Thursday, November 30, 2017

30-NOV Bracket Projection: Conference Play Begins

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 26, 2017

26-NOV Bracket Projection: ACC/B1G Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

22-NOV Bracket Projection: Thanksgiving Update

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

17-NOV Bracket Projection: Feast Week Weekend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.