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]
Also dear yente if you could saddle Wisconsin in an impossible bracket that'd be great.
In two days it shall be March. We're already familiar with the Big Ten Tourney participants, so let us look beyond to this NCAA tournament thing.
What, my dear yentes, makes a good or bad matchup for this Michigan team, what are some of the teams out there we might hope to avoid, and who among expected high seeds would Michigan match up well against?
Brian: Bracketology consensus has us a three or four right now; I'll go under the assumption they're a three just to simplify things. That means Michigan is looking at the top eight teams on S-curves trying to suss out a good matchup. Wisconsin is in that group for some lucky 7-seed but won't end up in Michigan's region. The others: Wichita State, Florida, Syracuse, Arizona, Kansas, and some combination of Cincinnati/Villanova/Creighton.
No one in that group seems hugely appealing, but I like the Syracuse matchup best of the current one-seeds. They've only got one shooter, they're 11th on Kenpom, they've had a lot of close calls against not particularly good teams, Michigan played their zone last year, and they've got shooting from everywhere. 'Cuse's current backcourt is much smaller and less athletic than last year's version and Michigan's shot generation is a lot bigger, so going over the zone is much more of an option. Also, undefeated or not, Wichita State is short, largely untested, and not laden with NBA superstars future. I will take either of those one seeds.
Conversely, I want nothing to do with Arizona. Michigan damn near beat them earlier in the year, yeah, but that was thanks in large part to an avalanche of missed putbacks. Teams that can just implode Michigan on the boards are my biggest fear. Kansas and Florida are also teams I'd like to avoid.
"MICHIGAN HAMPERED BY STARS' NBA CONTRACTS"
They did show McGary with like two minutes left, so I guess we're even?
Kind of good. Tim Hardaway's assertion about a week-long break is just true.
With yesterday's win, John Beilein now is 14-2 in games for which he has a week to prep since 2008. 10 of those vs. high-major teams.
— Drew Hallett (@DrewCHallett) February 24, 2014
Seeding and location things. Seems like Michigan has a decent shot at Milwaukee. Lunardi's got them there and has for a while; Palm has them relegated to Orlando, but he's got them a #4 seed, not a 3. Lunardi has Creighton in San Antonio instead, which is a bit farther away for them but not immensely so. I'm hoping the committee realizes that Buffalo is just as close for Michigan. Syracuse is locked into one spot there; the other one is up for grabs.
Unfortunately, there's no slam dunk site this year that would be an obvious spot to put Michigan, so they may figure Milwaukee or Orlando is a who cares kind of situation.
Compare and contrast. I might have known this but I forgot it and now spring practice is starting immediately and I am reminded, so here is some possibly-old news. this week's Athletic Department Outrage Of The Century: undeterred by the miserable weather at the last 100 spring games, Michigan has actually moved it up, so that it's on April 5th. Which is also the date of the national semifinals in the NCAA tournament. Is Michigan actively trying to suppress turnout?
Not quite the worst scouting report ever. That is still Aaron Schatz on Mike Martin, but whoever's putting up the anonymous scouting reports for NFL.com is… well… he's definitely not Heiko. Jeremy Gallon's weaknesses:
Short with a limited catching radius.
Lacks top-end speed to separate vertically or run away from a crowd (consistently tracked down from behind).
Maybe on an NFL level?
Not a natural hands catcher and will often body the ball.
Okay now you're just making things up.
Lacks dynamic run skills for an undersized receiver.
Much of his production results from schemed bubble screens and lateral tosses.
OH COME ON
Hide yo kids. Both Michigan and Michigan State are being investigated by the Feds for not doing enough to deal with sexual assault on campus, with your favorite online and offline crank spearheading the charge:
[Doug] Smith filed a complaint last year with the Office of Civil Rights, saying that U-M refused to investigate the case and that the university’s grievance procedure does not fully comply with Title IX, the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on gender.
Funny how the suddenly-legitimized Smith is now getting profiled by the News and used as a primary source when everyone was perfectly happy to ignore him this summer. It's terrible that this guy actually has a point about the insular, opaque, CYA way the university does everything. When you are going up against Doug Smith and losing, you are so bad at PR Dave Brandon is interested in hiring you.
Meanwhile in East Lansing, other suits in charge of things are caught lying to make themselves look good:
Near the bottom of the letter was a single sentence stating that the university is “collaborating” with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, or OCR, to “give members of the campus community an opportunity” to meet with representatives from the department.
But on Monday, Department of Education spokesman Jim Bradshaw told The State News the planned visit to campus is directly related to an official investigation into sexual harassment and violence complaints pending against the university.
Doug Smith might be behind this as well, as Michigan State seniors Keith Appling and Adriean Payne would be on the Island Of Expelled Athletes if MSU was operating with the same standards Michigan is. Seems like a short leap of logic there.
Elsewhere in legal procedures. Suffice it to say that the preliminary hearing in the O'Bannon case did not go well for the NCAA.
One of the NCAA's other justifications is protecting amateurism. Wilken largely skipped past the topic with a dismissive line: "I don't think amateurism is going to be a useful word here."
Dagger. One thing to love about the legal system is cock-eyed judges who blow through decades of smoke and mirrors with one withering sentence.
Nobody knows about soccer. That rumored Manchester United/Real Madrid game slated for Michigan Stadium in one URL:
The organizers were set to announce their final two sites recently and did announce one: Gopher Stadium in Minneapolis. It would make sense if another Midwestern football venue was the other thing they were waiting on, but still no announcement. A spokesperson for the group organizing this preseason tourney thing confirms that they are in "serious discussions" but can't announce anything.
The hold up may be about the playing field. When Michigan Stadium was being considered for the USA's most recent World Cup bid it became clear that any soccer match at the stadium would have to be on a temporary elevated platform.
Oh good. Michigan and Michigan State will have two games about one-third of the time going forward as the Big Ten adopts the least creative way to jam a 14-team conference into 18 games they can come up with: play five teams twice and eight once. Boooooo.
What they should have done: first 13 games are a round robin. Top seven and bottom seven are then grouped, final 6 games are round-robin within groups. Big Ten title: amazingly important. Conference stretch run: amazing. Downsides: schedule uncertainty and tough on bubble teams. But, man, just think of those three weeks at the end of the year. Would be must see.
Etc.: Five key plays. Zach Helfand on the differences between Izzo and Beilein. Tweeting at players is A FELONY. 300 pound man runs 40 yard dash twice as fast as you would. Then he talks to people about it. He will likely go in the top ten.