Sunday, January 01, 2012

W-10 BP68

Happy New Year everybody! As you probably expected, I didn't want to be on my blog at 1 in the morning on New Year's Eve, so you're getting this new bracket now. With several of the big conferences getting underway, we did have a lot of action this week. I actually moved Kentucky up to #1 overall not because I think they're the best team (I don't), but because I think they've got the easiest route to sweeping their conference regular season title and conference tournament. Kentucky, Ohio State, Syracuse, North Carolina and Duke are all in a situation where sweeping their conference's regular season title and tournament will lock them into a 1 seed.

The last of the conferences that haven't gotten underway will begin play this week, so by next week's bracket every single team in the nation will have played at least one conference game. At this point, though, I think I've got a pretty good feel for nearly all of the Tournament teams. Only when I get to the 11 and 12 seeds in my bracket am I getting to teams that I feel uncertain about putting them in the field. Once again the last team in the field was a tough one. I decided to drop Oklahoma State out for reasons described here, and I replaced them with Seton Hall, a team that I think will get to 10-8 and that I think will earn an at-large if they do.

Of the other at-large teams in the field, the two I feel most uncertain about are Northern Iowa and Texas A&M. I'd put both of their chances of making the NCAA Tournament at well below 50%, but that still puts them ahead of any of the teams I left out of the field. Remember that once we get to March we'll have some automatic bids stolen and we'll have some teams get hot and go on a run - those will be the teams that reach up and grab the last few spots. Of the teams I left out of the bracket, the ones most likely to move in next week are, in no particular order, Marshall, Mississippi State and Miami (Fl).

Among the automatic bids, the toughest conference for me was the Summit. Preseason I thought Oakland would be the best team, but this past week they got destroyed in two straight road games by North Dakota State and South Dakota State. Even though they were road games, I think Oakland got exposed in respect to those match-ups. Oakland's biggest weakness is their perimeter defense, and North Dakota State has an array of shooters both inside and out that just torched them (I wrote about that game here). I also think Oral Roberts, the fourth contender in that conference, is vulnerable to teams that shoot well, and so for a while was leaning toward making North Dakota State the favorite. But in the end I decided that Oral Roberts is just a slightly better team than North Dakota State. And at this stage, it's too early to be able to predict accurately what the match-ups will be in the Summit League tournament. As we get closer to February I'll start taking that into account, but for now I'm going with the best team, and I think that's Oral Roberts.

The other one-bid conference that might confuse some people is the Sun Belt, where I'm sticking with Florida Atlantic. Middle Tennessee State has, in my opinion, been the best team in that conference so far, and Denver has been better than FAU as well. But I haven't seen enough yet to waver from my preseason pick. Once these teams start playing each other in conference play, like they have in the Summit, I'll consider changing my mind. But for now, FAU remains the pick.

Without further ado, let's get to the bracket. Remember, this is a projection of the final bracket on Selection Sunday, and not a listing of how I think teams would be seeded if the season ended now:


2. Duke
2. Florida
2. TEXAS (BIG 12)
2. Louisville

3. Kansas
3. UConn
3. Wisconsin
3. Georgetown

4. Marquette
4. Indiana
4. Baylor

5. Alabama
5. Pittsburgh
5. Michigan

6. Missouri
6. Michigan State

7. Vanderbilt
7. New Mexico
7. Xavier
7. Purdue

8. BYU
8. Saint Louis
8. West Virginia

9. San Diego State
9. Florida State
9. Virginia

10. Northwestern
10. Illinois
10. California
10. Saint Mary's

11. Kansas State
11. Wichita State
11. Virginia Tech

12. Stanford
12. Southern Miss
12. Texas A&M
12. Northern Iowa
12. Seton Hall


14. OHIO (MAC)



Teams seriously considered that just missed the cut:
Miami (Fl), NC State, St. Joseph's, Cincinnati, Villanova, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Marshall, Missouri State, Washington, Mississippi, Mississippi State

Other teams with a decent shot, but that need to improve their resume:
Dayton, Notre Dame, Iowa State, VCU, Central Florida, Cleveland State, UW-Milwaukee, Indiana State, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State, Arkansas, LSU

Other teams I'm keeping my eye on, but that need to dramatically improve their resume:
Clemson, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Duquesne, La Salle, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, Providence, Rutgers, South Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, Drexel, Old Dominion, Tulane, Tulsa, Kent State, Illinois State, Boise State, Colorado State, Wyoming, UCLA, Auburn, Georgia, Tennessee, Charleston, Denver, Middle Tennessee St, Nevada, New Mexico State


DMoore said...

I'm puzzled as to why you have Texas A&M in over Mississippi State (no, I'm not one of the people who's been going off on how you've been ranking them this season). At some point, the close wins become just plain wins, and you are what your record says you are. At this point, they're 13-2, with nice wins over Arizona and West Virginia. I see them as the 5th best team in the SEC, so with their schedule they should end up with a fairly shiny record by the end of the year.

Texas A&M has a single nice win (over St Johns), is 9-3, and has a horrible strength of schedule. Their KenPom ranking puts them 8th in the Big12, so I don't see how you can project them to have a solid win/loss record at the end of the year.

What am I missing?

DMoore said...

One of my other puzzles is why you have Pitt ranked so highly (5th seed). From eye test, ranking, results, etc., they look like a team primed to disappoint and miss the NCAAs. I'm not saying they won't squeak in, but at this point I'd say that's their upper limit.

Their only decent win so far is Oklahoma State. If they don't win at Seton Hall or West Virginia, they may end up with zero top 100 road wins. Their only saving grace is that they get to play a number of the other mid-mediocre Big East teams at home (Villanova, Rutgers).

Jeff said...

With Texas A&M, keep in mind that they were without Khris Middleton for a while, and they also get a free pass for a slow start to the season with Billy Kennedy's illness. Remember that this is a team that was projected by some to finish as high as second in the Big 12 preseason, so I don't want to write them off because of a slow start.

Pitt is another team that is too talented for how their playing. Their team defense has been atrocious and their offensive efficiency has been poor - I believe they'll clean that up simply because they've done it every other year Jamie Dixon has been there.

And I still just don't see it on Mississippi State. I'll be surprised if they can make the Tournament with anything worse than a 9-7 conference record, and it's hard to see them finishing 9-7 or better. It's a narrow margin of error. As lucky as they've been with narrow victories, they're still only 40th in the Sagarin ELO_CHESS. They're only 2-1 against the RPI Top 100. Even with the expanded field, we won't see more than three or four teams outside the ELO_CHESS earn at-large bids. People are being fooled by Mississippi State's ranking in the human polls.

Anonymous said...

What in the world makes you think that Texas will be a 2 seed??????

Des said...

I agree with the poster above. I just don't see Texas having enough talent to win big 2 and get a 2 seed. The only true superfrosh they have is Kabongo, watching them game from game, they haven't really improved with weak inside play.

Also Pittsburgh wont get a 5 seed. They just are not playing well with Ashton Gibbs being a chucker and costing them so many poor possessions. They just lost to Cincinnati at home again ( which I know you didn't take into account) with 0-2 record now. Considering Depaul is much improved and Rutgers after beatin Florida showing some potential/form. They actually have a decent chance to lose at least one of the 2 games... with multiple road games against ranked teams coming up after that.

Jeff said...

I don't agree that Kabongo is the only superfrosh that Texas has. Sheldon McClellan and Jonathan Holmes are both playing a lot of minutes and playing well. And Julien Lewis is a freshman who is still raw, but who I could see getting a lot better.

There's no question that Texas is playing far better now than they were in early December, and they played better in early December than they did in mid-November. It just seems reasonable to me to believe this Texas team will keep getting better throughout the season. The reality is that as good as the Big 12 is, any team that wins at least a share of the regular season title along with the Big 12 tournament title is going to earn at least a 2 seed. I think Texas has as good a shot as any team.

As for Pitt, as was said, I didn't have knowledge of Pitt's loss today to Cincinnati when I made this bracket. If that had happened yesterday instead of today, I probably would have dropped them another line. The issue with Pitt is that they had played awful their past two games... do we believe that's a trend or a blip? I was willing to give Jamie Dixon a pass on two games. But now it's three, and if it continues with a loss to Rutgers or DePaul then the warning bells really start to sound. There's no question that the way Pitt has played so far this season is bubble quality - I rated them high because I assumed this poor play wouldn't continue.

Anonymous said...

(MSU Rob) I just had to check on you again just to see if we somehow squeaked in.

Yet another "lucky" week for MSU. I've been nice, but you talk out of both sides of your mouth using computers to dismiss teams and yet bolster them in your view. At some point, a team deserves to be ranked based on what they have accomplished. Again... you have 3 teams that we've beaten in your bracket... yet we are out still. It may happen, but that doesn't make any more sense Somehow you see Southern Miss with their multiple power wins as worthy? geez. You say we are ONLY 2-1 against the top 100, but apparently we are 3-0 against teams YOU have in the tourny. Does this even make sense to you? But for some fortunate calls at the end of the game (for Baylor), I was really hoping to see how you'd explain that... but obviously, you are going to stick with "luck" being our biggest asset.

Jeff said...

When you beat Utah State by 2 points... yes, you're lucky. A two point win is mostly luck. That's true for any team. Those close games tend to even out in the long run.

And it's simply a fact that Mississipi State is 2-1 against the RPI Top 100.

I may be wrong about Mississippi State, but what you have to realize is that they're a bubble team. Even if I put them in the bracket, it could only be as an 11 or 12 seed. There's no chance that they're still ranked by mid-February. Pomeroy and Sagarin both project them to go 9-7 in SEC play., which uses the Sagarin ratings, projects a final RPI of 49th. And, as I said, they're 2-1 against the RPI Top 100. Every stat points to a bubble resume.

And of course, those numbers have been put up with everything clicking. Everything is working - even Renardo Sidney has behaved for the most part. Willing to bet that will continue?

Anonymous said...

Let me get this right... you say we've peaked, been lucky, and we are playing our best.

I guess you don't realize that Moultrie has sat 3 games, Bryant 3, Sidney's missed some due to injury, Deeville missed the Akron game to illness and Dee has been playing below par the past 4 games, yet we are "flying high". Fact is, we haven't been playing our best, but we took your 4 seed to the wire and deserved better at the end. Sure, Sid should have kept his mouth shut, but an honest observer would see that it was hardly a fair call when the baylor guy came running through him, yet hit the deck. No matter, Sid's got to learn they are looking for him and to shake it off.

You keep spouting your POM or sagarin without weight of reality. In that same poll, Memphis - who I like - is ranked 32. Does anyone really believe they deserve that? Hell no.

Also, you keep spouting 2-1 AGAINST us when you've got teams in the tourny that are worse. such as az (0-4), A&M (0-2).

Sid or no sid, I'm willing to bet with you.

Jeff said...

I don't even understand what some of your points are. At #32 are you arguing that Memphis is too high or too low?

And now you're listing some bench player who missed a game against Akron? Come on. Mississippi State has only not been at full strength for one game against a competitive team - Brian Bryant missed the West Virginia game. Why am I supposed to care that Renardo Sidney missed games against Louisiana-Monroe, Tennessee-Martin and South Alabama?

I get it, you're a huge Mississippi State fan, and you love your team. That's awesome. I'm glad your team is playing well for you. Just understand that I can't put my bracket together like a Mississippi State homer. I've got to treat all the teams equally.

Anonymous said...

I am a state fan.. no question.

I'm not asking you to change your pics - you are entitled. Because I call you out on your inconsistent logic, doesn't make me a homer. One minute you quote Ken Pom and Sagarin to either support a team you "like", but the next you dismiss similar rankings because in the case of Texas A&M - "everyone knows" they are better than that. Memphis at 32 is a joke because they haven't nor will they beat anyone of substance. I've been pretty explicit in pointing out your inconsistencies in your logic, yet you always retort with assurances that involve "luck", "gut feels" & blatant flip-flops. for instance - when you first caught my attention, your beef with MSU was that we hadn't beatent bad teams BAD ENOUGH. Just now you have the chutzpah to ask why you should care if our primary players are missing insignificant games. And that takes me to my retort of your last comment. "You have to treat all teams the same". I've continually pointed out that you don't treat teams all the same. That is your right, but I am still willing to bet you and will call you out when the facts say otherwise.

Jeff said...

I understand that I'm not going to convince you. That's fine. Agree to disagree.

Anonymous said...

Texas as a 2 seed and having Mississippi State out of the tournament is just laughable. There is no evidence of any kind to suggest that is going to happen.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day this isn't a huge deal, but I think it's a microcosm of the big problem with your bracketology at this point of the season:

Right now, Middle Tennessee is 13-2, 2-0 in Sun Belt play, and ranked #58 in Pomeroy. Also, Denver is 11-3 with wins over St. Mary's and Southern Miss and ranked #95 in Pomeroy. Meanwhile, Florida Atlantic is 4-10, 0-1 in Sun Belt play, and ranked #170 in Pomeroy.

How can you possibly think Florida Atlantic is still the favorite to win the Sun Belt? Are you just so arrogant that you think your preseason expectations are more important than 2 MONTHS WORTH OF GAMES?

Jeff said...

It's not arrogance - I admit all the time when I get teams wrong (I've flipped by preseason winning the Southland, for example, even though they haven't played any conference games yet).

There are a few reasons to think FAU should still be the favorite. First, I think that their scheduling did them no favors. MTSU had three or four big opponents all spread out, and they could focus all their attention on those games and managed to steal a couple (Belmont and UCLA). FAU had to slog through a bunch of quality opponents in a row, and I think they got demoralized by a bunch of close losses (they lost four straight games that came down to the final minute, including one in double overtime). I think that once FAU settles down in to Sun Belt play they'll be more confident and will play better. Remember, FAU returns all but one player from a team that was 193rd in Pomeroy last season, and even that team underperformed a little bit in my view.

Another thing that works to FAU's advantage is that in a tournament setting in college basketball, point guard play is so important. Ray Taylor can take over the Sun Belt tournament by himself.

Finally, the conference schedule works in FAU's favor. They are in the same division as MTSU, while Denver is in the other division. FAU gets Denver at home, MTSU has to play them on the road. The odds of MTSU sweeping FAU are not great, and anything other than a sweep probably means FAU will be the top seed in their division, meaning that MTSU and Denver will have to play each other in the Sun Belt semis, while FAU will get to play a team like North Texas.

Throw in the fact that I don't want to change the conference favorite every week as the wind shifts, and I'd rather wait a few weeks to see how the conference plays out. If we get into conference play and FAU gets dominated at home by a Denver or MTSU team that is able to take advantage of a clear weakness, then I'll switch my pick.

Anonymous said...

For all you people questioning Miss State, Texas, etc. Jeff is the guy that had UNC as a 5 seed two years ago when they were 2-6 in ACC play. In November he thought they would be good, so in February he had the Tar Heels up there even when it was mathematically impossible for them to get that high a seed.

In other words, OF COURSE HE'S TOO ARROGANT to think on-court results matter as much as his November expectations.

Jeff said...

Yes, what an idiot I was for picking North Carolina #1 in the nation.... just like everybody else did.

That team had approximately 8 NBA players on it. The fact that they missed the NCAA Tournament was probably the biggest shocks/disappointments in the past decade. Sorry for not projecting it in advance.

Anonymous said...

btw, Missouri is up 81-42 on a 10-2 Oklahoma team and about to move to 14-0 on the year. Maybe you'll move them up to a 5 seed now?

Jeff: "Nah, in November I thought Haith was a bad coach. I'm the only person in america who never gets anything in college basketball wrong. Better leave them at a 6."

(Don't take it personally, I'm just trying to clue you in that while your analysis is good, it would be a whole lot better if you would understand NO ONE gets everything right in this sport, and just admit you're wrong before mid-February and adjust your predictions accordingly)

Jeff said...

Enough. Keep criticism fact-based. I won't hesitate to start blocking people. If you want to troll, do it on another website.

Slim Smith said...

Jeff: "Keep your arguments fact-based or I will block you.'' CHILDISH!!!! (especially since 99.9 percent of your "views'' are based on something other than fact. How old are you anyway?