Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Sports

March 11, 2013

The Man Who Lives in March, All Year Round

ESPN analyst and College Basketball Prospectus editor John Gasaway knows his way around a bracket.

Michael Gluckstadt

You might think that producing in-depth college basketball analysis and predictions on the eve of March Madness offers all the satisfaction of building a carefully-constructed house of cards in the path of an oncoming hurricane. But that's not the way ESPN analyst and College Basketball Prospectus editor John Gasaway sees it.

John Gasaway
"My 'bracket pool' is the next 20 tournaments. Enter if you dare."

John Gasaway

"For all my hard work, I take the long view. My 'bracket pool' is the next 20 tournaments," he tells Gelf. "Did I pick Lehigh to beat Duke, or Norfolk State to beat Missouri? No. Did I love those games and tweet about them like an overcaffeinated adolescent? Absolutely."


While some fans are only now beginning to notice the athletic wonders of Victor Oladipo or speculate as to whether defending champ Kentucky will make the tournament, Gasaway lives in a perpetual state of March all year-round—and he's been doing it for some time. He began emailing with Ken Pomeroy in November 2004, and the two of them have contributed material about the college game to Basketball Prospectus since 2007. Gasaway also has served as the editor for the last three editions of the annual College Basketball Prospectus book. (In an announcement made just last week, Basketball Prospectus revealed that Gasaway, along with two other writers, had moved over to ESPN on a full-time basis.)

In the following interview, which was conducted over email and has been edited for clarity, Gasaway shares with Gelf his views on realignment, why he thinks Gonzaga has what it takes, and, yes, tips for how to win the office pool.

Gelf Magazine: Is this the most wide-open season in years?

John Gasaway: There's no single favorite equivalent to Kentucky a year ago, but in historical terms, no, this season is not uniquely wide open. The upsets we've seen during the regular season have been "normal" both in number and magnitude.
If last season UK had something close to a monopoly on national-title chances relatively speaking (not a true monopoly, of course), this season we're seeing an oligopoly (Indiana, Florida, Louisville, Duke, Gonzaga, etc.). That's a move in a more wacky direction, certainly, but it's still an oligopoly.


Gelf Magazine: Could Gonzaga do it?

Absolutely. The odds are against them, just like they are against any one team, but people still aren't grasping just how good the Zags are. This is the best mid-major we've seen since Memphis in 2008, and that team made it to the 45th minute of a national-championship game. There are no guarantees in a single-elimination tournament, but Mark Few's team will enter the bracket even stronger than people realize.

Gelf Magazine: Will we ever stop hearing about RPI?

John Gasaway: Yes, when it's discarded. While the NCAA lags behind all other fans and observers, we must always remember that in NCAA terms they're moving at the speed of light. I recommend treating the NCAA in roughly the same manner that we see hoarders helped on reality TV. Applaud every small advance. Smile a lot.

Gelf Magazine: Are analytics as big for college hoops as they are for the NBA? Do any programs employ analytics guys themselves?

John Gasaway: The NBA has huge analytic advantages in the form of more games, fewer teams, relatively stable personnel groupings, and more incentives to be accurate. Variances in talent are much smaller at the professional level, so being right about things like how to score can provide a more discernible advantage. In our college setting there is, as of yet, little or no silo-making, where you're the Analytics Guy, but I'm the Xs and Os Guy. Brad Stevens, to take one obvious example, might be said to be employing an analytics guy by the name of Brad Stevens.

Gelf Magazine: Is it frustrating to run smart analysis all season, then see it all sometimes undermined by the crapshoot that is the NCAA tournament?

John Gasaway: Not frustrating at all. Did I pick Lehigh to beat Duke, or Norfolk State to beat Missouri? No. Did I love those games and tweet about them like an overcaffeinated adolescent? Absolutely. As for all my hard work, I take the long view. My "bracket pool" is the next 20 tournaments. Enter if you dare.

Gelf Magazine: What do you tell friends who ask you to fill out their brackets for them?

John Gasaway: I tell them yes, but let me give you my picks at the last minute. The more time, the better. Last year I got in trouble with my wife because the Monday-morning bracket I gave her "only" finished third in a pool with 75 colleagues.

Gelf Magazine: What do you think of all the conference realignments?

John Gasaway: I can be very pro-realignment in theory—give Gonzaga some competition, already—but in practice the realignments that actually happen are often strange. Rutgers will soon be hosting Nebraska in Piscataway. When these two meet you can throw the records out the window.

Gelf Magazine: How important is it to your work to watch the games? How many do you watch?

John Gasaway: It's essential. The best thing about my gig is being able to say, truthfully, I watch more games than any rational person should. When they have friends over, my boys like to point at me watching games on TV and tell their buddies, "He's working."

Gelf Magazine: Is Ken Pomeroy a rival? A collaborator? Both?

John Gasaway: Ken and I started emailing each other about college hoops in November 2004, and we've been talking ever since. We wrote some books together, we saw a lot of empty chairs on a book tour together, and we started a website together. We disagree violently about Texas 2005-06, and I'm right. Other than that, we're cool. Ken's writing is like Fred Astaire's singing. He'll tell you writing's not his "thing," but he's better at it than 99% of the self-styled writers out there. Which is why I'm clearly superior to Ken. He could never pen an encomium to me one-tenth as great as mine to him. No rivalry here.

Michael Gluckstadt

Michael Gluckstadt is an editor at Gelf and host of the Varsity Letters speaking series.







Post a comment

Comment Rules

The following HTML is allowed in comments:
Bold: <b>Text</b>
Italic: <i>Text</i>
Link:
<a href="URL">Text</a>

Comments


Article by Michael Gluckstadt

Michael Gluckstadt is an editor at Gelf and host of the Varsity Letters speaking series.

Learn more about this author






Newsletter

Hate to miss out? Enter your email for occasional Gelf news flashes.

Merch

Gelf t-shirt

The picture is on the front of the shirt, the words are on the back. You can be in between.