Bracketology: Five Days Remaining

As the major conferences kick off their conference tournaments today, we take a look at the current state of the NCAA Brackets. Currently, eleven teams are already in the NCAA tournament due to smaller conferences completing their respective championship games. This means roughly 150 teams are already eliminated from earning an NCAA Tournament berth. With roughly 200 teams remaining, the field is still fairly wide open! Take close note as we have already seen Jacksonville State upend their conference, along with Northern Kentucky (So close for my alma-mater UW-Milwaukee!).

Here, we apply our models through all games yesterday. We then will show the current state of the brackets and identify the bubble teams. At that point, we will dissect the close teams. Over the past four years, my models have hit on 65 of 68 of the teams correctly, with every year the three teams I miss on being within the top 7 out. I tend to extend this to top 10 teams out, as a team that is currently 10th could leap-frog into 3rd (or in) due to a strong tournament run.

That said, basic rules: To get in to the NCAA tournament, a team must either win their conference tournament or be one of the “Top 36” teams that a small committee agrees upon. Top 36 does not directly correlate to the best 36 remaining teams in the land, but rather which teams will pose favorable match-ups for television ratings, game play, and regional location. This is why Bracketology is considered, in the end, and “art.”

So let’s take a look at the conference leaders. Capital lettered teams have won their conference tournament and are guaranteed entry. The other teams are selected due to our rating.

  • America East: Vermont (28-5, 16-0)
    • Currently in the America East Championship vs. Albany on March 8th. Winner goes to the tournament, loser is out. No At-Larges for this conference.
  • American: Cincinnati (27-4, 16-2)
    • Tournament starts March 9th. Projected 2 tournament slots.
  • Atlantic 10: Dayton (24-6, 15-3)
    • Tournament starts March 8th. Projected 2 tournament slots.
  • Atlantic Coast: North Carolina (26-6, 14-4)
    • Tournament started yesterday. Projected 11 tournament slots. 1 teams first 10 out.
  • Atlantic Sun: FLORIDA GULF COAST (26-7, 12-2)
    • Only 1 tournament team.
  • Big 12: Kansas (28-3, 16-2)
    • Tournament starts March 8th. Projected 7 tournament slots. 2 teams first 10 out.
  • Big East: Villanova (28-3, 15-3)
    • Tournament starts March 8th. Projected 6 tournament slots.
  • Big Sky: Eastern Washington (21-10, 13-5)
    • Tournament in final four. Projected 1 tournament slot.
  • Big South: WINTHROP (26-6, 15-3)
    • Only 1 tournament team.
  • Big Ten: Purdue (25-6, 14-4)
    • Tournament starts March 8th. Projected 7 tournament slots. 4 teams in first 10.
  • Big West: UC Irvine (19-13, 12-4)
    • Tournament starts March 9th. Projected 1 tournament slot.
  • Colonial Athletic: UNC-WILMINGTON (29-5, 15-3)
    • Only 1 tournament team.
  • Conference USA: Middle Tennessee (27-4, 17-1)
    • Tournament starts today. Projected 1 tournament slot.
  • Horizon League: NORTHERN KENTUCKY (24-10, 12-6)
    • Only 1 tournament team.
  • Ivy League: Princeton (21-6, 14-0)
    • Tournament starts March 11th. Projected 1 tournament slot.
  • Metro Atlantic: Iona (22-12, 12-8)
    • Only 1 tournament team.
  • Mid-American: Akron (24-7, 14-4)
    • Tournament starts March 9th. Projected 1 tournament slot.
  • Mid-Eastern: North Carolina Central (22-8, 13-3)
    • Tournament in final four. Projected 1 tournament slot.
  • Missouri Valley: WICHITA STATE (30-4, 17-1)
    • Only 1 tournament slot.
  • Mountain West: Nevada (25-6, 14-4)
    • Tournament starts March 8th. Projected 1 tournament slot.
  • Northeast: MT. ST. MARY’S (19-15, 14-4)
    • Only 1 tournament team.
  • Ohio Valley: JACKSONVILLE STATE (20-14, 9-7)
    • Only 1 tournament team.
  • Pac 12: UCLA (28-3, 15-3)
    • Tournament starts March 8th. Projected 4 tournament slots. 1 team in first 10.
  • Patriot League: Bucknell (25-8, 15-3)
    • Tournament in championship game. Projected 1 tournament slot.
  • Southeastern: Kentucky (26-5, 16-2)
    • Tournament starts March 8th. Projected 4 tournament slots. 2 teams in first 10.
  • Southern: EAST TENNESSEE STATE (27-7, 14-4)
    • Only 1 tournament team.
  • Southland: New Orleans (18-11, 13-5)
    • Tournament starts today. Projected 1 tournament slot.
  • SWAC: Texas Southern (21-11, 16-2)
    • Tournament in final four. Projected 1 tournament slot.
  • Summit League: SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (18-16, 8-8)
    • Only 1 tournament team.
  • Sun Belt: UT – Arlington (24-7, 14-4)
    • Tournament starts March 8th. Projected 1 tournament slot.
  • West Coast: GONZAGA (32-1, 17-1)
    • Projected 2 tournament teams.
  • Western Athletic: New Mexico State (25-5, 11-3)
    • Tournament starts March 9th. Projected 1 tournament slot.

Current Bracket:

MMBracketMAR8

Current seedings for the NCAA Tournament using our models. Still five days remaining for 21 conference tournaments.

So who is left out? Let’s take a look at the next few teams.

#69: Indiana (17-14, 7-11, Big Ten)

This is our first team out, and a string of Big Ten teams that narrowly miss our cut. Due to schedule strength, “Power” conference teams are typically all over this board. This really should be no surprise as “Power” conference teams won more than 80 percent of their games against other Division I teams this year. Hence a 17-14 power conference team that went 10-3 out of conference (8-1 against non-power conference teams); particularly with a win over Kansas like Indiana, makes the case for them to be near the field of 68.

However a recent rash of losses in the Big Ten has sent Indiana’s stock down and anything short of the final four in the Big Ten conference tournament is a guaranteed ousting from the NCAA Tournament. This requires wins over Iowa and Wisconsin to be considered for the tournament. 

#70: Illinois (18-13, 8-10, Big Ten)

Same problem as Indiana: 8-1 against non-power conferences; 10-3 outside of conference with all losses to tournament-bound teams; terrible conference record. Illinois’ undoing has been the mid-season slump going 4-9 before firing off a four-game winning streak. They are in the same boat as Indiana as they need to beat Michigan and Purdue to be considered in the Field of 68.

#71: Iowa (18-13, 10-8, Big Ten)

Despite being ahead in the standings for the Big Ten when compared to Indiana and Illinois, it’s Iowa’s non-conference record that has them reeling. At 8-5, the Hawkeyes have chalked up losses to Seton Hall, Memphis, and Notre Dame. We should discount the loss to Omaha for the mere fact that this is not a Division I game and therefore should not be counted towards their record.

That said, Iowa is not getting in without wins over Indiana and Wisconsin.

#74: Ohio State (17-14, 7-11, Big Ten)

We skip over to #74 quick to finish out the Big Ten. Yet another team like Indiana and Illinois, Ohio State has had a fairly disappointing season. Being so far out of the tournament, Ohio State needs to leapfrog six teams; three of which are playing each other. This means they cannot get in to the tournament with a couple wins. They need to make it to the championship game; which means beating Rutgers tonight; Northwestern tomorrow; and Maryland on Friday. At that point, they will need to beat the winner of Iowa/Indiana and Wisconsin. If it’s not Wisconsin, then Ohio State needs to win the Big Ten Tournament.

This looks like Ohio State is pretty much out; short of a Cinderella run.

#72: Vanderbilt (17-14, 10-8, SEC)

Vanderbilt is a curious case as we have them outside the tournament despite a sweep of Florida and a win over South Carolina. Their 7-6 out of conference record is not great; but take a look at those losses: Marquette, Bucknell, Butler, Minnesota, Middle Tennessee State, and Dayton. All those teams are currently getting in to the Tournament. Add to the mysterious 1-5 run mid-season with the lone win against Florida and you have a Commodore team with a mediocre record with understandable losses out of conference, good wins in conference, and questionable losses in conference.

For Vanderbilt to get in, they will need to win at least two SEC Tournament games: Texas A&M and Florida (for a third time). At that point, Arkansas is their road block; who is holding onto one of those last at-large bids. We may need to see a three game run in the SEC tournament for Vandy to get in. 

#73: Georgia (18-13, 9-9, SEC)

Georgia is in the same boat as Vanderbilt; where Clemson may be holding onto Georgia’s fate. Georgia has 4 losses out of conference: Clemson, Oakland, Kansas, and Marquette. Oakland was first in the Horizon League, but was upset out of the tournament. Kansas is tournament bound. Marquette and Clemson are on the edge. Clemson being one of the last four in for my model; we anticipate Clemson being a team knocked out at the end of the week.

Georgia is in a tight spot as they play Tennessee and the Kentucky. They need to win both. Win both with a Clemson loss to Duke and the Bulldogs have a shot at getting in. 

#76: TCU (17-14, 6-12, Big 12)

The bottom teams of the Big 12 gain points due to schedule strength: playing Kansas, Baylor, and West Virgnia two times each does that. Combine that with TCU’s 11-2 non-conference record with both losses coming to SMU and Auburn, and the Horned Frog’s have a borderline resume. What is going to keep them out is their current seven game losing streak. That does not bode well for making a tournament. In order to get in to the tournament, TCU will need to beat Oklahoma and Kansas in back-to-back nights. This may not happen… And even if it does happen, TCU will also need to beat the winner of Iowa State and Oklahoma State. 

#78: Texas Tech (18-13, 6-12, Big 12)

Texas Tech is effectively in the exact same situation as TCU. It’s hard to see either team get into the Tournament at this point. Texas Tech has faltered down the stretch: 4-9 in their last 13 games. Their lone loss out of conference is to Auburn; who also beat TCU. (Where is Auburn in all these rankings?!?!)

Texas Tech needs three wins: Texas, West Virginia, Baylor/Kansas State. It’s doable. But this will only help them steal a spot from Kansas State; who is surprisingly sitting in the final At-Large spot.

#75: Pittsburgh (16-16, 4-14, ACC)

Pittsburgh is on life-support. They are in the “Top 10 Out” in our models, but they won their way onto that list last night with a win in the opening round of the ACC Tournament over Georgia Tech. Pittsburgh is not getting into the Tournament unless they beat Virginia tonight and Notre Dame tomorrow. And only at that point they may creep to #69 on our list. In order to get in, they will need collapses by at least ten other teams ahead of them.

#77: California (19-11, 10-8, Pac 12)

Cal is a team that is under-achieving. With an out-of-conference record of 9-3; 9-1 against non-power conference teams (San Diego State got the win), Cal has a decent enough resume to sit on the Bubble. However, it’s their lack-luster 10-8 Pac 12 record; going 0-5 against their big three (Oregon, Arizona, UCLA) ; the Bears find themselves in a precarious position.

They open the Pac-12 Tournament tonight against Oregon State. Tomorrow is Utah; a team that is ahead of them in standings but a few spots below them in our models. This means CAL must win their first two games of the Pac-12 just to stay in the same spot… out of the Tournament. This means that Cal must play in the Pac-12 championships; if not win to make the NCAA Tournament.

#82: Utah (20-10, 11-7, Pac 12)

Utah is seeded higher than USC, but is way out of the Tournament according to our models. Comparatively, Utah is not ranked, while USC is ranked by the AP and Coaches’ Polls; both in 32nd. Utah is relatively in the same position as Cal: 9-3 out of conference, 9-1 non-power conference (San Francisco got the win).

Hence Utah is in the same position as Cal. They need to make the Pac-12 championship game; if not win it all.

#80: Illinois State (27-6, 17-1, Missouri Valley)

Illinois State looks like a team that should get in to the tournament. However, they are not a power conference team. What does this really mean?  It means they have one win against tournament bounds teams: Wichita State. While their win total brings them to within 12 spots of making the tournament, going 1-2 against tournament bound teams doesn’t give a strong resume. Combine that with a 0-1 record against power conferences; particularly a team that is not in the tournament (It’s TCU) at this moment… There’s no excuse for Illinois State to be in the Tournament. If they are included, it’s by sentimental value.

 

So who is in danger of dropping out of the tournament?

#68: Kansas State (19-12, 8-10, Big 12)

Kansas State is holding onto our last spot. They have been hovering about there for a month now. They have big wins over West Virginia and Baylor. They need to beat Baylor again tomorrow.

Why do they need to win? They are a whopping 0.0059 points ahead of Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa. These teams will score points if they win. Particularly with Indiana vs. Iowa tonight.

Out of conference losses are only to Maryland and Tennessee. They are perfect against non-power conferences. They have key wins. Kansas State has a good enough resume despite an atrocious conference record. This is the most volatile team listed in the tournament. Well them and…

#67: Syracuse (18-13, 10-8, ACC)

Syracuse has a winning record in the ACC. That should be enough. However, Syracuse posted a terrible non-conference record at 8-5 (terrible for tournament standards). To their credit, they went 8-0 against non-power conference teams (starting to see the trend?); but were 0-5 against power conference teams: South Carolina, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Georgetown, and St. Johns. That’s enough to put them on the bubble, despite wins over Florida State, Virginia, and Duke.

This means that Syracuse must win to hold onto their spot. They need to beat Miami today. And even with that win, they need to beat North Carolina tomorrow.  If they cannot come up with these two wins, they run the risk of a Big Ten team breaking through or Vanderbilt stealing their place.

Similarly…

#65 Clemson (17-14, 6-12, ACC)

Clemson is currently in, thanks to a win yesterday over NC State. This nudged them up just into the Tournament. However, they must beat Duke today to hold that spot.

Clemson got in due to their strength of schedule and their 11-2 out-of-conference record. Those two losses? Xavier and Oklahoma. Not the greatest. Pair that with a win over South Carolina and several close losses: eleven loses by two possessions or less has given the Tigers a reason to be near the bubble.

#61 Wake Forest (19-12, 9-9, ACC)

Wake Forest is another final 10 in team with a .500 record in conference play and already a conference tournament win under their belt. With a game looming against Virginia Tech today; the Demon Deacons must pick up another win to stay safe for an At-Large bid. A loss combined with a few wins from the teams behind them may turn Selection Sunday into a nail-biter.

#66: Virginia Commonwealth (24-7, 14-4, Atlantic 10)

VCU really needs to win the Atlantic 10 tournament to get in. Currently, they will play the winner of the George Mason / Fordham pairing on March 10th. If they do not make it to the championships game, they are out. With Dayton rated so high, we may see two teams from the A-10 get in. However…

#40/62: Dayton (24-6, 15-3, Atlantic 10)

Dayton is a 40/62 team because they are either the 40th best team in the nation; according to our rankings, or the 62nd team in the tournament. They are favored to win the Atlantic 10 to gain an automatic berth. However, if they do not make the championship game, then they run the risk of losing to a low-ranked team. Their best option in this case is to lose to #84 Rhode Island. Even then, the Flyers run the risk of not making the tournament.

The Atlantic-10 has the potential of being a major bracket buster.

#64: Michigan State (18-13, 10-8, Big Ten)

The Spartans are currently in. They will play the winner of Penn State and Nebraska tomorrow. This game is a must win for the Spartans. This will keep their hold on an 11 seed for the Tournament. The Spartans have lost five out-of-conference games: Arizona, Duke, Kentucky, Baylor, and Northeastern. With a 7-1 non-power conference record, Michigan State actually boasts one of the worst non-power conference records in the Tournament. Michigan State has also lost to many teams on the bubble: Indiana, Illinois, Ohio State but have beaten quality teams: Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Northwestern. This is what makes Michigan State a difficult team to gauge. Their variance in the rankings is large.

Due to this Michigan State not only needs to win tomorrow; but they will need to win against Minnesota. This is not far-fetched for the Spartans. But nothing has ever been easy this year for Michigan State.

 

That’s where we will leave most teams today. Tomorrow, we will take a quick glimpse on how today’s games shape the rankings for the NCAA Tournament. Here, we will leave you with our comparisons to the Coaches Poll, AP Poll, and the Lunardi selection.

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 1.10.07 PM

Our rankings, team, ranking score, March Madness Position, AP Poll Ranking, Coaches Poll Ranking, Lunardi Ranking. #1 – #38.

Screen Shot 2017-03-08 at 1.10.41 PM

Our rankings, team, ranking score, March Madness Position, AP Poll Ranking, Coaches Poll Ranking, Lunardi Ranking. #38 – #75.

One final note: We find ourselves two differences from Lunardi’s poll. We have included Clemson and Kansas State; while Lunardi has included Vanderbilt and Illinois State. We agree that Vanderbilt has the best chance of removing Kansas State. Similarly, Clemson may be thwarted by Indiana or Iowa. However, it cannot be justified that Illinois State gets in based on their weak schedule and inability to beat even middling power-conference teams.

 

What are you thoughts? Feel free to sound off an catch the Conference Tournament action going on right now!

 

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