Bracketbullets, 2018 Edition Comment Count

Brian March 12th, 2018 at 10:36 AM


[Marc-Gregor Campredon]

Eh, I'm fine with it. Not getting Detroit over an MSU team with two wins over tourney teams and two double-digit Ls to Michigan, neither at Crisler, is annoying. But other than that I'm not trading draws with them. Michigan pulled the weakest #1 and weakest #2. Gonzaga's a strong #4 and that's usually good since there's a better shot they take down the 1 before the E8. In this case the 1 is so weak that Kenpom favors Gonzaga in a hypothetical matchup. That's bad, but emphasizes how good the draw otherwise is.

And all of these hypothetical regional matchups would be happening in Los Angeles, hundreds and hundreds of miles away from anyone in the region. Flip M into MSU's slot and they're staring down Kenpom #3 Duke and #9 Kansas… in Omaha. I'll take #7 UNC and #8 Gonzaga in a building that might slant to Michigan given the cosmopolitan nature of the fanbase over a roiling pit of Jayhawk partisans. Also, Izzo is 1-11 versus Duke.

Meanwhile, the first round. Michigan got the top 14 and top 6. The first probably won't matter—M has been installed as a 12 point favorite. Montana has five games against major conference opponents this year. They beat Pitt in OT, lost by 13 to PSU, lost by 16 to Stanford, and lost by three at Washington. All of those were on the road, naturally. They're 0-1 in Kenpom "A" games—the PSU outing—and 1-6 in "B" games, which include the aforementioned losses plus Ls against nonconference mid-majors Santa Barbara and Georgia State (a 15 seed) plus a 1-2 record in road games against the three toughest Big Sky opponents.

Despite that they're #71 in Kenpom, better than the other 14s by a fair distance. This is because they've hamblasted a bunch of Big Sky teams en route to a 16-2 conference record. When the difficulty level steps up they haven't been able to hang.

Montana plays a couple of 6'8" posts with no stretch ability and relies on their point guard for 27% of their shots; Synergy has them in the 14th percentile at catch and shoot and 16th on the off the dribble jumpers that Michigan has been very good at forcing. With all due respect to the Grizzlies, this isn't the picture of a 14-3 upset, especially against Michigan.


Rob Gray and his unfortunate hairstyle

The hypothetical second round. While Houston's had an impressive season boy do they look like the team you'd pick out for Michigan to play in round two. Let us run down the ways. Houston…

  • Relies on a high-usage point guard. Rob Gray is at 29% usage; his efficiency relies on TO avoidance and getting to the line. 50% of his threes are unassisted. He's 6'1" and not super athletic. That's the profile of a heavily-relied-upon guy that X can turn into a potato.
  • Is transition-dependent. Houston was #13 nationally in transition eFG; Synergy has them in the 91st percentile. They're only slightly above average in % of transition shots, but the upper reaches there are populated largely by teams that aren't any good and are just trying to get a shot up before the defense can get set.
  • Relies on threes. Average number go up; 34th in hitting them. Michigan is top ten at preventing three launches. Two Houston players are Just Shooters and don't threaten much when you run them off the line.
  • Lets you shoot threes. They're 195th in allowing them. 3PT D is good at 43rd but how much is luck, how much is real, etc.

The one thing that stands out on Houston's resume that's bad for Michigan is that their defense is massively foul-prone. Michigan is unlikely to take as much advantage of that as your average team.

In the "remains to be seen" category: Houston pounds the boards—17th—despite not having anyone taller than 6'8" on the floor. Houston is in fact tiny. Three different 6'6"-6'7" guys get about 75% of their minutes at the 4 and 5. Michigan has done very well at keeping the opposition off the boards and probably should in a hypothetical second-round matchup, but the sheer weirdness of Houston's approach here might give them avenues that Michigan isn't used to dealing with.

The other second round. Kenpom gives San Diego State a 34% chance at the upset of Houston and the Aztecs are an entirely different challenge. They're huge (18th nationally in height), three-averse, and frequently use a 2-3 zone. They have what might be the strangest three-game stretch in the country: a win against Gonzaga bracketed by losses to Cal (at home!) and Wyoming.

So despite the 6 vs 11 thing, I think I'd rather see Houston. San Diego State is not overly dependent on their PG (21% usage), doesn't run that well, runs a long-ass zone, and has a big Duncan Robinson matchup problem in Malik Pope. Pope is a diverse and athletic 6'10" four who can face up on or post Robinson and might be able to clobber him on the boards. Duncan's come a long way but I'm not real happy when the opposition rolls in with a 4 who's their biggest-usage guy.

But what about UNC? The Tarheels did clobber Michigan early in the year, thanks in large part to a 15 minute stretch spanning halftime during which Michigan got three buckets. This team is not that team. Eli Brooks played 18 minutes; Zavier Simpson played one minute more than Ibi Watson did. Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers both got their first real minutes against a real team—and on the road.

I would not expect Michigan to win that game, and that's fine. Michigan earned a three, got a three, and got what's actually the perfect Kenpom matchup at that point in the bracket: the #7 overall team vs the #10 overall team. But I don't think the first game is at all representative of what you should expect. UNC starts three seniors and two juniors coming off a national championship. Michigan had no idea who their point guard was or, frankly, what shape their ass was at that juncture.

UNC poses a bunch of matchup issues and Michigan will have to play their best game of the year to beat them. Even so I expect that to be tooth and nail. Should they be so fortunate to make the Elite Eight that game will feel like a breath of fresh air.

Don't even think about it. It will be UNC. Lipscomb? No. A 9-9 SEC team? No. Providence? No, even though their coach is Bunk Moreland. The Tarheels got a gift draw to the Sweet 16.


or big boy cool glasses [Campredon]

TIME TO PUT ON THE BIG BOY PANTS. It took a typical committee injustice to prevent Penn State from getting the Kenpom booby prize this year. They're the second-best team left out of the field, one slot behind St. Mary's. And they're a four-seed in the NIT. Same goes for Nebraska, which turned a (soft) 13-5 conference record into a 5 seed in that same tournament.

This is in part because both teams scheduled like garbage in the nonconference. Aside from their mandated Big Ten-ACC challenge games, this is what those two teams took on amongst power conferences and other actually good teams:

  • Penn State: Pitt, Texas A&M.
  • Nebraska: Creighton, Kansas, BC, St John's.

Nebraska deserves a little sympathy for coming up just short against those two tourney teams but the rest was dreck. This goes for the rest of the conference, too. The Big Ten's NCSOS markers per the NCAA's reckoning:

  • Ohio State: 32
  • Purdue: 71
  • Wisconsin: 92
  • Maryland: 141
  • Illinois: 169
  • Indiana: 201
  • Iowa: 203
  • MSU: 217
  • Minnesota: 244
  • Michigan: 259
  • PSU: 265
  • Nebraska: 274
  • Northwestern: 306
  • Rutger: 333

There are about 350 D-I basketball teams. Just five Big Ten teams were in the top half, and two just barely. I know the committee head basically laughed this metric off earlier this year, since the RPI is about 75% SOS all of that crap got lumped into actual RPI numbers and diced into quadrants and what not. It got batted back and forth as the league went through its conference schedule.

The league's scheduling has real impacts you can see when better ranking systems survey the landscape, like Seth Burns's implied pythag:

Pythag has a lot more respect for the Big 10 than the RPI has, and it shows here with the Big 10 getting three teams on the top two seed lines. Surprisingly (to me anyway), the ACC would only get one.

In a WAB (or Implied Pythag) world, Nebraska would be safely in. Ditto for St. Mary’s. Marquette and Middle Tennessee would be the last teams in, while Oklahoma State would be the first team out.

Nebraska's an 8. That's what they deserved. Oh and MSU's a 1 and Michigan a 2. But because our conference has its collective head up its Izzo, none of that came to pass. Nobody even thought about Nebraska as an at large because the collected weight of RPI boat anchors moved a top 30 Kenpom team (Penn State) out of the top 75 in RPI. And moved a top 50 Kenpom team (Maryland) almost out of same.

Hell, you don't need to even put on the Big Boy Pants. Just stop scheduling SWAC and MEAC teams, which are 8 points worse than the ASun. We'll see if next year's committee really dusts the RPI. If so, hooray. If not the league should fine any team that ends up with an NCSOS under 200.



March 12th, 2018 at 11:53 AM ^

The NCAA thinks that UNC is the strongest 2, which is why they got the bracket with the weakest 1.

Oddly, according to the official S-Curve, they bracketed the 1s and 2s together properly, but then mixed around all of the 3s.  Michigan should have gotten MSU's draw (Kansas/Duke); MSU should have gotten Tennessee's (UVa/Cinn), Tennessee should have gotten Texas Tech's (Nova/Purdue), and Texas Tech should have gotten Michigan's (Xavier/UNC).

For those keeping score at home, that's -1 spot for Michigan (#11 seed but got the #12 seed schedule), +2 for Tennessee, +1 for Texas Tech... and -2 for MSU (#9 seed but got the #11 seed schedule).  #Disrespekt!

Maison Bleue

March 12th, 2018 at 12:37 PM ^

So the committee thinks we are the strongest three because we got the region with the weakest 1 seed? MSU begs to differ, they are playing two home games to get to the sweet sixteen.


March 12th, 2018 at 12:45 PM ^

The weakest 3 gets the weakest 1 -- but the strongest 2 -- on the S-Curve.  If Michigan were ahead of MSU on the S-Curve, they'd be playing in Detroit.  They're not.  MSU was #9 on the S-Curve -- the strongest 3 -- and Michigan was #11.

However, MSU did not get the #9 schedule, which should have been strongest #1 and weakest #2 (#8 overall).  They got the #11 schedule -- #3 overall seed as the #1 plus #6 overall seed as the #2.  This gives them a tougher road to the Elite 8 than they would have gotten based solely on the S-Curve.


March 12th, 2018 at 1:07 PM ^

it seems like they gave Tennessee the bracket reserved for the top 3 seed and knocked MSU down two in exchange for putting the Cincinnati teams in Nashville so MSU could play in Detroit for the first weekend.

We wondered how much wiggle room the committee would have when slotting the Cincinnati teams and they sent them a little further from home to accomodate MSU.  That's my only guess, because you're right, they could have gone straight by the S-curve and put MSU in the South region with Cinci and UVA without breaking any bracket rules that I'm aware of.  But if they had gone straight by distance, Xavier would be in Detroit (with Purdue), and Cinci and MSU would be in Nashville.  


March 12th, 2018 at 10:51 AM ^

can convince me that North Carolina is the weakest 2 seed.  Nothing.  KenPom be damned.  Cincinatti is the weakest 2.  Possibly ever.  I think NC is probably the strongest 2 seed, with the possible exception of Duke (who NC beat like 2.95 times this year) because Duke gets every call in the tournament.


March 12th, 2018 at 11:47 AM ^

At yet, they lost 10 games, not not all of those losses are good losses.  They seem prone to ups and downs.  I agree they're not the weakest 2 seed (agree that Cinici is that), but of the other 2s, eh, I'll that draw.  We can hope UNC hits a downer.  Plus UM has played them before and the scout should be good on UNC.  And UM has changed a hell of a lot more over the season than UNC.


March 12th, 2018 at 11:59 AM ^

is Wofford.  All but 8 of their games were against teams in the RPI top 100.  They have according to RPI the #1 SOS and #4 NCSOS.

Comparing that to the other #2 seeds:

Duke:  15th SOS, 20th NCSOS

Purdue:  39th SOS, 70th NCSOS

Cincy:  58th SOS, 170 NCSOS

UNC has 13 quadrant 1 wins.  The other three #2 seeds combined have 17.


March 12th, 2018 at 12:56 PM ^

I mean, I'm not saying they're a bad team at all, but the RPI quandrent thing becomes a bit of a mess for comparing how good a team is.  Sure, use it for seeding if you like.  But UNC played a bunch of ACC teams in that Kenpom 30ish-50ish range (think Miami, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, NC State, Notre Dame, Florida State, Louisville).  So good teams, but not juggernaughts.  And they won a bunch, and lost a handful.  So RPI ends up good.  And hell, Kenpom ends up good because they're a good team.  But these are teams in the Maryland, PSU range.  So they are by no means invulerable.  Against Kenpom top 10 teams, UM is 3-3 by my count and UNC is 2-4 (and this includes the early loss of UM to UNC).


March 12th, 2018 at 1:58 PM ^

I'm not going to disagree, but UNC got a lot of those wins in the bottom half of the top-100.  They played 10 games against top-25 RPI teams and went 5-5 in them, usually winning at home and losing on the road.  But they play in a good conference, so they get a decent quantity of wins despite maybe not being of the highest quality.

There is no "weak" #2 seed.  There are teams that played better or worse at certain stretches, but people crapping on Cincy or Purdue do so at their own danger.  The Bearcats have a mediocre offense but good lord are they athletic and scary defensively.  And Purdue looked like one of the best 3 teams in the country until a couple of weeks ago, and hell, could have won the BTT had they not run into another team playing like one of the top-10 teams in the country.

To me, UNC is a talented team with some issues on defense.  Sorta like Kansas, but with a bit more variance.  


March 12th, 2018 at 3:21 PM ^

Of UNC's 27 games against teams in the RPI top 100, 17 were against teams in the Top 50 and only 10 were against teams 51-100.

Most of their wins against teams in the RPI top 100 weren't at home either.  Of their 18 wins against teams in the RPI top 100 only 6 were at home.  6 were on a neutral floor and 6 were away.  

Whole Milk

March 12th, 2018 at 1:59 PM ^

I watched this game, and UNC firmly controlled it until the end. I wouldn't go as far as to say it should count as ".95 of a win", but combine that with the other two wins and UNC far outclassed Duke this year in their matchups, which I assume was your overall point. 


March 12th, 2018 at 12:35 PM ^

is pretty ugly but their defense is just as historically good as current Viriginia squad. They want to hold you to under 45 a game and hope the offense score just enough to win the game. They have the length and athleticism to keep the offense at bay


March 12th, 2018 at 1:25 PM ^

other than anecdotal (see: UVA) but I feel like teams with elite defenses because they try really hard all season long and meh offenses tend to not fare well in the tournament.  They can't turn up their defense another notch in the tournament because they've been at maximum effort already and their inability to score the ball ends up killing them the.

I think Cincinnati might get exposed (although they didn't get a particularly difficult draw).


March 12th, 2018 at 10:59 AM ^

The only thing that concerns me is the super long layoff (THANKS DELANEY YOU CLOWN!!) before the Montana game. I can envision Michigan struggling a bit like they did against Iowa in the B1G tourney. I think they win that game, get their rhythm back, and then make a deep run exacting revenge against UNC!



March 12th, 2018 at 2:38 PM ^

the advantages of a layoff don't outweigh the disadvantages - IF you're a higher seed, as we are.
As Beilein said when asked about it - time to rest legs, emphasize fundamentals in practice that may have slipped a little, like blocking out and free-throw shooting. And he also said hitting the weights, which I don't really understand...
Also lets the coaches rest their brains a day or two before launching into game planning for the upcoming match ups.
If we come out rusty against Montana we ought to be able to overcome it, versus if we were playing a tough 8 or 9 game.
Hoping this is correct...


March 12th, 2018 at 11:20 AM ^

Not actually all that worried about UNC.  Could they beat Michigan?  Yes, they could, and handily.  But the other way round is true too.  Maybe I'm a bit jaded on UNC having watched UVA dismantle them twice.  But their last game against Michigan was a while ago, and UNC's been up and down - at best - against tourney-level competition.  I don't think the gap is very big.

Also, Cam Johnson got hurt in the ACC CG.  Fell hard and awkwardly on his wrist going for a loose ball, and didn't return.  It looked, at best, sprained, and possibly fractured.  I don't know how badly he's hurt, they haven't said anything at all.  Important player for them, though - usually plays over 30 minutes.  He's a stretch four and without him, they have to rely on Garrison Brooks, who is a freshman, doesn't shoot from deep, and doesn't present nearly as many matchup questions.

Perkis-Size Me

March 12th, 2018 at 12:28 PM ^

I think Michigan could absolutely beat UNC if they were fortunate enough to make it that far, but Michigan would not be favored in that game. And rightfully so. That's still a team with several upperclassmen who have won a national title. They know how to play this time of year. So playing UNC concerns me a lot. In fact,  every team you play if you get to the second weekend should concern you. Everyone who makes the Sweet 16 and beyond is for real. 

Would take Michigan's best game of the season to beat UNC. And if UNC still plays a great basketball game, that may not even be enough. But I do trust Beilein to have the team ready should they manage to get that far. He's beaten several teams in the postseason that he supposedly had no business beating. 


March 12th, 2018 at 1:44 PM ^

the gap between any 2 and 3 seed isn't supposed to be.

Besides, Cinci was the dream matchup for us.  They are reliant on pressuring teams into turning it over and aren't very good at offense.  We usually own those types of teams. Their ratings are padded by beating up on bad teams by playing really hard defense for entire games.  They're not very talented.  They are easily the worst 2 seed.

And Purdue...we just smoked them by nearly 20.  They padded their early kenpom stats by drilling an insanely high percentage of 3s while getting really lucky on opponent 3 pointers and they haven't been that good in the second half of the season after those aspects of their game reverted to the mean.  They aren't better than UNC.

As for Duke, I don't know.  They just lost to UNC on a neutral floor.  It was their second loss to UNC in three tries. Everything you just knocked UNC for - up and down - you could say about Duke and then some.  And my biggest concern with Duke is that they don't have good guard play.  This is a guards tournament for the most part, and Duke has weak guard play and no depth at the position.  Without a PG to exploit Winston, I bet they lose to MSU (but I hope Kansas makes the Elite Eight because I think Graham will eat Winston alive).

We can absolutely beat UNC but they're not the worst 2 seed (that's definitely Cinci or Purdue). 


March 13th, 2018 at 1:05 AM ^

in the country!  They shoot at 41.3 percent.  Winston is obviously outstanding shooting 3s.  Langford, McQuaid, Bridges and even Jackson are all good too.

I think Sparty would bomb those zones.

MSU's guards are good on offense.  They're terrible at defense but I don't think Duke has the guards to take advantage of that.  Duke is very OREB dependent and MSU is a big team that generally rebounds well.  Duke had an insane 25 OREBs (!!!) in the first meeting, which was more than half of their misses!  There is no way they do that again, must have gotten a lot of lucky bounces.

It will be a good game if it happens, but I like MSU's chances for revenge in that one.


March 12th, 2018 at 1:51 PM ^

The biggest difference between the first UNC game and now is I would not expect Luke Maye to go off for 27 again. In the first game Robinson was repeatedly abused in the post by Maye and only countered with 3 points.  I don't expect a repeat of that. Robinson has developed his offense beyond just 3 pointers. Livers played 18 minutes, but he was still coming off the bench then and had not developed his role. Teske only played 4 minutes as he was still figuring out his role. Much of that has changed. 

I think the health of Livers' ankle is crucial for the UNC game so Beilein has the full flexibility of matching up Wagner, Teske, Livers, and Robinson against their front line. I trust Simpson, Mathews, and MAAR to be able to play competent defense on the perimeter. 


March 12th, 2018 at 11:23 AM ^

In the KenPom* (which, I know, is not the same as the RPI), 11 of the 14 B10 teams ended up with NCSOS below 200, 9 of 14 were below 250.

Congratulations Purdue and Ohio State for strong NC schedules.

Purdue probably got lucky that their Bahamas run was 11 Tennessee-60 W. Kentucky-21 Arizona and OSU similarly with their Nike run of 8 Gonzaga-84 Stanford-25 Butler

Michigan, meanwhile, got 61 LSU-NR Chaminade-141 VCU in Maui.  Does Chaminade count as a hole in the ocean, like it isn't good or bad for the RPI, it just is?

*-Did anyone else see that the sideboard at the SEC Championship game was celebrating that the SEC had 8 KenPom Top 50 teams?