NCAA Basketball Tournament 2001 Primer: Power Rankings + NBA JAM Equivalents

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – NCAA Basketball Tournament 2001. And to welcome in the spirit of the season, I’d like to present you, the lucky reader with a rare combination of SpreeGoogs (trademark 2011) information: A Top 11/Power rankings mixed with NBA JAM: Tournament Edition, in honor of the tournament.

What you’re about to read is my personal rankings of the top 11 teams in the Dance. But you can probably find a list like that anywhere right now. You’ll probably see most of the teams that I like on everyone’s lists. You’ll probably even see the same analysis of why those teams are good everywhere. What you won’t find anywhere else is a ranking of the teams PLUS a comparison to an NBA JAM: TE team with similar players and style. This little extra nugget of ‘90s information not only takes us back to the glory days of basketball, it also might in some bizarre way you make decisions about who you think can beat everyone else. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but no one has figured out a perfect system for predicting the tournament yet, and I’m pretty sure I’m the first to try this method, so in that sense, it hasn’t been disproved yet.  Just hold your breath and take it in….

1. kansas Jayhawks

Mourning/Johnson = KU’s Morris brothers

It sort of hurts to put this team here, but those Morris brothers are awfully good. And when I look at the other teams in the tournament, I don’t see another team that I think can guard them both and still have anything left for the perimeter guys, who can pretty much all shoot.
NBA JAM: TE Equivalent- Charlotte Hornets. The Morris boys are both loaded up with power, like the Mourning/Johnson combo, and the other starters and bench provide the three-pointers, steals, and slashing speed, just like Bogues and Curry of the Hornets.

2. Ohio State Buckeyes

Malone/Hornacek = OSU’s Sullinger/Diebler

The top overall seed in the tournament, the Buckeyes are based around Jared Sullinger, who is an animal. Not the same way Pau Gasol is an animal (see earlier posts), but you get the point. Pretty much every other player on the roster can shoot threes, but no one alive shoots like Jon Diebler.
NBA JAM: TE Equivalent- Utah Jazz. Sullinger is Malone, Diebler, Lighty, and Buford are all a mix of Stockton and Hornacek, who hit threes at an insanely high rate and have good clutch ratings as well.

3. Duke Blue Devils

Hardaway/Anderson = Duke’s Singler/Smith

Last year’s champ, Duke has my vote for best individual player in the tournament in Nolan Smith. Hard to evaluate this team without seeing much of Kyrie Irving against real competition this season, but Smith and Singler are crazy good and the Plumlees can rebound well. The rest of the team is consistently good, but consistently un-great.
NBA JAM: TE Equivalent- Orlando Magic. Smith and Singler are both good outside scorers, like Hardaway/Anderson, but the Enforcing Horace Grant (the Plumlees) controls the paint. Although Irving plays nothing like Shaq (who is missing from NBA JAM: TE due to copyright issues), it’s important to note that both the Blue Devils and the NBA JAM Magic are being evaluated without a key player.

4. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Starks/Ewing = ND’s Hansbrough/Rest of team

I like little Hansbrough’s shooting a lot, but it’s complemented very well with the interior play of a host of big, primarily Carleton “Tom Jones Dance” Scott. I love they way this team plays, and my rating is probably higher than most people will give them.
NBA JAM TE Equivalent- New York Knicks. Hansbrough scores from the outside and shoots a great percentage from the three-point line, like Starks, and the interior lineup of Ewing, Oakley and Mason is a power center that can rebound and dunk well.

5. Pittsburgh Panthers

Don’t get too excited.

This team’s offense revolves around Ashton Gibbs (a super-dangerous three-point shooter) and the combination of Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown, balanced wings who can do a little bit of everything well. Pitt is physical and has a lot of quality players off the bench to keep the pain coming.
NBA JAM TE Equivalent- forgive the blasphemy, but Golden State Warriors. Gibbs is a deadly shooter (Mullin) and the size, speed, and outside shooting of SpreeGoogs, although muted, is there with Wanamaker/Brown. Overall, there is no bad player on either roster, and Pitt’s toughness is mirrored by the GSW’s great power rankings.

*Important disclaimer at no point will this Pittsburgh team, or any other team, actually achieve a level of SpreeGoogs, but at least they’re trying.

6. Purdue Boilermakers

Kemp/Schrempf = Purdue’s Johnson/Moore

Purdue gets the award for actually playing the most like an NBA JAM team. The bad news is that there are really only two players on the team, the good news is that when those two players are JaJuan Johnson and E’Twuan Moore, you only need two players.
NBA JAM: TE Equivalent- Seattle Supersonics. Johnson/Moore = Kemp/Gill. It’s uncanny. JaJuan Johnson, like Kemp is potentially the best post player in the country. Unlike Kemp, Johnson isn’t doing it on cocaine. Kendall Gill is at least a 6 in every category, so he does everything well, just like Moore. Payton/Schrempf off the bench are good players, but really just take up minutes in exchange for a bit of three-point shooting and a little better passing (Ryne Smith and Lewis Jackson).

7. Texas Longhorns

Olajuwon/Horry = UT’s Thompson/Hamilton

I don’t know how this team got a 4 seed. Texas’ best attribute is team defense, which is absolutely suffocating. The catch is that they can play offense really well too. Jordan Hamilton, Tristan Thompson and Gary Johnson all average at least 11.5 points and 7 rebounds a game, which is stupid. Dogus Balbay doesn’t know how pronounce his own first name, which is what keeps this team from being ranked any higher.
NBA JAM: TE Equivalent- Houston Rockets. It may be a stretch to compare Thompson to Olajuwon, but he’s been awfully good for a freshman and I don’t think there are too many teams that will be able to handle him. Hamilton is extremely balanced and great at a lot of things, just like Horry, who is secretly one of the game’s best players. Thorpe is equally balanced, though noticeably worse, just like Johnson. An argument could even be made for Balbay and Cassell (good pass/speed and not much else), but I won’t push it.

8. Kentucky Wildcats

Manning/Majerle = UK’s Knight/Lamb/Miller

Another team I probably rank higher than most people. But here’s why: they have three players (Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Darius Miller) who have made 50 three-pointers this year, and it’s not just because they shoot a lot. The worst percentage of the three of them is .387. I love the long-ball. In addition to this, Terrence Jones led the SEC in rebounding and scores the ball well from the post.
NBA JAM: TE Equivalent- Phoenix Suns. This team is all shooters. Manning, Johnson and Majerle are all at least a 7 in threes and Tisdale rebounds and dunks with power. They’re just like the Wildcats.

9. North Carolina Tar Heels

Robinson/Rodman = UNC’s three important players

Just like a real NBA JAM team, UNC is only three people. I mean, there are more players than that who are technically on the roster, but this team is Barnes, Zeller, and Henson, three pretty big guys who can all score around the basket. Henson and Barnes are NBA Draft Lottery athletic, but there’s not that great of an outside scoring threat.
NBA JAM: TE Equivalent- San Antonio Spurs. Robinson/Rodman in particular. Big, aggressive players who are elite in rebounding, defending and scoring around the rim, but even the best three-point shooter is barely above average.

10. Connecticut Huskies

Miller/Smits = UConn’s Walker/Oriakhi

Kemba Walker has been the best player in the country this year. He’s elite at scoring and can do it all by himself. Alex Oriakhi rebounds very well, and Shabazz Napier handles most guard responsibilities a lot better than average, but everyone knows this team belongs to Walker.
NBA JAM: TE Equivalent Indiana Pacers. Walker is one of the best scorers in the game, like Miller, who also has a high clutch rating. Oriakhi, like Smits is going to rebounds and block shots, but that’s it. It’s a shame this team doesn’t have an unlockable Mark Jackson, because Napier is calling for it.

11. Syracuse Orange

Drexler/Robinson = Cuse’s Joseph/Jackson

What I like most about Cuse is the balance on the wing. Kris Joseph can score a little better than Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche, but overall, these three can all play. Big Rick Jackson led the best conference in college basketball in rebounding by more than 2 per game.
NBA JAM: TE Equivalent Portland Trailblazers. The power anchor (Cliff Robinson/ Rick Jackson) can rebound well and score decently but what makes this team good is the outside play of particularly Drexler (Kris Joseph), Porter (Jardine) and even Strickland (Triche).