Sunday, December 10, 2017

10-DEC Bracket Projection: The Cupcake Invasion

We have reached the portion of the schedule where the teams who loaded up on buy games are infiltrating my projections.  Georgetown cracks the rankings, Virginia Tech continues to score high marks, and Rutgers is creeping up.  None of which have the resume to support it.  Could they be legit?  Possibly, but there's no way to tell.  Typically this would get sorted out in conference play, however all three have top 60 kenpom teams coming up this week.  Virginia Tech and Rutgers will have a top 20 opponent to really give us a definitive benchmark.  I sure hope so, because I'm unimpressed by the 4-0 MEAC Hoyas.

Bracket Matrix Update
A little more alignment was seen with the majority with the latest batch of updates.  I had 14 seeds in alignment with the group on my 12/7 bracket.  That number was up from 11 in the previous update.  My bracket had 16 seeds in common with T-Rank, which was an improvement from 14 previously with Graham Doeren.  Again, get here soon conference play.  I could use some assimilation.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 3-2 last week)
This week's top five as I see them:
#5 Tuesday, Louisiana Lafayette at Louisiana Tech-  Louisiana Tech 79, Louisiana Lafayette 75
#4 Tuesday, Jacksonville State at Oregon State- Oregon State 73, Jacksonville State 71
#3 Tuesday, Michigan at Texas- Texas 70, Michigan 66
#2 Tuesday, Mississippi State at Cincinnati- Cincinnati 75, Mississippi State 66

#1 Wednesday, Grand Canyon at Boise State- Boise State 68, Grand Canyon 64

Finals week crimping the midweek schedule.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

07-DEC Bracket Projection- The Birth of Quadrants

Earlier this week, the NCAA confirmed some minor tweaks to the team sheets used by the Selection Committee.  No longer are the Top 50 RPI wins a primary criteria, replaced instead with a more complicated measure.  What is now called Quadrant 1 wins will see inclusion of home games vs Top 30 RPI teams, neutral site games vs Top 50 RPI teams, and road games vs Top 75 RPI teams.

While incorporating venue is a positive development, it still doesn't fix a couple of critical flaws in my opinion.  First, it continues to use the RPI as the mechanism to define which teams qualify for the various quadrants.  Secondly, it continues to assign arbitrary endpoints, valuing a top 30 win at home, but not a top 31 win, for example.

For those wanted to see major renovation, this wouldn't have been your first choice.  However, I think it does move the needle in a more positive direction, even if it minimally.

Old vs New
At first glance, it appears the SEC is a big loser with the updates.  Alabama is 4-2 against the current RPI Top 50.  Unfortunately for the Tide, this includes home wins vs Lipscomb (40), UT Arlington (39), and Louisiana Tech (36).  All three slide over to Quadrant 2, leaving Alabama 1-2 in Quadrant 1.

The only other teams I found experiencing a reduction of multiple wins were two other SEC teams.  Kentucky registered at 2-1 vs Top 50 wins, but in this format loses their home wins over Utah Valley (44) and Vermont (43).  Missouri also sees their 4-2 mark drop to 2-2, as their wins over Iowa State (borderline at 31) and Wagner (48) are washed away.

On the flip side, no one saw a jump of more than one win.  Villanova and West Virginia have both bagged three wins, regardless of old/new.

ACC Conference Play
Just one game on the schedule, but our second conference tips off the conference season this weekend.  Duke goes into Chestnut Hill to take on 6-3 Boston College.  The ACC looks like to be a battle of Duke, Virginia, Miami, and North Carolina battling for the four byes into the quarterfinals.  However, I'll throw a curve and give Virginia Tech a sleeper mention here and knocking the reigning national champions down to a #5 seed.

Notable Games (predictions in italics)
As the season begins to round into shape I'll use this space to highlight some key games coming up.  This weekend's top five as I see them:
#5 Friday, Arizona State vs St John's (at the Staples Center)-  Arizona State 75-74
#4 Saturday, Minnesota at Arkansas- Arkansas 80, Minnesota 79
#3 Sunday, Arizona State at Kansas- Kansas 81, Arizona State 74
#2 Friday, Nevada vs TCU (at the Staples Center)- TCU 77, Nevada 76
#1 Saturday, Wichita State at Oklahoma State- Oklahoma State 74, Wichita State 73

Sunday, December 3, 2017

03-DEC Bracket Projection: This. Is. December.

November was fun, even if it did see a hiatus (at best, hopefully not the death) of the tip off marathon.  December won't nearly have the same impact, given the holidays and finals dialing back the schedule a bit, but all we're looking for here is just enough intrigue to get us to January.  Let's get conference play in full swing and then the season really takes off.

As of this evening, we had 13 undefeated teams, and 25 looking for their first Division I win.  The ACC leads the way, with four undefeated teams (Duke, Miami, Virginia and Florida State).  The SEC (Texas A&M, and Mississippi State), Big East (Villanova and Georgetown) and Big 12 (Kansas and TCU) all have two.  The PAC 12 just has Arizona State left and the Big Ten doesn't have a representative.  Nevada from the Mountain West and Valpaiso from the Missouri Valley round out the list.

Bracket Matrix
The site was updated this weekend, and good grief I'm scattered.  First off, I'll talk to what little stability there was.  My posted bracket remained at 11 seeds in alignment with the majority.  I'm still including preseason tweaks (current weighting is just a hair over 30%), and the non-conference results for those who scheduled non-challenging games are going to inflate some schools for me, but I'm optimistic I will regress back to the mean here with some more runway.

The most similar bracket was with Graham Doeren, with 14 similarly seeded teams.  This number is down from 22 on the last Bracket Matrix update, that I shared with a couple of brackets.  On the opposite side, I only had 5 similar with Bleacher Report's Kerry Miller.  Previously, my low number was 8.  Again, I'm heavy with outliers.  

Thursday, November 30, 2017

30-NOV Bracket Projection: Conference Play Begins

I went a meager 10-4 in my ACC/Big Ten projections, and, while not great, was not quite as bad as getting pasted 11-3.  A little respect is due from me to the ACC though, as I was postulating a 7-7 split.  A bit of remidiation will be present in the bracket below, as I've increased my ACC teams projected in the field from 8 to 9.

Conference Play
Probably not the most alluring way to market your games after the results from the Challenge, but the Big Ten conference season will begin this Friday with each team logging a game by this weekend.  In order to squeeze in their postseason tournament at Madison Square Garden, they'll need to wrap up before the end of February in order to start tournament play that first week of Conference Tournament Fortnight. 

The Top 4 seeds will get the double bye, and I'll predict it goes Michigan State, Purdue, Minnesota and Maryland in that order.  For something a little more obscure and outlandish, I'm interested to see how Illinois and Northwestern bounce back after the ACC losses.  I'll take a flyer on the Illini on the road (sort of, I guess, given the Wildcats home court situation this year).  Illinois 72, Northwestern 71.

Bracket Projection Notes
No changes to the First Timers in my field, South Dakota, Grand Canyon and Army remain in, so I'll hit on a few other topics.  Wisconsin has made 19 NCAA tournaments in a row, but I have them on the outside after a tough start.  Also notable, VCU (7), and Iowa State (6), would end their streaks. 

Kentucky has made the most tournaments at 57, and by a hefty margin.  In second place, however, is a tie between North Carolina and UCLA at 48.  This bracket would move UNC into sole possession of second and with UCLA out would leave them in third.  Kansas, owner of the longest consecutive streak (28), is currently in fourth with 46 trips to the Dance and would close on the Bruins to within one trip.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

26-NOV Bracket Projection: ACC/B1G Challenge

The Thanksgiving tournaments are wrapping up this evening and the final few games are not factored into this update, notably Duke/Florida and Michigan State/North Carolina.  What is factored in, however, are Arizona's three losses in the Bahamas.  On Wednesday I had the Wildcats with the number one seed in the West, but now I have them down to the #8 seed line.  It likely won't take long to figure out if this was just a bad weekend, or a harbinger of larger challenges for Arizona, as their remaining non-conference schedule presents plenty of opportunities to right some wrongs (@UNLV, vs Texas A&M, Alabama, and Connecticut).

Bracketmatrix was updated on Thursday.  USC was a consortium 4 seed, but previously out of mine.  They are now in, albeit it on the 11 seed line.  TCU and UCLA, both 7 seeds, are still on my outside, looking in.  Overall, I have 11 seeds as the Bracketmatrix average lists them.  Individually I have 22 in common with T-Rank and Nick Tursi's.  On the low end, my Wednesday bracket was most dissimilar from Lunardi and CU Later Copper, with just 8 similarly seeded teams.

First timers
High Point's stay in my bracket is a short one.  The Panthers fell to Charlotte by three on Friday, which allowed UNC Asheville to reclaim the spot.  Given the tightness projected in the Big South race discussed earlier, we'll likely continue to see plenty of alternating.  Grand Canyon and Army remain in. 

In the Summit League, I'm now projecting South Dakota to escape past South Dakota State and Mike Daum.  Both teams are off to 6-2 starts, and the Coyotes have ran away from bad teams more than anything.  Duke is looming for South Dakota this weekend, so this may be a short stay in the projected field.

ACC/B1G Challenge
My picks are as follows:
Monday- Virginia over Wisconsin, Syracuse over Maryland
Tuesday- Purdue over Louisville, Rutgers over Florida State, Georgia Tech over Northwestern, Illinois over Wake Forest, Virginia Tech over Iowa
Wednesday- Duke over Indiana, Ohio State over Clemson, North Carolina State over Penn State, North Carolina over Michigan, Minnesota over Miami, Nebraska over Boston College
Thursday- Michigan State over Notre Dame

Bleh.  A 7-7 tie.  Swing games appear to be Syracuse/Maryland and Florida State/Rutgers.  However, if it does come down to a tiebreaker, perhaps Pittsburgh/High Point on Tuesday night can serve as a suitable tiebreak.  I have Pittsburgh projected to win 71-69.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

22-NOV Bracket Projection: Thanksgiving Update

We're nearly three weeks into the season.  Teams have played an average of 3.6 Division I games, with four teams topping out at 6 games (Penn State is 5-1, while North Florida, Alabama State and Juan Dixon and the Coppin State Eagles are 0-6).  Incarnate Word is the lone remaining team without a game, but that changes today when Loyola Marymount comes into San Antonio.  70 teams have yet to lose a game, while 69 have yet to win a game. 

As I mentioned back at the start of the season, there are some preseason weightings reflected in the numbers which are discounted with each game a team has played.  After a team's 10th played game, they are rendered obsolete, and it's entirely based on the year results.  So roughly speaking, the preseason weights have been discounted by about a third at this point.

My updated bracket still includes the two first timer's I mentioned last week (Grand Canyon and Army).  However, I do have a new Big South representative.  UNC Asheville is out, and replaced by High Point, which would mark the first time in the tournament if it comes to be.  The Big South looks like it could be a real mess at the top, though.  Currently, my model has a 5 way tie at the top, with UNC Asheville, Winthrop, Liberty, High Point and Radford all ending up at 13-5.  That's nuts, and would have to be a real heartbreaker for the team who gets seeded 5th, and misses out on the bye to the quarterfinals.

Duke and Villanova have risen back up to the top from the last bracket.  Still some sample size noise with teams like Michigan State (#8), North Carolina (PIG), and USC (Out).  Hopefully with a few more data points some things will get equalized there.

Friday, November 17, 2017

17-NOV Bracket Projection: Feast Week Weekend

348 of the 351 Division I teams have logged at least one game.  Sam Houston and Drake will have their D1 opener this weekend, and we'll wait with bated breath for the Thanksgiving Eve Incarnate Word game.  At this point, it's outliers and small sample sizes (Michigan State and Duke's ranking tells me I have a waaaaays to go).

Of those brave souls who have logged some games this week, here's what I noticed:

Who showed up: Florida/Georgia Line
Jacksonville State is not in Florida, but let's given them an honorable mention for their 1-1 week.  First they went into Richmond and rolled the spiders by 33.  Two days later they went into upstate New York and lost by 5 to a solid Buffalo team.  They could be an OVC obstacle for Belmont and Murray State.

About an hour away from the real Jacksonville Florida you'll find the offensive juggernaut Gators of Florida.  They also have logged two games this week, and are averaging 112 points a game against D1 competition in a pair of 40 point victories.  What's even more scary is Chris Chiozza has only totaled 14 points thus far.

Lastly, Georgia Southern was not satisfied with their opening night upset of Wake Forest and also had a 2-0 week.  On Monday they hosted a top tier WAC program Cal State Bakersfield, and basically just ran away from them from the start.  There isn't much to say about their non-D1 win over apparently Boise State's football turf, but a good start to the season for the Eagles.

First timers: Grand Canyon, Army
Again, there are so few data points, that the biggest benefit in looking at it this early is to work out technical bugs, but for what it's worth at this point there are a couple schools breaking through early on.  Of the 43 schools that have yet to make the NCAA Tournament, I project two to breakthrough.

Grand Canyon, in their first year of eligibility, is projected as the WAC representative.  Buy stock now (no seriously, they have a stock; Nasdaq: LOPE).

My model ignores Army's win over 271 year old John Jay, but it does pick up on their three point road loss to 3-0 Hofstra who continues to strengthen their resume.  It may not seem like much, but it's good enough for an early 13-5 Patriot League projection to edge out Holy Cross and Lehigh.