Monday, February 11, 2019

Feb 11 Bracket Update

So here's the latest bracket. The top 16 reflects the Selection Committee's rankings. There were a lot of Big 12 teams along the 8/9 lines, and I couldn't keep them all away from the 4/5 Big 12 teams. I still feel pretty good about VCU as an at-large, and about Wofford as an 11. The bubble and its underside are an ugly place, so I went with giving the Mountain West a second bid in Utah State.

To elaborate on my previous post, I'm still struggling with Duke vs Tennessee, or "1a and 1b" as the Committee chair put it. Duke's metrics and SOS numbers were almost entirely better than Tennessee's. The Vols' only loss, to a then-whole Kansas team, is about on par with Duke's loss to Gonzaga, and you'd think there'd be some leeway given to Duke given that their loss to Syracuse came with the Blue Devils missing two starters for most of the game. I was putting Virginia ahead of Tennessee prior to Saturday, and I found THAT to be the tougher decision. Don't get me wrong... Tennessee's lengthy win streak and single narrow defeat means they're clearly on the top line. This is a matter of splitting hairs. I think the season sweep of Virginia puts Duke solidly ahead for now, but I'm very excited for the upcoming Tennessee-Kentucky matchups. If Tennessee sweeps, they're a lock for a 1-seed and probably the #2 overall seed. If Kentucky sweeps, they switch places. I think a split maintains the status quo and we won't know until a possible meeting in the SEC tournament which will get the edge. I wonder if both could be on the top line... a 3-loss Tennessee team that loses twice to the Wildcats and a Kentucky team whose only late season loss is to those same Vols.

As my article at shows, my son Dan and I debated Michigan State for a few extra minutes. We considered dropping them to a 3 due to their 3-game losing streak. Ultimately, we didn't want to move Kansas up (they had lost four of six) and didn't think Purdue was quite ready despite a 7-game win streak (because of their early season losses). The early season games are as important as the late season games, so Purdue has work to do before moving up, but if the current trends hold up I think Purdue can and will replace Sparty on the 2-line.

I'm frustrated that we bumped Houston and Nevada down a peg this week after pretty much having them pegged correctly in previous weeks. The schedules, especially Nevada's, seem so empty compared to the other 3 and 4 seeds. While I can see Houston perhaps moving up a bit if they can beat Cincinnati (as they did this weekend), I'm not sure where Nevada will find any big wins to lift them out of a 4-seed. I think they've topped out at 4, barring a bunch of teams collapsing ahead of them.

I think my biggest whiff this week was on Virginia Tech. Upon further review, they have good rankings numbers but a really poor SOS and especially non-conference SOS. I can see why the Committee left them out of the top 16, and I bumped them down to a 6 after their loss this weekend. That might be an overreaction, but man, that SOS is bad for a top team.

I'm going to be watching the Atlantic 10 closely. VCU is a bubble team, and Davidson and Dayton may play their way onto the bubble too. I took a bit of a chance on Utah State, going against my theory that the Committee won't give the non-Power Five conference schools any real consideration. This is more of a statement about the state of the bubble than about how the Committee will actually handle the situation, though. The other bubble teams are on their way DOWN, while Utah State is on its way UP. So I went with them for now.

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