Friday, January 19, 2018

Middle of the road

Last year, my bracket numbers were all over the place.  My formula was immature.  Metrics were poorly chosen. I had to hand-jam numbers so they were often not up to date (like, I would have never been tracking LSU).  My bracket last season typically had most of the correct at large teams,  but many were under or over seeded based on public perception.

This year, with better use of specific components of the RPI and efficiency metrics, my bracket has been more consistent week to week.  The seedings also fall in line with the rest of the matrix.  Check it out: no blue or red outside the top line (last week Texas Tech crept ahead of Duke, so I slid them into a 1 spot... oops).

Also, the formula has done a better job of balancing recent success with the entire body of work.  Ohio State may look overseeded right now based on their preseason perception, but their overall body of work is just as strong as their recent hot streak.  It does lean heavily on NCSOS, so this will damped the effect of a hot 3 game homestand against conference foes.  The RPI still gives a little too much credit to mid-pack power 5 teams that get trounced against all good teams, but steal enough home victories to remain middle of the pack.  Those miserable losses are enough to keep them relevant in the RPI, but often they are floating in line with top mid-majors by other metrics.

It will be interesting to see how this keeps up as more conference data is accumulated.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

16 JAN Bracket

Welcome to the party Missouri and Western Kentucky!  Marquette and Providence play hopscotch between the 9-11 seed lines, while UCLA looks to be buried until the win in their 3 game run through USC, ASU, and UoA, and a road win @ Oregon would be huge.  BYU has become the little train that just couldn't, tanking to Pacific and making it an uphill climb the rest of the way.

Really not much to discuss at the Top... the Big 12 cannibalized itself to get off the 1 line.  Not sure how UNC jumped back to the 2, but they have a chance to make a statement against Clemson.

Last 5 in are Boise, SMU, Texas, WKU, and Providence.  The Bonnie are sinking but I'm holding them on the autobid line.  WKU and MTSU are almost identical by the numbers, so maybe Conference USA sneaks a second team in Dance.  UAB and ODU would be competitive in bigger conferences and could easily make a run, though it looks like Louisiana Tech has been done in by injuries.

Baylor, Marquette, USC, Houston, and Florida State are safe for now, but all are only a rough patch away from the NIT.  Texas A&M is straddling the band saw as well, but their injury woes have been addressed and they have a nice 4 game stretch to put up some conference wins before heading to Kansas.  URI grades out as a 7, Nevada as a 6 but were shifted back to adjust for oversaturation of power 6 teams.

First 5 Out: Maryland (injuries), Alabama (surprisingly brutal schedule), KSU (nothing to note), Syracuse (terrible schedule balance), and New Mexico State (won't have enough for an at-large, though they already beat GCU, so maybe they probably will take the autobid).

Next 5 Hanging Around: Virginia Tech, UCLA, San Diego State, BYU, LSU.  Minnesota just clobbered Penn State, but they have a lot of ground to cover to get back into the mix.  NC State and BC have the Duke wins which will help if they end up in the top half of the ACC (doubtful). East Tennessee and Buffalo are feisty Mid-majors, but Vermont is unlikely to press the Top 50 this year without Anthony Lamb.

Big 12: 7
Big East: 7
ACC: 7
SEC: 7
AAC: 4
Big Ten: 4
Pac-12: 3
C-USA: 2
MWC: 2
A-10: 2
WCC: 2
21 One Bid Leagues

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

8 JAN Bracket

I try not to lay too hard on individual performances week to week, but that was one of the tougher weeks to gauge in recent memory.  I don't like slipping Duke and MSU off the 1 line because they are extremely talented and will likely roll into March on fire.  I certainly don't like having Texas Tech and Purdue storming out of nowhere and expecting them to hold serve for more than a week.  It's more the quality of opponent that Izzo and crew lined up for December, which can be described as none other than underwhelming.  They are 3-1 in the Big 10, and given their joke of a schedule and injuries at Maryland, will only be tested at home against Purdue and maybe at Minnesota if they get their shit together. I love Duke's schedule on the other hand. They brought in some decent mid-majors (beat them), owned Portland, but have crashed on the road in conference.  It is a young team, and the ACC road is not getting easier, Pitt aside. Chapel Hill, Clemson, Blacksburg, and even Coral Gables remain on the schedule, with a pit stop in MSG to play a desperate St. John's team.  They may even crash out of a tough home game against the Heels, Cavs, or Irish. Bottom line, their road back is much less certain, but given the quality, should stumble beyond the 3 line.

Ohio State benefits the most, jumping up to the 5 line, which is 2-3 seeds high, but the numbers don't lie.  The lack of NC road games will sting a little, but right now they are very much safe, whereas last week they were looking more flukey than legit.  Florida also seems to be righting the ship after a rough patch.  They look more like 5 seed than OSU, but that FSU/Loyola twin killing at home bruised the profile.

I saw some solid shade at the situation in the PAC 12, when asked about Colorado's at large chances, and the response was to join the Big 12.  Here is the deal.  The PAC 12 has 4 major programs in the southwest.  They have 2 academic first schools in desperate need of athletic and budget reform in the Bay Area.  Oregon is corporate beast, but outside of that, these are glorified mid-major basketball programs.  The Big 4 know they don't have to tax themselves too hard at this point... the bottom half of this conference is struggling to make the NIT.  It doesn't help that a lot of their natural non-conference Buy games in the Big Sky, Big West, WAC have become worthless.  There are no Southern, MVC, MAAC, Horizon caliber teams.  The Summit is nice, but these guys need more MWC games.  Right now, they are lucky to have 4 in.

St. Bonaventure is going to be in a tough spot.  On one hand, they hold 2 Power 5 Top 50 road wins against fellow Bubble dwellers Syracuse and Maryland.  They played TCU tight.  But they are 1-2 in the A-10 facing the "middle" of the conference... teams they should not be losing to.  Right now they are in by virtue of the autobid, as they are the most talented team in a shallow pool.  But another slip and the A-10 is in C-USA territory.

8 JAN Bracket Summary

I’ll wait to post when I can take a better screen shot.

A10: 2 (URI, SBU*)
AAC: 4 (Cinci*, Wichita St., SMU, Houston)
ACC: 7 (UVA, Duke, UNC, Clemson, ND, Miami, FSU)
B10: 5 (Purdue, MSU*, OSU, Michigan, Minn)
B12: 7 (TTU, WVU, Kansas, OU, TCU, Baylor, Texas)
BEast: 7 (Nova, SHU, X, Creighton, Butler, PC, Marq)
MWC: 2 (Nevada, Boise)
PAC12: 4 (Zona, ASU*, USC, UCLA)
SEC: 6 (UT, Auburn, UK, Ark, UF, A&M)
WCC: 2 (Zaga, SMC)

22 One Bid Leagues

On the bubble: Baylor, SMU, Texas, Houston (that’s a lot of Lone Star), PC
Last Five: Marq, UCLA, USC, Boise, Minn

First 5 Out: MD, Mizzou, UGA, KSU, PSU
Next 5 Out: Cuse, Bama, VT, BC, NMST

Not considered: Louisville, OKST

Too many bad losses: WKU, SDST, Utah, BYU, NCST
Not enough good wins: Buffalo, Miss St

Sleeper: UCF, LSU?

1 Seeds: Nova, UVA, Purdue, Texas Tech (wtf...)
2 Seeds: (for now): MSU, Duke, WVU, Kansas
3 Seeds: Cinci, Wichita St., OU, UNC
4 Seeds: SHU, Zaga, X, Clemson

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2 JAN Bracket Analysis

The goal is to take a week or so off before revisiting again... can't jump and jive at every result.

Kansas is the big mover here, who promptly crapped the bed at home against Texas Tech. So we know Chris Beard can coach, but seriously, look at the Big 12 right now:
Bill Self (1), Shaka Smart (9), Jamie Dixon (5), Huggy Bear (2), Bruce Weber (11), Scott Drew (11), Lon Kruger (3), Chris Beard (4), Steve Prohm (just out), and Mike Boyntin (just out, other considerations).
You gotta feel a little bit for Boyntin... got thrown into a tough situation with little resources or experience.  If the Cowboys stink up the joint for a couple years because the conference is 10 deep, he'll deserve another chance.  As of right now, all 10 teams are within reasonable position to grab a bid if they can get to 7 league wins (6 maybe even, though Iowa State put themselves in an early hole).
Spartans are my #1 overall by an eyelash over Villanova, though SoS will likely shift in favor of the Cats or Duke as the season progresses. 

Kentucky is back from the 7 line, and will likely finish with a 3-4 seed.  Holding 5 this week.  I wish I had held on to that Auburn stock from last year... I said they were a dark horse to win the SEC... then they sucked, then their coaches did nefarious things and I really thought this season was lost... ooops.

Major injuries had me reconsider Maryland and Notre Dame.  Both we on the fringes, and the Terps escaped bubble bath buddy PSU last night, which is big. Long term, however, is that these teams were already underachieving and will not pull it together by March.

My last 5? Boise and Baylor, Syracuse and Southern Cal, and KSU jumps in.  A road loss at the Carrier Dome tells me little about VT, so they remain in the 10-11 range for now. 

First 5 out? MD, ND, Utah, Missouri, Providence
Next 5 out? Ohio State, Penn State, San Diego State, Oregon, Boston College
Talk about a bad week: St. John's, Temple, Iowa State, UT Arlington
Will need help: Northwestern, Georgia, Marquette, BYU, New Mexico State
Sidelined for now: Louisville, Oklahoma State

Newcomers from One-bid leagues: Belmont (Jax St), Santa Barbara (Hawaii), Iona (Monmouth/Manhattan)

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

JAN 2 Bracket

I'll try to get a higher res version up tomorrow.

With analysis even.  Tonight's craziness will be glossed over, but injuries are the news this week.

Friday, December 29, 2017

28 DEC Bracket

The #1 seeds have stayed pretty consistent.  I've seen a lot of love for Arizona State as #1.  The numbers just aren't there, and the bottom-heavy PAC-12 is going to take the shine of their NC wins.  If they win the conference convincingly, they may get there, but right now, I see them jostling the 2-4 lines.  Purdue is likely a little over-seeded.  Their conference slate starts light and sees MSU only once.  I feel like a three team shuffle between ASU, Texas A&M, and Purdue would make me feel better.

I don't like 3 Big 12 Teams on the 3 line, and expect Kansas to move up as well, but they need a run to find themselves ahead of the Sun Devils.

Notre Dame has cratered their way into the toughest road possible.  I still think that they pull things together for a top 3 conference finish, as the schedule is favorable the next few weeks, and for the most part, you can chalk those two bad in-state losses to poor luck come March, but in December they look brutal.

Auburn and Southern Cal have been pulled out of the dumpster and dusted off, much like Arizona and Miami last round.  The schools have really pushed their recruiters and assistants out on a limb, and the toothless NCAA only bullies the little guys.  It's been quiet enough on that front this month to think that the feds will let the basketball component plead out and testify against the deep pockets of Adidas.  The middle men like Dawkins will get hung out to dry for facilitating it.  With the amount of Louisville turnover/turmoil, I still cannot imagine that they don't have a "come to God" moment and sit this one out.  Who knows what other players they are going to find dirt on...

Treading on Thin Ice: Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Baylor, Maryland, Minnesota.  These teams can come off a big week and look like a top 5 seed, or crap the bed to the bottom third of the conference and stumble out quickly.  Minnesota and Notre Dame are the most perplexing.  The other three are good, but not great teams.

Last 5 In: BYU, Houston, UCLA, Butler, St. John's.  The Johnnies are likely behind the Friars now, as they were dismantled at home after I pulled the numbers.  UCLA dug themselves a nice hole and have gone Bane to get going.  It will be interesting to see how high they can climb, as their real conference games don't start until February, and they close with 3 on the road, @Utah, Colorado, and USC.  Could murder their season.  Butler has their Super Bowl Saturday hosting Villanova.  They are legit, but 4 bottom 100 wins drags on their overall numbers.  They AAC is deep enough to get Houston in this year, after they sat on the bottom of the bubble looking up last season.  BYU is the flavor of the week, though they need to drop the Gaels this weekend to hang around the bracket much longer.

First 5 Out: Syracuse, Missouri, Oregon, Providence, Alabama.  Sorry, I hate to deep digging up this horse to beat it, but Boeheim needs to learn that he cannot keep trying to force this hand.  Outside of a well-fought win here in DC against pretty suspect Georgetown team, they took on a couple neutral site games, but other than that, they paraded a bunch of 100+ ranked schools through the Carrier Dome.  It's not the worst, as 5 of those teams are likely in the Field, but the loss to the Bonnies has them out now.  They need a real road skin too.  Virginia, Duke, Florida State, or Miami... fuck, I'd take Louisville as well.  They won't and we will go for round 3 with the committee on their sham profile.  Providence has been discussed, but they need more wins.  Alabama is fun to watch, but they chase the pace... will have impressive wins sandwiched around WTF losses.  Missouri was a lock 3 weeks ago, but their December was pretty bad, losing to a struggling Illinois and escaping SFA.  Considering this had been one of the worst major conference programs in the country the past two years, being is actually quite an achievement.  Oregon will have a lot to prove in conference, but their road win at Fresno shouldn't be ignored, even with their struggles in Portland.

Next 5 Out: Ohio State, Iowa State, Boise State, Temple, Boston College.  The Buckeyes are in better shape than their other Big Ten fringe players (Northwestern, Penn State).  They are already 2-0 in conference and their losses are solid losses.  Their lack of road games is a little perplexing and it bumps them a notch.  Iowa State is going to have to fight it in a stacked Big 12, but with quality wins abound, the only way to not be in the mix is to crash out with 3 or 4 wins.  Boise is much better than this, but they are a little low on the KenPom and Sagarin numbers, which means they really have to push the envelope on Nevada.  Temple had the best computer numbers, but those have slipped.  There 3 100+ losses cancels out their shocking win(s) in Charleston.  BC is hanging that Duke win out their and will ride it as long as possible, but .500 in the ACC is what they need to make up for weak NCSOS and results.

In the mix: Northwestern, Penn State, Marquette, Kansas State, Georgia, Utah, New Mexico State, Northern Iowa, UNLV, San Diego State

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

12 DEC Bracket Analysis

To qualify the changes, the "pre-season" bracket, though published around the first of December, was primarily informed by my preseason picks with little statistical influence, and maybe one of two anecdotal results.  I also leaned heavily toward schools in the FBI's crosshairs taking the burden of proof off the NCAA and taking the postseason penalties as soon as possible.  Right now, I really only see Louisville (as a culmination of events) and Auburn (warming up the bus to back over basketball to spare football) as being "locks" to remove themselves from participation.

Everything has been reprogrammed to extract the required data regularly.  It's just a matter of following a pattern to consistently manage the data to build a product.  The metrics I am rating on are same as last year.  First, a "Basic" measure that indicates as to whether or not they play good basketball (do they score more per possession/do they allow fewer points per possession).  Next, there is a "Strength" measure that digests RPI and schedule to verify the results.  Finally, there is a "Trend" measure that addresses the when and where of results.  Typically, the analysis is done independent of record until that matters (closer to March).  Basically, a 5-4 team now (like Florida, URI) doesn't just topple out of the field, nor does an undefeated team (I hate using the Georgetown example because it is extreme, so Syracuse) with good metrics immediately drop other proven teams.  A four metric blends the three to give a broader picture.

Logic is also applied, such as MTSU has a blistering RPI, but the C-USA doldrums will dampen their seed.  Schools outside the Big 6 will need sterling resumes.  Come March, since the NCAA shares their RPI breakdown, that will be used as a tie breaker, because the exercise is to project the field, not argue who deserves it more.

One of the criteria that DOES NOT help analyze and project the field is looking at Top 25, 50, 100 wins and losses.  First, rankings change hourly, and your snapshot is as good as the last result.  A top 25 team can topple out of the Top 50 with a sprained ankle, and then that win is worthless.  The Big East was a mess of who beat who and when last year.  The Pac12 and Big12 had teams jockeying the 50 line every night, with some teams losing as many as 6 "Rated" games a night based on results, only to have a few pop up the next night when more results come in. 

The other things that do need to be considered: health, ratio of games played away, non-conference schedule balance, and avoiding unexplainable losses.

Here is a snapshot of the tool:

Numbers-minded folks probably recognize some of the value sources, but it is really how you interpret the committee's mindset AT THAT TIME as to how you balance the formulas.

That said, the bracket:
After Duke LOLed in Chestnut Hill (don't be fooled there), it created firm separation between Villanova, MSU, and the other 349 teams. The curve smooths after that, with Duke and Wichita State riding shotgun for the other #1 seeds.  I was pretty relaxed with the regions and had no problem dropping UVA out west.  Despite Nova's roll, I still like Xavier to pace them in the conference, and a 2 seed fits their numbers.  UNC and WVU continue their silent assaults.  A&M, Kansas, and Gonzaga are next up.  The biggest surprises falling into the chaos? Kentucky is struggling a little, Notre Dame crapped the bed, Cincinnati should be much closer to the Shockers, and Florida has entered the abyss.  Minnesota was hot, then suddenly not.  The Gaels are on life support now... getting swept by the Zags again with boot them.  The Pac12 is a dumpster fire.  Surprises emerging? Tennessee, Temple, Clemson, OHIO STATE (maybe it was all Thad's back), and of course Arizona State.

Breakdown by conference:
A10: 2
AAC: 5 (yes, 5)
ACC: 8
Big Ten: 5 (Wisc/NW implosions have left their mark)
Big 12: 7
Big East: 6
MVC: 2
MWC: 1 (but oh so close Boise)
Pac12: 2 (I see 4 here again, but what a miserable non-conf run)
SEC: 7 (yeah, I had to wtf that one as well)
WCC: 2
22 one bid leagues

Teams that are closest to the bubble:
Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Temple, Minnesota, Saint Mary's
The major conference teams just need to defend their home court and not lose to the dregs on the road and their numbers will remain steady.  The Gaels and Owls will likely be on a weekly SOS rollercoaster as to whether or not they are safe.

Last 5 in:
Alabama, Houston, Providence, Saint John's, Northern Iowa
The Panthers need help from a middling MVC.  Bradley has rebounded to give the league a sixth decent team, but Valpo, the Redbirds, Bears, and Braves are all going to be eyed as NIT at best, even with a strong conference run.  Loyola and Northern Iowa need to stay on top of that middle class and hope it keeps their numbers strong.  These aren't Creighton and WSU from the old Valley though.  The Big East has 3 team log jam, and that could break at any point.  WSU's move to the AAC should buoy Temple and Houston's numbers for the rest of the season; double digit conference wins will be huge.  The SEC is so strong that Alabama went from potential Top 3 to "just hope to stay in the top half."

First 5 out:
Syracuse, Butler, Maryland Boise State, UCLA
UCLA is a solid cut below the other 4.  Depending how I prioritize the numbers, Cuse, Butler, MD, and Boise replace any of the 5 teams ahead of them (and Minnesota).  UCLA is really just there, not bad, but in need of big wins in the state of Arizona to really have a shot.  Boise needs good seasons out of Fresno, SDST, UNLV, and New Mexico to boost the conference numbers.

Next 5 out:
Penn State, Iowa State, Marquette, Utah, Oregon
If you were looking for the Pac12, you have found the mortuary.  Marquette can jump into the BE mix again if they get hot. Penn State is exactly what you expect from the middle of the pack in the Big 10.  Decent numbers, a few notable win, and no idea whether or not they are any good.  When I was originally programming the spreadsheet, the first run pumped out 9 teams (OKST was DOA).  Kansas lost and KSU lost and OKST lost.  Iowa State has a ways to go, but the ground work is there.  Better shape than UCLA long term; no bad losses in the Big12.

In the Hunt:
BYU, KSU, Miss St, Georgia, Fresno, SDST, NCST, Towson!, UNLV, Northwestern, UCF, ODU, Wisconsin, Wake Forest, and I swear-to-freaking-god Boston College.

I have Hawaii as my Big West pick... but UC Davis looking really good.

12 DEC Bracket

Work is interfering with posting the analysis, but should have that up before I get out of here for hockey.  Villanova is the number 1 overall, Houston and Northern Iowa are last teams in, Maryland and Butler first teams out.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Confirmed... and some things I did not see coming

A new segment that will likely exist primarily on Twitter. Basically a quick take of a couple of the results of the night that help explain some of the thought behind selections and seedings for this year's bracket.

Confirmed suspicions... that they are going to make a run in The Valley
Loyola 65, Florida 59: Loyola is a very slow, frustrating team to play.  Not necessarily like Virginia, who grinds the game to a halt, but a team that doesn't give away a lot on the offensive end as far as poor shot selection. 3 point shots are taken in rhythm to maximize conversion rate and prevent breaks the other way.  Extra passes in and out of the paint make 8-footers 6-footers, and 6-footers vulnerable for an easy backdoor cut.  I was not expecting that Florida would enter the SEC slate undefeated, but a couple losses to Duke, FSU, even Cinci or Clemson next week would risk their 1 line status... Loyola though?  Maybe Loyola is an at large caliber team.  Which is good because Valpo is a wildcard right now, hot, but untested.

Blindsided... Just because Lorenzo Romar couldn't have been THAT bad
Washington 74, Kansas 65: KU had beaten UK, blown out tourney front runners S Dakota St, Oakland, and Texas Southern, and humbled Syracuse.  I get the game was in KC as opposed to Allen, but the Huskies ran with this one late.  Typically, the better team gets behind early and just can't get enough rhythm or opportunity to comeback.  But not this time.  UW won every stage of the game and Kansas, playing more like a feisty underdog, kept up early, but just couldn't make the plays a top team would make to close out inferior competition.  And this is not indicative of the Huskies level of play.  They have struggled to beat their "peers" in the mid-level rankings (100-200) and were quite convincingly dispatched at MSG last month by Top 50 squads.