Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Morning Elite 8 Musings and More

- Let's begin by discussing Indiana doing the right thing and not hiring Steve Alford. Alford's track record is fine but Indiana needed to hire a young, energetic coach and successful young coach. They checked all three with Archie Miller.

He'll find Indiana to be unreasonable in expectations but my guess is his he'll do well enough and better than his predecessor. Will Indiana accept a track record similar to his brother Sean? My guess is yes. Sean Miller will get to a Final 4 soon enough and Archie will at IU. Which does first? 

- Congratulations to Mark Few and Gonzaga for breaking through. The criticism they've received through the years has been largely unfair. Now, people are mocking them for only having to beat an 11-seed, beating West Virhinia and surviving a Northwestern "scare".

A. Way to go Arizona for not "legitimizing" the Zags Final 4.

B. Checks KenPom and sees West Virginia is still 7th. But West Virginia missed a bunch of shots! Weird. Zags must not have the nation's most efficient defense for a reason.

C. They survived Northwestern? Doubt Carolina gets the same reaction about Arkansas if they advance today.

- The most impressive player of the day was Jordan Bell of Oregon who was so intimidating he basically ruined Kansas. Kansas was so spooked by him, by time they started stopping the Ducks on defense, it was too late. Going to write about Dana Altman and the Ducks path here later this week.  

- Bill Self is now 2-7 in regional finals and a bad coach. Or so I hear. Listen KU faithful, be careful what you wish for. The wilderness is vast and you can wonder it for years.

Now, for the games...

East 

South Carolina vs. Florida: Is it the Muschamp Bowl or the Spurrier Bowl? Whatever the case, if you had this as your regional final, you live in SEC Country. I've been betting against both since the bracket was announced so what to do? 

Let's review Florida's game against the Badgers. Fall behind 16-8 but lead at half. Blow a 12-point lead in the final 3:50 with the final blow being an off-balanced 3 by a former walk-on who punctuates it by doing the Discount Double Choke. Fall behind in overtime by 6. Have Canyon Berry granny some free throws, block Iverson and then Chris Chiozza makes a wild 3 to win at the buzzer. This, while today's opponent manhandled their opponent earlier in the evening. Points to an emotional letdown, no? What the hell do I know?

The Pick: Florida 66 South Carolina 58

South

Kentucky vs. North Carolina: 

According to some, this is being billed as the de facto national title game. Again, checks KenPom and scratches head.

Listen, it'll be a good game and the winner will be billed as the favorite next weekend but if you think either would be a lock you haven't been paying attention to what has happened this season. This isn't 2009 North Carolina or 2012 Kentucky. Both are quite good but not dominant.

As for the game, it's 50/50 on KenPom and that sounds right. 

The Pick: Kentucky 77 North Carolina 76

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Saturday Morning Sweet 16 Musings

- Well, the lack of excitement in late game situations was answered. Zak Showalter's running 3 was amazing. The Gators answer even moreso. One thing I take out it, though, Gators did fail to execute fouling so it wasn't a final minute without some failure. As stunning was the Canyon Berry block of Iverson. Iverson has such incredible hops and attacks the hoop. Don't forget that play when this story is told.

- The Badger senior class "graduates" as one of the greatest of all time. Still, knowing SJW Nigel Hayes will forever be part of NCAA promotional videos watching the game winner warms the heart. Put that in your lawsuit.

- South Carolina's destruction of Baylor was built by men. Those are grown ass men. A bit of caution, Baylor offense was pretty pedestrian at times through the season. They really needed some creators to breakdown South Carolina. The Cocks never had any fear of that. Florida will be a different creature.

- Butler had little chance to beat Carolina without a perfect game. Bad matchup for them. I think they could have beaten any of the other 1-seeds but not the Tar Heels. 

- Kentucky was brilliant last night. Malik Monk and De'Aaron Fox are such fun players. Nothing rattles them. They were calm, cool and collected. Once Kentucky built the lead, the offense they played was beautiful. No rushing shots, driving without a plan or turnovers. They executed beautifully. Not sure how they'll turn out as pros but there's certainly game there to mold.

- Steve Alford says he's out at Indiana. Certainly hope it's not Chris Mack. If it is, Indiana becomes a real problem.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Elite 8 Saturday

West

Gonzaga vs. Xavier: Zags are a solid 10-point favorite by KenPom in this game. That's pretty remarkable for an Elite 8 game but we know Xavier's numbers are deflated because of what happened late in the regular season.

Trevon Bluiett's play this month has been nothing short of remarkable. Sean O'Mara has really helped them in the paint. And they've gotten production from seemingly someone different throughout the course of every game. It's been a great team effort to complement Bluiett.

On the other side, Gonzaga hasn't looked pretty but are in the Elite 8. They survived a game Northwestern squad playing with house money and the ugliness that is West Virginia basketball.
There's a lot to be said about that. 

Chris Mack has been brilliant since the Big East tournament and like he did agaisnt Arizona, he'll steal some buckets for his squad. Mark Few will do the same. His team while battered and beaten found a way to win the other night. That's a game I'm not sure they win in other years.

The Pick: Gonzaga 72 Xavier 67

Midwest

Kansas vs. Oregon: Kansas is a 5-point favorite by KenPom in this game. I casually mentioned they reminded me of the Duke 2015 team. That Duke team kept quietly rising up in defensive efficiency to where they were a top 15 team by the end of the year. Kansas won't get there but it's getting good enough the offense can cover it.

Speaking of the offense, it's passed 90 in all 3 tournament games. Oregon did a good job against Michigan the other night but I'm not sure they can match that again. The back court is a distinctive advantage for Kansas.

As game as Purdue was for about 25 minutes, Kansas athleticism overwhelmed Purdue. Oregon won't have that problem. Dorsey, Ennis & Brooks are a terrific trio.

Ultimately, I think Josh Jackson is the difference. He's such a savvy player. Watching him move without the ball and position himself on defense is something else. He's worked hard to develop enough of jump shot that teams better repect it.

The Pick: Kansas 90 Oregon 80

Friday Night Games

North Carolina 75, Butler 68 - Tar Heels own the boards and paint.

Kentucky 88, UCLA 76 - Kentucky's defense holds down the Bruins

South Carolina 61, Baylor - SC scores less in the game than the 2nd half against Duke and still wins

Wisconsin 64, Florida - So I can punish myself at least one more game

Friday morning Sweet 16 musings

- What a job by Chris Mack. Xavier should go to him with a blank check and tell him write your number. After getting killed on othe offensive glass, his team only gave up one over the last 17 minutes. Baskets came in bunches out of timeouts again. His team perfectly executed a 2-for-1 in the final minute. Larri Markkanen got 1 shot in the final 11 minutes, though Allonzo Trier's 13 point run had something to do with that. Trevon Bluiett has been sensational. Sean O'Mara has given them so many good minutes in March, he's been a revelation. Fun run.

- Sean Miller lives another year without a Final Four. Winning in March is hard but I get the pressure he'll be feeling. Is it fair? Hard to say but I bet he'll be sick of hearing about it and when it does happen, he might explode.

- The Kansas evisceration of Purdue happened so fast, it was as if the Death Star became fully operational and Purdue was Alderaan. Not sure what the Boilermakers could have done. Josh Jackson does so many things well and his ability to get in position everywhere on the court is something to watch. Three straight games in the 90's. Fun team.

- Michigan came up short but after being left for the NIT in January by yours truly, it's hard to be disappointed in the grand scheme. Oregon made one more play. Listening to Dan Bonner and Reggie Miller makes you wonder if they watched any Michigan film. They seemed shocked Michigan didn't push more tempo. It's a slow team, gents. I give Oregon a lot of credit. They matched Michigan's patience and didn't get out of sorts like some teams might in a game like that. That was a mature performance by the Ducks in a game played at Michigan's dictation.

- Let's not talk of West Virginia-Gonzaga. Let's thank Gonzaga for not only ending Northwestern but also ending the Mouintaineers season. They should just put that end of game West Virginia possession on a loop for One Shining Moment.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Friday Sweet 16

South

Butler vs. North Carolina: Carolina is a 4-point KenPom favorite, 7 in the desert. At first blush, I'm not sure how Butler matches up across the floor agaisnt the Tar Heels. Then we realize Butler won't be intimidated and swept Villanova. Nova didn't have nearly the size, though. Butler needs to keep Chrabascz on the floor and effective. I think that's a tall order. Butler doesn't have the tempo or pressure Arkansas did to force Carolina into lost possessions. They'll have to d them up and Butler is 24 spots below the Tar Heels in efficiency. Butler needs Carolina to help them or needs to play as well as the Bulldogs have all year. They keep it close but UNC pulls away late.

The Pick: North Carolina 80 Butler 69

Kentucky vs. UCLA: For many, this is the main event of the Sweet 16. There are some pieces floating around touting the Bruins defense as not really being that inefficient. It's partly true but that's built on a lot of bad teams in the Pac-12. And let's not dismiss Kentucky's offense. It's not exactly chopped liver. I don't have a feel one way or the other. 

The Pick: Kentucky 92 UCLA 88

East

Baylor vs. South Carolina: South Carolina had offensive explosions versus two awful defensive teams. They are still a putrid offensive team. Baylor is easily the best defensive team the Cocks have seen and they don't have a home court advantage. Baylor is ok on offense. This will be the slowest game of the first round and I think that helps keep South Carolina in it. Baylor is just better and wins.

The Pick: Baylor 60 South Carolina 54

Wisconsin vs. Florida: I dismissed both teams as making the Sweet 16, yet both are here. Florida quietly gets it done. They don't wow you with the numbers ever being third overall in KenPom but everything is very effective and efficient. Look at their four factors and miscellaneous components on KenPom and its all good or great. I missed the boat on them. Wisconsin nearly matches them but have more concern areas. Does experience matter? If it does, that'll be a huge advantage for Bucky. Still, Florida is putting a team on the court that has also played together a lot the last two years. Since life is pain...

The Pick: Wisconsin 62 Florida 61

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Thursday Picks - No Analysis

Gonzaga 78, West Virginia 71
Michigan 66, Oregon 65
Arizona 75, Xavier 70
Purdue 68, Kansas 65

Book it.

Sweet 16 Thursday

Midwest Region

Michigan vs. Oregon:  Oregon is a 1-point KenPom favorite with a 52% probability and Vegas likes Michigan by one. In other words, a toss-up. Oregon is a slightly more balanced team. Michigan has a better offense by 13 spots on KenPom, but Oregon beats them by 48 on defense. 

This is one of those games we look at and say "momentum". Michigan played well through February and after the run through the Big 14 Tournament and the opening weekend, they appear to have all the "momentum". 

Momentum is one of those things numbers people hate. They simply don't believe in it. I don't dismiss it, though. I've seen too many weird things in my life, whether it be a streaking team or sudden change in a single game. Is it real? I can't say for sure but there's at least something to it. I also know it can end abruptly if it is real. 

After that aside, this should be a close game. I think Oregon has slightly more talent.  

The Pick: Oregon 71 Michigan 70

Kansas vs. Purdue

What a great matchup this is, too. Kansas is a 3-point KenPom favorite. They're more dynamic on offense but I like what Purdue did on the opening weekend. I think the key is whether Landen Lucas can stay on the court against Purdue's bigs. This is a home game for Kansas. 

The Pick: Kansas 75 Purdue 73

WEST

Gonzaga vs. West Virginia: By the numbers, this is the best of the Sweet 16 matchups. KenPom likes the Zags by 4. The advantage is the Zags number 1 defense against West Virginia's number 25 offense. The Mountaineees are more efficient on offense. 

West Virginia thrives on its pressure. The Zags were the 16th best team at protecting the ball. The Mountaineers were one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the nation, the Zags one of the best at preventing them.

Do the Zags have enough basketball speed to match West Virginia? If they do, they win.

The Pick: Gonzaga 81 West Virginia 75

Arizona vs. Xavier: A rematch from two seasons ago, Sean Miller takes on his former team one more time. Given the love affair the national media seems to have with this Arizona squad, it's not that big a stretch for Xavier to steal this one.

At KenPom, Zona is a 4-point favorite. That's not huge but big enough Zona has a 65% win probability. Zona is 19th overall, X is 30th. Basically, I'm looking for a reason to pick Xavier but we need to take a step back before saying they've figured things out after a late-season fade.

They notched late wins against DePaul and then beat Butler in the BE Tournament. They beat an overseeded Maryland team (It's about matchups!) and them trounced a Florida State team that was 24th in KenPom at the time, closer to a 7-seed than 3. I'm not dismissing what Xavier has done. They've jumped ten spots in KP in a week.  

Chris Mack is the best coach in America no one talks about. He's the best guy for Indiana, though I hope he stays in Cincinnati. He'll have his team ready and some plays out of timeouts that steal baskets. I just don't think they have enough dudes to beat Arizona. 

The Pick: Arizona 69 Xavier 62

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Myth of Conferences

Former local buffoon and now buffoon on a team circling the toilet in the NBA, Frank Kaminsky seemed vindicated when 3 Big 14 teams made the Sweet 16. 

Then, by the end of the night, 3 SEC, 3 Pac-12 and 3 Big XII teams were in the Sweet 16. Shoulders shrugged.

You'd think with the mountains of evidence to the contrary, people would understand conference strength isn't determined in a single-elimination tournament. Sadly, people are very stupid  or provincial. 

Leagues like the Big 14 and SEC have become so bloated, without truly great teams, the bottom feeders drag them down. We've discussed here what "ailed" the Big 14 this season. Good teams, no great teams. The SEC have two really good teams, maybe championship winning teams and a whole lot of mediocrity. South Carolina making the Sweet 16 doesn't change that.

The real issue is the ACC was pushed hard by many as the best conference ever. We looked at that and showed it was really good but didn't match the 2011 Big East. It was still a great league this season. We also hammered home the point all the teams had flaws. Virginia and Lousiville on offense, Duke on defense. On any given day or night, that can get exposed.

With that all said, the Big 14 could use a national championship as could the Pac-12 as each league is 17 and 20 years respectively removed from national titles. That would be important but wouldn't change what a league was all year. Both things can be true if not understood.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Reseeding the Sweet 16

I guess this what the cool kids are doing now. Having done in the past, I'll consider myself a trendsetter or ignorant of the world around me. Both are possible.

I do it pretty simply, by KenPom. So, this is raw data with a few opinions sprinkled in.

1. Gonzaga (1st, 12th O, 1 D): No matter what happens, Gonzaga ending the national nightmare that was Northwestern makes them champions in my book.

2. Florida (3rd, 26th O, 3rd D): This still staggers me. Playing Virginia in its last game certainly helps. Since January 18, Florida has three losses to Vandy by a total of 14 points and two other losses to UK and South Carolina. I completely undervalued them.

3. North Carolina (4th, 6th O, 19th D): That's a Final 4 profile. Still, watching them leaves you with as many questions as answers.

4. Kentucky (5th, 13th O, 7th D): This is Calipari's best coaching job. Don't at me.

5. West Virginia (6th, 25th O, 5th D): Basically, they did everything you expect in a West Virginia loss and beat Notre Dame by 12. Matchup with Zags is an Elite 8 game.

6. Kansas (7th, 5th O, 25th D): Might be worth a closer look but remind me of Duke in 2015. Offense isn't as good but defense is good enough. Adjusting for rules changes, it's close.

7. Baylor (10th, 20th O, 13th D): No one expected this team to actually make it this far. Long and athletic, more like Scott Drew's earliest Baylor teams.

8. Purdue (12th, 23rd O, 16th D): Getting contributions outside the Twin Towers. Game against Kansas is second best Sweet 16 matchup.

9. UCLA (14th, 2nd O, 77th D): One of the best wins in Round Two. Not the upset like others but Cincinnati was the exact type of team expected to challenge  UCLA.

10. Oregon (15th, 16th O, 23rd D): Dana Altman has done great work in Eugene. Was sort of an afterthought hire after the Ducks swung and missed on big names. They miss Boucher but isn't as important against Michigan.

11. Arizona (18th, 17th O, 24th D): Eh

12. Michigan (20th, 3rd O, 73rd D): Enjoying every moment of this incredible run. Smells so much like '89. Defense remains a crucial point of concern. Louisville is bad on defense.

13. Wisconsin (21st, 36th O, 8th D): Koenig has been an assassin and Hayes finally woke up. But 7-16 at the line does you in sooner than later. Same with nearly doubling the opponents turnovers. 

14. Butler (24th, 21st O, 43rd D): Terrible matchup against UNC. Pundits liked more than computers. Good season, though proving they still can make runs.

15. South Carolina (28th, 124th O, 4th D): Proving me wrong for this year at least. No offense this bad should still be playing. Of course, says more about Duke's defense. Duke's season is defined by the 65 they gave up in the 2nd half. Just staggering.

16. Xavier (30th, 29th O, 66th D): Chris Mack is going to get a fat raise either in Cincinnati or from one of the blue bloods. 


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Virginia Basketball

A pile of atrocious garbage.  Kiss my ass.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Day One Thoughts

1. That was boring unless your team won in which case it was probably great. For observers with only hate versus a real rooting interest, yesterday wasn't a classic.

2. The Northwestern story has gotten out of hand. We get it. They sucked for 75 years and now they don't. Heartwarming a program in a power league that prints money never found a way in. Real Cinderella story. If William & Mary does the same with limited resources, I'm sure the media will ram that story down our throats.

3. You know why you should think Chris Mack is a good coach? Watch his plays out of a timeout. 95% of teams are clueless out of stoppage plays. Not Xavier.

4. The two overseeded Big 14 teams lost. Not upsets.

5. Purdue is a fun team. Non-bigs played well yesterday.

6. Is there anything better than late half or game basketball in college? Dribble, desperation 3, repeat.

7. We should mention Indiana. I'm surprised people actually think it won't be Steve Alford. His relationship with UCLA isn't exactly tight and if he left for home, where's the anger? I suppose it can be Archie Miller but color me shocked if it isn't Alford. Dan Dakich immediately went to Twitter and basically said not another outsider. That pretty much sealed it for me.

8. FSU had maybe the best win yesterday. A 3 over a 14 isn't usually the case but FGCU had a lot of believers. They're a difficult team to prepare for in a one-and-done setting. They had the added cache of beating a bigger in-state opponent while playing in state. Imagine UWGB getting Marquette or Wisconsin in the tourney. All the pressure is on the bigger schools. Could propel FSU forward.

9. Buzz Williams returns to the "dead to me" category.

10. Let's do it again but maybe with better basketball and with some drama that doesn't include gratuitous crowd shots of celebrity parents.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Another Bracket Projection

East Bracket:
Winner - Duke - yes, I know, shocking.  I would have gone with Villanova with any other #2 but I love how this team is coming together.  The smartest move was putting Grayson Allen at the 6 man and use his offense when they were lacking it in bursts.  Nova-Duke should be epic but I look for Tatum and Jefferson to own the inside with Giles starting to show signs of life.

Upset Pick - I wanted to take UNC-Wilmington but Virginia will probably dictate pace, ruin the game, and cause me to drink a ton.  I have East Tennessee State in the Sweet 16 after upsetting Florida and Virginia

Upset Everybody Likes That Won't Happen - I already spoke about UNC-Wilmington so I'm going with SMU.  Solid KenPom numbers but too much talk about them not only beating Baylor but Duke as well.  I have them in the Sweet 16 now but am considering pulling them out.

West Bracket:
Winner - Gonzaga - I'm with Kurly, been on them all year as well.  It greatly helps that everybody at ESPN and CBS Sports is off them.  They look good, play good, and their numbers are solid.  I didn't pick them at 4:45pm on Sunday during the bracket show but I did now

Upset Pick - Meh, Xavier.  I know they are an 11 seed but Maryland is limping in and over-seeded.  I considered Florida Gulf Coast but too many people are on them

Upset Everybody Likes That Won't Happen - I already mentioned FGCU.  I'm now picking Florida State.  The other huge one is Arizona in the Final Four.  KenPom numbers are average and everybody who gets a paycheck from ESPN is taking them.  Count me out.

South Bracket:
Winner - Kentucky.  My original bracket had UCLA but there's no way that defense doesn't cost them in the tournament.  My next one had North Carolina but Roy will coach his way out of the game.  Next up is Kentucky and I'm not 100% on them either.  Too many close calls, bad starts, and average games lately.  They've one them all but these are not mid-level SEC teams anymore.  I could see Wichita State winning in the second round.  I'm not picking them but it wouldn't surprise me.

Upset Pick - Middle Tennessee State.  Just like everybody else. True story, I had Wisconsin and Minnesota as 6 seeds at 4:15 on Sunday and needed to drop one to make room for my 7 seeded Michigan who I was moving up after winning the Big 10 Tournament.  I asked Kurly for advice and he pointed out the numbers and the fact that Wisconsin beat Minnesota twice.  So Minnesota dropped.  I felt like I butchered that but in truth the committee just over seeded the Gophers.

Upset Everybody Likes That Won't Happen - West Bracket:
Winner - Gonzaga - I'm with Kurly, been on them all year as well.  It greatly helps that everybody at ESPN and CBS Sports is off them.  They look good, play good, and their numbers are solid.  I didn't pick them at 4:45pm on Sunday during the bracket show but I did now

Upset Pick - Meh, Xavier.  I know they are an 11 seed but Maryland is limping in and over-seeded.  I considered Florida Gulf Coast but too many people are on them

Upset Everybody Likes That Won't Happen - Not much here.  Everybody is in love with the top 3 seeds.  I haven't seen anybody take Dayton over Wichita which would qualify.  However, the Shockers are so under seeded I can't take the Flyers.  Middle Tennessee qualifies as well.

Midwest Bracket:
Winner - *Iowa State* - I starred it because I haven't locked this one in.  Kansas is the favorite but Bill Self never does well in this spot and their defense disappears at times.  Louisville has better defense but fell apart against a below average Duke zone that forced them to score from outside...which they struggle to do.  Oregon isn't whole but Brooks could carry them.  Purdue is from the Big 10 so they are out.  Iowa State has what you need.  Great coach, upper-classman, finishing hot.  Defense is iffy but trending upwards

Upset Pick - Rhode Island.  Its taken a long time but they are finally here.  Creighton is ripe or the upset.

Upset Everybody Likes That Won't Happen - Nevada.  Everybody loves the 12-5 upset but it only happens half the time.  This one isn't it.

Stone Cold Final Four and Upset Locks

By stone cold locks I mean terrible picks you should avoid at all costs.

East

Winner: Villanova - Duke will be the trendy pick after winning the ACC title. Let's not forget they were losing in the second half of their last three games in Brooklyn. It took Roy Williams stupidly benching Joel Berry for too long to let Duke pull away in that game. They also benefitted playing an offensively challenged Louisville team. All that said, these two teams will match up at the Garden in the regional final.

Upsets: Everyone is picking SMU over Baylor in the round of 32. That should scare you. I'd love to pick UNC-Wilmington over Virginia but that's a bad matchup for UNCW. Have little doubt ETSU can beat Florida. 10/7 & 9/8 aren't upsets.

West

Winner: Gonzaga- I jumped on the Zags bandwagon well before it was cool. Arizona is a popular pick but remember they're 20th in offensive efficiency and 31st in defensive efficiency. They're also overseeded. They just have an easy path to the regional final. 

Upsets: Bucknell can beat West Virginia and Princeton can beat Notre Dame. FGCU has been a trendy pick over FSU. Game is in Orlando so it should be intense. Xavier over Maryland is one that I have because I think X's guards can harass Melo Trimble enough. 

Bracket Gripe: VCU plays St. Mary's. Funny how that happened.

Midwest 

Winner: Kansas - I dubbed this the chaos region on Sunday and stand by that. All top 4 seeds have issues. Kansas has found itself trailing too often this season. Louisville was a defensive juggernaught through January but has fallen off considerably and the offense is capable of being awful. Oregon is missing Chris Boucher. Purdue has the twin towers inside but do you trust this team? Kansas by default.

Upsets: They can happen everywhere here. The Michigan/OkState winner can beat Louisville. Vermont can take Purdue. Nevada can take Iowa State. Creighton-Rhode Island winner can make the Sweet 16.

Warning: Michigan became a media darling after last week's plane accident and run through the Big 14. I'm a John Beilein apologist but these runs don't mean much to me. Marquette in '97 won 4 games in Conference USA and was a 7 against Providence and got run out the gym. Similar thing happened to Syracuse in 2005. The counterpoint is UConn in 2011 and that was 5 games.

This game is one of the most fascinating of the opening round. Both are top 10 offenses with iffy defenses. Michigan is 69th in defense and OK State is 131st. That's a big advantage to Michigan. Michigan's d was in the 150's at one point so they have improved greatly. It's basically a pick'em.

South

Winner: Kentucky - Carolina and Kentucky are 3 and 4 in KenPom. If they meet, it'll basically be a pick 'em. It's a Final 4 game. I'm taking Kentucky because Cal won't do anything as dumb as Roy might. UCLA still doesn't play defense. They might LMU themselves deep but can they win on a night where shots aren't falling? No, they can't.

Upsets: Wichita State can totally beat Kentucky but won't. Middle Tennessee will beat Minnesota. What's the percentage of people picking the Blue Raiders? I bet it's north of 70%. Winthrop can also take out Butler. Butler is weird. Good enough to beat anyone but capable of losing head scratchers. Cincinnati would be a matchup problem for UCLA.

Bracket Gripe: The Wichita State thing really bothers me. First, the committee talking about using metrics other than RPI are a blatant lie. Secondly, they matched them up against Dayton. The four at-large mid-majors meet in the opening round. The system is rigged. Thirdly, even with talk of Wichita State joining the American, this should push Gregg Marshall out the door to a bigger job. He does have a full roster returning next year so that'll make the decision hard but it's obvious as long as he's in the Valley, he'll have to be damn near perfect to get a fair shake.

Local Picks:

Wisconsin over Virginia Tech- The Hokies are okay but about 20 spots behind the Badgers. This is more a 6-11 matchup. Would be a pretty big upset for VaTech to win. They won't get past Villanova. They can win that game but Nova plays as slow so pace won't bother them. 3-pt. defense is considered a matter of luck and maybe a good chunk of it is but teams shoot nearly 38% against Bucky. That's right at Nova's number and Nova defends the 3 quite well.

Marquette over South Carolina- There's been a lot of hand-wringing by some Marquette fans about this game. I get it. It's a de facto road game. Marquette is bad on defense but South Carolina is awful on offense. It'll come down to whether Marquette makes 3's.  The Cocks defend the arc quite well. They haven't seen a team like Marquette, though. One other note, Marquette can't stop the pick and roll. SC is bad at running that. Feel weirdly confident about this one so that's probably bad for the Warriors.

They have a chance against Duke if Duke gets food poisoning 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Re-seeding the Midwest

I love this region. This is probably the 2nd best and could still be the most unpredictable. There are a lot of potential upsets and just as good a chance at chalk. Should be fun.

1. Louisville (6)
2. Kansas (10)
3. Purdue (15)
4. Oregon (16)
5. Iowa State (17)
6. Michigan (21)
7. Oklahoma State (24)
8. Creighton (27)
9. Miami (32)
10. Rhode Island (37)
11. Michigan State (43)

This is good balance. Oklahoma State-Michigan will be a great 10-7 game. The Cowboys play at a fast pace, Michigan at a glacial pace. Both are very efficient on offense and weak on defense. Michigan State is not a 9. A lot of people will tell you Kansas won't be happy to see them. Kansas won't care. Every seed from 13 down can win the opening round game.

Early Pick: Kansas

Re-seeding the South

The South top 3 is easily the best top 3 seeds of any region. And then we have probably the best 10-seed ever in Wichita State. The committee hates mid-majors. There's no way around it. Sticking them against Dayton is the final f-you.

1. UNC
2. Kentucky (4)
3. Wichita State (8)
4. UCLA (18)
5. Cincinnati (22)
6. Butler (26)
7. Kansas State (29)
8. Wake Forest (30)
9. Minnesota (33)
10. Dayton (36)
11. Arkansas (38)

This region has the weakest 8-9 matchup in Arkansas-Seton Hall. UNC should go ahead and book that Sweet 16. And I love Seton Hall but UNC matches their size advantages. Wichita State got hosed and if I'm Gregg Marshall, that's the straw that broke the camels back. I expect him to move on this year. UCLA will be a trendy pick but the defense is still a concern. 

Now, let's talk Minnesota. I like the Gophers roster and they're a team on the rise. What they aren't is a 5-seed. In any world. It makes me sick to agree with Badger fans but the committee has no good explanation for this. Middle Tennessee should be licking their chops.

Early Pick: Kentucky

Re-seed the West

This is the weakest region by far with 2 teams stumbling into the tournament on the 3 and 4 line. 

1. Gonzaga 
2. West Virginia (5)
3. St. Mary's (14)
4. Florida State (19)
5. Arizona (20)
6. Notre Dame (25)
7. Vanderbilt (34)
8. Northwestern (39)
9. Xavier (40)
10. Maryland (45)

What jumps out to me is the 6-11 game between Maryland and Xavier. Xavier is higher in KenPom. Maryland shouldn't be a 6-seed in any region. Arizona got to the 2-seed but tread lightly. They're 20th in AdjustedO and 28th in AdjustedD. Florida State and West Virginia are ripe for the upset. 

Early Pick: Gonzaga

Re-seeding the East

Let's begin by saying the East is stacked. 6 of the top 13 KenPom teams are in this region. Things settle after that but this is one of the toughest regions I can remember.

1. Villanova (1)
2. Virginia (7)
3. Florida (9)
4. SMU (11)
5. Duke (12)
6. Baylor (13)
7. Wisconsin (23)
8. Marquette (28)
9. South Carolina (31)
10. Virginia Tech (44)

The top seed-lines are all mixed up by the committee, a common theme in all four regions. Baylor and Florida are ripe for the picking and Virginia will have its hands full with UNCW. Still, this region is loaded.

Egregiousness reigns in the middle as well. SMU is as tough a 6-seed you can imagine. Wisconsin was punished for something I can't quite figure out. South Carolina as a 7-seed with a game in Greenville is ridiculous. Still, they stink.

Duke-Villanova would be a classic at the Garden.

Early Pick: Villanova

Bracketology - FINAL

1 seed vs 16 seed
Villanova (Beast) vs S.Dakota St(Summit)/NCCU(MEAC)
Gonzaga (WCC) vs New Orleans (Sland)/Mt.St.Mary(NEC)
Kansas vs Troy (Sbelt)
North Carolina vs Jacksonville St (OVC)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Kentucky (SEC) vs UC-Davis(Bwest)
Arizona (P12) vs N.Dakota (Bsky)
Duke (ACC) vs Texas Southern (SWAC)
Baylor vs Kent State (MAC)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Louisville vs N.Kentucky (Horizon)
Oregon vs New Mexico St (WAC)
UCLA vs Florida Gulf Coast (Asun)
Florida State vs Iona (MAAC)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Butler vs Winthrop(Bsouth)
Notre Dame vs ETSU (SoCon)
West Virginia vs Bucknell (Pat)
Florida vs Princeton (Ivy)
5 seed vs 12 seed
CincinnatI vs Vermont (Aeast)
Purdue vs Nevada (Mwest)
Virginia vs UNC-Wilmington (Col)
SMU (AAC) vs Kansas State/USC
6 seed vs 11 seed
St. Mary's vs Marquette/Wake Forest
Michigan (B14) vs Middle Tenn St (C-USA)
Wisconsin  vs Rhode Island (A10)
Iowa State (B12) vs Xavier
7 seed vs 10 seed
Creighton vs Vanderbilt
Minnesota vs Seton Hall
Maryland vs Wichita State (Mvalley)
Miami vs Providence
8 seed vs 9 seed
Oklahoma State vs Michigan State
Northwestern vs Virginia Tech
South Carolina vs Dayton
Arkansas vs VCU
First Four Out
Syracuse
Illinois State
California
TCU
Next Four Out
Indiana
Houston
Mississippi
Georgia
Also Considered
Illinois
Iowa

Sunday Morning Quick Hits

Not much change in the bracket yesterday.  Most Bubble team are already done playing and the handful of upsets in the conference tournament basically sent teams to the 16 seed line and moved everybody up a line or two.  Basically the bottom became weaker.

The biggest questions left are the following:

Where should Duke be seeded?  I've seen them as a 1 or 2.  I believe they should be a 2.  A great run in the ACC Tournament was great but it doesn't take away the 8 losses and the entire body of work.

Who are the 1 seeds?  Kansas and Villanova seem safe.  I think Gonzaga should be safe as if they were 33-0 there wouldn't be a question but suddenly 32-1 means a 2 seed?  The last spot seems to be between UNC and possibly Arizona or Duke.  Yes, Duke beat UNC 2 out of 3 times but until the ACC tournament UNC was a 1 and Duke a 3.  I don't see them swiching.  Arizona looks solid but their resume doesn't stack well against either ACC team.  Arizona should be the #2 seed in the West with Gonzaga being the #1

Can Rhode Island make it if they lose today?  The big one.  Currently they are up 10 right now but if they lose can they hang on to the spot?  They have a great NCSOS and 7 top 100 wins.  I think they are in at this point.

Who is going to be left out.  Damn, I hope it's Syracuse.  Jim Boeheim is whiner.


KenPom on Selection Sunday Morning

Here are the teams with top 20 efficient defenses and offenses:

1. Gonzaga (10,2)
2. Villanova (2,11)
4. Kentucky (14,15)
9. Wichita State (12,19)

Other teams with top 10 offenses:

1. Oklahoma State (130th defense)
3. UCLA (78th defense)
4. UNC (25th defense)
5. Michigan (75th defense)
6. Duke (39th defense)
7. Marquette (153rd defense)
8. Wake Forest (160th defense)
9. Kansas (30th defense)

Top ten offenses are more likely to have success with okay defenses in the next three weeks.

Top 10 defensive teams

1. Virginia (39th offense)
3. South Carolina (149th offense)
4. Florida (31st offense)
5. West Virginia (28th offense)
6. Louisville (23rd offense)
7. Georgia Tech (269th offense )
8. Wisconsin (37th offense)
9. Cincinnati (34th offense)
10. Alabama (152nd offense)

All tournament teams on the offensive side, not so on defense. I spy teams ripe to be upset on the defensive side, too (Florida, Virginia, West Virginia, Louisville).

It's about offense and putting the ball through the basketball ring

Saturday, March 11, 2017

What are You Doing, Nerds? Ivy League Tourney

Did you know the Ivy League has a tournament? You do now. Only the top 4 teams are in it. It's played at the Palestra which is wildly awesome until you realize that's the home court of 4-seed Penn.

The beneficiary of that anomaly is Princeton who is rewarded a road game after going undefeated in the Ivy regular season. That's less than ideal. That said, Penn wasn't any good, going 6-8 in league play. Princeton should win but still.

The other semifinal is Yale and Harvard in a series that dates back to the 1300's, I think. 

The Final Pick: Princeton

Saturday Brackets

1 seed vs 16 seed
Villanova (Beast) vs Mt.St.Mary(NEC)/N.Orleams(Sland)
Gonzaga (WCC) vs NCCU(MEAC)/N.Dakota (Bsky)
Kansas vs S.Dakota St(Summit)
North Carolina vs Jacksonville St (OVC)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Oregon (P12) vs UC-Irvine(Bwest)
Kentucky (SEC) vs N.Kentucky (Horizon)
Arizona vs Texas Southern (SWAC)
Duke vs Cal-Bakersfield (WAC)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Louisville vs Iona (MAAC)
Baylor vs Florida Gulf Coast (Asun)
UCLA vs Winthrop(Bsouth)
West Virginia (B12) vs Bucknell (Pat)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Florida State vs ETSU (SoCon)
Butler vs Akron (MAC)
CincinnatI vs Princeton (Ivy)
Notre Dame (ACC) vs Vermont (Aeast)
5 seed vs 12 seed
Florida vs Nevada (Mwest)
Purdue vs UT-Arlington (Sbelt)
Virginia vs UNC-Wilmington (Col)
SMU (AAC) vs Kansas State/Rhode Island
6 seed vs 11 seed
St. Mary's vs USC/Marquette
Wisconsin (B14) vs Providence
Minnesota vs Vanderbilt
Iowa State vs Wake Forest
7 seed vs 10 seed
Creighton vs Xavier
Maryland vs Seton Hall
Oklahoma State vs Wichita State (Mvalley)
Michigan vs Middle Tenn St (C-USA)
8 seed vs 9 seed
Northwestern vs Michigan State
Miami vs Virginia Tech
South Carolina vs Dayton
VCU(A10) vs Arkansas
First Four Out
Syracuse
Illinois State
California
TCU
Next Four Out
Indiana
Houston
Mississippi
Georgia
Also Considered
Illinois
Iowa

"Bubble"

By my calculations there are three spots left and 6 teams worth considering.  I've moved Wake, Vanderbilt, Providence, and Marquette to lock status. That leaves 3 open spots with these 6 teams still up in the air.

USC
Rhode Island
Kansas State
Syracuse
Illinois State
California

USC seems to be the most likely in of these 6 I'm just a little hesitant to lock them up.  2-6 against the top 50 and a NCSOS of over 150 gives me pause.  Rhode Island still had an opportunity to build it's resume and can still get an auto bid.  They have at least a strong SOS and 7 top 100 wins.
The last spot is even more up in the air.  I have Kansas State in with Syracuse, Illinois State and California out, in that order.  All have strong flaws.
Kansas St has a NCSOS of 227 and 13 losses
Syracuse has 14 losses and would break a record with the highest RPI ever to get an at-large at 85
Illinois State only has 2 top 100 wins.  Only 1 team has ever done that and got an at-large.
California was 1-8 against the top 50.

Bids Tonight

14 auto-bids go out tonight with 6 more on Sunday.  As for today's slate there aren't many with at-large bids on the line.

AE - Vermont vs Albany - Albany will be a tough out for somebody but doesn't have the profile for an at-large
MEAC - NCCU vs Norfolk St - 16 seed city baby
Big East - Villanova vs Creighton - Villanova has a 1 seed locked in.  Creighton is right at that 6/7 break
Big 12 - West Virginia vs Iowa State - Iowa State is a 6 currently and probably will stay there win or lose.  I may be the only bracketologist with UWV already on the 3 line. Computer numbers aren't good.  The anti-Florida
Mountain West - Nevada vs Colorado St - Nevada has 9 top 100 wins but none in the top 50.  Not really a case here for an at-large should they need it
MAC - Akron vs Kent State - Kent just beat Akron, Akron was on a roll until the last two weeks of the season.
SWAC - Texas Southern vs Alcorn State - Texas Southern just might be a 15 instead of a 16 this year. Playing a brutal out of conference schedule always helps the profile
C-USA - Middle Tennessee State vs Marhsall - Not an easy game for MTST.  They are my highest ranking Mid-Major.  An at-large is possible since they do have 4 top 100 wins, including 2 top 50.  SOS is over 150 and this would be their 5th loss.
Big Sky - North Dakota vs Weber State - Play In Game
ACC - Notre Dame vs Duke - Duke is a 3 possibly a 2 already.  Notre Dame was a 5 yesterday, probably a 4 now.  Is a 3 possible with a win today?
Southland - New Orleans vs Texas A&M-CC - Winner probably plays the Big Sky Winner on Tuesday
Pac12 - Oregon vs Arizona - game of the day.  Can the winner leap North Carolina for the last #1?  Oregon has a slightly better profile than Arizona
WAC - Cal St-Bakersfield vs New Mexico State - The 1 vs the 2 seed.  Probably on the 15 seed line no matter what
Big West - Irvine vs Davis - See WAC above

Saturday Morning Notes

Friday Night Results
Duke beats Carolina yesterday which presents a couple questions.
Is North Carolina still a #1?  -Yes but the winner of Oregon vs Arizona may make a case for it tomorrow
Can Duke grab a #2? -Yes and with UCLA losing they may have it already

Florida lost for a 3rd time to Vanderbilt and their resume is solely built by computers.  This is a 4/5 ripe for an Princeton/Vermont upset

Can the Big 10 get a 4 seed now that Purdue lost?  No, the question at this point should be whether the big 10 can even get a 5 seed now

Does anybody besides Vanderbilt want to get into this tournament?  Of the last 3 in and 8 bubble teams (excluding Illinois State and Syracuse who are done playing) these teams went a combined 2-7 yesterday.  Only Vandy and Rhode Island won

More notes and a new bracket on the way.

Conference Tournament Thoughts

AAC: The honeymoon for Tubby Smith ended fast in Memphis. Two blowouts to end the year won't sit well. Plenty of seats available in Hartford.

ACC: Duke-Carolina III was amazing. Carolina looked effortless in jumping to a 61-48 lead. Joel Berry picked up his 4th and Roy Williams sat him. Duke took advantage and shot Carolina out of the gym. Big minutes and moments from Harry Giles ought to scare other teams. This was a regional final on steroids.

Big East: Great theater in the Garden last night. Villanova and Seton Hall played a rock fight in the first game but Josh Hart put Nova on his shoulders over the final minutes to win the game and survive. Not aesthetically pleasing but a good type of win for Nova. Creighton and Xavier put on a game you'd think you'd see from the 2 and 3 seeds, not the 6 and 7. Creighton survived but Xavier solidified a tourney spot.

Big XII: West Virginia beat Kansas State in a game no one should ever discuss.

Big 14: Michigan continued their remarkable week with an overtime win over Purdue. Have to imagine fatigue catches up to them. Michigan State and Izzo is Early Exits lost to Minnesota and that's neat. Northwestern isn't just a story, it's a good team that beat the home crowd favorite and lead to saw teeth gnashing about Mark Turgeon. Speaking of which, we enter the dance between Tom Crean and Indiana. A fan verbally accosted him after the game and it was caught on tape. Bad look for Indiana fan. Crean's pride probably keeps him in Bloomington but he should move on. It'll get uglier sooner than later.

A-10: With Dayton's loss, the A-10 has a chance at thieving a bid. Unless VCU wins and VCU is quite beatable. The opportunity is there for Rhode Island.

Conference USA: Middle Tennessee had a quietly nice win over a hot UTEP team yesterday. They get Marshall today. Marshall loves to push pace. Even as a 6-seed, Marshall will pose a hefty challenge for Middle Tennessee.

SEC: Vandy probably sealed a bid last night. More importantly to me, I think it exposes Florida as a computer fraud. The numbers love them but they don't pass the eye test. Good team but not a legit contender. South Carolina is not good. They want to play ugly and they play ugly. It's terrible basketball.

Pac-12: All 3 of the big 3 in the league could run to the Final 4. All 3 could go bust by next Sunday night. Out of all the games today, though, this is the one I'm most looking forward to.

Have to say, yesterday is the most underrated day on the hoops schedule. Enough day action to get the juices flowing and then action all over the place in the evening. Let's do it again


Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Early Bracket

1 seed vs 16 seed
Villanova (Beast) vs Mt.St.Mary(NEC)/N.Orleams(Sland)
Gonzaga (WCC) vs NCCU(MEAC)/N.Dakota (Bsky)
Kansas vs S.Dakota St(Summit)
North Carolina (ACC) vs Jacksonville St (OVC)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Oregon (P12) vs UC-Irvine(Bwest)
UCLA vs N.Kentucky (Horizon)
Kentucky (SEC) vs Texas Southern (SWAC)
Arizona vs Cal-Bakersfield (WAC)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Louisville vs Iona (MAAC)
Baylor vs Florida Gulf Coast (Asun)
Florida State vs Winthrop(Bsouth)
West Virginia (B12) vs Bucknell (Pat)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Duke vs ETSU (SoCon)
Florida vs Akron (MAC)
Butler vs Princeton (Ivy)
CincinnatI vs Vermont (Aeast)
5 seed vs 12 seed
Purdue (B14) vs Nevada (Mwest)
Notre Dame vs UT-Arlington (Sbelt)
Virginia vs UNC-Wilmington (Col)
SMU (AAC) vs Kansas State/Vanderbilt
6 seed vs 11 seed
St. Mary's vs Rhode Island/Marquette
Wisconsin vs Wake Forest
Minnesota vs Providence
Iowa State vs USC
7 seed vs 10 seed
Maryland vs Xavier
Creighton vs Seton Hall
Oklahoma State vs Wichita State (Mvalley)
Dayton (A10) vs Middle Tenn St (C-USA)
8 seed vs 9 seed
Miami vs Arkansas
South Carolina vs Michigan State
Michigan vs Virginia Tech
Northwestern vs VCU
First Four Out
California
Illinois State
Syracuse
TCU
Next Four Out
Indiana
Houston
Mississippi
Georgia
Also Considered
Illinois
Iowa