Sunday, November 27, 2016

Bracket Analysis

Made my first lock of the minute call earlier tonight.  Probably won’t use Twitter much more than a means to bitch about bad calls and bad end of game plays which pounding back beers at The Hatt.

Analysis by region:

Keeping Villanova in this spot until proven otherwise.  They will draw the weakest play in game.  I split up Howard and Bryant (both those picks look dubious in the early going, but regular season results mean very little in one bid leagues) and the clearly next two weakest teams (New Hampshire and Liberty) will fill the 16 seed play-ins.  Balancing out the ACC, Big Ten, and Big East will prove difficult, which is why Louisville and UNC slip out of their S-Curve spots to steer clear of Duke and UVA.  I have Louisville I hair ahead of the Heels now, and sense that they will even out as the conference schedule shakes out.  Xavier also looks to be 2-seed worth again, but I have them solidly below UNC, Purdue, and all the other projected 2s for now.

With 2 Big East Teams, 1 ACC, 1 A-10, and 1 MVC team as the Top 5 seeds, this already has the perception of the “weak bracket” which would favor the overall 1 seed.  The Spartans are dragging ass in November, which is par for the course for them.  I find it hard to believe that they slip further south than a 6, even with 10 losses.  Southern Methodist is a total wild card down here, and could play a dark horse Sweet 16/Elite 8 here.  They look sharp early, but will not face the most trying conference slate… if they fall below 3rd in that conference, I doubt they will get called again… they missed a couple years ago as a ranked team, which let’s you know what the committee thinks of the AAC.

BYU is already a candidate to slide out in favor of a fourth A-10 team (pushing Nevada this way) or an extra PAC-12 or ACC team (Colorado, Pittsburgh).  Florid Gulf Coast, Belmont, and Green Bay have to be happy with this draw.  Overall, neither the 8/9 seeds are a threat to Villanova (yeah, tell NCState that).  Other than that, this is wide open.

Duke is the consensus #1 team until Monday, but they keep this spot until January.  They get the Kansas looks to surge to a high seed based on strength of schedule, but this is a 7-loss team.  Despite the highlight reels draft picks, this is probably not a top 10 squad.  Purdue gets a preferred seed to avenge last season’s disappointment.  They are a physical team and shouldn’t crap the bed again.  Gonzaga will waver between a 3 and 7 seed, depending on whose rankings you use.  Once again, they attract NBA caliber talent (or bodies at least) that will be imposing against any team.  They need a run to solidify nearly 2 decades of dominance in the regular season.  The Blue Jays will build an impressive resume, but this team looks like it will collect a couple questionable losses to keep them out of the elite.  Not sure about UCLA… they seem to have some chemistry issues, and while nobody will question Steve Alford’s coaching acumen, he may not have the personality for UCLA, where the expectations outweigh the atmosphere to win.

The way that this season is playing out, URI and Notre Dame can easily switch lines in this bracket.  A Duke/Maryland second round game would be bizarre on a couple fronts, and not really a matchup Duke wants.  Monmouth is holding a 12 seed, but that really requires nobody in the MAAC to suck ass and drive down their strength of schedule.  They have already missed a couple non-conference scalps as well, probably eliminating their at-large potential. Harvard is the projected winner based on potential, but if Princeton refuses to lose, they would demand a much higher seed.  Lehigh recruits well and gets the kinds of players that can make life difficult for any top seed.

Kentucky should run the table in the SEC, but with a young roster (again), expect some growing pains.  The strength of the SEC does them no favors.  4 big non-conference games will decide their fate as the number 1 overall or just a number 1.  The Big Ten, missing the 1 line, should get at least 1 2 seed, and Indiana is the second team drawn from the conference.  Typically, the committee avoids putting both the SWAC and MEAC in the play in games, and Texas Southern should compile the numbers to justify the 15 seed.  Fort Wayne has already taken down the Hoosiers and should roll to a huge opportunity against UNC.  Though this game is likely to end up in Greenville, could you imagine the upset potential if they end up in Indy?  Both Arizona and Miami are fine teams from strong conferences, but do they scare anyone?

Iowa State will get the misadventure of drawing the play-in winner, who will almost surely be favored.  So I do admit that Baylor, Florida, and Syracuse are making me look pretty stupid early on, and the presence of Georgetown over any of those 3 teams, amongst 20 other deserving teams early this season, takes away much of the validity of this projection.  For now, let’s just say Georgetown wins the Big East tourney.  South Carolina is one of my early season favorites to sneak into the Sweet 16.  Unlike the East Region, the 8/9 game provides a legitimate threat to Kentucky to bust the bracket.  Texas has some ground to cover, but Butler will give them fits.

The Aztecs are talented enough and play the opponents to get a better seed, but they are not the 2 seed of yesteryear.  In addition to Fort Wayne, Wilmington and Arlington will provide must see matchups regardless where they matchup, 11 to 15.

The West always seems to grab the weakest sister of the 1 seeds.  This shouldn’t be an insult to UVA, because once again they are going to be lights out.  I am not sure how Tony Bennett squeezes the life out of every basketball game, and why it never works come March, but the results are on paper.  Bakersfield is game, but not putting up 50 against them.  Marquette can get after anyone when they go small, but is a long shot.  They should have the composure to survive a shootout with the Razorbacks..  Wisconsin can fall anywhere from 1 to 4, but they have the most talent and experience in the conference.  Oregon’s 2015 run may be written off as a fluke if they don’t repeat.  Still the most talented team in the conference, but there is some concern the tempo can only take them so far.  Bob Huggins has built a consistent winner in Morgantown and will draw an interesting regional rivalry game against Ohio.  The Bobcats have been strong for years.

The 12 seed play in game is one of the more exciting clashing of systems.  Both teams are methodical offensively, but use unique defensive solutions to limit points.  Michigan plays more high-level talent, but Northern Iowa has a pretty balanced roster 1-10 and can survive foul trouble and injuries.  Saint Mary’s could be crewed catching the winner of that game.   Cincinnati is the class of the AAC and will draw a decent, but overachieving Davidson team.  Seton Hall and Tech aren’t blowing anybody’s skirts up and have a lot to show to be considered contenders… as opposed to “just good enough.”

This should get a good look over the next holidays with an update around New Year’s.  Expect to see some movement on the lower end at large teams… little on the one-bids.

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