Tuesday, February 27, 2018

27-FEB Bracket Projections: Army Marches On To 2019

G.G. Smith and his Loyola Greyhounds battled for forty minutes in a Patriot League first round tournament game tonight, and held off Army 82-79.  The loss ensures an 80th NCAA tournament which will see the Black Knights not participate.  A promising early season will end with disappointment as Army loses their final seven games, and 10 of their last 11. 

The Big South also threw High Point and Presbyterian to the tournament graveyard.  If you’re looking for a Futility silver lining, it would be that Longwood was the team that vanquished High Point.  They are one of the remaining 31 teams still alive from our original 43 schools.

Conference Tournaments
Three tournaments begin tomorrow, including our first two neutral sight affairs.  The Big Ten will begin our games at 5:30 PM ET tipping off their championship in the heart of their conference footprint, New York City.  We have two first round games, including the Power 6 Conference leader on our Drought list with Rutgers failing to make an NCAA Tournament since 1991.  The Scarlet Knights will be taking on the mess of a team that has been the Minnesota Golden Gophers. 

The second of our four Futility leaders will be in action during the NEC quarterfinals.  St. Francis NY secured the five seed in the Northeast Conference and will travel to LIU Brooklyn for the 4/5 game attempting end the 79 year dry spell.  Their conference cousin St. Francis PA has made one NCAA tournament, but it was the same field that featured Rutgers 26 brackets ago.  The Red Flash are the three seed and will host Fairleigh Dickinson.  However the school most likely to flip the script might just be Wagner.  They earned the one seed and will host Central Connecticut.  The Seahawks last made the NCAA in 2003, good (bad?) enough to just make it in the top 100 Droughts.

Finally the Ohio Valley Conference tournament has been held in Nashville for the past 15 years, and essentially toggled between Kentucky Cities and Nashville outside of one year at the JAR in Akron Ohio.  This year though they invade the Hoosier State.  Fun fact- the OVC has exactly the same amount of teams from Indiana as Ohio in their current makeup.  Zero.  

SIU Edwardsville doesn’t really care where this tournament is held, they would just like to ensure their futility streak doesn’t hit double digits as they come in with zero appearances since their 2008 inception into Division I.  The Cougars are the eight seed, but their opponent scoffs as their pain.   Tennessee Tech is the five seed and their second, and most recent, NCAA appearance came all the way back in 1963 which is seventh on our Droughts.  The other first round game will feature the six seed Tennessee State who have missed the last 23 NCAA tournaments.  Their opponent is Eastern Illinois and EIU is on a modest streak of 16 misses.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 0-1 last night, 2-0 from pending games previous night, 64-42 overall, 4 games pending from tonight)
Wednesday's top five as I see them:
#5 Syracuse at Boston College- Boston College 70, Syracuse 68
#4 Villanova at Seton Hall- Villanova 79, Seton Hall 77
#3 Houston at SMU- SMU 70, Houston 69
#2 Nevada at UNLV- UNLV 78, Nevada 77
#1 Florida State at Clemson- Clemson 75, Florida State 72

Monday, February 26, 2018

26-FEB Bracket Projections: It All Starts With Atlantic Fun

Futility and Droughts
Today we said goodbye to four Futility teams.  USC Upstate, Kennesaw State, NJIT, and Stetson will all have to wait another year after dropping quarterfinal games in the Atlantic Sun Tournament.  34 teams are still active participants in the post season, including Lipscomb who knocked off Stetson and now are in the semifinals and two wins away from a championship.  Jacksonville will square off against Lipscomb, and they have plenty to play for as well.  As mentioned yesterday the Dolphins Drought dates back to 1986, so we are guaranteed to have intrigue in the Atlantic Sun Championship this Sunday.

There are 332 teams still alive for the Division I Championship.

Conference Tournaments
Two tournaments begin play tomorrow night, both with two first round games which serve to fill out the respective quarterfinal rounds in the Patriot League and the Big South.  The Big South has four teams on the Futility list, and three will be in action tomorrow.  High Point (18 years) will take on Longwood (13 years) in one match-up, while Presbyterian (10 years) will go into Charleston Southern in the other.  The Buccaneers do have one trip to their resume, but it was 20 years ago, which is currently tied for 61st on the Drought list.

The Patriot League will feature our first big underdog story of the season, when Army will be looking for their first NCAA tournament appearance in 80 years.  The Black Knights are the only Patriot League team to have never made the dance.  They will be at Loyola Maryland tomorrow night.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 0-3 last night with 2 pending, 62-41 overall)
Tuesday's top five as I see them:
#5 Arkansas at Auburn- Auburn 81, Arkansas 75
#4 Tennessee at Mississippi State- Mississippi State 72, Tennessee 69
#3 Miami FL at North Carolina- North Carolina 76, Miami FL 72
#2 Davidson at St. Bonaventure- St. Bonaventure 73, Davidson 71
#1 Boise State at San Diego State- San Diego State 73, Boise State 71

Sunday, February 25, 2018

25-FEB Bracket Projections: The End Draws Nigh

We now have fourteen days before the bracket is announced.  This week we wrap up the major conferences, begin the first wave of conference tournaments, and I move from semiweekly updates to a grinding, yet oddly rewarding daily posting.  More relevantly we’ll begin to identify the autobids, and which teams we had previously expected to earn the automatic rightful entry shifting to a reliance on committee members, carefully worded situational metrics, and either a strength of conference or non-conference schedule depending on the conference affiliation.  

Bubble Resume: Quadrant 1 Wins (Home vs Top 30 RPI, Neutral vs Top 50 RPI, Road vs Top 75 RPI)
Of the Bracket Matrix teams I’d consider bubble teams (teams in the field but not on 10% or more of brackets, plus the first four out), below are the quadrant 1 wins.  The below ten teams would be vying for six spots.  Bracket Matrix seed shown in parenthesis:
(11) St. Bonaventure 4-2, .667
(11) USC 4-5, .444
(11) Providence 4-7, (F4O) Marquette 4-7 .364
(11) Texas 5-9, .357
(F4O) Utah 3-6, (F4O) UCLA 3-6, .333
(11) Baylor 4-10, .286
(11) Louisville 3-8, .273
(F4O) Syracuse 2-7, .222

In my bracket below, I have St. Bonaventure, USC, Providence, Marquette from the above leaving out the remaining six schools.  The two I'm including that didn't make the bracket matrix cut are LSU (6-6, .500) and Washington (3-5, .375).  

Futility and Droughts
The Northeast Conference Tournament has been determined and it will not be inviting Sacred Heart to participate.  The Pioneers have been Division I since 1999, making this the 18th year they will not have made the NCAA Tournament.  Of the 43 schools remaining on our Futility list, 38 are still in the running.

Perhaps the most widely known teams on the previous list are the four remaining schools who have never participated who were in Division I at the time of the first NCAA Tournament.  Obviously those four teams top the Drought list, but the next up on that list is a team who has made seven appearances, but none since 1959.  Dartmouth was eliminated from the four team Ivy League and will now make it 59 years in a row without an NCAA tournament invite.

Conference Tournaments
It’s finally here.  Tomorrow night the Atlantic Sun will begin in the first of 32 conference tournaments.  No team managed to pick up a Quadrant 1 win in the conference, going a collective 0-27.  Florida Gulf Coast won the regular season, and is my pick to win the bid this year.  However, should there be an upset, it could mean a great deal if it’s any program not named North Florida.  Stetson (1971, 46 years), Lipscomb (1999, 18 years), Kennesaw State (2005, 12 years), NJIT (2006, 11 years), and USC Upstate (2007, 10 years) are all on the Futility list linked above.  Also worth noting is that Jacksonville, who has made five NCAA appearances, is 28th on the Drought list with their last tournament berth being 31 years ago in 1986. 

Teams With A Zero
Chicago State got a tremendous performance from senior Glen Burns, who dumped in 21 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and still provided 6 assists and 4 steals.  Unfortunately for the Cougars it would not be nearly enough to topple UT Rio Grande Valley who won 83-75 after leading by as many as 18 points.  It guaranteed a winless road record for Chicago State and leaves them with two remaining chances to pick up a Division I win this season.  On Saturday they’ll host Missouri Kansas City.  Should the Cougars fall at home, in order to avoid the winless season they would need to win in the WAC tournament against Utah Valley in Las Vegas.  Should they fail to win either game Chicago State will be the first team to go winless against Division I competition since 2015 when both Grambling State and San Jose State took the D1 collar.

Winless (against Division I) teams (1): Chicago State.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 2-3 last week, 62-38 overall)
Monday's top five as I see them:
#5 North Carolina A&T at Bethune Cookman- Bethune Cookman 78, North Carolina A&T 75
#4 Marquette at Georgetown- Georgetown 78, Marquette 75
#3 Texas at Kansas- Kansas 75, Texas 68
#2 Duke at Virginia Tech- Duke 77, Virginia Tech 76
#1 Texas Tech at West Virginia- West Virginia 73, Texas 70

Friday, February 23, 2018

22-FEB Bracket Projections: Bubble Implosion

Recently there was a stretch where all the teams in the vicinity of the bubble pulled off key wins for the stretch run.  This weekend was the other side of the ledger, and by definition of the bubble, why these teams are in the position they are in to begin with.  Providence, Texas, UCLA, Baylor, Syracuse, Louisville, and Washington are all hovering as the last few in or first four out on bracket matrix, and all picked up a loss sometime in the last four days.  As a result, I’ve dropped Providence, and swapped out Syracuse in place of Marquette.  I didn’t have UCLA, Texas, Baylor, or Louisville in my bracket, but I did and do have Washington.  At this point, I’ve lost all confidence in the 11 seeds, but hopefully some clarity will prevail in the final week and a half of the regular season for the bigger conferences.

We lose another of our Futility programs this week.  Tennessee Martin dropped a 70-53 game at Morehead State Thursday night, and as a result will not be able to beat SIU Edwardsville in the OVC tie-breakers in the event they could even ascend that high in the seeding procedures.  The Skyhawks are 17th on the longest streaks to have never been to the NCAA tournament and now tied for 34th for longest Drought of schools looking to just make it back into the field.

In the SWAC Alabama A&M was already on APR program, but will officially fail to qualify for the SWAC Tournament.  Charlotte got crushed by Western Kentucky 93-55, and the best they can now do is tie UTEP and/or Rice, both of which defeated Charlotte which eliminates them from the CUSA tournament.  340 schools are still alive.

Teams With A Zero
Congratulations to Delaware State.  It took 26 games, but things finally fell in place for the Hornets as they found arguably their finest defensive effort of the year.  Coppin State was held to an effective field goal percentage of 37.3, and could only muster 7-33 from deep for 21.1%, both of which were the best Division 1 defensive efforts for Delaware State this season.  While they didn’t exactly light it up on the offensive side, they cashed in where necessary going 18-27 for 66.7% which is their only game above 60% all season.  It allowed them to build a lead of 23 and cruise to a stress free 69-51 MEAC win. 

On Thursday, however, they fired their coach Keith Walker ostensibly to keep the program from getting too confident off their newfound success.

Meanwhile, Chicago State showed well holding a small first half lead against the heavily favored Aggies of New Mexico State.  A four point lead dissipated into a 39-36 halftime deficit, before New Mexico State would assert their will in the second half and grow the margin to twenty.  The Cougars would muster some respectability and close to a more presentable 78-67 final margin and move to 0-27 on the season against Division I teams.

Next up is a game against chryon busting UT Rio Grande Valley on Saturday in the penultimate regular season affair for the Cougars.  I’ll take the Vaqueros 83-70 in this one as they look to end their three game losing streak.  Also, if you’re wondering if Chicago State might follow Delaware State’s course of actions, Tate Frazier from One Shining Podcast brought up a salient point earlier this week.  The Cougars head coach Tracy Dildy will have to face the wrath of interim director of athletics…Tracy Dildy.  Presumably he has his own vote of confidence to finish the season before they sit down at the end of the season to review his performance.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 3-2 last week, 60-35 overall)
This weekend's top five as I see them:
#5 Sunday, Furman at East Tennessee State- East Tennessee State 74, Furman 71
#4 Saturday, Old Dominion at Western Kentucky- Western Kentucky 72, Old Dominion 71
#3 Saturday, Gonzaga at BYU- Gonzaga 73, BYU 71
#2 Saturday, Villanova at Creighton- Villanova 80, Creighton 79
#1 Saturday, Kansas at Texas Tech- Texas Tech 74, Kansas 71

Sunday, February 18, 2018

18-FEB Bracket Projections: Hokie Woke

I’ve been a Virginia Tech outlier all season long as alluded to in a comment in my last post, so I thought I’d give a few sentences to address it here.  They are a ten seed on bracket matrix with a range excluding me from eight to twelve in those that placed the Hokies.  In my bracket they are a six, but have fluctuated up to a five in recent posts.  My brackets are published with results to date as well as what I project in the remaining games leading up to Selection Sunday.  I have Virginia Tech scooping up two more wins in their next games against Clemson and Louisville, then it has a couple coin flip games with Duke at home and Miami on the road.  With today’s Duke win over Clemson what was previously a Virginia Tech win has flipped to a marginal Blue Devil win, but it’s still razor thin.  In the ACC tournament, I have them bowing out in the semifinals.  The race between Clemson, Louisville, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech for the fourth best team is tight, and as of now I see this as favorable for the Hokies.

It looks reasonable to me.  Will it play out like that?  I guess we’ll see, but when you’re out of line with bracket matrix it usually portends bad things for the prognosticator.  I should have a pretty good indication soon as I would wager that the Duke game is going to be the fulcrum with the most leverage in this entire chain, but it’s hard to look past that Clemson game.  A loss there would be devastating and a clear delineation between fourth and fifth in the ACC, but with Clemson owning that right.

Bracket Update
Syracuse knocked off Miami on the road Saturday, and the Orange have now won three of four and move to 7-7 in the ACC.  They are also a respectable 3-5 in Quadrant 1 competition as of today.  A couple of trap games loom after the North Carolina and Duke games, but they move into the field for now in my bracket. 

Georgia has also made the leap into the brackets.  The Bulldogs picked up a road win at Florida to complete the Gator sweep, and then followed that up over the weekend by knocking off Tennessee at home.  Georgia is currently 6-8 in the SEC, and it’s imperative they get to at least 8-10, but that’s where I have them finishing the season. 

Moving out are UCLA and Louisville.  The Bruins continue to pile up wins, but none that really move the needle.  They’re 2-4 against Quadrant 1 competition, and in a numbers game I have them on the outside looking in and one of my first teams out alongside Texas and Baylor. 

Louisville has been losing to tournament teams and beating up on non-tournament teams for over a month now.  That could change soon as their final four games are all against teams currently in the bracket matrix field.  Three are on the road, with games at Duke, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State, and they will host Virginia.  The Cardinals are 2-7 against Quadrant 1, and could desperately use a late resume win.   

No updates on the automatic bids from my last bracket. 

Four more schools were knocked out over the weekend, one of which was on our list of 43 Futility schools.  Tim O’Shea announced his retirement on Monday effective at the end of the season, and this week the Bryant Bulldogs confirmed that the effective date would be the regular season finale on February 24th as they are no longer able to qualify for the postseason conference tournament.  The Bulldogs moved to Division I in 2008, but have failed to qualify in each of their ten seasons.  Forty schools on our list remain eligible.

Houston Baptist will see their season end on senior night, as they will not qualify for the Southland Conference Tournament.  They join Northwestern State and Incarnate Word as three of the five affiliated members who will not participate.  The Huskies took an NAIA hiatus for several years before rejoining Division I, but will see their last NCAA Tournament appearance move to 34 years ago.  That is 24th longest Drought in Division I.

Morehead State will also not qualify for the Ohio Valley Conference tournament and has been eliminated.  Mississippi Valley State can still tie for the final spot in the SWAC Tournament, but assuming no new tiebreak procedures for the SWAC (and that the ineligible schools are still participating in the post-season) they will not be able to beat any of the team or teams they are tied with.  Thus, the Delta Devils are also eliminated.  Also, a big thank you to the Big Sky for expanding their post-season tournaments as they always had the most convoluted late-season tiebreak scenarios for me to work through.  Of the 351 Division I schools, 342 are still alive.

Teams With A Zero
The first of two coin flips went against Delaware State (0-25), as they fell at home to the Florida A&M Rattlers 66-63.  Delaware State possessed a seven point second half lead, and was up 61-57 with a little over a minute left per kenpom’s win probability graph (87.5% likelihood of a DSU win).  The Rattlers however would score twice, survive a late turnover, and hit four free throws to ice the three point roadkill.  It’s a tough loss for a team still looking for their first Division I win, but as mentioned all hope is not lost as Coppin State comes in for a game Monday night. 
After starting out 0-17, Juan Dixon’s team has managed a 5-6 mark since and has nearly worked their way up to the middle of the MEAC.  Kenpom has the Eagles at one point better in Delaware State 64-63, but I’ll go the opposite with a 69-68 Hornet win. 

Chicago State (0-26) will return to action Thursday night in Las Cruces, against a New Mexico State team on a surprising two game losing streak.  I can’t imagine this is anything other than a “get right” game for the Aggies.  This has all the makings of a tough road trip for the Cougars. 

Winless (against Division I) teams (2): Chicago State, and Delaware State.

Quadrant 1 Wins (Home vs Top 30 RPI, Neutral vs Top 50 RPI, Road vs Top 75 RPI)
Of the Bracket Matrix teams I’d consider bubble teams (teams in the field but not on 10% or more of brackets, plus the first four out), below are the quadrant 1 wins.  The below ten teams would be vying for six spots.  Bracket Matrix seed shown in parenthesis:
(11) St. Bonaventure 3-2, .600
(F4O) Washington 4-3, .571
(11) Texas 5-8, .385
(F4O) Syracuse 3-5, .375
(11) Baylor 4-8, (10) Kansas State 3-6, (11) UCLA 2-4, .333
(F4O) USC 2-5, .286
(11) Louisville 2-7, .222
(F4O) Nebraska 1-6 .143

NCAA Q1 Win Leaders
(9)- Kansas, North Carolina
(8)- Virginia, Villanova, Auburn
(7)- Xavier, Texas A&M, LSU
(6)- Oklahoma, Alabama, Purdue, Florida, Houston
(5)- Providence, Florida State, West Virginia, Texas, Cincinnati, Missouri, North Carolina State, Arkansas, Georgia
(4)- Washington, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, Marquette, Arizona, South Carolina, Baylor

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 3-2 last week, 60-35 overall)
This week's top five as I see them:
#5 Tuesday, Creighton at Butler- Butler 78, Creighton 76
#4 Wednesday, Fresno State at UNLV- UNLV 77, Fresno State 74
#3 Wednesday, Louisville at Duke- Duke 80, Louisville 73
#2 Wednesday, Michigan at Penn State- Penn State 71, Michigan 67
#1 Wednesday, Clemson at Virginia Tech- Virginia Tech 75, Clemson 72

Friday, February 16, 2018

15-FEB Bracket Projections: Everybody Loses...Sometimes

It’s been a tumultuous week for the teams at the top.  Of the Top 16 seeds announced last week by the Selection Committee, nine have lost since the weekend.  Twelve of the sixteen have lost this month, and two teams are carrying losing streaks of three games or more.  This is how a team like Virginia can lose at home and move up to number one in the polls (and it still makes sense).  Also, when everybody loses, things don't change much.  No new teams moving in or dropping out from my last bracket.

Teams With A Zero
When you are 0-24 against Division I competition like the Delaware State Hornets, what could be better than staking your squad to a 16-5 road lead early in the first half?  Not much, I presume.  But I know what’s definitively worse.  That would be allowed your opponent to finish the game on an 88-42 run.  Delaware State dumped in 13 threes in 23 chances, but it mattered little as they allowed 14 makes in 28 opportunties.  As strong as the offense was beyond the arc, they mustered 38% from the line and 26% from twos in the lopsided affair.

Better news is on the horizon, however.  The Hornets return to the diamond state for two games against opponents that can be had.  Florida A&M is first up, and in the first game in Tallahassee the Rattlers needed double overtime to escape 94-89.  Kenpom predicts FAMU with a one point win, but I’ll take the number one in our hearts, number 350 in the standings Delaware State Hornets 72-71. 

Moving west to two heartland teams playing in the Western Athletic Conference,  the streak ends at 184 minutes and 49 seconds for Chicago State.  A Travon Bell layup gave Chicago State its first lead since January 27th as the Cougars took a 2-0 lead and made my coinflip prediction come true.  The lead would balloon to 5-0, but ultimately the Roos would build up a large lead, and hold off a late charge to take the WAC contest 76-67.  The Cougars are now 0-26 against Division I competition.  Chicago State will get a week off to fake their death, assume a new identity and avoid a road game in Las Cruces next week. 

Winless (against Division I) teams (2): Chicago State, and Delaware State.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 3-2 last week, 57-33 overall)
This weekend's top five as I see them:
#5 Sunday, Duke at Clemson- Duke 75, Clemson 74
#4 Sunday, Penn State at Purdue- Purdue 75, Penn State 68
#3 Saturday, Villanova at Xavier- Xavier 79, Villanova 78
#2 Saturday, West Virginia at Kansas- Kansas 76, West Virginia 74
#1 Sunday, Wichita State at Cincinnati- Cincinnati 74, Wichita State 69

Sunday, February 11, 2018

11-FEB Bracket Projections: What Did The Top 16 Reveal...Reveal?

Of the teams revealed in the Top 16, Kansas has the most Quadrant 1 wins of the group and leads the NCAA with nine victories in thirteen chances.  Villanova, at 8-1, has the best record in terms of percentage, with Virginia just a tick behind at a 7-1 mark.  There are eighteen programs that have five or more Quadrant 1 wins.  However, only half of the Top 16 seeds announced today are in that category.  Thirteen though do have at least four wins, with only Michigan State (3), Arizona (3), and Ohio State (2) failing to make it in that group.  Also mildly interesting  was that 14 of the 16 have a .500 record or better in such opportunities.  Tennessee at 4-6 and Ohio State at 2-4 were left out.

Bracket Update
Two updates for the automatic bids in my bracket.  In the Colonial, Towson has been my projected CAA Tournament winner in brackets dating all the way back to January 4th.  However, after Towson’s home loss this weekend to Northeastern to level their conference record to 7-7, they have finally fell behind in my model to College of Charleston.  The Cougars are riding an eight game winning streak and lead the CAA with a 11-3 mark.  They were also the team replaced by Towson in my projections back in January.

In the MEAC tournament it’s been predominately North Carolina Central leading the bracket, but North Carolina A&T has been in my field here and there including my previous post.  We now move completely out of the Tar Heel State and into Virginia as Hampton returns to my bracket for the first time since December 21st.  Savannah State currently leads the conference at 9-1, while Hampton is fourth at 7-4. 

I also have two updates in the at large field.  In retrospect I was too hasty on Thursday with Washington.  They have four of their final six games at home, and a path to 12-6 in the PAC 12 is reasonable.  The Oregon loss is a killer, and the double OT loss this weekend to Oregon State isn’t all that much better, but I’m banking on the Huskies in a few of the remaining coin flip games in this bracket edition.  When you combine that with five Quadrant 1 wins, and an overall 5-3 record in that category, I think that’s enough.

Sticking to the purple bubble teams, Kansas State is also in this bracket projection.  They got waxed by Texas Tech, but at this point the Red Raiders are favored to take the Big XII title making the loss more explainable.  Kansas State is 6-6, and if they can get to 9-9 in the respected Big XII Conference, well that looks formidable enough to me.  Certainly not ironclad, as that non-conference is troublesome, but perhaps enough to coast in on the strength of their conference.  

Moving out are SMU, who I still really like at full strength, and USC.  The Trojans have lost three in a row, own a loss to Washington, and are 2-5 in Q1 games.  It’s a fine line sort of call in my opinion, but at this point I have them just barely out.  In SMU’s case, it really is as simple as Shake Milton is out, and they haven’t been able to win without him.  They have lost three in a row, as well as four of five, and are now sitting at 5-7 in the American.  They've also lost opportunities for signature wins against Houston and Cincinnati, and allowed Tulsa to stay in front of them in the AAC standings.  They are 2-4 in Q1 games, but do have nice non-conference wins against Arizona, USC, and Boise State. 

The thirteen team Southland Conference only sends eight teams to their conference tournament, and two teams have now been eliminated from their conference postseason, and thus the NCAA postseason.  One of those, the Incarnate Word Cardinals, are on the list of teams to have never made an NCAA tournament.  They join Grambling State, a team facing an Academic Progress Rate post-season ban, as the only two who are officially guaranteed to begin next season in the same position.  Northwestern State, who has made three NCAA appearances with the most recent being in 2013, was also eliminated from the 2018 Southland Conference Tournament leaving us with 348 teams still alive.

Teams With A Zero
Chicago State was our only school in action this weekend.  I missed the correct score, but had the margin pegged as Seattle held off the Cougars 91-81.  The ten point margin is a bit misleading as it was a 24 point game at the half that Chicago State was fortunate to cut into the lead as much as they did.  I asked the question, ‘Would Chicago State have a lead?’.  The answer was ‘No, they would not’.  Last month, January 27th, with 4:46 left to go in the first half, a Deionte Simmons dunk gave Chicago State a one point lead which would last 44 seconds until UT Rio Grande Valley would scratch back out in front.  It’s now been 184 minutes and 2 seconds of game time since the Cougars have held a lead in a basketball game.  On Thursday night, we’ll find out if the streak will hit 200 minutes when they travel to UMKC for the first matchup against the Kangaroos this season.  I’ll predict UMKC 79-69 (and Chicago State to take a 2-0 lead!).

Delaware State was off this weekend, and travel to Norfolk State tomorrow night.  I’ll take the Spartans 75-67.

Winless (against Division I) teams (2): Chicago State, and Delaware State.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 2-3 last week, 54-31 overall)
This week's top five as I see them:
#5 Thursday, Ohio State at Penn State- Penn State 72, Ohio State 70
#4 Wednesday, Clemson at Florida State- Florida State 75, Clemson 72
#3 Thursday, Arizona at Arizona State- Arizona State 79, Arizona 76
#2 Wednesday, Virginia Tech at Duke- Duke 82, Virginia Tech 76
#1 Thursday, Cincinnati at Houston- Cincinnati 69, Houston 68

Friday, February 9, 2018

8-FEB Bracket Projections: Kansas And Their Streaks

2/9 12:15 EDIT: Please note an incomplete bracket was attached earlier.  The version included was littered with conference affiliation errors, rematches, etc.  It has been corrected in the image below.  Apologies for the mistake.

Kansas receives a deserved amount of adulation for their remarkable conference championship streak which may be in some peril this year, but another impressive feat doesn’t garner as much fanfare.  The Jayhawks possess the longest active consecutive NCAA Tournament streak at 28 appearances in a row, and will make it 29 this year.  For perspective, there are 33 schools who were in Division I when Kansas last missed the field who have not made the tournament at all in that time frame.  The Jayhawks were on probation in 1989, Roy Williams’s first year after Larry Brown won the title the year previous and left Kansas.

No one else is all that close, and only a handful are within twenty active years of the run.  Duke (22) and Michigan State (20) are second and third on the last, and also are safely in the 2018 field.  We have a tie for now for fourth place, but that looks to breaking this year.  Gonzaga and Wisconsin are sitting at 19 years in a row, and while the Zags are comfortably in, the Badgers will need a run in New York City to preserve their streak.
The rest of the top ten is a mixed bag.  North Carolina and Cincinnati have made seven consecutive appearances, and should make it eight, while VCU will need some Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament magic to make their eighth dance.  Tied for ninth are Iowa State (nope) and Wichita State (yup) at six in a row.

Teams With A Zero
Heartbreak for Delaware State this week, as they battled first place North Carolina A&T on the road Monday.  After a competitive first half, the game still hung in the balance late in the game.  The Hornets had the ball down one point with less than a minute to go, and missed three chances to gain a late lead.  The Aggies hit a couple free throws and prevailed 54-51 and dropped the Hornets to 0-23.  Delaware State will get the weekend off before getting back in action next Monday.  There are definite opportunities on the horizon for Delaware State to move off this list.

One way to avoid a heartbreaking loss is to immediately seal your fate.  I mentioned in the last blog that Chicago State has went in over 100 minutes of game action without holding a lead.  Well, tack on another forty.  Chicago State may have reached their nadir against the Utah Valley falling 97-57.  This Saturday is their penultimate home game when they host Seattle, and their final home game isn’t for another three weeks.  I’ll take the Redhawks 79-69, but I’m almost more interested to see if Chicago State can grab a lead.

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 1-4 last week ouch…, 52-28 overall)
This weekend's top five as I see them:
#5 Saturday, Virginia Tech at Virginia- Virginia 72, Virginia Tech 67
#4 Saturday, Grand Canyon at New Mexico State- New Mexico State 69, Grand Canyon 67
#3 Saturday, Xavier at Creighton- Creighton 81, Xavier 78
#2 Saturday, Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s- Saint Mary’s 74, Gonzaga 73
#1 Saturday, Purdue at Michigan State- Michigan State 75, Purdue 72

Sunday, February 4, 2018

4-FEB Bracket Projections: Resume Stuffing Saturday

Bracket Updates
Saturday wasn’t a day full of prominent top ranked teams squaring off, but a host of schools hovering around the cut line cashed in on large opportunities.  Missouri (Kentucky), Washington (Arizona), Texas (Oklahoma), and Alabama (Florida) all picked up key resume wins, and strengthened their Quadrant 1 profile.  Providence also scored a nice bubble separation win over a Marquette team that was projected in the bracket matrix field in the last update.  All five schools move in for me.  Boise State, UCLA, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Maryland have been dumped to make room.

Winthrop has moved back in on the Big South auto bid, replacing Liberty who had knocked them out in the previous bracket. 

Teams With A Zero
To formally close it out since the game was still pending in my last post, Chicago State lost at Cal State Bakersfield by thirty, 91-61.  They continued their road trip and made a stop in Phoenix Saturday, and lost that one by 34, 89-55.  The Cougars have not had a lead in a game since back in the first half of the game against UT Rio Grande Valley.  If a Valley school is required for Chicago State to be in the game, then perhaps Thursday will bring good fortune when the Cougars host Utah Valley.  It looks dire, though.  I’ll predict Utah Valley 81-68.

Delaware State carried themselves better, garnering a large first half lead and parlaying that into a competitive first half.  However, the second twenty minutes allowed North Carolina Central to gain some separation to prevail 72-61.  It’s now time for a quick turnaround for the Hornets as they head from Durham to Greensboro for a game Monday night at North Carolina A&T.  The Aggies won in Dover in early January by ten.  I’ll tack on a point for the rematch and predict NC A&T 77-66.

Winless (against Division I) teams (2): Chicago State, and Delaware State.

Quadrant 1 Wins (Home vs Top 30 RPI, Neutral vs Top 50 RPI, Road vs Top 75 RPI)
Of the Bracket Matrix teams I’d consider bubble teams (teams in the field but not on 10% or more of brackets, plus the first four out), below are the quadrant 1 wins.  The below eleven teams would be vying for seven spots.  Bracket Matrix seed shown in parenthesis:
(11) Washington 4-3, .571
(11) North Carolina State 4-4, (11) Houston 3-3, .500
(11) Missouri 5-6, .455
(F4O) SMU 2-3, .400
(F4O) Western Kentucky 1-2, .333
(11) Virginia Tech 2-5, (10) Kansas State 2-5, .286
(11) Marquette 2-9, .182
(F4O) Syracuse 0-4, (F4O) Boise State 0-3 .000

NCAA Q1 Win Leaders
(9)- Villanova
(8)- Kansas
(7)- Virginia
(6)- Purdue, Oklahoma, Alabama
(5)- Clemson, Florida, Xavier, Seton Hall, Providence, Missouri, Texas, Florida State, Florida
(4)- Auburn, Duke, North Carolina, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Texas Tech, Kentucky, Miami FL, West Virginia, Washington, Temple, Gonzaga, North Carolina State, LSU
(3)- 8 teams

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 3-2 last week, 51-24 overall)
This week's top five as I see them:
#5 Wednesday, UNLV at Nevada- Nevada 80, UNLV 76
#4 Thursday, Duke at North Carolina- Duke 80, North Carolina 79
#3 Thursday, SMU at Houston- Houston 72, SMU 68
#2 Wednesday, Virginia at Florida State- Florida State 69, Virginia 68
#1 Wednesday, Ohio State at Purdue- Purdue 76, Ohio State 69

Friday, February 2, 2018

1-FEB Bracket Projections: Everyone But Grambling, Alabama A&M, and SEMO.

Bracket Updates
Texas A&M is back for me after a one post hiatus.  The Aggies have challenges, but the one I’m most interested in is how their SEC record finishes.  At this point I’m projecting 8-10, which would be tied with Arkansas, and coupled with the comfortable home win this week over Arkansas it’s enough for me to resurrect TAMU and supplant the Razorbacks in the bracket.  For now, at least.

Speaking of teams struggling for conference respectability, the Baylor Bears have been hemorrhaging.  I have been late to move off of them, and this team could lose 12 or 13 conference games at the rate they’re going.  They are mercifully out for me, and replaced by a longshot from Olean, New York.  Saint Bonaventure’s resume was touted by some back in December, but have been forgotten since.  They’re sitting at a meager 5-4 in conference, with all four of those losses on the road, and 2-2 against Quadrant 1 teams.  Six of their final ten will be at home, with a chance to pick up wins against Rhode Island and Davidson.  If they can avoid bad losses, and possibly steal a game against Duquesne and/or VCU on the road, then we could be talking about a multi-bid Atlantic 10. 

Conference Tournament Outlook
This Monday will represent the three week mark before conference tournaments begin, when the Atlantic Sun quarterfinals tip off Championship Fortnight.  Going off recent memory this is the largest pool of eligible teams we’ve had at this point in the season, as only three schools remain on APR post-season bans: Alabama A&M, Grambling State and Southeast Missouri State.  With the successful Division I transition of several schools, and the lack of postseason bans, that leaves 348 teams in the field still relevant.

Some conference teams will be excised from the postseason prior to the conference tournaments, although we are not quite within range to see that happen just yet.  But where will those eliminations emanate from?  

The nine team American East will only allow eight to the postseason party.  Binghamton is the current basement dweller, but Maine and UMass Lowell linger within range.  Remaining schedules indicate Maine could be the team left out here.

The Big West is in the same situation, looking for one school to bow out.  UC Riverside is yet to notch a conference win, and remain the likeliest candidate.  Cal State Northridge and Cal Poly each have two wins and are the only schools really in range of the Highlanders.

Conference USA is arguably the best conference to not send all teams, but given their digital and syndication package, it would be unlikely we’d see any of these early round matchups anyways.  The swollen fourteen team league begins their tournament at twelve.  One win Charlotte, as well as 2-7 Rice and UTEP currently are in danger of missing out here.  Basically we’re down to two schools that removed their coaches already, as well as a first year coach, so it sort of makes sense why these schools are here.

The Ivy joined the fun last year with a four team runoff, so this is a half in, half out setup.  Given the late conference play start this is still wide open, but Harvard, Penn, and Princeton appear to be in good shape with a combined 9-1 conference record.  That would leave Brown, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, and Dartmouth left to fight for the final spot.  Kenpom likes Yale for it, I lean Brown, but in both situations the prevailing team attaining a 7-7 league mark.

The Northeast Conference will weed out two to make up an eight team field.  Bryant, at 1-10, and Sacred Heart, at 2-9, are both multiple games back of the rest of the conference.  If either of those two want to escape, it will likely mean chasing down 4-7 Fairleigh Dickinson.

The Ohio Valley has a nice twelve team league, but uses the double ladder tournament approach which means curtains for the final four spots.  Southeast Missouri State possesses an APR post-season ban, and the OVC has elected to hold them out of their conference tournament, leaving three more voids to fill.  SIU Edwardsville is clear of two teams thus far in the standings, but are projected by me to finish last.  Eastern Illinois and Morehead State are also in the running to be left waiting until next year.

The Southland Conference is the most ruthless as five teams will be left out of the eight team ladder tournament.  Northwestern State and Incarnate Word are winless in conference and look poised to be eliminated in the near future.  Houston Baptist, Texas A&M Corpus Christi and McNeese State also look to be hovering below the cutline. 

Finally we have the SWAC, which is perennially one of the more difficult fields to figure out.  If there are no changes, then past fields will indicate that both Alabama A&M and Grambling State are eligible to participate in the SWAC Tournament, but not to receive the automatic bid.  It would appear then the two teams will likely come from the Mississippi Valley State, Alcorn State, and Alabama A&M trio.  I project Alabama A&M to slide through, leaving six eligible teams in the eight team field.

So there you have it.  348 of the 351 remain, and a few others this month will fail to qualify for the only vehicle they have to win a National Championship.  You’re still in this Northwestern State!

Teams With A Zero
Chicago State is still in action tonight, but currently down 24 on the road at Cal State Bakersfield, so it looks like we’ll take both winless teams into the weekend.

There are 178 schedule games this weekend, with the overwhelming majority coming on Saturday as teams seek to avoid going up against a Justin Timberlake concert Sunday night.  I rank upcoming games each post below that factor the quality of teams playing against each other, and how likely that game will be competitive.  Registering in at 176 of 178 on that scale are our Delaware State Hornets.  DSU travels to Durham to do battle with North Carolina Central and hope to eke out a win over another Division I opponent for the first time this season.  My prediction: NCC 76, DSU 65.

Which game would be 178 out of 178, you ask?  Well, that would involve Chicago State, who are scheduled to travel into Phoenix for a tilt against Grand Canyon in what looks to be a significant mismatch.  Kenpom gives the Cougars a 1% shot.  The NMSU fans in my comments gives this a “who cares, put NMSU in already”.  I’ll settle in the middle with a 82-61 Grand Canyon win.

Winless (against Division I) teams (2): Chicago State, and Delaware State.

Quadrant 1 Wins (Home vs Top 30 RPI, Neutral vs Top 50 RPI, Road vs Top 75 RPI)
Of the Bracket Matrix teams I’d consider bubble teams (teams in the field but not on 10% or more of brackets, plus the first four out), below are the quadrant 1 wins.  The below ten teams would be vying for six spots.  Bracket Matrix seed shown in parenthesis:
(11) North Carolina State 4-4, (F4O) Washington 3-3, .500
(F4O) Missouri 4-6, (11) SMU 2-3, .400
(10) Texas A&M 3-5, .375
(F4O) Virginia Tech 2-4, (F4O) Western Kentucky 1-2, .333
(11) Marquette 2-8, .200
(11) Syracuse 0-3, (11) Boise State 0-3 .000

NCAA Q1 Win Leaders
(8)- Kansas
(6)- Purdue, Oklahoma, Virginia, Villanova
(5)- Clemson, Florida, Auburn, Xavier
(4)- West Virginia, Cincinnati, Texas, Duke, Seton Hall, Gonzaga, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Florida State, LSU, Missouri, Tennessee, Providence, Alabama, Temple
(3)- 10 teams

Notable Games (predictions in italics, 4-1 last week, 48-22 overall)
This weekend's top five as I see them:
#5 Saturday, Kansas State at West Virginia- West Virginia 75, Kansas State 70
#4 Saturday, Texas Tech at TCU- TCU 75, Texas Tech 74
#3 Saturday, Miami at Virginia Tech- Virginia Tech 76, Miami 72
#2 Saturday, UNLV at Boise State- Boise State 76, UNLV 74
#1 Saturday, BYU at Gonzaga- Gonzaga 77, BYU 70