Monday, February 27, 2017

Bracket Projection: 2/27

We have reached the final week of the regular season. I am currently trying to plan a way to give quick updates throughout the week without doing entire projections every day, because things will change quickly, and I want to be able to update how things stand in real time. So be on the lookout for Twitter updates throughout the week. Anyways, this week we have a hilarious Kansas City bracket that would be awesome, but would probably never happen. The top four seeds in that one region--Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, and UCLA--have as many championships between them (27) as the other 64 teams in the field combined. Picking a Final Four team from that region would be an incredibly tall order, and potential Sweet 16/Elite 8 matchups would be insane. We can only hope there is a bracket that great in the actual tournament. And of course, Michigan ended up in that region, playing VCU and then potentially Kansas in a fun callback to the 2013 Final Four run. Anyways, let's look at the rest of the bracket:

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

Biggest Movers: A lot of movement this week: Virginia was in free-fall after losing four in a row. They won their last game, but they still drop to a 5. Wisconsin has lost four of five and is all the way down to a 7. Northwestern's slide catches up to them as they fall all the way to a 10. USC is also crashing hard after losing four in a row. Same goes to Kansas State, who has lost five of six and is hanging on by a thread. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State continues to move up; they are truly the turnaround story of the season after starting 0-6 in the Big XII and now winning nine of their last ten. Miami is also on the rise, up to an 8 seed after four wins in a row, including big ones against Virginia and Duke. On the bubble, TCU finally drops out after losing five in a row. Wake Forest flips once again; who knows what will end up happening with them. And Tennessee is out after losing to Vandy and South Carolina. Replacing them is Providence (making their first appearance all season after a huge four game win streak against tough competition), Marquette (back in for now), and Illinois State (of course). 

1 seeds: We have a change! Two weeks ago I said the old four would hold "barring any late stumbles." Well right on cue, Baylor has lost three of their last four, and falls down to a 2 seed, making way for North Carolina, a team that is very much getting hot at the right time. What is hilarious about this setup is that gloriously NIT-bound Indiana now has wins over two different 1 seeds, but still will not be in the tournament (more on that later). Finally, Gonzaga lost! Other people have probably covered the shocking nature of the Zags defeat better than I could, but they had a 98.6% chance of beating BYU and finishing undefeated, and they blew it. They still manage to stay on the 1 line, though.

Big Ten: The struggles of Wisconsin and Northwestern have already been mentioned, but Maryland is struggling as well. After losing three in a row, they are down to an 8 seed. Minnesota continues to confuse people as their win streak climbs to seven and their seed climbs to a 6. Purdue and Michigan State hold steady this week, and Michigan inches their way up to a 9 after their big win over Purdue. No one else really looks to have a chance, although Illinois could make some noise if they can beat Michigan State and make a Big Ten Tournament run. Indiana's loss to Iowa pretty much sealed the deal for their path back to the NIT. As for a much better team that will not be going to the NIT...

Michigan: Two more wins for the Wolverines, including their biggest win of the year from a resume standpoint, move them almost certainly off the bubble and safely in the tournament. This is a massive accomplishment if you go back and look at some of the graphs from earlier in the season when things were looking pretty bleak. Speaking of graphs...

That's all that's left. Michigan has a 51.6% chance of finishing 10-8, a 27.7% chance of finishing 11-7, and a 20.7% chance of finishing 9-9. That is an amazing turn around, and a great time to be figuring things out. With only two games left, though this graph doesn't really mean much and should be taken with caution. Although it is most likely to win one of their next two, that doesn't mean if Michigan were to beat Northwestern on Wednesday, we should expect them to lose to Nebraska this weekend. If they beat the Wildcats, the graph flips to 63% for 11-7. If they lose, the 10-8 bar goes up to 63%. Such is the nature of finishing the season with two games where both teams have a solid chance of winning. By the time of my next article, the regular season will be finished, and we'll be looking towards the Big Ten Tournament, and moving closer to my final bracket projection. 

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