Wednesday, February 28, 2018

NCAA Tournament Bracket Prediction - February 28, 2018

NCAA Tournament Bracket Prediction - February 28, 2018


1's - Virgina, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas
2's - Michigan State, North Carolina, Purdue, Duke
3's - Auburn, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Clemson
4's - West Virginia, Wichita State, Texas Tech, Ohio State
5's - Kentucky, Arizona, Michigan, Miami (FL)
6's - Houston, TCU, Virginia Tech, Florida
7's - Gonzaga, Rhode Island, Nevada, Seton Hall
8's - NC State, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Creighton
9's - Florida State, Butler, USC, Missouri
10's - Arizona State, Oklahoma, Providence, St. Bonaventure
11's - Middle Tennessee, Louisville, Kansas State, (Alabama, St. Mary's)
12's - (Baylor, Washington)* Loyola, Louisiana, Buffalo
13's - New Mexico State, South Dakota State, Vermont, Murray State
14's - Rider, Northeastern, Bucknell, UNCG
15's - Montana, Penn, Northern Kentucky, Wagner
16's - UNC-Asheville, UC-Irvine (Southern, North Carolina A&T, FGCU, Nicholls State)

First 4 out - Texas, UCLA, Marquette, Syracuse

*Even though I don't believe the committee will feed a play-in game to San Diego, for purposes of seeding I am not concerned with that at this point

1  Virgina (Pittsburgh)
2  Purdue (Detroit)
3  Auburn (Nashville)
4  Texas Tech (San Diego)
5  Kentucky (San Diego)
6  Virgina Tech (Nashville)
7  Seton Hall (Detroit)
8  Arkansas (Pittsburgh)
9  Butler (Pittsburgh)
10 St. Bonaventure (Detroit)
11 Middle Tennessee (Nashville)
12 Baylor/Washington (San Diego)
13 New Mexico State (San Diego)
14 Northeastern (Nashville)
15 Wagner (Detroit)
16 FGCU/Southern (Pittsburgh)

1  Villanova (Pittsburgh)
2  Duke (Charlotte)
3  Cincinnati (Wichita)
4  West Virginia (San Diego)
5  Arizona (San Diego)
6  TCU (Wichita)
7  Rhode Island (Charlotte)
8  Texas A&M (Pittsburgh)
9  Florida State (Pittsburgh)
10 Providence (Charlotte)
11Alabama/St. Mary's (Wichita)
12 Louisiana (San Diego)
13 Vermont (San Diego)
14 Rider (Wichita)
15 Northern Kentucky (Charlotte)
16 UNC-Asheville (Pittsburgh)

1  Xavier (Nashville)
2  Michigan State (Detroit)
3  Clemson (Dallas)
4  Wichita State (Boise)
5  Michigan (Boise)
6  Florida (Dallas)
7  Nevada (Detroit)
8  NC State (Nashville)
9  USC (Nashville)
10 Oklahoma (Detroit)
11 Louisville (Dallas)
12 Buffalo (Boise)
13 South Dakota State (Boise)
14 Bucknell (Dallas)
15 Montana (Detroit)
16 North Carolina A&T/Nicholls State (Nashville)

1  Kansas (Wichita)
2  North Carolina (Charlotte)
3  Tennessee (Dallas)
4  Ohio State (Boise)
5  Miami (FL) (Boise)
6  Houston (Dallas)
7  Gonzaga (Charlotte)
8  Creighton (Wichita)
9  Missouri (Wichita)
10 Arizona State (Charlotte)
11 Kansas State (Dallas)
12 Loyola (Boise)
13 Murray State (Boise)
14 UNC-Greensboro (Dallas)
15 Penn (Charlotte)
16 UC-Irvine (Wichita)

2018 Men's Basketball Tournament - February 28 Bracket Thoughts

With selection Sunday fast approaching, I have been trying to sort through all the teams and numbers to as always, help determine who will make the "Big Dance" and where each team will most likely be seeded.  This year is providing some new challenges.  First, the glut of teams in the middle of the pack in the Big 12, SEC, ACC and Big East leaves very little to differentiate these teams.  Second, with the adoption of the new "quads", we are not sure how much weight the committee will give to this new grouping as opposed to falling back on past principles.  Finally, determining the field is a challenge every year.  It is what makes it fun.  It is what makes this the best time of the year.

I will be publishing my first field of 68 this week, but as I put it together, here are some of my main questions that I am struggling with.

1.  What to do with Gonzaga?

Last year, Gonzaga finally broke through after years of high seeds and promise and made it to the Championship Game.  This year, the Zags have posted a solid 27-4 record and look like your typical Gonzaga team that has a shot in March.  Right now, they are slotted as a #5 seed in the bracket matrix, with some showing them as high as a #3 seed.

Here is the problem I am having.  Gonzaga's RPI is down to 30.  They have three Quad 1 wins (Ohio State on a neutral floor and at St. Mary's and Washington).  I will get to the last two teams later, but I have them both squarely on the bubble.  The Quad 2 home win against Creighton looks good, but the Neutral floor win against Texas gets worse by the day as the Longhorns play their way into serious jeopardy.  If you look at the team sheet for Gonzaga, their results based metrics have them at #25, while the predictive metrics have them at #9.  How much will the committee consider these predictive metrics is another question to add to the list.

When Gonzaga has been seeded highly as a 1 or 2, they have always had a top 10 RPI.  I went back and found two recent versions of teams similar to this years team.  In 2012, Gonzaga was 25-6 with an RPI of 25.  They received a #7 seed that season.  In 2014, Gonzaga was 28-6 with an RPI of 20.  they received a #8 seed in 2014.  And just ask St. Mary's how the committee typically views the West Coast Conference. 

2.  Who is the last #3 seed?

I have 11 teams separated at the top, but who is the #12 team on the seed list? 

Top 11:  Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina, Purdue, Duke, Auburn, Tennessee and Cincinnati.

I see Wichita State, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Clemson as the 4 currently vying for that spot.  Wichita State has a resume that lacks the high end wins with only three in Quad 1, but that number is 13 when adding in Quad 2.  Texas Tech has 6 Quad 1 wins and is 10-8 against Quad 1 and 2.  West Virginia has 7 Quad 1 wins and is 13-8 against Quad 1 and 2, but their RPI is 29 this morning.  Clemson has a sterling RPI of 10 this morning, but they have only 4 Quad 1 wins and are 10-7 against Quads 1 and 2.  Clemson's worst loss is to #49 NC State.

Hopefully one of these teams will separate themselves in the next 10 days.

3.  What will the committee do with the "faders"?

Every year they say the entire resume is taken into consideration.  Let's put that to the test this year with Oklahoma, Arizona State and Alabama. 

Oklahoma is 3-10 in their last 13 games and now sits at 17-12 with an RPI still at #37.  They still have a win over Kansas, @Wichita State and a sweep of TCU.  They have no losses outside Quad 2.  They seem safe for inclusion, but maybe their seed will take a slight hit.

Arizona State sits at 19-9 with an RPI of 42.  They have lost 3 in a row and sit at 7-9 in the mediocre PAC-12.  They have only 3 Quad 1 wins, but two of them are a neutral court win against Xavier and winning at Kansas.  I am not sure there are two better wins out there.

Alabama is now 17-13 with an RPI down to 57 after losing their 4th game in a row.  They have to go to Texas A&M to finish off the SEC regular season and if they lose that and in the SEC tournament, they will have 15 losses.  They are 2-7 away, but did go 3-1 in neutral court games.  They have wins over Auburn, Tennessee, Rhode Island and Texas A&M, but all at home.  The bracket matrix has Alabama as a #9, but the more I look, they are closer to the bubble than that.

4.  I am not hating on the West Coast Conference, but is St. Mary's safe?

Guess where teams from the West Coast conference with a 27-4 record, RPI of 38 and one quality win get seeded?  If you answered the NIT, then you are correct.  Some matrix contributors have them as high as a #6 seed.  I am not sure what to make of them yet.  They may survive the bubble due to the lack of quality at the bottom, but this resume is weak.  In 2016, St. Mary's was 26-5 with an RPI of 38 and two wins over Gonzaga and went to the NIT.  I might suggest St. Mary's win the West Coast tournament.  It is just a gut feeling.

5.  How do you separate the middle?

If my bracket goes completely wrong, it is because I will mess up the whole middle of the bracket.  Does the committee side with RPI or quality wins or lack of bad losses or road record?  How they sort out Creighton from USC from Arkansas from Florida State will be interesting.  Virginia Tech has beaten Virginia, Duke, North Carolina and Clemson.  Yet they are 21-9 with an RPI of 46.  Closer look says that is dragged down by playing the worst of the worst in the non-conference schedule, which frankly is the next topic the RPI should consider tweaking.  What is the difference between the teams ranked 250 to 350?  There should be a cap on the negative impact those awful teams have on the RPI.  That discussion is for another day.

Time to put together my first bracket prediction of the year.