Monday, January 30, 2017

One-Bid Leaders

Vermont, Mount Saint Mary's, Akron, and East Tennessee State are taking control of their respective conferences.  My bracket does not reflect that, as it has stuck with the "start of league play" projected winner.  It's not that I do not intend to update as the season progresses.  The reason is two-fold.  First, it doesn't benefit the reader to flip flop every week.  Once the trend is established, then the projected winner will be corrected.  Secondly, it was a good exercise to see how some of those teams match up in the at-large pool, and how it could shift the landscape.

Likely next week, you will no longer see Robert Morris in a bracket... but maybe some College of Charleston if they pull an upset.


I am evolving the formula (very non-RPI centric) everyday, but I think this is the best cut.  It balances Top 50 wins with recent performance to avoid the following scenarios.

- A team builds good computer numbers being a punching bag (apologies to Wake Forest)
- A team gets credit for "righting the ship" (hello Oklahoma State)
- Mid-majors don't get shutout for lack of opportunities as long as they stay hot

The bracket welcomes back Miami (2 home wins, finally got the Top 50 monkey), VCU, and Oklahoma State.  Memphis gets the nod over Houston from the AAC this week, but that is tenuous at best.  Florida State's rough week normalizes their numbers back to where their perceived talent level resides.

Seton Hall, TCU, and Houston have work to do to get back into the field.  Boise State was fun while it lasted, but they could run the table and may not get back in.  Still holding in that "60s" range.

The teams enjoying a soft bubble right now include USC (they will probably ride this right into March), Michigan (ditto), Texas Tech, Rhode Island, and Minnesota (rough couple weeks, eh).

The Last Four In typically fall to the play in games, and right now that Michigan State/Oklahoma State looks freaking awesome.  Clemson, after punting the first half of their ACC schedule, will get Memphis on the 12 line.

First Four Out: Arkansas and Utah have been living here for a month now, but neither seems to be able to score a decent win.  Because I have them projected as runner-ups in their respective 1-bid conferences, East Tennessee State and Vermont profile as the next 2 best teams warranting consideration.

Next Four Out: Syracuse, Georgia Tech, TCU, Houston.  Georgia Tech's 5 Top 50 wins may be enough to push them into the field once the ACC league play boosts their computer numbers.  8 ACC wins should be enough for both them and Syracuse, which really puts the pressure on Clemson.  TCU just looks like the odd man out in a stacked Big 12... they just aren't getting the same love from the computers that K-State, OK State, and TTU are.

Apologies to: Akron (will probably replace Ohio for the autobid if they continue destroying the MAC.  BYU, who is really regretting that Utah Valley loss.  Alabama, who still sucks, but has come out of nowhere.  Georgetown and Seton Hall, who are literally a week like Marquette had from getting back in.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

24 January Bracket Update!

January 24th Bracket is live!

The biggest change is that I tweaked my formula to give a little bit more weight to quality wins, and penalized teams for being the conference punching bag.  Basically, your conference cannot be the self-licking ice cream cone, with certain teams riding their way to good computer rankings by going 0-10 against the top 50.

Apologies to Pittsburgh and Texas A&M.  I didn’t even have the Aggies in my matrix of Top 100 candidates.  That has been remedied, and while they didn’t make a list, they are lurking much closer to the fringe than I anticipated.  Pittsburgh was originally in my 12 seed play in game, but would have an ACC conflict with UVA in the weekend round.  They were bumped for Boise State, whose numbers are not poor, but they are hardly better than:

Right now, Pittsburgh and VCU are getting the raw deal.  VCU needs to keep winning, period.  There are no good losses in the A-10 right now.  As Houston fades, Memphis is probably feeling that spot is theirs to claim.  Oklahoma State and their #1 SoS needs to get back to .500 in conference to feel safe.

My ratings tweak mostly shuffle the deck chairs with no major impacts, other than poor Miami.  They plummet in the rating into the 60s, basically because they beat up on trash and lost to anyone meaningful they played.  Two Top 50 wins would get them back in, but there are desperate teams out there that are not going to give that up in the ACC.  Utah has decent numbers, but really are the epitome of a top-heavy PAC-12.  Ditto for Arkansas, who has the tools and opportunities to move up into the bracket.  Brigham Young is the longest of long shots, as they do not have nearly enough opportunities, and have been prone to choking those away.  One Gonzaga win changes everything.

Michigan, Houston, Seton Hall, Boise State.  Houston and Seton Hall were hurt a lot by the ratings tweaks, sliding down a few lines.  Neither is particularly threatening, and I could see the committee dumping them both for more attractive names.  I mean, I watch the Big East and feel Providence can get hotter than the Pirates.  Boise State may want to go claim the autobid, as their hold on this spot will only get weaker.  San Diego State in the MWC has a much stronger profile to grab that spot.  The Wolverines seem to enjoy this zone.  They can’t get hot enough to win 3-4 in a row, but they are too consistent to bottom out.

Michigan State, TCU, Clemson, Rhode Island
When I ran my numbers last week, it wanted Clemson as a 5 seed.  Now it has settled them into the 10-11 range, contingent they climb out of the ACC cellar.  TCU did just enough early to ride this out, but I can easily see them getting bullied into the NIT.  Rhode Island is in trouble like anyone else in to A-10 who cannot essentially win out.  8 losses there is probably doom.  Michigan State was originally on the 10 line, but lost out on the seeding shuffle to TCU (11 to 9) and UNC Wilmington (9 to 10).

No matter how you slice it, Kansas and Villanova are not going anywhere until they get to 5 losses.  Everything is deep there.  The big winners are Baylor and Florida State.  FSU slides in ahead of UNC, because they have passed every test.  Baylor has been helped by West Virginia’s recent struggles, as well as the PAC-12 and SEC blowing donkeys.  None of these teams are particularly vulnerable until they lose a couple more games.  Kentucky and UNC are closest to the 1 line, though an undefeated or 1-loss Gonzaga team will be hard to ignore.  Wisconsin isn’t really close to a 1 seed, but can easily build the profile in the Big Ten.

Kansas State finds themselves on the 10 line, across from a much improved Virginia Tech team.  Northwestern storms the table and has the computer numbers to hold their spot, minus any more players getting relegated to janitor.  Maryland is quietly stalking Purdue.  Butler gets a huge boost from their beast non-conference slate and jumps Creighton and Xavier in the Big East pecking order.  Duke is in free-fall right now, having dropped 1 to 3 to 5 just like that, and this projection doesn’t even include last night’s collapse.

(5) Oregon playing the BSU/SHU winner.  Oregon should be able to run them out of the gym, but could also be vulnerable playing a team already warmed up.
(7) Xavier vs. (10) Wichita State sounds like it should be a Sweet 16 game, not a first rounder.
(4) Purdue vs. (13) Valpo in the battle for Indiana.
(6) SMU vs. (11) MSU, where it seems these seedings should be switched, right?
(4) UCLA vs. (13) Ohio… UCLA better hope this is not Akron, or one of the other 13/14 seeds that can score…. Or God forbid Princeton sneaks in again.


I plan to get a coefficient to weight last 10 games.  Not sure who this helps the most, but my thoughts are mid majors that go on a run and get upended in their conference tourney may benefit most.  BCS Bubble Teams are usually there because they can’t get over the 5-5/6-4 hump to show a run.

Monday, January 23, 2017

23 January Poll

Moving Out: Xavier, Florida, Wichita State

  1. Villanova
  2. Kentucky
  3. Gonzaga
  4. Kansas
  5. Florida State
  6. Oregon
  7. Baylor
  8. Arizona
  9. North Carolina
  10. UCLA
  11. Creighton
  12. Wisconsin
  13. Purdue
  14. Saint Mary's
  15. Louisville
  16. West Virginia
  17. Virginia
  18. Cincinnati
  19. Notre Dame
  20. Butler
  21. South Carolina
  22. UNC-Wilmington
  23. Duke
  24. Maryland
  25. Illinois State

Moving in: Butler, Maryland, Illinois State

How are they out?: Southern Methodist, Xavier, Middle Tennessee State, Southern California

The Curious Case of Kansas State

I have not seen enough to feel comfortable stating Kansas State was one of the 8 best teams in the Big 12.  That was my line at the last poll, and nothing had changed going into the Bracket published last week.  Since then, they dropped a very difficult West Virginia team to get that elusive Top 50 win.

All the numbers point to a single digit seed, but the results to me still do not add up.  Don’t get me wrong, this has been a great coaching job by Bruce Weber to even be having this discussion.  The discouraging part was the 346th ranked non-conference schedule.  Sure, it is not necessarily the Wildcats’ fault several of their opponents cratered (BC, WAZZU, UW-GB), but it puts them at the bottom of the pecking order in their own conference, when comparing resumes with IAST, OKST, TTU, OU, and TCU.  Their only chance at a Top 100 win was MD, and they just missed.  They needed the WVU game to prove they were not a bottom half team getting fat on a stacked league.

Right now, I see a lot to like about the Wildcats.  They shoot lights out, they protect the ball, and they laid haymaker after haymaker on the Jayhawks at the Phog before succumbing to a great team on the road.  They have experience and really make the opponent work for a look.  They do not give away cheap points.

What I don’t like is that they are a six-man rotation.  This gives them no margin of error with injuries or foul trouble on the road.  It makes it difficult to keep your best guys fresh to win a close game in the final minute (which has lead to a couple damning win probability graphs).  Their foul shooting fails to meet expectations.  The upcoming Tennessee game only marginally helps them in that it is on the road; the Vols are only sliding downward the rest of the year.

Alas, they are a better team than VCU, and if I had to do the bracket again right now, that would be an easy correction.  They probably have a higher ceiling than TCU as well, and will likely sneak into the Thursday field.  But then again, if they up and vanish completely, I won't be shocked.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Inauguration Day BRACKET UPDATE

In honor of... eh fuck it.  In honor of loyal basketball fans.

Numbers are only through Monday’s games, so yes, things are constantly changing.  For instance, I was shocked that VCU was in, and they promptly went and lost to Fordham, which is arguably the worst loss of anyone in the field.  That is brutal. 

These also don’t take into account standings TODAY.  Being 1-5 in conference doesn’t matter here, because 6 games don’t out weigh 12…. That balance will shift. As the season progresses.

Apologies: Kansas State, Wake Forest.  I just don’t think that the numbers matchup with the performance on the court and the projections going forward.

Second Four Out: Oklahoma State, East Tennessee State, Georgia, Boise State

First Four Out: Pittsburgh, Utah, California, Arkansas

Last Four In: Virginia Commonwealth, Marquette, Illinois State, Northwestern*

Enjoying a soft bubble:  Houston, Rhode Island, Virginia Tech, USC**

*Middle Tennessee State and **UNC Wilmington are the only projected one-bid league leaders that pan as at-large candidates.  Nevada would line up as first four out.

 I nearly blew a gasket seeding this when I realized that my spreadsheet had dropped a slot.  Then I had 2 Daytons... Then 2 Houstons.  I almost started from scratch.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Update: Big 12

Big 12
Summary: The Big 12 exceeded expectations in every way: depth, quality, and ceiling.  There are 3 legitimate title contenders in Kansas, West Virginia, and Baylor.  Following non-conference play, everyone except Texas was on the bubble or securely in the dance.  Texas Tech and Kansas State played soft schedules, but everyone else took on a brutal slate.  Every pre-season rag I picked up had TCU finishing 10th, but I knew better.  I did not think they’d start that hot, though.  Brad Underwood has made some strides in Stillwater, but this may not be their year.

What I got wrong: Baylor doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.  I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, but their numbers are through the roof.  I expected Kansas to win the Big 12, but with a much less stellar supporting cast to garner the worst 2 seed.  Right now, they would have at worst the top 2 seed, possibly a 1 when all is said and done.  I was really wrong on how much retooling Shaka Smart has at Texas.  They average less than a year of experience across the board (344th out of 351), but he is making sure to get minutes out of everyone. 

Prognosis: I’m not willing to call a big miss on Kansas State or Oklahoma yet.  OU should rebound onto the bubble with the return of Jordan Woodard. K-State has no scalps to claim and is a major candidate for regression.  Texas Tech is not far ahead, but they have the wins over WVU and KSU.  Because nobody has yet cracked the nut on the Press Virginia, it is quite possible it goes unsolved all year.  The more I watch it, the more it becomes disciplined chaos as opposed to blind luck and officials swallowing whistles.  Nobody is talking about Iowa State… partly because they choked away signature wins against Gonzaga and Cincinnati, but also because they lack a national headliner or front man.  Steve Prohm and his 250 lbs guard Deonte Burton are the next best team here and are 6-7 seed material.

West Virginia
West Virginia
Iowa State
Iowa State
Texas Christian
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech
Texas Tech
Texas Christian
Oklahoma State
Kansas State
Kansas State