Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Key Games - Wednesday (2/27)

Tennessee at Ole Miss - 6:00 PM 

Tennessee, with two losses in their last three games have slid off the #1 Seed line in many projections this week.  I still have them there, but only because they have a game coming up with the team that has replaced them, Kentucky, on Saturday.  My assumption is that the winner of that game will possess the fourth #1 Seed in the update that follows.  That could change though if Tennessee were too fall before then.  This a classic trap game for the Vols.  Sandwiched between games with LSU who beat them last Saturday and the Wildcats this coming weekend, Tennessee needs to avoid looking past the Rebels to the Saturday tilt in Knoxville.  As of this writing, Tennessee finds themselves out of first in the SEC for the first time this season, trailing Kentucky and LSU by a half game after their wins last night.  In  addition to dropping out of the #1 seed line , a loss tonight would make winning the regular season title in the SEC, and the #1 seed in the conference tournament almost impossible to regain.  Those stakes may help to focus the Vols headed into tonight's game.

Marquette at Villanova - 8:00 PM on Fox Sports 1

Back on February 9th, the last time these two teams tipped off, Villanova was riding an 11 game winning streak and held a two game lead in the league standings over Marquette, who was coming of their second loss of the season to St. John's.  Marquette won that game by 1 in dramatic fashion on their new home floor at the Fiserv Forum.  Marquette has followed that with three more consecutive wins, while the defending National Champs have dropped three of their last four.  Marquette now leads the race for the league regular season title by a game and a half heading in to tonight's contest, and could all but lock up the #1 Seed in the Big East tourney tonight.  Villanova has looked shockingly mediocre in double digit losses to Georgetown and Xavier in their last two losses, both on the road.  During that same stretch Marquette has won the last 3 by an average of nearly 16 a game.  These two teams always seem to play very entertaining contests, and with a conference title and significant seeding implications for both, the high stakes will further add to the enjoyment of this contest.

Other intriguing games:
  • UCF at South Florida - 6:00 PM
  • Texas at Baylor - 8:00 PM on ESPN2
  • Auburn at Georgia - 8:00 PM on ESPNU

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Tuesday's Key Games (2/26)

 Duke at Virginia Tech - 6:00 PM (CST) on ESPN

Duke will play it's second straight road game without freshman phenom Zion Williamson tonight.  There was considerable speculation about Duke's ability to hold on to a number 1 seed with the future NBA #1 overall draft pick sidelined with a knee sprain.  In the first game without him, Duke notched a 10 point road victory at Syracuse.  The Hokies sport an impressive 21-6 record, but are in need a signature victory against a top 10 team to bolster the tournament resume' which is thin on big wins.  Virginia Tech's last win against a team in the NET top 25 came against Purdue in the Charleston Classic Championship back in mid-November.

Iowa at Ohio State - 6:00 PM (CST) on Big Ten Network

The surging Hawkeye's, winners of 5 of their last 6 travel to Ohio State to take on the slumping Buckeye's.  The Hawkeyes sit a game and a half out of 4th in the Big Ten.  The top 4 teams in the conference secure double-byes in the Conference Tournament and Iowa will likely need to run the table on their final 4 games to have a chance.  Meanwhile, Ohio State, who looked like a virtual lock to make the NCAA Tournament field just a couple of weeks ago have lost 3 of the last 4 and slipped to 7-9 in league play. In addition to tonight's game with Iowa, who beat the Buckeye's by 14 in their meeting in Iowa City, OSU must travel to Purdue and Northwestern before finishing the regular season with Wisconsin at home.  One has to assume that Ohio State can do no worse than split their final 4 games and still have a legitimate shot at an NCAA Tournament at-large bid, making tonight's home tilt with Iowa a must win.

Other Intriquing Games:

  • Syracuse at North Carolina - 8:00 PM
  • Arkansas at Kentucky - 8:00 PM
  • Wisconsin at Indiana - 8:00 PM on ESPN

Monday, February 25, 2019

Monday's Key Games (2/25)

Looking ahead at key games for Monday, 2/25

Two of the week's most interesting games will be played tonight in the Big 12.

Oklahoma at Iowa State - 7:00 PM (CST) on ESPN2

There may be no more intriguing bubble team than Oklahoma, who currently sits at 4 games below .500 in Big 12 Play at 5-9.  The NCAA has never taken a team as an At-Large with a conference regular season record more than 2 games below .500.  With 4 games remaining in conference play, Oklahoma would need to win 3 of its final four games to close at 8-10.  Iowa State won the first match-up on the road in Norman by 1.  The Sooners close out the season against Kansas and Kansas State.  A loss tonight could force the Sooners into the unenviable position of having to win those two final league games to avoid having to win the Big 12 Tournament to get in ... Unless the NCAA selection committee were to choose to further water down the importance of success in league play, and select a team with a 7-11 conference record. 

Kansas State at Kansas - 8:00 PM (CST) on ESPN

A classic interstate rivalry game with a lot at stake.  A week ago this looked like the game that might determine the conference leader heading into the final 3 games of the season, and the inside track to the coveted #1 Seed in the Big 12 Conference tournament.  That was before Kansas was run off the court at Texas Tech by 29 points on Saturday.  Plummeting in almost all bracket projections, Kansas needs a win at home to maintain a spot among the top 16 seeds.  Kansas State, on the other hand, must be asking as they look at projections, what they have to do to get more consideration for one of those 16 coveted seeds.  They currently lead the conference with an 11-3 record, beat Kansas by 8 a little over 2 weeks ago, and have more Quad 1A wins then either Kansas or Texas Tech who many have seeded above them, and whom KSU has beaten this season.  A second win over the Jayhawks, currently ranked 20th in the NET, this time in Lawrence, would almost certainly give them a second signature road win to propel them into the top 4 seed line.  

Sunday, February 24, 2019

SUNDAY UPDATE (2/24) - Through games played on Saturday, 02/23

This chart above represents the final seeding projections after following NCAA rules for team selection, seeding and bracketing.  These rules can be found here:
A team's final seeding can be impacted one seed lineup or down from their 'True Seed' to accommodate these rules.  Here are the pertinent rules that most frequently lead to a team being moved up or down a seed line:

"Each of the first four teams selected from a conference shall be placed in different regions if they are seeded on the first four lines.
Teams from the same conference shall not meet prior to the regional final if they played each other three or more times during the regular season and conference tournament.
Teams from the same conference shall not meet prior to the regional semifinals if they played each other twice during the regular season and conference tournament.
Teams from the same conference may play each other as early as the second round if they played no more than once during the regular season and conference tournament."
The chart below shows my ranking of teams from 1-76 (The 68 teams selected for the field plus 8 teams considered for at large bids that were not selected.  The S-Curve represents the overall ranking, and the seed represents the 'True Seed' before a team's final placement into the bracket.
The section titled 'Bracketing Notes' indicates the teams that I moved up or down a seed line to meet the bracketing rules of the NCAA.  In this update, for example, Florida State, with an S-Curve ranking of 22 was moved up from a 'True Seed' of 6 to a bracketed seed of 5, while Iowa, ranked 19 on the S-Curve was moved down from a 'True Seed' of 5 to a bracketed seed of 6.  
Basically, while I had Iowa ranked higher that Florida State, their seed positions in the brackets were swapped to meet NCAA Bracketing principles. 

The Chart below represent the changes in ranking (S-Curve) and seed line (True Seed) since my last update.  A negative number, in green, represents an improvement in ranking/seed.  A number in red, represents a decline in rank/seed.
For example, you will notice that North Carolina had an S-Curve change from 9 on 2/19 to 7 on 2/24.  This represent their overall rank improving from 9th to 7th.  This change resulted in them also moving up from a 3 Seed to a 2 seed since the last update.

  • A team denoted with 'IN' represents a team that is new to the final 68 Team field since the last update, as is the case this week with Florida.  
  • A team denoted with 'OUT' indicates the team has been removed from the tournament field since the last update, but is still a team 'under consideration' for an At-Large bid (non conference tournament champion).  UCF is a team that I had in the field last week, but is now out.
  • A team denoted with 'NEW' indicates a new team 'under consideration' for an at large bid, who was not among the teams ranked 69 to 76 last week  San Francisco is one such team this week.
  • A team denoted with 'OFF' represents a team that was in the field last week, but is no longer in the field, nor under consideration for an At-Large bid this week.  This is most common with small or mid-major teams who were leading in their conference standings at the time of the last update, but have since fallen of 1st place in their league and are not a strong enough team to be considered for an At-Large bid, like Northern Kentucky who was replaced in the field by the new Horizon League leader Wright State.
  • Green highlight indicates a team  that is one of the final four At-Large teams to receive a bye in the first round (60 Teams)
  • Yellow highlight indicates the team is one of the final four At-Large teams selected into the tournament.  They would be required to play in the First Round play-in games held on the Tuesday or Wednesday in Dayton before the Round of 64 games begin on Thursday, March 21st.
  • Purple highlight indicates the team is one of the final 4 Teams in the field (16 seeds) who also must play their way into the field of 64 in Dayton on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Tuesday (2/19) Update

  • Oklahoma is only at-large team to drop out since last week, replaced in the field by VCU.
  • Three new Conference Leaders were added this week.  Yale moved back in replacing Princeton as the leader in the Ivy league, Texas State replaced UT-Arlington from the Atlantic Sun Conference, and Canisius takes Monmouth's spot as MAAC Leader.
  • Biggest move up in the field was Ole Miss, 8 spots on the S-Curve and up to seed lines from a 10 Seed to an 8 Seed
  • Biggest drop within the field Ohio State, who dropped 9 spots on the S-Curve and 2 seed lines from a 7 Seed to a 9 seed.

  • The #1 Seeds remain unchanged.  
  • Kentucky's big win over Tennessee Saturday night moves them closer to overtaking Gonzaga as the 4th #1 Seed.
  • Kansas replaces North Carolina on the #2 line.  
  • LSU and Texas Tech move into the top 16 and Louisville and Wisconsin drop out down to the 5 seed line.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Can Gonzaga Hold Onto a 1 Seed?

One of the interesting story lines to follow over the last month of the season is going to be whether or not Gonzaga, currently the 4th #1 Seed, can hang on to it until the brackets are released on Selection Sunday.

Gonzaga's challenge is that it has an incredibly weak schedule remaining.  Having dispatched the next best team in the conference this past weekend, a very mediocre Saint Mary's team, Gonzaga has very few opportunities left to win any games that will add to their resume'.  Any loss now, barring perhaps a neutral court loss in the West Coast Conference tournament to Saint Mary's would be considered a 'bad loss'.  In the mean time, the teams behind them in the 2 and 3 seed line who play in rugged conferences with highly rated teams are playing games that can impress the committee almost every night.

If Gonzaga is going to hold on, they will need a few more nights like the last couple to help.  The 4 number #2 seeds entering the week were held by Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina and Michigan State.    On Monday North Carolina lost at home to Purdue.  Last night Michigan was clipped by Penn State, a team with only 1 win in the conference entering the game, and Kentucky fell at home to LSU.  Michigan State is the only #2 seed this week who hasn't lost.  They were teetering on the 2/3 seed line before getting a big win at Wisconsin last night.

If a team from the 2/3 seed lines is going to run down Gonzaga, one of them is going to have close out the season hot.  So far, no one is stepping up.  Michigan State had lost 3 in a row, including an ugly home loss to Indiana a couple Saturday's ago, before righting the ship with back to back wins including their road win at the Kohl Center last night.  Michigan, has lost 3 games in the last 2 weeks.  Kentucky looked like the team most likely to challenge Gonzaga for the last spot on the 1 seed line lost last night.  Tennessee is next up on the Wildcats schedule, which looked like a big opportunity to overtake Gonzaga by the end of the week, but last night's home loss to LSU has likely made that unlikely even if the 'Cats knock off the Vols.  From the 3 Line, Purdue lost last night.  Nevada and Houston have a similar issue to Gonzaga ... they just don't have enough quality opponents left.  Only Marquette looks like a team on the 3 line who could possibly play enough quality games to get there.  They likely would have to win out the season, including the Big East tournament to leap frog everyone in front of them, including Gonzaga.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Tuesday Morning Notes (2/12) - Virginia Bounces back and Changes on the Bubble

There was a very light schedule in College Basketball last night but still a couple results were note worthy, and one game in particular had an important impact on my projected field:

  • Virginia had an impressive bounce back from their home loss to Duke Saturday by beating North Carolina at Chapel Hill last night.  Virginia still finds itself behind Tennessee on the S-Curve, but opened up some breathing room between themselves and the 4th ranked 1 Seed Gonzaga.  Duke, Tennessee and Virginia are building resume's that are making it increasingly likely they will find themselves on the Top Line come selection Sunday.
  • Kansas' road win at TCU last night moved them past Purdue on the S-Curve, but both remain 3 Seeds.  A Michigan State loss to Wisconsin tonight though could allow Kansas to sneak into the 2-Seed line.
  • The most notable outcome from last night was the impact on the bubble resulting from Oklahoma's loss at Baylor.   With the loss, Oklahoma falls 3-9 in the Big 12.  No team has ever qualified as an At-Large team with a regular season conference record more than 2 games below .500.  Until the NCAA takes a 7-11 (or 8-12) At-Large team, I continue to consider 8-10 or 9-11 as the cut line for At-Large consideration.  Oklahoma would have to go 5-1 over their last 6 regular conference games to keep from falling below that marker.  Given the way they are playing and the remaining schedule they have left, which includes road games at Iowa State and current Conference leader Kansas State and a home match-up with Kansas, it seems implausible to me that they can avoid losing at least 2 more conference games to keep them in serious consideration.  I move them out and into the Next 4 Out grouping.  
  • Speaking of teams that I moved into the 'Next 4 Out' grouping, Indiana, finds themselves in a similar situation to Oklahoma.   Indiana is currently 4-9 in the Big Ten.  The Big Ten now plays 20 Conference games, so winning 9 seems to be the minimum conference games a Big Ten team would need to get for at large consideration.  Indiana would have to finish no worse than 5-2 over their 7 remaining conference games to be considered.  They have a little more opportunity to get back into consideration.  However this is a team that has lost 9 of their last 10 and now have a 5 game stretch starting tonight at Minnesota that is followed with games against Purdue, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan State.  Not impossible, but I consider it unlikely that they could go 3-2 during that stretch.  As such, they are on life support for At-Large consideration and moved into the 'Next 4 Out' tier of bubble teams.
  • The biggest beneficiary of Oklahoma's loss and my decision to move Indiana out of the 'First Team' out classification is VCU.  I now have them in as the last At-Large team.
Planning on my next full projection to be published Saturday afternoon or Sunday evening.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Monday (2/11) Update

*Through all games played on Sunday, February 10th

The NCAA Selection Committee spotted us their current top 16 Seeds in ranked order on Saturday.  Some of my top 16 seeds were moved accordingly.  They also acknowledged that Villanova was the first team left out of the top 16, nudged out by Wisconsin based on wins versus top teams on the road or on a neutral court.  Nothing happened since those were released to change the teams in the top 16.  Wisconsin and Villanova both lost to top 10 NET tens on the road, and Virginia Tech lost at home to Clemson. 

New to Field:
  1. UCF - At Large
  2. YALE - Ivy League Leader
  3. UT Arlington - Sun Belt Leader
  4. Monmouth - MAAC Leader
New Teams Under Consideration:
  • Clemson
  • Furman
No Longer Under Consideration:
  • Nebraska
  • Saint Mary's (CA)