Sunday, February 26, 2017

2/26/2017 Bracketology

Teams are ranked in order by seed. Auto bids are in bold and are determined via KenPom projections, with tiebreaker being awarded to the team ranked higher in KenPom’s rankings.

1 seeds: Kansas, Villanova, North Carolina, Gonzaga

2 seeds: Baylor, Oregon, Louisville, Kentucky

3 seeds: Butler, Florida State, Arizona, UCLA

4 seeds: Florida, West Virginia, Duke, Purdue

5 seeds: Notre Dame, Minnesota, Virginia, Creighton

6 seeds: Wisconsin, St. Mary’s, SMU, Cincinnati

7 seeds: Maryland, South Carolina, Dayton, Oklahoma State

8 seeds: Virginia Tech, Miami FL, Iowa State, Michigan

9 seeds: Michigan State, Northwestern, Xavier, Arkansas

10 seeds: VCU, USC, Seton Hall, Wichita State

11 seeds: Providence, California, Marquette, Vanderbilt, TCU, Syracuse

12 seeds: Middle Tennessee, UNC-Wilmington, Nevada, UT Arlington

13 seeds: Vermont, Princeton, Monmouth, Akron

14 seeds: East Tennessee State, Belmont, Valparaiso, UNC Asheville

15 seeds: Cal State Bakersfield, Bucknell, Florida Gulf Coast, South Dakota

16 seeds: UC Irvine, Texas Southern, NC Central, North Dakota, New Orleans, Mount St. Mary’s

Last 4 In: Marquette, Vanderbilt, TCU, Syracuse

First 4 Out: Rhode Island, Georgia, Wake Forest, Illinois

New to the Bracket: Providence, Vanderbilt, South Dakota

Removed from the Bracket: Kansas State, Georgia Tech, North Dakota State


Sunday, February 19, 2017

2/19/17 Bracketology

Teams are ranked in order by seed. Auto bids are in bold and are determined via KenPom projections, with tiebreaker being awarded to the team ranked higher in KenPom’s rankings.

1 seeds: Villanova, Gonzaga, Kansas, Baylor

2 seeds: North Carolina, Oregon, Louisville, Arizona

3 seeds: Florida State, Florida, Kentucky, Duke

4 seeds: UCLA, West Virginia, Purdue, Butler

5 seeds: Virginia, Cincinnati, Creighton, Notre Dame

6 seeds: Wisconsin, Maryland, St. Mary’s, SMU

7 seeds: Minnesota, South Carolina, Northwestern, Dayton

8 seeds: Virginia Tech, Xavier, Oklahoma State, USC

9 seeds: VCU, Iowa State, Miami FL, Michigan

10 seeds: California, Michigan State, Arkansas, Wichita State

11 seeds: Marquette, TCU, Seton Hall, Kansas State, Georgia Tech, Syracuse

12 seeds: Middle Tennessee, UNC-Wilmington, Nevada, UT Arlington

13 seeds: Vermont, Princeton, Akron, Monmouth

14 seeds: East Tennessee State, Belmont, Valparaiso, UNC Asheville

15 seeds: Cal State Bakersfield, Bucknell, Florida Gulf Coast, North Dakota State

16 seeds: UC Irvine, Texas Southern, NC Central, North Dakota, New Orleans, Mount St. Mary’s

Last 4 In: Seton Hall, Kansas State, Georgia Tech, Syracuse

First 4 Out: Tennessee, Providence, Clemson, Wake Forest

New to the Bracket: Arkansas, Seton Hall, Cal State Bakersfield, North Dakota

Removed from the Bracket: Clemson, Georgetown, New Mexico State, Weber State


Sunday, February 12, 2017

2/12/2017 Bracketology

Teams are ranked in order by seed. Auto bids are in bold and are determined via KenPom projections, with tiebreaker being awarded to the team ranked higher in KenPom’s rankings.

1 seeds: Villanova, Gonzaga, Kansas, Baylor

2 seeds: North Carolina, Oregon, Louisville, Arizona

3 seeds: Florida State, Florida, Kentucky, Virginia

4 seeds: UCLA, West Virginia, Duke, Purdue

5 seeds: Butler, Cincinnati, Creighton, Maryland

6 seeds: Notre Dame, South Carolina, Wisconsin, St. Mary’s

7 seeds: SMU, Xavier, Minnesota, Northwestern

8 seeds: Dayton, Virginia Tech, USC, Oklahoma State

9 seeds: VCU, TCU, Iowa State, Georgia Tech

10 seeds: Miami FL, California, Marquette, Syracuse

11 seeds: Kansas State, Michigan State, Michigan, Clemson, Georgetown, Wichita State

12 seeds: Middle Tennessee, UNC-Wilmington, Nevada, UT Arlington

13 seeds: Vermont, Akron, Belmont, East Tennessee State

14 seeds: Monmouth, New Mexico State, Valparaiso, Princeton

15 seeds: Bucknell, Florida Gulf Coast, UNC Asheville, North Dakota State

16 seeds: UC Irvine, Texas Southern, Weber State, NC Central, New Orleans, Mount St. Mary’s

Last 4 In: Michigan State, Michigan, Clemson, Georgetown

First 4 Out: Tennessee, Arkansas, Indiana, Wake Forest

New to the Bracket: Syracuse, Michigan, Georgetown

Removed from the Bracket: Arkansas, Indiana, Seton Hall


Review of the Top 16 Projection from 2/11/17

The committee released their top 16 teams on Saturday, and overall, for me, there wasn’t too many surprises. I accurately picked 15 of the 16 teams the committee would place into the field (I had Cincinnati in over Florida), and correctly seeded 12 of those teams, and the other 3 were missed by just one seed line (Louisville, Arizona, Butler). My initial reaction of my performance to mimic the committee was very positive. I then decided to compare this performance to my performance over the past three years (comparing the FINAL bracket in those years since there was no mid-season preview in the past), and here are the results:

2017: 15 out of 16 correct (3 points each), 12 teams seeded correctly (3 points each), 3 teams missed by one seed line (1 point each) = 84

2016: 15 out of 16 correct, 8 teams seeded correctly, 7 teams missed by one seed line = 76

2015: 15 out of 16 correct, 13 teams seeded correctly, 2 teams missed by one seed line = 86

2014: 15 out of 16 correct, 9 teams seeded correctly, 6 teams missed by one seed line = 78

My initial reaction is confirmed; this was a phenomenal job in mimicking the committee’s bracket. Recall that I have finished no worse than 6th in the bracket matrix in 2014-2016, and given that my 2017 performance is on par with my 2015 performance (when I finished tied for 2nd in the matrix), I am confident  that I am yet again in the top tier of bracketologists.

I only have two major issues with the committee’s decisions. The first one is actually immaterial given that it does not change where the team plays for their regional, but Gonzaga being the number four overall seed behind Baylor and Kansas is absurd. Gonzaga is undefeated and owns wins over Arizona (a 3 seed) and Florida (a 3 seed) on neutral courts, St. Mary’s (a 5 or 6 seed, only had one win over them before the bracket was released them promptly beat St. Mary’s by double digits at St. Mary’s Saturday night), and a neutral court win over likely NCAA tournament team Iowa State. Take the name Gonzaga off the resume, look at it, and you’ll see they have both proven themselves on neutral courts against NCAA tournament quality teams AND IS UNDEFEATED!

My second issue is with regards to Florida. Looking back over the past 3 years’ “Nitty Gritty” report that the committee uses to select and seed the field, I was warry that they would place Florida in the field. I did not, however, think that they would reward Florida a 3 seed. Florida is 20-5 overall on the season, has a top 10 non-conference strength of schedule, and was 4-5 vs. the top 50 and 12-5 vs. the top 100 heading into Saturday morning. The top 100 record is indeed impressive on the surface, but once you dig deeper, you notice that they have only beaten Kentucky at home and…that’s about it. Their other top 50 wins are against bubbly SEC teams and Seton Hall, who is also square on the bubble. They lost at home to Vanderbilt, who will not be making the NCAA tournament, but their other four losses are all quality (Gonzaga, Florida State, Duke, South Carolina).

 I think a team like Cincinnati was much more deserving. The Bearcats have just 2 losses on the season and have beaten NCAA tournament teams in Xavier (before the Edmond Sumner injury), SMU (will play them again today), and Iowa State. Cincinnati’s two losses are at Butler (a 4 seed prior to their loss to Providence on Saturday) and Rhode Island (probably one of the first four teams left out of the tournament right now). I was afraid the committee might give Florida credit for winning a lot of “neutral court” games in the non-conference as their arena was being renovated, and it appears that may indeed be the case.

Finally, I saw a lot of people on Twitter questioning how the Big Ten was left out of the top 16. The two teams that are just missing the cut (as I accurately predicted) are Wisconsin and Purdue. Wisconsin lacks a signature win (best win is Minnesota, a 7 to 9 seed) as they lost their two best non-conference games by double digits. That’s the risk you run when scheduling a very weak non-conference schedule; if you fail to pick up a win in the two opportunities you have, you will be punished. Now, Wisconsin does still have to play some teams that can make the NCAA tournament (Northwestern, Maryland, Michigan State, Michigan), and I do believe the Big Ten champion will end up with a 4 or 3 seed come Selection Sunday. Purdue has just been too inconsistent to be rewarded with a top 16 seed. The Boilermakers have good wins over Notre Dame on a neutral court, at Maryland, and against Wisconsin at home, but losses to Minnesota at home and on the road to Iowa and Nebraska (two teams that will not make the NCAA tournament) are blemishes that the other teams comparable to Purdue just do not have on their resume.

I will be posting my updated projection of the bracket later tonight, but wanted to get some of my thoughts out there on this first ever early look at the top 16 teams. Overall I think it’s a good thing for the committee to do. It gets people talking about college basketball and helps the bracketologists know just exactly what the committee values when ranking teams.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Top 16 Projection for 2/11/17

The committee is releasing their top 16 teams (top 4 seeds in each region) on Saturday. This is a first for the committee, and their goal is to shed some light on the selection and seeding process. Below is my attempt to mimic what their ranking will be, as well as what region the teams will play in. Projection is based on results through 2/9/17.

Teams are ranked in order by seed.

1 seeds: Villanova, Gonzaga, Baylor, Kansas

2 seeds: Florida State, North Carolina, Oregon, Arizona

3 seeds: Virginia, Louisville, Butler, Kentucky

4 seeds: UCLA, Cincinnati, Duke, West Virginia

Teams just missing the cut (aka the 5 seeds): Wisconsin, Florida, Purdue, Creighton

Here is the bracket, adjusted for geography, making sure the top four teams from the same conference aren't placed in the same regional, and competitive balance. First round sites are in parentheses.

I believe the top four teams are clearly the most deserving of a one seed at this point, and would be shocked if FSU or UNC jumped up to the one seed line. FSU and UNC should be locked in as two seeds. Then it gets interesting. I can see any of Oregon, Arizona, Virginia, and Louisville taking the two remaining two seed spots. Here is my reasoning for why I believe the committee will rank the teams as shown above:

Oregon – The Ducks are 5-2 against the top 50 this year and 10-3 vs. the top 100. They may have just lost a close game on the road to UCLA, but I believe the committee will give Oregon some slack in their losses to Baylor (no Brooks) and Georgetown (first game with Brooks back and only played 13 minutes).

Arizona – Arizona owns a 4-3 record against the top 50 and is 9-3 against the top 100. Their three losses are on neutral courts to Gonzaga and Butler and at Oregon. No bad losses coupled with a good win % against the top 100 is what gives them the edge over Virginia and Louisville

Virginia – Virginia is 6-3 vs. the top 50 and 12-5 vs. the top 100, but only their sweep of Louisville looks great in those numbers. Wins over Notre Dame and Clemson are losing their luster, while the win over Cal is getting a little better as the Bears keep winning and play themselves into the tournament.

Louisville – The Cards are just 3-5 against the top 50, but those three wins are to Kentucky, Duke, and Purdue all at home. Their worst loss is to Notre Dame, which is by no means a bad loss. I just think the two losses to Virginia is the trump card here.

After those four teams, I have somewhat of a surprise in Butler. The Bulldogs have cooled off recently, losing home games to Georgetown and Creighton. However, Butler is an eye-popping 7-2 vs. the top 50 and 15-3 vs. the top 100. They loaded the nonconference scheduled and delivered great results. The problem? They have two losses to teams in the 101-200 cohort (and one of those is the team square on 200, Indiana State).

Kentucky owns a 5-5 record vs. the top 50 and is 10-5 vs. the top 100. A win over North Carolina on a neutral court highlights the profile, but after that it's a bunch of SEC teams (South Carolina is a good win, but otherwise, meh) and bubbly Michigan State. What gives them the edge over UCLA, even though UCLA owns a head-to-head win at Kentucky, is the strength of schedule (SOS). Kentucky owns the 13th best SOS (out of 351 D1 schools) compared to UCLA's 139th SOS, thanks to a non-conference SOS of 278...yikes.

UCLA and Duke received big boosts with their wins Thursday night over Oregon and North Carolina, respectively. In addition, the committee has said they would take Coach K’s absence “into consideration” when evaluating Duke’s profile. I read that to mean they won’t be putting as much emphasis on their loss to NC State at home. Cincinnati, meanwhile, has just two losses on the season and owns wins over likely tournament teams in Xavier, SMU, and Iowa State. They play at SMU on Sunday, their last chance to pick up a quality, resume building win in the regular season.

The final spot goes to West Virginia. The Mountaineers have the most intriguing profile this season. They own wins at home over Kansas and Baylor, and won on the road at Virginia. However, they have lost to Temple, Texas Tech and Oklahoma, three teams with no shot at making the tournament (and OU is a sub-150 team now). The other thing going against WVU is their non-conference SOS, which ranks 272nd. That results in them being just 8-4 vs. the top 100. I am very interested to see where the committee places WVU.

Now for the what may be the biggest surprise: I have left Wisconsin out of the top 16.Wisconsin is currently 7th in the polls, but they are just 2-3 vs. the top 50, and those wins are over Minnesota and Tennessee. The former is looking like a 7 to 9 seed this season, while the latter is the very definition of a bubble team. The sweep of IU will lose luster as the Hoosiers play themselves out of the tournament. Wisconsin did win at Marquette in the non-conference, but the Golden Eagles are doing their best to their best to play themselves out of the tournament as well. I can see the committee putting Wisconsin inside the top 16 due to their 12-3 record vs. the top 100, but when I see a 236th ranked non-conference SOS coupled with no real quality wins and three losses to the three best teams they have faced, losing all games by double digits, I just don’t see how that team is a top 16 team. Replace the name Wisconsin with Gonzaga on that resume and people would be having fits that that team is ranked in the top 10 in the polls.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Review of 2/5/17 Projection

Biggest Movers from Prior Projection

Oklahoma State (+9 spots) – The Cowboys started their conference season 0-6, but have since won four in a row, including their most recent win against West Virginia on the road. They have gone from not on my radar to a 9 seed in the matter of 3 weeks. Overreaction on my part? Perhaps. But when everyone else around you is losing and all you do is win, you’re going to move up.

VCU (+7 spots) – The Rams got a win at St. Bonaventure over the weekend in what will be the most improbable win of the season. The Bonnies made a bucket with 0.4 seconds left in the game to take a one point lead and seemingly upset VCU; however, the fans rushed the court, resulting in a technical foul and one free throw attempt for VCU. The free throw was made, forcing overtime, and as you can probably imagine VCU rolled in OT to a win. They also picked up a win over Richmond mid-week. Both Richmond and St. Bonaventure are borderline top 100 RPI teams.

Bubble Watch

Last Four Teams In

Kansas State – Kansas State picked up their signature win on the road against Baylor to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. They only have three top 100 RPI wins, but all seven losses are to teams ranked 80th or better. They have a very tough week ahead (more on that below) that could make or break their season.

Miami FL – Miami has five top 100 RPI wins, but two of those are to #91 NC State. Their signature win is over North Carolina, and their worst loss is on the road against an improving Syracuse team that is currently 69th in the RPI (nice).

California – Cal is quietly on a four game winning streak (assuming they hold onto Colorado at home…they lead at the half by double digits as I type this). Recent wins over top 100 teams Stanford and Utah are good, but most importantly they have avoided a bad loss in conference play. A win at USC highlights the resume, which can be improved with a win at Arizona this coming Saturday.

Arkansas – Arkansas was the top rated 9 seed in my projection last week, mainly because they didn’t have a bad loss or a high number of losses relative to the other bubble teams. That all changed when they lost to #235 Missouri over the weekend. That is one of the worst losses any bubble team has, and it could cost them a bid on Selection Sunday.

First Four Teams Out

Wake Forest – As I mentioned last week, Wake Forest is only on this list because of how the committee let Vanderbilt into the field last season. Wake currently has zero top 50 wins and nine losses; however, eight of those are against the top 50. I believe that if you can’t pick up a single win over a top 50 team in eight tries, then you don’t deserve a bid. But, I am having to mimic the committee, and I just feel Wake is going to be very close on Selection Sunday.

Michigan – Michigan lost at home to Ohio State over the weekend, and find themselves on the wrong side of the bubble for the first time in my projection. They have a win over SMU on a neutral court earlier in the season, but that’s their only top 50 win. They have a shot to pick up another one when they host rival Michigan State this week.

Rhode Island – Rhode Island picked up a couple wins over top 150 teams this week to get back into the discussion of an at large bid. The Rams have a big week ahead, as they play at #150 UMass and host conference favorite #36 Dayton. A win over Dayton would give them their fourth top 100 win on the season, to go along with wins over #16 Cincinnati, #73 Belmont, and #98 St. Bonaventure.

Tennessee – Tennessee was so close to getting into my projected field, and then they lost to Mississippi State over the weekend. Before that loss, the Vols had won four straight #64 Auburn, #39 Kansas State, #7 Kentucky, and that same Mississippi State team. Tennessee has 10 losses on the season, but has the 8th ranked non-conference strength of schedule, benefited by playing in the Maui Invitational. They have a couple opportunities to picked up good wins at home this coming week as they host Ole Miss and Georgia.

Games of Interest This Week
In this section, I will list one game I am most interested in each weekday, and will select a few weekend games. These games won’t necessarily be the best matchup in terms of top 25 rankings on those days, but rather games that could have a material impact on a team’s seed or inclusion into the field come Selection Sunday.

Kansas @ Kansas State (Monday) – Earlier in the season Kansas State lost by 2 points at Kansas on a horribly missed travel call that even Kansas admitted was a travel. Kansas is coming off their first home court loss in 54 games while Kansas State is coming off their biggest win of the season at Baylor. K-State usually gives Kansas a good game in Manhattan, and I don’t expect anything different this time around. Kansas needs this to remain a one seed, while K-State needs this to feel safe on Selection Sunday.

Michigan State @ Michigan (Tuesday) – Michigan dropped a home game over the weekend to Ohio State, and now finds themselves on the outside-looking-in in my latest projection. Michigan State is quietly starting to turn things around after a tough non-conference season. Both teams really need this game, as Michigan State home court loss to Northeastern earlier in the season, which three weeks ago was a respectable but head scratching top 100 loss, continues to look worse and worse (now a sud-150 loss).

Baylor @ Oklahoma State (Wednesday) – As mentioned in the Bubble Watch sections, the Cowboys started their conference season 0-6, but have since won four in a row, including their most recent win against West Virginia on the road. They have gone from not on my radar to a 9 seed in the matter of 3 weeks. A win here would propel them even further away from the bubble. Baylor, meanwhile, is coming off two straight losses to the Kansas schools, but remains a one seed thanks to their abundance of quality wins.

Oregon @ UCLA (Thursday) – Oregon blew the doors off Arizona over the weekend, as they seemingly could not miss from three. They now have to make the L.A. swing, which is the toughest in the Pac-12 this season. It starts with a game at UCLA, a team whose only quality win is on the road against Kentucky. The Pac 12 does not offer opportunities for quality wins like the ACC, Big 12, or Big East, so UCLA needs to win this one if they want to keep a protected seed (i.e. a one through four seed). If Oregon wins this one, they are in the driver’s seat for the Pac 12 title, as they own the head-to-head tiebreak over Arizona.

Kansas State @ West Virginia (Saturday) – Kansas State follows their home game against Kansas on Monday night with a trip to Morgantown against West Virginia. West Virginia has such an intriguing resume; it includes wins over Kansas, Baylor, and on the road against Virginia. They also have lost to Temple, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma…three teams that are not going to make the tournament barring an unforeseen run in their conference tournaments. This is a huge week for Kansas State to make some national noise and play themselves off the bubble.

Miami FL @ Louisville (Saturday) – Miami is squarely on the bubble, while Louisville is oh so close to being a one seed. When everyone around them continues to lose, the Cardinals just keep winning. Louisville has a game on Monday at Virginia, and if they win that game along with this one, it’ll be time to put the Cardinals on that one seed line. Miami can avoiding having to play in Dayton to start their NCAA tournament with a win here.

Villanova @ Xavier (Saturday) – Villanova always has a target on their back, and that will be no different when they visit Xavier. Unfortunately for Xavier, they lost a key player to a season ending injury last week, but that didn’t stop them from picking up a win at Creighton. I’ve always thought the Cintas Center is one of the more underrated environments in the sport, and I look forward to seeing if that can lift the Musketeers to a victory over the defending national champs.

Gonzaga @ St. Mary’s (Saturday) – This is the game of the season in the West Coast Conference. ESPN’s College Gameday is going to be there, and rightfully so. St. Mary’s has a great gym that has produced some great games against Gonzaga over the past 5 or so years. The obvious story line is Gonzaga being undefeated heading into the game, and if they come away with a victory here, they will most likely be undefeated heading to the NCAA tournament and potentially the number one overall seed.

Cincinnati @ SMU (Sunday) – Much like the game above this one, this is the game of the season in the American Conference. Cincinnati already beat SMU by just 2 points in Cincinnati a month ago, but that is SMU’s only conference loss. A win by Cincinnati here almost guarantees them at least a share of the regular season conference title.

2/5/17 Bracketology

Teams are ranked in order by seed. Auto bids are in bold and are determined via KenPom projections, with tiebreaker being awarded to the team ranked higher in KenPom’s rankings.

1 seeds: Villanova, Gonzaga, Kansas, Baylor

2 seeds: Louisville, Florida State, North Carolina, Arizona

3 seeds: Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Cincinnati

4 seeds: Wisconsin, Creighton, West Virginia, UCLA

5 seeds: Butler, Duke, Florida, Purdue

6 seeds: Maryland, St. Mary’s, South Carolina, Xavier

7 seeds: Notre Dame, Northwestern, USC, SMU

8 seeds: Virginia Tech, Minnesota, Dayton, Clemson

9 seeds: Iowa State, TCU, Oklahoma State, Marquette

10 seeds: Indiana, VCU, Seton Hall, Georgia Tech

11 seeds: Michigan State, Kansas State, Miami FL, California, Arkansas, Wichita State

12 seeds: UNC-Wilmington, Middle Tennessee, Nevada, UT Arlington

13 seeds: Vermont, Akron, New Mexico State, East Tennessee State

14 seeds: Valparaiso, Monmouth, Belmont, Princeton

15 seeds: Bucknell, Florida Gulf Coast, UNC Asheville, North Dakota State

16 seeds:

Last 4 In: Kansas State, Miami FL, California, Arkansas

First 4 Out: Wake Forest, Michigan, Rhode Island, Tennessee

New to the Bracket: California, Wichita State

Removed from the Bracket: Michigan, Illinois State