with data.

    Your idea of “B12 teams being too beat up” is another hypothesis.

    I proposed my hypothesis the same as you did–to see if anyone else had any data supporting or refuting it, or a more fitting hypothesis.

    Which would you like to explore?

  • @jaybate-1.0

    JB did you get enough sleep? We can’t have you flat on Jesse’s blog!!!

  • HaaseHoiberg.jpg

  • See my post Tourney Reality for a more likely explanation.

  • @VailHawk


  • Why are there so many first round upsets? Answer: In the mind of the players that are actually on the court competing, there aren’t any. No player that is good enough to play D-1 ball walks in to any court thinking they are going to lose. It is us, the fans along with the media that create these false images that certain teams cannot be beat. Throw in a seed next to a team and you have a recipe for disaster.

  • @KansasComet

    Heart agrees.

    Head tracking talent distributions and strategies does not.

  • In the manufacturing, service, and even the education environment there is a narrative that is based on the notion that in all the work force most people are the same and that there talents or education or experience does not have a great affect on there ability to perform. The idea is that the difference in performance is mostly related to a persons character not the above. The desire to win or try hard or think you are better than another player or team, may have more affect on winning than actual talent or coaching fundamentals. As good as BS is at fundamentals he seems to spend a lot of time building character.

    Maybe there just isn’t that much difference in the ability of all the teams in the bracket. Maybe a 3 seed is not that much better than a 14 seeded team.

    I would like to know which leagues have a league tournament because it seems to me we are always trying to get healthy for the NCAA tournament. Are we playing teams that have had two weeks of rest. Our league already plays each other twice so I’m not sure what a league tournament proves if in fact the NCAA is supposed to be what everyone is working towards.

  • My hypotheses: Iowa State lost because of two early fouls to Niang whose mind and motor sensors got warped by the 15 minute benching. Baylor lost because of Drew’s final 3 minutes of coaching. Texas lost because Holmes waited too late in the season to show up aggressively.

  • @KU-Flyer WSU had 2 weeks off. The mvc tourney is the week before big 12.

  • @REHawk adding, Texas had rick Barnes! There is so much talent on that team, smh!

  • @Crimsonorblue22 Yeah, I think that Barnes is too nice a guy to win consistently. My feeling regarding Holmes, if he had played so assertively all season, Barnes might have built a winner around his play. As it was, Holmes was a distraction. KU Flyer’s hypothesis about character might come into consideration here.

  • @Crimsonorblue22 Papers and sports talk not KIND to Barnes this morning.

    ##Bohls: After another late collapse, it’s time for a coaching change

    PITTSBURGH, Pa. — With equal parts mounting frustration and dashed hopes, Steve Patterson intently watched Texas’ loss to Butler from the first row of the Consol Energy Center, and he saw yet another spirited comeback in vain against a better-coached, more fundamentally sound basketball team.

    Much like the all-too-predictable Longhorns team he saw the last two months.

    He probably also saw Rick Barnes’ last game as Texas’ head coach.

    The men’s athletic director was in no mood to discuss Barnes’ precarious future on Thursday after 17 wildly erratic seasons tinged with spectacular success and big-name recruits as well as totally unacceptable mediocrity of late. Barnes’ Longhorns were rudely ushered out of the 68-team NCAA tournament after only one game for the fifth time in his 16 appearances. Texas won’t be playing in the Sweet 16 for the seventh consecutive year.

    When I asked him what he plans to do, Patterson waved me off and said, “I don’t have anything.”

    Pressed again minutes later about how long a review of Barnes’ program might take, Patterson didn’t change his stance. “I’m not ready to talk.”

    And the truth of the matter is this. What’s there to talk about?

    Barnes needs to go.

    And I write that with much angst because Barnes is one of the best people I know and maybe the most likeable. But it’s time for a change because the 60-year-old Texas coach is no longer getting it done. His program has gotten stale. There’s no reason it should wither away like this when competent replacements like Shaka Smart or Tony Bennett or Gregg Marshall are waiting in the wings. Heck, Patterson, shoot for the moon and go after Bill Self or Sean Miller.

    The 56-48 loss to sixth-seeded Butler ended as painful a season as I can remember, although most of Texas’ recent seasons have followed this same humiliating script of pitiful shooting and inexplicable turnovers.

    The hope here is Barnes will willingly step down and take his $1.75 million severance package into retirement. He could go kicking and screaming like Mack Brown before him, or he could stay in Austin and be celebrated during his golden years as the coach who re-energized and stabilized the program, who brought T.J. Ford and Kevin Durant to Austin, who kept Texas nationally relevant. But there’s been too much backsliding the last seven years.

    When Barnes was asked point-blank if he expected to return, he said, “I have no reason not to think that. I’ve had no conversations about it.”

    None of the players blamed Barnes or his staff. In fact, they were defiant in their support.

    “I love our coaching staff,” junior guard Demarcus Holland said in a somber locker room. “Every single one of them. We all trust the coaching staff. They’ve done nothing but believe in us.”

    Junior center Cam Ridley echoed those sentiments: “It all comes back to us. We’re the ones on the court. I don’t blame anything on the coaches.”

    Yet, when Ridley was asked if this team had failed to live up to its potential, going from No. 6 in the nation to an 11th seed and a one-and-done postseason experience, he answered, “We underachieved. As talented as this team is, we shouldn’t be in this situation.”

    Forward Jon Holmes, the lone senior, finished his career with a gutsy, 15-point performance on a roster that had no other offensive option other than point guard Isaiah Taylor’s second-half drives to the bucket. But he, too, remains firmly behind his coach, who has been too offensively challenged his entire career.

    “People want to run their mouth and try to fire him when you’ll have a hard time trying to find a better coach,” Holmes said. “That’s not realistic.”

    The sentiments of Holmes and his teammates are warm, but this isn’t a business about hugs and attaboys. Patterson must risk keeping a good man but flawed coach and alienating nearly the entire fan base that’s eager for a fresh face, especially after a losing football season.

    When I asked Barnes about his team’s poor March showings and his job security, he said, “We’ll never take getting in this tourney for granted. We’ll never be satisfied being in it. We want to win it all.”

    Everyone at Texas wants that. Someone else should get the chance.

  • @RockChalkinTexas really think those coaches are waiting in the wings?

  • @Crimsonorblue22 The name I’ve heard the most the last 2 days is Shaka. Marshall came up yesterday after the game by a radio guy who added “‘who KU hates’ and that’s why he may be good for the program.” I wanted to puke and immediately went horns down on that while driving home. Remember, Texas has a lot of $$$$$$ and is going to have to build a new facility. What makes it bad is that while the AD is trying to raise the $$$ for the new facility, they’ve lost the fan base so no one wants to give their $$ until Barnes is gone.

    Anybody else’s stomach a little uneasy this morning? Leaving shortly to head home.

  • @RockChalkinTexas I feel like Shaka could be a detriment to landing good talent. Who wants to press all the time if you’ve got NBA talent? Although, Huggins got Staten, so maybe I’m wrong.

    @jaybate-1.0 I think a lot of these teams are exhausted after their tournaments, yes, but I also have a theory that conditioning programs are a bit behind the curve in terms of keeping people in form. I wonder… how many of NCAA tournament teams have any sort of Yoga or regenerative stretching/warmup programs in place. They may ice their wounds and take an easy day of practice, but that is not enough to bring the body back up to speed when the time comes.

    This is also a generalized theory about basketball players as athletes. For example, we always talk about Greene’s poor footwork, but would that still be a problem after nearly two years if a proper balancing and stretching routine were in place. For all that time on hardwood, do these guys spend any time running barefoot on grass? I’m just saying what many people who do MMA, Crossfit, Soccer, etc. may be thinking. Balance is a major part of fitness that gets overlooked, especially by young, cocky athletes.

    Maybe that’s the reason -> young, cocky athletes. Nobody takes a look at Frank Mason and says, that guy hasn’t developed his game. To perhaps the largest degree, the players themselves are responsible for their own preparedness and development.

  • @betterfireE don’t know much about the stretching program, but I read or heard about the treatment of Perry’s knee. Sounded like a very progressive treatment, I hadn’t heard of before. As far as BG’s footwork, I’ve never seen a scholarship D1 player w/as poor of basic skills as him. Ouch! I can’t figure how he played so long w/out developing those skills!

  • @RockChalkinTexas

    Complicated topic.

    Easy answer is we have no control over it, so waste no brain waves on it.

    But thinking about it helps understand our opponents a little and cuts the tension about the NMSU game against a pressing team. 🙂


    Like what I read of Barnes off the floor.

    Appears slightly above average on the bench consistent with his career winning percentage, but not exceptional.

    Seems like he recruits very well.

    His kind of ball is so rough at times that it appears to contribute to players getting hurt, so I don’t like his kind of ball.

    If he were at KU, I would have wanted him replaced long ago.

    But he is at Texas, and it is always best for KU to let that sleeping giant sleep in mediocrity, while the private oligarchs down there fight over who can get their guys in control of the oil reserve endowments of the University and the less important governor’s mansion.

    Just joking, Tayhossians. 🙂

    Seriously, they will find a good coach, or stand pat, depending on whether Rick faced unusual circumstances, or is just not getting it done. They are a problem for us either way.

    If we were in a period where we were certain to keep getting all the pieces we need to compete at a high level, I would be pulling for them to be as good as they could be, because the B12 needs another marquis team and ISU is likely not going to be it, no matter how much rivalry we have with them. But Self and KU appear to be in a period of adjustment to the sudden asymmetries in recruiting, and to this fan, it is unclear presently how long this transition will take and where it will equilibrate. Until it sorts out, in purely metaphysical terms I would wish for Texas to stay mediocre until we get our ducks lined up. 🙂

    Animal Husband the Aggies!

  • Anyone see the article hating on the Big 12 this morning on ESPN? I can’t help but appreciate the negative attention as a gut check for the likes of Oklahoma and especially our boys! If we were taking anyone for granted, we wont be now. I wanted good things in the tourny for the Big 12, but this can only help our motivation and grab our attention!

  • @REHawk

    I hate it when you have such good reasons. 🙂

  • I did not get to watch all the Texas game but when I tuned in I noticed Taylor was not playing and only had one foul. He did put him in the last 6 minutes but why was Barnes holding him out of the game as he obviously needed to be playing? I also noticed they were playing like 9 or 10 guys to the other teams 6 so were they saving there selves for the next game. I’m not sure I buy into the relax and have fun mentality. It does not appear these lower seated teams are thinking relax and have fun.

  • @jaybate-1.0 “Head tracking talent distributions and strategies” that is exactly what gets so many on this board to near aneurism status when we struggle or lose in the tournament. It is not a computer generated game where stats mean everything. Stats don’t mean (fill in the blank however you wish). Remember the UNI Game? They were a 9 seed with I believe a 28-4 record. First place in the Missouri Valley and the only team to represent the Conference in the NCAA Tournament. WSU finished second with over 20 wins and went to the NIT. So based on the numbers and the media, UNI has no chance against top seeded Kansas. The problem with that is over the course of the season UNI beat Boston College, Iowa, and beat Iowa State at Hilton. They had also blitzed through the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament winning each game by at least 15 points. However, we are Kansas and there was no way a team from the Valley could beat us in the tournament again. No way, after we lost to Bradley a few years back. The game starts and for KU fans it was oh (Sugar Honey Iced Tea) we’re in trouble. They can’t be this could, we can’t be that bad, what in the world is going on. What was going on, was a team that was pretty decent got fired up, and told themselves, "they think they are better than us? No they are not. Let’s kick their number one seeded… ". And then it happened shots started falling from everywhere, their confidence was sky high. Even the big burly kid, cashed in three 3 point shots. We lost a game many to this day feel we should not have lost and continue to blame everyone they can think of for it. The reason we lost? Pretty simple, they were a much better seed than 9 and they scored more points than we did.

  • @KansasComet This is what scares a lot of us about Wichita State (thinking ahead, which is a no-no). I’m hoping our guards are in tip-top form and destroy even the likes of Fred V. and Mr. Bad Bad Boy.

  • @betterfireE no no, later! Erase that!

  • I’m thinking they have some Tarik black size kids?

  • @betterfireE

    You need to watch the pre-game warmups and all the stretching exercises they do directed and with the help of Andrea Hudy that is there on the court helping each player individually; I am sure they go through the same routine before practice. The elite programs have elite trainers and use state-of-the-art techniques.

  • The reason for the many upset is that college basketball has changed and there is now a lot more parity.

    30-40 years ago there were a handful of teams that dominated and the difference between the top teams and, say the team ranked 20 was big; now the difference is small and on any given day most any top 25 team can beat any other top 25 and a lower ranked team beating a higher seed is no longer a surprise and we always expect a few (or a lot) of “upsets” particularly given the tournament format.

  • @tundrahok HAASE!!!

  • @RockChalkinTexas forgot to ask you if you have road rage? Horns down!!!

  • @RockChalkinTexas Lmao, yah like Texas could get Bill Self to come down there!? Are you freekin kidding? Thats so effin funny!

  • @KansasComet

    I love ya Comet, but I’m not going there with ya.

    I have faced this kind of reductive point of view from both sides of the center for the last 35 years. It doesn’t make any difference what field it is, persons insist EITHER psychology/group dynamics/human inspiration are crucial, or persons insist QA and strategy rule are crucial. It never fails. I don’t know why persons cannot see these are BOTH not only crucial, but they are completely interrelated and so interdependent.

    Don’t tell Coach Self you said stats don’t mean (fill in the blank). He makes a ton of use of them to understand his players individual strength, cardio, focus, dynamical capabilities, as well as stages of fundamental and skills development, plus all manner of capacities to fulfill team roles, etc. And of course QA and strategic analysis is critical to breaking down opponents players and team dynamics on both ends of the floor for a scouting report and a game plan that actually gives the individuals and the team the intelligence and scheme needed to play winning basketball. And all of this measurement, and analysis is central to getting better, and identifying what else can be gotten better at how, and is critical to helping players learn how to self monitor, gain insight into how the team is interplaying.

    It is just plain foolish to reduce sport, business, or politics to inspiration and competitive greatness and a team deciding to beat another team. It is as foolish to do that as it is to overemphasize QA and strategy and underemphasize the factors you refer to–human spirit and the synergies of individuals and teams driven to excellence, and competitive greatness in moments.

    John Wooden convinced me in 1976 that QA is indispensible to winning basketball. He measured shooting percentages of every kind of shot and of every kind of form taken everywhere on the court. He measured every player’s ability at every one of those things and he knew exactly what kind of things to allow and disallow players to do before they EVER began to scrimmage even.

    Wooden also convinced me great talent and a fiery competitive spirit able to access competitive greatness are indispensable to excellence and winning when it counts.

    His pyramid of success is seminal still precisely because it forces coaches, players and fans not to be reductive in their thinking, to fasten on any one aspect of what excellence requires, as you have just done.

    Everything that matters to winning IS important.

    And there are a lot of things that matter.

    And we are growing closer and closer to the time when KU basketball players will be wearing bio feedback suits and brain sensing swimming caps intermittently to build to map their brains and and their performances to help these athletes begin to get better and better and reproducing those peak states more and more frequently. And it will be done by blending QA and the human spirit.

    The human adventure is driven by the inseparable interplay of human spirit, human body, and human technology. It is the triad that produces the roads that lead to Allen Field House, the cars you drive their in, the field house building, the court and the baskets, the lighting overhead, the clothes and shoes the players wear, the balls they bounce, the energy they expend, the fundamentals the rely on, the skills they attack with, the team play they cooperate in, and the peak emotional states the enter into individually and as teams. And “getting better” is the simple, unpretentious, but profoundly truthful phrase that holds it all together.

    No one is getting aneurisms, or infarcting, or erupting in rage, or sinking into despair, or maintaining an even strain from learning and thinking about QA and strategy–not the fans, not the players, and not the coaches. Those things all come from the struggle to achieve directly and indirectly and the beautiful, powerful, redeeming human will to keep getting better, and the realization that despite all the efforts, all the commitments, all the times spent working, practicing, thinking, analyzing, and learning that outcomes and expectations still vary and vary for as many reasons as their are permutations and combinations of things that matter to winning.

    Embrace both.

    Fear neither.

    Love it to the fullest.

    Think next as soon as you can.

  • @jaybate-1.0 Appreciate you. However, “Think next as soon as you can?” How about you rethink that? I love the game of basketball. Anyone that has played the game of basketball realizes that in the heat of battle “stats don’t matter”. To quote the former great boxing champion Mike Tyson “Everybody has a great plan…until they get hit”! Embrace that, my friend. It’s March Madness for a reason. If it were as simple as drawing up plan and going out and executing based on statistics of the past, then I guess we would have an all Ivy League final? Games are decided on the court not by computers. It’s always a pleasure talking hoops with you.

  • @KansasComet


    No plan survives contact with the enemy - Helmuth von Moltke (1871)

  • @KansasComet and @JayHawkFanToo

    It is a privilege to talk hoops with both of you.

    No “strategy” survives contact with the enemy.

    But the “tactics” become strategy.

    This is the Marine Corp way.

    Those adroit at developing strategies intended to default to tactics are usually the victors in any battle where overwhelming superiority in all feasible realms is not the determinant.

    And any activity with management from beyond the heat of battle is increasingly, even in the moment of battle, a combination of QA and strategy top down, and improvised aggression and cunning at the point of contact with the opponent.

    In playground ball, where there are no coaches and no referees, the idea of players in the moment of battle determining everything holds.

    But in organized warfare, politics, business and sport, the managerial component, for better, and for worse, intervenes more and more, not less and less, because parameters, variables and technologies increasingly enable the intervention.

    The totally independent warrior, or group of warriors, has gone the way of the totally independent grocery stores, into serious eclipse.

    In every huddle our players are being fed instructions based on QA and strategies and tactics based on QA. These become parameters players take onto the floor that shape their actions.

    Too many persons bog down in either or.

    No organized human endeavor is ever solely improvisation, or solely ordered.

    Parameter and variable.

    Variation within limits.

    Its there on every play.

    Some plays more and some plays less.

    Thinking and deliberation occurs on every play.

    As the play unfolds more and more reaction occurs.

    But what science has confirmed is that outcomes in emerging complexity are often sensitively dependent on initial conditions, sometimes in predictable ways and sometimes not.

    But initial conditions tend to have a cascading effect on the players menu of options, and the kinds of counter moves and psychological states they make them in.

    So strategies, even though they do NOT survive initial contact, nevertheless do bias the cascade into tactics becoming strategy.

    And as an aside, Moltke, who never lost a war, and beat Austria and France, would be the first to want the best QA and strategy to go along with developing all other elements of a military capability including the training of the solider, the technologies that assist him, and most importantly the logistics that enable him to do what he does in the moment of battle.

    QA should be a HUGE factor in deciding who we attack and how we attack in all fields of endeavor.

    Competition requires resources. Resources come in quantites. Thus they are quantifiable and manageable with considerable specificity.


    Then grand strategy.

    Then more logistics.

    Then strategy.

    Then more logistics.

    Then contact.

    Then tactics become strategy.

    Then more logistics.

    Logistics, logistics, logistics.

    Logistics is QA in motion.

    Teams are collections of persons with resource needs in motion.

    “The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on.”–Ulysses S. Grant

    Self now gets it. You attack the man to get the basket. You don’t attack the basket. You find him defending what you want–the basket, and you attack him on the way to the basket. And you keep moving on. This requires logistics and intelligence and a strategy to find him, and trained techniques and tactics of attacking him and sufficient resources to attack effectively. And constant logistics for moving on. Organized attack is about bringing all of this to bear, not just the competitive greatness in the moment of attack. All are necessary. BAD BALL is what results, when Self gets it.

    We used to attack the basket. We used to create space to attack the basket. Now we attack the man at the basket on offense. By doing so in the right way, you turn his athletic advantages into disadvantages. You shrink his impact space–his room to operate and his time to bring help.

    Help is the other key.

    You have to disrupt the flow of the opposing team, for that is where the real strength of the individual warrior lies in a team contest. If you attack a man, and he has help, you lose. He is much easier to attack, when he is alone, than when he has help. Disrupting flow prevents an opponent from bringing coordinated effective help, from concentrating force at the point of attack. This is another essence of BAD BALL.

    All of the above requires QA of an opponent and of one’s own players.

    It requires planning and schemes–strategies and tactics–to manage the initial conditions as favorably as possible, in order to begin the cascade from strategies to tactics in the moment replacing initial strategies.

    This is all going on in something as inconsequential as a basketball game.

    Some things matter to winning and somethings do not.

    But the things that do matter? They ALL matter.

    Rock Chalk!!

  • @jaybate-1.0

    “Why So Many First Round Upsets?”

    I don’t agree with him all the time… but I thought Chab (Sir Charles) called it right… there is the upper tier of teams and then there is everyone else.

    We are almost always in the upper tier… this year, we are not considered in that group. We are with the “everyone else” bunch. I hope we play that to our advantage. We did in '12!

  • @drgnslayr

    There always have been upper tier teams and the rest…the gap between them is now very small compared to what it used to be 30-40 years ago…

  • Article in FiveThirtyEight on ESPN site showing that this year was fairly light on upsets as compared to most years - many fewer real upsets than the last two tournaments. Baylor and ISU were about it; well, along with SMU getting hosed. Chalk prevailed for the most part. So, let’s hope Rock Chalk does, as well.

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