Getting closer to a final bracket

Selection Sunday is still a month away, but even so, the top 5 or 6 seed lines look like they are becoming pretty solid. The top 9 or 10 teams have established themselves as elite — it might just be me, but it feels like there have been fewer upsets of top teams this season. The teams below that group have also built up solid records and some impressive wins, and it’s hard to see any of those teams tumbling too far down the seed line. This also means that the bubble is as soft as it’s ever been. I have some teams as much as five games under .500 in conference play are currently getting in the tournament! We’ll see if the Committee ends up making this a reality, or if some intriguing mid-major schools who don’t win their conference tourneys will get a chance, but for now it makes for some very difficult decisions on the last few spots in the field.

FYI, a lot of websites that show conference standings simply tiebreak by overall record. I break ties by head-to-head record, which is why Liberty gets the Atlantic Sun auto bid over Lipscomb, and Bowling Green gets the MAC bid over Buffalo. This ultimately won’t matter when the conference tournaments are played, but right now it does bump a couple teams off the bracket that might have been in the last four in.

PDF with teams in regions: 2019_02_18 bracket

Seed list:

1 seeds: Duke, Virginia, Tennessee, Gonzaga

2 seeds: Kentucky, Michigan St., Michigan, North Carolina

3 seeds: Kansas, Houston, LSU, Marquette

4 seeds: Nevada, Purdue, Texas Tech, Wisconsin

5 seeds: Iowa St., Villanova, Louisville, Maryland

6 seeds: Virginia Tech, Mississippi St., Florida St., Cincinnati

7 seeds: Kansas St., Iowa, Buffalo, Auburn

8 seeds: Ole Miss, Texas, Washington, NC State

9 seeds: Wofford, Baylor, TCU, St. John’s

10 seeds: Ohio St., Syracuse, Seton Hall, Florida

11 seeds: Clemson, Oklahoma, Nebraska (play-in), Lipscomb (play-in), Alabama (play-in), Minnesota (play-in)

12 seeds: Liberty, Hofstra, New Mexico St., Belmont

13 seeds: Vermont, Yale, Davidson, Old Dominion

14 seeds: UC Irvine, Bowling Green, Texas St., South Dakota St.

15 seeds: Montana, Northern Kentucky, Radford, Missouri St.

16 seeds: Bucknell, Sam Houston St., Prairie View A&M (play-in), Norfolk St. (play-in), St. Francis (PA) (play-in), Canisius (play-in)

Last four in: Nebraska, Lipscomb, Alabama, Minnesota

First four out: Arizona St., Indiana, VCU, Utah St.

Next four out: Creighton, UCF, Temple, Furman



A blind bracket

I like to get my first bracket posted right around the last week of January, as it gives more time to learn about teams and get data from the first few weeks of conference play. I also tend to avoid looking at other bracketology sites after January 1st, so as to not be unduly influences by the thoughts of others. That doesn’t mean I won’t check them out to compare and make I don’t have some teams way too high or way too low, but I like to at least get one bracket out there to test whether my thought process is generally on the right track or not. I’m always pleasantly surprised when I match pretty well with the Bracket Matrix, but before we get to March, I’m not too worried if I’ve got some left field choices in there. Without further ado…

PDF with teams in regions: 2019_01_27 bracket

1 seeds: Duke, Virginia, Michigan St., Tennessee

2 seeds: Michigan, North Carolina, Kansas, Gonzaga

3 seeds: Kentucky, Purdue, Nevada, Louisville

4 seeds: Wisconsin, Texas Tech, Virginia Tech, LSU

5 seeds: Villanova, Marquette, Houston, Mississippi St.

6 seeds: Maryland, Iowa St., Oklahoma, Buffalo

7 seeds: Florida St., Iowa, Auburn, Kansas St.

8 seeds: NC State, Ole Miss, Nebraska, TCU

9 seeds: Washington, Ohio St., Cincinnati, Syracuse

10 seeds: Texas, Wofford, Baylor, Arizona St.

11 seeds: Minnesota, Florida, St. John’s, Alabama (play-in), Seton Hall (play-in)

12 seeds: Murray St., Liberty, Hofstra, Indiana (play-in), Creighton (play-in)

13 seeds: Yale, Radford, Vermont, Loyola-Chicago

14 seeds: Northern Kentucky, UC Irvine, Georgia St., George Mason

15 seeds: North Texas, South Dakota St., Lehigh, CSU Bakersfield

16 seeds: Rider, Northern Colorado, Sam Houston St. (play-in), Prairie View A&M (play-in), Robert Morris (play-in), Norfolk St. (play-in)

Last four in: Alabama, Seton Hall, Indiana, Creighton

Last four out: Butler, Utah St., Temple, UCF

Next four out: Lipscomb, Belmont, VCU, Arizona

Down to the wire…

Davidson’s upset of Rhode Island in the A-10 Championship made my choices for the last teams in and out a little easier (we’ll see how accurate I really am), but bracketing procedures meant I had to flip a few teams around in the 6-9 seed lines, so I won’t be shocked if that’s the toughest part of the bracket to predict. Here’s the final bracket:


Last Four Byes: Providence, NC State, USC, Florida St.

Last Four In: St. Mary’s, Texas, Oklahoma, UCLA

First Four Out: Louisville, Middle Tennessee St., Arizona St., Notre Dame

Next Four Out: Baylor, Syracuse, Marquette, Oklahoma St.

Getting closer…

By this time next week, we’ll already know a few of the teams who will have automatic berths in the 2018 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament. March seems to sneak up on us faster than any other month (thankfully I remembered to pay rent before the 1st!), and before we know it the field will be set and games will tip off around the country. There seems to be a consensus around the teams that will make up the first 4 or 5 seed lines, but after that there are many moving parts: how much weight will Creighton’s victory over presumptive 1 seed Villanova get? Will Arizona St.’s impressive non-conference performance still help them overcome struggling through a weak Pac-12? And how does the Committee judge middling major conference teams against impressive mid-majors who get upset in their conference tournaments?

I’ll try to have a blog update with a preview of the conference tournaments. Until then, here’s my last bracket update before Selection Sunday:

2018_02_26 bracket

1 seeds: Virginia, Villanova, Kansas, Xavier

2 seeds: North Carolina, Duke, Michigan St., Auburn

3 seeds: Purdue, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Texas Tech

4 seeds: Wichita St., West Virginia, Gonzaga, Ohio St.

5 seeds: Clemson, Kentucky, Rhode Island, Michigan

6 seeds: Creighton, Arizona, Nevada, TCU

7 seeds: Houston, Texas A&M, Seton Hall, Butler

8 seeds: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Florida, Miami-FL

9 seeds: Florida St., St. Mary’s, Middle Tennessee St., Virginia Tech

10 seeds: Louisville, USC, Kansas St., Arizona St.

11 seeds: St. Bonaventure, Texas, Missouri, Alabama (play-in), Boise St. (play-in)

12 seeds: Loyola-Chicago, Louisiana-Lafayette, New Mexico St., NC State (play-in), Providence (play-in)

13 seeds: Vermont, Murray St., Buffalo, South Dakota St.

14 seeds: Montana, UNC Greensboro, College of Charleston, Bucknell

15 seeds: Northern Kentucky, Penn, Wagner, Rider

16. Florida Gulf Coast, UNC Asheville, UC Irvine (play-in), Nicholls St. (play-in), Bethune-Cookman (play-in), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (play-in)


Last four in: Alabama, NC State, Providence, Boise St.

First four out: Baylor, Syracuse, UCLA, Nebraska

Next four out: Mississippi St., Marquette, Utah, Washington


The Committee provides a framework

When I started working on my bracket update for this week, I tried to stop myself from peeking at the NCAA Tournament Committee’s preview of what teams would comprise the top 4 seed lines if the season ended today. I wanted to trust my own process for looking at teams and crunching the numbers, and for the most part, I came to many of the same conclusions. Having produced my own rankings, I did take a look at what the Committee was thinking and made a few slight adjustments to my bracket. A lot of these came down to the Committee’s bracketing procedures, so in the end my top 4 seed lines look pretty similar to the Committee’s.

One thing that I have noticed is that RPI (finally) seems to have lessened in importance for the Committee. Where I have tended to use it as a very strong predictive metric in the past, I will have to play around with adjusting it, and giving more weight to newer metrics such as Strength of Record (SOR).

Bracket through 2/11: 2018_02_12 bracket

Seed list:

1 seeds: Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas

2 seeds: Purdue, Auburn, Duke, Cincinnati

3 seeds: Michigan St., Texas Tech, Clemson, North Carolina

4 seeds: Tennessee, Ohio St., Arizona, Texas A&M

5 seeds: Oklahoma, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Gonzaga

6 seeds: Florida, Wichita St., Nevada, TCU

7 seeds: Kentucky, St. Mary’s, Arizona St., Creighton

8 seeds: Alabama, Missouri, Butler, Florida St.

9 seeds: Miami-FL, Arkansas, Michigan, Houston

10 seeds: Seton Hall, Texas, Louisville, Virginia Tech

11 seeds: USC, Middle Tennessee St., Kansas St., UCLA (play-in), St. Bonaventure (play-in)

12 seeds: Syracuse, Vermont, New Mexico St., Marquette (play-in), Baylor (play-in)

13 seeds: South Dakota St., Loyola-Chicago, Louisiana-Lafayette, East Tennessee St.

14 seeds: Belmont, College of Charleston, Rider, Montana

15 seeds: Northern Kentucky, UNC Asheville, UC Santa Barbara, Bucknell

16 seeds: Florida Gulf Coast, Wagner, Nicholls St. (play-in), Harvard (play-in), Savannah St. (play-in), Grambling (play-in)

First crack at the bracket

The first bracket of the year is always a little bit of a strange one — poring through numbers from the RPI, BPI, KenPom, and simple wins and losses can make you wonder how much you’ve seen of certain teams. Most teams are not even a third of the way through their conference seasons, and wacky results from the non-conference portion of the season can still be having an effect on how things look right now. And yet, we’ve only got a third of the season remaining, and all of these games will continue to count for something. It will be interesting to see what sticks and what doesn’t from here on out.

Link to bracket with teams seeded in regions:

2018_01_22 bracket

Seed list:

1 seeds: Duke, Villanova, Kansas, Purdue

2 seeds: Virginia, Xavier, North Carolina, West Virginia

3 seeds: Clemson, Auburn, Ohio St., Florida

4 seeds: Michigan St., Oklahoma, Cincinnati, Arizona

5 seeds: Texas Tech, Tennessee, Wichita St., Nevada

6 seeds: Nevada, Kentucky, TCU, Seton Hall

7 seeds: Miami-FL, Alabama, St. Mary’s, Creighton

8 seeds: Gonzaga, Arizona St., Texas A&M, Louisville

9 seeds: Michigan, Florida St., USC, Butler

10 seeds: Texas, SMU, Providence, Arkansas

11 seeds: Marquette, Houston, Missouri (play-in), Middle Tennessee St. (play-in), Notre Dame (play-in), Boise St. (play-in)

12 seeds: New Mexico St., Buffalo, Old Dominion, Louisiana-Lafayette

13 seeds: South Dakota St., Belmont, Vermont, East Tennessee St.

14 seeds: Wright St., William & Mary, Montana, Hawaii

15 seeds: Bucknell, Radford, Drake, Canisius

16 seeds: Wagner, Penn, Florida Gulf Coast (play-in), Nicholls St. (play-in), North Carolina A&T (play-in), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (play-in)

Last Four In: Missouri, Middle Tennessee St., Notre Dame, Boise St.

First Four Out: Syracuse, Georgia, Western Kentucky, St. Bonaventure

Next Four Out: Maryland, Kansas St., UCLA, Washington



It’s never too early…

Although the college basketball season has just started, some crucial games will be played over the next couple of weeks. These early-season games can often be forgotten about once we reach the rigors of conference play, but teams can win and lose games in November that will impact how the committee views them when the bracket gets put together in March. This is true now perhaps more than ever. Every year seems to see more underclassmen declaring for the NBA Draft, which means that top-tier programs deal with extreme roster turnover and may take some time to sort out their rotations. Suspended players and transfers who become eligible in the second semester can also mean teams are starting the season some way below full-strength. On the other side of things, teams with experience and stability may sense opportunities for upsets that might be harder to achieve later in the season.

All this underlines the importance of early-season tournaments and inter-conference series. Where in years past the Maui Invitational and Great Alaska Shootout were the main early-season tournaments that attracted marquee programs, there are now over a dozen tournaments, plus several doubleheader that feature big-time matchups. Nearly every team with postseason aspirations will appear in at least one of these tournaments, and with so many teams filling the majority of their out-of-conference schedules with cupcakes, the tournaments provide big opportunities for teams to rack up wins against quality opponents. Here’s a recap of some of the games already played, and a look at some of the tournaments taking place over the next week:

Gavitt Tipoff Games – The Gavitt Tipoff Games featured eight matchups between teams from the Big East and Big Ten. In contrast to tournaments played at neutral sites, these games are played at campus sites, and thus allow for teams to gain true road wins that are highly valued by the NCAA Tournament committee. Xavier made a statement by traveling to Madison to defeat Wisconsin. The Badgers are perhaps not as strong as they have been in recent seasons, but the Kohl Center is never an easy place for visiting teams. Minnesota and Creighton also picked up nice road wins over potential NCAA tournament teams in Providence and Northwestern respectively, and Purdue handled Marquette in Milwaukee. Maryland defeated Butler in College Park, a win that might become even more important in March.

2K Classic – A four team tournament held at Madison Square Garden saw Providence take home the title, over a field that also included Saint Louis, Virginia Tech, and Washington. Providence may have hoped for a matchup with Virginia Tech, who should be an NCAA Tournament contender, but the Hokies were upset in the semifinals. Tech will root for Saint Louis to have a solid season, in hopes that their loss to the Billikens won’t look so bad.

Charleston Classic – An eight team field with the most noticeable names being Auburn, Temple, and Clemson. Auburn, missing their top two big men due to suspension, were upset by Temple in the semifinals. Temple will now play Clemson in the final tomorrow, and either team could gain a key win. Temple, featuring the sweet-shooting Quinton Rose and versatile forward Obi Enechionyia, are a sleeper team in the American Athletic Conference.

Puerto Rico Tip-Off (held in Conway, SC)The aftermath of Hurricane Maria meant this tournament had to be relocated to Coastal Carolina University. While not featuring many traditional heavy hitters, South Carolina were a notable name after their run to the Final Four last season. The Gamecocks, however, were stunned by Illinois St., who were then blown out in the semifinals by Boise St. The Broncos, led by do-it-all swingman Chandler Hutchison, could add a big win to their resume in the tournament final, where they will play Iowa St.

Upcoming tournaments

Hall of Fame Classic (Nov. 20-21; Kansas City) – Baylor, Creighton, UCLA, Wisconsin.

Lots of potential for quality wins here. UCLA’s suspension of three freshman after their shoplifting fiasco in China has meant the Bruins are lacking a lot of depth, so it will be interesting to see how they fare against some good teams.

Maui Invitational (Nov. 20-22; Lahaina, HI) – California, Chaminade, LSU, Marquette, Michigan, Notre Dame, VCU, Wichita St.

It’s a loaded field headed to Maui, as usual. Notre Dame-Michigan could be a marquee matchup if both teams win their first games. And with quality wins perhaps being at a premium in the Atlantic 10 this year, VCU will see this as an opportunity to make a statement.

Cayman Islands Classic (Nov. 20-22; George Town, Cayman Islands) – Buffalo, Cincinnati, Iowa, Louisiana, Richmond, South Dakota St., UAB, Wyoming.

Cincinnati will look to live up to its early season hype in the Caribbean, where Iowa will likely be their biggest challenger. Buffalo, Louisiana, and South Dakota St. are among the top contenders in their respective conferences.

Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 22-24; Nassau, Bahamas) – Arizona, NC State, Northern Iowa, Purdue, SMU, Tennessee, Villanova, Western Kentucky.

This has quickly become one of the premier early-season tournaments, and in Arizona and Villanova it features two teams currently ranked in the AP Top 5. NC State, SMU, and Tennessee could all get a major boost with a couple wins in the Bahamas.

NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 23-24; Brooklyn) – Rhode Island, Seton Hall, Vanderbilt, Virginia.

Seton Hall looks like a strong contender in the Big East, but the rest of these teams could all be on the bubble come March.

AdvoCare Invitational (Nov. 23-24, 26; Lake Buena Vista, FL) – Central Florida, Long Beach St., Marist, Missouri, Nebraska, Oregon St., St. John’s, West Virginia.

West Virginia will likely make the NCAA Tournament, but might need some resume-boosting wins to help their seeding if the Big 12 has a down year. Central Florida, Missouri, Oregon St., and St. John’s all look like bubble teams who would love to add a quality win or two. Missouri will hope that their ballyhooed freshman Michael Porter Jr. can return from a leg injury to play.

Phil Knight Invitational (Nov. 23-24, 26; Portland, OR) – Victory Bracket: Arkansas, DePaul, Michigan St., North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Portland, UConn. Motion Bracket: Butler, Duke, Florida, Gonzaga, Ohio St., Portland St., Stanford, Texas.

In honor of Phil Knight’s 80th birthday, Portland will host a behemoth of a tournament, featuring two separate brackets full of college basketball royalty. There could be implications for seeding at the top of the NCAA Tournament bracket, Gonzaga and Oregon will get to test out their reloaded rosters, and Oklahoma, Texas, and UConn will look for big wins after missing the NCAAs last season.