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.

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