Saturday, January 26, 2019

January 27 bracket

Made a few changes this week. Michigan State bumps Michigan down to a two. Almost seems unfair, but it's not like the Wolverines won't have their chances to reclaim a top seed. Kentucky is climbing fast. My feelings on Buffalo are well known, and their loss earlier in the week drops them to a 7 on my bracket. UB is still clearly in at-large territory, and any other team winning the MAC will steal a bid from a bubble team. I left UB as the MAC auto-bid team for now.

I have Syracuse as a 10. On my s-curve, they were actually a middling 9, but I had trouble finding a spot on the 9-line for them, what with two ACC teams on the 1-line and Florida State and NC State an 8 and a 9 respectively. So I bumped them down to a 10 for now. (As I write this, the Orange are getting whacked at Virginia Tech, so I might be glad to have held them to a 10 for another week).

I may have Ohio State a little low too. I was running into a similar problem as Syracuse's, with other Big 10 teams in the 2, 7 and 10 seeds. I think with some of these bubble teams it's pick your poison, and I went with teams that fit the slot conference-wise.

I continue to have Atlantic 10 problems too. Is VCU a bubble/at-large team? Can St. Louis or Dayton become one? And where do we put George Mason or (my choice) Davidson in the pecking order? I'm going with Davidson for now as the auto-bid, as they beat GMU. A team or two had better start to create some separation soon though.

New article coming out on on Monday.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

January 20 Update

I'm happy to say that these bracket projections are now appearing here, on the Bracket Matrix, and now on Mondays in the Dunkirk Observer along with my weekly column there. I'm grateful for the opportunity to do the column (and grateful to the Bracket Matrix for all their work as well!). When I took Joe Lunardi's bracketology certificate course five years ago, it was mostly to satisfy my own curiosity and understand Syracuse's bracket position better. But I enjoyed the process so much that I couldn't resist trying to build my own brackets. And I didn't do that consistently until I found The Bracket Matrix, which gave me a venue to share my projections and compare myself to others doing the same thing. This is the third year I've sent brackets to the Matrix, and while last year I tried to do a brief article here with each bracket update, this is the first time I've really tried to "put it out there." I'm still learning, and I welcome comments. I just want to point out that I do the bracket on Saturday evening for publication on Monday, and that means that some Saturday games and all Sunday games are not considered for that week's bracket. Sorry for the lag, but these take time to build, and I work two jobs.

This week we had some activity on the 1-seed line, but while I shifted the order I didn't bounce anyone down to a 2-seed. This is partly because none of the losses were really earth-shattering and partly because I still couldn't justify putting any of the 2's ahead of the current 1's. Michigan's, Virginia's and Duke's losses were all to teams currently in the field. I might've dropped Duke had they got beaten badly by Virginia, but their win over Virginia shows they belong on the top line (and the narrow loss at Cameron Indoor is no reason to drop the Cavaliers down either). Michigan's loss at Wisconsin isn't terrible either. Michigan State would be a worthy 1-seed, but I'm not ready yet to restore Gonzaga there. Kansas is unlikely to reclaim a 1-seed, and UNC is my last 2-seed right now (taking Texas Tech's spot after TTU's loss to Baylor).

The Atlantic 10 is making a comeback of sorts, with St. Louis and VCU both barely in the field. They're sort of interchangeable in the standings but I considered St. Louis to be the auto-bid team and VCU to be the at-large. Dayton's on the radar too, but VCU's victory over the Flyers puts the Rams in for now. We'll have to see if a team in that conference can separate themselves enough to lift their champion out of the 12/11 seed range.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

Yeah, I know, this is a bracketology blog. But baseball was my first love, and two of my favorite players have a good chance to get inducted, so I wanted to do a quick "if my votes counted" Hall of Fame ballot. Like the real things, I can only take 10 players. Here's who I'd take (not who I think will get in) and why:

1. Mariano Rivera. He's the best reliever ever, regular AND post season. You can believe that the modern closer doesn't pitch enough innings, and that they're not worth the money they're paid, and that they'd be better used in higher-leverage situations if they're really that good. And you might be right. This guy's still a slam dunk and it'd be a shock if he didn't get in.

2. Roger Clemens. We'll get this out of the way. I don't love Clemens as a person. I know there's accusations and evidence of PED use. I also know that, like #3 below, he was probably a Hall of Famer before he allegedly started using them. And if you think PEDs gave him an edge, then quantify it for me. How many wins, points of ERA, and K's are we going to shave off to normalize him? I bet what's left is a Hall of Famer too.

3. Barry Bonds. See Clemens above, and substitute batting stats for pitching and "Bonds" for "Clemens" and my argument is the same. These two guys aren't "just makes the threshold" hall guys. They're among the all time greats, well beyond the minimal HoF expectations. Time to move on from the steroid mess and recognize greatness (of the player, if not the person).

4. Roy Halladay. I think he'd have gotten in eventually even without his untimely, tragic death, but I'd be ready to vote him in right away. He had a great peak, even if his counting stats don't look quite as impressive. And he was pitching during the offensive explosion, too.

5. Mike Mussina. Moose and Halladay have what I think of as the modern era's new Hall of Fame-worthy stats. Innings pitched and total number of starts are way down, as are win totals, compared to earlier days. No one's going to win 20 games five years in a row like Catfish did in the 70s. Guys who get 200 IP, an ERA in the low 3's, and 17-18 wins a year are going to be the hall-worthy starters eventually, because they'll still be a cut well above the rest of the league. Is Moose a Maddux-Pedro-Randy level starter? Probably not. But there's a long drop from those guys to the Hall cut line, and I think Mussina crosses that line to get in.

6. Edgar Martinez. A great hitter, pure and simple. I think what's holding him up is A. he's a great hitter in an era of great hitting, and B. he spent too much time DHing and too little time in the field. Well, plenty of guys in the Hall were worthless on D (or amazing on D and worthless at the plate), so I'm not willing to exclude a guy at Edgar's level just because his team DHed him all the time. I think he deserves to get in.

7. Todd Helton. I'm not sure Helton gets in. He and Larry Walker had their stats somewhat inflated by playing in Coors Field. This vote is simply about me thinking I'd like to see his case debated further.

8. Andy Pettitte. Now, my heart (which bleeds pinstripes... I know, I've said I bleed Orange, so maybe it's orange pinstripes) would like to see Andy get in. Mostly his case is on his playoff legacy, which is largely due to him playing on one of the great dynasties, and on his win totals, which fans of advanced stats will tell you aren't a good measure of a starting pitcher (and I agree). There's also the matter of his admission that he used PEDs (once, while rehabbing) and his close friendship with Clemens, so haters have a confession and guilt by association. I don't expect him to get elected (unless there really is an east coast bias), but again like with Helton, I think the debate should take place.

9.  Omar Vizquel. If there's a place for Ozzie Smith, (and there is, and there should be), then there's a place for Omar Vizquel.

10. Curt Schilling. Based on his numbers, his career regular season and postseason performances, I have to give him my last vote. Based on his bloody sock and the fact that he stuck it to my team not once but twice, he'll get that vote grudgingly. But I think he's a borderline case, less so than Pettitte (who I think might head the Hall of Very Good) and about as much so as Mussina.

I think 10 is too few. I could've voted for Larry Walker, maybe the Crime Dog, maybe Sammy Sosa too. The Hall has squeezed voters by only giving players 10 years on the ballot and only giving voters 10 slots. The Hall should not be only for guys like Maddux and the like. Yeah, a line has to be drawn somewhere, but it should be behind the Mussinas, Edgars and Omars, not in front of them. And guys are getting kicked off the ballot way too early, which is why it's hard to criticize voters for not having a 100% ballot for anyone. Someone really wants to keep Manny Ramirez on the ballot so he gives Manny a vote instead of Mariano. Whatever... that's the fault of the rules the Hall set up.

Hoping to see Moose and Mo both in, rooting for Roy too, and even Edgar. Really hoping the PED issue dies down as we get farther from the worst of it, too.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Jan 13 Update

This is the third bracket of the season and the first I'm feeling some confidence in, though again, there continues to be lots of movement. Had a terrible time with the play-ins. You have to watch the conference affiliations AND be sure one play-in leads into a Thursday site and the other leads into a Friday site. That's a lot. But I also feel like the top three lines are coming into focus. Placing those teams in those lines is tough, though, with five ACC teams in the top 16 (for now).

I moved Buffalo up to a 6 this week, partly because of their big win but much more due to the teams around them losing, sometimes multiple times. I still think they'll get shorted at tournament time, but at least they didn't lose to Rutgers (sorry Buckeye fans). I don't mean to dwell on the Bulls, but they will be a very interesting case in March for the Committee. Their best wins (West Virginia and Syracuse) look a little worse each week. While Syracuse righted itself after the loss to Buffalo (at least until Saturday night), West Virginia has lost four straight and is at the bottom of the Big 12. So they beat the Big 12's worst team, and two bubble teams ('Cuse and San Francisco). Better than most other mid majors? Definitely. Worthy of an at-large? I'd say so. Five or six seed material? I'm not so sure, especially once the MAC schedule pushes those non-league wins further back.

Ole Miss makes its first appearance of the season. Whacking two top 15 teams, including one on the road, makes for a fast-track to a single-digit seed even coming off the bubble.

I think from here I'll be doing a new bracket on Saturday (not Sunday) night, and maybe doing reflections like these on Sunday. My projections are now appearing in my local newspaper on Mondays, so that's an exciting development (for me).

Monday, January 7, 2019

So here's my latest projection. Some things I considered:
1. I know I had Tennessee on the top line last week, and bumped them down this week even though they didn't lose. My problem was that I couldn't leave unbeaten Virginia as a 2-seed, especially after the way they hammered Florida State. And even though Kansas also lost (and I know that the Committee doesn't really look at head-to-head but rather body of work), I couldn't put the Vols ahead of a team that beat them when push came to shove. I have a feeling that after Michigan and Duke there'll be a lot of volatility (though we'll see what happens after Virginia plays Duke in a week or so!).

2. I couldn't leave Nevada as a 2 after taking that loss to New Mexico. Again, I feel like the Committee is relatively unforgiving of teams outside the Power Five (or six or so), and that Nevada will have to earn its way back to the 2-line.

3. By the same token, I had trouble putting Houston as a 4. They were actually among my 5-seeds, but I had trouble putting Florida State there after their loss to Virginia (no shame in that, though), and I had nowhere to put an ACC school with 4 already in the top 16, so for now I bumped them down and Houston up. Personally I think Houston can get a top 4 seed, but like Nevada, they won't get much margin for error. And I hated to drop FSU that far down. These early bracket projections are tough but they get easier as the overall body of work grows.

4. Is the best Pac-12 team really just a 9-seed? Is the best A-10 team really just a 12-seed? Is the best Big East team really only a 6-seed? Just doesn't seem right.

5. If we consider the "power" conferences to be Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12, SEC, ACC, Big East, then there are two at-large bids currently going to schools outside of those leagues, both to schools in the American. And that's not exactly a wimpy conference, either, consisting of some traditionally strong basketball programs (UConn, Cincy, Temple, Memphis, Wichita State), along with some newer upstarts (Houston, UCF). It hurts that the A-10 is in such a down year since they're usually good for at least one and usually 2-3 at-large bids.

These early brackets will change a lot from week to week. The last two years I learned a lot from the Committee revealing their top 4 seeds (top 16 teams) and was able to use that information to improve my projections going forward. At that point I can see if the Committee thinks there are 5 ACC teams in their top 16 (and what they did with that fifth team!), and puzzle out how they came to that conclusion, and use that info as I project going forward.