Tuesday, March 14, 2017

14-MAR: The Jayhawks Fed Me Crow

My first experience on bracketmatrix was heavy on humility and light on success.  I whiffed on Kansas, fell victim to Jim Boeheim’s charm, and ended the regular season underestimating Michigan State just as much as I did to start conference play. 

Should you wish to check it out, the link is above.  Stick around the first few columns to peruse the winners and then find me on a faaaaaaaaar right scroll.  Either way, this was a fun experience and I’m looking forward to trying it again.   And good news!  That bar wasn’t set all that high by me. 

A quick recap of how I graded out.  I had 67 teams that were in the field.  I missed on Syracuse in place of USC who made it in.  Of the remaining 67 teams, I had 30 pegged on the correct seed line.  27 others were either one seed higher or lower than what I expected.  I missed on the other 10.  Those are listed below.

Wichita State- 6 vs 10

Michigan State-12 vs 9
Maryland- 9 vs 6

Rhode Island- 9 vs 11
Miami FL- 10 vs 8
Kent State- 16 vs 14
South Carolina- 9 vs 7
Marquette- 8 vs 10
Middle Tennessee- 10 vs 12
VCU- 8 vs 10

Some of the misses above are ok, but the volume is the real problem.  I should be able to make some headway there.  We'll see.

To those that checked in, I appreciate the page views.  Thanks for taking a second, and hope to see you next season.

Enjoy the Tournament!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

12-MAR FINAL Bracket Projection

Here's my final projection of the bracket, enjoy the Selection Show everyone.

11-MAR Bracket Projection: The Fighting Hawks and Mustangs Make History

Big day for some of the non-power schools.

North Dakota is dancing!  They needed a pretty sizable comeback in the final minute of regulation against Weber State, but they were able to pull that off and seize control in the extra session to earn a bid to the tournament for the first time ever.  The recently named Fighting Hawks joined Division I in 2008 and while it wasn’t quite Northern Kentucky quick, that’s still a nice accomplishment to reach this goal so quickly in their young history.

The Big West had its own share of drama.  In the last game of the day, UC Davis knocked off #1 seeded UC Irvine to earn the Mustangs first trip to the NCAA tournament.  They will join North Dakota, Jacksonville State and Northern Kentucky on the list of first time schools earning the automatic berth.

Northwestern got steamrolled by Wisconsin today, but it shouldn’t matter, at least in regards to inclusion in the field.  They should be our 5th rookie in the field.

New Orleans earned their fifth tournament appearance, but more notably it is the Privateers first tournament appearance since 1996.  UNO dispatched Texas A&M Corpus Christi in the Southland final.  There are a couple other droughts that could end tomorrow.  The Sun Belt final will feature Texas State (no appearances since 1997) and Troy (their only trip was in 2003).  Rhode Island will also get a chance to return to the field for the first time since 1999.  Of course, they are in play for an at large as well, but a loss tomorrow could be the death knell.

My latest bracket has no changes to any of the at large bids from my previous projection.  Automatic bids were swapped in the cases of New Orleans (formerly Texas A&M CC), UC Davis (UC Irvine), Kent State (Akron), and Texas State (Texas Arlington).  Kansas State is the last team in the field.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

10-MAR Bracket Projection: North Dakota/UC Davis Are One Game Away

No updates to the at large teams in this bracket.  I have swapped out my Mountain West representative for what seems like the tenth time.  Fresno State has been removed and replaced with Nevada.  Wake Forest is my last at large team in the field. 

Futility teams had about a 50/50 day.  Northwestern knocked off Maryland in Washington DC to advance to the Big Ten Semifinals.  UC Davis won in overtime against Cal St. Fullerton.  They will take on regular season Big West champion UC Irvine tomorrow night for the automatic bid.  North Dakota is now just one game away from erasing removing themselves from this watch list.  The Fighting Hawks will take on Weber State tomorrow in the Big Sky title game.  

On the other end of things, Utah Valley battled #1 seed Cal State Bakersfield to four overtimes but ultimately came up one point shy.  Maryland Eastern Shore also fell to a #1 seed, although in this case North Carolina Central ran them off the court 77-49.  UMKC came up short late tonight/early this morning against New Mexico State.  In the SWAC, #1 Texas Southern eliminated Grambling State 62-57.

Speaking of the SWAC, we weren’t supposed to be nailing down an automatic bid on Friday but we did just that.  Texas Southern will represent the conference by virtue of Alcorn State’s defeat of Southern, setting up the SWAC Championship between ASU and TSU.  Alcorn State is on APR probation this season, but allowed to participate in their conference tournament.  This will mark the 7th NCAA trip for the Tigers.

Fourteen conference championships will be settled tomorrow, and six other conferences have semifinals scheduled.  Perhaps most notable will be the inaugural Ivy League Conference tournament at the Palestra.  The early semifinal will feature the two Ivy League schools with the most appearances.  Regular season champion Princeton has made the tournament 24 times, but will have a road game as they will take on Penn who has made 23 trips.  The late semifinal will feature Harvard (5 trips) vs Yale (4 trips). 

Friday, March 10, 2017

9-MAR Bracket Projection: Three Days Until Selection Sunday

Similar to Thursday, no bids will be handed out on Friday, but a large lot of semifinals will be played to setup Saturday and Sunday championships.

Seven Futility teams are still in play for breaking through.  Four were knocked out today as UT Rio Grande Valley, UC Riverside, Sacramento State, and Chicago State all lost tournament games.  Northwestern continued to improve their post season stock as they dismantled Rutgers.  North Dakota moved into the Big Sky semifinals.  Utah Valley and Missouri Kansas City picked up wins in the WAC quarterfinals.  UC Davis won a Big West Tournament game to stay alive.  Maryland Eastern Shore picked up their second win of the MEAC Tournament and will take on the #1 seed next.  Finally Grambling State returns to action tomorrow for a game in the SWAC semifinals. 

Updates to my bracket include moving in Kansas State after their win against Baylor.  They move in for now at the expense of USC.  Wake Forest is my last team in the field after Thursday's games.  All the games below will carry some weight, but I'm still very interested to see what Houston and Rhode Island do tomorrow/this weekend.

Tomorrow's key games:
Last Four In: Seton Hall (vs Villanova), Kansas State (vs West Virginia), Rhode Island (vs St. Bonaventure)
First Four Out: Houston (vs UConn)
Next Four Out: Alabama (vs South Carolina), California (vs Oregon)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

8-MAR Bracket Projection: Thursday Is The Tournament Day

Just one bid handed out on Wednesday as the Patriot League’s regular season champion carried that momentum into the conference tournament and knocked off Lehigh tonight.  That’s twelve auto bids, and gives us an even split.  Five have been won by the #1 seed, five have been won by lower seeds, and 2 were won by projected at large bids.  No bids scheduled over the next two days, as we move into the bulk of the brackets and whittle down the field significantly. 

Two teams from the Futility list were knocked off tonight.  Bethune Cookman was destroyed by the #1 seed in the MEAC (NC Central) and will move to 0 for 37.  In the Southland, Central Arkansas battled back, but ultimately couldn’t get past Sam Houston State.  The Bears have been in Division I since only 2006, but will remain without a tournament appearance for another season.  Eleven teams are still alive in their conference tournaments, all but one are in action tomorrow (the SWAC doesn’t resume play until Friday).

Three more tournaments begin play tomorrow.  The Big West starts with quarterfinal action.  Long Beach State has the most tournament trips among conference members with 9.  UC Riverside and UC Davis have never been.  Davis has a legitimate shot to make a run, earning the #2 seed.  The Big West has been pretty generous with the automatic bid.  Aside from the two mentioned (who have droughts of 15 and 13 years respectively), the remaining 7 members have all made the tournament since 2008.

The Western Athletic begins play tomorrow, and once again it looks like we’re heading to a Bakersfield/New Mexico State final.  Last year’s win by Bakersfield was their first trip ever and prevented NMSU from their 23rd berth.  UT Rio Grande Valley, Chicago State, Missouri-Kansas City, and Utah Valley are all looking to break through for the first time.  Seattle also deserves a mention, as they will be trying to make it to the tournament for the first time since 1969.

Finally, the American Athletic tips off Thursday.  East Carolina (1993) and Tulane (1995) will be looking to take the first step to ending their tournament droughts.

All in all, tomorrow is one of the best days of the year.  Conference overlap is at its peak, and we’re jam-packed with meaningful games all day long starting at noon EST with fairly decent pacing of the games.  Enjoy it.

Bracket notes:
It was pointed out that my RPI figures were incorrect, which they were.  The result was a handful of teams were off a few spots, which is important considering the unfortunate significance of Top 50 wins.  That has been corrected, and in the words of John Groce I got 1% better today.  Again, appreciate the comment.

USC jumps in, Iowa moves to first out.  

Games of note tomorrow:
Last Four In: Xavier (vs Butler), USC (vs UCLA)
First Four Out: Iowa (vs Indiana), Kansas State (vs Baylor)

Next For Out: Illinois (vs Michigan), Utah (vs California)

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

7-MAR Bracket Projection: Underdog Northern Kentucky Will Finally Be An Underdog! (Probably)

In their first year of true eligibility, Northern Kentucky and its 293rd ranked experience on kenpom will finally realize what it means to be an underdog.   The Norse knocked out the #10 seed Milwaukee Panthers in Detroit earning the Horizon’s automatic bid.  I have them slated as a #15 seed, thus avoiding Dayton, which would guarantee for the first time this post-season they will be on the wrong end of seed expectation.  In this year’s bizarre post season run, the #4 NKU had to go through the #5, #9 and #10 seeds.

The Omaha Mavericks were not so fortunate.  They ran into a monster stat-line from Mike Daum and South Dakota State, falling two points shy of their first ever NCAA tournament.  The loss means that of the 48 futility schools, 33 have now been knocked out of their conference tournaments.  Two (Jacksonville State and Northern Kentucky) have secured a bid, and Northwestern is likely for an at large.  The remaining twelve still have plenty of work to do.

The Mount held homecourt in the NEC and knocked off St Francis to lock up that automatic berth.  Finally out in the desert, the Zags held off a few Saint Mary’s charges to lock up the WCC title. 

Eleven automatic bids have now been secured.  Five bids were “stolen” by lower seeds as we add NKU and SD St to that list.  Four were consensus champions with the Mount St. Mary’s win.  The Final two were won by teams that would likely have been at-large bids even with a loss (Wichita State and now Gonzaga).

Only one title game scheduled for tomorrow night.  The Patriot League’s bid will be up for grabs when #3 Lehigh goes into Lewisburg to take on #1 Bucknell.  The real story of Wednesday is the litany of tournaments starting up.  Conference USA, Sun Belt, Mountain West, PAC-12, Big Ten, Atlantic 10, Southland, Big XII, SEC, and the Big East all get underway.  The only school on the never been list in that group is Central Arkansas.  They’ll take the court in Katy to go up against the Bearkats of Sam Houston State in the earlier of two first round Southland games.

Only minor updates to my bracket with the light basketball day.  Swapped out the Summit representative to include South Dakota State.  Also swapped out USC for Xavier as yesterday’s results added a little bit of RPI separation between those two teams, although the margin is still quite small. 

My last four teams that are in action tomorrow: Xavier (vs DePaul).
My first four out teams that are in action tomorrow: USC (vs Fultz-less Washington)
My next four out teams that are in action tomorrow: None.