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. 

#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.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

19-FEB Bracket Projection: Michigan State, California, Who Ya Got

The bracket projections have been updated with this weekend’s results.  The only at-large movement was that I moved in Marquette after their homecourt drubbing of Xavier, replacing Michigan State who was blown out at Purdue.  The win gave Marquette 4 wins over TRMD Top 50 teams (Xavier, Villanova, Creighton and Seton Hall).  Only 25 teams have more than 4 top 50 wins. 

Ironically, Michigan State is one of those teams, with 5 top 50 wins (Wichita State, Minnesota twice, Northwestern and Michigan).  The last spot in the field basically came down to the Spartans and California, with Cal by mere percentage points grading out better than Michigan State.  I’m not crazy about the Bears nearly non-existent top 50 win profile (a one point win at USC), but MSU has just one blemish too many with the data at hand (less favorable point differential, home loss to Northeastern vs Cal’s worst loss being at a top 100 Stanford).  Still, Cal could really use some signature wins for the Selection Sunday resume.  They have Oregon at home Wednesday night  which is probably their last opportunity to add such a score prior to the PAC 12 tournament.  If they can’t convert, I can see them being jumped by a team like Michigan State who does go on to convert on their remaining opportunities.

I also swapped out two auto bid teams.  In the Southland, I now have New Orleans as the highest rated team, replacing Sam Houston State.  It’s been 20 years since the Privateers were last in the tournament (1996).  In the Big Sky, Weber State has been replaced by the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota.  North Dakota has never made the tournament since joining Division I in 2008.  Just as a general reminder, also projected in the field for the first time ever is the Northwestern Wildcats as an at large, and Fort Wayne Mastodons as the Summit auto bid. 

Three more teams joined the graveyard this weekend.  The Northeast Conference Tournament decided their 8 tournament teams, and Central Connecticut is not included.  Eastern Illinois, despite most likely finishing the regular season with a winning overall record, has been eliminated from making the Ohio Valley conference tournament.  Finally, today’s summit league result meant that Oral Roberts will be the lone conference team not included in the bracket.  That’s 14 total teams out of the running, leaving 337 still dreaming.

Conference Tournament Fortnight is on the horizon.  This is our last week before the Atlantic Sun raises the curtain on the greatest two-week sprint in sports next Monday night.

Friday, February 17, 2017

16-FEB Bracket Projection: St Francis NY will go 0 for 79

Lost in the games this week was a 6pm tip on CBS Sports Network between Long Island and St. Francis.  The game was a 37 point blowout, which was great for LIU who is trying to keep pace with The Mount, but it was also significant as it officially eliminated the Terriers from qualifying for the Northeast Conference Tournament.  That will close the door on the their opportunity to make the NCAA tournament, and preserve their standing on the list of futile five.

It all but looks like Northwestern has what it takes to remove themselves from this list come selection Sunday, which leaves all the focus for the remaining three: William & Mary, The Citadel, and Army.

Also being eliminated from qualifying for their conference tournament this week was the second OVC team, Eastern Kentucky.  The Colonels last qualified in 2014.  We still need to whittle down two more OVC teams before knowing the field of eight in that draw.  That's 11 eliminations thus far, leaving 340 teams still alive.

Just 10 days away from the beginning of conference tournaments.

Monday, February 13, 2017

12-FEB Bracket Projection: Grading the Top 16

The preview of the Top 16 seeds resulted in a mixed bag for me.  I had 7 of the 16 seeded on the correct seed line, and 4 more seed adjacent.  My big misses were 2 Big XII teams, Kansas and WVU (who play tonight, so that should help calibrate expectations), and Oregon.  Kansas showed up as the #1 (I had them as a #3), WVU as a #4 (#2), and Oregon as a #2 (#4). 

I had left out #3 Florida and #4 Butler, who were both #5 seeds in my bracket.  Instead I opted to go with Cincy #2 and Purdue #3. 

In my latest bracket projections updated for the weekend games, Michigan State and Providence move in after wins, while the ACC loses two teams after losses (Syracuse and Miami).  Houston, still only in 6 brackets on bracketmatrix.com, picks up a road win at Tulsa and I’ve bumped them up from an #11 to a #9.  They’re off until Saturday where they have a huge game for them hosting SMU.  Indiana and Kansas State each drop two spots, down to an #11 and #10 respectively.  

Friday, February 10, 2017

9-FEB Bracket Projection: Michigan State Disrespect?

North Carolina falls from the 1 seed and Baylor slides up in my midweek update.  California and Miami Florida carve their way in, while Rhode Island and Michigan State find their way out.  Rhode Island is more a victim of circumstance.  An eight point win at UMass shouldn't be punished, but they have a big game hosting Dayton tonight that could knock them back in.

Michigan State however is suffering from the 29 point loss at Michigan Tuesday.  Should the Spartans not hear their name called on Selection Sunday, it would end the third longest active tournament appearance streak of 19 games.  Kenpom has them 3-4 the rest of the regular season, so it's not hyperbole that their should be big concern in East Lansing.  Aside from making noise in the Big Ten Tournament, they are looking at needing to knock off Wisconsin at home and/or picking up a win at Purdue or at Maryland.

Nevada and Boise State swap once again, this time with the Wolfpack claiming the autobid.

The most improved seeds were Michigan jumping up 2 spots from 11 to 9 after the home win mentioned above.  Also UCLA jumps from a 5 to a 3 seed after the comeback at Pauley last night to beat Oregon.

Monday, February 6, 2017

5-FEB Bracket Projection: 1 Seed Reshuffle

Quite a bit of shakeup after a busy college basketball weekend.

In the one seed line, Baylor and Kentucky have dropped down to a #2, and were replaced by Louisville and North Carolina.  It would be UNC's 17th 1 Seed, the most of any school.

Further down the bracket, we saw Syracuse, Seton Hall and Rhode Island move in.  All three teams would be #11 seeds, and playing in the First Four.  Arkansas, Illinois State and Utah drop out.  The Mountain West auto-bid toggled back to Boise State from Nevada.  Finally, while the most notable school in the state saw their home winning streak snapped, two other Kansas schools shot up.  Wichita State throttled Illinois State and moved from a 9 seed to a 6, while Kansas State upset Baylor on the road and moved from an 11 seed to an 8 seed. 

Also a Futility update.  SIU Edwardsville was eliminated from making the OVC tournament this weekend.  The Cougars joined D1 in 2008 and have to wait at least another year to experience the Tournament.  342 of the 351 teams remain alive.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

1-FEB Bracket Projection: Missouri Valley At Large?

As we turn the page to February, the drama in college basketball ratchets up another level.  We have just a little over three weeks until the first conference tournaments begin, and this represents the last chances for schools cement their seeding, or in some cases make their conference tournaments at all.  I plan to post update brackets twice a week for the next few weeks, with the additional update coming mid-week.  That said, there are little change in this bracket rendition.  No teams dropped out/moved in.  The biggest jump was Arkansas moving from an 11 to an 8 after routing Alabama at home last night.  I also have Butler, Marquette, and Kansas State all sliding down a seed line after losing home games this week.

Let’s talk a bit about a two-bid Missouri Valley campaign.  In this bracket, I have Wichita earning the auto (9), and Illinois State securing an at large (11/First Four game).  Bracketmatrix.com shows 38 of 89 brackets with 2 MVC teams, and it will be interesting to see how that develops after WSU/ISU part II this weekend. 

Below is a snapshot of current bubble teams.

For both to get in, my guess is the most practical result would be ISU sweeping the regular season and dropping the MVC championship to WSU.  The combined current record (1-5) against Top 50 is a problem, though.  Even when adjusting that metric for a road game at a top ~110 program, Illinois State is 1-3 and Wichita State is 1-4.  Murray State (145 TRMD, 185 Kenpom, 220 RPI) isn’t doing the Redbirds any favors, either.  A season opening road game loss that didn’t look terrible back in November is now something that could be held against them on Selection Sunday.  Given another few weeks of power conference opportunities for the other bubble teams, the MVC also-ran will have a tough sales job ahead. 

Ultimately, what I think will happen is that we’ll see Wichita State hold serve this weekend.  The #3 ranking in Boost (scoring differential) speaks a little about the WSU potential, but they have lost just one conference home game since 2014 (a 3 point loss to Northern Iowa last year).  Wichita State seems poised to make their run.  For the Shockers, a win would obviously strengthen their grip on the auto bid, and drop Illinois State out of the bracket and into dangerous territory.  The 2 Bid MVC will be a February memory, and likely won’t survive the month.