Monday, February 27, 2017

Monday Analysis

Gonzaga’s loss took the shine off their numbers, and they slid behind Villanova for the number 1 overall seed.  The bracket flips around to the East, UNC goes South, Kansas Midwest, and Gonzaga in the West.   Oregon has none of the requisite numbers to displace the Zags, and while Louisville has a great resume, they probably need to win the ACC tourney to make the 1 line.  The biggest surprise is Butler moving up courtesy of its sweep of Nova.  The few bad losses are far enough in the rearview mirror.  Kentucky gets the nod over Florida and Duke for now.  Duke could get hot at any time.  Baylor (Monday’s game in progress) has slipped from fringe 1 seed to 13th, between UCLA and FSU.

Other surprises:
Virginia is in good shape for a team having lost four in a row.  Oklahoma State’s numbers are still 22nd in these rankings, but are trending upwards.  Xavier is in total freefall.  I think I had them as a 3 seed at the beginning of the month.  Every year somebody has bad luck and collapses… they seem to be that team this year.

Using the methodology explained a few weeks ago, Locks are filtered out from the Basic Rating, refiltered using the Schedule Strength rating, and then the final slots are picked using the Normalized numbers to factor in "who might actually be trending toward winning an NCAA Tourney Game."

Safe Teams:

Teams Enjoying a Collapsing Bubble:
Make no mistake, there are very few years when teams outside the top 60 RPI are getting serious looks, but the fact people still haven’t given up on TCU, Texas Tech, KSU, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Alabama, Providence, Seton Hall, Georgia Tech, Syracuse, Clemson, Pitt, Utah… yeah, it’s messy.  Vanderbilt was DOA 3 weeks ago.  Now they are in without anybody running them out.

Here is the biggest issue.  Too many programs have afforded themselves the luxury of scheduling 13 home games in advance of their conference slate.  The numbers are fooled and then all they have to do is ride strength of their conference to the finish line.  This year there are plenty of decent mid-major teams; it’s just that few are in the same conferences together.  Typically the MWC, MVC, Horizon, C-USA, and CAA have 3 or 4 decent bubble teams propping up its softer teams.  This year, either the those teams in the 2-4 slots are weak, or the bottom of the conference has been so bad the top two teams get virtually no credit for 20 point wins.

So these guys are winning just enough to keep those mid-majors at bay, until we start seeing some March upsets:
Maryland, Michigan State, Marquette, Arkansas, Northwestern

I could throw Michigan in there as well, but their computer numbers are actually quite good.  Their RPI had been dragging them down till last week.  Even 2 bad losses will only push them down a line or two.  These 5 are joined by Illinois State and VCU as the two other non-power conference teams that are safe (St. Mary’s and Cincinnati are the other two, with WSU, Dayton, Zags, and SMU projected to grab auto bids).

Here are the teams I think are going to have to play their way in from here:
Virginia Tech, California, Xavier, USC

If I were USC, I would not consider losing any more games.  They still look good from an RPI perspective, but their wins are Charmin soft, and not frequent of late.  Xavier has been discussed, and Cal is one-dimensional and saw their ticket punch snapped away by Dillon Brooks last week.  VT is the safest of these guys and with two jobs in Blacksburg can jump ahead of Miami.

Syracuse, Rhode Island, Vanderbilt, Houston
The Orange are probably going to end up staying home… just a gut feeling for last season’s fortune.  They have the wins, but can’t win away from the Dome, and will likely draw a hungry VT or Miami team.  URI is still on life support after beating VCU at home… not all that impressive.  Houston still needs a signature win to hold off a run by one of the first 8 out.  Vanderbilt actually has a 6-4 record against the top 50.  They are like Syracuse, but with a much more difficult path, with both UK and UF this week.  A split may get them in, despite 15 losses.  Likely they will be heading home as well.

* Note: to meet seeding criteria, Vandy was given the last bye and USC was rotated to the play-in game.

Yeah, a solid argument can be made over any of the last 4 teams, plus USC.  Who would have guessed the Ed Cooley could reload that quickly, but they have two soft games to get to a likely 4th place finish.  They are likely going to work their way into an 11 seed.  Today, just not enough there.

Seton Hall, Wake Forest, Kansas State
People keep talking up the Pirates, and I like them, but the numbers don’t lie.  At best, they can work into the play-in game.  More than likely, they need a shot at Providence in the BE Tourney to eliminate the competition.  Xavier is vulnerable too.  Wake still has not gotten a signature win, and Louisville could be that one scalp they need to get them committee’s buy in.  14 losses is a lot, but 15 is certain death.  KSU is 2-8 down the stretch, and games against TCU and TTU are not going to save their profile, as both of them are well outside the Top 50 RPI.

Indiana, Georgia, BYU, Illinois
I’ll admit, I wasn’t even tracking Illinois and Vandy until yesterday… they were not even on the bubble… after 3 straight road wins, they are officially the 76th team.  If any of the following mid majors lose in the conference tourneys, they jump into the line ahead of them:
Princeton, Nevada, Vermont, Arlington, Monmouth, East Tennessee State

If MTSU loses in the C-USA tourney, they will likely still be a 10 seed.  If UNCW loses in the CAA semifinals or finals, they will be a 12 seed or play-in candidate.  Nevada has the best opportunity to play their way to a third at-large caliber bubble team based on SoS, but none of those games will amount to a top 50 win.  Monmouth, Vermont, and Princeton will have their RPI obliterated with a loss… very unlikely, despite favorable computer numbers, any of them get serious consideration.

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