Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Doomsday Bracket

Okay, so nearly two dozen schools have been named in this latest NCAA scandal, and it sounds like a doozy. We're not talking about mid-majors or mediocre teams in the power conferences. We're talking about several blueblood teams. I'm not going to get into the particulars, and I have no idea what the NCAA or FBI will do to those involved or how long it will take to get to that point. Instead, we'll play an imaginary game:

What if all the schools named suddenly were declared ineligible for the NCAA tournament this year?

So tonight I set up a bracket that doesn't have 1-seeds Xavier and Kansas and Virginia or 2-seeds UNC, Duke and Michigan State (think about that for a second!). I had to clear out 16 teams I had in my last bracket and another several bubble (and fringe bubble) teams. We're looking at a bracket headed by Villanova, Purdue, Cincinnati and Auburn, with Tennessee, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Ohio State (or Gonzaga, depending on your taste) on the 2-line. Rhode Island's a 3, Nevada's a 4. Middle Tennessee vaults up to a 7, and Bonaventure, Baylor, Syracuse and UCLA are now cozy 8-seeds.

Then we have to look at what the cat dragged in: a mish-mash of bubble teams that have even more warts than the last four I mentioned. Nebraska has 12 Big 10 wins and is on the outside in the real world. Temple has a couple of great wins but is barely in the conversation. Oklahoma State and Georgia??? And yes, that's a Davidson sighting as a play-in - in this scenario, all the 12's are play-ins and the former 12/13 seeds have moved up to solid 11's: Loyola, NM State and Buffalo. I had a terrible time, I might add, sorting through the resumes of these lower-tier at-larges vs the higher-end one-bid schools, and I'd appreciate constructive criticism. I generally used the RPI/SOR/KPI average and my gut.

The rest of the one-bid conferences weren't affected... except in that they get somewhat more vulnerable foes in the first round! Instead of Duke, UCSB could get Tennessee. Instead of Kansas, Wagner might get Auburn. And the high-end one-bidders now get sweet 6-seed matchups or watered-down 4's. It could be a mirage.. but there could also be huge upsets. Lots of 'em.

So this was my take on a what-if scenario. I'm not sayin' it will happen (in fact, I'm pretty sure it won't). But I had fun thinking about it. Not sure how this compared to my Old Big East pipe dream...

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Feb 26 Bracket

Here's the new bracket, through Sunday's games. Now we start the conference tourneys (including the Big 10's, a week early this year!

Just a procedural note: I give autobids in the single bid conferences to the first place team, not the highest BPI or RPI or SOR. For instance, since Rider got the top seed in the MAAC, they get the autobid over Canisius until they're eliminated.

I'm wondering what people think about teams like Nevada and Houston will be slotted. So far I've more or less gone along with the slot I think they deserve, but I feel like the Committee rarely thinks as highly of the teams outside the top 7-8 conferences, so I'm not sure Nevada will actually get a six. I may also be too bullish on Bonaventure... I'm not sure how they'll hold up against a middling ACC or Big 12 team on that bubble. Which is a shame.

I'll be curious to see what people think of Michigan State too. They've hovered around a 3 seed for awhile but I moved them up. Even in a down year, a 3-loss Big 10 champ has to be at least a 2, and might shove the Big East runner up off the top line if they win the B10 tourney. I like their chances better than Purdue's to steal a 1-seed. But the ACC is so rigorous that I could see the winner of a  Duke/UNC semifinal taking that final 1 if either also beats Virginia in the ACC tournament final.

I can't help but wonder if the FBI investigation will affect any school's eligibility this year. Probably not, it's too close to tourney time unless a school decides to withdraw itself... which might help with the NCAA but probably wouldn't matter to the Feds.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Feb 23 Bracket

As a Cuse fan I'm watching to see what other upstate NY teams might get in. Canisius is co-leader of the MAAC, and I'd project them as a 16 (or a low 15 with upsets) if they win the MAAC tourney. Rider's profile is considerably better. Same for Niagara, who lost to Canisius on Wednesday. I think either is capable of beating Rider, but being capable and going out and doing it are two different things.

Bonaventure is in for now, and I moved them out of the play-in for the moment. Bona's problem is that the other teams around them on the bubble have many more chances to pull off a big win and move up the ladder than they do, since the A-10 is in sort of a down year for them. They are probably a 11/play-in team.

I suppose Buffalo could get in as well. While for now I have them as a 13, I think that if the committee still values RPI at all they'll get a bump up to 12. They're not MTSU by any means, and by ESPN's strength of record alone they could be as low as a 14, but I don't think the committee will completely abandon RPI and so I think UB will push Vermont off the 12 line in the end (if they make it). Not sure that Toledo would do that though.

The other schools in the state aren't likely to make much noise.

As to Syracuse, I think that they need to beat BC and Clemson (or Duke, I guess) and then make the ACC quarters to feel safe. And by "safe" I mean probably no higher than a 10.

The Old Big East

As a Syracuse Orange fan, I grew up on Big East basketball in the 80s. Those were some great teams, coaches, players and rivalries. Thompson, Massimino, Carnesecca, Boeheim, and a young Pitino, soon joined by Calhoun and Carlessimo... look at that coaching power.

In 1985 the league got three teams into the Final Four, with top seeds Georgetown and St. John's joined by 8-seed Villanova. Two years later both Syracuse and Providence made it. League members Georgetown ('84) and Villanova ('85) won titles, and Syracuse ('87), Seton Hall ('89), and Georgetown ('82, '85) lost in the title games. Two titles and four runners-up in eight years. Seven more teams made the Elite Eight in that span. This was one heck of a league.

The league expanded in the 90s to accommodate football, and then in the 2000s the league lost and added members until finally splitting in two after the departure of original members Syracuse and Pitt along with (relatively) new member Louisville to the ACC. These schools followed BC and longtime but not original member Virginia Tech. I'm not complaining about these moves, though they were painful at the time. I'm a Syracuse fan, born and raised. I did not want the Orange to leave the league that Boeheim helped to build. When Louisville and others joined the Big East, they were joining Syracuse's (and UConn's, and Villanova's, and Georgetown's) league. Now, half a decade since joining, Syracuse is still in Duke's and Carolina's league.

I'm glad the basketball-only schools retained the Big East name, and I'm glad that Villanova, St. John's, Georgetown, Providence and Seton Hall stuck together. The three teams that gradually drifted to the ACC are in a superpower conference with great teams. The five original teams that stuck together preserved their intense rivalries and added some strong basketball-centric programs (at the cost of some geographic tightness). I think the team that kind of got the shaft in all this shuffling was UConn. The American is a more than solid conference, with basketball-tradition-rich schools like Cincinnati, Memphis, Temple and now Wichita State in the fold. But that was a football decision, through and through. Connecticut should be playing with nearby BC, Providence, St. Johns and Seton Hall, not with (no offense) SMU, Houston and Tulsa. The Huskies were a basketball dynasty with Jim Calhoun, but it's got to be a little tougher to get excited to see the far-flung American schools coming to visit - and it's got to be much tougher to go to a road game in Tulsa than to Providence or Boston!

Anyway, I really miss the original Big East Conference and the must-see Big East Tournaments every March. So I decided to try and figure out how those 9 teams might be doing if they had stuck together as a 9-team conference. Of course, a conference that size is tiny nowadays... even the Big 12 has 10 members (and the Big 10 has 14, and the A-10 has 14... these numbers don't match!). But that's still a 16-game home-and-home conference season.

Here's my "methodology":
1. Actual games played against one another count.
2. To determine a winner for the other games, I used BPI. If the BPI was relatively close, the teams would split. If there was a big disparity, I gave the higher rated team the sweep.
3. I projected the games in that way through the end of the regular season.
4. If the teams played each other in the non-con part of the season (for instance, Syracuse played UConn), I counted the result but also let it stand as a non-con win for SU and a non-con loss for UConn, assuming that they'd play an opponent of similar quality leading to a similar result.

(Note: I know there are better ways to do this. I just don't have time.)

So the Big East Tournament would shape up like this:
8 Connecticut, 9-21 (3-13)
9 Pittsburgh, 8-21 (1-15)

1 Villanova, 27-2 (14-2)
8/9 winner

2 Seton Hall, 23-6 (12-4)
7 Georgetown, 17-10 (7-9)

3 Syracuse, 22-7 (11-5)
6 Boston College, 17-12 (7-9)

4 Providence, 20-9 (11-5)
5 St. John's, 19-10 (8-8)

I'd say this Big East league would have four almost certain locks for the tournament, with St. John's having the Duke and Nova wins to boost their case as a likely fifth team. However, I'd say that nobody outside of Villanova would be a serious title threat or even a protected top 4 seed. The reinsertion of a pretty bad Pitt team and a down UConn team padded the W/L records for the top teams (at least it did in my lazy way of doing wins and losses) as it gave most teams above them four free wins (I had UConn and Pitt split, which is probably generous to Pitt, and I had UConn split with both Georgetown and BC, which might be generous to the Huskies).

I'm guessing that seeing St. John's with 19 wins looks really weird, but they did have a good non-con season, and their BPI is middle of the pack within this group (it's third from the bottom in today's Big East). They also trade Xavier, Creighton, Marquette and Butler for BC and Syracuse and Pitt and UConn, a much more manageable slate.

Comments welcome!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Feb 18 Bracket

This is my first post since the committee released their top 16 last week, and it was tough. I was having a lot of trouble with the ACC, SEC and Big 12 schools getting in each others' way. I'm not thrilled that the lower half of the Boston bracket has three ACC schools, with a possible Clemson-NC State matchup in the second round. Fortunately, this is just a weekly projection and not the Bracket Matrix's "final exam!" I'm also wondering if the protected seeds in the regions are "balanced" enough. I don't think the balance is too bad, but I also know it's not quite as balanced as the committee's was. That's what happens when you have 15 on the committee and not just one.

I'll try to correct these things next week.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Feb 10 Projections

Hi all,
I really wanted to do one in advance of tomorrow's unveiling of the Committee's top 16 seeds, and see how I did against it. And if I'm gonna put together the top 4 lines, I may as well finish it out! Note: this was before the end of the Texas Tech/K-State game and before the Gonzaga-St. Mary's game (wrapping up at about 10pm EST).

Before I do my next projection, I'm going to replace my top 16 with theirs and adjust from there accordingly. I don't think that's cheating... my goal is to come as close to the Committee's finished product as I can, and by time we get to the finished product this will be a month old and back to "mine" again.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Feb. 6 Bracket

Seems like the top 3 are 'Nova, UVA and the Boilermakers, with Xavier next up on the top line.
Looking forward to this weekend's selection show. I plan to post my Sweet 16 on Saturday night to see how I do against the Committee. They have the best job in the world, don't they?