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Alleyoop.com--"The Basketball Page for Thinking Fans"

 

When we first included a link to this site, back when we were just starting SoCalHoops (before it had the current name, logo, and when it was conceived as site for park league youth coaching), Alleyoop.com was also something very different from what you'll find there today. Back then it was primarily a web resource for coaching and college basketball. Well, we've all come a long way. Now we're "SoCalHoops.com", and focus on a much wider range of basketball. So too has Alleyoop.com evolved, becoming one of the richest sources of commentary and content dedicated to the NBA game to be found anywhere on the web.

Who is Alleyoop.com, and more important, why does that guy have such big glasses?

This site is the brainchild of John Hollinger , who also now runs the Mining Company's College Basketball Site (which is where all the stuff that used to be on Alleyoop.com is now located). If you are interested in a refreshing viewpoint on college hoops (with team links, analysis and commentary, schedules and scores, and more), then be sure to visit the Mining Co (which also hosts the Journal of Basketball Studies--check our previous review of that site). Like the other intelligently written basketball sites that our reviews favor, there aren't a lot of pretty pictures there (unless you count the one of Hollinger, which actually is located at The Mining Company), just a lot of good old-fashioned writing, in a nice format with easy-to-read graphics. The design is clean and fresh, and easy to navigate.

So what will you find at Alleyoop.com? Just about everything and anything with an analytical bent touching on the NBA game. I suppose the only negative thing I can say about the site is the recent addition of sponsor advertising, which doesn't take the form of "banners" or "footers" that are so prevalent among sites which feature ads; instead, Alleyoop.com is trying something new: Click on a link to a section of the site, and instead of that page coming up, the first thing you'll see is a full-page ad from one of the sponsors, with another link which tells the reader to "click here to continue". I guess someone has to pay for all this stuff, but it seems like a terrible inconvenience to the viewer to be delayed while the ad page loads just to get to the page desired. But it's a small price to pay for the value inherent in this site, and even with the ads, it's nice to know that the site is still provided free of charge.

This site's like an Onion. . . No, more like an Artichoke. . .

What's on the outside, and what's inside? First there's the easy stuff: Schedules, scores and highlights, "What's on TV", and the usual collection of information from the news wires (mostly from USA Today). Ah, but that's really only the outer layer. This site's a bit like an onion (or better yet, an artichoke, because it won't make you cry--unless you happen be silly enough to have picked the Nuggets to win it all this year, in which case you'll certainly be crying by season's end): Each layer you peel back reveals something new and better than the layer preceding it. Like an artichoke, you've got to peel it back, or at least look deeper than the outer leaves in order to get to the heart of things.

The Thinking Fan's Site. . .Yes, It Is. . .

As noted on the title page, this site bills itself as the Basketball Site for "Thinking Fans", and it does the job. I think. (But then I would think that, because I'm a thinking fan, yesiree Bob!). There are features, and a collection of articles published weekly (and sometimes more often) called "From the Baseline" and simply "Features" where you'll find solid analysis. For example, a recent article in a series analyzed the just about to conclude '97-'98 Exhibition Season, which you'll have to read for yourself.

I suppose, though that the site's title really begs the question, are there "unthinking" fans who could benefit from visiting Alleyoop.com? You bet. Take a tour of the net, any day or night of the week. I don't think I can take another one of the "pictures-only" MichaelJordanCharlesBarkleyShaquilleO'NeilScottiePippen "homage" pages again. And you sure won't find that kind of mindless hero-worshipping going on here. Just the opposite.

Instead you'll find thought-provoking, sometimes sarcastic, witty and insightful analyses, maybe not on the technical level of the JoBS, but you will find gems such as that presented in this week's From the Baseline article entitled "Where's the Points?" , in which JH seeks to determine and/or predict whether the recent NBA rule changes (moving the three point line back, the "no-charging" circle in the key, and the "no-forearm" rule) will have the desired effect of producing more scoring than last year's historical (or seemingly so) nadir of points. A few excerpts from this article will illustrate the quality of the writing and the analytical approach to the game you'll find here:


Hey, Where's the Points?

OCTOBER 14 - After last season's year-long bought with the blahs brought on by low-scoring contests, the NBA instituted a number of rule changes designed to bring about an increase in scoring. Thus far, nothing has changed.

A really quick, not terribly scientific way to observe this is by looking at the number of exhibition games where 100 points or more have been scored. Thus far, through 34 contests league-wide, encompassing 68 teams, 27 have hit the century mark in a game. Compare this to last year, when in the first 34 exhibition games—you guessed it—27 teams hit the century mark. Not much appears to have changed in the NBA.

Or at least, not yet. One thing to keep in mind is that takes teams time to adjust to the impact of any rules change. Everyone is still employing last year's strategies. Teams and players need to figure out how to incorporate the longer three-point line into their attack; how to take advantage of the no-charging circle around the basket, and how to use the no-forearm rule to their advantage. This is no easy feat, not only because old habits are hard to break but also because it takes time to figure out exactly what you can and can't get away with.

When this season starts, I would expect the same moribund pace as last season in most of the contests. If there's going to be a change, you'll start to notice during the second half the season, but the effects probably won't really be felt until next season; this is also something for the NBA to consider if they decide they need to boost the scoring even more next year. For a perfect example, look at the shortened three-point line. Teams didn't start exploiting it to maximum advantage until just last season; there's no reason to think adjusting to it's removal might not take just as long."

Clearly, this site is not as technically oriented as the Journal of Basketball Science (where you'll find just about the best use of Java applets that I've seen integrated anywhere into text), but it's also no lightweight either. There's really a lot of thought given to what's written, and clearly many hours have been devoted to this venture by the author(s). Another recent example of the kind of analysis featured was an article entitled "What Other Folks Are Picking", devoted to analyzing who the "other pundits" are guessing to win the NBA finals this year, comparing them with Alleyoop's own picks. Included among the other guys analyzed are Inside Sports, Peterson's, MVP, Street & Smith's, SLAM, Athlon, the Sporting News, and others. An excerpt:

Everyone likes to make predictions, and with the NBA season coming up you've been seeing Alleyoop.com's predictions for the NBA clubs in the daily previews. However, since some other folks are also out there making predictions, it seems like a good time to look and see who's picking what.

Before I get started, I just wanted to bring up how lame most of the preseason predictions for the NBA season are. By "lame" I mean, specifically, that nobody makes an attempt to predict a team's win-loss record, which is the biggest indicator of the season's success. Most magazines will just pick the standings and leave it at that; it's much easier to defend the picks later on, as long as you didn't pick the Grizzlies to win the West or anything.

Some even resort to peculiar shenanigans such as "power ratings" or "talent quotients" rather than picking wins and losses; this is effective to hide behind as well. I mean, if you pick a team to win 30 games and they win 60 that's one thing; but if you had the team with a talent quotient of 76.4 who the heck knows how far off you were?

Anyway, from the sampling below I think you'll see this clearly borne out. Alleyoop.com, as far as I know, is the only place picking win-loss records for each team; as you'll see, a lot of folks won't even pick playoff teams. That does set up an occasional embarrassment that might not otherwise exist. For instance, last year's prediction of the Houston Rockets to come in third would have been perfectly respectable; when the same prediction had them at 40-42 it became season-long flamebait. I really don't know why none of the major magazines will pick the win-loss records, but I've yet to find a single one that will. "

Stats, Polls and Oddball Questions

In addition to the interesting and well-written articles, this site is also a statistics-lover's dream, and is especially useful to those of you who engage in what some call that mindless fixation: Fantasy Basketball. It's probably also pretty useful for gambling, but that's a whole other story. JH has put out player ratings for every team and player, not just for the last season, but going back as far as the 1989 season, a truly amazing feat. There are also sections devoted to each teams' "Expected Wins", an analysis of the "Free Agents", and the "1997 Draft", which includes "Team Grades", "Trades", "Selections", a "Mock Draft", and analyses of each team's picks this last year by position (e.g., Point Guards, Shooting Guards, Small Forwards, Power Forwards, and Centers.)

Alleyoop.com also features a current and up-to-date Transaction Zone, giving news and analysis of current trades and deals, Injury Reports, and a Democracy Zone, which is a summary and analysis of the various reader's polls asking viewers to vote on the latest zany and oddball question of the week: This week's article analyzes the results of the poll which asked readers to vote on "Which Coach Will Get Fired First" this year.

As with all of our other Hot Site Reviews, this site is well-worth your time. If there's something or someone involved with the NBA you're looking for, some obscure stat, or an interesting perspective you're seeking, or if you want an intelligent view besides the party line at NBA.com, then be sure to visit Alleyoop.com.

The Swish Award

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