Sunday, March 13, 2016

Mediocrity over Excellence

There are 3 Teams in the Field that absolutely shock me ... Syracuse, Tulsa, and Vanderbilt.  They Took these exceptionally mediocre teams over 2 Regular Season Champions (Monmouth, San Diego State, and St. Mary's) who all won their regular season conference titles and advanced to their Tournament final losing in extremely close games.  Nothing bothers me more in life and sports than rewarding mediocrity.

Syracuse lost 5 of its last 6 games, and were 9-12 against the RPI Top 150.  They were only 9-9 in Conference play and lost in their first Conference Tournament game.

Similarly, Vanderbilt went 19-13, were 9-9 in Conference play, and were even worse against the RPI Top 150 than Syracuse at 9-13.

Tulsa did win 20 games, going 20-11 ... but had only one win inside the RPI Top 25, and were also below .500 against the top 150.  They also entered the tournament having lost 2 of its last 3 games to a Memphis team which was ranked 136 in the RPI, including in the very first game of the American Conference Tournament.

By comparison, Monmouth did everything that a Mid-Major can do to get in, except win its Conference Tourney.  They won 22 games on the year, including Nuetral Court Victories over Notre Dame, USC and at UCLA, Georgetown.  They were 10-4 against the RPI top 150.  They played 67% of their games away from home.  They also won 17 conference games, a Regular Season Title and lost their Conference Title game by 3 points.

San Diego State has an RPI of 42, won 23 games, including a 16-2 Conference Record and season title.  They make the Conference Title game and lose by 5 to a good Fresno State team.   They go 11-8 against the top 150. 

As I feared, this selection committee put the interests of Big Conference Schools ahead of Smaller schools who were not only more deserving, but I would contend, are just flat better teams.  



Toughest field to project that I can remember in 9 years of doing this.  At the top, where 5 Teams are in competition for 3 remaining number 1 seeds all the way down to the bubble where there are 8 teams in competition for the 4 last spots.

#1 Seeds:

  1. Kansas - Locked in as #1 over-all
  2. North Carolina - Weak Resume', but as winners of both the Regular Season and Conference Tournament of the best Conference in the league this year (ACC) it's hard to imagine them not getting a #1
  3. Oregon - Winners of the PAC12 Regular Season Title won the Conference Tourney in Blow-Out last night.  There seems to be some sediment among the pundits that they only get in if Michigan State loses to Purdue today.  I think they're in
  4. Michigan State - I have them here assuming a win over Purdue in the Big Ten Title Game.  If they lose look for either Virginia, or Villanova to grab the last spot
Bubble Teams

Last Four In:  Temple, South Carolina, San Diego State, Saint Mary's
First Four Out:  Monmouth, Michigan, Syracuse, Vanderbilt
Out of Consideration:  Valparaiso, George Washington, Tulsa, Ohio State

What to Watch for Today

  • Who gets the last #1 Seed if Michigan State loses to Purdue
  • Memphis plays UCONN for the American Conference Title.  If Memphis wins they will steal a bid from the last team on the 'Last Four In' line.  I see that as being San Deigo State.
  • This year presents perhaps the most interesting choices for the Committee when selecting the last 4 -6 teams in.  Will they lean toward giving bids to Mid-Major Regular Season Champs who lost in Conference Tourney Finals (San Diego State, St. Mary's, Monmouth or even Akron) or Power Conference Teams who had more 'Signature Wins', but mediocre performances in conference, and weak non-conference schedules (South Carolina, Michigan, Syracuse, Vanderbilt)

Saturday, March 12, 2016


Lots of discussion today about whether or not Michigan has done enough to make the field.  After losing to Purdue in the Big 10 Tournament Semi-Finals, I have them out ... and Monmouth in as the last team in.

Lets do a quick comparison:

                                 Monmouth            Michigan

Record:                       27-7                         21-12
RPI:                            57                             55
vs Top 25:                  0-1                            3-7
vs Top 50:                  2-2                            4-11
vs Top 100:                4-4                            4-12
vs Potential Field:      3-4                            4-12
Road/Nuetral:             17-6                         9-7
R/N Wins vs Top 50:  2                              2
Non Conf SOS Rank:  128                         209
These are among the key factors used by the committee to compare teams under consideration for an At-Large Bid.  Committee members routinely say its about Who you Beat, Where you Beat Them, and Who did you play.

Lets look first at who the teams played and beat (or lost to).  Clearly Michigan had more 'Signature Wins' with 3 against teams ranked in the top 25 of the RPI.  However, as you make your way down through the comparison, you can see where Michigan's resume' begins to weaken.  Between teams ranked 26 and 100 Michigan went just 1-5, while Monmouth was 4-3.  But another criteria the committee is known to look at is the records of the teams against all the teams currently under consideration, or having clinched a bid, in the field.  Michigan has 12 losses against the those teams, the largest number of any the 76 teams that fit the criteria.  It doesn't inspire a lot of confidence that Michigan is well suited to compete with the field as a whole. 

Where games are played ultimately favored Monmouth.  They had just as many top 50 wins on the Road or on a Neutral Court as Michigan.  Remember that all Tournament games are played on Neutral courts, so the committee wants to know who can win games away from their own Gym, and in particular, against quality opponents.  Additionally, Monmouth challenged themselves in a way Michigan clearly didn't.  Of Monmouth's 34 games, they played 23 of them away from their home court, winning 17 of them.  Michigan played less than half away from Ann Arbor and went just 9-7. 

When you look at who the two teams played, Monmouth played a considerably more difficult Non-Conference Schedule, a factor I discussed last week when comparing teams that may otherwise seem even or close.  Given all that, I have Monmouth as the last team in Today (They could still lose it, by the way should Georgia go on to win the SEC Tourney who is tied with Kentucky late in the first half of their game with Kentucky) and Michigan as the last team out.  Had Michigan won today, they would have been in on my board, regardless of how they would have done tomorrow.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wednesday Morning Update - 3/9

New to the Field

  • Fairleigh Dickinson (Northeast Conference Champ) - FDU won the NEC Title game as the Tournament's 8 Seed, knocking off Regular season Champion Wagner 87-79.
  • Gonzaga (West Coast Conference) - The Zags avoided missing the tournament for the first time in 18 years by winning the WCC Title over St.Mary's.  St. Mary's joins the growing list of Mid Major Regular Season Champs (Monmouth, Valpo, Wichita State) that failed to win their Conference Tournament and find themselves on the Bubble. 
  • UW Green Bay - Qualifies for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 20 years by winning the Horizon League Championship over Wright State.
  • South Dakota State - Won the Summit League Title beating North Dakota State 67-59.
Out of the Field:
  • Wagner - NEC Regular season champs lost Tourney title game and is now headed to the NIT
  • Valparaiso (For Now) - Entered last night as the last team into the field.  With Gonzaga claiming an Automatic Bid Valpo, at first glance, seems to be the victim of Gonzaga's Bid Thievery.
Current Bubble:

Last 4 Byes:  USC, Butler, Syracuse, Vanderbilt
Last 4 In:  Cincinnati, Wichita State, UConn, St.Mary's
First 4 Out:  Valpo, VCU, George Washington, Monmouth
Next 4 Out:  Michigan, Tulsa, Alabama, Florida
Out:  Virginia Tech (For Now)

Critical Wednesday Games:
  • Syracuse vs PITT (ACC Round 2) - Pitt moved one spot off the bubble for the moment with Gonzaga's entry to the field as an automatic bid.  Syracuse still resides in the "Last 4 In'.  Winner probably clinches an at large bid.  Loser will sit and sweat until Sunday's Selection Announcement. (11:00 AM - ESPN)
  • Holy Cross @ LeHigh (Patriot League Championship) - Winner claims the Patriot League Automatic Bid (6:30 PM CBS Sports Network)
  • UCLA vs USC (PAC12 Round 1) - Any team currently on the bubble, as USC is, can ill afford a first round tournament loss to 50+ RPI Team.  USC is particularly vulnerable due to a lack of RPI Top 25 wins on it's resume'. (8:00 PM PAC 12 Network) 
  • Florida State vs Virginia Tech (ACC Round 2) - These two teams are part of a group of 4 Power Conference Teams (Along with Georgia and Ohio State) that can force their way into At Large consideration with deep Conference Tournament runs.  (8:00 PM ESPN)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tuesday Morning Changes

Several upsets in Conference Tournament play on Monday night impacted the field and the Bubble. 


  • UNC Wilmington earns an automatic bid with its thrilling overtime victory over the Colonial Regular Season Champion Hofstra in the Conference Tournament Title Game.  They enter my projection as a 13 Seed.
  • Iona upset MAAC Regular Season Champion Monmouth 79-76 in the MAAC Title game, also earning an automatic bid.  Iona enters the projection as a 14 seed and sends Monmouth to the bubble.  More on that in a moment ...
  • Summit League Regular season champion IPFW was upset by North Dakota State in the Semi-Finals of their tourney.  They will play South Dakota State tonight in the title game.  South Dakota, as the highest remaining seed enters the projection as a result, coming in on the 13 Seed line
  • UW Green Bay upset Horizon League Regular Season Champs Valparaiso in overtime of their Semi-Final contest last night, moving them into the projection as a 15 Seed and sending Valpo to the Bubble.

  • Monmouth falls out of the field and in to the 'First Four Out' grouping.
  • VCU falls out of the field and in to the 'First Four Out' as Valpo narrowly edges them out in my projection as the last team into the field.  VCU has the benefit of being able to play their way back into the field, beginning Friday Night in the Quarter Finals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament.  They will play the winner of Thursday's match-up between U-Mass and Rhode Island.  They will likely need at least 2 wins this weekend, and some help from teams ahead of them on the bubble losing to climb back in ... or of course, run the table and win the A10 Tournament to earn an Automatic Bid.

FIRST FOUR BYES:  PITT, USC, Butler, Syracuse
LAST FOUR IN:  Vanderbilt, Cincinnati, UConn, Valparaiso
FIRST FOUR OUT:  VCU, George Washington, Monmouth, Michigan
NEXT FOUR OUT:  Tulsa, Alabama, Florida, Virginia Tech
OUT(For Now):  LSU, Ohio State

Automatic Bids Earned Monday Night:

  • UNC Wilmington (Colonial)
  • Iona (MAAC)
  • Chattanooga (Southern)

Bracket Projections - March 7th

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Saturday Bubble Watch

Lots of interesting fallout from a handful of games.

  • Virginia Tech (18-13, 10-8 ACC) got a huge win over Miami (FL) 77-62 in Blacksburg.  Miami had quietly slid onto the #1 Seed line in my latest projection.  Today's los3 may keep them from being able to return back there.  Short of a run to the ACC Tournament Title it was hard to imagine them holding that spot, but its doubtful now that even an ACC Title could salvage the damage done today.  The Bigger story is Virginia Tech.  After a 65-49 loss at Miami on February 17th,  the Hokies found themselves sitting at 13-13 overall and 3-8 in the ACC.  Since then the Hokies have rattled off 5 Straight victories including back to back wins over Pitt and Miami.  While it still isn't enough to get them in the field, the continued faltering of teams ahead of them on the bubble, and some potential juicy upset opportunities in the ACC Tournament give this team a chance to leap frog some teams and get them in position to have a shot at hearing their name called on Selection Sunday. 
  • Wichita State, who I discussed in my previous post as being a very intriguing team to try and project made things very interesting today by losing in the Missouri Valley Confernence Semi-Final's to Northern Iowa.  Wichita State must now get in as an At-Large selection.  Without doing a full seed scrub again until tomorrow night when all game for the weekend are complete, I'm going to assume that they are now in the field as one of the 'Last 4 In'   What this means is that another team (Either N. Iowa or Evansville) will grab the Auto Bid for the MVC tomorrow, effectively shrinking the bubble by one spot.  For me, that means George Washington, who also lost today, falls out of the field.  Tomorrow's MVC Championship Winner could become our first Official 'Bid Thief' of this year's Field Selection process ... that is, if Wichita States  overall body of work is good enough to get them in as an At-Large.  Expect this to be one of the big discussion next Sunday when the field is announced, weather they get selected or not.
  • Like Virginia Tech, another ACC Team is making a case for consideration that was out of the running just a couple weeks back.  Florida State knocked off Bubble Team Syracuse (1st 4 Byes), improving their record to 18-12 overall and 8-10 in the ACC.  Still a long shot but a couple of wins against Teams in the RPI top 50, which they could get in the ACCTournament and some help from teams ahead of them, and they could have a decent chance of a berth.
  • Other Bubble Winners Today:  Florida.  That's it.  Everyone else in one of my 4 Bubble Groupings lost or did not play  ... including Alabama, LSU, VCU, Ohio State and Michigan.  

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Bubble Strength Indicator

Every NCAA Selection Committee seems to have a slightly different set of criteria for choosing it's At Large Teams than the one before it.  It's ultimately a subjective task, and what one committee member values can often be very different than another's.  The make-up of the committee changes year over year, so these differences year over year in what seems to get one team in over another is to be expected.

However, there are trends that have emerged over the past couple of years that I think can be instructive in evaluating this year's crop of bubble teams.  I have identified a few and tried to identify teams that may be helped or hurt in their chances to secure a bid if the trend holds.  Here's one for today:

Non-Conference Strength of Schedule:

One of the trends which seems to have held steady is that the Committee doesn't like to award teams who played weak (200+ NC SOS Rank) non-conference schedules.  The thought is, if you want to be considered for an At-Large Bid, you better have scheduled games against Tournament Worthy competition in your non-league schedule.

There are 351 NCAA Division 1 Men's Basketball Programs.  Each team's schedule is ranked (Using RPI) from 1 to 351 based on the outcome to date of every team's game.  In addition to the overall strength of schedule based on every team you play, there is a separate metric that measures the quality of just your non-conference opponents.  The goal, seemingly, is to identify which teams tried to beef up their win totals by playing a soft schedule outside of league play, which the team has no control over.  It has been used often as a way of breaking ties between teams that otherwise look similar on paper.

A classic example of this can be found in 2014 when a 23-9 SMU team with a 12-6 Conference record  missed the cut, while 21-13 NC State Team with just a 9-9 Conference Record made it.  Comparing some of the common measurements of the two:

                                          SMU                 NC STATE
Vs. RPI TOP 25:                 3-4                                       1-7
Vs RPI TOP 50:                  4-5                                       3-9
Road/Nuetral Record:         8-8                                       8-7
NC SOS Rank                     303                                      87

While SMU had both more wins, and a better winning percentage against both the RPI top 25 and RPI top 50, and virtually equal record in Road and Neutral Court games, NC State was awarded one of the last At-Large Bids while SMU was relegated to the NIT.

Teams on the bubble with NC SOS greater than 200 at the current time who need to be extra worried come Selection Sunday:

Butler - 255
George Washington - 238
LSU - 200

These teams have played much tougher NC schedules, and may get more consideration than their record vs. RPI top 25 and 50 Teams might suggest:

Florida - NCSOS Rank 3, 2-6 vs. Top 25 and 2-8 vs. Top 50
Vanderbilt - NCSOS Rank 50, 2-6 vs. Top 25 and Top 50
Gonzaga - NCSOS Rank 68, 0-2 vs. top 25 and 1-5 vs Top 50.

Another worth keeping an eye on is Wichita State, one of the most intriguing teams to try and project in the field.  They currently project as an Automatic bid by virtue of being the regular season champion of the Missouri Valley Conference.  But to actually get the bid, they have to win the Conference Tournament.  If they don't, then they are likely to find themselves hip deep in the bubble discussion.

Their NC SOS is 13th, but have just one win against the RPI top 50 and are below .500 against the RPI top 100.
By the way, they play Northern Iowa Saturday, who beat them earlier this season.  If they lose, look for Wichita State to be one of the most highly discussed team, weather they make the field or not leading up to the revealing of the field, and in the pundit chatter afterwards.

Welcome to my Field of 68 Projection Page

Welcome to my NCAA Tournament Projection Site.  For close to a decade now I have tried my hand at projecting the NCAA Tournament Field, and correctly identifying the seeding of each team selected.  It all started when my favorite team, Wisconsin, was in contention for a #1 seed in the 2006/2007 season.  I was certain they were worthy, but continued to see prominent 'Bracketologists' like Joe Lunardi insisting they wouldn't get it.  I created my own rudimentary spreadsheets, and started looking at the data to see what they saw, that I didn't.  It evolved into me attempting for the first time to project the NCAA Field and seeding.  It was a miserable flop, but what I found during the process was that it enhanced my interest in games across the NCAA Spectrum, especially in March,  Each game on the calendar each night, it seemed, had an impact on what teams might or might not make it ... and how they would be seeded.  Suddenly, Small Conference Tournaments, like the Ohio Valley Conference, became incredibly interesting, as I watched to see if the Regular Season Champion could earn it's Conference Automatic Bid, and if not, if the Regular Season Champion could still qualify as an At Large Team, essentially stealing a bid from another At Large Team under consideration that was 'On the Bubble'.  Each year I have attempted to refine my process.  I used to choose who I thought the Tournament Selection Committee ought to choose.  Now I try to project based on what I think they will do, weather I would make that choice personally or not.  I have consistently improved in both picking the teams, and correctly identifying their seeding.  This page is my place to share my work with those who might be curious or interested in my projections.  I welcome comments and critiques.