Selection Sunday and Bracket Picks

 

*I apologize for spelling or anything I missed.  It took a lot of time to write this entry up.

Selection Sunday Reflection

There were a lot of question marks regarding seeding and teams that were included/excluded after the bracket was released to the public this past Sunday evening.  I won’t spend much time talking about the topic because what is done is done.  I thought the committee did great for the most part!  This would be a difficult year to place teams in a ranked order.  The top four teams own a combined 23 losses.  That set the record for most losses by the top 4 seeds in the NCAA tournament.  This is also the closest the top 20 teams have been in Ken Pomeroy’s rating system since he began to gather data back in 2002.  There were a few things I found confusing which I will address below.

In terms of seeding, there were a number of those close to college basketball that questioned not giving Michigan State a 1 seed and putting Virginia on the 2 line.  Arguments could be made for both teams to be a 1 seed.  What most college basketball insiders have pointed to were wins versus Top 50 teams.  Virginia won 10 games against top 50 teams during the season, whereas Michigan State won 7.

The other major thing I want to do in this section is a small experiment.  Below are four teams labeled “Team A”, “Team B”, etc.  It is difficult to create an objective picture without listing small details. I’m going to do my best to provide a clear picture that does not sway you to choose one team over another.  Of the following four teams, only two were invited.  This is my favorite part after the bracket is revealed because everyone is up in arms as to why this team didn’t make or why that team was let in to the dance.  The four teams:

 

Team A                                                         Team B

RPI: 30                                                            RPI: 58

SOS: 81                                                           SOS: 64

rec. vs Top 50: 3-2                                      rec. vs. t0p 50: 2-5

Away record: 8-6                                        Away record: 7-9

 

Team C                                                         Team D

RPI: 52                                                           RPI: 72

SOS: 166                                                       SOS: 43

rec. vs top 50: 2-1                                      rec. vs top 50: 5-6

Away record: 17-6                                      Away record: 6-9

*Note: I included neutral site games to be away games and the record versus the top 50 was drawn from realtimerpi.com.

So…who would you invite?

 

 

Team A is St. Bonaventure, Team B is Tulsa, Team C is Monmouth, and Team D is Syracuse.

To be fair, there are many more teams that sat on the bubble, like Vanderbilt and Michigan to name a couple big brand names.  All teams and all conferences are not created equal.  Monmouth went out and did exactly what they had to do according to what the committee always says to get an at large bid – play away games and win them.  They played just one home game in their first 12 games of the season!  That was just one example of what it would be like to decide who is in and who goes home in March.

Bracket Picks

Finally!  I will go region by region for my picks, giving brief thought for each matchup. The last two sections will cover Final Four matchups and the Championship matchup. Enjoy!

First Four:   FGCU beats Fairleigh Dickinson, Wichita State beats Vanderbilt, Southern beats Holy Cross, and Tulsa beats Michigan

The South Region

Round of 64

1Kansas beats 16Austin Peay – No explanation needed.

9Connecticut beats 8Colorado – Connecticut is getting hot at the right time of the year, but they had some help winning their conference tournament, playing against some easier competition.  They had to win that quadruple-overtime game against Cincinnati first thought.

5Maryland beats 12 South Dakota State – This is a potential bracket buster.  SDSU is a dangerously good team, but with the likes of future pros, I’d look for Maryland to win this game, but it will be close.

4Cal beats 13Hawaii – This is another great matchup that could bring disaster to most brackets.  Hawaii is also dangerous, but Cal has some great talent on their team.  I hope to see Hawaii moving on, but my gut tells me Cal.

11 Wichita State beats 6 Arizona – Arizona is concluding a “down” year, and it is difficult to pick against a Sean Miller team, arguably the best coach yet to reach a final four.  I also think this is the last game the Shockers win the rest of the year.

3Miami beats 14Buffalo – Miami is lanky and quick.  Once they get some separation in scoring, I think they will be laying on the points.  I think this is a double-digit win for Miami.

10 Temple beats 7Iowa – I think Temple does enough to secure a date with Villanova.  Iowa seems lost and their inconsistent play after beating top teams in the Big Ten is concerning.

2Villanova beats 15 UNC-Asheville – The balanced attack from Villanova is too much for UNCA.

Round of 32

1Kansas over 9Connecticut – UConn’s attempt to imitate it’s own run through the tournament a few years ago stops after Kansas’s balanced attack helps them to a win.

5Maryland beats 4Cal – This game, if it happens, is a toss up.  Kenpom gives Maryland the slight edge to move on with a 39.9% chance whereas Cal has a 39.3% chance.  This will be fun because there are at least four future pros that will play.

3Miami beats 11Wichita State – I think Miami’s talent and quickness knocks the Shockers out.

2Villanova beats 10Temple – This Philadelphia matchup leaves no one guessing.  Villanova moves on.

Sweet 16

1Kansas beats 5Maryland – Somehow, Bill Self’s Jayhawks, a team without NBA prospects, beats the Terrapins, on the way to the Elite 8.

3Miami beats 2Villanova – Miami’s size and speed outduels Villanova’s methodical play.

Elite 8

1Kansas beats 3Miami – Kansas does what it has done all season in finding a way to win.

The West Region

1Oregon beats 16Southern – Uhhhh…

8St. Joseph’s beats 9Cincinnati – St. Joseph’s can string some wins together and they did so in their conference tournament.  I think they live on an emotional state of winning and that carries them to the Round of 32.

12Yale beats 5Baylor – This is not well thought out on my part.  This is a game I wish to see Yale win.  This will be a good game.  Baylor has to travel to Brooklyn, New York for this game.  Kenpom gives Baylor a 61% chance to win 70-67.  I like those odds, so this will be one of my few heart instead of gut picks.

4 Duke beats 13UNC-Wilmington – The last two times Duke has had double digit loss seasons, they were upset in the tournament by a double digit seed.  I think Duke’s talent is too much for UNCW.

11Northern Iowa beats 6Texas – Texas is an odd team. Inconsistent, rather, in that they could never really get much of an offense.  If they have a long period without having a basket, Northern Iowa can capitalize and make them pay.

3Texas A&M beats 14 UW-Green Bay – Green Bay should have been here last year.  They stole Valpo’s bid and they’ll pay for it.  Texas A&M wins this one…hopefully.

10VCU beats 7Oregon State – Yay! It’s been forever since Oregon State has been in the tournament! Unfortunately they lose their first game back. Maybe next year?

2Oklahoma beats 15CS-Bakersfield – This is basically a home game for Oklahoma.  Buddy Hield runs an emotional offense and they will score in bunches to win this.

Round of 32

1Oregon beats 8St. Joseph’s – This will be a good game, but I think Oregon begins to pull away.

4Duke beats 12Yale – These two teams played each other earlier this year and Yale was able to hang with Duke.  Although Duke will be without one of their most important players, they handle Yale and move on.

3Texas A&M beats 11 Northern Iowa – Northern Iowa’s odd season ends as oddly as it started, hanging tough in games with the big boys, but making itself irrelevant as the game goes on.

2 Oklahoma beats 10VCU – This will be a good test for Oklahoma but I think their ability to stretch VCU’s defense helps them move on.

Sweet 16

4Duke beats 1Oregon -Coach K in March is difficult to pick against.  I also think Oregon can’t respond quick enough to adjustments Duke will make.

2Oklahoma beats 3Texas A&M – I hope I’m wrong on this, but I think the Sooners take this one.

Elite 8

2Oklahoma beats 4Duke – Oklahoma ends Duke’s run

The Midwest Region

1Virgina beats 16Hampton – Virginia’s stingy defense brings down Hampton.

9Butler beats 8Texas Tech – I think Butler matches up well with Texas Tech which will allow them to play loose and make their 3’s.

5Purdue beats 12UA-Little Rock – I think Purdue was underseeded by the committee.  Their pair of 7 footers will be too much for Little Rock.

4Iowa State beats 13Iona – Both teams can score. This may end up being the most exciting game of the Round of 64.  I think Iowa State learns from its mistakes after being bounced early last year.

6Seton Hall beats 11Gonzaga – Seton Hall has lost two games since January 27th, both games to Butler.  This is a young team, with 5 sophomores starting.  Mark Few is a great coach, but I think Seton Hall takes this one.

3Utah beats 14Fresno State – I think Utah handles this easily.  Not much else to say.

7Dayon beats 10Syracuse – Where have I seen this game before? Oh right, when Dayton was beating the Orange.  I think history repeats itself and the Flyers move on.

2Michigan State beats 15Middle Tennessee State – It’s Tom Izzo in March. I mean, c’mon.

Round of 32

1Virginia beats 9Butler – Butler can’t handle elite defenses.  They play too quickly and turn the ball over.

5Purdue beats 4Iowa State – This game will be well contested but I think Iowa State’s dependency on Niang does them in.  Boilermakers.

6Seton Hall beats 3Utah – This is another of my heart instead of gut picks.  Seton Hall’s ceiling is high and I think they take down the Ute’s.

2Michigan State beats 7Dayton – I think Denzel Valentine takes over and ends Dayton’s season.

Sweet 16

1Virginia beats 5Purdue – I think Virginia’s efficiency on both sides of the ball ends Purdue’s run.

2Michigan State beats 6Seton Hall – It was a fun run, but Seton Hall’s season ends when they meet the Spartans.

Elite 8

2Michigan State beats 1Virginia – Tom Izzo makes another Final Four and takes down Virginia to get there.

The East Region

1North Carolina beats 16FGCU – Dunk City is no longer and UNC ends FGCU’s run here.

9Providence beats 8USC – The Friars have incredible talent and it’s too much for USC.

5Indiana beats 12Chatanooga – I think IU was a weak 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament.  I am still trying to figure out how Tom Crean still has a coaching job there.  Credit to him though, he got the players to buy in and play as a team.  Hoosiers move on.

4Kentucky beats 13Stony Brook – Kentucky, basically college basketball’s D-League representative every year.

6Notre Dame beats 11Tulsa – This game will be closer than it should, but Notre Dame has struggled all year putting teams away when it has the chance

3West Virginia beats 14Stephen F. Austin – The Mountaineers end another successful Stephen F. Austin season.

7Wisconsin beats 10 Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh waffled down the stretch to end the season.  I think the Badgers capitalize.

2Xavier beats 15Weber State – Xavier plays tough basketball.  Their talent and size help them win.

Round of 32

1North Carolina beats 9Providence – This was a fun game a few years back when the seeds were different numbers next to the name. UNC won 79-77.  I think Providence hangs close all game, but UNC has been improving all season and are playing very well as a team.  Tar Heels move on.

4Kentucky beats 5Indiana – One fan base will be very upset that this matchup happened so early in the tournament.  I think Kentucky wins this to move on.

3West Virginia beats 6Notre Dame – The Irish’s luck runs out as they can handle West Virginia.

2Xavier beats 7Wisconsin – Both teams have efficient defenses but Xavier has more offense to move past the Badgers onto the Sweet 16.

Sweet 16

1North Carolina beats 4 Kentucky – UNC handles Kentucky’s pressure and sends them home.

3West Virginia beats 2Xavier – This is a hunch.  I think Xavier provides another letdown on not reaching the Final Four…again.

Elite 8

1North Carolina beats 3West Virginia – It’s the Tar Heels to lose, I think.  They have all the talent and great coaching.

The Final Four and Championship

1Kansas beats 2Oklahoma – Bill Self demonstrates you don’t need future NBA players on your roster to get to the championship game.

2Michigan State beats 1North Carolina – I don’t know why, but I feel like Michigan State was meant to play for the title against Kansas.

2Michigan State beats 1Kansas – The Spartans win behind great coaching and even better teamwork.  Tom Izzo does such a great job getting his players to play with a purpose and as a unit.

I hope there are more upsets this year.  This field is the most wide open.  I feel like most teams seeded 1-5 could make deep runs into the tournament.  I would love to be wrong with my predictions.  Let’s see how this whole thing shakes out!

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Selection Sunday

Today is arguably one of the best days of the year for a majority of sports fans.  Whether you are someone that follows college basketball closely or you hop on the bandwagon to fill out a bracket every March, the variables for every game come tournament time intrigues us.  In this post, I’ll list some helpful tips in filling out a bracket that can help you win your bracket pool!

There are a variety of ways to fill out a bracket.  Most people that participate will work from the outside in with their bracket.  What I have done in recent years that seems to work well is write down who I think will make the Sweet 16 and then work backwards, filling in games.  I repeat the step for the final four and then the championship game.

Here are some numbers to think about when picking second round match ups. (The First Four is considered the first round of play in the tournament – it’s confusing).

16 vs. 1 – Always put the 1 seed to win this match up.  They are 124-0 since the field expanded to 64, then 65, then 68.  Princeton gave Georgetown a scare back in 1989, and a handful of other 16s have lost by single digits, but it’s safe to pick the 1 seed here.

15 vs. 2 – This is another match up where it is safe to move the 2 seed onto the next round.  If you are looking to pick an upset here, know that the 15 seeds have won just 5% of the 124 games played since the field was expanded.

14 vs. 3 – In these games, the 14 seeds have won 16% of the time, not enough to warrant a pick unless the team on the 3 line is on a downward trend.

13 vs. 4 – The 13 seeds have won 20% of the games they have played against 4 seeds.  La Salle’s run in 2013 was fun to watch as they beat Boise State, Kansas State, and Mississippi before losing to Wichita State in the Sweet Sixteen.

12 vs. 5 – Always pick at least one 12 seed to upset a 5 seed.  Winning 35% of the time, it’s safe to pick at least one 12 seed to win a game in the tournament.  Last year was an anomaly seeing all of the 5 seeds through to the Round of 32.  In 2014, three 12 seeds won and NC State only lost by 3 points to St. Louis!  The key is picking the correct 12 seed to move on.

11 vs. 6 – The 11 seed has won less than the 12 seed actually.  They have a similar win percentage to 12 seeds, so it makes it safe to move at least one 11 seed onto the Round of 32.

10 vs. 7 – This part of the bracket is where it becomes difficult to predict who will win this match up because the teams are closer to each other in terms of ability.  10 seeds have won 40% of the time, so it may be safe to pick two to move on to the next round!

9 vs. 8 – The 9 seed has won 53% of the time in this match up.  I’d grab a coin to flip because these games seem to be toss ups most of the time.

Here are a few more things to consider when filling out your bracket:

Away Games and Winning Streaks Matter    —  Yes the games are played at a neutral site, but in the long run, both teams are playing away from home so it may be treated as an away game, especially for teams that are seeded lower because that influences where teams play geographically.  If a team has proven they can win away from home, they are a safer pick to move on.

Recency Plays an Important Part  —  I’m referring to recent play of a team.  The more recent results of a team’s schedule carries more weight than games they played in November and December.  If a team, like Seton Hall, has played well for a while, it’s safer to pick them to move on than a team that seems to be floundering, like Iowa.

Key Predictor  —  If you were to look through the KenPom ratings for teams that have made the Final Four and won the championship from 2002-2015, you’d find an interesting pattern in adjusted offense and adjusted defense.  The average offensive efficiency was 7.21 and the average defensive efficiency was 12.91 in that span (-5.70 offense to defense).  Of the teams to make the Final Four, their margin was nearly +2.0.

I will be updating this page so you may see my choices I’ve made in my bracket once the bracket is revealed!

 

Here is my updated seed lines for the bracket:

The 1 seeds: Kansas, Virginia, Michigan State, Oregon

The 2 seeds: North Carolina, Villanova, Texas A&M, Oklahoma

The 3 seeds: Xavier, Utah, Miami (Fl.), West Virginia

The 4 seeds: Purdue, Kentucky, Maryland, California

The 5 seeds: Seton Hall, Indiana, Iowa State, Notre Dame

The 6 seeds: Baylor, Texas, Arizona, Duke

The 7 seeds: Dayton, Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado

The 8 seeds: Providence, St. Joseph’s, Texas Tech, Oregon State

The 9 seeds: Butler, USC, Cincinnati, Connecticut

The 10 seeds: VCU, Pittsburgh, Wichita State, South Carolina

The 11 seeds: Gonzaga, St. Bonaventure, San Diego State, Temple, Ark-Little Rock, Michigan

The 12 seeds: Northern Iowa, Yale, South Dakota State, Chattanooga

The 13 seeds: NC-Wilmington, Fresno State, Hawaii, Stony Brook

The 14 seeds: Stephen F. Austin, Iona, Buffalo, Middle Tennessee

The 15 seeds: NC-Asheville, CSU-Bakersfield, Weber State, UW-Green Bay

The 16 seeds: Florida Gulf Coast, Hampton, Holy Cross, Austin Peay, Fairleigh Dickinson, Southern

 

Conference Tournaments

Conference tournaments in college basketball are arguably more exciting than the actual NCAA tournament itself.  That may be true for most schools in the country.  Think about this: in the last 20 years, only 11 of the 351 college basketball programs have cut down the nets in April.  If you want a number, that’s 3% of the nation possessing the championship for the last 2 decades.

Conference tournaments become an important and realistic goal for most teams in the body of college basketball.  In this post, I will list my favorites to win each of the thirty-two conference tournaments.  It’s really thirty-one because the Ivy League does not play a tournament at the conclusion of the season.  This could change in the near future as I’ve heard rumors that a tournament may be in the works in the next few years.  As I’m writing this, some conferences tournaments have already begun and some of the favorites I will list have already been knocked out!  I will remain honest in my decisions before tournaments started because, come on, who really predicted that Holy Cross would beat Bucknell in double overtime inside Bucknell’s own home and then beat Army, at Army?

In most conferences, teams play each other twice.  It’s difficult to hide deficiencies when playing a team for a third time in a season.  Successful teams have a coach that understands the strengths of the team and caters to those strengths during a game.  That’s not the only factor in being successful, but it is an important variable.

I’ll look like an idiot putting UT-Martin down to win the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament because I just looked at the updated bracket for the OVC.  UT-Martin was the 2 seed in this tournament and safely made it to the final.  On the other half of the bracket, Austin Peay created upset after upset by reaching the final to play UT-Martin.  Austin Peay beat Tennessee Tech on March 2nd, Tennessee State on March 3rd, and Belmont, the 1 seed, on March 4th just to get to the final.  It’s tough to play two games in a three day span, but they played four games in four days!  Austin Peay got hot at the right time.  In fact, they hadn’t won more than three games in a row this season.  After winning the Ohio Valley, they’ve won six games in a row.  Now, are they realistically going to win a game in the NCAA tournament? Probably not.  This is what makes the month of March exciting though.  It was probably predictable that the upset on Belmont was possible because of how the Bruins finished the season.  After winning nine games in a row, which included a win over a very good Valparaiso team, Belmont finished the season 4-4.  All four of those losses came to mediocre teams.  That’s not to say Belmont was going to lose from the tipoff.  The game went to overtime and the Bruins lost by one point, 97-96.

Winning streaks for teams is a good tool to use when predicting how a team will do in the NCAA tournament.  I use this when making picks in the NCAA tournament.  Not all winning streaks are created equal though.  (If a team like Duke wins 10 games against awful competition, that’s less impressive of a winning streak than a mid-major winning 10 games against highly competitive, brand name teams.)  If teams are on a winning streak, I’m more inclined to pick them.  Back in the 2009-2010 season, Butler was 8-4 after losing at UAB in December.  The Bulldogs did not lose a game the rest of the season and entered the National Championship game on a 25 game win streak.  Teams that mesh well tend to make it to the second weekend and further.  If you’re going to fill out a bracket this year, be sure to look for my post on tips when filling out a bracket!

 

Enough of theory and trends!  Here are my favorites for each of the 32 conference tournaments:

ACC: Virginia                                                                       America East: Stony Brook

American: SMU                                                                   A10: Dayton

Atlantic Sun: North Florida                                            Big 12: Kansas

Big East: Xavier                                                                  Big Sky: Montana

Big South: Winthrop                                                        Big Ten: Michigan State

Big West: Hawaii                                                               Colonial: Hofstra

Conference USA: Middle Tennessee                           Horizon League: Valpo

Ivy League: Yale                                                                MAAC: Monmouth

MAC: Akron                                                                        MEAC: Norfolk State

Missouri Valley: Wichita State                                    Mountain West: Fresno State

Northeast: Fairleigh Dickinson                                  Ohio Valley: UT-Martin

Pac-12: Utah                                                                     Patriot League: Bucknell

SEC: Vanderbilt                                                               Southern: Chattanooga

Southland:  Stephen F. Austin                                   Summit League: IPFW

Sun Belt: Arkansas-Little Rock                                 SWAC: Alcorn State

WAC: New Mexico State                                               West Coast: St. Mary’s