Friday, November 18, 2016

Bracketology Update: 11/18

The Armed Forces Classic, the Champions Classic, and a number of other matchups between power teams provided for an interesting week in college basketball. Here's where the bracketology stands after one week at the very top, in the Big Ten, and with our Wolverines:

1 Seeds: After all playing in marquee matchups the first week of the season, the 1 seeds remain unchanged with Villanova, Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas. Villanova notched a big road win at Mackey Arena against Purdue on Monday, making it very likely they will enter conference play undefeated (they do have one more big nonconference test against Virginia, but that isn't until January 29). Two of my 1 seeds, Duke and Kansas, played each other, with Kansas pulling off the 77-75 win. I was ready to bump Kansas down after their overtime loss to Indiana, but they bounced back to get a huge win against the Blue Devils, and are still in line to get a 1 seed. Duke, on the other hand, is still doing just fine despite the loss, with games against Michigan State, Florida, and the grueling ACC schedule providing numerous chances to rack up some big wins. Kentucky asserted their defensive prowess by holding Michigan State to just 48 points, which is as good of a start as the Wildcats could have hoped for. Finally, I mentioned Oregon last week as a team that had potential to sneak onto the 1 line, but after a big loss to Baylor, they're knocked down a peg at least for the time being.

Big Ten: There were plenty of resume-effecting results in the Big Ten this week, but the overall seeding looks mostly the same. Here are a few notable things that happened around the conference:

Wisconsin: 2 seed - The Badgers lost their first big test of the season on the road against a good Creighton team. Their status here on the 2 line is a bit shakier than it was a week ago, but I expect them to rebound and still end up with an impressive resume.

Indiana: 3 seed - The season began with a bang for Tom Crean's squad as they took down Kansas 103-99 in overtime. That's the type of win that the committee consistently rewards come Selection Sunday, which is why they are up to a 3 seed.

Michigan State: 4 seed - There's nothing resume-crushing about losing to Arizona and Kentucky to start the year, but the Spartan offense has struggled mightily thus far. Combine that with the toughest nonconference schedule in the Big Ten and you're looking at a slight decrease in seed projection.

Purdue: 5 seed - As mentioned earlier, Purdue fell in a tight matchup at home to Villanova. While that would've been a huge boost for their resume had they come away with a win, their expectations should be exactly as they were at the beginning of the season.

Ohio State: 5 seed - The Buckeyes have fallen a bit in Kenpom's rankings, but they still took care of business against Providence on Thursday, so I'll keep them right where I had them last week for now.

Michigan: 6 seed - Discussed in greater detail below. Thursday's huge win over Marquette made me extremely excited about the potential this season, but I'll hold it in for now. See the Michigan section below for greater detail.

Maryland: 8 seed - After picking up a big road win against Georgetown on Tuesday, Maryland gets a slight boost in projection. I still see them as a bubble team, but they will be an interesting team to watch as we learn more about the new pieces in their rotation this season.

Iowa: OUT - Iowa had their first chance to grab a big nonconference win on Thursday, but fell short in an 8 point loss at home to Seton Hall. The Hawkeyes have their work cut out for them now, but the rest of the preseason will provide more opportunities for key wins.

Penn State: Very OUT - Only mentioned in this section because they lost at home to #165 Albany, the Nittany Lions will not be making the tournament this year barring a miraculous turnaround. Their next game is against Duke, so...good luck.

Michigan Update: As mentioned earlier, the Wolverines' 18 point win over #31 Marquette has caused a lot of excitement among the fans, and not unrightfully so. DJ Wilson recorded his first career double-double in his first game as a starter, Mark Donnal scored 15 points off the bench, and Zak Irvin had a calm 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists while going 3/4 from beyond the arc. Most importantly, the defense held the Golden Eagles to 0.84 points per possession, prompting the commentators to wonder "how other teams will be able to handle Michigan's size," not sarcastically.  It's possible Marquette was overrated, but Michigan has certainly passed their first big test of the season with flying colors. Here is how the win probability graphs look right now:
Both Michigan's nonconference and Big Ten win projections have increased about 1 game, to 11-2 and 11-7, respectively. It should be noted that no Big Ten outcome still has more than a 20% chance of happening, so predictions are tough to make, but regardless, that is a good direction to head in. 

Michigan's next two matchups should give us more meaningful information, as they first face off with SMU tonight for the 2K Classic championship against a Mustangs team that has badly beaten Michigan each of the last two seasons. From there they travel south to face a decent South Carolina team in their first true road game. The model has it likely they will only win 1 of their next 2. Win them both in convincing fashion, and you will probably see fully unbridled enthusiasm from me in my next post. Until then, I look forward to watching these next two games to see if they can continue the momentum.

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