Sunday, March 8, 2020

Bracket Update 3/8


I love it when the teams start clinching their berths. USU's win yesterday was a thriller.

Lots of fast changes in the bracket this time of year. Providence has raced to an 8. I feel good about Creighton as a 2, but obviously they have to win the BET to keep it. Wisconsin is rising fast. Marquette is sinking like a stone, as is Texas Tech. And Texas is in for now too.

I think it's tough to tell what the Committee will do with ETSU. They probably better win their tourney to be sure, but I think they're a worthy at-large.

Speaking of at-larges, the power conferences seem to be claiming all but five in this bracket. Cincy, SDSU, Richmond, BYU and St. Mary's, so the A-10, WCC, Mt. West and American are the only other multi-bid conferences. I think Richmond's spot is very tenuous, as is Cincy's. Wichita State could make a run, as could NC State.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Update 2/29


Update... SDSU hasn't gone final yet. I think they'll pull it out though. If they lose, I like Dayton to move up.

Went with Creighton to move up with Duke's loss... actually did that earlier this week. I think Kentucky and Nova swap places after UK beat Auburn and Nova lost to the Friars.

Virginia's moving up in the world. Thinking Penn State and Michigan State swap spots too; Sparty's on the way to a big road win at Maryland (who I don't think drops off the 2 line... if Creighton is already on the 2, maaaayybe Seton Hall joins them after a Terps loss... but I don't think so).


Thursday, February 27, 2020

Bracket Update 2/27


Updated bracket through games on Feb. 26. Bumped Maryland to a 2, Dayton's the top 2 seed for now, pushed Duke to a 3 (though I'm wondering if their metrics will keep them higher). I'm liking Creighton's chances to move up to a 2, though Villanova's SOS is better. Seton Hall is the third of the three big Big East teams.

Hopefully a new one is coming on Saturday night or Sunday.


Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Live and Learn

My Monday column was due on Sunday at 6pm, so I had to turn it in before the end of the Maryland-Ohio State game. I had more or less told myself that:

1. Maryland would win that game, even when down in the closing minutes.
2. If Maryland won, I'd move them to the last 1-seed over SDSU, since they'd be the best team in the best conference.

Well, I was wrong about the outcome, and I turned in my bracket (the one I posted here Sunday night) about 15 minutes before Ohio State finished them off. This means that Maryland was not going to be a 1 (at least not yet). So there it is.

I was eager to see what the bracketology "community" would say about who'd be the fourth 1-seed and once again, I was wrong. I thought a bad home loss would knock SDSU off the top line, and that the next in line would be Maryland (with a win) or Dayton (if the Terps lost). Apparently not, since Duke remained the 5th team on the Matrix and the Aztecs stayed the fourth 1-seed.

I'm not complaining, mind you. I know it's not the same as seeing Hofstra or Valparaiso in the top lines, since the A-10 and Mountain West are those "tweener" conferences (not "power" conferences but a cut well above even the best mids), but I love seeing the Aztecs and Flyers that high. (Gonzaga too, but I'm used to that.) I'm still concerned, though, that the bias in favor of the power conferences will continue down on the bubble. ETSU and Northern Iowa better not leave it up to the Committee. Neither should Liberty for that matter. The power conferences have such an advantage in SOS.

What I'm struggling with now is Duke's power numbers (SOR, BPI, etc.) vs their pretty ugly trio of losses to SFA, Clemson and now Wake. Yeah, they beat Kansas, but that was November. Wake and Clemson were this month. Are they a 3 now? Or are their metrics going to keep them a 2? Also, can Dayton rise any higher out of the A-10?

Getting back to Maryland for a minute, I made the mistake I made in last year's final bracket again. I elevated Michigan State over Gonzaga to the top line because they won the regular season and conference tourney out of a really strong conference. I was wrong. And I bet I'd have been wrong about Maryland too. What I have to remember is that the Committee isn't looking at conferences or conference tournaments. They're looking at who you played, who you beat, home/neutral/road, and where are you rated in the metrics. To them, Sparty wasn't a "conference champion" but rather a team that was rated so high in the metrics and beat these teams while losing to those teams. Same with Maryland.

Anyway, my next bracket will correct for all this. I still think Maryland's a solid 2, a loss to a good conference foe (and a likely 7-8 seed or so) on the road shouldn't knock them off that line. I think SDSU is another loss away from the 2-line. I think Dayton is now next in line. And it's going to be a crazy final few weeks.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Feb 24 update


So my thoughts on the chaos on the top line will be in tomorrow's Observer column but I wanted to expand on something here.

I went with Maryland to move to the top line. To me, Duke had both the best win but also the worst loss, and actually the TWO worst losses. And they were coming off an ugly loss. The metrics generally favor Duke but I can't see elevating them this week.

Maryland and Dayton were pretty even. Long win streaks, no bad losses (though Dayton's were both fewer and better), mostly even on the metrics. I went with Maryland for two reasons. One I mentioned in my Observer article (leading the Big 10, the best conference) but the other I want to explain here.

We had two mid-majors among the 1-seeds. One (Gonzaga) barely qualifies as a mid, and is every bit the elite hoops program that the other bluebloods can claim to be. The other, from the Mountain West, is on that bubble between major and mid-major conference. Dayton also comes from a bubble conference, as the A-10 is not a power six conference but it's a far cut above most of the other mids. If Maryland and Dayton were to win out, I can't see Maryland being denied a 1-seed over the winner of a mid-major without an undefeated record. The Committee surprised me a bit last year... I thought Michigan State had an argument to be a 1 over Gonzaga. And Dayton is very deserving of a 1 in that scenario. I just don't think they'd get it. They'd get the 2 in Maryland's region as a consolation prize.

Just note that they're dead-even in the metrics, but that Dayton has two fewer losses and a noticeably better SOS. I would put Dayton on the 1-line over Maryland today, but I don't think the Committee would, and that's the game - WWTCD (what would the Committee do)? We may have some tough calls to make on March 15!


Monday, February 17, 2020

Feb. 17 Bracket Update


So I updated this week's bracket and we took a longer look at the Bubble. The Observer article is available at https://www.observertoday.com/sports/local-sports/2020/02/a-closer-look-at-the-bubble-teams/.

The bubble is very much in the eye of the beholder, but my goal isn't to put out there who I think deserves to be in the tournament. It's to project who the Committee will put in. In my wish-bracket, teams like Georgetown and NC State would be replaced by the likes of East Tennessee State and Liberty. I am a big believer in giving mid-major programs more opportunities. So-so major conference schools have tons of chances to win big games, and the Committee, by telling schools how much SOS matters, is creating a situation where power conference schools have no incentive to play the mid-majors. NC State was left out last year because they had a non-conference schedule of cupcakes, but if teams stop playing the cupcakes, we'll see only the power conference teams in the tournament. I for one don't need a .500 Minnesota team in the tournament while ETSU heads to the NIT (no offense, Gophers fans... that's not a knock on Minnesota, but rather a knock on high loss major conference bubble teams in general).

In such games, the power conference team can only have a negative result. For instance, Syracuse beating Buffalo won't help Syracuse's cause much, but Buffalo beating Syracuse will seriously boos Buffalo's profile at the same time that it punishes Syracuse for a "bad loss." I don't have an answer to this situation, I just don't like it.

Anyway, I expect Cincinnati, Indiana and Virginia to hold on to their spots or move up, and I think Georgetown will fall below the cut line. Not sure about NC State and Arkansas at this point. The Wolfpack sure have improved their lot from last year, but they got away with one when Elijah Hughes missed their game at Syracuse. He likely would've been the difference maker in a close SU loss.


Friday, February 7, 2020

2020 Committee Reveal Predictions

On Saturday the Committee will reveal their top 16 teams. Here's my predictions:

HOUSTON               INDIANAPOLIS          LOS ANGELES           NEW YORK CITY
Baylor                       Kansas                           Gonzaga                        San Diego State
Dayton                      Duke                              West Virginia                Louisville
Maryland                  Villanova                       Florida State                 Seton Hall
Butler                        Oregon                          Creighton                      Auburn

I don't think there's much debate regarding the top two seed lines. You can quibble about the order if you like. I put Gonzaga ahead of SD State because their rankings were just a little better and they had a better "best win". That's a tough case, though, since whoever's first stays on the West Coast. It might almost be better for one of them to get a 2-seed instead, so they can stay out that way.

Louisville is my top 2-seed. I put them before Duke because of the head to head victory (I know the Committee doesn't take that into account, but it's a huge win for the Cardinals) and because of Duke's loss to SFA. Dayton comes in next but even if they keep winning they could be passed by West Virginia, as the Mountaineers have the tougher schedule and dates with Baylor (twice) and Kansas coming up.

Maryland is my top 3-seed, but after that it started to get tough. Florida State and Seton Hall are probably in good shape, but I had a hard time with Villanova. I think between their schedule and rankings they deserve the last 3 spot. They don't have any losses outside of the top 25 in NET, and they beat Kansas. I'll hang my hat on that for now.

The fours are also mostly solid. Auburn just has the two losses but lacks that huge win. They're 6th in SOR, though, so I suppose they could be even higher than this. Butler and Oregon fit as 4's too. The upset here might be Creighton, or more accurately, the absence of Michigan State. Where's Sparty? They're top 9 in BPI, POM and SAG. But they have an SOS of 57, they're well below the other 4's (including Creighton) in SOR, and they have 7 losses. I don't think they'll be rewarded with a 4-seed at this time.

I picked Creighton over Iowa and Penn State (LSU eliminated itself by losing to Vanderbilt... I think). Penn State's numbers are good across the board... except SOS. Iowa also trails Creighton by a long ways in SOS. And Creighton has zero losses outside of Quad 1 while Iowa and PSU have two each. Some might call it a reach but I'm sticking by it. Lunardi has the Bluejays as a 6, and they're coming off their worst loss of the season to Providence (worst by NET, that is), but the Bracket Matrix had them as the top 5-seed before the loss to the Friars, so let's see what happens.