Bracketology: Final Edition

And here we are, just a couple of hours before the Selection Show.  It has been an awesome Championship Week, to say the least.  Tons of games right down to the wire, many top seeds upset in conference tournaments, and a couple of classic “bid thieves” in San Diego State and Davidson.  I love it.

To give you an idea of how into college basketball and bracketology I am, I had two screens on after midnight Saturday, one showing UC-Santa Barbara vs. UC-Irvine, the other showing New Mexico State vs. Seattle.  So, I’ve already been fully immersed in March Madness, and I can’t wait for the Selection Show and the tournament.

Yesterday, I wrote in detail about how Louisville and Baylor were my last two teams in, and how I felt everyone else’s bid was safe.  Today, I replaced Baylor with Saint Mary’s.  Unfortunately for the Gaels, Davidson’s win pushed them right back out of the field.  To be honest, I hope I’m wrong… I’d love to see a quality mid-major team (St. Mary’s) over an average major conference team (Louisville).  But I think the major conference bias of the Selection Committee will come into play.

Other than that, there were a bunch of other close calls.  Throughout the field, there are so many teams with similar resumes jockeying for a given seed.  So, here is what I came up with.  Moves up or down since last time are in parentheses after the team’s name.  Those who have earned an automatic bid are underlined.

Bids clinched since last time: Virginia, Villanova, Kansas, Arizona, New Mexico State, San Diego State, Buffalo, Montana, Marshall, Stephen F. Austin, North Carolina Central, Texas Southern, Cal-Fullerton, Penn, Kentucky, Davidson, Georgia State

 In since last time: Davidson, Marshall, North Carolina Central, Texas Southern, Cal-Fullerton, Georgia State

Out since last time: Baylor, Western Kentucky, Hampton, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, UC-Irvine, Texas-Arlington

1s – Virginia, Villanova, Kansas, Xavier

2s – North Carolina, Duke, Cincinnati, Purdue

3s – Tennessee, Michigan, Michigan State, Auburn

4s – West Virginia, Texas Tech, Arizona (+1), Kentucky (+1)

5s – Wichita State (-1), Clemson (-1), Gonzaga, Houston (+1)

6s – Ohio State (-1), Arkansas, Florida, Miami (+1)

7s – Texas A & M (-1), TCU, Seton Hall, Nevada (+1)

8s – Missouri, Rhode Island (-1), Butler, Virginia Tech (+1)

9s – Creighton, Kansas State, Oklahoma (-1), North Carolina State (+1)

10s – Providence (-1), Florida State, Alabama, Saint Bonaventure

11s – Texas, USC, UCLA, Louisville, Loyola-Chicago, New Mexico State (+1)

12s – San Diego State, Davidson (new), South Dakota State, Buffalo (+1)  

13s – Murray State (-1), Charleston (+1), Montana (+1), UNC-Greensboro

14s – Marshall (new), Bucknell, Wright State, Stephen F. Austin (+1)

15s – Lipscomb, Penn, Maryland-Baltimore County (+1), Georgia State (new)

16s – Iona, Cal-Fullerton (new), Radford, LIU-Brooklyn, North Carolina Central (new), Texas Southern (new)

LAST FOUR IN – Texas, USC, UCLA, Louisville

FIRST FOUR OUT – Saint Mary’s, Syracuse, Marquette, Baylor

NEXT FOUR OUT – Middle Tennessee (-1), Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame

As always, if you want to rip me because I have your team too low or want to discuss anything else related to bracketology, feel free to do so in the comments.  Check out the Bracket Matrix to see who did the best projection, and enjoy the tournament!

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Bracketology 3/10/18

Yesterday, I went into great detail about my last couple of teams in and first couple of teams out.  Today, I’ve made some changes.  As much as I’d love to see Middle Tennessee in the tournament, I think that the lack of a signature win, as well as three losses worse than Quadrant 2, will do them in.

At this point, I believe everyone in the projected field is safe (minus, of course, teams from one-bid leagues whose conference titles are still on the line) except my last two at-large teams in, Louisville and Baylor.  Really, when you compare the resumes of Louisville and Baylor, as well as my first five teams out – Syracuse, Marquette, Saint Mary’s, Middle Tennessee, and Arizona State – you are splitting hairs.  So I had to simplify it in this way:

  • Louisville is in because their RPI is 39, and no major conference team with an RPI better than 40 has missed the tournament in the last 10 years.
  • Baylor is in because, despite a questionable RPI (65), they have four Quadrant 1 wins – the only other team among the group who can claim that is Syracuse – and only two losses outside Quadrant 1. The “First Five Out” group all has four or more losses beyond Quadrant 1, the worst being Arizona State at seven.

So, we’ll see how it plays out.  Also, up top, I think the final 1 seed is definitely up for grabs after North Carolina beat Duke in the ACC semifinals and Xavier fell to Providence in the Big East semifinals.  If North Carolina beats Virginia to win the ACC title tonight, I’ll have to take a very, very close look at this before my final projection tomorrow.

With all that said, here’s today’s projection.  Note that the only result from today that is taken into account so far is UMBC defeating Vermont in the America East final.  Moves up or down since last time are in parentheses after the team’s name.  Those who have earned an automatic bid are underlined.

Bids clinched since last time: UMBC

 In since last time: UMBC, San Diego State, UC Irvine, Hampton, Stephen F. Austin

Out since last time: Vermont, Middle Tennessee, UC Davis, North Carolina A & T, Nicholls State

1s – Virginia, Villanova, Kansas, Xavier

2s – North Carolina, Duke, Cincinnati, Purdue

3s – Tennessee, Michigan, Michigan State, Auburn

4s – West Virginia, Texas Tech, Wichita State, Clemson

5s – Arizona, Kentucky, Gonzaga, Ohio State (+1)

6s – Arkansas, Houston, Florida (-1), Texas A & M (+1)

7s – Miami, TCU (-1), Seton Hall, Rhode Island (+1)

8s – Missouri, Nevada (-1), Butler, Oklahoma

9s – Creighton, Kansas State, Virginia Tech, Providence (+1)

10s – Alabama (+1), Saint Bonaventure, North Carolina State, Florida State (-1)

11s – USC, Texas (-1), UCLA, Louisville, Baylor, Loyola-Chicago

12s – New Mexico State, Murray State, South Dakota State, San Diego State (new)  

13s – Western Kentucky, Buffalo, Louisiana, UNC-Greensboro (+1)

14s – Charleston, Montana, Bucknell, Wright State (+1)

15s – Lipscomb, Penn, UC-Irvine (new), Stephen F. Austin (new)

16s – Iona, UMBC (new), Radford, Hampton (new), LIU-Brooklyn, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

LAST FOUR IN – Texas, UCLA, Louisville, Baylor

FIRST FOUR OUT – Syracuse, Marquette, Saint Mary’s, Middle Tennessee

NEXT FOUR OUT – Arizona State (-1), Oklahoma State (+1), Notre Dame, Utah (+1)

As always, if you want to rip me because I have your team too low or want to discuss anything else related to bracketology, feel free to do so in the comments.  Look for my next update tomorrow, and check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime. 

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Bracketology: Will Middle Tennessee Make It

And the team most hurt by Middle Tennessee’s surprising loss to Southern Miss in the Conference USA quarterfinals is… Saint Mary’s.  This was a really, really tough call.  First, I had to move Alabama into the field after their buzzer beating win over Texas A & M in the SEC’s second round yesterday.  The Crimson Tide have the #5 strength of schedule and six Quadrant 1 wins, including home against Auburn and Tennessee and at Florida (and are blowing out Auburn in the SEC quarters as I write this).  That meant if Middle Tennessee was going to stay in the field, two teams had to drop out.

With USC winning yesterday (previously the second to last team in), they moved ahead of Syracuse.  This left me with Syracuse and Saint Mary’s as my last two teams in.  I also strongly considered dropping Baylor out of the field.  So I carefully compared Syracuse, Saint Mary’s, Baylor, and Middle Tennessee.

Baylor has by far the worst RPI of the group, at 64.  As I discussed yesterday, they are in great jeopardy of missing the NCAA tournament now, based on historical trends.  But, they also have four Quadrant 1 wins, including home against Kansas and Texas Tech, and the nation’s #18 strength of schedule.  So they stayed in.

It is almost too close to call between Middle Tennessee, Syracuse, and Saint Mary’s, and I will probably go back and forth on it at least 100 times between now and my final projection on Sunday afternoon.  Not to mention, other teams (such as Georgia) could work their way into the discussion.  For now, I’m sticking with the Blue Raiders.  Their three Quadrant 1 wins matches Syracuse and beats out Saint Mary’s by one.  They have four losses in Quadrant 2 or worse, but so does Saint Mary’s and Syracuse, in fact, has five.

I really won’t be surprised to see this go either way on Sunday, but I’m sticking with Middle Tennessee for now.  Something tells me that even though it’s not supposed to be a factor in selection, they will also be rewarded for their performance in the previous two years’ NCAA tournaments.

Now, before we get to today’s projection, let’s revisit a major point of discussion from Wednesday – Notre Dame.  It seems like the Committee does something ridiculous every year, but I can’t project the Irish as a member of the field right now (in other words, it would be ridiculous, in my opinion, if they got in).  They only have two Quadrant 1 wins (neutral against Wichita State and at Syracuse), three Quadrant three losses, and an RPI of 68.  That is not an NCAA tournament-worthy resume.

With all that said, here’s today’s projection.  Moves up or down since last time are in parentheses after the team’s name.  Those who have earned an automatic bid are underlined.

Bids clinched since last time: None

 In since last time: Western Kentucky, North Carolina A & T, Alabama

Out since last time: Saint Mary’s, Savannah State, Syracuse

1s – Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas

2s – Duke, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Purdue

3s – Tennessee, Auburn, Michigan, Michigan State

4s – Texas Tech, West Virginia, Wichita State, Clemson

5s – Gonzaga, Arizona, Kentucky, Florida

6s – Ohio State, Houston, Arkansas (+2), TCU

7s – Texas A &M, Nevada, Miami (-1), Seton Hall (-1)

8s – Rhode Island (-1), Butler (+1), Missouri, Oklahoma

9s – Creighton (-1), Kansas State (+1), Virginia Tech, Florida State

10s – North Carolina State (-1), Texas, Providence (+1), Saint Bonaventure

11s – Alabama, UCLA, USC, Louisville, Loyola-Chicago (+1)

12s – Baylor (-2), Middle Tennessee, New Mexico State, Murray State (+1), South Dakota State

13s – Western Kentucky (new), Vermont, Buffalo, Louisiana

14s – UNC-Greensboro, Charleston, Montana, Bucknell

15s – Wright State, UC Davis, Penn, Lipscomb

16s – Nicholls State, Iona, Radford, North Carolina A & T (new), LIU-Brooklyn, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

LAST FOUR IN – USC, Louisville, Baylor, Middle Tennessee

FIRST FOUR OUT – Saint Mary’s, Syracuse, Marquette, Arizona State

NEXT FOUR OUT – Georgia (+2), Notre Dame (-1), Mississippi State (+1), Oregon (+1)

As always, if you want to rip me because I have your team too low or want to discuss anything else related to bracketology, feel free to do so in the comments.  Look for my next update tomorrow, and check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime. 

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Bracketology: Bubble Watch, 3/8/18

Today, let’s take a closer look at the bubble.  To do this, we’ll use everyone’s favorite metric, the RPI.  Why?  Because a lot of inferences can be made based on historical trends related to the RPI.  For an excellent article that goes into great detail on the chances of a given team earning an at-large bid based on where it falls in the RPI, check this out from Steel City Blitz.  What I will do here is discuss teams I had in the field yesterday who are in the most danger of falling out (or who has fallen out, in one case) based on their current RPI number.

Virginia Tech (RPI 62, previously 50) and North Carolina State (RPI 63, previously 55) are in a precarious situation.  Since 2008, only 7 of 39 major conference teams with RPIs between 61 and 70 have been awarded an at-large bid.  Both also have a very weak non-conference strength of schedule.  On the other hand, each team benefits from five Tier 1 wins, the best being at Virginia for Virginia Tech and at North Carolina for North Carolina State.  Virginia Tech is better off right now because their only bad loss is against St. Louis, while NC State has lost to Northern Iowa and Georgia Tech.  Losing yesterday to Boston College won’t help, either.  Both Virginia Tech and NC State retain 9 seeds for now, but they could be passed by a number of teams below them.

Arizona State (RPI 65, previously 58) has fallen all the way out of the field today, after being a 9 seed yesterday.  When I take a closer look at their resume, I do not see the Sun Devils being selected.  Not only is their RPI indicative of an NIT bid, but they now have six Tier 2 losses after falling to Colorado in the opening round of the Pac 12 tournament yesterday.  To put this into perspective, the only team I have in the field with that many Tier 2 losses is Florida.  But, Florida has 10 Tier 1 wins, as opposed to only 3 for Arizona State.  Simply put, I do not think the Sun Devils could afford such a loss yesterday.

Another team in serious jeopardy of falling out of the field is Saint Mary’s.  Their resume is strikingly similar to that of 2016, when they were not selected.  They boast a win at Gonzaga, but their next-best win is at home against New Mexico State.  Overall, the Gaels have a strength of schedule of 172 and their RPI has fallen to 43 (previously 36).  The RPI alone gives them a less than 50 percent chance of being selected.  Of course, the decision will be based on more than this, but I don’t think their quality of wins will help them, nor will the fact that they lost to San Francisco and Washington State.  For today, I have the Gaels among the Last Four In, but they could easily be passed by teams on the other side of the bubble between now and Sunday.

Two teams who are still alive in their conference tournaments who could benefit greatly from a win today are Baylor (RPI 59) and Kansas State (RPI 61).  Kansas State squares off with TCU, while Baylor draws West Virginia.  A win in either case would be well within Tier 1 and would be a resume booster.

Finally, a word about Oklahoma State – they have a nice resume, but an RPI of 85.  Until that jumps at least a few spots, there’s no realistic shot of them being selected, based on historical trends.

With all that said, here’s today’s projection.  I haven’t made any changes to the top 7 lines since yesterday, as all of these teams except the Big Ten competitors and Gonzaga have yet to play in their conference tournaments, and I figure the next few days will sort it out.  On the other hand, a lot of movement has taken place on the 8 line and below.  Moves up or down since last time are in parentheses after the team’s name.  Those who have earned an automatic bid are underlined.

Bids clinched since last time: Bucknell

 In since last time: Savannah State, Louisville

Out since last time: Bethune-Cookman, Arizona State

1s – Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas

2s – Duke, North Carolina, Purdue, Cincinnati

3s – Auburn, Tennessee, Michigan, Michigan State

4s – Texas Tech, West Virginia, Wichita State, Clemson

5s – Gonzaga, Arizona, Kentucky, Florida

6s – Houston, TCU, Ohio State, Miami

7s – Texas A & M, Seton Hall, Nevada, Rhode Island

8s – Arkansas, Missouri, Creighton (+1), Oklahoma

9s – Florida State (-1), Virginia Tech, Butler (+1), North Carolina State

10s – Saint Bonaventure, Texas (+1), Kansas State, Baylor (+1)

11s – Providence, Louisville (new), UCLA, Syracuse, USC, Saint Mary’s (-1)

12s – Middle Tennessee, Loyola-Chicago, New Mexico State, South Dakota State

13s – Murray State, Vermont, Buffalo, Louisiana

14s – UNC-Greensboro, Charleston, Montana, Bucknell

15s – Wright State, UC Davis, Penn, Lipscomb

16s – Iona, Radford, Nicholls State, Savannah State (new), LIU-Brooklyn, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

LAST FOUR IN – UCLA, Syracuse, USC, Saint Mary’s

FIRST FOUR OUT – Marquette, Notre Dame, Alabama, Arizona State

NEXT FOUR OUT – Oklahoma State, Utah, LSU, Nebraska (+1)

As always, if you want to rip me because I have your team too low or want to discuss anything else related to bracketology, feel free to do so in the comments.  Look for my next update tomorrow, and check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime. 

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Bracketology: Is Notre Dame In or Out?

Here’s a bracket projection for today, as the major conference tournaments get into full swing.  None of this is easy to project, but by far the most difficult right now is the teams right around the cut line.  You could easily make a case for any of today’s Last Four In – UCLA, Syracuse, USC, and Baylor – to be out.  And you could just as easily make a case for today’s First Four Out – Marquette, Louisville, Alabama, and Notre Dame – to be in.  The good news is, conference tournament results are likely to bring some separation between these teams.

The most interesting team on these lines, to me, is Notre Dame.  A ton has been written and said about the difference in how the Irish have played with Bonzie Colson vs. without him.  People often overstate how the Selection Committee accounts for a team who had a star player injured for most of the season when that team gets that player back late.  It won’t make a difference of more than one seed line.

When we look at the Irish’s current resume, it is competitive (relative to other teams on the cut line), but they certainly have work to do.  They have a nice neutral-court win over Wichita State, but their best road win is at Syracuse, who is also right around the cut line.  They have a solid strength of schedule, but they lost to a few bad teams, including Georgia Tech, Indiana, and Ball State – the last of those coming at home, and before Colson was hurt.  Finally, they are only 2-8 against Quadrant 1 and have an RPI of 70.  Were the field to be seeded today and were the Irish to be in, that would be the second lowest RPI ever for an at-large team.

So, unlike some others, I don’t think beating Virginia Tech today is enough for the Irish to get in.  It is going to take more than that.  That would include a combination of beating Duke tomorrow in the ACC quarterfinals and/or some quick losses (i.e., first conference tournament game) by the teams above them.

With all that said, here’s today’s projection.  Moves up or down since last time are in parentheses after the team’s name.  Those who have earned an automatic bid are underlined.

Bids clinched since last time: Gonzaga, UNC-Greensboro, Iona, Wright State, LIU-Brooklyn, South Dakota State, Charleston

 In since last time: LIU-Brooklyn, Charleston, UCLA

Out since last time: Wagner, Northeastern, Marquette

1s – Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas

2s – Duke, North Carolina, Purdue, Cincinnati

3s – Auburn, Tennessee, Michigan, Michigan State

4s – Texas Tech, West Virginia, Wichita State, Clemson

5s – Gonzaga, Arizona, Kentucky, Florida (+1)

6s – Houston (-1), TCU, Ohio State, Miami (+1)

7s – Texas A & M, Seton Hall (-1), Nevada, Rhode Island

8s – Florida State, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma (+1)

9s – North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Creighton (-1), Arizona State (+1)

10s – Kansas State, Butler, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Mary’s (-1)

11s – Texas, Providence, UCLA (new), Syracuse, USC, Baylor

12s – Middle Tennessee, Loyola-Chicago, New Mexico State, South Dakota State

13s – Murray State, Vermont, Buffalo, Louisiana

14s – UNC-Greensboro, Charleston (new), Montana, Bucknell

15s – Wright State, UC Davis, Penn, Lipscomb

16s – Iona, Radford, Nicholls State, LIU-Brooklyn (new), Bethune-Cookman, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

LAST FOUR IN – UCLA (new), Syracuse, USC, Baylor

FIRST FOUR OUT – Marquette, Louisville, Alabama, Notre Dame (+1)

NEXT FOUR OUT – Utah (-1), Oklahoma State, Washington, LSU

As always, if you want to rip me because I have your team too low or want to discuss anything else related to bracketology, feel free to do so in the comments.  Look for my next update tomorrow, and check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime. 

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Bracketology: A Close Look at the Top Line

As promised in last night’s update, we’re going to take a closer look today at how the 1 line should shake out.  First, Virginia is a lock to get a 1 seed.  They rank #1 in RPI, #1 in KenPom, and have a 9-1 record vs. Quadrant 1 teams.  Villanova or Xavier will almost certainly get a 1 seed as well.  In fact, both could potentially get one, though this is less likely.  Finally, Kansas is likely to be on the 1 line.  They have one of the best collections of wins in the country, the best being at West Virginia and Texas Tech.  Altogether, they have 10 Q1 wins, which trails only North Carolina.

So I think at this point, there is probably one more top seed up for grabs.  Who else is in the running?

Duke – the Blue Devils have very strong metrics, including a #3 ranking in KenPom and #4 in the RPI.  Right now, their best win is at home vs. North Carolina, while their worst loss is at St. John’s.  They have 6 Quadrant 1 wins and their path to an ACC tournament championship potentially includes Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Virginia.  Chances are that if the Blue Devils win the ACC, they grab a 1 seed.

North Carolina – since we were already talking about the ACC, let’s look at the Tar Heels next.  They are 7th in KenPom and 6th in the RPI.  They have the nation’s top strength of schedule and an 11-7 Q1 record to show for it.  Their path to the ACC championship could include Syracuse, Miami, Duke, and Virginia.  A team with 9 losses has never gotten a 1 seed, but would Carolina be left off the top line if they ran through the ACC tournament and beat the teams just mentioned?  It seems unlikely.

Cincinnati – The Bearcats are rated 4th in KenPom and 7th in the RPI.  They have no bad losses.  However, outside of wins at Wichita State and at home vs. Houston, they are lacking Q1 wins (five total) and won’t have the opportunity to pick up more than one in the AAC tournament, which would come if they face Wichita State in the title game.  Cinci has been making teams look bad all year, winning by an average margin of 18 points, but I’m not sure they’ll have the needed good wins to earn a top seed.  Still, they’re in the discussion.

Auburn – The Tigers rank 11th in KenPom and 8th in RPI.  At one time, many had them on the 1 line, but losing 3 of their last 5 – including their worst loss of the season, at South Carolina – pushed them down.  They do have a strong resume, with their best win being at Tennessee and a total of 7 Quadrant 1 wins.  They could potentially pick up 3 more in the SEC tournament.  Like Cincinnati, I think Auburn is a long shot to earn a 1 seed at this point, but I can’t count them out.

Tennessee – If we’re talking about Auburn, we may as well talk about Tennessee too.  The Volunteers would need to win the SEC tournament and have many other factors break their way, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they end up on the top line.  Right now they’re 14th in KenPom, 10th in the RPI, and own a win over Purdue at a neutral site.  Their only loss outside of Q1 came at Georgia.  Again, the Vols have the longest odds of hitting the top line of all the teams I’ve just talked about, but crazier things have happened on Selection Sunday.

So, that’s my take on the top line.  Now, here’s today’s projection.  Moves up or down are in parentheses after the team’s name.  Teams who have clinched a bid are underlined.

In since last time: Baylor

Out since last time: Louisville

1s – Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas

2s – Duke, Cincinnati, Purdue, North Carolina

3s – Auburn, Tennessee, Michigan, Michigan State

4s – Wichita State, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Clemson (+1)

5s – Gonzaga (-1), Arizona, Kentucky, Houston

6s – TCU, Ohio State, Florida (+1), Seton Hall

7s – Miami (-1), Rhode Island, Texas A & M, Nevada

8s – Arkansas, Florida State, Missouri, Creighton (+1)

9s – Saint Mary’s (-1), Oklahoma (+1), North Carolina State, Virginia Tech

10s – Butler (-1), Arizona State, Saint Bonaventure, Kansas State (+1)

11s – Providence (-1), Texas, USC, Syracuse, Marquette, Baylor (new)

12s – Middle Tennessee, Loyola-Chicago, New Mexico State, South Dakota State

13s – Louisiana, Vermont, Buffalo, Murray State

14s – UNC-Greensboro, Northeastern, Montana, Bucknell

15s – Wright State, UC Davis, Penn, Lipscomb

16s – Wagner, Iona, Radford, Nicholls State, Bethune-Cookman, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

LAST FOUR IN – USC, Syracuse, Marquette, Baylor

FIRST FOUR OUT – Louisville, UCLA, Alabama, Utah

NEXT FOUR OUT – Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Washington, LSU

As always, if you want to rip me because I have your team too low or want to discuss anything else related to bracketology, feel free to do so in the comments.  Look for my next update tomorrow, and check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime. 

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Bracketology: March Madness is Here

March Madness is already happening.  Earlier today, Radford beat Liberty on a last-second shot to secure the Big South’s automatic bid.  In Florida, Lipscomb nearly blew a 30-point lead at Florida Gulf Coast before they managed to close out the game to get the Atlantic Sun’s bid.  And of course, at Madison Square Garden, Michigan knocked off Purdue, following up yesterday’s win over Michigan State, to win their second consecutive Big Ten title.  Finally, Loyola-Chicago beat Illinois State to win the Missouri Valley, and put to rest any concerns bubble teams had about Loyola-Chicago “stealing” an at-large bid if they failed to win their conference.

Radford, Lipscomb, Michigan, and Loyola-Chicago join Murray State (who knocked off Belmont in last night’s Ohio Valley final) as the first teams to earn automatic bids to the 2018 NCAA tournament.

So, here’s a quick update following the weekend’s games.  I’ll have another one up on Monday night, after I get a chance to look closer at metrics, compare resumes, etc.  In that post, we’ll take a closer look at the current 1 line and which teams below it still have a chance to earn a 1 seed.

Moves up or down are in parentheses after the team’s name.  Teams who have clinched a bid are underlined.

Bids clinched since last time: Michigan, Radford, Lipscomb, Murray State, Loyola-Chicago

 In since last time: Radford, Iona, Wright State, Lipscomb, Texas, Syracuse

Out since last time: UNC-Asheville, Rider, Northern Kentucky, Florida Gulf Coast, Alabama, Baylor

1s – Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas

2s – Duke, Cincinnati (+1), Purdue, North Carolina

3s – Auburn, Tennessee, Michigan (+2), Michigan State (-1)

4s – Wichita State (-1), Texas Tech, West Virginia, Gonzaga

5s – Arizona, Clemson (-1), Kentucky, Houston (+1)

6s – TCU, Ohio State (-1), Miami (+1), Seton Hall (+1)

7s – Florida (+1), Rhode Island (-1), Texas A & M (+1), Nevada (-1)

8s – Arkansas (-1), Saint Mary’s (-1), Florida State (+1), Missouri (+1)

9s – Creighton (-1), Butler (-1), North Carolina State (+1), Virginia Tech

10s – Oklahoma, Arizona State (-1), Providence, Saint Bonaventure (+1)

11s – Kansas State, USC (-1), Texas (new), Syracuse (new), Marquette, Louisville

12s – Middle Tennessee, Loyola-Chicago, New Mexico State, South Dakota State (+1)

13s – Louisiana (-1), Vermont, Buffalo, Murray State

14s – UNC-Greensboro, Northeastern, Montana (+1), Bucknell

15s – Wright State (new), UC Davis, Penn, Lipscomb (new)

16s – Iona (new), Radford (new), Wagner, Nicholls State, Bethune-Cookman, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

LAST FOUR IN – Texas, Syracuse, Marquette, Louisville

FIRST FOUR OUT – Baylor, UCLA (+1), Alabama, Utah (+1)

NEXT FOUR OUT – Oklahoma State (+1), Notre Dame (-1), Washington (-1), LSU (+1)

As always, if you want to rip me because I have your team too low or want to discuss anything else related to bracketology, feel free to do so in the comments.  Look for my next update on Sunday, and check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime. 

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Bracketology: Louisville Can’t Quite Lock it Up

Ah, Louisville.  On Wednesday night, I wrote about how the Cardinals could more or less secure an NCAA tournament bid by beating Virginia at home the following night.  Well, with a little over 4 minutes to go, Louisville led by 10… and ended up losing 67-66.  I still have the Cardinals among my Last Four In.

On the other side of that coin, will this finally be the year that Virginia reaches that elusive Final Four?  I’m worried about their ability to score.  At 67.5 points per game, they are 308th in the nation.  Then again, they hold their opponents to a middle school Rec & Ed-like average of 52.6 PPG, which is best in the nation.  Needless to say, the Cavaliers will be a threat to go the distance in March Madness.

For now, here is my latest NCAA tournament projection, with moves up or down in parentheses after the team’s name.

In since last time: UC Davis, Marquette

Out since last time: UC Santa Barbara, Syracuse

1s – Virginia, Villanova, Kansas, Xavier

2s – Purdue, Michigan State, North Carolina, Duke (+1)

3s – Auburn (-1), Tennessee, Cincinnati, Wichita State

4s – West Virginia, Clemson, Gonzaga, Texas Tech

5s – Arizona, Kentucky, Ohio State, Michigan

6s – TCU, Nevada, Houston (+1), Rhode Island

7s – Seton Hall (-1), Miami, Saint Mary’s, Arkansas (+1)

8s – Florida, Texas A & M, Creighton (+1), Butler (-1)

9s – Arizona State, Virginia Tech, Florida State (-1), Missouri (+1)

10s – North Carolina State (-1), Oklahoma, USC, Providence

11s – Baylor, Saint Bonaventure, Kansas State, Alabama, Louisville, Marquette (new)

12s – Middle Tennessee, Loyola-Chicago, Louisiana, New Mexico State

13s – South Dakota State, Vermont, Buffalo, Murray State

14s – UNC-Greensboro, Northeastern, Bucknell, Rider

15s – Montana, Northern Kentucky, UC Davis (new), Penn

16s – Florida Gulf Coast, UNC-Asheville, Wagner, Nicholls State, Bethune-Cookman, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

LAST FOUR IN – Kansas State, Alabama, Louisville, Marquette

FIRST FOUR OUT – Texas, Washington, Syracuse, Notre Dame (+1)

NEXT FOUR OUT – UCLA (-1), Utah, Mississippi State (+1), Nebraska (+1)

As always, if you want to rip me because I have your team too low or want to discuss anything else related to bracketology, feel free to do so in the comments.  Look for my next update on Sunday, and check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime. 

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Bracketology: Bubble Watch, 2/28/18

As promised earlier, I’m bringing you my thoughts on the current bubble teams (click to see today’s bracketology to go along with this article).  Let’s face it, even the teams that have the Last Four Byes right now – Oklahoma, USC, Baylor, and St. Bonaventure – aren’t safe.  For example, while USC is 21-9 overall, typically good enough for a major conference team to get in, their best wins are on neutral courts against Middle Tennessee and New Mexico State.  That may not get it done.

But for now, let’s focus on the teams who are the most desperate – the Last Four In – and the ones who are the most primed to take those spots, the First Four Out.  Here’s a rundown of relevant metrics for each of those teams, along with their best wins, worst losses, and what could seal their fate one way or another come Selection Sunday.

Kansas State (Overall record: 20-10, quadrant 1 record: 3-9, SOS: 73, KenPom: 47, RPI: 62, road record: 6-5): K-state’s best win came at home against TCU and their worst loss was on a neutral court against Tulsa.  That’s really not too terrible a loss, as Tulsa has an RPI of 76 at this point.  That gives K-State just one loss outside of Quadrant 1.  The Wildcats also benefit from a solid road record.  Still, beating Baylor on Saturday and winning a game in the Big 12 tournament would be ideal for Kansas State to feel comfortable on Selection Sunday.

Louisville (Overall record: 19-10, quadrant 1 record: 3-8, SOS: 27, KenPom: 34, RPI: 39, road record: 4-6): The Cardinals have some solid metrics.  Usually, with those strength of schedule, KenPom, and RPI numbers, you wouldn’t be worried about a team getting an at-large bid.  But what they don’t have is a lot of quality wins.  Their best win came at Virginia Tech or at Florida State (depending on which team you feel is better). At the same time, they also don’t have a single bad loss, with the worst being at home against Syracuse.  That is a Quadrant 2 loss but Syracuse certainly isn’t a bad team.

Tomorrow night, Louisville plays Virginia at home.  Winning that would be huge for their resume.  If the Cardinals can do that and follow it up with a win at North Carolina State on Saturday, I wouldn’t be worried about them making the tournament.

Syracuse (Overall record: 18-11, quadrant 1 record: 2-7, SOS: 14, KenPom: 49, RPI: 43, road record: 4-6): The Orange have a few problems right now.  The simplest one is this: should they lose out by dropping their contest at Boston College tonight (they are behind as I write this), falling to Clemson on Saturday, and losing their opening game of the ACC tournament, they will be 18-14.  That matters because the historical minimum for getting an at-large bid is four games above .500.  And, when your best win is at Miami and you’ve lost to Wake Forest and Georgia Tech (plus Boston College in the lose-out scenario), you won’t be getting in at 18-14.

On the other side of the coin, the Orange has some work to do to secure a bid.  Quite frankly, they are really in the field by default at this point.  Losing to BC tonight would make it so that they probably have to beat Clemson OR go far in the ACC tournament.  Even if they get by BC, they still need a quality win or two to seal the deal.

Alabama (Overall record: 17-13, quadrant 1 record: 5-6, SOS: 8, KenPom: 56, RPI: 58, road record: 2-7):  The Crimson Tide have been a really strange team.  Right now, they are my last team in.  They have a lot of good wins, the best of which are home against Auburn and Tennessee.  But they also simply have too many losses, seven of which have come outside of Quadrant 1 – more than any other team I have in my Last Four In or First Four Out.  They appeared to be a lock two weeks ago – I had them on the 6 line – but four straight losses has changed everything.

A win at Texas A & M on Saturday would help their cause, but it won’t be enough.  Bama will need at least one win in the SEC tournament in addition to that.  On the other hand, should they fall to Texas A & M, it’s very hard to imagine the Crimson Tide earning an at-large bid on Selection Sunday, simply because they would end up with 15 losses by failing to win their conference tournament.  Only one team has ever earned an at-large with 15 losses.  That was Vanderbilt last year, and they had the country’s #2 strength of schedule along with an RPI of 33.

Marquette (Overall record: 17-12, quadrant 1 record: 4-7, SOS: 25, KenPom: 50, RPI: 64, road record: 5-5): This is my first team out right now.  The Golden Eagles have some nice road wins, the best of which are at Creighton and at Seton Hall.  They also have a strong strength of schedule.  Other than that, they don’t have that much going for them.  First of all, they have too many losses.  Second of all, two of those are at St. John’s and at Depaul, which won’t help.  Winning against Creighton on Saturday would help to solidify their resume, but it will probably take more than that.  On the flip side, losing to Creighton and in the Big East tournament opener would definitely eliminate Marquette, at 17-14.

Texas (Overall record: 17-13, quadrant 1 record: 5-10, SOS: 19, KenPom: 43, RPI: 60, road record: 4-7): The Longhorns’ best win is at home against Texas Tech, who is slipping right now.  Their season sweep of Oklahoma would have looked great a month ago, but right now, the Sooners are in an absolute free fall.  At least Texas’ only bad loss is at Oklahoma State.  But, they just have too many losses, period.  Beating West Virginia on Saturday would help but they still might need a win or two in the Big 12 tourney.  Lose to West Virginia and fall early in the conference tournament, and it’s NIT time.

Washington (Overall record: 19-10, quadrant 1 record: 3-6, SOS: 48, KenPom: 95, RPI: 51, road record: 5-5): so, I don’t know to what extent the various Selection Committee members use KenPom.  I do know that Washington’s KenPom rating of 95 puts them right on par with teams like Furman, Iowa, and Georgetown.  In other words, not good.  The Huskies do have one of the best road wins of anyone in college basketball this season, at Kansas.  They also have two losses to a marginal Stanford team and a loss at a poor Oregon State team.

It’s not like beating Oregon State and Oregon at home to close out the season is going to do much to boost Washington’s resume, either.  On the other hand, they can’t afford to lose those games.  I really think at this point, not only do the Huskies need to win out in the regular season and make some noise in the Pac 12 tournament, but they need more losses by the teams above them.

UCLA (Overall record: 19-10, quadrant 1 record: 2-6, SOS: 39, KenPom: 29, RPI: 68, road record: 2-7): there really isn’t much that’s impressive about the Bruins’ resume at this point.  Only two wins against Quadrant 1 is weak.  A 2-7 road record is ugly.  Their RPI number is low, relative to teams who have historically gotten at-large bids.  It’s nice that they won at Arizona and beat Kentucky on a neutral court.  But they also got swept by Colorado and lost to both Stanford and Oregon State.  Beating USC on Saturday would help, but it’s going to take more than that to make the field.

So, that’s it for now.  I’ll keep these Bubble Watch articles going as an add-on to my regular bracketology as we head towards Selection Sunday.  Enjoy the games, and look for my next bracketology on Friday morning!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bracketology: Michigan State Moves Back Up

On Monday, I spelled out why Michigan State deserved to be a 3 seed.  Well, things change quickly in this chaotic season of college basketball.  Thanks to losses by three teams above them – North Carolina, Auburn, and Duke – the Spartans are back on the 2 line.

Of course, the teams near the cut line have a more pressing issue.  What do these teams need to do in order to wrap up a bid?  Or, what will cause them to miss out entirely?  Later tonight, I’ll bring you a more detailed write up about the Last Four In and First Four Out, a feature I’ll continue until Selection Sunday.

For now, here is my latest NCAA tournament projection, with moves up or down in parentheses after the team’s name.

In since last time: Syracuse

Out since last time: Texas

1s – Virginia, Villanova, Kansas, Xavier

2s – Purdue, Michigan State (+1), North Carolina, Auburn

3s – Duke (-1), Tennessee, Cincinnati, Wichita State

4s – West Virginia, Clemson (+1), Gonzaga, Texas Tech

5s – Arizona (-1), Kentucky, Ohio State, Michigan (+1)

6s – TCU, Nevada, Seton Hall, Rhode Island (-1)

7s – Houston, Butler, Miami (+1), Saint Mary’s

8s – Arkansas (+1), Florida, Texas A & M, Florida State (-1)

9s – Creighton, Arizona State, Virginia Tech (+1), North Carolina State (+1)

10s – Missouri, Providence, Oklahoma (-2), USC (+1)

11s – Baylor, Saint Bonaventure, Kansas State, Louisville (+1), Syracuse (new), Alabama (-2)

12s – Middle Tennessee (-1), Loyola-Chicago, Louisiana, New Mexico State

13s – South Dakota State, Vermont, Buffalo, Murray State

14s – UNC-Greensboro, Northeastern, Bucknell, Rider

15s – Montana, Northern Kentucky, UC Santa Barbara, Penn

16s – Florida Gulf Coast, UNC-Asheville, Wagner, Nicholls State, Bethune-Cookman, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

LAST FOUR IN – Kansas State, Louisville, Syracuse, Alabama

FIRST FOUR OUT – Marquette, Texas, Washington, UCLA

NEXT FOUR OUT – Notre Dame (+1), LSU, Georgia, Utah

THIRD FOUR OUT – Mississippi State (-1), Western Kentucky, Nebraska (+1), Temple (+1)

As always, if you want to rip me because I have your team too low or want to discuss anything else related to bracketology, feel free to do so in the comments.  Look for my next update on Wednesday, and check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime. 

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