Tourney sponsor reminder: HomeSure Lending is that. NMLS 1161358.
This began as a tool I made to fill out my brackets, then a few years ago I shared it and it became a thing. Much of the data are from Kenpom, though this year I also included ThePowerRank.com’s rankings, which Ed determines by expected margin of victory over an average opponent. Both he and Kenpom wound up pretty close, but it’s a bit more data when you’re deciding things like which should-be-a-6-seed do I choose in this 7-10 matchup? Alex Cook will have a thing later today that shows which teams got screwed the most in this year’s rather whacky seeding. Spoiler: Maryland and Minnesota shouldn’t be over the BTT championship participants.
The Tool The Tool The Tool:
To use this you:
- Follow this link to make a copy of the spreadsheet.
- Select the two teams you want to compare.
The site will be pulled from Team 1, fyi, so if you pull a match that doesn’t exist you’ll still get the distance each team will have to travel to their real site.
Thanks also go to the guy who wrote a google script to pull drive times with a formula.
You will probably have to create your own copy but then you can type in any two teams and make a comparison. Thank you to Kenpom for the data and helpful Google Sheets script writers for helping me calculate distances. Drive times are calculated as 1.3 minutes per mile.
To get a copy:
Follow this link and play around with it on google sheets.
Follow this link to the spreadsheet.
Go to "File" and "download as". Choose a format and the rest is up to you.
To use it just put the two teams you're trying to compare and the round (it will return wonky stuff if those two teams aren't able to meet there). It'll show you things like Off and Def rank on Kenpom and a win confidence based on a factor of the average 1 seed will be 100% to beat an average 16 seed. It'll also bring up the site of the game and, new this year, the distance for each team in driving hours. Last it'll show any injuries I knew about when I made it last night.
Kenpom. The all-knowing. This year's best team not invited was #45 Florida. The worst team in is #250 Hampton. I had to know, so I looked up the worst team in the history of Kenpom (since 2002) to be invited to the Dance. It's Mississippi Valley State, the 298th team in 2008.
In fact there's a pretty enormous drop-off from most of the 16 seeds and the MEAC and SWAC entrants, who had an average Pyth of 0.296 (i.e. they'd win less than 30% of their games vs. an average opponent). For reference, the worst Big Ten teams in that span (2003-2005 Penn State) were .361, .334, and .341 respectively. In fact I only found six power conference teams—2013 TCU, 2008 Oregon State, 2012 Utah, 2013 Mississippi State, 2012 BC and 2011 Wake Forest—who've ever been worse than the average MEAC or SWAC champion. I get the part about giving the top seeds basically a bye, but the tournament can find more deserving small schools than whoever won a conference tournament whose competition level is below that of many high school leagues.
For what it's worth, Kentucky this year is the best team in the history of Kenpom. The only two in sniffing distance were 2008 Kansas and 2013 Louisville.
Seth's Annual Matchup Maker. This lets you set a chaos factor and match any two opponents, immediately seeing where the game will be played and any relevant injuries. You just input the teams and the round. Front page looks thus:
The Power Rank. Listeners to Brian's weekly roundtable on WTKA know Ed Feng. Ed creates this:
(right is zoomed)
…interactive chart using his win probabilities so you can see how stupid your picks are relative to each other. Run around the circle to make sure you haven't picked a dead in the water first round upset, but I think he's best at end game. This year you can see Kentucky is in a league of its own, then Zona, Duke, Nova, Wisconsin, Gonzaga and Virginia are a clear second tier.
Bracket Science Bracketmaster. Peter Tiernan is getting better at monetizing his comprehensive bracket database, which is unfortunate because I really liked to use the Bracketmaster for patterns, like what kind of team does Wisconsin usually lose to in the tourney, has this coach been to the Dance before, and things that super hardcore NCAA basketball fans know and I don't know offhand because I was off the wagon for a time. If you don't mind paying (there are far worse people you can give money to than Tiernan) you can get all the goodies, but the free stuff is great for narratives, for example if you want to track how Big Ten teams have fared since 2005 vs other Power Confs:
WSJ's Blind Comparison. The Wall Street Journal's blindfold bracket is your bias check, though this year they didn't do, opting instead for a slider-based bracket generator using things like "defense wins championships!"
Disclaimer: You will be wrong.
The manager of my pool uses Excel, is bad at Excel.
Here's our brackets.
No questions; show us your bracket, and explain your upsets and weird guys. This time and this time only you may pick against the Kenpom gods.
Brian: I'm having a terrible time picking any upsets other than Michigan State only comprising three-fourths of the Final Four. I'm pretty sure the fourth slot will go to Indiana.
|MSU's Gary Harris is one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in the tournament. [Fuller]|
Wait, what? They're in the--
They're *not* in the NIT. Well, they'll probably do well in the...
I see. Well then.
In that case, Indiana will probably be replaced by a mewling baby that the three Michigan States will dismember and consume as they celebrate about 30% as hard as they did when they beat Michigan.
But in the event we have a tournament based on data from outside the last week... uh... isn't Cincinnati a really bad matchup for State? Lost in the healthy hoopla is a totally healthy MSU team kicked off their rampage by losing to Illinois and Ohio State, two hard-nosed defensive teams with wonky offenses. Cincinnati is a hard-nosed defensive team with a wonky offense, one that plays no one shorter than 6'4" in their starting lineup and has a guy who can get buckets against anyone.
You know how the world is falling all over itself about Louisville? Well, Cinci won at Louisville and dropped their return game by a single point. Calling my shot: it's more likely MSU goes out in the second round than makes the final four.
Elsewhere, New Mexico is a dangerous second-round opponent for Embiid-less Kansas, Wisconsin is going out in round two to Oregon, Baylor will cruise to the Sweet 16, and Michigan plays Tennessee in the Sweet 16.
[After the jump we argue over really good offensive/mediocre defensive teams]
Site note: As with last year, we'll be having a basketballgasm liveblog for Day 1 of the tournament, shifting to the hockey game at 3, and then going through the Round 1 matchup with Wofford. DraftStreet, whose 40k tourney is still filling up (as of this morning ~1600 of the 2000 spots are filled), is sponsoring, and a few former players will be joining us to promote the Go Blue Bowl.
Speaking of filling things, you're probably filling your brackets right now, so here's my now-annual post and tool for helping with that. Last year was the first since 2000 that I didn't win at least my buy-in back. Things I use:
The Power Rank (friend of the blog Ed Feng)'s interactive bracket. Ed is one of the cutting-edge guys in sports analytics. On his tool if you hover over any team you can see their probabilities to reach each round, or hover over a spot in the circular bracket to see every team's likelihood of getting there. Michigan is 58% to reach the Sweet 16; from there every game is virtually a toss-up.
The Wall Street Journal's blind comparison. They show you two profiles and say a little about the team, and you make your pick presumably without bias, though you can often figure out exactly who they're talking about:
Bracket Science's Bracketmaster tool. Peter Tiernan's blog is a standard for following bubble teams and gets things right that others don't (like Louisville as a 4 seed). The Bracketmaster+ tool lets you get into data going back to 1985. If you're a member it gets deeper but non-members can use it to do things like show Beilein's Michigan teams in the tournament:
Poologic Tool. This helps you decide how many upsets to pick based on the size of your office pool (in a large pool it's best to be the only one with a certain champ). Also you can calculate ROI on various picks.
My tool (download the excel sheet) Which uses straight-up Kenpom scores and provides a weak confidence score based on the premise that 16 seeds never beat 1 seeds. I also added injuries for each team. Looks like this:
What I do is normalize the closest 16-1 matchup (Wichita St vs. Cal Poly) as 100% for the 1 seed to win, set that as the "chaos factor," and use the KenPom ratings to percentile everyone else's games into a confidence number. Then I roll through anything under 70% and decide if my knowledge of those teams might justify taking the under.
If you're in a big pool, run multiple brackets, each with carefully selected upsets.There's no such thing as an NCAA tournament without lots of big upsets and at least one surprising run. The 1 seeds all made it to the Final Four just once. If you submit one milksop bracket you're up against every other milksop bracket and will get beat by the one crazy guy who had LSU going to the Elite 8 or something. Hitting on a carefully selected upset that rearranges a bracket and lets you ride a different high seed to the Final Four is the most typical route to a win.
If you're in a small pool, play conservative. One or two points won't usually make a difference in a small pool, but the likelihood of something crazy like that one guy's wife who picks based on the cuteness factor of mascots winning is cut down so you don't need to take risks to get ahead.
Pick the upsets the most carefully. I love picking 6-11 upsets because if you get it wrong they're bound to get wiped out by the 3 anyway. If you roll the dice on a 3-seed or lower losing early though, you'll feel like an idiot as the rest of your pool collects the easy points. A tournament without upsets never happens, but neither does a tournament with all the upsets. You can totally undo a great pick with a terrible one elsewhere.
Get value for your upsets. Know who's in your pool and the inefficiencies. This year, those of you in Michigan are facing the mother of all inefficiencies in that Spartan fans are bound to submit extra brackets just to have one that has State going all the way. Fans will generally take their favorite team to go two rounds later than they really belong and conference teams to go a round further. This is an inefficiency (even if MSU looked like they could dominate the tourney on Sunday).
Be really really lucky. This is really the only rule.
RPI Effect Only Teams
If you care, Michigan played the following teams: UMass-Lowell (10-18), Houston Baptist (6-23), South Carolina State (9-19), Coppin State (10-19), Long Beach State (13-15), and Charlotte (15-13). But while I don’t want to say these games didn’t MATTER, they didn’t, you know, matter. Except the Charlotte game, because blerg. Michigan’s fate will be determines by larger narratives. Not many people are going to hammer too hard on RPI when you’re talking the difference between a 2 seed and a 3 seed. So, let us move along.
Big Sorts of Teams
Iowa State (22-7, 10-7 Big 12)
This week: Lost @ Kansas State (80-73); Lost @ Baylor (74-61)
Michigan probably moved ahead of Iowa State for good by virtue of Iowa State’s rough week. Bracketmatrix has them as the last 3 seed, it’s unlikely a home win over bubble team Oklahoma State (side note: how did THAT happen?) would get them past Michigan.
Florida State (18-11, 9-8 ACC)
This week: Beat Georgia Tech (81-71); Won @ Boston College (74-70)
Florida State met two necessary conditions for an NCAA bid this week. Losing to either of those teams would’ve probably been the end of things for the Seminoles. The good news is that Syracuse also seems very beatable, so it’s possible for Florida State to close strong. The problem is that now a win over Syracuse wouldn’t bring the cache it would have two or three weeks ago, so they might still need to do some work in the conference tourney.
From a Michigan standpoint, though, FSU doesn’t really matter all that much anymore. No one cares about your 6th best win, and pretty much Michigan's entire seeding case rests in its conference schedule. So if you’d really like to see some more #Nebrasketball, you might be hoping they drop their last couple of games to clear some room at the bubble.
#4 Dook (23-7, 12-5 ACC)
This week: Lost @ Wake Forest (YTWF) (82-72)
This was a gift on a number of fronts. Duke’s loss potentially leaves some wiggle room for Michigan to move up to a 2-seed. Also, Duke’s loss was a loss for Duke, which is a win for Not Duke. We are Not Duke. So, let’s compare the two teams right now:
|Record||KenPom||Losses (KP ranks)||Best wins (KP)||Is Duke?|
|MICHIGAN||22-7||10||1, 8, 11, 12, 28, 69, 182||11, 12, 13, 17, 17||No|
|DUKE||23-7||8||1, 6, 14, 23, 51, 92, 113||2, 10, 14, 15, 25||Yes|
I dunno, that’s close.
#3 Arizona (28-2, 15-2 PAC 12)
This week: Beat Stanford (79-66), Beat Arizona State (74-69)
It's hard to blame Arizona for a less-than-dominant performance against ASU. They'd clinched pretty much everything there was to clinch (PAC 12 title, #1 seed in the PAC 12 tourney, likely #1 seed, helped RichRod kill the 10 second rule), and sometimes it's hard to get up for games that don't much matter.
One potential cause for concern is depth. Arizona is really only rolling about 6 guys deep, which is working fine for them now, but if they run up against a team that draws a lot of fouls, it could be an issue. But no, Michigan isn't one of those teams.
Stanford (18-11, 9-8 PAC 12)
This week: Lost to Arizona (79-66); Lost to Colorado (59-56)
According to Bill Walton (who called the Stanford/Colorado game), Stanford's loss is a lot like the Punic War if it was fought by Muppets; you're not sure where they got the weapons, but you can't expect them to be back in time for lunch.
I'm not sure exactly what he meant by that, but Stanford's bid is in real trouble. Bracketmatrix had them as a 10-seed before the loss to the Buffs, so they still have some work to do. And not that it matters, but it would be nice for Michigan to have at least ONE win over a tournament team from its non-conference schedule.
[AFTER THE JUMP: Michigan, and all the teams that finished behind Michigan because Michigan finished ahead of everyone who isn't Michigan]