Friday, December 2, 2016

Bracketology Update: 12/2

As expected, the ACC picked up their first win in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge since 2008, taking 9 out of 14 games from the Big Ten, including the most disappointing result, a 73-70 Virginia Tech comeback win over Michigan, the ramifications of which will be discussed in this post. First, we look at the one seeds, which are exactly the same.

1 seeds: Still Villanova, Duke, Kentucky, and Kansas. The only notable thing that happened between these four teams was Duke's 9-point home win over Michigan State. The game was tied at halftime, but Duke's win probability never dipped below 75%. They did temporarily drop out of the #1 overall spot in Kenpom, being replaced by conference foe Virginia, but since then have reclaimed it and therefore can stay at as a 1 seed in my book. Meanwhile, let's check in with the conference after every team played a significant nonconference game this week:

Big Ten: It wasn't a particularly good week for the conference, but neither was it unexpected. The ACC is simply a better conference this year, and many Big Ten teams fell in close games to overmatched opponents. Let's take this opportunity to catch up with every team in the conference, since I usually omit a few teams that don't need to be talked about. Here's where they stand:

Wisconsin - 2 seed: Wisconsin won convincingly in a 17-point victory over Syracuse, who is now starting to look not quite as good as we originally thought. Regardless, the Badgers are still in very good shape at the top of the conference.

Indiana - 3 seed: Indiana got their second huge win of the season in a 76-67 home victory over North Carolina. They now have two top 10 wins and one 100+ loss, so they will be a difficult team to judge going forward. It appears #CHAOSTEAM is as alive in basketball as it is in football.

Purdue - 4 seed: The Boilermakers lost on the road to a very good Louisville team, which doesn't affect their outlook that much. However, they now sit at 0-2 against the top 50, so they will look towards a December 17th matchup against Notre Dame to find that elusive nonconference big win.

Ohio State - 5 seed: Similar to Purdue, the Buckeyes lost to heavy favorite Virginia but don't fall in seeding. They actually had the lead for much of the game, and improved their Kenpom ranking despite the loss.

Michigan State - 5 seed: As mentioned earlier, the Spartans lost to Duke, and with that, the miserable Michigan State athletics year 2016 is just about over. At 4-4 overall and 1-4 vs. the top 50, they look to finally regroup these next few weeks against much weaker competition (although they will have to do so without superstar freshman Miles Bridges).

Michigan - 6 seed: Much like the 2K Classic victory was not cause for overexcitement, the loss to Virginia Tech is not cause for doom and misery. It does, however, cause me to reset seed expectations just a bit, but not to lower than they were at the beginning of the season.

Maryland - 9 seed: After declaring them "mysterious" last week, I figured I should check out Maryland in their game against Pittsburgh. It went...not well. The Terrapins couldn't get much of anything anywhere on the court, losing by 14, and now need a win over Oklahoma State this week otherwise things start to look dicey.

Northwestern - OUT (barely): They beat Wake Forest, and The Dream is still alive and well! They were expected to win that game, so it doesn't move them into the tournament just yet, but it certainly doesn't hurt their chances.

Iowa - OUT: Still losing: this week lost to Notre Dame in a game that wasn't particularly competitive. This week they face Iowa State and things continue to look grim.

Minnesota - OUT: Despite losing to Florida State, the Golden Gophers have actually been steadily climbing the Kenpom rankings throughout the season and currently have the same projected final record as Maryland. I'm still skeptical, but I'll certainly be keeping an eye out. This week they play Vanderbilt in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for some reason.

Illinois - OUT: A home win against North Carolina State is nice, but the Illini are still going to end up with way too many losses to be in tournament consideration. If they can somehow win this week against VCU in Miami, maybe we'll start talking.

Nebraska - OUT: Lost to Clemson this week, now have lost three in a row, and in-state rival Creighton comes to town this week, so things still are not looking too good for the Cornhuskers.

Penn State - OUT: One of the five Big Ten wins actually came from the second-worst team in the conference when Penn State beat Georgia Tech, a team even worse than them. Congratulations, but you're still not coming close to making the tournament.

Rutgers - OUT: They are very bad. Not as horrifically bad as they were last year, but awful nonetheless. For some reason they had to play Miami (FL) in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, and it went about as poorly as you'd expect. Unless they pull some crazy upset later in the season, this may very well be the last time I talk about Rutgers basketball this season. The end.

Michigan Update: The graphs didn't lie, they just picked a smaller bar than we would have liked. Virginia Tech is a bubble team, and losing at home to them doesn't look good, but I think in the end Michigan will end up with enough quality wins in the Big Ten to be just fine. Here's what the graphs have to say about that:
We finally have a bar in the nonconference graph that's above 50%, and that's at 10-3. If you remember my preseason post, that was originally the number of wins with the highest probability, at that time around 30% likelihood. Just like last week, the UCLA game appears to be a loss, and the rest appear to be wins. 11-7 is still the most likely Big Ten record, and the graph looks quite similar to how it looked two weeks ago, which is still better than it looked at the beginning of the season.

As for this week, Michigan plays Texas on Tuesday (your friendly neighborhood webslinger will unfortunately not be in attendance), and this game is pretty close to a must win if they want to stay off the bubble this year. Texas is the first team in the 50-100 range the Wolverines have faced, and it's very important to show the committee that you can take care of business against teams of that tier. Even after the VT loss, Kenpom still has Michigan as an 81% chance to beat the Longhorns. Let's hope they can bounce back, and when we come back next week, we'll be looking at their last tough nonconference game on the road against UCLA. 

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