Monday, April 28, 2014

The Blackhawks are good at hockey

The Blackhawks are playing really well, perhaps the best of any team.

In the first game, the Blues needed a late goal to force OT.
In the second game, the Blues had a five-minute power play and needed a late goal to force OT.
Down 0-2, the Blackhawks reeled off four straight wins including all three at home.
Two more went to OT, two more were solid wins.

I'm not even sure how to describe their brand of hockey.

They're playing physical and fast and smart. They have good scoring and good goalkeeping.

About the only thing that gives me heart facing them (if the Avs get there) is the Avalanche were 4-1 against them this year. And Colorado would have home ice. And the altitude. And Duchene looks to be back. And why not us?

Was Miller an Upgrade?

The St. Louis Blues acquired goalie Ryan Miller on March 1. At the time, they were 2nd in the league.

They were in position to face the eventual wild-card winner which turned out to be the Minnesota Wild. They were on pace to finish with 117 points, while the Avalanche were on pace to finish with 111.

Over the next six weeks, with Ryan Miller, the Blues lost ground.

The Blues actually finished with 111 points, the Avalanche with 112. Not winning the division meant the Blues were now set to face the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks.

- - -

In 40 games with the Sabres, Miller had a save percentage of .923
In 19 regular season games with the Blues, he had a save percentage of .903
In 6 playoff games with the Blues, he had a save percentage of .897

This year there are 45 goalies who played enough games to have qualified stats according to ESPN. (This throws out the outliers of the backup Ottawa goalie that faced 11 shots all year but didn't allow any goals.) The following are how these save percentages rank among those 45 goalies.

.923 ranks tied for 8th
.903 ranks tied for 40th
.897 ranks 44th

- - -

This year, Brian Elliot had a .922 save percentage, tied for 11th in the league.
Jaroslav Halak had a .921 save percentage, ranking 13th in the league.
Counting only the regular season, Miller had a .918 save percentage, ranking 19th.

When they traded for him, Miller was a hair better than the goalies on their roster. In the six weeks that followed, Miller played like one of the worst goalies in the league (40th out of 45) and finished the regular season slightly worse than the original Blues roster goalies.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Avs Radio Calls

Game 5

P Mothertrucking A Parenteau

First Grilling of 2014

This was inspired by a Curious George episode where they're camping George cooks hot dogs over a fire pit. I went to Trader Joe's and got some all-beef hot dogs. Good snap to 'em.

Balls on the Table

A day before Friday's game, Roy said about game 5: "We need to put our balls on the table."

#BallsontheTable is trending on Twitter in Denver.

Before the game, I asked Brittany several times who was going to win. She said the Avalanche every time.

- - -

Entering the 3rd period, the Avs were up 2-1.

Their first goal, shorthanded. Second, 4 on 4. Hard to score with 5 Avalanche skaters apparently.

And then with two goals two minutes apart, the Wild were winning 3-2 with 13 minutes to play.

With 4:30 to go, our captain gets a 2-minute penalty for giving the Wild goalie a snow shower. Really? Playoffs and the end of the game. I've seen this not get called all regular season.

The Avs kill the penalty and pull Varlamov with 2:15 to play.

With 1:28 the Wild clear the zone and have the start of a 2-on-1 headed toward an empty net...well let's just watch:

Holy shit. They did it again. I believe the Avs had 5 goals this year with the extra attacker. They've gotten two this series.

And it's from Parenteau. Here's what the Avs reporter has thought of him this series:

Parenteau careless passing continues
RT Parenteau turning the puck over every time he touches it doesn't help that line either.
Parenteau been absolutely dreadful so far this series for Avs
Parenteau-O'Reilly-McGinn line doing zero offensively

Good time to step up.

- - -

Of course it doesn't mean anything if you lose in overtime. Let's go to OT:

Who gets it? The youngest player to score a OT playoff goal since the 40's. Your postseason leader in points with 10. (Stastny still in 2nd place with 8.)

So now the Avs are up 3-2. Two of the three wins have been miracle comebacks. This could very easily be Wild in 5. Now we've got Monday in Minnesota. Odds are we'll be back in Denver on Wednesday.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Game 5 tonight

I've been a fan of the Avalanche for three full seasons. Tonight is the biggest game I'll have ever seen. And yet, the odds are very likely that we'll be back here for a game 7 on Wednesday and then that will be the biggest game to date.

If the Avs lose tonight, I think it's a 90% chance the Wild take it in 6.
Even with an Avs win, I think there's a 90% chance the Wild force a game 7.



That was me clearing Grant's drool off the keyboard. Anyways.

The first game Minnesota was ahead and the Avs got the miracle late win.
The second game Colorado was in control the whole time.
The third and fourth games Minnesota dominated. Shots for game 3 were 46-22. Shots for game 4 were 32-12.

Over a 120-minute sample size in Minnesota, the Wild outshot the Avs by 229%. That is not good. It's tough to win a game when you take 12 shots.

This is far worse than the regular season advanced stats would have suggested. If the Avs could have only been outshot by say 140% they might have picked up a game in Minnesota.

And after all that, game 3 went to overtime and game 4 was a 1 goal game as well.

Currently home teams in the west are 16-2. Let's keep it going.

Friday, April 25, 2014

5 of the 8 NHL playoff series are currently tied 2-2. Nice.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Another conversation with the wife about NHL Futures


Me: So who do you think is going to win the Stanley Cup?
Wife: (looking off into space) Is there a team with a Mighty Ducks logo?
Me: Oh my God.
Wife: What?
Me: Yes. Anaheim.
Wife: They look like the best.
Me: What happened to Pittsburgh?
Wife: Hmmm. It seems like they have a star player that's not going to play as well as they need him to.
Me: Crosby. What about the Avalanche?
Wife: Eh, they won't get past the 2nd round.

Notes on Game 3

Minnesota dominated Game 3.

In shots, 46 to 22.
In hits, 33 to 27.
I tried to find time on attack, but apparently NHL doesn't keep that stat anymore. Regardless, in every facet of the game, the Wild were better.

They scored a nifty goal in overtime to break the 0-0 tie and take game 3.

- - -

What stings is not the loss, but the dirty play by Matt Cooke. His deliberate knee-on-knee hit has ended the season of the person I described as "the most clutch player on the Avalanche," Tyson Barrie. It's being reported as an MCL injury that will sideline Barrie for 4-6 weeks. In the seconds after the hit, Barrie said "I'm done" and went directly to the locker room.

Cooke will be suspended. But I don't care. They can suspend him for a game or a year, it doesn't bring Barrie back for the playoffs.

If you want to read the bitter Avs reporter talk about Matt Cooke's history you can do that here. 
If you want to read the Wild reporter call Cooke a cheap shot artist in 2013 you can do that here. 

- - -

I recognize this could be a turning point. If you believe in momentum, the Wild could build on last night and take the series in 6. Or the Avs can fight back and take it in 5.

I'm optimistic that Roy is fired up and will get his team ready to win and end the season for the entire Minnesota Wild team, the old-fashioned way.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Unwritten Rule

For years, the NBA had an unwritten rule and now technology is ruining it.

Here's the situation: The ball goes out of bounds. Sometimes it's a rebound, sometimes it's what happens to Chris Paul on Saturday. The reason the ball went out is because there was contact. So even though the non-contact player may have touched it last, they award the ball to them. Basically it's a play-on.

This is the way it's been for a long time.

A couple years, ago I had a beef with this. But I've grown to embrace it. It's not a ton of contact that really warrants free throws. But it was that guys fault that the ball went out, even if it last touched Paul. So giving the possession to the Clippers, in this case, seems like a fair deal.

But now, the replay rules have broken this system. The refs were required to review who last touched the ball, but they aren't allowed to call the foul. They had to give the ball to the Warriors.

So now refs have to be retrained. They have to call ticky-tack fouls like that in the moment. This is an instance where the spirit of "getting it right" results in a worse product.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Avs Grab 2-0 Series Lead

These are two of the prettiest goals you'll see. Watch #46 in white. Yikes.

All four goals were created by the 18-year-old MacKinnon. In basically every game, Duchene has always been the fastest player on the ice. Well, I think MacKinnon is faster.

Here he creates a 2 on 1.

Four goals for the Avs. All from the same line. MacKinnon, Stastny, Landeskog.

- - -

There was a dicey moment at the end. First the refs miss a high-sticking penalty against the wild. It drew blood so should have been called a double minor.

Then Parenteau gets the empty netter to make it 4-1, but they say he was offsides. He wasn't.

Then the Wild score in the next 10 seconds to make it 3-2. Luckily that was as far as it went.

- - -

So now Stastny and MacKinnon both have 7 points in 2 games, leading all playoff performers. Next closest is Seabrook with 4.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What have you done to the Alma Mater?

This is the Alma Mater that I know and love:

That is how I've always seen it. That's how it looks in everyone's graduation photo.

After nearly two years off campus for's what returned to the corner of Green and Wright.

I hate it. To me, and this might not make sense to others, the Alma Mater is a green statue. That's the way it should be. Clean it. Repair holes. But keep it green.

I'm aware it's a bronze statue. But there's a precedent here. The following is taken from Wikipedia.

Originally, the statue was a dull copper color, but shortly after 1900 a green patina, also called verdigris, caused by the oxidation of the copper skin, began to spread. As early as 1902 it was mentioned in the press; by 1906 it had entirely covered the statue. Accepting a view that the patina was evidence of corrosion, Congress authorized $62,800 for various repairs, and to paint the statue both inside and out. There was considerable public protest against the proposed exterior painting.The Army Corps of Engineers studied the patina for any ill effects to the statue and concluded that it protected the skin, "softened the outlines of the Statue and made it beautiful.

The statue in question? The Statue of Liberty.

I suppose I have no choice but to grow to love the new Alma Mater. Or at least accept it.

But to me it's a green statue. The patina gave it character and made it beautiful. Maybe decades from now, I'll return to Illinois and find that years of air and moisture have returned it to it's proper form.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Game of the Year

I could have stayed home to watch a mediocre feed on my computer. Instead I went to Buffalo Wild Wings as soon as the kids were asleep for good.

When I left, it was 2-1 Wild. When I got there it was 3-2 Wild, and it's only a 4 minute drive. And then the Wild scored again. And then it was the 2nd intermission.

So my food order is in and I've got 20 minutes of playoff hockey in front of me. Avs down 2.

It wasn't that I knew the Avs were going to win, but I wasn't that worried. Because they've done this so many times before. Specifically coming back from a two-goal deficit with 20 minutes to play.

One of the nice things about watching at Buffalo Wild Wings is that they also had the Blue-Blackhawks game going. And they had SportsCenter on. SC did a update on the Wild-Avs game and their header said "Wild In Control."

And it's true. To this point, the Avs were playing a bit sloppy. The action always seemed to be in the Avs own zone.

5 minutes into the 3rd, Minnesota gets called for a penalty. Big power play opportunity. And no goal.

But 9 seconds after their guy gets out of the box, the Avs slide in a rebound. Down just 1 with almost 13 minutes to play.

With 11 minutes to play, we've got 2 minutes of 4x4. Which is great for the Avalanche in general with all their speed, and especially when they're down and pressing and Minnesota is trying to lock it down. And yet no goal.

The Wild were sustaining pressure. From 5:30 left to about 4:30 left, the puck was in the Avs zone the whole time.

Down one, with 3:01 to go, Roy pulls the goalie. Have you ever seen someone do that, that early, in a one-goal playoff game?

Immediately, the chances started coming. Minnesota couldn't clear. Avs were moving the puck like it was a power play.

With 1:30 to play, Minnesota finally gets a high clear, that looks like it's going to go into the net. It's bouncing and rolling, and Avs D-Man Erik Johnson is giving chase. Well let's just watch...

Also key...that he knocked the net off the moorings. That prevented an easy putback and got a faceoff.

So now there's 25 seconds left. MacKinnon has the puck behind the net, he passes it out to Johnson. Who shoots and...

There's a moment where nobody is sure where the puck is. Because it's stuck in the goddamn net. 4-4. Tie game. We're going to overtime. Free hockey.

Overtime was back and forth. Lots of dump-ins and short shifts. Like that's all that happened for the first 5 minutes of OT.

And then this happened.

I've watched this 20 times and I still don't know how the puck goes in.

Stastny becomes the first player ever in the playoffs to tie the game with under 15 seconds to go, and then win the game in OT.

And that's the first playoff game I've ever seen one of my teams win. Granted it's just game 1 in a series, but it's a good way to start. The title of this is Game of the Year, but it's the best Avs game I've seen in the three years I've been here.

The best game of any kind I've ever seen would have to be Illinois over Arizona in the Elite Eight. But this might be in 2nd.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I want to wear these

I couldn't help myself. I'm annoyed that I don't have access to the Nike Fighting Illini font, so I'm having to make do with crappy screenshots. But you get the idea. 

Nike presents new look for Fighting Illini

Last night at Krannert, Nike and the University of Illinois unveiled the new branding scheme for Illini athletics.

Photo galleries are here and here.

For a emotional take on what this represents, head to IlliniBoard.

To evaluate these, I think you need to start with the colors.

I'm very pleased with the orange, blue, white and grey. The orange and blue feels like what we've always had in a good way. And yet it feels a bit stronger, modern, when you have the textures and new fonts and other touches. Very happy they didn't bastardize the orange and turn in into a neon, like Nike has done with other schools.

As for the font and logos...I'm moderately pleased.

I'll start with the logos. I'm really happy that the block I we know and love is still the main logo. And the "Victory Shield" is a strong addition as a secondary logo. It fits nicely on the football collar and basketball belt.

The font...I'm happy that it's a custom font. It's something we own now. I don't mind the two-tone as long as it's on a white background. I don't mind the serifs that make the I's look like 1s. The font may not be exactly what I would have picked, but it's pretty good. I'm less impressed with the numbers. But it is what it is.

It's a decent base to work from. At least it's ownable.

So let's look at the basketball uniforms.

Those look pretty sharp. I like all four. The grey is a different look, but it's a good one. First observation...they all say Illinois. No mention of Illini or Fighting Illini. There was a lot of buzz about how Fighting Illini was going to be a big deal. So far, no. Someone on the message boards said that a Fighting Illini jersey of some sort will be coming in the next year.

Well that about sums it up for basketball, moving on–

What the fuck is that!? So yeah, there's a giant zig zag on the sides. Not really featured in the official photos or presentation. Just sort of there. This is really the only piece that makes me pause. Initial reaction is that it seems very 90's. But I'll reserve judgement until I see it in action.

Anyways, moving on to football.

No complaints. Love the helmets, mettalic, matte, stripes. Love the shield on the collar.

They have some subtle vertical striping as a nod to Red Grange era uniforms. You can really only see it well on the blue one. We'll have to see how it looks on the field.

You can see other sports in the photo galleries.

- - -

Because I couldn't help it. I wanted to see what the basketball jerseys would look like with Fighting Illini on them. The following are fake mockups, not real in any way.

I'm just saying.

The fruitless search for good barbecue in Denver

To date, I have been to 9 barbecue restaurants in Denver.

Famous Dave's
Rib City

and I still haven't found one that I'm that excited about going back to.

There are still some that I need to try:


It's been four years since I've made ribs at home. Once I saw this slab on sale, I decided to rectify that. Thes package described these as St. Louis-cut, Kansas City-seasoned. I had never used pre-seasoned ribs, but I figured, why not?

I still added two different dry rubs, half and half, but the color was already there.

This is how they looked coming out of the package:

When I went back through the HC archives, I noticed something strange. Noting a desire for moist heat, I poured an inch of water in the pan, touching the meat. That didn't seem right to the Dave in 2014. Instead I made a foil boat for the meat, and put an inch of water outside the foil. Then another piece of foil covering the entire thing. 

Here's how it looked after 6 hours of 200 degrees F. 

Then I took the top foil off, added sauce lengthwise to create 4 quadrants of flavor options (two rubs x sauce or no sauce) and cooked for another 30 minutes. Total cooking time 6.5 hours. These seemed really meaty, so I wanted to make sure they were cooked long enough at low and slow to be tender. Spoiler alert: my favorite quadrant was Gates rub with sauce.

Here's they looked, ready to eat:

About the six hours at 200 thing. That's how I've always done it. I decided to look online to see how others are doing it. Most are cooking for only 2.5 or 3 hours, anywhere from 250 to 350 F.

Then I was curious, was there a way to get smoke flavor in the oven?

I found this. Looks promising. And he's doing his for 3 hours at 250. It's low, but not quite slow. I wonder how tender they are.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A word on Corsi, FancyStats, Nerdstats, etc

This has become the main storyline about the Avs success this year.

This piece from April 11, titled "Colorado Avalanche’s success is unsustainable" is the most definitive about their position.

You can also read about it on SI:

The Avs may be the season’s feel-good story, but listen to the Corsi Kids and they’ll tell you that Colorado’s Cinderella season ends here. The Avs allow too many shots against — 32.6 per game, a miserable 25th overall — and have thrived only due to a breakthrough season by Semyon Varlamov, whose save percentage rose from .903 in 2012-13 to a Vezina-worthy .927 this season. The pressure then falls squarely on Colorado’s no-name defense. Led by reclamation project Erik Johnson and featuring a crew of castoffs (Andre Benoit, Nate Guenin and Nick Holden), over-the-hill types (Jan Hejda and Cory Sarich), and the surprising Tyson Barrie, the Avs’ blueline corps managed to prove the doubters wrong all season. But Minnesota is a team that can create havoc on the forecheck, and the Wild will put consistent pressure on this group. Can Colorado’s defenders raise their level of play to meet the increased demands of the postseason? Or will they prove that the numbers wonks were right all along?

Or on Bleacher Report or ProHockeyTalk or The Hockey News or The Denver Post.

The central belief here is that lack of puck possession or being outshot will be the reason the Avalanche don't have playoff success.

The central argument is usually "You can't measure heart!"

I think both of those points are ridiculous.

- - -

Look. I think those stats are good indicators of success. I would rather my team be doing well in those categories. But I also think 82 games is a decent sample size. Much better than 4-7 games against the Wild or Blackhawks.

But I don't think the answer is heart or guts anything like that.

Let's look at what we know.

The Avs have the 3rd best record in the league.
They are 4th in goals scored. 14th in goals against.
They are 20th in shots taken. They are 25th in shots allowed.
They are 6th in winning when leading after 1. And 3rd in winning when leading after 2.
The only goalie with a better save percentage than Varlamov is Tukka Rask (among goalies that played at least half their team's games. As a team, the Avs are 5th in save percentage.

To me, I think that shows the value of Corsi right there. They are 4th in scoring goals and have the 2nd best goalie. If they wouldn't give up so many shots, they'd be better than 14th in goals against.

And I know it doesn't make any sense, but when the Avs outshoot a team, they win 50% of the time. When they get outshot, they win 76.1% of the time.

- - -

My main point is this: If the Avs lose to Minnesota or Chicago or whoever, I don't think it's fair to say that "advanced stats predicted this."15 out of 16 playoff teams are not going to win the Cup this year.

I agree that being good at Corsi is a good thing. But so is having a top (or hot) goaltender. So is scoring lots of goals.

If they lose a series, puck possession/being outshot will likely be a factor. But I would also expect it to be because the save percentage or scoring rate dropped from the regular season average. What I mean is that the Avs have been scoring goals and stopping shots at a certain rate over 82 games that was good enough to win the strongest division in hockey. If one of those slips, I think that's the main reason we'd lose.

- - -

Let me try and explain it another way. I'm going to call Corsi, possession/shots since that's what it really is. I think a simpler name makes it easier to approach it as a single stat and not the be all end all.

All things being equal, the team with better possession/shots should win out over a 82 game season. But all things aren't equal.

The Avs are 20th in shots taken, yet 4th in scoring.
The Avs are 25th in shots allowed, yet 14th in goals allowed.

Perhaps this discrepancy is what statheads mean is unsustainable. That you can't expect over a 500-game sample to outperform the shots taken and shots allowed like they have. That's fair.

I could look the other way and say, hey we've got a hot goalie and hot scoring. If we could improve the puck possession a bit, we'd be the favorite.

Ryan Lambert's essentially saying the Avalanche wouldn't get past the first round. Of course, he was already wrong on one thing. He thought we'd be playing the Blackhawks.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Playoff Fever

All I want to do is read or talk about or watch the NHL playoffs.

Since I'm only a fan of the Chiefs (and wasn't in Kansas City in 1993), and the Avalanche for the last three years, I honestly don't know what it's like to have a team advance in the playoffs.

The closest is that I've seen the Illini go to National Championship. And that was awesome. (Since then, Illinois hasn't even made it to the Sweet 16.)

- - -

I started following the Avs as soon as I moved here. Technically, I bought a hat even before I got a job offer. I've gone to a total of four games in person, at least one every year.

My first year here, they finished 11th in the West, 20th in the league.
Last year, the finished last in the West, 29th in the league. Got the #1 pick.
This year, 2nd in the West. 3rd in the league.

Last May, I was excited. I saw this coming in a few years, not right away.

- - -

This is different the recent Chiefs playoff games. Not since 2003, when the Chiefs went 13-3 did I think they had a real chance of getting to a conference championship game, or God forbid, the Super Bowl.

Really the only time I've felt like that for my teams have been the 2003 Chiefs and the 2005 Illini.

I'm not saying the Avs are a lock to make it to the Cup Finals. But I think they beat the Wild. I know they could beat the Blackhawks. They're a contender.

And hey, Roy won the Memorial Cup his first year coaching in the QMJHL. Why not win the Stanley Cup his first year in the NHL?

- - -

There have now been 9 Avalanche seasons where Patrick Roy was player or coach. 9 out 9 times the Avs won the division.

There were 9 seasons where Roy was not a player or coach. 0 out of 9 times did the Avs win the division.

- - -

Over the last 11 games, the Avs won 18 of 22 possible points. (81.8% winning percentage) And that's without Duchene, still the team's leader in points and assists, despite only playing in 71 games.

That hot streak (combined with the Blues earning 0 of 12 possible points in their last 6 games including one against Colorado) means the Avs get to play the Wild and St. Louis draws the Blackhawks.

In five games against Minnesota, the Avs earned 9 of a possible 10 points, losing in the shootout once.

- - -

Somebody had to win the Central. Why not us? Somebody's going to win the Cup. Why not us?

Friday, April 11, 2014


With a record of 52-21-7, the Avalanche have tied their franchise record for wins in a season with two games to go.

(Caveat: The franchise record was set in 2000-2001 with a record of 52-16-10-4. The last two categories being ties and overtime losses. One way to look at it is that team with today's rules would have had 10 chances to go to shootouts and win about 5 more. The other way to look at it is that this year's team had 5 wins off shootouts. Regardless it's been a good season.)

Despite being totally invested and following on twitter or live streams for every game that I can, I haven't been blogging as much about them. One of those reasons is, ironically, that they've had a playoff spot sewn up basically since October.

On November 7th I posted the playoff picture here. (Just ignore all that Chiefs in first place stuff).

Back then, the Avs were in first, Blues 2nd, Blackhawks 3rd. And after all those games, that's where we are now.

- - -

The entire season it looked like the Avs would be facing the Blackhawks in round 1, it was just a matter of who would have home ice. I was fine with this. The Avs are 4-1 vs Chicago this year.

As long as they didn't have to play St. Louis, I'm golden. Colorado is 1-3 vs St. Louis this year.

But if they got the #1 seed they could face Dallas (4-1 against them) or Minnesota (4-1 against them too).

What would be ideal...if the Avs could get the #1 seed, knock off Dallas or Minnesota...meanwhile Chicago beats St. Louis, setting up a Colorado-Chicago semifinals.

- - -

The only sour note is that my favorite player, Matt Duchene, got injured. On March 31, he was slated to be out 3-4 weeks. Since then though, Colorado has been on a tear, winning game after game. So hopefully they can stay alive until he rejoins them.

- - -

Small tidbit about this year's team: Our most clutch player has been...defenseman Tyson Barrie. The same Barrie that was often sent to the AHL under head coach Sacco. He has 5 GWG including last night including 3 in OT.

- - -

So now there's 2 games left. The Avs have clinched the 1st or 2nd seed in the division, meaning they've secured home ice. They're tied with the Blues in points but own the tiebreaker (ROW).

Since it's a back to back, the Avs are starting in goal...Reto Berra. He was acquired a month or two ago and has only played one game, a loss. With a W and a Blues regulation loss, the Avs could clinch the division.

Why not us?

Final Four by Seeds

When organizing this year's Calcutta, I decided to group the 7 seeds and below as a four-team unit to bid on. My thinking was that teams seeded 7 and below rarely make the Final Four. I didn't run the numbers, but I have now.

Prior to March 2014, here were the percentages of seeds making the Final Four, dating back to 1985, the beginning of the 64-team field.

Over the last 29 years (again prior to this year's tournament) there were 116 Final Four teams.

Here are the distribution by seeds: (no team 12 or below has ever made the Final Four)

1: 47 (40.5%)
2: 25 (21.6%)
3: 14 (12.1%)
4: 13 (11.2%)
5: 6 (5.2%)
6: 3 (2.6%)
7: 0 (0%)
8: 4 (3.4%)
9: 1 (.9%)
10: 6 (5.2%)
11: 3 (2.6%)

If you combine the success of 7-seeds through 11-seeds you'll see a total of 14 teams (12.1%).

- - -

So of course this year, not only did two of those make the Final Four, but they made the title game and one of them obviously one it all.

To sum up:
History of 7-seeds or below making the Final Four over the last 29 years: 12.1%
7-seeds or below making the Final Four this year: 50%.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

What If Sports

After this article in the Sun Times (part of a series of stories for the 25th anniversary of Flyin Illini) I saw this on twitter:

The big thing for me was not the comparison between the teams but the prospect of this website that simulated games between whatever teams you want.

Instantly, I doubted it. I mean, anybody can "run a simulation" and spit you out a score. It doesn't really mean it's accurate. And there's no way to test it anyways.

I started thinking about the Chiefs vs Broncos this year. They played twice and the Broncos won twice. If you run the simulation 20 times and it says that the Broncos would win 15 out of 20 or 18 out of 20, you don't really have any way to believe it either way.

And then I realized. There is a way to test their simulation accuracy. Not between historical teams or in football. But in baseball and basketball, teams play the same teams a lot in the same season. If I compared the simulations to actual results. If they're close enough, I can trust the site.

Calibration Test #1: MLB

I picked Boston vs Tampa Bay in 2013 because they played 23 times including the postseason.
Boston won 15 for a winning percentage of .652.

I picked this first and now am going to simulate the 20 games, 10 home for each team. I'm picking 20 as hopefully a large enough sample size to get a decent idea. 10,000 would be better. But I don't have all day and 20 is better than simulating three times.

Simulation Results: Boston won 13 out of 20 simulations for a percentage of .650. Fucking nailed it. I would have considered 11 to 15 (.550 to .750) a success. I am totally surprised.

Calibration Test #2: NBA

I picked Chicago vs Indiana in 2011 because they played 9 times including the postseason and Chicago won 7 for a winning percentage of .778.

Let's see how the simulation stacks up with 20 tries.

Chicago won 16 out of 20 simulations for a percentage of .800. Again, spot on. I'm super impressed. These were not cherry picked simulations. I picked the teams and then ran the simulations. I'm in.

- - -

Comparison #1: 1989 Illini vs 2005 Illini

Might as well start here. 20 simulations...

2005 Illini win 14...70% of the time.

Comparison #2: 2013 Chiefs vs 2013 Broncos

Chiefs couldn't win one in two tries. They can at least get one right?

Broncos win 17...85% of the time. They won 10 of 10 at home, 7 of 10 on the road.

I think that seems fair. The Broncos were always going to win that home game. But at Arrowhead, the Chiefs take 1 out of 3.

Comparison #3: Super Bowl 48: Seahawks vs Broncos

This was a beat down, but how many times would the Seahawks really win? KJ Wright said they'd win 90 out of 100. After 20 simulations in the Meadowlands...

Each team won 10 simulations.

Comparison #4: Wild-Card Playoffs: Chiefs at Colts

That game. How many times would the Chiefs have won at Lucas Oil Stadium?

10. Even giving the Colts all 20 home games, each team wins 10. I'm okay with this.

Comparison #5: 2005 National Championship: Illini vs Tarheels

This is the big one. The one we should have won. Right?

North Carolina wins 15 out of 20. 75%.

This is the first one that shocks me. Oh well, what can you do?

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


If I pee in the sink, I'm disgusting. If my kid pees in a plastic potty and then I pour it down the sink, he gets a sucker.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014


I don't think I'm attached to too many material possessions. One of the things that I do sort of "collect" is glassware. I have some vintage soda glasses, root beer float mugs, tall narrow glasses and some from events or travels. Although I don't have as many as I used to. As collections go, this one is pretty fragile. 

Unfortunately, I lost another one this week. Basically it's exactly 9 years old, from Gameday Sports. 

It's a bummer since it's pretty much irreplaceable. I can't even blame this one on the kids. I noticed it was broken sitting in the cabinet, meaning it probably broke in the dishwasher and then I put it back without noticing.

But I'd rather get to drink out of it for nine years and have it break than have it sit in a display case forever and never get to use it.