Sunday, December 30, 2012

W-11 BP68

I talked earlier this evening about how underrated Kentucky basketball is. The legacy media's argument against teams like Kentucky is two-pronged, and these two prongs contradict each other.

The first is the "You have to watch the games!"/"Stop blogging in pajamas in your mother's basement"/"Get off my lawn!" argument, which boils down to not believing computer numbers that contradict conventional wisdom. Computers don't know how to play basketball after all... or something.

The second is that Kentucky is not good because they keep losing games. They lost very narrowly to Duke, Louisville and Baylor. And, yeah, they looked good-to-great in all of those games and could have easily won all three, but it doesn't matter because they lost and therefore they must drop in the polls. This is contradicting the first argument - they're saying that we shouldn't watch the games or judge the teams at all. They're saying that all we should do is buy a newspaper the following morning, see which teams won and which teams lost, and record that as the only relevant information.

Of course, neither of those arguments is correct. You have to judge a team by as large of a sample size as you can. Kentucky's Tournament resume sucks right now, but it will get better after they play some more games. Their luck should more or less even out over the season. What's fascinating is that the computers all had Kentucky as something like a ten point underdog today at Louisville, despite rating Kentucky much higher than the average Top 25 voter. The reason? Louisville is really, really good. And also, Louisville is at home (homecourt = 4 points). So Kentucky covered the spread easily. In any rational Top 25 poll, Kentucky would climb on Monday. But we don't have rational Top 25 polls. Expect Kentucky to drop.

Anyway, enough defending Kentucky. Let's get to the entire bracket. I only have one change to the Field of 68 - Colorado State is in and Alabama is out. That puts five Mountain West teams in the Tournament, which makes me a bit queasy. The nature of conference play (every game must have a winner and a loser) makes it unlikely that the Mountain West can get more than four teams in the Tournament. But at this point, I can't ignore how good Colorado State has played. They're in until they lose some games and give me a good reason to drop them.

As always, there wasn't too much shifting of seeds up or down the bracket. We will start hitting conference play in the major conferences before my next bracket projection (a week from today), so things might start to accelerate.

Remember, this is a projection of the final bracket on Selection Sunday, rather than of how I think teams would be seeded if the season ended now. There's a difference.

Here we go:


2. KANSAS (BIG 12)
2. Michigan
2. Ohio State
2. Syracuse

3. Kentucky

4. Michigan State
4. Minnesota

5. Cincinnati
5. NC State
5. Pittsburgh
5. Butler

6. Notre Dame
6. Missouri
6. Oklahoma State

7. North Carolina
7. Illinois
7. Wisconsin
7. Georgetown

8. Miami (Fl)
8. Wichita State
8. New Mexico
8. Kansas State

9. Baylor
9. Iowa State
9. Temple
9. Ole Miss

10. Iowa
10. Marquette
10. Maryland

11. Colorado
11. St. Louis
11. UCLA
11. Wyoming

12. St. Mary's
12. California
12. Virginia
12. Colorado State

13. OHIO (MAC)




Teams seriously considered that just missed the cut:
La Salle, Saint Joseph's, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Texas, Illinois State, Boise State, Oregon, Stanford, Alabama, Tennessee, BYU

Other teams with a decent shot, but that need to improve their resume:
Florida State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Charlotte, Dayton, UMass, Xavier, Seton Hall, West Virginia, Southern Miss, Akron, Belmont, Oregon State, Arkansas, LSU, North Dakota State

Other teams I'm keeping an eye on, but that need to dramatically improve their resume:
Clemson, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, DePaul, Providence, Rutgers, St. John's, South Florida, Villanova, Nebraska, Purdue, SMU, Illinois-Chicago, Bradley, Indiana State, Northern Iowa, Nevada, Arizona State, Washington, Washington State, Lehigh, Texas A&M, Santa Clara, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State


Anonymous said...

Watch La Salle play Miami Wednesday on ESPN 3. Big game.

Wolf said...

St. Mary's in? They should be in the "need to dramatically improve" category (at best). This bracket is relevant because it projects (the others that do the "if the season ended today" bracket are silly beyond words). But how could you "project" SMC as a tourney team? They don't have a single win over a tourney team (and their 3 losses are all to teams that you project as non-tourney teams). Are you projecting them to beat Gonzaga (but then would why are the Zags the 9-spot on your S-curve?). Given the Gaels schedule ... their best case scenario looks to be possibly getting ONE win (at home) vs a tourney team, with a half dozen or so losses to non-tourney teams. SMC is nowhere near the bracket "if the season ended today" ... and its nearly impossible to see them building a good enough resume to even be considered a bubble team on selection sunday. Their resume right now is worse (in some cases significantly so) than at least 15 teams that you have "OUT" (including Northern Iowa and Georgia Tech ... teams that beat SMC convincingly), and those other teams will have a lot more opportunities for "good" wins than SMC. Keep up the good work ... but please, get SMC out of there so that I can use your predictions without losing credibility. Thanks!

Jeff said...

Haha, well I appreciate your comments, Wolf. And you are definitely right that St. Mary's would be out if the season ended now. In fact, as you said, there are probably 15 teams I have out of my bracket with a better resume than St. Mary's has at the moment.

But here's my logic:

I think St. Mary's will beat Harvard and then go 11-5 or 12-4 in WCC play, with a home win over Gonzaga and then a good chance to get to the WCC tournament title game. I think that's, very narrowly, a Tournament resume.

Meanwhile, I think Gonzaga can lose two games in WCC play and still earn a 3 seed. I think they'll lose at St. Mary's, and then they'll probably slip up once against somebody else.

That's my logic, at least. But keep in mind that the last team or two in the bracket at this stage in the season are always going to be teams with a <50% chance of making the Tournament. There's nobody that I currently have out of the bracket that I would say has anything close to a 50% chance of getting in. Would you?

Wolf said...

Jeff - Happy New Year. It's nice to read a logical explanation; that is often hard to find from among the "bracketologists". As Jules Winnfield would say ... "allow me to retort":

Under your scenario, SMC at 12-4 in the WCC would mean a loss (presumably) at Gonzaga, at BYU, at Santa Clara, and then at another team (San Fran/Loyola?) that will likely be a sub-150 team (whether measured by rpi or by kenpom or by the VBDI we can agree that would be a "bad" loss). Obviously, at 11-5, that would mean they'd have yet another "bad" loss. On selection sunday, they'd have exactly one "good" win over a tourney team (home v Zags), two "semi-good" wins vs a non-tourney team (home at BYU; neutral at BYU in the WCC semis). The Gaels would have at least two "bad" losses (Pacific/other WCC loss). I'd consider Santa Clara, Northern Iowa and Harvard neither "good" nor "bad", so the two home wins and the two road losses don't move the needle one way or the other. I don't consider that a tournament resume. They certainly shouldn't get in over a team that has MORE "good" wins over tourney teams (with the same/less number of "bad" losses).

Obviously, the last two teams are less than 50% to get in at this point. You have about 30 teams listed outside the bracket who have at least some chance of getting a bid. To over-simplify, 30 tourney teams fighting for two spots averages out to about 6.7% chance per team. So even the "best" of these teams would be about 20-25%. I can't say that any of the "out" teams have a 50% shot ... but I can say that the following teams will likely end up with more "good" wins than SMC, with same/less "bad" losses:

- St. Joe's (neutral win over ND, project 2 more "good" wins (Butler (h), Temple (h), StL (a)?)
- Oregon (win AT UNLV, project at least 2 more "good" wins (home games vs Zona, Col/Cal)
- Tennessee (win vs the Shockers, project at least 2 more "good" wins (home games vs Memphis, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Florida, Mizzou) [esp if Maymon returns for the latter 3 games].

Those three teams have proven already that they can beat "good" teams (SMC hasn't). Yes, they will have more opportunities to play (and defeat) "good" teams ... but they'll also play many more "semi-good" teams. A team like SMC just needs to get "up" a few games/year ... they can get away with playing like crap (resting players, nursing injuries, having an "off" shooting night) and still winning 2/3 of their conference games. If SMC beats the Zags on the road, or sweep BYU, or even if they go 14-2 in WCC (with their only losses at Zags/BYU), then I suppose I could see them deserving of consideration. But based on exactly what you are projecting them to do ... they shouldn't get in. There likely are other teams besides St. Joe/Oregon/Tenn that are/will be better than St. Mary's, but I'm still a little hungover and stopped looking. Besides, I/we have spent way too much talking about such a crap-tastic team. Keep up the good work!

Jeff said...

Thanks for the long fact-based response. And I won't say that I have a strong feeling about a response, because I don't. I never feel good about the last few teams in the bracket this early in the season.

What will end up happening in March is that a couple of auto bids will get stolen, and a couple more teams will get hot late, and they'll eat up those last few spots. So at this point, I'm just trying to do my best to guess it.

Wolf said...

You're doing a great job ... you're the only "bracketologist" (I believe) who does "guess" at what will happen. That's the only way to do a bracket projection. Anything else is irrelevant. We can disagree about your "guesses" ... but at least you're doing it right. I have no idea why people post "if the season ended today" brackets ... and I have even less idea (if that's possible) why any college basketball fan (or anybody) would care about those types of brackets. We don't waste time after week 4 of the NFL talking about the playoffs would look like if the season ended that week.

Anyway, nice work. And I have really enjoyed seeing you tear Bilas apart on twitter.

Jeff said...

Thanks. I appreciate the kind words.

Anonymous said...

Is it a safe bet that Arizona winds up in the West region if they're a 1-4 seed? Along the same lines, do you mind explaining/clarifying protected seeds?

Jeff said...

Sure. It is not a guarantee that Arizona will end up in the West region if they're a 3 or 4 seed. If they're a 1 seed then, yes, they'd definitely be in the West.

The idea of protected seeds is that the highest seeded teams are placed as close to home as possible. So the 1 seeds are put in the regions closest to them, for example.

Where it really comes into place for 1-4 seeds is with the "pod system", which determines where teams play in the Round of 64 and Round of 32.

In 2013, the "pods"are listed here. If Arizona is a 1 seed then they're basically guaranteed to end up California. As their seed drops, the probability drops, and maybe they'll end up in Salt Lake City, or even Texas if their seed drops enough.

So there are no hard and fast rules that if you are a certain seed then you will definitely be where you want to go. But the higher your seed, the more effort the Selection Committee will go through to get you closer to home.