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]
BiSB: Cincinnati is a bad matchup for State, as is Virginia. According to hoop-math.com, Michigan State is 15th in the country in transition attempts at 33.6%, which they finish at over 60% in terms of eFG%. Virginia is 13th in the country in preventing transition attempts. They don't turn the ball over much, they won't let Michigan State get out on the break, and they don't allow offensive rebounds. Look for Virginia to upset Sparty.
If you own a coin, and you are able to flip that coin seven times, congratulations. You can predict the bottom half of the South region as well as anyone. No one knows what a Joel Embiid-less Kansas team will do. Syracuse is both good and terrible. I have Dayton beating Ohio State and then falling to Syracuse, but like I said. Coin.
I'd remind you that UCLA is coached by Steve Alford now, so look for them to get bumped by VCU. I know Stephen F. Austin is a popular upset over VCU, but SFA hasn't faced this level of athlete this year, and VCU is the last team against whom you want to test the waters of "hey what if we played some good athletes."
|Save us, Smart!
I don't see the top 4 seeds in the Midwest being particularly threatened in the first weekend, and yes, that includes Wichita State. I'm also surprised Brian is that high on Tennessee; their entire resume consists of a neutral court win over Xavier (during an abysmal weekend in which Xavier also lost to Iowa and USC) and a shellacking they put on Virginia in December. They finished 11-7 in the SEC despite single-plays with Kentucky (which they lost) and Arkansas (at home). They'll probably beat Iowa, as holy crap have you seen Iowa lately, but Duke beats either them or UMass going away.
Ace: It's a good thing BiSB and I aren't doing a bracket pool together, because I have almost the exact same thing—my Final Four is identical save for Duke making it over Michigan (I know, boooooooo me), and I also have VCU knocking off UCLA due to the coaching edge.
While Cincinnati should provide a stiff test, I have Virginia as the team that will knock off MSU, which I don't believe will get past two teams that are so strong defensively. Also, the thing nobody is talking about regarding the Spartans that could be a huge factor: yes, they're healthy now, but how long does that last? They couldn't get through the Michigan game without a Gary Harris shoulder injury scare, Adreian Payne needs an inhaler after two trips up and down the floor, and Keith Appling still isn't shooting much—or well—from the outside, and Branden Dawson is playing with a big ol' brace on his wrist. Even if one of those guys has to sit out for just a few extra minutes, that could be the difference between a win and a loss, especially in a defensive slog.
For upset picks, I like North Dakota State over Oklahoma in the round of 64; the Sooners tend to play close games against decent competition, they don't have a great defense, and the Bison are one of the most experienced teams in the country, not to mention lethal inside the arc. I've got Providence over North Carolina simply because the Tar Heels are so inconsistent this year.
Otherwise, my bracket is pretty bland—the only one-seed I don't have making their regional final is Wichita State, which I have losing to Louisville before the Michigan/Duke winner (a coin-flip, IMO, and on those I try to account for my inherent bias) knocks off the Cardinals. Arizona over Florida in the title game; those two teams have separated themselves from the rest of the pack, even if neither is a true juggernaut.
Seth: Now that we've listed all the reasons Michigan State won't make it to the Final Four, let's remember Izzo teams tend to play like a banner is on the line in the tournament. This Spartan squad may fight with less vim than any in my basketball-watching lifetime, but I won't count on that in March.
|Tom Izzo is such a mortal lock to overperform in March that they might as well rename the month after him. [Fuller]
Rather I'll count on them being the kind of team that needs to control the possession battle. Notably, they generated five or fewer turnovers in four of their losses, and lost the turnover battle in all but one (at Wisconsin). In the BTT they dominated Wisconsin with uncharacteristic shooting (64% eFG), so the momentum from last weekend is largely based on winning the boards battle against Max Bielfeldt. I think Payne is the kind of post presence that Cincy doesn't do well against (L'ville's Montrezl Harrell had 18 and 21 points against them, and two losses to UConn were blamed on the bad post matchups), but MSU's second weekend sets up with Virginia, and then Villanova or ISU (I have Iowa State). The former have great defenses, and ISU is excellent at protecting the ball.
Elsewhere, I hate all ones. Florida and Wichita State have a combined four wins over Tennessee going for them in those massive piles of wins, but those are still massive piles of wins. Arizona isn't the same without Brandon Ashley. Virginia was the last one in, and is defensive Michigan.
I hate the South, where I'm basically praying Marcus Smart can save us from the same kind of GO BUCKS!-vs-ESSEEESEE! hell that football's been trapped in since the mid-aughts. HAVOC should do well against SF Austin--their big flaw is guards who turn the ball over--and UCLA, whose thing is they have a 6'9 point guard. VCU is as good a pick as any to upset Florida (Arkansas took them to overtime in their one game). And while I have Ohio State emerging, once Syracuse is put out of its misery and suddenly-small Kansas hits the New Mexican wall of Cam Bairstow and Alex Kirk, who here hasn't dreamed of sending ol' rosy cheeks on his way with a 7-turnover performance?
Michigan's side is boring. In the West the WOOO OFFENSE Wolverine in me makes a face at Brian's Baylor Bears and takes Creighton to the final weekend (SD State does for Arizona). I think Michigan loses to Duke in the rematch when all the stupid calls in the world go against us. With sighs: Virginia over Louisville.
Mathlete: The South is a strange bracket. Florida has been dominant but largely untested. KU has the pieces but has been woefully inconsistent and will be without Embiid for some or all of the regional (side note, they did whip New Mexico by 17 in an earlier matchup). Syracuse has been fading like crazy since they had to play quality teams. Even though I'm not sold on the teams at the top, I don't know that there are great candidates to make a run. Maybe VCU, but I still think the South has the best chance for a top 2 seed to make the Final Four.
Out West things could really get wild. Although not top-heavy like the Midwest, I think 7 of the top 9 seeds (everyone but Oklahoma and Gonzaga) have the pieces to make a run at the Final Four. In the East, Michigan State's been covered to death. Everyone outside of MGoBlog-world has crowned them National Champs and retroactively awarded them a perfect regular season with all losses deemed flukes and thus non-counting due to unprecedented injury woes that plagued the Spartans in a Job-like fashion. The problem with picking anyone else is that no one seems flashy. Villanova made a two seed largely due to one nice win in November and not losing against the largely mediocre portion of the conference schedule. Virginia should be good but like, Nova, not talented enough to be invulnerable. The team that I think has a real shot at making a run is 3 seed Iowa St. The Cyclones are talented and good enough to play anyone.
As for Michigan's route, I think the bracket initially seemed terrifying but they are aided by a very clear path to the Sweet 16, then potentially enough time to prepare for Duke or whoever knocks them off. That just leaves the winner of the loaded top half of the Midwest. Kentucky is scary to play, but I feel comfortable saying that can't put together multiple quality games in a row. Everyone has written my hometown Wichita St Shockers off. Everyone has focused on the undefeated record against weak competition this season and forgot that most of these guys were there when the Shockers made the Final Four last year and played Louisville closer than anyone. There are going to be some fantastic games as I see everyone top half game except the 1/16 matchup being highly competitive.
My Final Four: Florida, Iowa St, Creighton, Wichita St