Monday, February 20, 2017

Bracket Projection: 2/20

Three years ago, my roommate and I stumbled upon an Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game, watching about 15 seconds of it before switching to something else. In those seconds, we watched a tiny guy receive a pass absurdly far from the basket, before the announcers declared, "oh he might shoot from there." He did, shooting with painfully bad form, and of course, the shot went in. Sorry the GIF doesn't continuously loop, I'm still a little new at this whole blogging thing. If you want to watch it multiple times, you'll have to reload the page.

Many things were bizarre about this: 1. The fact that he shot from 30 feet away with terrible form, 2. The fact that it went in, and 3. The fact that the announcers were completely unfazed by this entire series of events. To only watch that bit of the game out of context turned this player, Phil Forte, into somewhat of a cult hero in our world. Three years later, we were excited to find out the man is still in college and is the all-time leader in three pointers for the Cowboys. We always joked that the only way this fairytale could end is with Michigan and Oklahoma State playing in a first round 7-10 matchup in the NCAA Tournament. And the reason I'm telling you this long and obscure story is because when I ran the bracket this week, lo and behold, look at where those two teams are:

1 Villanova Kansas Gonzaga Baylor
2 Oregon Kentucky North Carolina Louisville
3 Duke Florida St. Florida Arizona
4 West Virginia Virginia Butler Cincinnati
5 Purdue Saint Mary's SMU UCLA
6 Xavier Creighton Notre Dame Wisconsin
7 Maryland Oklahoma St. Minnesota South Carolina
8 Iowa St. Northwestern VCU Dayton
9 Wichita St. Arkansas Virginia Tech USC
10 Miami FL Michigan California Michigan St.
11 Kansas St. Illinois St. TCU Tennessee
11 Marquette Seton Hall
12 Nevada UT Arlington UNC Wilmington Middle Tennessee
13 Princeton Vermont Monmouth Akron
14 Bucknell Valparaiso East Tennessee St. Belmont
15 UNC Asheville Cal St. Bakersfield Florida Gulf Coast North Dakota St.
16 Mount St. Mary's North Dakota UC Irvine Texas Southern
16 North Carolina Central New Orleans

We can only hope that magical matchup holds through the end of the year. Anyways, let's take a closer look at the bracket:

Biggest Movers: The purple Big XII teams are in a bit of a slide, as TCU has lost three straight and Kansas St. has lost three of their last four. Both drop down to 11 seeds. Wake Forest has lost two in a row and Syracuse has lost three straight, so both of those teams drop back out of the tournament. Taking their place once again is the always back-and-forth Illinois State, and Marquette, who is now hanging on by a thread.

1 seeds: They are the same. Gonzaga will finish undefeated (97%).

Big Ten: Michigan's big win over Wisconsin moves both of those teams up and down one seed, respectively, as Wisconsin is now a 6 and Michigan is a 10. Purdue, Maryland, Minnesota, and Michigan State all hold steady, and Northwestern drops down to an 8 after their loss to Maryland. Indiana would have to win out to have a shot (something they have a 2.1% chance of doing), and Ohio State is all but eliminated, barring a magical Big Ten Tournament run.

Michigan: This week the Wolverines got one of their biggest wins of the year at home against Wisconsin. They then fell last night on the road in overtime to Minnesota. While fans obviously would've liked to see the team win both games, they have still helped their cause quite a bit, as the graph suggests:

They have a 38.4% chance of going 9-9, a 36.5% chance of going 10-8 or better, and a 25.1% chance of going 10-8 or worse. If you feel like things hang pretty precariously right now, you are correct. This week Michigan plays at Rutgers and comes home to face Purdue. The Rutgers game is obviously a must-win, as the Scarlet Knights are by far the worst team in the conference. Purdue, on the other hand, is currently the best team in the conference, winners of 5 straight, and they will provide significant matchup problems for the Wolverines. Despite that, Kenpom still sees the game as a coin flip at Crisler. That game isn't an absolute must-win, but doing so would make the last two road games quite a bit less stressful. When we return next week, we'll be facing down the final week of the regular season, and the bracket will finally be starting to solidify.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Bracket Projection: 2/13

Well would you look at that, we have an actual bracket post on an actual Monday. With Michigan in it! This week the Selection Committee did something they've never done before, which is release the top 16 teams in the field if the tournament were to start right now. That is helpful in knowing what resume aspects the committee values, but as you know, the tournament doesn't start right now, so while my top 16 is still very similar to what the committee released, I didn't just blindly place their top 16 into my bracket, because mine still does a tiny bit of projection. One other note about this week's field: we encountered a logjam with the 1-8-9 part of the bracket. With so many Big XII teams with those seeds, this bracket shows potential for second round matchups between teams that played each other twice in the regular season, something the committee likes to avoid. I'm not sure how they tackle situations like these, and my bracket is scored by seeds and not by specific matchups, so I'm just going to leave it as is and let you see where my seeds currently stand. I've rambled enough in this section, so let's just look at the bracket:

1 Villanova Gonzaga Baylor Kansas
2 Oregon North Carolina Kentucky Louisville
3 Virginia Florida Florida State Arizona
4 West Virginia UCLA Butler Duke
5 Purdue Cincinnati Wisconsin Creighton
6 Saint Mary's Notre Dame Xavier SMU
7 South Carolina Maryland Minnesota Northwestern
8 Iowa St. Oklahoma St. USC Dayton
9 VCU Virginia Tech TCU Kansas St.
10 Michigan St. Arkansas Miami FL Wichita St.
11 Wake Forest California Tennessee Seton Hall
11 Michigan Syracuse
12 Boise St. UT Arlington UNC Wilmington Middle Tennessee
13 Akron Vermont Monmouth Valparaiso
14 Bucknell Princeton New Mexico St. Belmont
15 UNC Asheville East Tennessee St. Florida Gulf Coast North Dakota St.
16 New Orleans UC Irvine Weber St. Texas Southern
16 Mount St. Mary's North Carolina Central

Biggest Movers: Florida is the only team that takes a big jump after they blew out Kentucky and haven't lost since January. Meanwhile, a lot of movement on the bubble took place this week. Illinois State drops out as the Missouri Valley still can't figure out if it is sending one or two teams this year. Clemson is in free fall at 3-9 in the ACC; it's amazing they stayed in the field this long. Marquette fell to Butler and Georgetown this week as their chances grow slimmer, and Indiana is replaced by Michigan after the Wolverines' big win at Assembly Hall. The other newcomers are the always mysterious Wake Forest and first-timers Tennessee and Syracuse, who have both been slowly creeping up the rankings the past few weeks.

1 seeds: Kansas retakes their spot on the 1 line after beating Kansas State and Texas Tech. I still think Louisville is very good, but these four have held their positions for most of the season and will probably keep them, barring any late stumbles. Meanwhile, it's safe to say Gonzaga will finish the regular season undefeated. After beating Saint Mary's in the only mildly difficult game left on their schedule, their chance of a perfect record jumped all the way to 95.6%. 

Big Ten: The big story of the committee's top 16 was the fact that zero Big Ten teams were in it. That actually matters more to the Big Ten teams on the bubble, because it appears the committee doesn't value the conference very highly this year, which is definitely something to keep an eye on. So Wisconsin and Purdue are now both 5 seeds after Wisconsin's loss to Northwestern, and Maryland, Minnesota, and Northwestern are all still jammed on the 7 line. It will be interesting to see if and how those three teams move down the stretch. Farther down on the bubble, three of the conference's most historic programs are still fighting for their tournament lives. Michigan improved their stock the most this week after beating fellow bubble teams Michigan State and Indiana in impressive and encouraging fashion. The Wolverines now hold on for dear life as one of the last four in. Michigan State somehow weathers the 29-point loss to their rival and stays as a 10. Indiana, meanwhile, drops out, essentially ceding their spot to Michigan, for now. 

Michigan: Michigan's two big wins this week do a whole lot of good for their resume right now. And from a non-analytical standpoint, we can say the team has picked a good time to start playing some of their best basketball of the season. There's still quite a bit of work left to be done though, as the quite symmetrical win probability graph indicates:

Michigan has 6 games remaining, and the graph shows they will most likely go 3-3 over than stretch. Other than Rutgers, every game is between 37%-60% win probability, so near coin-flip games. They definitely need to win three of them, and probably four to be safer. They will then have another shot or two to beat a good team in the Big Ten Tournament like they did last year. It's going to be a stressful home stretch, but if the team continues to play the way they did this week, it will be an exciting stretch.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Bracket Projection: 1/31 - Updated

I'm back. Yesterday I just threw up the bracket with no explanations or anything, so today we're revisiting that same bracket and doing the usual talk about it that you're used to seeing. Let's re-post that bracket for the sake of convenience:

1 Villanova Baylor Kansas Gonzaga
2 Arizona North Carolina Kentucky Louisville
3 Virginia Butler Florida State Oregon
4 West Virginia UCLA Creighton Florida
5 Cincinnati Wisconsin Duke Notre Dame
6 Maryland Purdue Saint Mary's Xavier
7 South Carolina SMU Northwestern Minnesota
8 Indiana Virginia Tech USC Dayton
9 Iowa St. Arkansas Clemson TCU
10 Marquette Michigan St. Kansas St. VCU
11 Illinois St. Middle Tennessee Wake Forest Miami FL
11 Seton Hall Michigan
12 Akron Wichita St. Nevada UNC Wilmington
13 UT Arlington New Mexico St. Vermont Monmouth
14 Florida Gulf Coast Bucknell Belmont Valparaiso
15 East Tennessee St. Princeton UNC Asheville North Dakota St.
16 Mount St. Mary's Weber St. Texas Southern UC Irvine
16 North Carolina Central New Orleans

Biggest Movers: I cannot figure out the Indiana Hoosiers. They lost both of their games this week, and are somehow up to an 8 seed. Something tells me the chance that I correctly predict their seed come selection Sunday is very small. Meanwhile Pittsburgh and Georgia drop out: I can't believe I even had the Panthers in this long. They have lost seven in a row and project to finish 4-14 in the ACC after a 12-3 start that included wins over Marquette, Maryland, and Virginia. Georgia meanwhile is 4-5 in the SEC and just on the outside of the bubble. The Missouri Valley goes back to having an at-large team, as Wichita State makes it back in, and finally our Wolverines take a hold of that final spot in the field after their big win over Indiana. More on them later.

1 seeds: We have a change here for the first time since December. Kentucky lost two games in a row and drops down to a 2 seed, making room for Gonzaga to jump back up to a 1. The Zags remain undefeated, with a 47.1% chance of finishing the job. Meanwhile, Villanova and Kansas both lost tough road games this week: Villanova to Marquette, and Kansas to West Virginia. Despite that, they hang on to their spots on the 1 line without too many teams immediately at their heels.

Big Ten: More clarity once again here. Minnesota and Maryland flip spots, as the two teams seem to be on opposite trajectories right now. Northwestern is ranked in the AP poll now, and as their record improves, they move up to a 7 seed. It's looking more and more likely this could finally be the year in Evanston. Indiana makes no sense and we already talked about them. Michigan State drops a bit, probably because their Minnesota wins are starting to look less impressive. And of course Michigan appears in one of the play-in games. Speaking of which...

Michigan: The Wolverines still have their work cut out for them. I said last week they had to at least go 1-1 against Indiana and Michigan State, which they did. That causes the win probability graph to look like this:
That's better than last week, but still not great. There's 26.7% chance they go 9-9, a 44.4% chance they finish below .500, and a 28.9% they finish above .500. I'm still operating on the assumption that 10-8 will probably get them in, and 9-9 would require some magic in the conference tournament.

This week they have a midweek bye and play Ohio State on Saturday. The Buckeyes have been struggling, so this should hopefully be a game Michigan can lock down before focusing on the rematch with the Spartans three days later. We'll be back here on Monday to check on the outlook during that stretch of the schedule.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Bracket Projection: 1/31

Once again I'm a bit late on this, and today I'm just publishing the bracket and nothing else. This projection is as of yesterday (1/30), so doesn't include the games that occurred last night. An additional post will be coming tomorrow with all the resume analysis you're used to seeing on these posts. For now just enjoy where the bracket currently stands, with our Wolverines back in by the skin of their teeth:

1 Villanova Baylor Kansas Gonzaga
2 Arizona North Carolina Kentucky Louisville
3 Virginia Butler Florida State Oregon
4 West Virginia UCLA Creighton Florida
5 Cincinnati Wisconsin Duke Notre Dame
6 Maryland Purdue Saint Mary's Xavier
7 South Carolina SMU Northwestern Minnesota
8 Indiana Virginia Tech USC Dayton
9 Iowa St. Arkansas Clemson TCU
10 Marquette Michigan St. Kansas St. VCU
11 Illinois St. Middle Tennessee Wake Forest Miami FL
11 Seton Hall Michigan
12 Akron Wichita St. Nevada UNC Wilmington
13 UT Arlington New Mexico St. Vermont Monmouth
14 Florida Gulf Coast Bucknell Belmont Valparaiso
15 East Tennessee St. Princeton UNC Asheville North Dakota St.
16 Mount St. Mary's Weber St. Texas Southern UC Irvine
16 North Carolina Central New Orleans

Monday, January 23, 2017

Bracket Projection: 1/23

The bracket continues to take shape. This week saw the fewest giant discrepancies between my bracket and most of the experts' brackets. Let's take a look at where things stand:

1 Villanova Kentucky Baylor Kansas
2 Florida St. North Carolina Gonzaga Louisville
3 Arizona Butler Creighton UCLA
4 West Virginia Oregon Virginia Florida
5 Duke Cincinnati Wisconsin Notre Dame
6 Minnesota Saint Mary's Purdue Xavier
7 South Carolina SMU Maryland USC
8 Clemson TCU Virginia Tech Northwestern
9 Iowa St. Michigan St. Arkansas Dayton
10 Indiana VCU Pittsburgh Seton Hall
11 Marquette Wake Forest Illinois St. Kansas St.
11 Miami FL Georgia
12 Akron Nevada Middle Tennessee UNC Wilmington
13 Chattanooga Monmouth New Mexico St. Vermont
14 Florida Gulf Coast Winthrop Bucknell Valparaiso
15 Belmont Princeton North Dakota St. Georgia Southern
16 Mount St. Mary's Weber St. UC Irvine Texas Southern
16 North Carolina Central New Orleans

Biggest Movers: Arizona Takes the biggest jump after an exciting road win over UCLA, putting themselves in the driver's seat in the Pac 12. They are up to a 3 seed. Virginia Tech swings back up to an 8 after an unexplained drop last week. On the bubble, Illinois falls out after losing three straight, Texas Tech drops out after losing to Oklahoma State, and Wichita State just barely inched out despite not losing any notable games. Replacing them is Marquette, who just knocked off Creighton, Kansas State, who upset West Virginia, and Georgia, who is up to 4-3 in the SEC. For what it's worth, the line between Georgia and Wichita State was razor-thin.

1 Seeds: They are the same for the fourth week in a row, and these four seem slightly more separated from the pack this week as none of them lost a game. Villanova and Kentucky are extremely close as far as picking the number 1 overall seed, but we're sticking with Villanova for now. This section has also become the "Gonzaga undefeated watch" section, so you should know that probability is up to 44.2%.

Big Ten: We're finally seeing some sense here. Wisconsin, still the favorite to win the conference, is now the highest seeded team in the conference as a 5, which makes sense. Purdue and Minnesota are down to 6's. Maryland, Northwestern, Michigan State, and Indiana stay where they were last week as we march down the seed lines. Illinois, as mentioned earlier, has dropped back out.

Michigan: We covered this a bit last week, but Michigan lost a tough road game to Wisconsin, one they were very much expected to lose. They followed that up with an encouraging win over Illinois, a team that blew out the Wolverines just two weeks ago. That win was enough to knock the Illini out, but not enough to bump the Wolverines back in. This week's chart is just barely better than last week's:

It's still centered around 8-10, which is not good, but at least that 7-11 bar isn't as high as it was last week. In order to really swing things towards .500 or better, Michigan will have to win some games that Kenpom considers a tossup or an expected loss. Luckily, they have two opportunities to do just that this week with games against Indiana (54% win probability) and at Michigan State (38%). Two wins would be fantastic, and would totally change the course of the season. 1-1 is much more likely, and is still a solid step in the right direction. Two losses, on the other hand, would probably be too big of a hole to climb out of. Let's hope the newfound desire to play defense we saw against Wisconsin and Illinois can continue in the Wolverines' two big matchups this week.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Bracket Projection: 1/18

Disclaimer: I ran the simulation yesterday (1/17), but haven't gotten a chance to publish it until today. So all the data used is behind a day. Looking at yesterday's results, it's hard to tell if any of the games would have changed the projection all that much, but I'm guessing it would look pretty much the same. Anyways, here's what my computer spit out this week:

1 Villanova Kansas Baylor Kentucky
2 North Carolina Creighton Louisville Gonzaga
3 Florida Florida St. Butler UCLA
4 West Virginia Virginia Oregon Duke
5 Arizona Minnesota Xavier Purdue
6 Notre Dame Wisconsin Saint Mary's Cincinnati
7 South Carolina Maryland USC Clemson
8 Northwestern Dayton SMU TCU
9 Iowa St. Michigan St. Arkansas Pittsburgh
10 Indiana Virginia Tech Seton Hall VCU
11 Illinois St. Wichita St. Wake Forest Texas Tech
11 Illinois Miami FL
12 Monmouth Nevada UNC Wilmington Middle Tennessee
13 Vermont Akron Valparaiso Chattanooga
14 Lehigh Princeton Florida Gulf Coast New Mexico St.
15 UNC Asheville Belmont Georgia Southern Texas Southern
16 North Carolina Central Weber St. UC Irvine Fort Wayne
16 Mount St. Mary's Sam Houston St.

Biggest Movers: Duke drops down to a 4 seed after losing two games in a row to Florida State and Louisville, two teams that as a result are now ahead of them in the bracket. Virginia Tech is all the way down to a 10 after a loss to Notre Dame, which seems a bit harsh. TCU is trending upwards to an 8 seed after wins over Texas and Iowa State. Dropping out from last week's bracket are Rhode Island, who was upset by La Salle, North Carolina State, who dropped games to lowly Boston College and Georgia Tech, and Oklahoma State, who is now having a disastrous season having lost their first five conference games. Replacing the teams that dropped out are Illinois and Illinois State, the latter of which hopes to win their conference and assure a bid, and Texas Tech, who makes their first appearance here despite being 2-3 in conference.

1 seeds: Once again the same, although Gonzaga is extremely close behind the leaders. After pointing out that Baylor only had a 0.06% chance of going undefeated, the Bears promptly dropped their first game of the season to a very good West Virginia team. Gonzaga, on the other hand, beat Saint Mary's, the only other good team in their conference. The Bulldogs' chances of going undefeated are now up to 33.1%.

Big Ten: The seeds still seem a bit off to me. Wisconsin is now the heavy favorite to win the conference, so it would be very odd to see Purdue and Minnesota seeded above them come Selection Sunday. The Badgers are still 38th in RPI, though, which is the reason they're still hanging out as a 6 seed. Northwestern is now 4-2 in the conference, creeping up to an 8 seed. It's really starting to look like this is the year the Wildcats finally break through. Michigan State and Indiana flip spots, as the Spartans are also up to 4-2, while the Hoosiers are still struggling at 2-3. Illinois blew out Michigan, and as a result, the Illini sneak back in, while the Wolverines remain on the outside.

Michigan: I, like many other fans, was thoroughly disappointed in Michigan's performance in Champaign last week. They bounced back at home against Nebraska, but that wasn't enough to put them back in the tournament picture. At this point they'll need a couple of "big wins" like they had last year against Maryland, Purdue, and Indiana. Since starting this article, the Wolverines lost a chance at one of those big wins, as they fell just short in Madison. They return home this weekend for a quick rematch with Illinois, a game they absolutely need if they want to stay alive. Here's what the chart tells us about expectations:

It is still very ugly, and only incrementally better than the graph I tweeted after the Illinois game (and much worse than the graph from last week). 8-10 is now up to 23.6%, and 7-11 is more likely than 9-9. If you are like me and think Michigan really should go above .500 in conference, there is only a 15.6% chance of that happening. Ugh. We'll check in next week after the next Illinois game, and if that one is a loss, it might be just about time to close the door on this season. Let's hope that is not the case.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Bracket Projection: 1/9

I'm sorry, but it had to be done. You will not find our beloved Michigan Wolverines in this bracket projection. We'll discuss why they're out, and what they can do to get back in, later in this post. For now, here's the full bracket:

1 Villanova Kentucky Kansas Baylor
2 UCLA Duke Gonzaga Louisville
3 North Carolina Butler Virginia Creighton
4 Florida St. Oregon Xavier Florida
5 Minnesota Purdue Arizona West Virginia
6 Wisconsin Notre Dame Saint Mary's Cincinnati
7 Clemson USC Virginia Tech Maryland
8 South Carolina SMU Arkansas Dayton
9 Pittsburgh Iowa St. Northwestern Indiana
10 Seton Hall VCU Michigan St. Miami FL
11 Wake Forest UNC Wilmington TCU North Carolina St.
11 Rhode Island Oklahoma St.
12 Monmouth Wichita St. UT Arlington Middle Tennessee
13 Boise St. Oakland Chattanooga Bucknell
14 Belmont New Mexico St. Florida Gulf Coast Vermont
15 UNC Asheville Texas Southern Princeton Ohio
16 North Dakota St. New Orleans North Carolina Central UC Irvine
16 Mount St. Mary's Weber St.

Biggest Movers: Dayton is the big riser after wins over St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island. They are the favorite to win the Atlantic 10. Minnesota is all the way up to a 5 after three straight wins against Purdue, Northwestern, and Ohio State. USC lost at home to Cal and drops to a 7. Indiana continues to struggle at 1-2 in the Big Ten; they're down to a 9. Miami drops to a 10 after losing to Syracuse, and Oklahoma State is hanging on for dear life after starting 0-3 in conference play. Meanwhile, Michigan State and North Carolina State make their first appearances as their respective RPI rankings start to climb. Oddly enough, Pittsburgh climbs up to a 9 and Wake Forest comes back in the field despite poor starts to conference play. Dropping out are Texas A&M, Illinois, and of course Michigan, who are all off to rough starts in their respective conferences.

1 seeds: They are exactly the same as last week. Villanova actually lost on the road to Butler, but Butler is a great team and the Wildcats were still able to hold on to my #1 overall seed. That leaves Baylor and Gonzaga as the lone undefeateds. According to Kenpom, Gonzaga has a 14.1% chance of running the table, while Baylor's chances are only 0.06%.

Big Ten: I've already discussed quite a few Big Ten teams already, but we'll cover the rest here as it pertains to the NCAA Tournament. Most notably, Purdue's win over Wisconsin moves the Boilermakers up to a 4 seed. Maryland's win over Michigan bumped them up to a 7 seed and knocked Michigan out. Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan State, and Illinois are all discussed in the previous section, and Northwestern stays right where they were last week.

Michigan: Alright, time to figure this out. Dropping out of the tournament is bad, but it's not a full-on red alert. There are a lot of games left to be played, but in order to get back in, they must exceed expectations as they currently stand. The cumulative win probability graph is as bad as it has been all season:
Yikes. 9-9 is now the median at 21%, and 8-10 is more likely than 10-8. Remember what I just said about exceeding expectations? That's because these are the current expectations. The Wolverines have a huge week coming up with a road game against fellow "First Four Out" team Illinois, followed by a home game against conference wild card Nebraska. I really think they need to win both to stay alive. Kenpom claims they have a 38.2% chance of winning both. There have certainly been flashes of greatness from this Michigan team, but they have yet to piece it all together for 40 minutes since the 2k Classic. Now would be an excellent time for the proverbial light to go on.