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.

Unbeatens
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
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.




Sunday, November 12, 2017

12-NOV Bracket Projection: Opening Weekend

Who showed up: Boston College

The Eagles are 2-0, with both wins against D1 opponents and an average margin of victory of 29.5 points.  Granted it was against Kenpom teams of 331 and 348, but one year ago yesterday they opened their season with a home loss to #315 Nicholls State.  Only #301 Sacred Heart is keeping them from their second 3-0 start this decade.  A promising start for a Jim Christian squad who has finished #13, last and last in his three years in Chestnut Hill.

Show yourself out: Palmetto State schools

A rough opening weekend for a couple of South Carolina schools.  South Carolina State was one of the schools that ran into the BC buzz-saw, on the wrong end of a 39 point scoreboard.  That came on the heels of a 35 point opening night loss against Wisconsin.  Perhaps they'll catch a break in the schedule on Tuesday, when they'll get Yale about 48 hours off their own road trip to Madison.  It probably won't be enough, though.  Kenpom still has Yale as the better Bulldogs by 23 points.  For the South Carolina State Bulldogs, their best chance at the first D1 win might not be until they get into some of their intrastate games.  They'll travel to Presbyterian in early December, and if that doesn't work out they might need to look to mid December when they host...

Charleston Southern.  The Buccaneers also started the weekend with a couple of difficult road trips, albeit a little closer to home.  On Friday night, they were treated to an offensive onslaught from Davidson.  The Wildcats assisted 29 times on 35 made shots, and 26 of those makes were from three on 53 attempts.  Oh, and they had just one turnover (got to feel for Carter Collins who had the lone turnover, plus 0-2 from behind the line). 

Things were perhaps a little less bleak when they arrived in Raleigh Sunday.  If you would have told Charleston Southern their opponent would make a respectable, but average 9 of 23 from three, and a much more meager 13 assist to 15 turnovers, I'm sure they would have gladly taken it.  Alas, they responded with 24 turnovers themselves, and other than a 2-0 lead had very little to cheer about in a 78-56 loss.

Bracket: Sample size, nonexistent.

In what will be a reoccurring theme for a while, this is still pretty volatile.  However, it's great to have the games back and at least a few real scores to look at.



Friday, November 10, 2017

09-NOV Bracket Projection: The Ball Is Tipped!

In just a few hours, James Thompson IV and Eastern Michigan will continue their tradition of ushering in another college basketball season.  Much like the Eagles of Ypsilanti, mired in obscurity resulting from questionable decision making and inconsistent effort, I am ready to begin another season with dreams of the post-season.

I've made some changes for this year.  For instance, last year RPI carried heavy weight in my projections.  That will be scaled back.  This is partially in preparation for the selection committee evaluation changes coming in 2019, but also because I over-valued it in 2016-17.

I've also experimented a bit with pre-season predictions, using the past five years of game results, while also sprinkling in some recruiting and coaching changes.  From a macro view, I more pleased than displeased with the results.  However, it's not without flaws (Duke as a #5, Stony Brook as a First Four out).  Regardless, I will be phasing out the predictions by December.

Happy Basketball New Year, and RIP 24 hour Marathon. 




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.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

6-MAR Bracket Projection: On The Eve of Bubble Team Cannibalism

Three more automatic bids were confirmed tonight.  Iona, East Tennessee State, and UNC Wilmington all join the fray.    Only UNC Wilmington was a one seed of the trio, bringing our total of the seven earned so far to 3 Consensus (Regular season champion, #1 seed, and tournament champion), 3 Bid Stealers (#4 Jax St, #3 Iona, and #3 ETSU), and Wichita State who will probably be seeded high enough to have earned an at large bid.

Tomorrow’s schedule will have four finals.  The Horizon continued to surprise and Northern Kentucky is the only better seed to hold serve.  The #4 Norse will be looking for their first tournament appearance as they take on #10 Milwaukee.  A win for the Panthers would give them their 5th NCAA appearance, all since 2003, but would be just their second since 2007. 

Another fun tournament this year, the Northeast Conference will return with their Championship tomorrow.  St. Francis will be looking for just their second ever automatic berth, with their lone coming in 1991.  They’ll need to do in on the road in Emmitsburg with the Mount and Mayhem looking for their fifth NCAA trip, which would be their second under Jamion Christian.

Out in the badlands, the Summit Final is on Tuesday, and the Mavericks will be looking to make history for the first time.  To be successful, they’ll need to slow down Mike Daum and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. SDSU will be after their fourth appearance (2012/2013/2016), and their first since Scott Nagy moved on and TJ Otzelberger took the reins. 

A quick Futility reminder since we mentioned the Norse and Mavericks title games.  We began the season with 48 schools on the never been list.  Jacksonville State is in.  Northwestern seems safe.  32 teams have already dropped their conference tournament game. 

The West Coast will crown a champion tomorrow night as well between Gonzaga and St Mary’s/BYU.


New tournament blood tomorrow!  The SWAC has four quarterfinals at higher seeds.  Grambling State will travel to Prairie View for their first step to their first NCAA.   The ACC and Big Sky will start off with three games each.  North Dakota is the #1 seed in the Big Sky and looking for their first trip.  

In the ACC, Virginia Tech has the longest NCAA drought with their last one coming in 2007.  I have them in for now, although that potential match-up with Wake Forest on day two could make things interesting.  Georgia Tech and Clemson each currently on the outside looking in begin their last ditch efforts to strengthen their resumes.  The Jackets and ACC Coach of the Year Josh Pastner will take on a Pitt team that may be ready to mail 2017 in.  Clemson could be looking to save Brad Brownell’s job against a coach who already lost his in our first game of the day.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

5-MAR Bracket Projection: Steve Pikiell Understands

I’m sorry to see Monmouth go.  Justin Robinson is a joy to watch.  Same for Hornbeak and Seaborn.  I think they were a victim of bad metrics last year, and while I expected they would be left out I hated the precedent.  Like many, I was hopeful they would make the trip this year.

They won’t, after losing today in the MAAC semifinals.  According to what I saw on twitter, America went in on the conference tournaments.  Similar to Stony Brook in past years when they ran up against Albany on a home court, Monmouth had a pseudo road game in Albany against Siena that proved to be too much to overcome.  Also, they were missing one of their top guys as Micah Seaborn didn’t play after injuring a knee against Niagara.  It’s a shame they are out, but…
                                              
That’s what this month is about.  We’re going to say goodbye to many deserving teams.  Teams that if not for one or two small things, could have written storybook seasons.  Vent if you need to, but this isn’t bad for the sport.  This wasn’t a surprise this weekend that the tournament would be in Albany.    One seeds are going to lose, but to repeat the mantra of this post if we restrict the one bid leagues to just their regular season champion, we’re eliminated some fun tournament teams from the last decade.  Will Iona or Siena capitalize in the NCAA Tournament?  No idea, but they’re just as capable. 

It’s why this month is fun.

Good luck to King Rice and Monmouth in the NIT.  I know it wasn’t the plan yesterday, but here’s hoping the make the most of it.

In other action, how about the Horizon?  You want a tournament that (by happenstance, sure) gives a #1 seed a pseudo home court advantage?  You got it.  And what do you have?  6 games, and the lesser seed won 5.  The only game that went to seed was the 4/5 matchup where Northern Kentucky prevailed.  They will now be seen as the favorite vs the 6 (Illinois Chicago), 9 (Youngstown State) and 10 (Milwaukee).

Three bids were secured today.  Florida Gulf coast bested North Florida in the Atlantic Sun.  Winthrop, who just barely eked out the #1 seed and home court advantage in the Big South over UNC Asheville, took care of business against Campbell.  Lastly, Wichita State will keep Jerry Palm sleepless tonight as they knocked off Illinois State.  ISU was in 85 of 109 brackets (again, not in mine), and it will be interesting to see that next update. 

The MEAC will begin tomorrow with half of their first round games.  North Carolina A&T has the most appearances of the group with 10, and would be a major surprise.  They are seeded last (12, as Savannah State will not participate), and just picked up their first/only Division I win a few days ago.  Three teams have never made the dance, two of which are participating.  Bethune Cookman (1980) and Maryland Eastern-Shore (1981) will be looking to make history for the first time. 

Also starting up tomorrow will the first round of the MAC tournament.  All twelve members have made it to the larger stage, including Buffalo who was done it twice in school history.  They just happen to be the last two years.  The Northwest Ohio schools will be trying to end two of the longest droughts in Division I.  Bowling Green hasn’t made it since 1968 (9th longest active streak), while Toledo hasn’t since 1980 (19th longest).  Those two will face off tomorrow in Toledo, with the winner advancing on to Cleveland.

Three more championship games are on the schedule Monday night.  We’ll see a team crowned in the Southern, Colonial and MAAC.


234 teams are still alive.


4-MAR Bracket Projection: If The NCAA Tournament Ended Today, Jacksonville State Is Your NCAA Champion

Automatic bid number one was handed out today, with Jacksonville State earning their first invite in school history.  Congratulations Gamecocks, and condolences to UT Martin.  The Skyhawks despite two straight years of making it to the championship game are still looking for their first trip after suffering losses to #8 Austin Peay last year and now the #4 seed JSU in 2017.  Three more bids will be locked up tomorrow. 

We start things off with the Big South Championship.  Winthrop has 9 NCAA appearances, all coming between 1999 and 2010, but have had nothing to add to that in the past 6 years.  They will take on Campbell, who has just one tournament appearance that came in 1992.

In the Missouri Valley, we get the match-up most were hoping to see, with WSU-ISU III.  The Shockers have made 5 tournaments in a row, and according to bracketmatrix are a 9 seed currently making a sixth trip likely.  Illinois State on the other hand is the last team in at the moment (but not included on my bracket).  A win tomorrow would render this speculation moot and give the Redbirds their first trip since 1998.

Florida Gulf Coast will be looking for their 3rd trip in the last 5 years, as they will take on the #3 seed North Florida.  The Osprey’s one appearance came two years ago. 

Additionally, all of next week’s conference brackets are set.  The Southland Conference dropped Nicholls and Northwestern State.  The Ivy League set its top four, which resulted in eliminating Dartmouth and Columbia.  While in the SWAC, Arkansas Pine Bluff was eliminated from the final seed open there.  Housekeeping note, it was ruled this week that Hawaii will NOT be facing a post-season ban anymore, which allows them to participate in the Big West Tournament at the expense of UC Santa Barbara, who is now out. 

Some fun games today, but a quick shout out to the Horizon League tournament.  They split the quarterfinals so that #1 and #2 seeds play, and then have a day of rest while 3-6 all play.  In an additional stroke of luck for Valpariaso and Oakland, the 9 and 10 seeds upset the 7 and 8 seeds on Friday night.  So what happens?  They both fall, which means #9 Youngstown State and #10 Milwaukee now absorb the advantage of a rest day while the teams they went a combined 4-12 against all beat each other up.  Anyone hoping for this year’s Holy Cross team would be wise to keep an eye on this bracket the next few days.

Updates to the bracket.  Xavier, Wake Forest and Seton Hall have all moved back in.  Illinois, California and BYU have been removed.  The losses by Illinois and California did most of the damage, but also hurting Cal and BYU was the RPI drop of Princeton outside of the top 50.

So with the Jacksonville State business out of the way, our list of 48 will at least move to 47 this season.  Others that are currently projected into the field for the first time in my bracket are Northwestern, Fort Wayne, Northern Kentucky, and North Dakota.

249 teams remain.  Tomorrow we downshift a bit with just fifteen tournament games on the schedule.




Saturday, March 4, 2017

3-MAR Bracket Projection: First Timer's Club, OVC Edition

The first autobid will be passed out tomorrow via the Ohio Valley Conference Championship, and we are guaranteed to be moving at least one team from the 48 teams on the Futility list.  #1 seed Belmont ran over the OVC this year going 15-1, but they go 0-1 in post season and will instead join the NIT field as an automatic bid.  Instead the title game will feature Tennessee Martin, the #2 seed, for the second straight year.  The Skyhawks joined Division I in 1991.  Their opponent will be #4 seed Jacksonville State, who joined Division I a few years later in 1995 and are led by coach Ray Harper who twice took the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers to the NCAA tournament. 

Speaking of the list, The Citadel won their first round game against Western Carolina and will play on another day.  On the other end of the spectrum Gardner Webb will remain on the list for at least another season as they drop a semi-final game at Winthrop in overtime to bow out of the Big South Tournament.

One new conference will start post season tomorrow.  The Summit begins with half of its quarterfinal games on Saturday.  Oral Roberts has the most NCAA trips with five, and they won’t add to that as they didn’t qualify for the postseason.  South Dakota State and North Dakota State have three and lead the teams who made it this far, and only IUPUI also has a trip, with one.  5 teams in the field have never been to the NCAAs.  Western Illinois’s drought is the longest of the group, having joined Division I in 1981 without accomplishing the feat.  South Dakota joined in 2008, however they have a legitimate shot after earning the #1 seed.


In all, tomorrow's schedule has 23 post season games, plus the Southland, Ivy, and SWAC will all finalize their brackets with some teams missing out based off how the games play out.  277 remain...


Friday, March 3, 2017

2-MAR Bracket Projection: Less Than 300

We have officially dropped under the 300 team threshold after today’s tournament games.  295 teams are left.  All the eliminated teams are listed here.

Of the 48 teams on the futility list, 21 are included in the eliminated teams already and will move into another year looking for their first tournament.  Lipscomb had a legitimate shot after earning the #2 seed in the Atlantic Sun, but they got knocked off by North Florida on the Bisons’ homecourt tonight.  Also notable, is Army, who lost at #1 Bucknell in Patriot League quarterfinal action.  Of the longest current droughts of the never beens, only The Citadel, William & Mary, and Northwestern still have a shot to take their name off the list (and the latter seems like a safe assumption).

Tomorrow we’ll continue action with the Missouri Valley, Big South, MAAC, and OVC.  In addition though, four more tournaments will start.  The Southern Conference will begin, and we’ve already mentioned The Citadel’s position.  VMI (39 years) and Furman (36 years) have made the tournament, but are riding significant streaks.  Chattanooga leads the way with 11 appearances.

The Horizon League features two teams that have never made the field, however, Northern Kentucky is eligible for just the first time.  Youngstown State has not made the tournament since joining Division I in 1981. 

The Colonial of course features William & Mary mentioned above, but Elon is also on the list of no tournaments since joining Division I in 1997.  Towson has made the field twice, but not since 1991 for the second longest drought in conference.  Northeastern has the most appearances with 8. 

Finally, in the West Coast Conference, all the teams have made it.  BYU has the most trips at 29, however 4 others are also in double digits (Zags, San Francisco, Pepperdine and Santa Clara).  Loyola Marymount is carrying the longest drought with no trips since 1990.  Gonzaga is tied for the fourth longest active streak of appearances, with 18 trips in a row.


In all, 18 tournament games tomorrow as we slowly build the crescendo and start handing out some automatic bids.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

1-MAR Bracket Projection: Late night OVC in NashVegas

312 teams are left after 10 more suffer conference tournament losses.  The American East saw all chalk moving on in the quarterfinals.  In the Northeast Conference, top seed Mount St. Mary’s held off the #8 seed by three.  The two seed LIU Brooklyn was upset by Robert Morris by one.  #3 seed Wagner held off last year’s tournament champion Fairleigh Dickinson by 2.  In a bizarre twist, after the 1-2-3 point games, the #4/#5 matchup saw…host St Francis Pa bury Bryant 100-78.  Just life on the road in the NEC.

The final two tournament games were in the OVC and saw both games go to overtime.  Tennessee State lost in OT to Southeast Missouri State on intermittent at best video.  Fortunately the stream worked fine in the night cap as Murray State knocked off Tennessee Tech.

Thursday we have 17 tournament games as we really start to gear up.

The Big South will pick back up from Tuesday with quarterfinal action.  All games over the next two days will be played at #1 seed Winthrop.  Also picking up from Tuesday is the Patriot League with simultaneous quarterfinal action at the higher seeds.  The Ohio Valley will also continue with two quarterfinal games in Nashville.

Jerome points will be on the line for the first time in 2017 when the Atlantic Sun semifinals get underway to determine Sunday’s Championship game.  The top half of the bracket is #1 Florida Gulf Coast (2 trips, made it last year) vs #5 Kennesaw State (never, joined D1 in 2005).  The bottom half of the bracket is #3 North Florida (1 trip, 2015) vs Lipscomb (never, joined D1 in 1999).

The MAAC will begin play with three first round games.  The first game will feature the only conference team to have not made the tournament in Quinnipiac.  The three longest NCAA droughts are all in action as well.  Canisius, at 20 years, will take on Marist, at 29 years, in the middle game.   In the last game, Rider will battle Manhattan.  The Broncs haven’t been in the field in 22 years.


2017 Arch Madness invades St. Louis with first round games.  #2 Wichita State has the most NCAA appearances among the current conference members with 13.  The Shockers are tied with Iowa State with 5 straight NCAA trips, good for 9th among active streaks.  Northern Iowa also has a streak of 2 straight trips.  Loyola Chicago holds the longest drought at 31 years, with their last trip coming in 1985.  


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

28-FEB Bracket Projection: Turn Those Calendars

Four more teams were knocked out of contention today.  The Big South tournament saw the end of the season for Presbyterian and Longwood.  While in the Patriot League, Loyola came back to knock off Lafayette and Army keeps the dream alive for another round by beating American.  322 teams are still vying for the title.

Three conferences start post season tomorrow night as we see the busiest day of Conference Tournament season thus far, with 10 games on the schedule.  Vermont puts their unbeaten conference mark on the line, and all eight teams from the American East are in action.  Along with the Catamounts, the Albany Great Danes are co-leaders with most NCAA tournament appearances at five.  Maine, New Hampshire, and Hartford have never been.  The droughts for those three schools are each extensive as well.  Maine is at 54 years (7th longest in Division I), New Hampshire at 37 (18th longest), and Hartford 32 (25th longest).   

Also in quarterfinal action is the Northeast Conference.  Mount St. Mary’s is the #1 seed here, with 4 NCAA trips to their resume.  Robert Morris leads the pack with eight.  Sacred Heart and Bryant are still alive, looking for their first NCAA berth.

Finally, the Ohio Valley begins first round action tomorrow.  Southeast Missouri St will take on Tennessee State.  TSU is still looking for trip number one.  In the second game, Tennessee Tech will try and take the first step to end the eighth longest NCAA tournament drought of 53 years, against the OVC representative with the most NCAA appearances, when they take on the Racers of Murray State.  


27-FEB Bracket Projection: Childhood Me Considered Adonis Jordan A GOAT

Picked up some Kansas views today, so a few quick thoughts on why I have the Jayhawks as a #2. 

The short answer is that while Kansas keeps winning (and winning, and winning, 13 years is a ridiculous accomplishment), they aren’t creating the separation the other top teams are generating.  Couple that with there being a  large number of good teams at the top, that leaves them susceptible to a bit of a numbers game. 

A large part of that is their league is so good, it’s not as easy to create the flashy wins the ACC and SEC can pick up. The Big XII is 1st on Kenpom with 35.4% of conference games qualifying as close games.  The Jayhawks have the best RPI, and they have comparable top 50 wins, but it’s the margin of victory where they get dinged.  Similarly, and way more well-constructed, they also rank #9 on Pomeroy’s site in adjusted efficiency, and behind my current #1 seeds of Gonzaga, Villanova, North Carolina and Kentucky. 

I’d love to move them, as this is one of the outputs I’m most concerned about.  This is not the one I’d like to go against the bracketmatrix grain.  Kansas is unlikely to move their margin average all that much given the number of games in the books, but where they can make up some ground is picking up top wins (at Ok State and in the Big XII Tourney) and moving ahead of those teams they’re comparable with. 

Moving down to the other end of the brackets…

We are down to 326 teamsstill alive as four Atlantic Sun teams were knocked out of quarterfinal action tonight.  Stetson and NJIT were blown out and remain on the never been list for another year, as will USC Upstate who lost a close one at home to Kennesaw State.  Jacksonville also lost a road game, albeit ten miles from campus, in one of the better games of the night.  The Atlantic Sun will now take off a couple days and start back up again Thursday.

Two more tournaments begin play tomorrow night.  The Big South will start play with first round action, and the top 6 seeds get the bye to the quarterfinals.  Winthrop, the #1 seed has the most NCAA appearances among the conference with 9.  Four teams have never made the Dance: High Point, Gardner Webb, Longwood, and Presbyterian.  Campbell holds the longest drought, with their last, and lone, appearance coming in 1992.  The Camels will host Presbyterian for the right to battle the #2 seed and other titan of the league in UNC Asheville.  The top side of Tuesday’s bracket will feature Charleston Southern who also has just one tournament appearance, coming in 1997, welcoming Longwood.

The other postseason action is in the Patriot League.  Holy Cross leads the charge here with 13 NCAA tournament appearances.  Navy, the Thursday opponent of the Crusaders, comes in second with 11.  In fact, success runs through this league as 9 of the 10 Patriot teams have played in the Tournament, with the lone exception being Army.  It’s fairly common knowledge to those who are interested in things like this (which literally could just be me) that Army is one of the five original Division I members still looking for that first game, however the reason they are still on this list involves Bobby Knight, Mike Krzyzewski,and Kareem


Army’s quest begins Tuesday when American comes to town in the 8/9 matchup.  Lafayette will travel to Loyola in the other first round action.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

26-FEB Bracket Projection: Conference Tournament Fortnight Is Here!

I shuffled three at larges over the eventful weekend. 

Rhode Island picked up a ten point win at home over VCU.  This moved the Rams from my First Four out to a #10 seed.  The Rams finish the regular season at St. Joseph’s and then home to Davidson.

Houston picked up a one point win on the road against Memphis.  This moved the Cougars from my Next Four out to a #10 seed.  Houston finishes the regular season this week at Cincinnati, then home to East Carolina.

Finally, the Hoosiers by virtue of a one point win over Northwestern nudges back into the bracket.  Previously, another of my Next Four out, the Hoosiers are now one of my Last Four in.  Indiana is done at Assembly Hall.  They will play at Purdue, then at Ohio State before the Big Ten Tournament begins.

The remaining Last Four in teams are Xavier (vs Marq, @DePaul), Illinois State (MVC Tournament this week), and USC (Washington State and Washington at the Galen Center).  My variances to the norm on bracket matrix are California (the first of my First Four out), Syracuse (First Four out) and Kansas State (Next Four out). 

Four more teams were eliminated over the weekend.  North Texas has made three trips to the dance, earning #15 seeds each time (’10, ’07 and ’88), however, they will not qualify for the Conference USA Tournament this year.  McNeese has had 2 trips, most recently in 2002, however they will not qualify for the Southland Conference Tournament in 2017.  Finally, two Ivy League teams will not make the postseason for the automatic bid.  Cornell, who has made 5 total tournaments and Brown, who is tied with Jacksonville for the 29th longest drought in active Division I, both have been eliminated.

Conference Tournament Fortnight begins tomorrow!  The Atlantic Sun kicks us off with four quarterfinal games.  Florida Gulf Coast is the #1 seed.  The Eagles are 24-7, 12-2 in conference, with a pair of solid wins against UT Arlington at home, and at Louisiana Tech.  Lipscomb, the #2 seed, finished just a game back in the standings, although a fairly distant second in my model. 

Jacksonville holds the most NCAA appearances among the members in the current Atlantic Sun with 5.  Florida Gulf Coast has 2 trips, while North Florida has one.  The remaining five conference members (Lipscomb, Stetson, Kennesaw State, NJIT, and USC Upstate) have never made the NCAA tournament.  Stetson’s drought is the longest, currently sitting at 45 years, followed by Jacksonville, then Lipscomb (17 years).  


Friday, February 24, 2017

23-FEB Bracket Projection: Ed Cooley Back

Two changes to my Sunday bracket after four days of games.  Michigan State picked up a decisive home win over Nebraska which was enough to bump them in.  Providence went to Middle America and picked up a nice road win over Creighton.  If the Friars hold on it would be their fourth consecutive tournament appearance.  Those two displaced Indiana, who continues a disappointing string.  The Hoosiers have now lost five in a row and 6 of 7, which is finally enough losses in my model to offset their elite wins (for now).  Kansas State also falls out after a home loss to Okie State.

The biggest jump so far this week has been Florida.  Their impressive win over South Carolina was good enough to bump them up from a 4 seed to a 2 seed.  The biggest drops are shared between TCU who lost by 21 at Kansas, and Texas Tech who lost at home in OT to Iowa State.  Losses aplenty recently between both TCU and Texas Tech, and their time in my bracket looks to be coming to an end soon if they don't get things turned around.

Three more teams have been eliminated prior to the start of their conference tournament.  Florida International has made the tournament just once, way back in 1995.  They lost tonight and will miss the Conference USA Tournament as a result, which will add another year to their drought.  Alabama A&M will not be able to qualify for the SWAC tournament.  Lastly, the Ohio Valley Tournament champion from last year will not repeat.  Austin Peay just missed the cut of the eight team OVC bracket.  334 teams remain in contention.



Thursday, February 23, 2017

A Preemptive Defense Against Conference Tournament Shade

At some point over the next couple weeks, a top seed from a one bid league will lose and miss out on the NCAA Tournament automatic bid.  If recent trend continues, a cavalcade of voices, perhaps meaning well, will bemoan the conference for selling out.  Television rules all, money talks, and now the best team for the last three months sits at home waiting for the NIT to call while a lesser team survives.  The NCAA Tournament will suffer (not really, see 538).  The regular season is rendered meaningless (not really, see kenpom).  The sport is dead. 

It’s the wrong take. 

For starters, let’s just step back and examine the as-is.   There are 351 teams in Division I, for now, we’re saving you a seat next year North Alabama.  The current setup of individual conference tournaments allow 326 of them to participate.  Those teams spend fourteen consecutive days battling it out with their biggest rivals behind streaming paywalls, internet broadcasts, regional sports channels and ultimately nationally televised championships and a catchy ESPN vignette.  

All for the opportunity to continue on for three additional weeks in front of an astronomically larger audience, to determine the sports one, true champion. 

Setting aside reality for a minute, if Northern Kentucky starts a nine game win streak next week, then the Norse will be handed a trophy in a stadium with four times more people in it than their total enrollment.  It’s what makes college basketball college basketball.  You don’t have to be a blue blood.  You don’t have to have one and dones.  You don’t even need to convince the Selection Committee you are worthy of their invite.  If you keep winning, you control your fate.  

Apologies to UC Irvine who has one of the best named arenas in sports, but these five weeks are as close to Thunderdome as sports get.  (Put God Shammgod on the phone, tell the squad come home).  Taking away that five week adrenaline bender dilutes college basketball’s signature.  To do that, one should be pretty sure the results back up the claim.  The above is me waxing subjectively, so let’s gets objective.

The crux of the argument is that one bid leagues should send their regular season champion.  Those are the teams that would “deserve” the NCAA tournament bid, and presumably would be the team with the best chance to win a game in the tournament. 

To look at this in more detail, I’m using the last 10 years of data.  Not only is that a nice round number, but that was as far back as I could easily grab conference tournament information with relative ease.  Next, I filtered out all multiple bid leagues for each year.  Again, we’re talking one-bid leagues as our scope.  If the regular season champion was good enough to secure an at large bid, then it’s not as catastrophic when they lost on ESPN3 in a conference tournament semifinal.  Finally, I filtered out all single bid leagues where the team earned a #12 seed or better (the final at large team on average the last ten years was seeded 12.1).  Similar approach here, but the thinking is if the one bid league team was able to secure a seed commensurate with other at-large bids, then it’s reasonable to assume they could have made it in as an at large if they dropped a game. 

Teams that won both the regular season and conference tournaments are labeled “Consensus”.  Ivy League regular season champions are also included in this group seeing that they are only just now moving to a conference tournament (more anecdotal evidence, but I digress).  Teams that won their conference tournaments but did not secure the #1 conference seed are labeled “Bid Stealers”.

#16 Seeds
Ah yes, the 16 Seeds.  Apologies, but more housekeeping is necessary here.  I’m excluding the First Four/Play In Game data for the 16 seeds as I don’t think those games fit the definition.  Which teams are most likely to pull an upset probably doesn’t mean who can win a pseudo straight-up game in Dayton.  

However, a quick shout out to the Bid Stealers for setting the table.  The Bid Stealers have had 29 teams in the preliminary games, going 16-13.  The Consensus teams are 0-3 in such games.  So the ancillary point is in 3 head to head match-ups, the Bid Stealers prevailed in all three.  

Filtering those games out, we’re left with little to talk about.  39 teams have laced them up and lost in the round of 64.  The Bid Stealers are 0 for 30.  The Consensus are 0 for 9.  Not pictured, 2013 Sun Belt Champion Western Kentucky (spoiler alert, they lost) as the Sun Belt was a 2 bid league that year.  






Moving on…

#15 Seeds
We have 39 of the 40 #15 seeds coming from one-bid conferences.  

17 of these teams were Consensus.  They are 0 for 17.  

The 22 Bid Stealers though have seen some success as four teams have pulled off an upset.  Middle Tennessee (2016), Lehigh (2012) and Norfolk State (2012) all pulled off an opening round upset of a #2 seed.  The most notable team would have to be Florida Gulf Coast in 2013.  The Atlantic Sun conference tournament winner  introduced us to Dunk City during a fun Sweet 16 run.











#14 Seeds
36 teams are in play here.  19 Consensus, and 17 Bid Stealers.  

The Consensus have won three games as a #14 (Stephen F. Austin 2016, Georgia State 2015, and Harvard 2014).  

The Bid Stealers have won three games as a #14 (UAB 2015, Mercer 2014, Ohio 2010).  Obligatory mention, Ohio was a nine(!) seed in the MAC that year, by far the largest seed to pull off a win in this data. 











Finally,
#13 Seeds
We’re bleeding into the cusp of at large teams at this point, but we still have 34 data points.  

19 Consensus teams have been #13 seeds, and three of them have secured a win (Hawaii 2016, Murray State 2010, and Siena 2008).  

15 Bid Stealers have earned a #13 seed.  Morehead State picked up an upset win in 2011.  Ohio went to the Sweet 16 in 2012, joining the #15 Seed FGCU as the only two to make it to the second weekend.










In total, Bid Stealers have the better total winning percentage, and have two Sweet 16’s to the Consensus zero.  Most interesting to me is that the Bid Stealers hold the edge in winning percentage in the 13/14/15 seed breakdown.  

The point of the data isn’t that either group has a more likely chance of success.  That’s covered by the 538 link up top, and it’s a fraction of the sample size needed.  The point is that upsets are happening, either way.  Maybe it will be that 16-0 team from the American East.   Maybe it will be the #4 seed from Conference USA.  

Maybe it works, as is.

At the very least, maybe the fun police can pump the brakes a bit and just enjoy the best the sport has to offer.