Monday, December 8, 2014

ANATOMY OF: Grip's Bracket - December 8

Welcome to Grip's Anatomy of the Bracket aka "Bracketology."  I'll be creating a mock bracket every so often (and hopefully once a week starting in February.)  The bracket is below this post.  All the goods on how the sausage is made are here.

Automatic Bids

America East - Vermont.  UMass Lowell is the RPI leader with a 66 RPI that is perhaps the most indicative of how many kinks in the system RPI needs to work out but the Catamounts are the preseason favorite, highest ranked KenPom and only team to play and win a conference game.
AAC - SMU.  No, Cincinnati, Connecticut and Memphis aren't tournament teams right now.
Atlantic Sun - Florida Gulf Coast.  With Mercer off to the Southern Conference (and completely rebuilding this year anyway) Dunk City is the overwhelming favorite although North Florida won at Purdue and South Carolina Upstate won at Georgia Tech.
Big Sky - Eastern Washington.  Weber State was the preseason favorite but EWU has assumed that mantle with a 7-1 start that includes a win at Indiana.  They're the top RPI and KenPom team as well.
Big South - Coastal Carolina.  Nevermind, Gardner Webb's 22 RPI is the biggest flaw in the system right now.  High Point should be in the thick of the conference chase as well but the defending champs who rate highest in KenPom get the nod.
Big West - Long Beach State.  This is a three way derby between them, UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine.  All three are close no matter what metric you use but the Beach has beaten Kansas State and Xavier so I'm rewarding those wins.
CAA - Northeastern.  Tops in RPI and KenPom and won at Florida State.  Clear favorites.
Conference USA - Old Dominion.  This too should be a fun three way race between the Monarchs, preseason favorite Louisiana Tech and UTEP.  ODU has the top RPI (14!) and has beaten LSU and VCU.
Ivy - Harvard.  I badly wanted to put Yale here but there was no justification for it and now there's even less now that Florida beat them in to the ground.
Horizon - Green Bay.  The top RPI team in the country!  Valparaiso and maybe Cleveland State if it gets its shit together will challenge but the Phoenix are the clear favorites by every metric.
MAAC - Canisius.  Only league where everyone has played two conference games.  The Golden Griffins and Monmouth are the only two 2-0 teams and while I like the Hawks and their defense, Canisius has them beat everywhere.
MAC - Buffalo.  Seven teams are between 99 and 145 in KenPom but the Bulls are the 99 and they also have an inflated glitch RPI (19.)  And they led Kentucky at the half!
MEAC - North Carolina Central.  It's them and everyone else in this league.
NEC - Sacred Heart.  Until about an hour ago, they were the only team in the conference with a winning record.  Now it's just them and St. Francis PA who are .500.
Ohio Valley - Belmont.  Still looks to be them and Murray State but Racers have been one of the most disappointing teams in the country thus far.
Patriot - American.  Very little separates them, Lafayette, Holy Cross and surprise package Army.  They're the defending champs so I gave them the benefit of the doubt, even though Lafayette has the best overall profile.
SoCon - Wofford.  No Davidson around anymore means they're the undisputed king.
Southland - Stephen F. Austin.  Sam Houston and (about to no longer be) unbeaten Incarnate Word are the only remote challengers.
Summit - Denver.  Either Dakota State or super young but super fast paced program Nebraska Omaha could easily challenge.
Sun Belt - Georgia State.  They have an outside shot to go unbeaten, they're far better than everyone else.
SWAC - Alabama State.  Only .500 record in conference.
WAC - New Mexico State.  Not .500 but nobody in the conference is!  They're the only one with 4 wins.

# 1 Seeds

The number one overall seed is Duke.  Despite Kentucky being a unanimous # 1 in the polls today, it's the Blue Devils who have the nation's best win - the 80-70 win at Wisconsin last week in which they shot an unthinkable 65% to handle the Badgers pretty much wire to wire in Madison.  The solid supporting wins (Michigan State, Stanford and Temple - all on neutral courts) and computer numbers (3 RPI, 25 SOS) further support the case.

Kentucky is the second # 1 seed.  The Wildcats have a legitimate argument for the # 1 overall seed as well.  They're the only team in the country with two elite wins - the 72-40 destruction of Kansas that gave the Wildcats their public perception as the undisputed best and the 63-51 home win over Texas last Friday - and they have decent backup wins over Providence and MAC autobid Buffalo.  But most of their good work has been done at home and and almost half of their wins are over truly dreadful competition so the Blue Devils get the nod for the top spot in the bracket.  No matter - these two can't meet until the national championship game either way.

Arizona is the clear third # 1 seed.  The Wildcats were probably the inferior team at home against Gonzaga on Saturday but they found a way to come up with the overtime victory.  There's also the Maui title that included wins over San Diego State, Kansas State and Missouri.  But the Wildcats and Tigers have struggled so the win over the Aztecs is really the Cats only win over a tournament team (though UC Irvine is right there for the Big West autobid.)

Louisville is the last # 1 seed.  The Cardinals are actually outside the top 10 in RPI right now - they're 15th - which goes to show you how soft their schedule has been.  Four of their 7 wins are over teams with a sub 200 RPI.  But they're unbeaten, have a couple of solid Big Ten wins (Ohio State, Minnesota on a neutral floor) and their defense crushes the eye test.  The Ohio State game is their only win by single digits and it was by 9 in a game not nearly as close as the score.

Top 4 Seeds

The 2 seeds are - in S-curve order - Wisconsin, Gonzaga, Kansas, Villanova.  The Wildcats are unbeaten whereas the other three each have one loss to a 1 seed but VU falls to the back of the line thanks to a 31 RPI and their credible wins (Michigan and VCU in Brooklyn) being weaker than everyone else's.  The Badgers have the best win of the group - Oklahoma to win the Atlantis title - and are better to the eye test than everyone except Gonzaga so they go to the front of the line.

The 3 seeds are Texas, Virginia, Wichita State, Iowa State.  San Diego State was initially a 3 seed but fell a line after last night's loss at Washington.  Virginia has a legitimate case for a 2 over Villanova since both are unbeaten and Virginia has better computer numbers and arguably better wins but I don't think the ACC would get 3 teams in the top two lines and Virginia's best win was over a Maryland team missing its best player (Dez Wells.)

The 4 seeds are San Diego State, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Butler.  There's a clear dropoff here.  SDSU's loss at Washington was ugly and they've had a number of other unconvincing offensive performances but the only other loss was nip and tuck to Arizona.  Oklahoma beat Butler and only has losses to Wisconsin and Creighton (a game they led by 18 and fell apart in.)  Ohio State basically is here because its one loss is to Louisville.  Butler beat UNC (the top 5 seed) and its only loss is to OU.


Duke Kansas Arizona Louisville
Wisconsin Kansas Villanova Gonzaga
Texas Virginia Wichita State Iowa State
San Diego State Oklahoma Ohio State Butler
North Carolina Miami Utah West Virginia
St. John's Syracuse Iowa Washington
Illinois Michigan State Baylor LSU
Creighton Green Bay Maryland Colorado State
Seton Hall California Arkansas VCU
UCLA Minnesota NC State SMU
Michigan Notre Dame Dayton Old Dominion
Harvard Northern Iowa TCU/Georgetown Rhode Island/Texas A&M
Stephen F Austin, Long Beach State Eastern Washington Georgia State
Florida Gulf Coast Northeastern Buffalo Wofford
American Belmont New Mexico State North Carolina Central
Canisius Sacred Heart, Alabama State/Coastal Carolina, Denver/Vermont

Last 4 In
Rhode Island, TCU, Texas A&M, Georgetown

First 4 Out
Nebraska, Georgia, Oregon, Providence

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