Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Bracket Preview

Well, my tournament predictions can't be any worse than my bracket projections this year. Visitors who read my article from the Observer will note a few changes from when I wrote that article on Monday. Here goes:

I look all up and down this region and I'm just not seeing anyone that can knock off Michigan State or Duke. I can't blame Tom Izzo for being ticked at being placed in Duke's region. I sort of wonder, if they were the second 2-seed, Sparty wasn't sent to Louisville or Kansas City. Either is closer to East Lansing, and they'd have faced the #2 or #3 1-seed instead of the top 1. Still, who's beating them? LSU's coach is suspended. Virginia Tech isn't going to beat Duke at full strength. This will come down to the two heavyweights. In the early rounds, I'm taking Louisville over Minnesota, Belmont over Maryland and then to knock off LSU early, and Va Tech to beat Mississippi State. In the regional final, though, I'm going to take Michigan State. These teams are virtually identical on KenPom, and I'm going to bet that the freshman-heavy Blue Devils have that one bad-enough game that day against another Final Four quality team.

I don't like the South region. I don't think it's very strong, and I think I feel that way because I'm not feeling it from Tennessee. I know they're the top-rated 2-seed, and that they were close to being a 1 (I wonder if they would've been, had they won the SEC tournament...?). I liked MSU's profile better. That's why I took Cincy over Tennessee in the second round (that, and the game's like 90 minutes from Cincinnati). And I'm even more doubtful of Purdue, although fortunately for them Minnesota isn't likely to face them. I'm taking an experienced Villanova team over them in the second round (and would take St. Mary's if they upset 'Nova too). K-State will either lose a key player or have him hobbled somewhat. I'm taking UC Irvine over them. Wisconsin interests me, though. I think they should've been a 4, and I'll take them to make the Sweet 16 and give Virginia a run. I think Cincy goes to the Elite 8, but loses to the Cavaliers.

Like the East, this region is very top-heavy. UNC and Kentucky would be very worthy teams in the title game. Houston could easily play spoiler against a young Wildcats team in the Sweet 16. This isn't Kansas' year (watch for a Northeastern upset!) but Auburn could keep up with the Tar Heels (and KenPom has them above third-seed Houston). So both top seeds will have their hands full in the second weekend. I'm thinking this is a chalky region to me - other than Northeastern, I'm not taking any upsets (I'm taking Washington to beat USU on a hunch, as USU seems to be favored by the ranking metrics). The Tar Heels are fun to watch, but I think Kentucky will beat them in the Elite 8. 

I had a hard time with the West. Gonzaga ought to be a big favorite out here, but I see land mines for them. Syracuse, even without Frank Howard, will be a tough out in the second round. They've beaten really good teams who aren't prepared for that zone D. And even if the Zags' talent wins out there, Florida State will loom (after beating Ja Morant and Murray State, who will win the Ja Morant vs Markus Howard battle in the first round). That's a really tough game - I think Florida State is the best 4-seed (and I projected them as a 3). If they get that far, most likely Michigan or Texas Tech will be waiting for them, two really tough defenses. I am not a bull-iever in Buffalo and think Bobby Hurley will find a way to beat his old team, then fall to Texas Tech. Personally, I think the Zags get stopped by Florida State, and that Texas Tech will win the region. They're playing well, their D is elite, and if any of these 1-seeds is going to get ambushed early, it'll be Gonzaga. Not because they're not a worthy 1-seed, or an elite team. Just because the bracket broke that way.

Texas Tech vs Michigan State, I'll have to take the Spartans. They're balanced, strong on both sides of the ball.
Virginia vs Kentucky, I'm taking the Cavaliers.

Virginia vs Michigan State: Finally, Virginia cuts down the nets. Only two teams have beaten them this year. Nobody plays D like them and their offense is more in balance with that this year. Sparty will give them a run but I think this team will be focused after last year's disaster and it's tournament-tested.

Virginia's region gives them the best chance of the 1's to break through. Tennessee, if it survives the first weekend, could give them a game in the Elite 8, but I just have a feeling that they're not escaping Columbus. Gonzaga has too many obstacles, and while I'm taking a big chance on Sparty over Duke, I feel comfortable with this final four.

Now watch Ethan Happ blow up in the second round and spoil everything...

Monday, March 18, 2019

Avert your eyes!

Ugh, please don't look! Nothing to see here.

Yep, the 17th Seed finished in 163rd place out of 195 this year, after finishing in the top 25 last year. We sure did struggle this time around. So what happened?

1. We whiffed on Texas, Indiana and TCU. Everyone whiffed on TCU, so no problem there. We should've known better about UT and IU. That's just too many losses, no matter who you beat or what your other metrics look like.

2. I'm not sure we'd have put Temple, Belmont or St. John's in, either. Dan (my son) argued for St. John's on the basis of their good wins, but I talked him out of it because their NET was so low. Score one for him. I've said all year that the Committee doesn't like to put in mid-major bubble teams at the expense of mediocre majors with better schedules, and here's Belmont with UNCG as the first team out. Maybe something's changed. And I didn't think they'd think Temple did enough, but in hindsight we should have seen that they had - good record, decent numbers. We'll have to look more into it. St. John's would've been worth 6 points to us (they'd have been in the play-in for us) and Temple would've too (they were a late subtraction), so 12 points.

3. We blew it on seeding four teams: Iowa, Seton Hall and Minnesota were all overseeded, and VCU was underseeded. That cost us 8 points. I thought Seton Hall's late-season run and the others' overall profiles were worth more, and we made a stupid mistake on VCU, penalizing them too much for the early loss to Rhode Island.

4. Our last-minute change from Gonzaga to Sparty for the last 1-seed cost us four points total. I love the Zags and they're a worthy 1, but I don't feel bad about this change. Michigan State won the regular season and tournament titles for a conference that got 8 teams in the tournament, they had the Quad 1 wins too. They were worthy of a 1. Still, we probably should have stuck with our earlier gut feeling.

5. I probably overreacted to the tournaments. I was sure the Seminoles would move up a line after beating Virginia. I thought less of Purdue after their early exit. I already mentioned VCU.

6. I should have spent more time on the bottom quarter (the AQ's). I mostly sorted them by NET and checked against SOS, but I should have dug deeper.

7. Most of all, we did terrible with the bubble, as evidenced by the teams we put in/left out. Partly that was due to time... we were rushed at the end. But that's also not great planning by us. But on the third hand, the committee threw us a curve with Belmont and reached (NET-wise) on St. John's over TCU.

Well, we'll take a look at it and do better next year. Right?

Sunday, March 17, 2019


Just under the Matrix deadline. We debated Gonzaga vs Michigan State and ultimately picked Sparty after their win, and we barely made it work in the bracket. I hope. We'll see how we did.


Well, that was frustrating.

We took a risk going with Indiana and Texas, and lost on both. We chose them because of their profiles - Texas had the great SOS and some big wins, and Indiana had the Q1 wins. Of course, they also had tons of losses.

I'm not upset about missing TCU. That was a coin flip.

I am eager to read the justification for taking Belmont. Not because I'm upset that they made it - quite the opposite. I'm thrilled that a great mid-major season was recognized (even with a play-in game). But I'm wondering why they got in ahead of, say, TCU or Indiana.

I feel good about switching to Sparty. That wasn't at all a terrible decision by us. I can accept the Zags as a #1, that loss to St. Mary's shouldn't have been a game changer for them. But Sparty was the Big 10 regular season and tournament champ, a conference that got more teams in than any other, and they had the Q-1 wins to back it up and fought through injuries. I feel justified.

Friday, March 15, 2019

A response to Michael Beller's Bubble Showdown Series

Before going further, be sure you've read Michael Beller's article on Here it is:

You're back? Good.

First of all, I like Michael's stuff and I learn a lot from his articles. I'm not pretending that I have anywhere near his level of knowledge or experience in this area, I'm just an amateur bracketologist thinking through what he said. So all due respect to the idea and its creativity.

Since Michael asked us to ignore the elephant in the room (the gobs of money that the conference tourneys reap and would likely lose through his BSS), I won't address that concern either. I just think there's a simpler solution: tweak the play-in games themselves. Here are the tweaks:

1. No AQs can play in the play-in games. This will mean that the 16's will not be involved in the play-ins. Instead, they will go straight to the round of 64, which is what they should get as an AQ. We'll finally have true play-in games that involve teams that haven't earned anything as of yet, and they will play for the last four spots in the bracket.

2. With eight teams involved, at least four MUST be from conferences that otherwise only have their AQ team in the tournament. This will mostly help the mid-major conferences, though occasionally a league like the Atlantic 10 or even the Pac 12 might benefit.

That's it.

Let's look at it in practice, using SI's latest bracket as an example. Their "last four in" are St. John's, Florida, Arizona State, and Belmont. Their next four out are Indiana, Clemson, Alabama and UNC Greensboro. In my scenario above, you would include Indiana and UNC-G and find two more teams from this year's one-bid leagues. Say, Davidson and Toledo (two "almosts" from the Bracket Matrix). Seed them any way you want.

St. John's vs UNC-Greensboro
Florida vs Davidson
Arizona State vs Toledo
Belmont vs Indiana

Clemson and Alabama might squawk (we'll leave alone the funny fact that those two schools just played for the national title in football...again) but really, they aren't among the best teams in their own conferences. They had their chance to prove something.

Bid thieves would cut into this the same way they do now, but would only affect the multiple-bid league teams, not the others. So if West Virginia steals a bid in the Big 12, Indiana would drop out, and the at-large above St. John's would drop into the play-in.

This change would not be as drastic as Beller's, nor would it cost anyone any money (except a couple of power conferences already rolling in it). In fact, it would distribute a little more money out to the middle class of conferences, and that's not a bad thing. Feel free to comment below.

March 15 Bracket Update

This will probably be my final update before Sunday's "final exam." Some decisions I've made since last time:

I've evicted St. John's from my bracket. Yes, 3-1 vs Villanova and Marquette is impressive. And the VCU win looks better too. But if I had a committee spot, I'd be seeing the 2-5 finish, the lousy performance against Marquette in their own backyard last night, and an unimpressive NET compared to some other bubblers and thinking this may have once been a tourney-worthy team, but not anymore.

They aren't quite equivalent, but some might say "Why Texas but not Indiana?". Well, Texas lost to a better team in more of a "road" environment yesterday. And Texas has four wins against top 4 seeds in the bracket (albeit, Indiana has three). Personally, I don't think either will make it in the end, and Texas is my last team in right now. But Texas is also a dozen points higher in NET and has Indiana whipped in SOS, plus they're noticeably higher than them in the other ranking systems. Texas has the better argument, at least between these two teams. Might not keep them in though. I can't imagine that the Committee will let in a 16-16 team as an at-large, despite the profile.

I have NC State in as an 11 right now, despite them having the worst non-con SOS in all of D-I. Doesn't putting them in but kicking Texas out reward weak scheduling? Does the Committee think about that?

And I've added Belmont. I won't lie, I'm glad to do this. I've harped a lot about how mid-majors usually get the shaft from the Committee. But if they're going to pay attention to their new NET rankings, Belmont should get an at-large. Furman's a little higher in NET and has the better "best" win, but Belmont has the superior non-con SOS and is slightly better in Q1+Q2 games. Had Villanova finished among the top four seeds, I might've given Furman this spot. But I like Belmont's profile a little better overall.

I need to research why some folks are putting Arizona State in as a rising 10 seed. A 67 NET, a 71 SOS, and two Q-4 losses? Must be the wins over Kansas, Mississippi State and Washington. I've heard that they value big wins more than they ding you for bad losses, but still.

I'm not penalizing Texas Tech for losing to the Mountaineers. They're still a 3 as far as I'm concerned. It would take some shuffling for TTU to lose enough ground to fall to a 4, especially since I thought they'd be worthy of a 2 if they won the Big 12 tournament.

Syracuse holds their 9-seed, I think. Buffalo's ceiling is probably a 6 if they win out and their floor is probably a 7 at this point.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

For Game of Thrones fans!

Not sure how much of a Venn diagram we have showing the intersection of fans of fantasy like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones with fans of college hoops and bracketology (not to mention my obsession with Peanuts), but I'm in that zone myself. Game of Thrones is easily my favorite work of fiction and favorite television show, and not just because of the hype. If you haven't read or watched it yet, my recommendation probably won't get you to but I'll give it anyway!

So the point here is that, as a big fan, I am a frequent visitor to Tower of the Hand, an excellent fan site with amazing chapter and episode summaries and many deep-dive articles about the characters, story, and fan theories. They are having readers do summaries of each episode leading up to the start of the final season on April 14, and I was given two episodes in the middle of Season Four: Mockingbird and The Mountain and the Viper. I didn't know if I'd get selected at all, since while I visit the site a lot I haven't participated actively in it for many years. Not only was I selected but I also got two of the best episodes in what for me was the very best season of the show (taking place at the climactic end of the third book in the series). I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing and writing about these two episodes.

So if you're a fan of the books and/or show, please check out my review here: I highly recommend the site, And don't let my poor graphic design abilities deter you.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

March 10 Bracket

Hi again, this bracket is being sent to the Matrix tonight. I've made a few updates, but the Liberty-Lipscomb game was in progress when I finished it. I'm thinking Liberty is about a 13. I left out NC State. I'm really unhappy leaving out the mid-majors. Lipscomb, Furman, the loser of the SoCon title game, Belmont... this is a pretty solid crop of mids and it pains me to put in TCU or Clemson ahead of not just some but all of them. I know the refrain: who did they beat? Bid thieves will shrink the bubble even more but I still think there ought to be a way to get these teams in. Am I the only one who feels this way? Indiana is a serious bubble team, having swept Michigan State and with wins over Marquette, Louisville and Wisconsin. But one of those victories over the Spartans was part of a 1-12 streak. Yet it's possible they'll get a third crack at Sparty and if they win... what?

So it begins with Murray State, Liberty, Bradley and Gardner-Webb (congratulations, GW, on your first Dance!). Long way to go!

I keep forgetting to mention that my bracket column appears in the Dunkirk Observer on Mondays so please check it out at! Tomorrow I preview Championship Week, and next Tuesday (not Monday) I'll have my first ever tournament preview.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

March 7 Update

Going to try to do more frequent updates from here on out, if I can.

Some movement in the last couple days (I think of them more as "corrections"). For instance:
- Moved Tennessee up to the top. Now, this is more a gut call because some numbers (road record, SOS, Q-1 wins and games) point at Kentucky. But the rankers like BPI, KenPom and SOR slightly favor the Vols (as does NET position), so I switched them for the time being. It'll be decided in the SEC tournament.

- I actually moved Houston back up to the 3 line (one spot on the curve). The UCF loss wasn't that bad, and so I switched them with Kansas. Florida State cracks the top 4. I considered moving Marquette down, but liked their overall profile more than Virginia Tech and Kansas State.

- I flipped Villanova and Nevada largely on the Wildcats' win over Marquette and Nevada's loss to USU. I still think the Wolfpack can stick at 6. I like Cincy as a 6 too, but they'll have to do some damage in the AAC tourney to keep it.

- I'm thinking Buffalo and Wofford are just about even as 7's. UB hasn't looked that great in some narrow MAC wins, though they do keep winning. With help they can get a 6 but I think 7 is more reasonable.

-My Cuse sticks at 8 for now, but they need a win at Clemson to keep it. Beat the 3-seed in the ACC tournament and maybe a 7 is possible. VCU is rising here and if they run the A-10 table I could see a solid 8 seed, and a nightmare for an unlucky 1.

- Oklahoma moves up after beating Kansas. I think that keeps them off the bubble. Ole Miss is sinking, though their losses have been close ones so I don't want to ding them too much. I'm pulling Utah State up out of the 11's, too.

- Likewise, Minnesota's win over Purdue gets them out of the play-ins for now. Seton Hall sneaks up a couple spots after beating Marquette. St. John's is hanging by a thread. NC State is in deep trouble.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Monday, March 4, 2019

2017 Tournament Analysis

I never published this from 2017 but I thought it'd be interesting to see how these predictions went. This is unedited and the results are highlighted.

EAST: Villanova over Duke (watch out for SMU though)
I think Villanova will waltz to the Elite 8. Baylor won't get by SMU, though, and will be a tough out for Duke. Villanova-Duke is final-four-quality.
SMU lost in the first round, and South Carolina shocked Duke then Baylor. Villanova was done in the second round too. South Carolina made the final four. No points, but I'm not sure anyone saw SC coming. Hey, did YOU have a 7-seed in the Final Four?

WEST: Gonzaga over Arizona (and nobody else)
These two teams have a pretty easy march to the Elite 8. Yeah, WV or ND might give Gonzaga a tough game in the Sweet 16, but I'm not buying Florida State. Arizona-Gonzaga is another final-four-quality game, even if would clearly favor the Zags.
The Mountaineers did give Gonzaga a game (losing by 3) and Xavier edged Arizona in the Sweet 16 but got blown out by the Zags in the regional final. I get partial credit. LOL.

SOUTH: UCLA over UNC (with some interesting contenders)
I'm on the UCLA bandwagon. I think Kentucky will have a tough time getting to the second weekend (though I do think they'll eke out a win over the Shockers, I won't be at all surprised if they don't). UNC has the easiest track to the Elite 8 outside of Villanova, especially if MTSU pulls an upset or two.
Since UNC won the national title, the UCLA upset call was off (they didn't make it past Kentucky). Kentucky DID eke out a win over the Shockers, and gave UNC all it could handle in the Elite 8. Was right about UNC's track to the Elite 8 though. 

Here's an error: I didn't say anything about the Midwest Regional. I called the Michigan upset (below) but would probably have whiffed on Oregon.

1. I think Michigan will upset Louisville. The Cardinals are really good and well coached, but the Wolverines are en fuego and I think they'll pull an upset. KenPom would disagree, given that Louisville's #6 over there, but I think "hot" will trump "not hot" in this game.
Michigan DID upset Louisville. Woo hoo!

2. I looked for a long time at Wichita State vs Kentucky in the second round. I mostly think Kentucky ought to win, but these are two top 10 teams in, and it was a tough decision. Nobody should be surprised if the Shockers win, or lose at the wire.
Called the close game right.

3. The chalkiest bracket to me seems to be the West. I could see all four top seeds getting to the second weekend (though I think Notre Dame will beat WV in a slight upset). A Gonzaga-Arizona elite 8 game would be almost as incredible as a Duke-Villanova East final.
Xavier was the only non-chalk winner in this region but lost in the Elite 8. 

4. I am in a pool that lets us re-do our picks once the Sweet 16 is set, for a smaller prize. And if SMU is playing Duke as I project, I'm going to take a long look at that game too. I'd be a fool not to push Duke into the Elite 8 (at least) as of today, but let's see how they look on Sunday night.
Yeah, dead wrong on SMU. 

5. It's not very daring but I really like MTSU to make the Sweet 16. I'm not sold on Butler or Minnesota at this point.
Called the 12 over 5 upset, but Butler beat MTSU handily.

6. I've jumped on the UCLA bandwagon, taking them to beat Kentucky and then UNC to make the Final Four.
Shouldn't've done that.

7. I'm going to put Iowa State into the Final Four. I can very much see them defeating Kansas in the Sweet 16, giving them a virtual home game in the Elite 8... and since I'm not high on 2-seed Louisville and Oregon lost a key player, I'm guessing they'll beat Michigan or whatever team ends up there. Again, going with the hot hand in this region (plus Kansas' history of underperforming and their veryclose wins this year). Also, the Midwest doesn't do much for me.
Shouldn't've done that either: lost in the second round.

8. I think the top two seeds in the East and West would be a great Final Four if it were possible. But I'm counting on Gonzaga to break through at last, despite their SOS, and on Villanova repeat as champions, over UCLA.
Gonzaga broke through, but Villanova, UCLA and Iowa State did not. 

Question of the Day

Please chime in to today's question.

In my previous post I declared Wofford and Buffalo to be equals, and they're just now starting to be seeded near each other (Buffalo has been seeded much more highly until the last week or so). What do you think? Is one profile clearly better than the other and if so, why? What will the Committee say?

Saturday, March 2, 2019

March 3 Bracket

Selection Sunday is coming up so fast, just two weeks away! I think things are starting to fall into place now, but there's still a long way to go. I'll add to this post after my Observer article appears Monday at

So in my Observer article I mentioned Wofford. They make an interesting comparison to Buffalo, I think. Consider their resumes:

Wofford has just four losses on the year: North Carolina (a 2-seed), Kansas (a 3), Mississippi State (a 6) and Oklahoma (a bubble team). Their NET is 14 (!!) and they are 3-4 in Q1 games. They have zero Q2-Q4 losses.

UB has just three losses on the year: Marquette (a 4-seed), Bowling Green (a Q2 loss) and Northern Illinios (a Q3 loss). Their NET is 15 (!!) and they are 2-1 in Q1 games but have two Q2/Q3 losses.

UB's best win (Syracuse, an 8-seed) is better than Wofford's (Furman, a fringy bubble team) but their worst loss to Northern Illinois is to a team with a 150 NET while Wofford's worst loss is to Oklahoma with a 42 NET.

Aside from thinking that a game between these two would be amazing, I'm not sure which I'd put ahead of the other. It's not like Wofford went undefeated in a conference without good teams. Furman (44 NET) and UNC Greensboro (58 NET) are both tougher than Toledo (60 NET) and Bowling Green (106 NET), though has the MAC two spots higher than the Southern. If they both win out, I think they need to go on the same seed line. But I also think that both should be safely in the field.

I'll be very interested in how the drama unfolds at the top too. North Carolina is my top 2-seed right now after Michigan State's shocking loss to Indiana. Tennessee's profile, despite the win over Kentucky, isn't quite as strong given their SOS disparity. If UNC beats Duke this week I'll probably give the Tar Heels a 1-seed, but I think it's very close between Duke/Kentucky/Tennessee/UNC right now. If any of them sweep the regular season and tournament titles, it'll be tough to keep them off the top line.