Monday, March 6, 2017

First Bracket 2017

2 Seeds:  Louisville, Baylor, Florida State, UCLA
3 Seeds:  OREGON, KENTUCKY, Butler, Florida
4 Seeds:  Duke, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Virginia
5 Seeds:  Arizona, SMU, Cincinnati, Purdue
6 Seeds:  Minnesota, Maryland, Iowa State, Oklahoma State
7 Seeds:  St Marys, Wisconsin, Creighton, South Carolina
8 Seeds:  Miami (fl), Virginia Tech, Michigan State, Seton Hall
9 Seeds:  Marquette, Michigan, DAYTON, Arkansas
10 Seeds:  Providence, VCU, WICHITA ST., USC
11 Seeds:  Northwestern, MIDDLE TENNESSEE ST., Xavier, Illinois/Kansas State
12 Seeds:  Vandy/Rhode Island, UNCW, NEVADA, UT ARLINGTON

Last Four In:  Illinois, Vandy, Rhode Island, Kansas State

First Four Out:  Iowa, Syracuse, Wake Forest, Cal

Predicted Conference Champs (by Standings) in CAPS.
Conference tournament Champs in BOLD.

The Bubble:

I have zero doubt these teams will be in:

St Marys, Wisconsin, Creighton, South Carolina, Miami(fl), and Virginia Tech

Teams that are in unless the committee does something crazy:

Michigan State:  They don’t have great wins, but they have too many good wins.  They have 6 RPI top 50 wins including a 4-1 record against RPI 26-50.  They’ve struggled to beat RPI top 25 teams (2 wins against 7 losses), but have looked like a tournament team other than that. 

Seton Hall:  It’s really hard to differentiate some of these Big East teams, but Seton Hall has avoided bad losses so I give them the edge over Providence and Marquette.  Seton Hall has 4 top 50 wins (Butler, Creighton, South Carolina and Xavier) to go with wins over bubble teams like Marquette, Providence, Cal and Iowa.  They’ve done their job against bubble level competition and should be in the tournament.

Marquette:  Their actual RPI and strength of schedule aren’t great and they have some losses to other bubble teams, but they own a couple great wins (Villanova and a Creighton on the road), to go with other solid wins against Creighton, Xavier(2x), Seton Hall and Vandy.  They have 10 top 100 wins including a 7-6 record against the RPI top 50. 

Michigan:  The variance of this team is telling, but they have likely done enough.  Their wins over SMU, Purdue and Wisconsin are particularly strong for a bubble team.  They also have quality wins over Michigan State, Marquette and Illinois.   They played a lot of crap in the nonconference but likely did enough in the conference that it doesn’t matter.

Dayton:  They were the A10 regular season champions and clearly were the team with the best resume in the A10.  They swept Rhode Island, beat VCU twice and beat bubble team Vandy.  They also have a couple other wins over good teams from smaller conferences (Winthrop and TN State).  The other big thing Dayton has going for it is they avoided anything bad.  While they don’t have any wins over obvious tournament teams, they took care of business against the bubble teams and that should keep them on the safe side.

Arkansas:  They are 29 in the RPI and though the rest of their resume screams end of the bracket bubble team, being in the top 30 for a major conference team makes going to the tournament virtually automatic.  They are 3-6 against the RPI top 50 with only 1 of those wins coming against a clear tournament team (South Carolina).  Their next 3 best wins are against Vandy, Houston and Texas Arlington.  Of those, Vandy is probably the only realistic at large contender.  I wouldn’t mind if the committee kept them out, but given the committee’s history they look like a safe bet to dance.

Providence:  There is enough good on this resume that the bad, losses to BC and Depaul, will probably not hold them back.  They own solid wins over Butler, Creighton, Xavier, Rhode Island and Seton Hall (with Creighton coming on the road).  Their win over Vermont is also sneaky good.  That gives them 6 RPI top 50 wins and a 10-8 record vs. the RPI top 100.  Ultimately that will be enough.

I think they will make, but there are reasons to be concerned:

VCU:  The 23 RPI ranking is great, though if you are not in a major conference it doesn’t make you a lock (as Colorado State found out in the not so distant past).  Their win over Dayton is the biggest on their resume.  They also have wins over Middle Tn State and Princeton.  I could see Middle TN State getting an at-large bid if they don’t win their conference and Princeton is also a top 50 RPI win.  That makes them 3-3 against the RPI top 50 and 7-5 against the RPI top 100.  For a small conference team I think that’s enough as they did well enough in the opportunities they were given, but it’s nothing that makes you feel great about them.

Southern Cal:  Their resume is really two great victories, both at home (SMU and UCLA) and avoiding bad outcomes.  They only have 1 loss outside the RPI top 100 (on the road to Arizona State).   They don’t have any real meat away from home but their 6-5 record on the road and 2-0 neutral record allows them to avoid being lumped in with Syracuse as a team that has completely failed on the road.   The BYU win is nice, though nothing special.  They are only 5-7 against the RPI top 100.  I think they are in, but there is plenty to worry about. 

Northwestern:  Beware of everyone calling them a lock.  They are probably in but there are arguments to keep them out.  The Good:  3 wins over near definite tournament teams (Dayton, Michigan and Wisconsin) and 2 wins over end of the bracket type bubble teams (Wake and Iowa).  It’s also good that the Wisconsin win was on the road and they beat Dayton at a Neutral site.  They also have no “bad” losses.  They are only 4-7 against the RPI top 50, but they are 3-1 against 26-50 and have 10 wins against the RPI top 100.  I think they’ll make it.

I have them in, but they’re definitely on the bubble:

Middle TN St.:  They can avoid any doubt by just going ahead and winning their conference tournament.  I have them in my bracket assuming they will do that.  Right now I’d have them above some of the teams at the end of the bubble, but any loss in their conference tournament is likely a “bad loss” and I’d revisit them in that situation.  I think they’ll be pretty close to the cutline one way or the other if they don’t win their conference tournament.  They have 3 very good wins (UNCW, Vandy and Belmont), but none of them are over teams that will definitely make the tournament as at large teams.  Belmont running through the OVC tournament like they did the regular season would have helped, but that didn’t happen.  UNCW winning the CAA tonight would be good for them as well.  They are 2-1 against the RPI top 50 and 4-1 against the top 100.

Xavier:  They have probably done enough, but if the committee looks hard at their resume without Sumner they could be in trouble.  The good for Xavier is they played the RPI game well only playing 3 sub 200 teams.  This is made more impressive because 2 were in conference (Depaul twice) and one was in a preseason tournament game (Mizzou).  That means in the schedule they can control Xavier completely avoided RPI killer type games.  A+ to their administration for that.  Xavier also has enough tournament caliber wins to justify their inclusion.  They won at Creighton, and were able to beat both Seton Hall and Providence at home.  The home win over Wake is looking more important as Wake will be competing with them for one of the last spots and the neutral win over Clemson is nice as well.  They have also really avoided bad losses as 11 of their 12 losses are against teams that SHOULD be dancing (The road loss to Colorado isn’t really even a bad loss either). That said, Xavier is only 3-8 against the RPI top 50 and they haven’t beat anyone other than Depaul since February 8.  If the committee really looks at the team they are now vs. the one they were with Sumner, Xavier could be staying home.

Illinois:  Illinois owns a bunch of wins over tournament teams or near tournament teams.  Wins over VCU, Michigan State, Michigan and Northwestern (2x) are big feathers in their cap.  They also beat BYU and swept bubble team Iowa.  Their 11 top 100 wins will look good as well.  That said, they are going to end up with 14 losses (unless they win their conference tournament) and that includes losses to Rutgers and Penn State (2x).  At the end of the bracket I think the committee consistently values the wins over tournament teams over everything else, so I have Illinois in, but wouldn’t be surprised if I missed on them.

Vandy:  Could a team get in with 15 losses?  Vandy will be a good test for that.  They have 5 top 50 wins and 10 top 100 wins.  The 5 top 50 wins are not just against bubble competition they are all against teams that should be well inside the tournament (none are lower than 33 in the RPI).  These wins include Florida (2x), Iowa State, Arkansas (on the road) and South Carolina.  The own a terrible loss to Missouri, but all of their other losses are to top 100 teams.  RPI ranks them as having the number 1 nonconference Strength of Schedule and the number 2 overall Strength of Schedule.  I think the committee rewards that and puts a 15 loss team in the field.

Rhode Island- 2 big wins against Cincinnati and VCU and not much else.  They are only 4-7 against the RPI top 100.   I have them in for now, but realistically I think if they don’t make the conference tournament finals they are out.

Kansas State:  Three great wins over Baylor, WVU and Oklahoma State.  No bubble team has 3 better wins.  They also have 12 losses (likely will have 13) and those are their only wins over tournament teams.  The Texas Tech and Oklahoma losses look bad on the RPI (though they aren’t as bad when looking at the metrics).  Right now they are my last team in the field. 

Seven teams that should be discussed for the last few spots:

Iowa:  5 wins over teams that will almost certainly be in the tournament (Purdue, Maryland, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Michigan).  Several losses to teams around the bubble (Illinois 2x, Northwestern, to a lesser extent Michigan State, Seton Hall).  RPI is only 72 which is very low for a team included in the tournament.  Two losses to teams below 100 in the RPI.  Good reasons to have them on either side of the cutline.

Syracuse:  Some great wins (FSU, Duke, UVA), but they are all at home.  Hell even the good wins over Miami, Wake, Monmouth and Clemson are at home.  They sit at 80 in the RPI, have a loss to RPI 211 Boston College and are 2-10 away from the Carrier Dome.  Despite the wins, that kind of road/neutral number likely won’t fly with the committee.  They need to do something in the ACC tournament.

Wake Forest:  They are only 2-9 against the RPI top 50.  The win over Louisville is excellent, the win over Miami is nice.  Other than that they missed on a lot of their chances.  They have losses to VT(x), Syracuse and Xavier among the bubble competition.  All of their losses are to tournament teams or bubble teams.  At 32 in the RPI their computer profile is the kind of team the committee sometimes like to let in, but I think they need one more victory over tournament caliber competition. 

Cal:  A lot of people have them in but to me their resume is incredibly lacking.  Their only victory over an at-large caliber team is over Southern Cal, by 1 point (though on the road).  I don’t even like the Southern Cal resume that much.  The neutral site win over Princeton is nice, but then it is a whole lot of nothing.  They have two sub 100 RPI losses and a total of 11 losses.  I’d be very surprised if the committee included them without at least one more win over an NCAA tournament type team.

Clemson:  They are not in right now.  There is just no way, but because they are in the ACC they could get there.  Clemson lost a bunch of close games and finished 6-12 in the conference.  They swept Wake Forest, beat South Carolina and have a win over UNCW.  They’ll need a run to the finals to likely have a shot. 

Illinois State:  Not much to the resume other than the win over Wichita State, but they along with the Shockers dominated a very good league.  I don’t think they did enough but the committee should discuss them at least.

Houston:  The Rhode Island win is the only one over a possible at large team.  The Vermont win is better than many think and the UCF win is nice.  They don’t have a tournament resume, but a run to the AAC finals and maybe they can sneak that last spot (I still don’t think it will be quite enough). 

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