There was a lot of action Wednesday Night in the world of College Basketball, with more upsets to consider when shuffling the bracket. There was especially a lot of movement in the 3 to 9 lines of the bracket, so I decided to show how I am currently building my bracket. I will follow with the Daily Shuffle to provide a more concise look at my changes today.
The #1's - The top seeds usually have the highest +/- vs the RPI top 200. Syracuse, Kentucky and Duke lead the way here. Baylor is 6th, but Creighton and Missouri, who are 4th and 5th have an RPI or Sagarin outside the top 10, which no top seed has had in the last 3 years. Syracuse, Kentucky, Duke and Baylor also have the top 4 average RPI and Sagarin's this morning.
The next step is to put the pool together of teams with RPI and Sagarin ratings both in the top 30. In the last 3 years, every team seeded 5th or higher had both these ratings in the top 30. Excluding the top seeds, this pool would include Kansas (9 RPI ,2 Sagarin), Ohio State (10,4), Michigan State (4,8), North Carolina (17,9), Missouri (13,6), UNLV (8,10), Georgetown (15,12), Indiana (24,13), Illinois (18,30), Seton Hall (5,29), West Virginia (14,20), Marquette (11,16), Creighton (19,14), Wichita State (25,15), Murray State (29,24), St. Mary's (26,17), Gonzaga (12,23), Kansas State (27,19), Alabama (20,18) and Michigan (23,27). That is 20 teams for 16 spots.
I am going to combine three indicators in my next step. I am still going to keep an eye on the +/- vs RPI top 200, but I am also going to bring RPI top 100 victories into the mix more prominently (Teams ranked below in order of RPI top 100 wins). Finally, all teams on the top 4 lines had at least one RPI top 25 win, so teams with a zero there will have a 5 seed ceiling.
Teams (Top 100 wins, 200 +/-, Top 25 wins)
West Virginia (8,7,1)
Michigan State (5,8,2)
Ohio State (5,7,2)
Seton Hall (5,7,2)
North Carolina (5,7,1)
Kansas State (5,4,2)
St. Mary's (5,7,1)
Wichita State (3,9,1)
Murray State (3,8,1)
Impressions - Marquette and Gonzaga immediately have a 5 seed ceiling. Murray State and Wichita State with only 3 top 100 wins seemed destined for a lower seed than some of their other indicators. The Shockers remind me a lot of Old Dominion last year who received a 9 seed despite high ratings and other indicators. I had ODU as a 6 last year and that did not work out. Four other teams need to be removed from the 2-4 lines. Indiana and Kansas State are my next two candidates, both ranking toward the bottom in both top 100 and 200 +/-. Working my way up, UNLV is in with both an RPI and Sagarin in the Top 10, which has been a top 3 seed guarantee the past 3 years. With the West Coast conference rated 11th, St. Mary's is my next bump from the top 4 line. My final spot comes down to Alabama and Seton Hall, and despite losses to South Florida and Villanova, the Hall's top 5 RPI and slightly better indicators keeps them in the top 4 lines.
The #2's - Missouri's +10 vs top 200 and overall win-loss record can not be ignored here. Kansas with 3 top 25 wins 8 top 100 wins is an easy choice as well. My third choice here is Ohio State, which will likely get a one-loss subtraction for missing Jared Sullinger at Kansas, giving them essentially only 2 losses, better than every other Big 6 conference team in the pool. The fourth spot is a bit tougher. Michigan State has the highest rankings, but lost to North Carolina and has one more overall loss. UNLV has just three losses and a victory over North Carolina, but with just 4 top 100 wins and the typical Mountain West -1 factor, they look more like a 3 seed. West Virginia, Creighton, Michigan and Illinois are currently too low in the Sagarin and RPI for a #2. Which leaves Georgetown and North Carolina, each with 3 losses as the choices. Georgetown's 5 top 50 wins are 3rd behind Duke and Baylor, and I do not have ACC bias like the committee, so I am going with the Hoyas here.
The #3's - North Carolina drops to the top of the 3 line. Michigan State and UNLV have both an RPI and Sagarin in the top 10, which locks a 3 seed for each based on 3 year's history. I am still not ready for Creighton, leaving West Virginia and Illinois as my choices here. While the Mountaineers have one more top 100 win, the Illini have two less overall losses and one more top 25 win.
The #4's - That leaves West Virginia, Creighton, Michigan and Seton Hall. I am going to use my eye test and veto power here. Despite no RPI top 25 wins, Marquette has 8 top 100 wins to the Pirates 5. Marquette does have one top 25 Sagarin win at Wisconsin, I just have no past Sagarin data to go with. Finally, right now the Golden Eagles are playing better than Seton Hall, so they are my choice.
The #5's - Seton Hall leads off the #5 line. I now have to go back to my pool of 7 and get the final three teams with top 30 RPI's and Sagarin's to fill out this line. The bottom three on the list, Murray State, Wichita State and Gonzaga are easy eliminators as previously discussed. Indiana's 3 top 25 wins are enough to keep them safely here, but like Seton Hall, a recent slump has them falling. I am also ready for a 2-loss St. Mary's team here. Which leaves Alabama and Kansas State for the final 5 seed. With the Tide ahead in both rankings, I will take a second SEC team before a fourth Big 12.
The #6's - Connecticut and Virginia are now eligible, each with 6 top 100 wins and at least a +6 vs the top 200. UConn's RPI/Sagarin disparity will be interesting to deal with if it persists. Joining Kansas State (5,4,2) and Gonzaga (3,8,0) in this pool is Vanderbilt (5,5,1), San Diego State (5,7,1) and Wisconsin (6,5,1). I am going to play another extenuating circumstance card here. Vanderbilt has played much better since the return of Festus Ezeli, so they stick here as a #6. Wisconsin has an RPI/Sagarin disparity that is hard to gauge, but only BYU has a top 11 Sagarin and fell below a 4 seed. The Badgers also have 4 top 50 wins, to 2 for Kansas State, Gonzaga and San Diego State.
The #7's - We start to get into more exceptions as we go. 10 out of 12 teams on the 7 line the past 3 years have had both ratings indicators of 41 or higher. The two that didn't had 3 top 25 wins and I don't have any of those teams remaining. Kansas State, San Diego State and Gonzaga all meet this criteria. California and BYU also do, but have no top 50 wins which presents another issue. The only two at-large teams without a top 50 win were Clemson and UAB last year, and they were awarded 12 seeds. Hold on those two teams for now. Memphis and Southern Miss meet the criteria from Conference USA, but both seem to benefit from the inexplicable C-USA ratings bloat and also should be seeded at or below Murray State who defeated both. Florida, Purdue and Temple just miss, so it appears it is also finally Wichita State time.
The #8's - The 8's have had both ranking indicators in the top 50. Xavier, Harvard, Northwestern, Louisville and Florida State are added to those already mentioned. Temple and Purdue each have 2 Top 25 wins and 5 top 100 wins and lock themselves in here. 4-loss Florida eats another spot, despite a lack of any great wins. A major conference team with less losses usually gets the nod though. Finally, I am giving Murray State the final 8 spot. As long as they are undefeated they must be considered a little different than other low-major schools have in the past (Utah State with 3 losses and a 15 RPI got a 12 seed last year).
The #9's - In an effort to curtail west-coast bias, the PAC-12 has been slightly over-seeded the past couple years. Despite no top 50 wins, I don't see the PAC-12 champion falling below a #9. Right now I project California to be that champion. As with the 8's, the 9's in all but one case have both indicators in the top 51. That adds Mississippi State to the mix, who with two top 25 wins and no bad losses gets one of the spots. Xavier has 6 top 100 wins and appears to have righted their ship and projects as the Atlantic 10 champion, though seeded behind Temple at this point. Finally, Louisville, while sliding, gets the Villanova treatment of a year ago due to their 5 top 100 wins.
The #10's - I will use roughly 56 as the ratings cap for the #10's. Dayton and its 2 top 25 and 6 top 100 wins finally qualifies. Florida State with 5 top 100 wins and the thrashing of North Carolina also lands here. Harvard owns a win over Florida state, so this appears like the proper spot to add them, although each loss drops Harvard a seed from here on out. Southern Miss gets an at-large out of the C-USA and uses their RPI of 16 to get the final 10 seed.
The #11's - The indicators are lost when you get here, except that good wins and top 100 wins appeared to be a factor for the remaining at-large spots a year-ago. Northwestern has 2 top 25 wins. Stanford, with 1 top 25 win and just 3 losses also lands here. Finally, BYU and New Mexico, despite zero top 50 wins, get the last two 11's with high Sagarins.
The #12's - Marshall is the current C-USA champ, so they are out of the first four and get a #12 with their 4 top 100 wins. Minnesota also has 4 top 100 wins and claims the other non-First Four 12 slot. Despite an extremely low RPI, Cincinnati now has 2 top 25 wins and 5 top 100 wins and joins the field here. Memphis, NC State and St. Louis, with 3 top 100 wins each and higher indicators than others at this level garner the final spots. Texas and Iowa State each have just 1 top 100 win, which doesn't stack up. Northern Iowa is fading and 7 losses just won't do it right now for an at-large team.
The #13's - Davidson has a top 25 win, while Middle Tennessee, Oral Roberts, and Iona have superior top 100 and 200 +/- over the remaining automatic qualifiers.
The #14's - Akron, Belmont, Long Beach State, and George Mason all have at least two top 100 wins, more than any of the other remaining automatic qualifiers.
The #15's - Nevada, Wagner, Weber State and Norfolk State have the next best resumes.
The #16's - UW-Milwaukee and Bucknell are next, with UNC-Asheville, Stony Brook, Texas-Arlington and Missisippi Valley State rounding things out.
Bracket Built and Trade Secrets revealed!!