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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, March 12, 2012

My final guess at the brackets

In the last couple of years I have done my best to crunch the numbers and predict what the final bracket will look like. I have come to the following conclusion, the only thing harder than being a committee member and coming up with the field of 64 is being on the outside and wondering how in the heck they came up with the official bracket (which will be announced on ESPN between 7-8 p.m.). This year could be more challenging than normal. Ann EXTREMELY LONG-WINDED explanation is included underneath the bracket.

           DES MOINES  RALEIGH                   KINGSTON      FRESNO
      1.  Baylor            NOTRE DAME         UConn              Stanford
      2.  TEX A&M      MARYLAND             Duke                 Tennessee

3.  Kentucky       St. John’s                Delaware         Miami
4.  Penn State    LSU                           Ga. Tech           PURDUE
5.  Rutgers         Ohio State               OKLAHOMA    Kansas State
6.  DEPAUL        Nebraska                 Louisville         Georgetown
7.  Princeton     Georgia                    Bonaventure   IOWA STATE
8.  VANDY   California                     S. Carolina       Green Bay
9.  W. Va.          Arkansas                  Brig. Young     GONZAGA
10. Usc              Dayton                      Iowa                  M. Tennessee
11. Michigan     Marist                      Florida               Temple
12. Mich St.      J. Madison              Albany               S. Dakota State
13. ARK-LR        E. Michigan            Creighton          Idaho State
14. Utep           Howard                   Sacred Heart    Fresno
15. Samford      Fla. GC                     Liberty               San Diego St.
16. Prairie V.    Tenn-Martin           Navy                  Ucsb
Hosts in all caps. St. John's top seed in Bowling Green, UConn top seed in Bridgeport, Duke top seed in Chapel Hill, Delaware top seed in Norfolk, Miami top seed in Tallahassee.

There are three steps that the committee will need some time to wade through. First is coming up with the top seeds, second is extending the last few at-large bids and finally slotting in teams from the No. 12-16 spots.

Watching the men's bracket unfold I learned very little about what men's committee valued because it seemed like the rules were changing team by team. I've found that more than RPI, strength of schedule, quality wins, bad losses that the best numbers to look at are the ones used to come up with past brackets.

Right away that creates a dilemma at the top of the bracket. Last year Xavier had the No. 7 RPI and was 55th in strength of schedule and earned a No. 2 seed. This year Delaware had almost identical numbers but in my last bracket I had Delaware as a No. 4 seed. I still believe that with just five games against teams either likely to make the field or at least in contention for tournament berths that Delaware doesn't deserve a No. 2 seed. With wins over Penn State, St. Bonaventure and Princeton and a strong showing against Maryland do I think Delaware is worthy of a No. 3 seed? Yes. I placed Delaware as a No. 4 seed in my previous bracket because I think that ESPN desperately wants a Connecticut/Delaware matchup in this tournament and it is more likely to happen with Delaware as a No. 4 than as a No. 3. However, the more I look at the numbers of my final No. 3 seed (Purdue) the less inclined I am to put them in that high. If Delaware does come in as a No. 4 seed, I don't think it will take too much deductive reasoning to figure out why.

With all of that being said, I also think that Tennessee and Texas A&M despite suffering more losses than a typical No. 2 seed have done enough to warrant being on the second line with Maryland and Duke. Kentucky, Miami and St. John's are likely choices for No. 3 seeds.

Now onto step B.

When I factor in the conference champions with the teams I consider securely in the field as at-large teams, there are 10 remaining spots. Last year the committee went 33 for 34 on giving at-large spots to teams with the highest RPIS. Purdue was the lone exception as the Boilermakers got in ahead of six teams with better RPIs. 

Of the teams I consider to be on the bubble, I think James Madison and Middle Tennessee could be the two most likely teams being jumped over. James Madison didn't help itself by losing in the Colonial semifinals. Had the Dukes advanced to meet Delaware in the conference title game, I think they'd definitely be in. However without a signature win and just four games against top 50 RPI teams, I am sure these are anxious times for JMU. Middle Tennessee does have that eye-opening victory by beating Kentucky but James Madison can actually top that by beating Middle Tennessee. If you put in Middle Tennessee with a weaker RPI and lower strength of schedule, you'd have to put in a Dukes team that beat Middle Tennessee by 14 points.

I would put Southern California, California, James Madison, Middle Tennessee, Florida, Iowa, Iowa State and Michigan in. That leaves five teams vying for two spots in my opinion. Temple, Kansas, Virginia, Texas and Michigan State can all make cases for inclusion.

Temple has the highest RPI among this group and five of the Owls' nine losses came to top 20 RPI teams however losses to Villanova and No. 201 North Illinois and the inability to reach the Atlantic-10 final could hurt Tonya Cardoza's team.

Kansas and Texas both have losing records in the Big 12 and if I had any say in the matter, there's no way a team with a losing conference record should receive an at-large bid. Kansas could be aided by a recent win over Oklahoma and also swept Texas during the regular season. Texas does own six wins over top 50 RPI teams easily the most of any team on the bubble.

Virginia owns a win over Tennessee as well as one against fellow bubble team James Madison but also lost to Texas. Nine games against teams with RPIs above 200 won't help the Cavaliers' cause.

Finally we get to Michigan State which has a few red flags including an RPI and strength of schedule in the 60s as well as a loss to Pittsburgh, the last-place team in the Big East, and a couple other bad losses. The Spartans do own wins over Purdue and Penn State and were 12-6 in the Big 10.

With everything being considered  I would go with Temple and Kansas for the final two spots.

That brings up to the bottom of the bracket. I used a formula combining win/loss record, RPI and strength of schedule and looking at last year's bracket as a test run it would have predicting 15 of the 19 teams within one seeding spot.

I'm not sure how accurate I will be especially since geographic considerations as well dealing with the placement of teams hosting subregionals tends to make this a confusing and hard to predict process but at least you have an idea of how and why I seeded teams where I did.


Blogger ladyswish said...

When it comes to those final spots, a lot will depend on the makeup of the committee and which of the various factors each one of them gives the most weight. So I won't be surprised if the committee winds up picking different bubble teams from the ones you have. Still, your reasoning is extremely sound and I would love it the actual field comes out just as you've outlined.

3:38 PM 
Anonymous Lorena Wood said...

I give you credit for trying and for putting yourself out there. Obviously the committee thought much differently than you did regarding the Kingston region.

8:47 PM 
Blogger Jim Fuller said...

I don't mind taking a stab at the brackets, it's fun to try to do something like that. There's a huge difference of crunching numbers for a couple of hours and sitting behind closed dorrs with committee members and going through the strengths and weaknesses of the teams in the field.

11:45 PM 
Anonymous Lorena Wood said...

Charlie Creme, ESPN's WCBB Bracketologist, spends January and February going thru the strengths and weaknesses of 70 or 80 teams. His predictions always have differences from the Committee's bracket. And in some cases like this year with Duke and Ohio State, Creme is surprised at the Committee's decisions.

9:18 AM 

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