Monday, April 1, 2019

Final Four Preview

Who cares.  Eat at Arby’s

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Why This Virginia Team Broke Through

At the beginning of January, I said this wasn’t a typical Virginia team. They not only played slow, but they scored as well. To me, they looked like the two Badger Final 4 teams. They have a couple of NBA players and others than can score. Fast forward to last night and after the game, local media went after Pat Forde who wrote a scathing article about “Bennett Ball” after they got smoked by UMBC in the most embarrassing lost in tournament history. “Bennett Ball” can win in March and by proxy, Wisconsin had made the Final 4. But, the truth lies somewhere else. System and coach or players? Let’s dive in.

I put together some basic numbers here, comparing the tournament teams under Bennett at UVA (it also includes the ‘13 NIT season). What does it show?


2019: 71.3 ppg (192nd); 123.0 AdjustedO (2)
2018: 67.1 ppg (298th); 115.2 AdjustedO (30)
2017: 66.1 ppg (307th); 112.2 AdjustedO (50)
*2016: 71 ppg (209th); 120.6 AdjustedO (8)
2015: 65.4 ppg (211th); 115.6 AdjustedO (21)
2014: 66.4 ppg (274th); 114.8 AdjustedO (27)
2013: 64.2 ppg (242nd); 107.5 AdjustedO (83) NIT
2012: 62.5 ppg (274th); 105.2 AdjustedO (133)

*- Introduction of the :30 shot clock

The two best teams in March happen to be the two best offensive teams under Bennett, the ‘16 and ‘19 team. The ‘16 team were defeated in a shocker by Syracuse in the Elite 8 when they lost 68-62. Both squads were quite efficient on offense, top 10 and scored 70 points per game. PPG are a terrible way to judge an offense in most cases but I think this reinforces what we see on the court. They’re slow and methodical but can score. It also helps to have NBA players.

What happened in ‘18 was a shocker but they were certainly a 1-seed capable of putting up a stinker. I’d also argue 2018 didn’t have a lot of great teams, so they were over seeded compared to other seasons. Also, scoring was going to bite them at some point and it just happened in the opener.

The 2017 team lost in the Round of 32 to Florida, 65-39. In 2015, it was 61-54 to Michigan State. In 2014, it was 61-59 in the Sweet 16 to Michigan State again. Going back to their first tournament appearance under Bennett in 2012, Florida routed them 71-45. Truth is, “Bennett Ball” has had more flameouts than glory in March.

This reads as a criticism of “Bennett Ball” and in some ways, it is. But, it is a system that gets Virginia into the tournament and high seeds on a regular basis. Ultimately, though, you need the players to get you over the hump. Systems are nice, players are better. Pat Forde was too thick in his critiquing Virginia after UMBC but had valid points just like this run says it “works”. The system has been successful in positioning Virginia on a regular basis. Ultimately, the playmakers mean greater success. The coaches will get the ink this week but it takes the players to win more.


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Sunday Picks

Auburn vs. Kentucky 

Auburn has looked impressive in routing Kansas and North Carolina. Kentucky has grinded to wins over Wofford and Houston, impressive in their own right.

During the regular season, Kentucky swept Auburn. Kentucky won by 2 at Auburn and blew them out at Rupp. I’m not sure that means much at this point. If Auburn turns Kentucky over and shoots like they have been, they can certainly win this game. I think Kentucky is a more disciplined defensive team than Auburn has seen so far and that’s the difference.

The Pick: Kentucky 68 Auburn 65

Duke vs. Michigan State

There’s some question whether Nick Ward plays. If he doesn’t, that’s going to be hard to overcome. Tre Jones won’t shoot as well in this game and Cassius Winston will be a problem for him but if he protects the ball and facilitates, that will be enough.

Michigan State’s physicality will be an issue for Duke, though it won’t intimidate them. Duke just can’t afford foul trouble. Izzo belongs in jail.

The Pick: Duke 71 Michigan State 66

Friday, March 29, 2019

Saturday Picks

West Region: Gonzaga vs. Texas Tech

KenPom’s top offense takes on KenPom’s top defense. Gonzaga is the offense, Texas Tech is the defense. Did we learn anything last night? I think enough where we can make an educated pick.

The Zags took on a Seminoles team that came in with swag and confidence. They eviscerated them. FSU got close at a point in the second half and the Zags never looked close to breaking. And they did it on both sides of the ball.

Texas Tech and Michigan took turns in the first half disgracing the sport before Texas Tech found a few buckets. They rolled in the second half overwhelming Michigan on both sides of the ball. Unlike Michigan, I can’t see the Zags turning it over as much and missing that many baskets. Truth is, Gonzaga is light years better than Michigan. That’s not a slam at Texas Tech, that’s praise for Gonzaga,

The Pick: Gonzaga 70 Texas Tech 59

South Region: Virginia vs. Purdue 

I really thought Virginia would glide to this game at least. I didn’t think Purdue would make it out of the first weekend. I thought Virginia’s offense had moved past their occasional stinkers. I thought Purdue’s offesne would have a game by now where it cost them. What can I say.

Virginia was clearly the better team last night. They won by 4. Purdue was coasting and then the offesne has its stretch of stink coupled with free throw shooting that was beyond bad. What does it all mean? Beats me. I think Virginia is better and they are favored by 4 in KenPom.

The Pick: Virginia 64 Purdue 60

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Midwest Region: Sweet 16

North Carolina vs. Auburn-

UNC comes in having rolled Washington while Auburn comes in having rolled Kansas. The Tigers look to continue their assault on blue bloods. Carolina possesses the 8th most efficient offense and 11th most efficient defense. Auburn is 6th and 45th. Can Auburn get enough stops?

Auburn is 225th in effective fg% defense. That’s bad. They force a lot of turnovers but UNC is pretty good at not turning it over. Auburn is going to need to turn it over on defense. If they don’t, UNC will feast on offense. Auburn is a bad defensive rebounding team. In fact, they’re amongst the worst in the nation. They foul a ton, too. Given UNC’s offensive rebounding prowess, Auburn is a great matchup for them.

On the other side of the ball, UNC’s defense doesn’t do anything spectacular save rebounding. That said, they are solid across the board without any weakness except fouling. Auburn doesn’t typically get to the foul line, though. One thing they do well and what gives them a chance is shoot 3’s and they shoot and make a lot. Carolina gives up a lot, so it’s possible.

If Auburn is making 3’s, they can win. If they’re not falling, it’ll be a rout.

The Pick: North Carolina 81 Auburn 74

Kentucky vs. Houston-

This has a chance to be another great Sweet 16 game. Kentucky is 7th in KenPom with the 11th best offesne and 8th best defense. Houston checks in at 20 and 12, respectively. Both teams play at about the same tempo. Giddy up.

Houston has the best effective fg% defense. They have the best 3-pt defense and 5th best 2-pt defense. They do foul quite a bit. Kentucky is 72nd in effective fg% offense. They’re one of the best offensive rebounding teams but PJ Washington was a big reason for that. Does he play and is he effective. Kentucky is aggressive on offense and collects a lot of fouls on their opponents. I think Houston’s defense is a huge advantage in this matchup but Kentucky can alleviate that by getting to the line.

Kentucky’s defense is quite good, too. The only thing they don’t do well is turn opponents over. Houston is solid on offense. They don’t do anything great except rebounding. Kentucky matches them with their defensive rebounding. But, part of that includes PJ Washington. If he gives them even 20 good minutes, it’ll be big. If he’s ineffective, I think Houston wins.

The Pick: Houston 66 Kentucky 65

East Region: Sweet 16

LSU vs. Michigan State-

What a great game for all those people that love old school toughness against those cheating bastards from the bayou. East Lansing and MSU might be a cesspool but they sure  are OLD SKOOL TOUGH. Does LSU have a chance? In a nutshell, I don’t see it.

I dove into the numbers looking for a way LSU can win and nothing is there. Everything LSU does well, Sparty does as well or better. It would take an uncharacteristic performance from Sparty. If LSU has one thing going for them is, they do turn teams over and Michigan State is turnover prone. I just can’t see Cassius Winston letting that happen. There’s a lot of Matean Cleaves in him (Hopefully just the basketball part).

The Pick: Michigan State 68 LSU 60

Duke vs. Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech won earlier in the season at home. Duke was without Zion Williamson but the Hokies were without Justin Robinson. Duke is a decent favorite but not overwhelming. The Hokies are 11th in KenPom and top 20 on both sides of the ball. Duke is top 10 on both sides.

Virginia Tech is 13th in real shooting, but Duke is 9th defensively. Duke is also 13th in 3-pt % defense. They’re 3rd in block % and 4th in steal %. They also don’t foul. This isn’t a good Duke defense, this is a great Duke defense. They’re weakness is rebounding. Tech is 9th in 3-pt shooting. Something has to give.

Tech is 19th in defensive efficiency and don’t foul as well. They force a lot of turnovers. Duke is slightly above average at protecting the ball and elite at offensive rebounding. Tech is slightly above average at defensive rebounding. Duke has a slight advantage here and with Zion, I think that outweighs VPI adding Robinson on this side of the ball.

 The Hokies are slow. 332nd in tempo while Duke is one of the quickest teams in the nation. Can one of them dictate pace? Duke didn’t blink against Virginia and only lost by 5 in Blacksburg. Buzz Williams more than anything wants to beat great coaches. Does it mean anything?

The Pick: Duke 77 VPI 72

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

South Region: Sweet 16

Tennessee vs. Purdue-

This is a pretty even Sweet 16 game, matching the KenPom 9 and 10 against one another. Basically, this should be a coin flip. The first two rounds saw Tennessee scuffle for long periods allowing inferior teams to hang around. Purdue poleaxed defending national champ Villanova in round two. Purdue has looked better between the two, but it’s a new week.

Purdue is 5th in adjustedO, Tennessee is 33rd in adjustedD. That’s a sizable advantage for the Boilers. However, the Vols hold teams to an effective fg% of 47.6%, dominating in the paint. Double however, they’re allowing teams to shoot  35% from 3, only 207th in the nation. Purdue is 78th offensively in effective fg% and 60th in 3-pt shooting. They’re also a good rebounding team on offesne and Tennessee is a bad defensive rebounding team. Boilers should get an extra possession or two and if it’s a toss-up...

Not to be outdone, Tennessee is 3rd in offensive efficiency and 21st in effective fg%. They’re like Purdue, a good 3-point shooting team but better 2-point shooting team. They’re also good at offensive rebounding, not Purdue good but above average. Purdue is 27th in defensive efficiency and lesser on defensive real shooting than the Vols. Basically, these teams are Spider-Man pointing at his doppelgänger. This goes either way but I’ve seen some real bad Purdue moments that give me pause.

The Pick: Tennessee 73 Purdue 72

Virginia vs. Oregon-

So, we go from a toss-up to a game where one team is favored by 10 with an 82% win probability. That said, Oregon was 67th in KenPom at the end of February and are up to 27th. They’ve won 10 in a row, including the PAC-12 title game by 20 and by 18 over Wisconsin. I’m saying there’s a chance but it’s slim.

The Ducks have a real good defense. Teams only shoot 29% from 3, that’s 6th best in the nation. Overall, the defensive effective fg% is 19th best in the nation. As we know, if Virginia has had an Achilles heel, it has been those droughts. Difference is this Cavalier team shoots 40% from 3, 6th best in the nation. As they say, something has to give.

As I noted about the Ducks against the Badgers, playing slow won’t bother them. Virginia is way slower but it’s not like the Ducks are going to be bothered by that style. Virginia’s defense is the greater concern for them than pace. The Ducks have a punchers chance in this one, they really do but they’ll need Virginia to miss a lot of shots and the Ducks defense can make that happen. Ultimately, I think Virginia is simply a better team and pulls away late for a comfortable victory.


The Picks: Virginia 65 Oregon 53

Sweet 16: West Region

Florida State vs. Gonzaga-

Through two games, it can be argued Florida State has been impressive as anyone. You could argue that going back to the ACC Tournament. Gonzaga breezed through their opener and then played somewhat indifferently against Baylor. The question you have about the Seminoles is consistency. While they look like a title contender at times, other times, it doesn’t look like they know how to play basketball.

We’ll probably hear about FSU’s athleticism and while it is evident, Gonzaga isn’t a team of stiffs. Brandon Clarke, Zach Norvell and Rai Hachimura will all play at the next level. Killian Tillie probably will as well, in this game, it’s a matter of how much he can do given health issues.

Nothing jumps out at me with the numbers where I can say, a-ha, hidden advantage for FSU. Maybe offensive rebounding? They aren’t a good shooting team, so extra chances help but the Zags defense has been damn good throughout the season. This pick by the numbers simply screams the Zags, however

The Pick: Florida State 80 Gonzaga 79


Michigan vs. Texas Tech -

Michigan has been impressive, so has Texas Tech. Both at times this year were messes offensively. These are the top two teams on KenPom defensively. Michigan is a glacier compared to Texas Tech when it comes to pace but neither team is going to run.

Texas Tech loves to turn the opponent over. Michigan does not turn the ball over. If Michigan is turnover prone in this game, Texas Tech wins. If Michigan protects the ball, can Texas Tech generate enough offense to win?

Texas Tech is actually the better shooting team and slightly better in defensive effective fg%. You won’t confuse this Michigan team with recent examples. The effective fg% differences, while not drastic lead me to lean Tech. Either way, this could be a grinder that struggles to get in the 60’s. If one team gets a big lead, game over.

The Pick: Texas Tech 57 Michigan 54

Monday, March 25, 2019

Sweet 16: KenPom Edition

After the opening weekend, a few truths have emerged. The bubble was bad this year as we have the top 12 seeds advance to the second weekend for the first time since 2009. As the season progressed, it was obvious to me, the top 8-10 teams were leaps and bounds better than teams 10-40ish. For all the talk of depth in some of the major conferences, it was the top teams from those leagues that advanced. We were measuring depth in what was really mediocrity. That’s probably too strong a conclusion, but the top teams have been far better this year and the tournament has shown that.

1. Virginia - Final 4 or bust
2. Gonzaga - Incredibly talented team
3. Michigan State - On a collision course with Duke
4. Duke - Survive and advance
5. Michigan - Defense was suffocating, offense continues improving
6. North Carolina - Impressive against Washington
7. Texas Tech - Impressive against Buffalo
8. Kentucky - Strangled Wofford with great defense
9. Purdue - Whipped Villanova, if that offense shows again, tough out
10. Tennessee - Moments of brilliance, moments of indifference
11. Virginia Tech - Buzz will make a lot of $ at A&M
12. Houston - Looked pretty damn good this weekend
13. Auburn - Throttled Kansas, can play with UNC
14. Florida State - Been as impressive as any team thus far
15. LSU - Solid club but this is it
16. Oregon - Bit of luck to get here but good season recovery

Picks to come Wednesday and Thursday

Saturday, March 23, 2019

16 Hot Takes Friday Recap

- Iowa beat Cincinnati in what was a de facto home game for the Bearcats, yet Mick Cronin complained after the game it was unfair he had to play a team that was in the Top 25 at various times this season. 9 exits in 10 seasons on the first weekend, Mick. Maybe ask yourself if the problem is the man in the mirror and not some nefarious conspiracy.

- Tennessee struggles with Colgate who played loose and free. Sometimes you need a game like that to test your mettle. The Vols responded and eventually pulled away in the final moments.

- Oklahoma embarrassed Ole Miss in a bit of a surprise. That said, credit to Kermit Davis in his first season at Ole Miss. I questioned OU getting in, much less being a 9. Good on them getting a W.

- I turned off twitter but left the notices on and got some quickly as Gardner Webb jumped Virginia. I was momentarily intrigued but knew lightning would not strike twice. It seems weird to praise a 1-seed and coach for coming back against a 16 but there had to be a lot of doubt in that Virginia huddle. They’re going to roll to the regional final.

- UC-Irvine gave us the tournaments biggest upset as they beat Kansas State. K-State had a late 10-point lead in the 1st half but the offense went cold and never really seemed to click the rest of the game. The Anteaters are a really good team, much better than a 13.

- I tortured myself and watched the first half of the Oregon-Wisconsin game which was one of the worst halves of basketball I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure what Oregon did at half but they overwhelmed the Badgers in the second half. Wisconsin’s lack of athleticism was never more evident.

- Texas Tech won

- Buffalo ran Arizona State off the court. I know this, if I was an AD looking for a coach, I’d back up a truck full of cash and make Nate Oats day no.

- UCF handled VCU with relative ease. Tacko Fall gets Duke next

- Speaking of Duke, they slept walk for a half before unleashing the hounds of Hell. While it was fun in the second half, it’s not a course of action I’d recommend the rest of the tournament, starting sunday.

- Washington looked really impressive beating a solid Utah State team. The Aggies cut a Washington lead to 1 and were outscored 24-8 to close the game. It was something.

- North Carolina pulled a Duke and sleptwalk for a half against a pesky but clearly overmatched Iona team. Once they established themselves, the Tar Heels won with ease. Still, it’s a dangerous way to play in March. Kudos to the Gaels for playing not scared.

- Ohio State beat a clueless Iowa State team. I’m not sure what Iowa State had for a game plan because it didn’t look like they had one at all. Kudos to the Buckeyes but if I were a Cyclones fan, I’d be perplexed at what the hell that was.

- Houston overwhelmed Georgia State. It’s Sweet 16 or bust for the Cougars

- Liberty pulled the upset of Mississippi State in a genuinely entertaining game. Liberty is a very good team, sadly.

- Virginia Tech beat St. Louis by 14 after building a 22-point halftime lead. If you liked ugly basketball, this was the game for you. Thanks for playing, A-10.

Day Grade: B-, We got some upsets and a few fun games but nothing I’d say memorable. So far, 2019 has been a bit of a yawner

Friday, March 22, 2019

16 Hot Takes Thursday Recap

- Minnesota made more than 10 3’s for only the 4th time this year. Doesn’t seem sustainable.

- Tom Izzo went after a player yesterday during Michigan State’s sloppy win against Bradley. He then  went after a reporter who asked him about it. He’s a garbage person but expect some more flowery prose about him from the people that cover the sport. He’s a disgrace.

- LSU held off a game Yale team. Neat, I guess.

- New Mexico State showed a lot of guts and toughness chasing down Auburn who did all they could to throw the game away. The Aggies should have won and that one will hurt.  Like I said yesterday, though, they return a large chunk of their team next year. They’ll be back.

- Vermont played well for about 32 minutes before Florida State overwhelmed them. Seminoles were money at the line down the stretch and suffocated Vermont on defense.

- Murray State boatraced Marquette who had no answers for Ja Morant. It was a Steph Curry against Wisconsin moment for the Golden Eagles whose fans make watching them no fun.

- Gonzaga laughed

- Baylor dispatched Syracuse in a pretty fun game. Syracuse point guard Frank Howard was suspended for the game in grand Orange fashion.

- Kentucky handled business

- Wofford closes out Seton Hall in impressive fashion. Seton shall fought back all night and took a few leads in the final 10 minutes but the Terriers didn’t blink and won going away.

- Kansas looked as good as they have all season thumping a good Northeastern team. Northeastern couldn’t make anything after a fast start and Kansas got to the rim at will. Very impressive performance.

- Belmont will be kicking themselves for letting a winnable tournament game get away from them. Kudos to the Terps for not folding early.

- Michigan thumped Montana in impressive fashion. Michigan’s offense was humming. Can they sustain that? If so, they’ll be a tough out.

- Nevada lost to Florida and concluded the most disappointing season from any team this year. Florida showed me why the computers loved them. They will not be a pushover for Michigan despite what their fan base thinks.

- Purdue beat Old Dominion with relative ease but Purdue will lose in this tournament because the offense will be a problem. The Monarchs had plenty of chances to make it interesting but were awful shooting the ball.

- Villanova won a game a lot of teams would have lost. St. Mary’s is like playing a root canal. Methodical on offense and making tough shots, a lot of teams would have folded but Nova refused to get frustrated. That’s a reflection of the coach and culture.

Day Grade: C- Ja Morant keeps this from being lower but the games were boring, late game execution was terrible and Tom Izzo won

Thursday, March 21, 2019

FIRE WOJO

Back on April 1, 2008, Indiana hired Tom Crean from Marquette. Incredulous Marquette fans couldn’t believe Tom Crean would leave for Indiana. When Crean said, “It’s Indiana”, I can still hear Marquette alum tell me Marquette was on the same level as Indiana. As the coaching search began, I asked an alum in the know who he thought they’d hire and he is an all seriousness said John Calipari.

With a brutal finish to the 2019 season, the calls have begun to fire Wojo. The argument being, if Villanova can do it, so can Marquette. Good luck with that. Forget the geographical differences. Forget Jay Wright needing 9 years to make a Final 4. Forget what Jay Wright’s actual overall career arc is. Instead, bury your head in the sand and mumble 1977 like that’s relevant anymore.

Fire Wojo because Brian Wardle took Bradley to the tournament. Ignore Wardle’s issues at UWGB or being unable to make a tournament with UWGB and borderline NBA players. Wardle has Bradley all the way up to 124 in KenPom once. He has the Marquette pedigree.

Who knows, maybe Tony Bennett wants to come home? Shoot big, Marquette fans. Tell him about Al McGuire and 1977. Okay, that sounds stupid but what the hell, go for it.

You’re Marquette. You deserve better. Progress and improvement is for DePaul. National Championships in 5 years or less is the realistic expectation.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Kurly’s Final 4 Picks

EAST REGION

Upset Special: Belmont over Maryland

Wishful Thinking Upset: St. Louis over Virginia Tech

Regional Winner: Duke


SOUTH REGION

Upset Special: UC-Irvine over Kansas State

Wishful Thinking Upset: UC-Irvine to the Sweet 16

Regional Winner: Tennessee


MIDWEST REGION

Upset Special: Northeastern over Kansas

Wishful Thinking Upset: Wofford to the Final 4

Regional Winner: Kentucky


WEST REGIONS

Upset Special: Nevada over Michigan

Wishful Thinking Upset: Buffalo, Gonzaga, Murray State & Nevada Regional

Regional Winner: Gonzaga




Brian's Final Four Picks


East Region

Upset Pick – Belmont over Maryland

Upset I want to pick but won’t – Minnesota over Michigan State in the Round of 32

Final Four Pick – Duke

South Region

Upset Pick – Uc-Irvine over Kansas State and St. Mary’s over Villanova

Upset I want to pick but won’t – Oregon over Wisconsin

Final Four Pick – Tennessee, slight edge over Virginia (but I reserve the right to change this)


Midwest Region

Upset Pick – New Mexico State over Auurn

Upset I want to pick but won’t – Iowa State to the Elite Eight

Final Four Pick – Kentucky


West Region

Upset Pick – Nevada to the Elite Eight

Upset I want to pick but won’t – Vermont over Florida State

Final Four Pick – Gonzaga

Final Four

Final Four Game – Duke over Gonzaga
Final Four Game – Kentucky over Tennessee

Final Four Pick – Duke over Kentucky

Monday, March 18, 2019

East Region

1. Duke (3)
2. Michigan State (4)
3. Virginia Tech (11)
4. Louisville (17)
5. LSU (18)
6. Mississippi State (21)
7. Maryland (24)
8. VCU (37)
9. UCF (46)
10. Minnesota (47)

Maybe this is the weakest region but because it has Duke and Michigan State at 1-2, I cant say that. I do think LSU at 3 weakens things because of the coaching issue and I think Virginia Tech is a bit of a fraud. They have a win over Purdue and Zion-less Duke but other than that, eh? Louisville is underseeded using KenPom but having watched them, I wouldn’t bet on a long stay. Certainly not past Sparty.

Maryland has a bad record under Mark Turgeon in big games. VCU might be missing their star player. Virginia Tech also has a coaching question in whether Buzz is already packed for Texas A&M. He is. There are no sure things but this region sure feels like a surefire Duke-Sparty regional final.

South Region

1. Virginia (1)
2. Tennessee (8)
3. Purdue (10)
4. Wisconsin (12)
5. Kansas State (23)
6. Villanova (26)
7. St. Mary’s (31)
8. Cincinnati (32)
9. Iowa (36)
10. Oklahoma (38)
11. Oregon (43)
12. Ole Miss (44)

After some thought, I’ve decided this is the weakest region. It’ll be inexcusable for Virginia not to at least make the Regional Final. Your biggest seeding issue is St. Mary’s as an 11. In this region, they’d be a 7 and probably what their true line is. Tough matchup for Nova, but St. Mary’s has to travel across the country. 

Oregon is a popular pick over Wisconsin. I don’t see it. Both play slow and a game in the 40’s we’d all mock is definitely in play. Really, Wisconsin should make the Sweet 16 where they might get Virginia in another game to make your eyes bleed. Lot of people commenting on Cincinnati plying in Columbus. Tennessee fans will still more abundant. Non-issue. Think Virginia has to breakthrough and the bracket is set up for them but Tennessee is a veteran squad that won’t be afraid to play ugly. They’re my pick

Midwest Region

1. UNC (6)
2. Kentucky (7)
3. Auburn (13)
4. Houston (15)
5. Iowa State (16)
6. Wofford (19)
7. Kansas (20)
8. Utah State (34)
9. Ohio State (45)
10. New Mexico State (49)
11. Washington (51)
12. Seton Hall (55)

In this particular region, the top 7 seeds are better than any region and we have some movement. Kansas got a 3-seed and I know that’s too high. They’re not a 7 but that’s where they’d fall here. Auburn has a tougher road ahead as a 5, when they profile as a possible 3. You may think the region stacks as the toughest but 8-12 gets a tad softer. That said...

New Mexico State is a tough 12-seed and Northeastern beating Kansas would not surprise me at all. If Carolina ends up not playing a big major until the regional final, it wouldn’t surprise me. Of course, the storyline game is Kansas-UNC in the Sweet 16.  Kentucky-Wofford would be fun in the round of 32. Seton Hall already beat Kentucky this year should they meet in that round. I hate when that happens in the early rounds. That’s lazy bracketing, travel be damned. Houston is a good team but they got stuffed in the 2nd hardest region for a 3-seed. Basically, Iowa State in the round of 32 would be a coin flip game. It’s Kentucky or Carolina Blue in this region.

West Region Info

Time for everyone’s favorite exercise, re-seeding by KenPom with some random thoughts.

1. Gonzaga (2)
2. Michigan (5)
3. Texas Tech (9)
4. Florida State (14)
5. Buffalo (22)
6. Nevada (25)
7. Marquette (27)
8. Florida (28)
9. Syracuse (35)
10. Baylor (41)
11. Murray State (52)


As we can see, the top 4 are the top 4.  There is some shuffling between 5 and 7 but the real difference is pretty small. There is no egregious seeding issues in this bracket. This will be a common theme as we bounce from region-to-region. The committee did good balancing the regions. Can you make a few quibbles? Sure, but this is the best seeding I’ve seen in years.

Brian jumped on Nevada over Michigan last night and I can see that. I’ve been bullish on Nevada the last two years. Anything short of a Sweet 16 will be a disappointment. Everyone loves Murray State, so that should be a concern to you bracket players. Buffalo has a legit shot at a Sweet 16. A potential round of 32 game against Texas Tech would be lots of fun. That said, I doubt Texas Tech will get much love as a potential Final 4 team in this region. It’s doable but I've been on the Zags since last year ended. They’re the pick.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Bracket-Final

1 seed vs 16 seed
Virgina vs F.Dickenson(NEC)/NCCU(MEAC)
Gonzaga (WCC) vs N.Dakota St (Summit)/Iona(MAAC)
Duke (ACC) vs Prairie View (SWAC)
North Carolina vs Gardner Webb(Bsouth)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Michigan St(B1G) vs A.Christian (Sland)
Kentucky vs Bradley (Mvalley)
Tennessee vs N.Kentucky (Hor)
Michigan vs Colgate (Patriot)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Houston vs Georgia St (Sbelt)
Florida St. vs Montana (Bsky)
Texas Tech vs Yale (Ivy)
Purdue vs Old Dominion(Cusa)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Kansas vs St.Louis (A10)
Wisconsin vs Northeastern (CAA)
LSU vs Vermont (Aeast)
Villanova (Beast) vs Liberty (Asun)
5 seed vs 12 seed
Virgina Tech vs UC-Irvine (Bwest)
Auburn (SEC) vs N.Mexico St (WAC)
Kansas St vs Murray State (OVC)
Iowa St. (B12) vs St. Mary's (WCC)
6 seed vs 11 seed
Buffalo (MAC) vs Belmont/St. John's
Maryland vs Ohio St/Arizona St
Marquette vs Oregon (P12)
Cincinnati (AAC) vs Temple
7 seed vs 10 seed
Nevada vs Florida
Wofford(SoCon) vs VCU
Mississippi St. vs Oklahoma
Louisville vs Iowa
8 seed vs 9 seed
Baylor vs Syracuse
Washington vs Mississippi
Seton Hall vs UCF
Minnesota vs Utah State (A10)
First Four Out
TCU
North Carolina St
UNC-Greensboro
Alabama
Next Four Out
Furman
Texas
Lipscomb
Clemson
Also Considered
Indiana
Creighton

New Bracket

Yale's in now and I'm penciling in St. Louis.

1 seed vs 16 seed
Virgina vs F.Dickenson(NEC)/NCCU(MEAC)
Gonzaga (WCC) vs N.Dakota St (Summit)/Iona(MAAC)
Duke (ACC) vs Prairie View (SWAC)
North Carolina vs Gardner Webb(Bsouth)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Michigan St(B1G) vs A.Christian (Sland)
Kentucky vs Bradley (Mvalley)
Tennessee vs N.Kentucky (Hor)
Michigan vs Colgate (Patriot)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Houston (AAC) vs Georgia St (Sbelt)
Florida St. vs Montana (Bsky)
Kansas vs St. Louis(A10)
Purdue vs Old Dominion(Cusa)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Texas Tech vs Yale (Ivy)
Wisconsin vs Northeastern (CAA)
LSU vs Vermont (Aeast)
Villanova (Beast) vs Liberty (Asun)
5 seed vs 12 seed
Virgina Tech vs UC-Irvine (Bwest)
Auburn vs N.Mexico St (WAC)
Kansas St vs Murray State (OVC)
Iowa St. (B12) vs St. Mary's (WCC)
6 seed vs 11 seed
Buffalo (MAC) vs Belmont/St. John's
Maryland vs Ohio St/Arizona St
Marquette vs Oregon (P12)
Cincinnati vs Temple
7 seed vs 10 seed
Nevada vs Florida
Wofford(SoCon) vs UCF
Mississippi St. vs Oklahoma
Louisville vs Iowa
8 seed vs 9 seed
Baylor vs Syracuse
Washington vs Mississippi
Seton Hall vs VCU
Minnesota vs Utah State (A10)
First Four Out
TCU
North Carolina St
UNC-Greensboro
Alabama
Next Four Out
Furman
Texas
Lipscomb
Clemson
Also Considered
Indiana
Creighton
St. Bonny

Bracket Buster: Northeastern

I hadn’t given much consideration to the Huskies as a bracket buster until I looked at their offensive numbers. They don’t jump out at you because they finished 23-10 and some of the other bracket busters I’ve done had big win seasons. Also, they don’t have any big wins but let’s dig deeper at the team 78th in KenPom at the moment.

Northeastern’s offesne is 46th in AsjustedO. But what gets your attention is their effective fg% of 57.2%, 5th best in the nation. They get there by shooting 39% from 3, 14th best in the nation. On top of that, they shoot 56% from 2, 11th best in the nation. They also make their free throws, 35th best overall. 38.5% of their scoring comes from 3. If shots fall for them, someone is going to be in for a battle.

They aren’t a very special defense. They don’t foul much and are very good at rebounding on defense, 22nd best in the nation. That’s all negated by a terrible defensive effective fg%, which is 221st in the nation.

Junior Bolden Brace shoots 42% from 3. Junior Jordan Roland shoots 41% and senior Vasa Puscia shoots 40% from 3. If these guys are making shots, a 3 or 4 seed is going to be in for a battle.

Bracket Buster: UC-Irvine

The UC-Irvine Anteaters won the Big West last night and enter the big dance on a 16-game winning streak. When they tip-off their first round game, it’ll be two months since they last lost. They finished the year 30-5 and have a win over St. Mary’s on their resume and a win over KenPom top-100, Texas A&M. They are currently 75th in KenPom.

The Anteaters are a slow paced team, 296th in tempo built on defense. If they steal a game, it’ll be on the defensive end. They are only 107th in offensive efficiency and not a very good 3-pt shooting team. The best thing they do on offense is rebound, so they can lengthen already slow possessions.

They are 6th nationally in effective fg%. They are number 1 in 2pt FG% defense. They defend quite well and they will make whoever they play, earn their buckets. A bad shooting opponent, ahem, Wisconsin could have to grind hard against them.

Like New Mexico State, this team has depth and spread their minutes out. Only two players averaged double digits scoring. Diminutive guard Max Hazzard lead the way at 12.5ppg and shot 39% from 3. G Evan Leonard averages 11ppg and shoots 40% from 3. SR. big man Jonathon Galloway is their leading rebounder.

This is a winning squad and if they get a weak offensive team, can definitely steal a game

Bracket Buster: New Mexico State

The Aggies won the WAC Championship last night and are up to 49th in KenPom. They are 37th in AdjustedO and 83rd in adjustedD. They are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. They finished the year at 30-4 and lost on a neutral court to Kansas by 3.

On offense, they are 48th in effective fg %. They shoot 56.6% from 2, 9th in the nation. They’re the 8th best offensive rebounding team in the nation. They shoot less than 68% from the free throw line, so that’s a problem area. They’re 278th in pace, so they’ll try and grind down whoever they play. They put on a clinic last night in their win over Grand Canyon.

On defense, they’re 82nd in effective fg%. What they do as well as anyone is rebound misses. They’re 4th in the nation in rebounding %. Opponents only get 22% of their misses. Between the slower pace and rebounding, teams have got to value possessions against them.

What’s fascinating about them is, this is a team that spreads its minutes around quite liberally. They only have one player that averages double digits in scoring. Junior Terrell Brown averages just over 11ppg. If you go look at their statistic page, it’s remaekable at how many guys play. Also, they only have two seniors that get significant minutes. Want a flyer on a 2020 team? This might be your team. They’ll be a pain in someone’s side this week and maybe more than a game.

Sunday Morning Bracketology

I'm sure I will move things around during the day but as of 8am here we go:

1 seed vs 16 seed
Virgina vs F.Dickenson(NEC)/NCCU(MEAC)
Gonzaga (WCC) vs N.Dakota St (Summit)/Iona(MAAC)
Duke (ACC) vs Prairie View (SWAC)
Tennessee (SEC) vs Gardner Webb(Bsouth)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Michigan St(B1G) vs A.Christian (Sland)
Kentucky vs Bradley (Mvalley)
North Carolina vs N.Kentucky (Hor)
Michigan vs Colgate (Patriot)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Houston (AAC) vs Harvard (Ivy)
Florida St. vs Georgia St (Sbelt)
Kansas vs Montana (Bsky)
Purdue vs St. Bonaventure(A10)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Texas Tech vs Old Dominion(Cusa)
Wisconsin vs Northeastern (CAA)
LSU vs Vermont (Aeast)
Villanova (Beast) vs Liberty (Asun)
5 seed vs 12 seed
Virgina Tech vs UC-Irvine (Bwest)
Auburn vs N.Mexico St (WAC)
Kansas St vs Murray State (OVC)
Iowa St. (B12) vs St. Mary's (WCC)
6 seed vs 11 seed
Buffalo (MAC) vs Belmont/St. John's
Maryland vs Ohio St/Arizona St
Marquette vs Oregon (P12)
Cincinnati vs Temple
7 seed vs 10 seed
Nevada vs Florida
Wofford(SoCon) vs UCF
Mississippi St. vs Oklahoma
Louisville vs Iowa
8 seed vs 9 seed
Baylor vs Syracuse
Washington vs Mississippi
Seton Hall vs VCU
Minnesota vs Utah State (A10)
First Four Out
TCU
North Carolina St
UNC-Greensboro
Alabama
Next Four Out
Furman
Texas
Lipscomb
Clemson
Also Considered
Indiana
Creighton
St. Louis

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Bid Stealers Still Alive


Mountain West:
San Diego State over Utah State
The Aggies are solidly in as an 8/9 right now.  San Diego State would steal a bid with a win

MAC
Bowling Green over Buffalo
Buffalo is currently a 6 seed.  They are 7-2 in Q1/Q2 games and project as a top 25 team in all the computer numbers

Mountain West:
Oregon over Washington
I’m actually now tracking Oregon off on the side but I think they need the auto-bid.  Some experts don’t have Washington in for sure but 10-6 against Q1/Q2, even if most of that is Q2 is enough for me.

American
Memphis over Houston or Wichita State over Cincinnati
There could be a bid stealer today or tomorrow depending on if there is one or two upsets.  Memphis was the hot upset pick but Wichita has been riding hot for the past 6 weeks

Bubble Team Who Aren’t Safe.  In Order of most likely to drop out

Belmont – pro: solid NCSOS, 4-3 against Q1/Q2. Con: Small schools always get screwed

TCU – pro: 22 games against Q1/Q2. Con: only won 9 of them

St. John’s – pro: 10-10 against Q1/Q2.; started hot  Con: Ended poorly and got crushed by Marquette.  NCSOS of 216

Ohio State – pro: Like TCU, 22 games against Q1/Q2. Con: Like TCU, only won 9 of them

Arizona State – pro: 11-6 against Q1/Q2; NCSOS of 46 Con: 6-2 against Q4

Mid-Saturday Bracketology

1 seed vs 16 seed
Virgina vs F.Dickenson(NEC)/NCCU(MEAC)
Gonzaga (WCC) vs N.Dakota St (Summit)/Iona(MAAC)
Duke (ACC) vs Prairie View (SWAC)
Kentucky (SEC) vs Gardner Webb(Bsouth)
2 seed vs 15 seed
Michigan St(B1G) vs A.Christian (Sland)
Tennessee vs Bradley (Mvalley)
North Carolina vs N.Kentucky (Hor)
Michigan vs Colgate (Patriot)
3 seed vs 14 seed
Houston (AAC) vs Harvard (Ivy)
Florida St. vs Georgia St (Sbelt)
Kansas(B12) vs Montana (Bsky)
Purdue vs Old Dominion (Cusa)
4 seed vs 13 seed
Texas Tech vs Northeastern (CAA)
Wisconsin vs Vermont (Aeast)
LSU vs UC-Irvine (Bwest)
Kansas St vs Liberty (Asun)
5 seed vs 12 seed
Virgina Tech vs Davidson (A10)
Auburn vs N.Mexico St (WAC)
Villanova (Beast) vs Murray State (OVC)
Marquette vs Belmont/TCU
6 seed vs 11 seed
Buffalo (MAC) vs St. Mary's (WCC)
Maryland vs Ohio St/St. John's
Iowa St. vs Arizona State
Mississippi St. vs Florida
7 seed vs 10 seed
Nevada vs Temple
Wofford(SoCon) vs UCF
Cincinnati vs Oklahoma
Louisville vs Iowa
8 seed vs 9 seed
Baylor vs Syracuse
Washington (P12) vs Mississippi
Seton Hall vs VCU
Minnesota vs Utah State (Mwest)


First Four Out
North Carolina State
UNG-Greensboro
Alabama
Furman
Next Four Out
Texas
Lipscomb
Clemson
Indiana
Also Considered
Creighton