Sunday, March 11, 2018

Final bracket and tournament thoughts

The NCAA Tournament has been announced. I am happy to say I did extremely well this season. In fact, this season marked my best performance ever. I correctly selected 67 or 68 teams. Syracuse got in over Baylor, which isn't too bad because Syracuse wound up my first team out after Davidson claimed the automatic bid from the Atlantic 10. I correctly seeded 47 teams and had 64 teams seeded within one line. The remaining three teams I had in the field I only missed by two, which I believe is the first time I had every team I selected within two lines. St. Bonaventure, surprisingly in my opinion, landed in Dayton for the First Four against UCLA (the other at-large First Four will be Arizona State vs. Syracuse). I also missed Alabama, Creighton and Providence by two lines.

Here is my final bracket (top) along with the actual bracket (bottom) so you can see first-hand how I saw the teams compared to the committee.

Pretty neat to also see some of the matchups I correctly nailed, including the entire top quadrant in the Midwest Region (Kansas vs. Penn, Seton Hall vs. NC State). Others include Cincinnati vs. Georgia State and Miami vs. Loyola-Chicago.

Let's talk about the teams that did not make the tournament, and try to understand why they missed out. Let's start with the team that now boasts the highest RPI ever for a Power 5 team to miss the tournament in the 68-team era, the USC Trojans.

Plain and simple, USC didn't beat any surefire NCAA Tournament teams. Their best wins were Middle Tennessee and New Mexico State. And if New Mexico State didn't win the WAC, USC would have had zero wins against tournament teams. Finishing second in the conference means nothing to the committee, especially when it's clear they didn't value the Pac-12 much. Only three teams made the tournament and two of them have to play in Dayton in the First Four. The meat just wasn't there for the Trojans. 

Louisville also finished with a top-40 RPI and was left in the dust. But their issue was not beating any team in the top 50 of the RPI. Their best win was over a Florida State team that was given a No. 8 seed. Louisville went 5-13 against RPI groups one and two and their best non-conference win was against Southern Illinois, who barely made the top 100. They also lost at home to Syracuse, which certainly gave the edge to the Orange coming down the homestretch.

Middle Tennessee became the latest mid-major to be shut out from the at-large party. They weren't even among the first four out. But unfortunately, they didn't win the games they needed to. They had shots against Auburn, Miami and USC, but struck out. The dagger was the loss to Southern Miss in the Conference USA quarterfinals.

But the mid-major probably stinging even more is Saint Mary's. The Gaels went 28-5, but 24 of those wins came against RPI groups three and four. They did win at Gonzaga, but the committee felt that wasn't enough to push them through. Also didn't help that they lost to San Francisco and Washington State.

As it turned out, Notre Dame was knocked out of the tournament by Davidson. The Wildcats also sent UCLA to Dayton for the First Four. The Irish ended up closer to the field than I thought. They did beat Wichita State in the Maui Invitational, but that was one of just two quadrant one wins for Notre Dame. And you can maybe make an argument about Notre Dame having an RPI rank of 70, but Arizona State finished at No. 66 in RPI, the lowest-ranked RPI team to receive an at-large bid. So if it's any consolation for me, I still would've had 67 of 68 regardless of whether Davidson won or not, since I would not have had Notre Dame in, either way.

In any event, with this bubble, I am quite pleased with how everything turned out. I'll be filling out my bracket at some point when I actually get to sit down and take in the bracket. I hope you all enjoy the tournament and I want to thank you all for taking this journey with me again, in what was my seventh year in the Bracket Matrix and eighth year overall doing bracketology.

And speaking of the Bracket Matrix, the person behind the project does an absolutely fantastic job building the matrix. It's a crazy job tracking over 100 brackets online, but the project does a wonderful job of doing so. So go check the Matrix out. And who knows, my score of 360 may very well be among the highest scores! I'm pretty sure I'm right up there with Joe Lunardi again (he seeded 64 teams within one line, but also missed Syracuse and Arizona State). Nonetheless, I'm proud to again be among the higher end of bracketologists. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Bracketology: Final regular season post, for real this time

I said Saturday's update would be the last one of the regular season. Then a lot of changes happened, both on the bubble and with conference tournaments. So I decided to give you guys one more update on this Sunday. Here's your bracket update and then some notes on the weekend,

Last Four Byes: Alabama, Butler, Texas, Providence
Last Four In: Kansas State, Baylor, UCLA, Syracuse
First Four Out: USC, Louisville, Washington, Marquette
Next Six Out: Notre Dame, Utah, Penn State, Mississippi State, Boise State, Temple

Conference Rundown

ACC - 9
Big 12 - 8
SEC - 8
Big East - 6
Big Ten - 4
American - 3
Pac-12 - 3
Atlantic 10 - 2
West Coast - 2
One-bid leagues - 23

First off, congratulations to Murray State on claiming the first official ticket to the NCAA Tournament, after their 68-51 victory over Belmont in the Ohio Valley final. The Racers will enter the tournament with a 26-5 record and winners of 13 straight. They'll likely slot in as a No. 13 seed. 

The main change on the bubble is USC, Washington and Louisville move out of the field and Kansas State, UCLA and Syracuse move in. Yes, I had USC among the last four byes, but a closer look at their profile reveals only one win against a team that could possibly make the NCAA Tournament even if they lose their conference tournament and that's Middle Tennessee. Utah and New Mexico State likely need the automatic bids in their respective leagues. The Trojans also lost at SMU and have an ugly home loss to Princeton, a team that didn't even qualify for the Ivy League tournament (which by the way, in now represented by Harvard in today's update, replacing Penn).

USC lost Saturday night to UCLA, giving the Bruins a season sweep of the Trojans to go along with big wins over Arizona and Kentucky. That win over Kentucky right before Christmas may end up being both an early and late Christmas present for the Bruins as that could very well help push UCLA in if they fare well enough in the Pac-12 tournament, where they are the No. 4 seed. USC is the No. 2 seed.

Syracuse moves in over Louisville. I favor the Orange's profile slightly more than the Cardinals'. Syracuse has wins over Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech, while Louisville's best ACC wins were sweeping Virginia Tech, plus wins at Florida State and Notre Dame. But tipping the scales in Syracuse's favor are the better non-conference victories (Buffalo and Maryland for Syracuse, Southern Illinois, Memphis and Indiana for Louisville) as well as Syracuse winning at Louisville in their lone meeting of the season.

Syracuse just has to hope the committee doesn't ding them for finishing 11th in the standings, though we've seen conference standings aren't a major factor in tournament selection. Both have a chance to pick up a big win early in the tournament. A Syracuse victory over Wake Forest sets them up against North Carolina, while Louisville opens against Florida State, with Virginia awaiting the winner.

Back in the Pac-12, Washington dropped one at home to Oregon, which saw their RPI dip into the 60s. Now, Kansas State also is in the 60s, but they do not have a bad loss, while Washington now has two quadrant three losses, including one at Oregon State, though the Stanford home loss is just outside quadrant two. The Huskies are the No. 7 seed in the Pac-12, setting up a possible bubbly quarterfinal against USC.

Four championship games tip off today. In the Atlantic Sun, it's Florida Gulf Coast against Lipscomb. The two teams split their regular season meetings, with the home team winning both times. That's good news for Dunk City, as they will host the final.

With Liberty upsetting UNC Asheville, Radford will get to host the Big South championship later today. The Highlanders took both meetings against Liberty.

Arch Madness will crown a new champion today as top seed Loyola-Chicago goes up against Illinois State. The Ramblers come in with a 26-5 record and a top-30 RPI. They did also win at Florida in the regular season. They'd be an interesting at-large case should they lose. They did sweep the Redbirds during the regular season. Illinois State returns to the final after losing to Wichita State last season and being one of the first four teams out of the NCAA Tournament, resulting in a No. 1 seed in the NIT, a run that ended in the second round at the hands of UCF.

And in the Big Ten, it will be Purdue taking on Michigan. The Boilermakers can make a claim for a No. 1 seed with a win. In fact, they are currently sitting as the last No. 1 seed after Kansas was swept by Oklahoma State. Purdue went 2-0 against the Wolverines.

Here's a rundown of the rest of the tournament action today.

Colonial Quarterfinals

No. 1 Charleston vs. No. 8 Drexel
No. 4 William & Mary vs. No. 5 Towson
No. 2 Northeastern vs. No. 7 Delaware
No. 3 UNC Wilmington vs. No. 6 Hofstra

Horizon League Quarterfinals

No. 3 Illinois-Chicago vs. No. 6 Milwaukee
No. 4 Oakland vs. No. 5 IUPUI

MAAC Semifinals

No. 4 Iona vs. No. 9 St. Peter's
No. 6 Fairfield vs. No. 7 Quinnipiac

Patriot League Semifinals

No. 1 Bucknell vs. No. 5 Boston University
No. 2 Colgate vs. No. 6 Holy Cross

Southern Semifinals

No. 1 UNC Greensboro vs. No. 5 Wofford
No. 2 East Tennessee State vs. No. 3 Furman

Summit League Quarterfinals

No. 3 Denver vs. No. 6 Oral Roberts
No. 4 Fort Wayne vs. No. 5 North Dakota State

Today also marks the end of the regular season in the American Athletic, including a marquee showdown between Cincinnati and Wichita State in Wichita, where the winner will be the No. 1 seed in the AAC tournament. Elsewhere, Houston looks to improve their seeding case against Connecticut and Temple tries to keep their hopes alive as they visit Tulsa.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Bracketology: Final regular season bracket

Welcome back to March! And what a way to kick the month off than with Virginia's epic win over Louisville on Thursday. Now we've reached the final regular season weekend of the season before all the big conference tournaments kick off next week, minus the Big Ten, which will crown their champion tomorrow. Let's take a look at the bracket and then look at some of the biggest games this weekend, including the first of the automatic bids handed out for the NCAA Tournament.

Last Four Byes: North Carolina State, St. Bonaventure, USC, Providence
Last Four In: Washington, Baylor, Texas, Louisville
First Four Out: UCLA, Kansas State, Syracuse, Marquette
Next Six Out: Notre Dame, Utah, Penn State, Mississippi State, Boise State, Temple

Conference Breakdown

ACC - 9
SEC - 8
Big 12 - 7
Big East - 6
Big Ten - 4
Pac-12 - 4
American - 3
Atlantic 10 - 2
West Coast - 2
One-bid leagues - 23

Saturday night will see the first ticket officially punched to the big dance, as the top two seeds in the Ohio Valley will square off. It's Murray State vs. Belmont in what has become the rivalry in the OVC. Both teams have the look of a No. 13 seed in the tournament.

Then on Sunday, four bids will be handed out from the Atlantic Sun, Big Ten, Big South and Missouri Valley. Two of those games are set. Florida Gulf Coast will host Lipscomb for the A-Sun title, while Radford and Liberty square off in the Big South.

Today's Big Ten semifinals will feature Michigan State against Michigan and Purdue against the Cinderella of the Big Ten, No. 7 seed Penn State, coming off their upset of No. 2 Ohio State. A win over the Boilermakers would give the Nittany Lions serious consideration, with three victories over the Buckeyes and a fourth quadrant one win over Purdue. Losses to Wisconsin, Northwestern and Minnesota are dragging down their profile. But two more wins this weekend and there will be no questions.

And in the Missouri Valley, it's top seed Loyola-Chicago against Bradley and Southern Illinois against Illinois State.

Here's who the teams listed among our bubble groups will play this weekend.

Providence vs. St. John's
Texas vs. West Virginia
Mississippi State at LSU
Baylor at Kansas State
Syracuse vs. Clemson
Marquette vs. Creighton
Notre Dame at Virginia
Washington vs. Oregon
Louisville at North Carolina State
Utah vs. Colorado
Boise State vs. Wyoming
St. Bonaventure at Saint Louis
Temple at Tulsa (Sunday)

As you can see, two games are huge, as they feature bubble teams against each other, as they jockey for position.

Stay tuned for bracket updates all week as tournament bids are handed out and the bubble continues to be fluid and ultimately shrink. Enjoy all the action.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Quick Update with conference tournaments starting

This is going to be a quick post, updating the bracket projections. Note, this does not reflect Monday's action, rather games through this past weekend. But expect plenty of movement, especially with conference tournaments officially underway, including the Big Ten tournament beginning Wednesday.

Last Four Byes: North Carolina State, Butler, Providence, St. Bonaventure
Last Four In: Washington, USC, UCLA, Louisville
First Four Out: Kansas State, Baylor, Syracuse, Temple
Next Four Out: Georgia, LSU, Utah, Marquette

Conference Breakdown

ACC - 9
SEC - 8
Big 12 - 6
Big East - 6
Pac-12 - 5
Big Ten - 4
American - 3
Atlantic 10 - 2
West Coast - 2
One-bid leagues - 23

Monday, February 19, 2018

Bracketology: Bonnies score big win, Jayhawks back to top line

For most of the season, the Atlantic 10 conference was looking like a one-bid conference, dominated by Rhode Island. But thanks to their win over the Rams during weekend, St. Bonaventure has climbed into the top 30 of the RPI and into today's bracket projection.

If you recall, two seasons ago, the Bonnies finished the season among the RPI top 30. But they're lack of non-conference success likely held them out of the field. This season, they're in the top 30, but have non-conference road victories over MAC leader Buffalo, who is also in the top 30, as well as, and maybe more importantly, Syracuse, who is also in today's projection after their win at Miami. The Bonnies are among the last four byes in this update, while Syracuse is projected for Dayton.

Also in the field is LSU. Sure, their RPI is low (No. 75), but they have time to improve that. Their inclusion is due to the fact that it is very hard to ignore their seven quadrant one victories, including season-sweeps of Arkansas and Texas A&M. Their win over Houston is also looking better and better. They do have a quadrant three loss against Stephen F. Austin, but the seven quadrant one wins and eight quadrant one and two wins will outweigh that loss. As long as the Tigers stay the course, they could sneak into the field.

Auburn surprisingly dropped one at South Carolina over the weekend. That, coupled with Kansas' come-from-behind victory over West Virginia, puts the Jayhawks and their nine quadrant one wins back on the top line, along with Virginia, Villanova and Xavier..

Kansas also has more combined quadrant one and two wins than any other team, with 16. Kansas is 9-4 against quadrant one and 7-1 against quadrant two. And they've pulled back to a tie with Texas Tech atop the Big 12 standings, with both at 10-4. The Red Raiders won in Lawrence, but the teams meet again in Lubbock on Saturday. Kansas hosts Oklahoma tonight.

Here now is your full bracket update.

Last Four Byes: Butler, North Carolina State, Baylor, Providence
Last Four In: St. Bonaventure, Washington, Syracuse, LSU
First Four Out: UCLA, Kansas State, USC, Temple
Next Four Out: Georgia, Louisville, Utah, Marquette

Conference Breakdown

ACC - 9
SEC - 9
Big 12 - 7
Big East - 6
Big Ten - 4
American - 3
Pac-12 - 3
Atlantic 10 - 2
West Coast - 2
One-bid leagues - 23

Friday, February 16, 2018

Bracketology: Auburn moves to top line

The surprising season for the Auburn Tigers has now brought them to yet another lofty height. Bruce Pearl's team is now sitting as our final No. 1 seed in the latest bracket update.

Auburn has not made the NCAA Tournament since 2003, where they advanced to the Sweet 16. That drought will obviously end this season. Now they have a chance to do something the school has achieved just one other time in their basketball history. Auburn earned a No. 1 seed in 1999, a run that also ended in the Sweet 16. Thanks to Purdue's loss to Wisconsin, adding to their recent slump, the Tigers now move into the last spot on the top line, headlining the West Regional.

Auburn is 6-3 against quadrant one and is 11-3 against quadrants one and two. It also helps that they've won seven true road games, plus another three on a neutral court. The Tigers are on their way to their just their second SEC regular season title, and first since 1999, as they have a two-game lead on Tennessee, with the tiebreaker, and have two games against South Carolina among their final five games.

The double-dip, regular season and tournament titles, should secure a top spot come Selection Sunday.

The Big 12 is getting some more love on the other side of the bracket, as Baylor has made a nice comeback and is now among the last four in, along with Kansas State. The Big 12 has been a competitive conference all season and the committee may very well take that into consideration when talking about the final few spots. This now gives the Big 12 eight teams in the field, tied with the ACC and SEC.

Here is your full bracket update.

Last Four Byes: North Carolina State, Arkansas, Houston, Washington
Last Four In: UCLA, Baylor, Temple, Kansas State
First Four Out: USC, Louisville, Syracuse, Georgia
Next Four Out: Marquette, Notre Dame, St. Bonaventure, Utah

Conference Breakdown

ACC - 8
Big 12 - 8
SEC - 8
Big East - 6
American - 4
Big Ten - 4
Pac-12 - 4
West Coast - 2
One-bid leagues - 24

Monday, February 12, 2018

Bracketology: Committee releases top 16 teams

The College Football Playoff found their footing in the debate scene by producing six weekly rankings, releasing them every week starting around late October, leading up to their version of Selection Sunday in early December. While college basketball does not go that far, they've dipped their toes into making their process more transparent. Sunday, the selection committee released their current top 16 teams for the NCAA Tournament, along with how the four regions would be set up with those 16 teams.

Today's bracket update will use those regional set-ups, essentially finishing the puzzle that the committee started. But before that, let's look at the committee's top 16.

1. Virginia
2. Villanova
3. Xavier
4. Purdue
5. Auburn
6. Kansas
7. Duke
8. Cincinnati
9. Clemson
10. Texas Tech
11. Michigan State
12. North Carolina
13. Tennessee
14. Ohio State
15. Arizona
16. Oklahoma

The committee is clearly going to look at quadrant one wins pretty heavily, as evidenced by Kansas sitting at No. 6. The Jayhawks have nine wins against the top RPI group and 14 wins against groups one and two.

As a reminder, in case you are new and haven't seen the new RPI groupings, the committee will divide wins into four quadrants that favors wins away from home.

Group 1: Home games vs. RPI 1-30, neutral games vs. RPI 1-50, road games vs. RPI 1-75
Group 2: Home vs. RPI 31-75, neutral vs. RPI 50-100, road vs. RPI 76-135
Group 3: Home vs. RPI 76-160, neutral vs. RPI 101-200, road vs. RPI 136-240
Group 4: Home vs. RPI 161-351, neutral vs. RPI 201-351, road vs. RPI 241-351

The committee also now will have a host of metric rankings for teams right on the team sheet, such as KPI, Jeff Sagarin and Ken Pomeroy, among others, which Kansas is high on as well, including No. 3 in KPI and No. 6 in Sagarin.

Kansas does have six losses, but only one in group two and one in group three. The loss to Oklahoma State could be holding them back right now, but all those tier one and tier two wins, plus already sitting at No. 6, shows that Kansas is very much in play for a No. 1 seed and probably will get it if they win Big 12, and especially if they pull the double-dip of regular season and tournament titles.

One team many thought would be in the top 16 but did not show up was Rhode Island. URI is currently No. 5 in RPI, but their lack of top wins (just 1-3 vs. group one and 6-3 vs. groups one and two) plus some of their low computer ranks (27th in Pomeroy, 34th in Sagarin) are the likely factors to not being a current top-4 seed. Our projection does have them as a No. 5 seed.

On the other side of the bracket, it was close between Syracuse and Louisville for the last spot in the field. Louisville has two group one wins to Syracuse's one, but the Orange have six wins against groups one and two, while Louisville has just three. And Syracuse won at Louisville. The Orange get the nod for the last spot. Syracuse is also among the RPI top 40. Only one Power 5 top-40 RPI team has been left out of the field since the formula change in 2005.

With that, here is your full bracket update.

Last Four Byes: Providence, Arkansas, Houston, UCLA
Last Four In: Temple, North Carolina State, USC, Syracuse
First Four Out: Louisville, LSU, Georgia, Marquette
Next Four Out: Notre Dame, Kansas State, Baylor, St. Bonaventure

Conference Breakdown

ACC - 9
SEC - 8
Big East - 6
Big 12 - 6
Pac-12 - 5
American - 4
Big Ten - 4
West Coast - 2
One-bid leagues - 24