Sunday, February 18, 2018

18-FEB Bracket Projections: Hokie Woke

I’ve been a Virginia Tech outlier all season long as alluded to in a comment in my last post, so I thought I’d give a few sentences to address it here.  They are a ten seed on bracket matrix with a range excluding me from eight to twelve in those that placed the Hokies.  In my bracket they are a six, but have fluctuated up to a five in recent posts.  My brackets are published with results to date as well as what I project in the remaining games leading up to Selection Sunday.  I have Virginia Tech scooping up two more wins in their next games against Clemson and Louisville, then it has a couple coin flip games with Duke at home and Miami on the road.  With today’s Duke win over Clemson what was previously a Virginia Tech win has flipped to a marginal Blue Devil win, but it’s still razor thin.  In the ACC tournament, I have them bowing out in the semifinals.  The race between Clemson, Louisville, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech for the fourth best team is tight, and as of now I see this as favorable for the Hokies.

It looks reasonable to me.  Will it play out like that?  I guess we’ll see, but when you’re out of line with bracket matrix it usually portends bad things for the prognosticator.  I should have a pretty good indication soon as I would wager that the Duke game is going to be the fulcrum with the most leverage in this entire chain, but it’s hard to look past that Clemson game.  A loss there would be devastating and a clear delineation between fourth and fifth in the ACC, but with Clemson owning that right.

Bracket Update
Syracuse knocked off Miami on the road Saturday, and the Orange have now won three of four and move to 7-7 in the ACC.  They are also a respectable 3-5 in Quadrant 1 competition as of today.  A couple of trap games loom after the North Carolina and Duke games, but they move into the field for now in my bracket. 

Georgia has also made the leap into the brackets.  The Bulldogs picked up a road win at Florida to complete the Gator sweep, and then followed that up over the weekend by knocking off Tennessee at home.  Georgia is currently 6-8 in the SEC, and it’s imperative they get to at least 8-10, but that’s where I have them finishing the season. 

Moving out are UCLA and Louisville.  The Bruins continue to pile up wins, but none that really move the needle.  They’re 2-4 against Quadrant 1 competition, and in a numbers game I have them on the outside looking in and one of my first teams out alongside Texas and Baylor. 

Louisville has been losing to tournament teams and beating up on non-tournament teams for over a month now.  That could change soon as their final four games are all against teams currently in the bracket matrix field.  Three are on the road, with games at Duke, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State, and they will host Virginia.  The Cardinals are 2-7 against Quadrant 1, and could desperately use a late resume win.   

No updates on the automatic bids from my last bracket. 

Futility
Four more schools were knocked out over the weekend, one of which was on our list of 43 Futility schools.  Tim O’Shea announced his retirement on Monday effective at the end of the season, and this week the Bryant Bulldogs confirmed that the effective date would be the regular season finale on February 24th as they are no longer able to qualify for the postseason conference tournament.  The Bulldogs moved to Division I in 2008, but have failed to qualify in each of their ten seasons.  Forty schools on our list remain eligible.

Houston Baptist will see their season end on senior night, as they will not qualify for the Southland Conference Tournament.  They join Northwestern State and Incarnate Word as three of the five affiliated members who will not participate.  The Huskies took an NAIA hiatus for several years before rejoining Division I, but will see their last NCAA Tournament appearance move to 34 years ago.  That is 24th longest Drought in Division I.

Morehead State will also not qualify for the Ohio Valley Conference tournament and has been eliminated.  Mississippi Valley State can still tie for the final spot in the SWAC Tournament, but assuming no new tiebreak procedures for the SWAC (and that the ineligible schools are still participating in the post-season) they will not be able to beat any of the team or teams they are tied with.  Thus, the Delta Devils are also eliminated.  Also, a big thank you to the Big Sky for expanding their post-season tournaments as they always had the most convoluted late-season tiebreak scenarios for me to work through.  Of the 351 Division I schools, 342 are still alive.

Teams With A Zero
The first of two coin flips went against Delaware State (0-25), as they fell at home to the Florida A&M Rattlers 66-63.  Delaware State possessed a seven point second half lead, and was up 61-57 with a little over a minute left per kenpom’s win probability graph (87.5% likelihood of a DSU win).  The Rattlers however would score twice, survive a late turnover, and hit four free throws to ice the three point roadkill.  It’s a tough loss for a team still looking for their first Division I win, but as mentioned all hope is not lost as Coppin State comes in for a game Monday night. 
After starting out 0-17, Juan Dixon’s team has managed a 5-6 mark since and has nearly worked their way up to the middle of the MEAC.  Kenpom has the Eagles at one point better in Delaware State 64-63, but I’ll go the opposite with a 69-68 Hornet win. 

Chicago State (0-26) will return to action Thursday night in Las Cruces, against a New Mexico State team on a surprising two game losing streak.  I can’t imagine this is anything other than a “get right” game for the Aggies.  This has all the makings of a tough road trip for the Cougars. 

Winless (against Division I) teams (2): Chicago State, and Delaware State.

Quadrant 1 Wins (Home vs Top 30 RPI, Neutral vs Top 50 RPI, Road vs Top 75 RPI)
Of the Bracket Matrix teams I’d consider bubble teams (teams in the field but not on 10% or more of brackets, plus the first four out), below are the quadrant 1 wins.  The below ten teams would be vying for six spots.  Bracket Matrix seed shown in parenthesis:
(11) St. Bonaventure 3-2, .600
(F4O) Washington 4-3, .571
(11) Texas 5-8, .385
(F4O) Syracuse 3-5, .375
(11) Baylor 4-8, (10) Kansas State 3-6, (11) UCLA 2-4, .333
(F4O) USC 2-5, .286
(11) Louisville 2-7, .222
(F4O) Nebraska 1-6 .143

NCAA Q1 Win Leaders
(9)- Kansas, North Carolina
(8)- Virginia, Villanova, Auburn
(7)- Xavier, Texas A&M, LSU
(6)- Oklahoma, Alabama, Purdue, Florida, Houston
(5)- Providence, Florida State, West Virginia, Texas, Cincinnati, Missouri, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Georgia
(4)- Washington, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, Marquette, Arizona, South Carolina, Baylor

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 3-2 last week, 60-35 overall)
This week's top five as I see them:
#5 Tuesday, Creighton at Butler- Butler 78, Creighton 76
#4 Wednesday, Fresno State at UNLV- UNLV 77, Fresno State 74
#3 Wednesday, Louisville at Duke- Duke 80, Louisville 73
#2 Wednesday, Michigan at Penn State- Penn State 71, Michigan 67
#1 Wednesday, Clemson at Virginia Tech- Virginia Tech 75, Clemson 72


Friday, February 16, 2018

15-FEB Bracket Projections: Everybody Loses...Sometimes

It’s been a tumultuous week for the teams at the top.  Of the Top 16 seeds announced last week by the Selection Committee, nine have lost since the weekend.  Twelve of the sixteen have lost this month, and two teams are carrying losing streaks of three games or more.  This is how a team like Virginia can lose at home and move up to number one in the polls (and it still makes sense).  Also, when everybody loses, things don't change much.  No new teams moving in or dropping out from my last bracket.

Teams With A Zero
When you are 0-24 against Division I competition like the Delaware State Hornets, what could be better than staking your squad to a 16-5 road lead early in the first half?  Not much, I presume.  But I know what’s definitively worse.  That would be allowed your opponent to finish the game on an 88-42 run.  Delaware State dumped in 13 threes in 23 chances, but it mattered little as they allowed 14 makes in 28 opportunties.  As strong as the offense was beyond the arc, they mustered 38% from the line and 26% from twos in the lopsided affair.

Better news is on the horizon, however.  The Hornets return to the diamond state for two games against opponents that can be had.  Florida A&M is first up, and in the first game in Tallahassee the Rattlers needed double overtime to escape 94-89.  Kenpom predicts FAMU with a one point win, but I’ll take the number one in our hearts, number 350 in the standings Delaware State Hornets 72-71. 

Moving west to two heartland teams playing in the Western Athletic Conference,  the streak ends at 184 minutes and 49 seconds for Chicago State.  A Travon Bell layup gave Chicago State its first lead since January 27th as the Cougars took a 2-0 lead and made my coinflip prediction come true.  The lead would balloon to 5-0, but ultimately the Roos would build up a large lead, and hold off a late charge to take the WAC contest 76-67.  The Cougars are now 0-26 against Division I competition.  Chicago State will get a week off to fake their death, assume a new identity and avoid a road game in Las Cruces next week. 

Winless (against Division I) teams (2): Chicago State, and Delaware State.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 3-2 last week, 57-33 overall)
This weekend's top five as I see them:
#5 Sunday, Duke at Clemson- Duke 75, Clemson 74
#4 Sunday, Penn State at Purdue- Purdue 75, Penn State 68
#3 Saturday, Villanova at Xavier- Xavier 79, Villanova 78
#2 Saturday, West Virginia at Kansas- Kansas 76, West Virginia 74
#1 Sunday, Wichita State at Cincinnati- Cincinnati 74, Wichita State 69


Sunday, February 11, 2018

11-FEB Bracket Projections: What Did The Top 16 Reveal...Reveal?

Of the teams revealed in the Top 16, Kansas has the most Quadrant 1 wins of the group and leads the NCAA with nine victories in thirteen chances.  Villanova, at 8-1, has the best record in terms of percentage, with Virginia just a tick behind at a 7-1 mark.  There are eighteen programs that have five or more Quadrant 1 wins.  However, only half of the Top 16 seeds announced today are in that category.  Thirteen though do have at least four wins, with only Michigan State (3), Arizona (3), and Ohio State (2) failing to make it in that group.  Also mildly interesting  was that 14 of the 16 have a .500 record or better in such opportunities.  Tennessee at 4-6 and Ohio State at 2-4 were left out.

Bracket Update
Two updates for the automatic bids in my bracket.  In the Colonial, Towson has been my projected CAA Tournament winner in brackets dating all the way back to January 4th.  However, after Towson’s home loss this weekend to Northeastern to level their conference record to 7-7, they have finally fell behind in my model to College of Charleston.  The Cougars are riding an eight game winning streak and lead the CAA with a 11-3 mark.  They were also the team replaced by Towson in my projections back in January.

In the MEAC tournament it’s been predominately North Carolina Central leading the bracket, but North Carolina A&T has been in my field here and there including my previous post.  We now move completely out of the Tar Heel State and into Virginia as Hampton returns to my bracket for the first time since December 21st.  Savannah State currently leads the conference at 9-1, while Hampton is fourth at 7-4. 

I also have two updates in the at large field.  In retrospect I was too hasty on Thursday with Washington.  They have four of their final six games at home, and a path to 12-6 in the PAC 12 is reasonable.  The Oregon loss is a killer, and the double OT loss this weekend to Oregon State isn’t all that much better, but I’m banking on the Huskies in a few of the remaining coin flip games in this bracket edition.  When you combine that with five Quadrant 1 wins, and an overall 5-3 record in that category, I think that’s enough.

Sticking to the purple bubble teams, Kansas State is also in this bracket projection.  They got waxed by Texas Tech, but at this point the Red Raiders are favored to take the Big XII title making the loss more explainable.  Kansas State is 6-6, and if they can get to 9-9 in the respected Big XII Conference, well that looks formidable enough to me.  Certainly not ironclad, as that non-conference is troublesome, but perhaps enough to coast in on the strength of their conference.  

Moving out are SMU, who I still really like at full strength, and USC.  The Trojans have lost three in a row, own a loss to Washington, and are 2-5 in Q1 games.  It’s a fine line sort of call in my opinion, but at this point I have them just barely out.  In SMU’s case, it really is as simple as Shake Milton is out, and they haven’t been able to win without him.  They have lost three in a row, as well as four of five, and are now sitting at 5-7 in the American.  They've also lost opportunities for signature wins against Houston and Cincinnati, and allowed Tulsa to stay in front of them in the AAC standings.  They are 2-4 in Q1 games, but do have nice non-conference wins against Arizona, USC, and Boise State. 

Futility
The thirteen team Southland Conference only sends eight teams to their conference tournament, and two teams have now been eliminated from their conference postseason, and thus the NCAA postseason.  One of those, the Incarnate Word Cardinals, are on the list of teams to have never made an NCAA tournament.  They join Grambling State, a team facing an Academic Progress Rate post-season ban, as the only two who are officially guaranteed to begin next season in the same position.  Northwestern State, who has made three NCAA appearances with the most recent being in 2013, was also eliminated from the 2018 Southland Conference Tournament leaving us with 348 teams still alive.

Teams With A Zero
Chicago State was our only school in action this weekend.  I missed the correct score, but had the margin pegged as Seattle held off the Cougars 91-81.  The ten point margin is a bit misleading as it was a 24 point game at the half that Chicago State was fortunate to cut into the lead as much as they did.  I asked the question, ‘Would Chicago State have a lead?’.  The answer was ‘No, they would not’.  Last month, January 27th, with 4:46 left to go in the first half, a Deionte Simmons dunk gave Chicago State a one point lead which would last 44 seconds until UT Rio Grande Valley would scratch back out in front.  It’s now been 184 minutes and 2 seconds of game time since the Cougars have held a lead in a basketball game.  On Thursday night, we’ll find out if the streak will hit 200 minutes when they travel to UMKC for the first matchup against the Kangaroos this season.  I’ll predict UMKC 79-69 (and Chicago State to take a 2-0 lead!).

Delaware State was off this weekend, and travel to Norfolk State tomorrow night.  I’ll take the Spartans 75-67.

Winless (against Division I) teams (2): Chicago State, and Delaware State.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 2-3 last week, 54-31 overall)
This week's top five as I see them:
#5 Thursday, Ohio State at Penn State- Penn State 72, Ohio State 70
#4 Wednesday, Clemson at Florida State- Florida State 75, Clemson 72
#3 Thursday, Arizona at Arizona State- Arizona State 79, Arizona 76
#2 Wednesday, Virginia Tech at Duke- Duke 82, Virginia Tech 76
#1 Thursday, Cincinnati at Houston- Cincinnati 69, Houston 68


Friday, February 9, 2018

8-FEB Bracket Projections: Kansas And Their Streaks

2/9 12:15 EDIT: Please note an incomplete bracket was attached earlier.  The version included was littered with conference affiliation errors, rematches, etc.  It has been corrected in the image below.  Apologies for the mistake.


Kansas receives a deserved amount of adulation for their remarkable conference championship streak which may be in some peril this year, but another impressive feat doesn’t garner as much fanfare.  The Jayhawks possess the longest active consecutive NCAA Tournament streak at 28 appearances in a row, and will make it 29 this year.  For perspective, there are 33 schools who were in Division I when Kansas last missed the field who have not made the tournament at all in that time frame.  The Jayhawks were on probation in 1989, Roy Williams’s first year after Larry Brown won the title the year previous and left Kansas.

No one else is all that close, and only a handful are within twenty active years of the run.  Duke (22) and Michigan State (20) are second and third on the last, and also are safely in the 2018 field.  We have a tie for now for fourth place, but that looks to breaking this year.  Gonzaga and Wisconsin are sitting at 19 years in a row, and while the Zags are comfortably in, the Badgers will need a run in New York City to preserve their streak.
The rest of the top ten is a mixed bag.  North Carolina and Cincinnati have made seven consecutive appearances, and should make it eight, while VCU will need some Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament magic to make their eighth dance.  Tied for ninth are Iowa State (nope) and Wichita State (yup) at six in a row.

Teams With A Zero
Heartbreak for Delaware State this week, as they battled first place North Carolina A&T on the road Monday.  After a competitive first half, the game still hung in the balance late in the game.  The Hornets had the ball down one point with less than a minute to go, and missed three chances to gain a late lead.  The Aggies hit a couple free throws and prevailed 54-51 and dropped the Hornets to 0-23.  Delaware State will get the weekend off before getting back in action next Monday.  There are definite opportunities on the horizon for Delaware State to move off this list.


One way to avoid a heartbreaking loss is to immediately seal your fate.  I mentioned in the last blog that Chicago State has went in over 100 minutes of game action without holding a lead.  Well, tack on another forty.  Chicago State may have reached their nadir against the Utah Valley falling 97-57.  This Saturday is their penultimate home game when they host Seattle, and their final home game isn’t for another three weeks.  I’ll take the Redhawks 79-69, but I’m almost more interested to see if Chicago State can grab a lead.


Notable Games (predictions in italics, 1-4 last week ouch…, 52-28 overall)
This weekend's top five as I see them:
#5 Saturday, Virginia Tech at Virginia- Virginia 72, Virginia Tech 67
#4 Saturday, Grand Canyon at New Mexico State- New Mexico State 69, Grand Canyon 67
#3 Saturday, Xavier at Creighton- Creighton 81, Xavier 78
#2 Saturday, Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s- Saint Mary’s 74, Gonzaga 73
#1 Saturday, Purdue at Michigan State- Michigan State 75, Purdue 72




Sunday, February 4, 2018

4-FEB Bracket Projections: Resume Stuffing Saturday

Bracket Updates
Saturday wasn’t a day full of prominent top ranked teams squaring off, but a host of schools hovering around the cut line cashed in on large opportunities.  Missouri (Kentucky), Washington (Arizona), Texas (Oklahoma), and Alabama (Florida) all picked up key resume wins, and strengthened their Quadrant 1 profile.  Providence also scored a nice bubble separation win over a Marquette team that was projected in the bracket matrix field in the last update.  All five schools move in for me.  Boise State, UCLA, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Maryland have been dumped to make room.

Winthrop has moved back in on the Big South auto bid, replacing Liberty who had knocked them out in the previous bracket. 

Teams With A Zero
To formally close it out since the game was still pending in my last post, Chicago State lost at Cal State Bakersfield by thirty, 91-61.  They continued their road trip and made a stop in Phoenix Saturday, and lost that one by 34, 89-55.  The Cougars have not had a lead in a game since back in the first half of the game against UT Rio Grande Valley.  If a Valley school is required for Chicago State to be in the game, then perhaps Thursday will bring good fortune when the Cougars host Utah Valley.  It looks dire, though.  I’ll predict Utah Valley 81-68.

Delaware State carried themselves better, garnering a large first half lead and parlaying that into a competitive first half.  However, the second twenty minutes allowed North Carolina Central to gain some separation to prevail 72-61.  It’s now time for a quick turnaround for the Hornets as they head from Durham to Greensboro for a game Monday night at North Carolina A&T.  The Aggies won in Dover in early January by ten.  I’ll tack on a point for the rematch and predict NC A&T 77-66.

Winless (against Division I) teams (2): Chicago State, and Delaware State.

Quadrant 1 Wins (Home vs Top 30 RPI, Neutral vs Top 50 RPI, Road vs Top 75 RPI)
Of the Bracket Matrix teams I’d consider bubble teams (teams in the field but not on 10% or more of brackets, plus the first four out), below are the quadrant 1 wins.  The below eleven teams would be vying for seven spots.  Bracket Matrix seed shown in parenthesis:
(11) Washington 4-3, .571
(11) North Carolina State 4-4, (11) Houston 3-3, .500
(11) Missouri 5-6, .455
(F4O) SMU 2-3, .400
(F4O) Western Kentucky 1-2, .333
(11) Virginia Tech 2-5, (10) Kansas State 2-5, .286
(11) Marquette 2-9, .182
(F4O) Syracuse 0-4, (F4O) Boise State 0-3 .000

NCAA Q1 Win Leaders
(9)- Villanova
(8)- Kansas
(7)- Virginia
(6)- Purdue, Oklahoma, Alabama
(5)- Clemson, Florida, Xavier, Seton Hall, Providence, Missouri, Texas, Florida State, Florida
(4)- Auburn, Duke, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Kentucky, Miami FL, West Virginia, Washington, Temple, Gonzaga, North Carolina State, LSU
(3)- 8 teams

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 3-2 last week, 51-24 overall)
This week's top five as I see them:
#5 Wednesday, UNLV at Nevada- Nevada 80, UNLV 76
#4 Thursday, Duke at North Carolina- Duke 80, North Carolina 79
#3 Thursday, SMU at Houston- Houston 72, SMU 68
#2 Wednesday, Virginia at Florida State- Florida State 69, Virginia 68
#1 Wednesday, Ohio State at Purdue- Purdue 76, Ohio State 69


Friday, February 2, 2018

1-FEB Bracket Projections: Everyone But Grambling, Alabama A&M, and SEMO.

Bracket Updates
Texas A&M is back for me after a one post hiatus.  The Aggies have challenges, but the one I’m most interested in is how their SEC record finishes.  At this point I’m projecting 8-10, which would be tied with Arkansas, and coupled with the comfortable home win this week over Arkansas it’s enough for me to resurrect TAMU and supplant the Razorbacks in the bracket.  For now, at least.

Speaking of teams struggling for conference respectability, the Baylor Bears have been hemorrhaging.  I have been late to move off of them, and this team could lose 12 or 13 conference games at the rate they’re going.  They are mercifully out for me, and replaced by a longshot from Olean, New York.  Saint Bonaventure’s resume was touted by some back in December, but have been forgotten since.  They’re sitting at a meager 5-4 in conference, with all four of those losses on the road, and 2-2 against Quadrant 1 teams.  Six of their final ten will be at home, with a chance to pick up wins against Rhode Island and Davidson.  If they can avoid bad losses, and possibly steal a game against Duquesne and/or VCU on the road, then we could be talking about a multi-bid Atlantic 10. 

Conference Tournament Outlook
This Monday will represent the three week mark before conference tournaments begin, when the Atlantic Sun quarterfinals tip off Championship Fortnight.  Going off recent memory this is the largest pool of eligible teams we’ve had at this point in the season, as only three schools remain on APR post-season bans: Alabama A&M, Grambling State and Southeast Missouri State.  With the successful Division I transition of several schools, and the lack of postseason bans, that leaves 348 teams in the field still relevant.

Some conference teams will be excised from the postseason prior to the conference tournaments, although we are not quite within range to see that happen just yet.  But where will those eliminations emanate from?  

The nine team American East will only allow eight to the postseason party.  Binghamton is the current basement dweller, but Maine and UMass Lowell linger within range.  Remaining schedules indicate Maine could be the team left out here.

The Big West is in the same situation, looking for one school to bow out.  UC Riverside is yet to notch a conference win, and remain the likeliest candidate.  Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly each have two wins and are the only schools really in range of the Highlanders.

Conference USA is arguably the best conference to not send all teams, but given their digital and syndication package, it would be unlikely we’d see any of these early round matchups anyways.  The swollen fourteen team league begins their tournament at twelve.  One win Charlotte, as well as 2-7 Rice and UTEP currently are in danger of missing out here.  Basically we’re down to two schools that removed their coaches already, as well as a first year coach, so it sort of makes sense why these schools are here.

The Ivy joined the fun last year with a four team runoff, so this is a half in, half out setup.  Given the late conference play start this is still wide open, but Harvard, Penn, and Princeton appear to be in good shape with a combined 9-1 conference record.  That would leave Brown, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, and Dartmouth left to fight for the final spot.  Kenpom likes Yale for it, I lean Brown, but in both situations the prevailing team attaining a 7-7 league mark.

The Northeast Conference will weed out two to make up an eight team field.  Bryant, at 1-10, and Sacred Heart, at 2-9, are both multiple games back of the rest of the conference.  If either of those two want to escape, it will likely mean chasing down 4-7 Fairleigh Dickinson.

The Ohio Valley has a nice twelve team league, but uses the double ladder tournament approach which means curtains for the final four spots.  Southeast Missouri State possesses an APR post-season ban, and the OVC has elected to hold them out of their conference tournament, leaving three more voids to fill.  SIU Edwardsville is clear of two teams thus far in the standings, but are projected by me to finish last.  Eastern Illinois and Morehead State are also in the running to be left waiting until next year.

The Southland Conference is the most ruthless as five teams will be left out of the eight team ladder tournament.  Northwestern State and Incarnate Word are winless in conference and look poised to be eliminated in the near future.  Houston Baptist, Texas A&M Corpus Christi and McNeese State also look to be hovering below the cutline. 

Finally we have the SWAC, which is perennially one of the more difficult fields to figure out.  If there are no changes, then past fields will indicate that both Alabama A&M and Grambling State are eligible to participate in the SWAC Tournament, but not to receive the automatic bid.  It would appear then the two teams will likely come from the Mississippi Valley State, Alcorn State, and Alabama A&M trio.  I project Alabama A&M to slide through, leaving six eligible teams in the eight team field.

So there you have it.  348 of the 351 remain, and a few others this month will fail to qualify for the only vehicle they have to win a National Championship.  You’re still in this Northwestern State!

Teams With A Zero
Chicago State is still in action tonight, but currently down 24 on the road at Cal State Bakersfield, so it looks like we’ll take both winless teams into the weekend.

There are 178 schedule games this weekend, with the overwhelming majority coming on Saturday as teams seek to avoid going up against a Justin Timberlake concert Sunday night.  I rank upcoming games each post below that factor the quality of teams playing against each other, and how likely that game will be competitive.  Registering in at 176 of 178 on that scale are our Delaware State Hornets.  DSU travels to Durham to do battle with North Carolina Central and hope to eke out a win over another Division I opponent for the first time this season.  My prediction: NCC 76, DSU 65.

Which game would be 178 out of 178, you ask?  Well, that would involve Chicago State, who are scheduled to travel into Phoenix for a tilt against Grand Canyon in what looks to be a significant mismatch.  Kenpom gives the Cougars a 1% shot.  The NMSU fans in my comments gives this a “who cares, put NMSU in already”.  I’ll settle in the middle with a 82-61 Grand Canyon win.

Winless (against Division I) teams (2): Chicago State, and Delaware State.

Quadrant 1 Wins (Home vs Top 30 RPI, Neutral vs Top 50 RPI, Road vs Top 75 RPI)
Of the Bracket Matrix teams I’d consider bubble teams (teams in the field but not on 10% or more of brackets, plus the first four out), below are the quadrant 1 wins.  The below ten teams would be vying for six spots.  Bracket Matrix seed shown in parenthesis:
(11) North Carolina State 4-4, (F4O) Washington 3-3, .500
(F4O) Missouri 4-6, (11) SMU 2-3, .400
(10) Texas A&M 3-5, .375
(F4O) Virginia Tech 2-4, (F4O) Western Kentucky 1-2, .333
(11) Marquette 2-8, .200
(11) Syracuse 0-3, (11) Boise State 0-3 .000

NCAA Q1 Win Leaders
(8)- Kansas
(6)- Purdue, Oklahoma, Virginia, Villanova
(5)- Clemson, Florida, Auburn, Xavier
(4)- West Virginia, Cincinnati, Texas, Duke, Seton Hall, Gonzaga, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Florida State, LSU, Missouri, Tennessee, Providence, Alabama, Temple
(3)- 10 teams

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 4-1 last week, 48-22 overall)
This weekend's top five as I see them:
#5 Saturday, Kansas State at West Virginia- West Virginia 75, Kansas State 70
#4 Saturday, Texas Tech at TCU- TCU 75, Texas Tech 74
#3 Saturday, Miami at Virginia Tech- Virginia Tech 76, Miami 72
#2 Saturday, UNLV at Boise State- Boise State 76, UNLV 74
#1 Saturday, BYU at Gonzaga- Gonzaga 77, BYU 70


Sunday, January 28, 2018

28-JAN Bracket Projections: SEC Wins Challenge, Loses Two Teams In Field

Bracket Updates
The SEC trashed my predictions this weekend.  Admittedly I went 8-2, but I lost a couple of swing games so my 6-4 Big XII post reciprocated into a 6-4 SEC win.  I swear it’s not out of spite, but even despite the win over the nation’s premier conference, I have two teams falling out of my bracket.  

The Missouri Tigers lost to Ben Howland’s Mississippi State squad by twelve on the road, and the loss is the third in a row for Mizzu, as well as now four losses in the last five games. 

Also taking a tumble out for me is Texas A&M.  This has less to do with the loss at Kansas as that’s beyond understandable, but TAMU now has only two wins in their last nine games (one of those is the aforementioned Missouri, the other was Ole Miss and both came in College Station).  If a team is able to put together a solid run in the SEC they will easily work their way back into things, but the flip side is the improved conference has robbed a few token wins off the schedule.

Those departed slots have been bequeathed to the Big East and the Pac Twelve conferences.  Butler joins the field, and as I mentioned in a comment on my last post, beating St. John’s shouldn’t earn anyone a tournament spot (although I certainly appreciate their cooperation in keeping my Rush The Court survivor streak going).  That said a 25 point conference win is a good data point, and they now are a game over .500 in the Big East.  They have a nice surprise win at home against Villanova, and the neutral overtime win against Ohio State.  But I’m still watching closely.  Their Quadrant I resume is those two wins and seven other losses.  They have plenty of landmines which I think could prove difficult, with Wednesday night at Marquette being the first and then a huge home stand with five out of six at home that they’ll need to perform well.

UCLA gets the other nod, and are my fourth PAC 12 team.  Washington is a team popping up in a few other brackets, but UCLA is the better team to me, and also has the 19 point win over the Huskies at Pauley.  This invite is also a tenuous one, as their remaining schedule has maybe one slam dunk on it (Oregon State at home) with the other seven being coin flips at best.

Teams With A Zero
Let’s hear it for Mississippi Valley State.  Losers of their last 21 games stretching back to last season’s SWAC tournament.  In addition they were coming off a somewhat disheartening loss given it came on their best shooting night of the year, at 58.6 eFG%.  But they parlayed that into their new season high, 60.2% against Jackson State, while also getting to the line at the highest FTR (63.6) all year.  Which was good, because their turnover% was the second worst of the year for them.  Add it all up, it was good enough to keep them relevant against a JSU team playing with Paris Collins for the fourth consecutive game.  When MVSU finished the last five minutes on a 14-5 run, it resulted in a 72-67 Delta Devil victory. 

I picked the wrong horse to back last post.  Delaware State came out of the gates hot for a bit, but not enough firepower to keep up with a Horace Broadnax offense dropping a 106-86 decision and falling to 0-21 against Division I competition.  They will enjoy a week off, before traveling to North Carolina Central next weekend

Chicago State was in that situation last week, parlayed that rest into a lead…for about two media time outs.  UT Rio Grande Valley kept the cougars at arm’s length and took this WAC battle 87-81.  They now hit the road for two straight, beginning with a trip to Bakersfield.  The forecast looks bleak, and I’ll predict Cal State Bakersfield 77-66.

Winless (against Division I) teams (3): Chicago State and Delaware State.

Quadrant 1 Wins (Home vs Top 30 RPI, Neutral vs Top 50 RPI, Road vs Top 75 RPI)
Of the Bracket Matrix teams I’d consider bubble teams (teams in the field but not on 10% or more of brackets, plus the first four out), below are the quadrant 1 wins.  The below ten teams would be vying for six spots.  Bracket Matrix seed shown in parenthesis:
(11) Houston 3-1, .750
(F4O) Washington 3-3
(10) Kansas State 2-3, (11) SMU 2-3, .400
(11) Missouri 3-6, (F4O) Notre Dame 2-4, (F4O) Virginia Tech 2-4, (F4O) Western Kentucky 1-2, .333
(11) Syracuse 1-3, .250
(11) Boise State 0-3 .000

Not pictured is a charging North Carolina State who is 4-4 against Quadrant 1. 

NCAA Q1 Win Leaders
(6)- Purdue, Kansas, Oklahoma, Virginia
(5)- Clemson, Florida, Auburn, Florida State, Villanova
(4)- West Virginia, Cincinnati, Texas, Duke, Seton Hall, Gonzaga, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Xavier
(3)- 16 teams

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 3-2 last week, 1-0 from St. Mary pending last week, 44-21 overall)
This week's top five as I see them:
#5 Wednesday, Maryland at Purdue- Purdue 77, Maryland 68
#4 Tuesday, North Carolina at Clemson- Clemson 75, North Carolina 72
#3 Monday, Kansas at Kansas State- Kansas State 75, Kansas 73
#2 Wednesday, Houston at Cincinnati- Cincinnati 73, Houston 66
#1 Thursday, Creighton at Villanova- Villanova 82, Creighton 76