Month: March 2016

Picks of the Day: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, Day 2/Elite 8, Day 1

Friday Games

Virginia (-5) over Iowa State – 2 Units

From Thursday:

The difference in styles with Virginia is interesting, but the Cavs will win the tempo battle. The average number of possessions in a college basketball games is 69. Virginia’s highest in a game has been 68 and that was back in mid-November. I’m sure the Cyclones will find a way to score, but Virginia’s offense is the best Tony Bennett has ever had and Iowa State will have to figure out how to slow them down.

Virginia thrives in a half court game and they rate the highest when they’re playing top-25 teams. Their offense can keep up with Iowa State and they’re a lot better defensively. I think they’ll win the rebounding and turnover battles. Overall, I just think they’re a tougher team. If it comes down to the final minute and the Cavs have to hit free throws to get to the number, they’re top-20 in the nation in that, too.

Wisconsin (+1) over Notre Dame

I think it’s going to be a close game all the way and I just trust the Badgers a little bit more. It’s somewhat similar to the Virginia-Iowa State game, except Wisconsin’s offense isn’t nearly as good as the Cavs and the Irish are even worse defensively. I like the Badgers to win the rebounding battle and they can be much more effective against Auguste than Michigan or SFA. I also refuse to believe that Nigel Hayes can continue to be this bad.

Gonzaga (-4) over Syracuse

Cuse beat up on two mediocre teams. Gonzaga did the same to a 6 and a 3 seed. The Zags have played against quite a few zones this year and they got better as the season went along. Tyler Lydon’s been beating up on undersized bigs, but Sabonis is a different animal. Syracuse launches threes on offense and the Zags are one of the best teams in the country at defending the three.

Saturday Games

Kansas (-2) over Villanova

Wanted to get on these Saturday games early before the lines change. I’ve thought Kansas was the best team for a while and I see no reason to change now. If Nova shoots over 60% again, props to them. Nova was a little more impressive on Thursday night, but Kansas took one of Maryland’s best games they’ve played in months and still won by 16.

Oregon (pick) over Oklahoma – 2 Units

I think the Ducks can match Oklahoma’s backcourt, I like their frontcourt more, and their bench is better. I was in on Oregon early and I was kind of waiting to see how they’d do in a big tournament game before diving in more, but they were impressive against Duke.


First Four: 0-1
Round 1, Day 1: 10-1
Round 1, Day 2: 9-0
Round 2, Day 1: 1-0-1
Round 2, Day 2: 2-2
Sweet 16, Day 1: 0-1

Picks of the Day: NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, Day 1

Miami (+4.5) over Villanova

I just don’t see a lot of separation between the two. The thing that’s always worried me about Miami is they don’t have much NBA talent, if any. But I would say the same thing about Villanova. If you saw the ratings posts I’ve done, then you know they prefer Miami by a pretty good margin over Nova.

I like the matchup too. Nova launches threes at a pretty high rate and it accounts for a high percentage of their offense. Miami makes it difficult to get good looks on the perimeter and that’s backed up statistically. The Canes can match their guard play and I just like those guys to make more big plays in big moments.

That’s all I’ve got. The lines are all pretty spot on and there’s not a ton of separation between any of the teams playing today. I would lean on the underdogs in all of the games, but I don’t have a real good feel for the other three.


First Four: 0-1
Round 1, Day 1: 10-1
Round 1, Day 2: 9-0
Round 2, Day 1: 1-0-1
Round 2, Day 2: 2-2


Re-Ranking the Sweet 16 Teams

After week one, the tournament has lost 75% its teams and it’s time to update the power ratings. So far 11 of 16 of the Sweet 16 teams remain, six of eight from the Elite Eight, and all four of the Final Four.

Things that the ratings properly projected:

  • West Virginia’s short stay – if you factored out the schedules, Stephen F. Austin was a favorite to win the opening round game and if you did include the schedules, the ratings had West Virginia losing to Notre Dame.
  • Picking the most likely upsets – The top three most likely upsets from the 11 seeds won, the top two most likely upsets from the 12 seeds won, and the most likely upsets from the 13 and 14 seeds won.
  • Only putting Michigan State in the Elite Eight – according to Yahoo!, just over 70% of people put the Spartans in the Final Four. I thought they would as well. Obviously, MTSU beating them in the first round was possibly the biggest upset of all time, but there was value in not taking them to get to Houston and definitely not be in the 27% to have them win it all.
  • Xavier’s short stay – They were supposed to make the Sweet 16, but not by much. They were the lowest rated two seed by a wide margin and I mentioned them as the one or two seed most likely to go home. Of course, I said Michigan State was least likely, but that was ignoring the ratings. That’s on me.

Places where the ratings struggled:

  • Purdue and Michigan State – The two were both rated pretty highly and flamed out in the first round. There wasn’t even any Big Ten bias involved. The biggest thing working against both of them was the Big Ten schedule. I’m not sure MSU would lose again if they played MTSU ten more times, but here we are. And really, Purdue beat Little Rock. They were up 14 with a few minutes left and gagged themselves. Also, the amount of ridiculous shots the Trojans had to hit to make that happen will probably not be repeated any time soon.
  • Kentucky/Indiana – I don’t think the Hoosiers will beat UNC, but them beating Kentucky was a bit of a surprise, ratings wise. Kentucky was 7th in the field and IU was 31st.
  • Vanderbilt – They weren’t supposed to get past Miami and there wasn’t that much separation if you disregarded schedule between the Dores and Wichita State, but getting destroyed in the First Four was a bit of a surprise. The ratings don’t account for heart or coaching, though.

Updated Power Ratings

Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 1.16.25 AM

1. Virginia (1st in Midwest; +565 points)

Both ACC teams at the top here benefited quite a bit from the success of the conference on week one. Getting six teams to the Sweet Sixteen bumps up everybody’s schedule. The Cavs now find themselves in the top spot after destroying Hampton and grinding one out over Butler.

Now that their March arch-nemesis – Michigan State – is out of the region, they’re -110 favorites to get to the Final Four. Iowa State is an intriguing matchup given their different styles, but Virginia’s offense is close to the Cyclones in efficiency. Meanwhile, Iowa State isn’t close defensively.

2. North Carolina (1st in East; +361 points)

UNC had the tightest first round game of the one seeds, but that was to be expected facing FGCU and they still won by 16. They rolled over Providence in the second half in round two, which was impressive, but I’ve hated the Friars all year so it didn’t leave me feeling any different about the Heels.

Friday against the Hoosiers will be interesting. They’ve got the talent and shooting to keep up with the Heels if they get going.

Carolina is at -160 to win the region currently. As you can see, the ratings put the other three teams remaining in the bottom four of those left in the field. Notre Dame’s beat them once this year in South Bend, but the Heels won by 31 when they played on a neutral floor at the ACC Tournament.

3. Kansas (1st in South; +96 points)

The Jayhawks fell a couple of spots in the offensive efficiency rankings and their schedule was weakened after getting out of the Big 12. There’s not a lot of concerns with Kansas, but turnovers remain one of them. They’ve been sloppy all year and they continued that against UConn, even though it was never really a close game.

Although there’s not much concern with the team, the other three squads left in the South Region arrive in the next four spots of the rankings. Maryland hasn’t shown a ton of cohesion all year, but they’ve got the starting talent to match up.

4. Miami (2nd in South; +657 points)

The Canes almost blew a huge lead in round two, but they were impressive in their first half domination of Wichita State. You also have to respect the resolve they showed when the Shockers grabbed the lead in the second half. They didn’t shrink like we’ve seen a lot of teams do. They kept making plays.

It’ll be a tough road to get to Houston, but taking them at +600 is interesting, given the short separation between them and the Jayhawks. I’m not sure if it matters or not, but this weekend’s games will be taking place in Louisville, where most of the Canes have experience playing. If it matters at all, it’ll be the first game against Nova. Just another thing to factor in.

5. Villanova (3rd in South; +311 points)

Nova’s a distant fifth, but they dismantled Iowa in round two after having no problem with Asheville. It was a pleasant surprise after their recent struggles getting out of the first weekend. Unfortunately, they’re still a cold shooting day away from possibly getting blown out themselves, but that hasn’t happened in a while.

6. Oklahoma (1st in West; -96 points)

The biggest loser in the field so far. Bakersfield was a bigger battle than it needed to be considering they went 11-20 from three in that game. In round two, they jumped out to a big lead before needing Buddy to carry them to victory against a pretty mediocre VCU team. They’re still tops in the region, but that gap is shrinking overall. A&M is extremely fortunate to still be playing, but that doesn’t make them any less of a problem this week, especially with their length.

7. Maryland (4th in South; +46 points)

The Terps should be better. I certainly have my opinions on why they should be, but the talent is still there in the starting five. It makes no sense to me why they struggle to get buckets in the half court, but they do. The tight officiating in the tournament so far works to their advantage, though. They lived off the free throw line in the first two rounds. Kansas fouls quite a bit and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Terps made 20+ free throws again. Underachieving teams that have NBA talent tend to do better than expected in the tournament.

8. Oregon (2nd in West; -8 points)

The only other team that dropped in rating and it was in large part to the rest of their conference laying an egg on the opening weekend. They struggled with St. Joseph’s, but if you survived to watch the second half of the last game of the long weekend, you saw that the Ducks have the guards to make big shots in big moments. They should thrive against Duke’s defense, but that goes both ways. You could tell me any team was coming out of this region and I wouldn’t be even a little bit surprised. It’s wide open.

9. Duke (3rd in West; +717 points)

Their defense moved up a couple positions in efficiency, but they’re still not very good. They’re another team helped out by the boost in ACC SOS.

As good as their offense can be, you saw on Saturday what can happen when they slow down. They scored just 23 second half points after putting up 48 in the first and Yale beat them by 16 in the second twenty minutes. Oregon can’t rebound as well as the Bulldogs did, but they’ve got more weapons offensively to beat the Blue Devils.

One last thing: location favors Oregon, but…not by that much. The best way to show a lack of west coast geography knowledge is to think Eugene is anywhere close to Anaheim. It’s a 14-hour drive, assuming you hit LA traffic at the perfect time. That’s about the same trip from Indianapolis to Orlando. Yes, Eugene is still a lot closer than Durham, but the Ducks don’t have the SoCal presence like Arizona does. I have no idea what the alumni turnout is going to be for the respective schools, but working under the assumption that Oregon is going to own this one is dangerous.

10. Iowa State (2nd in Midwest; +137 points)

I feel like I didn’t learn anything about the Cyclones in the first two rounds. They shot the ball really well. The difference in styles with Virginia is interesting, but the Cavs will win the tempo battle. The average number of possessions in a college basketball games is 69. Virginia’s highest in a game has been 68 and that was back in mid-November. I’m sure the Cyclones will find a way to score, but Virginia’s offense is the best Tony Bennett has ever have and Iowa State will have to figure out how to slow them down.

11. Gonzaga (3rd in Midwest; +923 points)

The Zags shot up the defensive ratings after only giving up 111 points total over the weekend. They’ve been great all year defending the three and they’ll need to continue that against the Orange. They’ll need to continue shooting it well, but they can’t fall in love with it against the zone and neglect Sabonis down low. A Zags-Virginia matchup to get to the Final Four would be awesome.

12. Texas A&M (4th in West; +47 points)

The Aggies are fortunate just to be here, but it’s a new week and new matchups that they’re capable of winning. They open with the Sooners. This year A&M played three of their former Big 12 foes and beat all three of them at home by double digits. Defending the perimeter will be key regardless of who they play this weekend, which they didn’t do a great job of against Northern Iowa, but has been a strength most of the season. The lower the scores, the better off the Aggies will be.

13. Notre Dame (2nd in East; +569 points)

Of all things, a Rex Pflueger tip-in lands the Irish in the Sweet Sixteen. The game with Wisconsin will be played at a sloth-like pace. Notre Dame didn’t make any significant improvements defensively, so they’ll have to continue to outscore teams in the halfcourt. They’re capable of beating Wisconsin that way, but if they play North Carolina, it could be a repeat of the ACC Tournament. They’ve also played IU this year, who they blew a 16-point second half lead against and that was before IU was even playing well.

14. Syracuse (4th in Midwest; +1804 points)

The biggest risers in rating score by a wide margin due to how well they played defensively and the ACC boost. Jim Boeheim will have you believe that you were just a moron who never watched basketball if you had some doubts about the Orange, but I guess beating an offensively inept Dayton team and a 15 seed proved everybody wrong. Okay, Jim. The Zags aren’t a terrible matchup, but they’ll have to keep them off the glass and keep up the hot shooting.

15. Indiana (3rd in East; +666 points)

No surprise the Hoosiers are the devil. The ratings continue to hate them because of their turnovers on offense and their interior defense. However, against Kentucky they won both of those battles. IU didn’t even shoot the ball well against the Cats and still won the game. That’s a good sign. Unfortunately, their interior defense will be tested in a big way against the Heels. We’ll see how much they’ve really improved.

16. Wisconsin (4th in East; +131 points)

The Badgers don’t win pretty, but if they can keep it close, they can make the plays down the stretch. They won two tournament games as a 7 seed and their best player went 5-27 from the floor in those two games. If Nigel Hayes can get going and Bronson Koenig can keep up his hot shooting against Xavier, the Badgers will be a tough out for anybody.

Picks of the Day: NCAA Tournament Round 2, Day 2

Not sure what happened with the post from yesterday. Either way, the only pick that didn’t get off in time was Yale +7 and that pushed. I tweeted out the Zags, so I hope everybody was on board there. The only regret was not putting more on it because that thing was a blowout.

All that you missed in the post was my ramblings of how Ingram scared me (he had 25) on the Yale pick and why I was putting less on it, I made from a certain former oddsmaker that I was listening to on a podcast at the time I was writing and he couldn’t have been more wrong on his predictions for Friday’s slate (he thought Green Bay had a chance to win), and I expressed my belief that Utah was a weak-minded group and had zero advantages over Gonzaga. Oh, and that Makai Mason was a star. He didn’t make me look good on that one.

I’ll be honest, I’m so far up in the tournament right now that I’ll probably be pretty conservative the rest of the way. I’ve still got the Oregon (80-1) and Miami (50-1) futures that could provide big payouts. If you walk away from the NCAA Tournament up big on the books, keep the puck. Also, after round one it gets a little tougher to get an edge. The public has now actually seen a lot of the dogs in round one for the first time.

But as always, if you’ve got anything you want a second opinion on, feel free to hit me up on Twitter. Just remember it’s just my opinion and if I had a strong feeling either way I’d probably be betting it myself.

Stephen F. Austin (+2) over Notre Dame – 2 Units

Going into the tourney, I thought Notre Dame would win this game regardless of which team they faced because they had such similar styles. Why? Because the Irish had taken care of the ball so well all year. But then I looked at their game-by-game and the three highest turnover percentages they’ve had all year by a pretty good margin were in their last three games. That’s not even what Duke, UNC, or Michigan do to teams. To me, that just shows a carelessness with the ball and that’s not a good bug to have hit your team leading up to playing the best pressing team in basketball. I laid out in my preview stuff that Notre Dame’s struggles in defensive efficiency were a big red flag on their hopes of a deep tournament run. Not to mention, SFA might have the best player on the floor with Walkup.

Hawaii (+7) over Maryland

I considered taking the Bows in this one before the tournament. To be honest, I actually might have, but I can’t remember and I don’t really care. Maryland’s been a disappointment all year. Even when they’ve played good games, they always seem to let teams back in it. Hawaii matches up pretty well because they can take advantage of Maryland’s turnover issues and they’re a decent rebounding team, which the Terps are pretty poor at considering their size. I’ve watched them a ton over the last few years and they play with a swagger like they’re as good as anybody. Mentality matters in these types of games. Cal was shorthanded on Friday, but the Bows basically led the whole way and they absolutely locked up Jaylen Brown. And to be honest, there were still two lottery picks on the floor and it wasn’t close to the best game I’ve seen Hawaii play. Rod Bobbitt is gonna relish the opportunity to go against Trimble and I wouldn’t be all that surprised if he outplayed him.

Xavier (-4.5) over Wisconsin

I don’t think the Badgers have enough offense to win this one. We all saw how far the sport was set back by their game with Pitt the other night. Xavier’s not just going to let Wisconsin make this a grinder. The Muskies have the guys to matchup with Hayes and Happ. Wisconsin’s offense relies so much on getting offensive rebounds and free throws. Xavier just won’t allow what Pittsburgh did on the glass. On the other end, Xavier’s strength relies on its ability to score in so many ways. They’ve got drivers, shooters, and dynamic bigs that score on the outside and inside. They’re just a more athletic group. I’m a believer in Chris Mack. It’s the best team he’s had and he’s already made the second weekend in three out of his five tries in the NCAA Tournament.


First Four: 0-1
Round 1, Day 1: 10-1
Round 1, Day 2: 9-0
Round 2, Day 1: 1-0-1



Picks of the Day: NCAA Tournament Round 1, Day 2

Just FYI, I’m not going to write about the picks this weekend. I’ve written thousands of words about these teams in the past couple days here and here. I’ve got about 10 different pieces I have to write for other sites, so I’ve gotta save time somewhere.

Syracuse (+1) over Dayton – 2 Units

Hawaii (+5) over California – 2 Units

(I took this early because I actually picked Hawaii to win SU, but I still like the number post-Wallace injury.

Little quick analysis to add now that Wallace is out. Hawaii thrives on creating turnovers to get out and get easy buckets. Wallace runs the point for the Bears. Sam Singer will take most of his minutes. Sam Singer turns the ball over at a higher rate than everybody on that team that handles the ball outside of the post. He turns it over on 27% of his possessions used, compared to Wallace’s 17. Rod Bobbitt might eat him up.)

MTSU (+11) over Michigan State – First Half

Wisconsin (-2) over Pittsburgh

SFA (+8) over West Virginia

St. Joseph’s (+3) over Cincinnati

BONUS: BYU (-6.5) over Virginia Tech

Hokies played an overtime game Wednesday night, traveled across the country Thursday, play in the Marriott Center on Friday. That’s a tough stretch. BYU crushed UAB on Wednesday at home.

Tournament Record: 10-2

Picking the Upsets and Final Bracket Selections

Yesterday, I released the rankings for teams I thought were due for the deepest run. Things got off to a rough start with Vandy yesterday, but the ratings don’t judge for heart and coaching. It’s the weakness in the ratings, but definitely something I considered when filling out my bracket, as you’ll see later.

Today, I just wanted to run through who I thought was most likely to get upset in the first couple of rounds.

Who’s Getting Upset in Round One?

I don’t really consider a 10 over a 7 as an upset, even though the winning percentages of the higher seed aren’t all that different from 6/11 or 5/12 games.

Games are listed in order by who I think has the best chance to win.

6 vs. 11 Games

11 seeds win 34.7% of the time or about 1.4 per year. I believe it’s something like five years in a row that one of the 11 seeds that wins a play-in game, wins the next game. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if any of these teams won.

1. Gonzaga over Seton Hall

The Zags were higher in the ratings from yesterday. I’ve heard a few people talk about being weary of Seton Hall just because they won the Big East Tournament – which they weren’t expected to do – just because Providence did it a couple of years ago and lost in the first round. The best team the Friars beat during that run was a Creighton team that lost by 30 on the first weekend. I could just as easily point out a 21-9 UConn team in 2011 that won a Big East Tournament they shouldn’t have and then won the national title.

I just don’t think conference tournaments matter. The last 14 national champions: seven have won their conference tournament, seven of them haven’t.

With that said, I think this game’s pretty much a toss-up. Whitehead has to be great if Seton Hall’s gonna do anything. I don’t think they match up well with the Zags. They keep teams off the glass and the free throw line, which the Pirates depend a lot on.

2. Northern Iowa over Texas

Like I said yesterday, Northern Iowa makes teams shoot threes and Texas isn’t good at making them. It might be the slowest game played in the tournament and I’d expect it to come down to the wire. At that point, I think it just comes down to who makes more plays between Wes Washpun and Isaiah Taylor.

3. Wichita State over Arizona

I think Arizona is clearly the best 6 seed, but I also think they’re playing the best 11 seed in the Shockers. Once again, I think it’s a one or two possession game. Turnovers could be the difference and Wichita is a heavy favorite to win that battle.

4. Michigan over Notre Dame

I don’t think Notre Dame is all that great, but Michigan’s worse.

5 vs. 12 Games

12 seeds win 35.5% of the time or about 1.4 times per year. Last year, none of them won.

1. Yale over Baylor

As I said yesterday, Baylor is only a three-point favorite in KenPom world. It’s also by far the closest game in my ratings and Yale would be favored if you discredit schedule. The Bulldogs are one of the best rebounding teams in the country and if they continue that against Baylor, that’ll take away a big part of the Bears offense. Yale’s better defensively and they don’t have a height disadvantage like you usually see between teams like these.

2. Little Rock over Purdue

I don’t really see any of these last three happening. Maybe it’s my Big Ten bias, but I also think all three of the 5 seeds are under-seeded.

The argument for Little Rock is that their Pack-line defense is going to minimize Purdue’s bigs down low. Maybe they will, but Hammons, Haas, and Swanigan are a little bigger than most of the teams the Trojans saw in the Sun Belt. They’re not only tall, but they’re large. They don’t have a lot of problems scoring even if you push them out to 8-10 feet. Also, Purdue shoots better from outside than anybody Little Rock has been playing.

The place Little Rock will probably have an advantage is point guard with Josh Hagins. Of course, that could be said for most of Purdue’s opponents this year.

3. South Dakota State over Maryland

I just don’t see an area where the Jackrabbits have a clear advantage over the Terps. I feel like Maryland’s bigs will slow down Mike Daum on the inside and he’s key to the SDSU offense.

You never know with the Terps though. There haven’t been many teams they’ve run out of the building. They have a tendency to make things harder than they have to be.

4. Chattanooga over Indiana

I just don’t see it. I guess if Indiana gets turnover crazy – which wouldn’t be the first time – that would allow the Mocs to get some easy buckets. I just think the Hoosiers have too much scoring to lose.

4 vs. 13 Games

13 seeds when 20.2% of the time or about 0.8 times per year. I don’t know if the 13 seeds will win more games, but I think more of them have a better chance at winning. I also don’t know if that makes sense.

1. Hawaii over Cal

Hawaii’s under-seeded because they didn’t beat a quality opponent, but they also only had two chances all year. They lost by 3 to Oklahoma and by 8 at Texas Tech after holding a halftime lead. They’re pretty good (61 in KenPom) and they’re cocky. There’s the incredibly weird situation with Cal just firing an assistant coach going on. It’s unclear how that will affect the players, but I think common fans underestimate how much assistant coaches do, especially at tournament time. If the Bows turn Cal over and get out in transition, they’ll have a real chance.

2. UNC Wilmington over Duke

Duke’s lowest AdjDE from 2002-2011, 2013, 2015: 36

Duke’s AdjDE during 2012: 81 (lost in first round to 15 seed Lehigh)

Duke’s AdjDE during 2014: 116 (lost in first round to 14 seed Mercer)

Duke’s AdjDE during 2016: 111

Yes, Duke was 57th at the beginning of the tournament last year before they won the title, but that team was also 29-4 and a 1 seed.

With that said, I’m not sure Wilmington’s pressing style is the one to beat the Blue Devils. Should be an entertaining game, however.

3. Iona over Iowa State

Like I said yesterday, they play the same style. I think it just comes down to whoever makes more shots.

It’s hard not to forget what happened with the Cyclones in the tournament last year. And i maintain that there’s something that’s just a little bit off with this team. You’d expect Jameel McKay to bring his best given that his next loss will be his last one in a college uniform, but you just can’t depend on him.

I’m not sure about Steve Prohm as a tournament coach yet. It’s only his second rodeo in the NCAA Tournament and a large part of that is his lack of success in conference tourneys. In his last two years at Murray State, he went into the OVC Tournament as the 1 and 2 seed and went 1-2, losing to lesser seeds both times. They just lost their first game in the Big 12 Tournament. With that said, it’s not like Tim Cluess is a proven commodity in March.

4. Stony Brook over Kentucky

Nah. I love watching Jameel Warney, but Calipari is underrated in how well he has his team ready to play in March. He’s gotten out of the first weekend in his last nine trips to the tourney. He’s got the guards to go on another run.

3 vs. 14 Games

14 seeds win 16.1% of the time or about twice every three years. It happened twice last year with UAB and Georgia State winning. Mercer beat Duke a couple of years ago.

1. Stephen F. Austin over West Virginia

Two teams that play a very similar style due to the fact that SFA’s coach, Brad Underwood, was an assistant for Bob Huggins. The only other time I remember that happening in a spot like this was Steve Masiello and his Manhattan team taking on his mentor Rick Pitino and Louisville in a 4/13 game. I’m sure it’s happened on other occasions, but the Jaspers lost a close one there.

This one’s a little different because the Jacks have been to three straight tournaments now. They won a game a couple of years ago and were (kinda) close last year. Their biggest downfall against Utah last year was going 5-26 from the outside. They also got abused by Jakob Poeltl on the inside. You never know with shooting and Devin Williams can do the same thing to them down low.

2. Fresno State over Utah

Fresno had the best rating of the 14 seed and they’ll have the best guard in the game in Marvelle Harris. They’re on a nine-game winning streak. Not many had them pegged as Mountain West champions, but here they are. They’ll definitely be able to turn Utah over with their pressure, but they’ll also probably struggle with Poeltl in the halfcourt. I’m probably not going to take the Bulldogs, but Utah’s no juggernaut.

3. Buffalo over Miami

Blake Hamilton and Lamonte Bearden will give the Canes all they can handle. I don’t know if the Bulls can really pull it off though. They’re 0-5 in Tier A games this year and they haven’t been within single digits in any of them. They weren’t even really that great in the MAC this year, but they got going at the right time. They were in the tournament last year, but that team was a lot better and lost.

4. Green Bay over Texas A&M

I just don’t think the Phoenix are going to fare well in this one. They love to get out and run and the Aggies will slow that down. They’ll struggle with Texas A&M’s length and I don’t see them competing on the glass. Green Bay was the 4 seed in the Horizon League and got on a nice roll to win their tournament, but if momentum does exist, I would imagine it fades after a 10-day break.

2 vs. 15 Games

15 seeds win 5.6% of the time. There’s been 7 wins in 31 years of the current seed format. Two of them happened in 2012: Lehigh and Norfolk State. They each had a pro. CJ McCollum for Lehigh, Kyle O’Quinn for Norfolk State.

1. Weber State over Xavier

Joel Bolomboy might actually get drafted this year and Jeremy Senglin will definitely be playing professional basketball somewhere after next year. Xavier is the weakest 2 seed in the bracket by quite a bit, according to the ratings. Hmm. I’d like it more if I didn’t believe in Chris Mack as a coach as much as I do. But if Coach K can lose a 2/15 game, no one’s exempt.

2. CSU Bakersfield over Oklahoma

No pros, but they’re in the top-100 on KenPom, which is nice. Also, for as good as Oklahoma is, Buddy’s their only guy who’s going to the NBA.

3. UNC Asheville over Villanova

Outside of Villanova’s tourney struggles, there’s not much to this one. They exited early last year, but they still at least won the opening round game by 41.

4. Middle Tennessee over Michigan State

You know why.

1 vs. 16 Games

0%. Someone might linger, but the history is the history.

1. Florida Gulf Coast over North Carolina

2. Southern over Oregon

3. Hampton over Virginia

4. Austin Peay over Kansas

Top 2 Seeds Who Are Going Home Early

In the previous piece I mentioned that at least two of the top-2 seeds have gone home in the first weekend the last five years and three of them have done that the past two years. Who are the most likely candidates?

1. Xavier

Not surprising given the previous section. I don’t think they’ll lose to Weber State, but it’s no walkover. I’m betting on Wisconsin to move past Pittsburgh to face the Muskies in the second round. That one will be a grind and I don’t really think there’s that much separation between the two for it being a 2/7 game.

2. Oregon

St. Joseph’s is a dangerous team and Bembry is about as good as anybody Oregon has. If Cincinnati wins, they might make it a grind that the Ducks don’t want. They’ve underperformed this year and those teams are always dangerous when they’re a lower seed.

3. Virginia

Butler could be a problem for Virginia. They’ll be disciplined against the Cavs and they’ve got the shooting that can be an Achilles heel for Virginia’s defense.

4. Oklahoma

I think the Sooners should have a relatively easy first weekend given their opponents, but you never know if the shots stop falling.

5. Villanova

Always gotta be leery with the Cats, but I don’t have a lot of worry about any of their matchups week one.

6. North Carolina

USC’s size on the inside could cause problems for the Heels front line. Providence is capable of a lot, but they often disappoint.

7. Kansas

You can never really count out UConn until they’re officially dead.

8. Michigan State


Final Bracket(s)

If it stays relatively normal

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This is the one that I’m (most) comfortable with. I’m not going to break down every game, but I’ll explain myself on some bigger things.

I really have no idea how the West region is gonna go. None of the top teams are especially good. I’ve got Oregon in the Final Four, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they lost in round two. I also have a +8000 future on the Ducks, so maybe I’m just hopeful. I could see every scenario happening with the 5/12-4/13 pod. I just couldn’t put Oklahoma on a deep run with their dependency on shooting.

I think Kentucky will come out of the East because I think they’ll just hit a few more shots than North Carolina. I don’t like anybody on the bottom half of that bracket. Nothing would surprise me. I went back and forth on Xavier and Wisconsin.

I don’t think there’s a big difference between Virginia and Purdue, so I’m going with the 5 seed to try and gain an advantage. I think Michigan State against either of them will be a toss-up game, but the Spartans have an easier path to the Elite Eight than either of them, so they’re a better bet to advance for me.

But Kansas is the squad for me. They’ve got everything you want. If they slip up in their region, my money’s on Maryland to be the one that does it.

Shit gets crazy
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I’ve said before that this year fits the bill of a wild tournament when you look at the strength of top teams, so here’s what I’m going with in that scenario. Most likely it will be the worst rated bracket on all of Yahoo Sports. I’ll let you know how it checks out.

Tournament Power Ratings by Region

In case you missed it a few weeks ago, I did some data research using figures from KenPom to figure out if there’s a better way to project the Final Four besides the traditional seeding numbers, power rankings, or the ever-subjective “eye test”.

Since I wrote that, I’ve expanded on the research and developed a rating system specifically geared towards tournament success. I’m no mathematician or statistician by trade, but I do have some experience and I used teams from years past to lend the rating system some credibility.

If you’d like to know a little about the intricacies of the system itself, you can read the next couple of sections. If you don’t give a shit and just want to see the rankings, just keep scrolling.

I’ll have more tomorrow on upsets, trends, and bracket selections tomorrow.

Nerds Only

I developed the rating system around those ranking averages I referenced numerous times in the previous piece, and then factored in the volatility to account for the consistency component.

For example, the least volatile factor of Final Four teams is their Pythagorean rating. Schedule strength and the efficiencies on both ends of the floor are both up there as well. The most volatile is team experience. The average experience for Final Four teams is basically the national average and there’s been a fairly equal number of teams that have a lot of seniors and those that have a lot of freshmen. It basically doesn’t matter at all. Therefore, it carries the smallest amount of weight in the ratings. Pythagorean rating carries the most.

There is no subjectivity or opinion inserted into the rankings. I just do the math using what’s worked in the past and weight the system accordingly.

There ended up being four ratings. One factors in every element, one does the same only excludes schedule, one consists only of the eight elements that carry the most weight, and the last one consists of those eight plus the schedule.

Obviously teams ratings are likely to go up if they play well in the tournament against good teams and the majority of the data comes from post-tournament statistics. However, you’re able to to find the Pythagorean Rating and offensive and defensive efficiency scores pre-tournament on KenPom and those three make by far the biggest impact besides schedule. That’s the reason I evaluated teams scores without schedule as a factor as well. The strength of schedule is bound to go up on a run in March, so the schedule-less ratings allow you to see how well teams do things regardless of competition.

If you’re interested in the eight biggest indicators of success:

  • Pythagorean Rating
  • Offensive and Defensive Efficiency
  • Effective Field Goal % on offense and defense
  • Turnover % on offense
  • 2P% on offense and defense

One quick note: a lot has been made of the 3PA/FGA mark and I even expanded on that last time. Essentially the argument is that teams that shoot a lot of threes don’t do well. But on further research, it shows that it really doesn’t carry that much weight. Teams were still punished in the ratings if they shoot a lot of threes, but the impact was pretty minimal.

I’m not going to bore you with all the math or the specific numbers of every component for every team as it relates to the ratings, but for a reference point I’ll provide a few examples.


The best team over the past 14 years was the 2012 Kentucky Wildcats. They had a score of 3,342. They were followed closely by the ’08 Kansas team with a 3,216.

The worst team to ever win the championship (in the 14 years of data) was ’14 UConn with a -1,636. It’s the only team to ever win the championship in the negatives, besides ’11 UConn, which was only at a -20. The average champion has a 1,359.

As far as teams that make the Final Four, 33 of the 56 that have made the final weekend have had a positive score. 46 of 56 have at least been within 1,500 points of an even score. While the average of Final Four teams is a zero (as it should be, I think?), the median is 450.

If you look at the ten teams that weren’t within 1,500 of the zero line, it’s pretty interesting to break each of them down.

  • Three of the ten were coached by Tom Izzo. If you want to make the case that he’s the best coach in the game, that’s an incredible stat to reference.
  • Villanova in ’09. They were a 3 seed and went on a run where they smacked two good teams in UCLA and Duke before scratching one out over Pittsburgh. That Duke team won the title the next year. Their score was pretty low because they didn’t do anything exceptionally well, but they also didn’t have any major holes
  • Louisville in ’12. Their offense was horrible. They are by far the least efficient offense to make the Final Four since 2002. But they were also the most efficient defense that year. Michigan State was the only team that was close that year and the two played each other. The Cards also were on a roll heading into the tournament, winning the Big East Tourney after going 10-8 in the regular season.
  • ’06 George Mason was actually pretty good, but their schedule strength crushed them in the ratings. If you took away the SOS components, they would’ve been a -256, which would put them 11th in this year’s ratings.
  • I guess you can chalk up the two Butlers to Brad Stevens.
  • As for Wichita in 2013, Baker and Van Vleet played really well as freshmen and we see now what they’ve turned into. They also benefited from playing two programs that tend to fail during tourney time – Pitt and Gonzaga – on the opening weekend. Then they played 13 seed La Salle in the Sweet 16. But then they beat Ohio State and they were up as much as 20 in that game. I think it was just a case of a team realizing what it was capable of that first weekend and going from there. And of course the next year they started off 35-0.
  • VCU in 2011 remains the craziest, inexplicable run. They went nuts.

Now that’s a rundown of those that did make it, but do the ratings expose higher seeded teams that fail? Yes, to an extent.

I looked at teams that were 1 or 2 seeds that lost during the first weekend the past five years. There have been 12 of them, with at least two each year and three in the past two seasons. Nine of them had a negative rating. Three of them stick out like a sore thumb: Wichita ’14 (although that was heavily schedule induced), Georgetown ’13, and Missouri ’12. If you put that Mizzou team in this year’s rankings, they’d be 32nd and it’s a pretty weak year.

The three that weren’t in the negatives? Nova and Virginia last year and Pittsburgh in 2011. Nova last year lends credence to the “you can’t jack a bunch of threes” argument, which while I think is overplayed a bit, still does hold some weight. While they didn’t shoot great against NC State in their loss last year, they weren’t terrible (6% below their average) and isn’t the number that really jumps out. Their problem was how ineffective they were in the paint – they shot 30% on 2FG, 23% below their average – that game and allowed the Pack to rebound 39% of their misses, which was 8% more than Nova typically allowed. That’s where matchups come in to play.

As for Virginia, they ran in to Izzo and Michigan State, who was significantly better than the 7 seed they were given.

Pittsburgh in 2011 was a really solid team, but they just didn’t have a lot of talent. Teams with pros always seem to do well and the best players on that team were Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker. When’s the last time you heard their names? Also, they lost to Butler. Brad Stevens vs. Jamie Dixon in March just isn’t fair.

Anyway, enough with the past. Let’s get to what to expect the next few weeks.

Rankings by Region

All rankings are based on the rating system.

South Region

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17. Austin Peay (16)

If you take Peay to win any games, urine trouble.

16. UNC Asheville (15)

The Bulldogs are pretty poor offensively, but they do a couple of things really well on defense. Defending the three has proved to be really important, and they’re second in the country, holding teams to 28.8%. That’s pretty key if you’re playing Villanova. They’re also top-10 nationally in turning teams over.

15. Buffalo (14)

The Bulls are above-average on both ends of the floor, but not by much either way. They’re pretty solid across the board, but they don’t do anything especially well. If they can’t get to the line, they’re going to struggle.

14. Hawaii (13)

I feel like I’ve seen a ton of people taking the Bows to take out Cal. Ignoring the matchup, at their core Hawaii loves to generate offense out of turnovers they create on defense. Their downfall is that they foul too much. It almost cost them their bid to the tournament in the Big West Championship when their two best guys – Roderick Bobbitt and Stefan Jankovic – both had to set most of the first half because of foul trouble. Intangible-wise, they’re a really confident, bordering on cocky, group. They won’t have any fear as a 13 seed. Back in November, they about took out Oklahoma. Dangerous team.

13. South Dakota State (12)

The Jackrabbits are a really good team on the glass, but we’ll see if that holds up against some of the horses on Maryland. They’re not going to wow you with athleticism, but they can shoot the ball and get to the line. They play four seniors a lot of minutes, but their best player is actually freshman big man Mike Daum, who comes off the bench and is basically instant offense.

12. Temple (10)

Temple’s offense leaves quite a bit to be desired, but they’ve started to shoot the ball a lot better from the outside. The most beneficial thing they have going on that end is how well they take care of the ball. Not wasting possessions is a big deal in a tournament setting and if they happen to get hot, they’re pretty tough to beat. Look no further than when they handed SMU their first loss. They went 14-29 from beyond the arc and only turned it over on 14% of their possessions. They can really guard and force teams to settle for jumpers, but they’re not going to force turnovers either.

11. Colorado (8)

They’re an elite rebounding team, and it’s a good thing because they’re atrocious at finishing around the rim. That’s a bad trait to have against UConn, but the Huskies aren’t a good rebounding team, so that should be an interesting dynamic. The Buffs aren’t going to win many turnover battles, but defensively they’re really good. But the biggest concern with this team is probably the fact that they’re just a completely different team away from Boulder. They were 16-1 at home and 6-10 anywhere else.

10. Wichita State (11)

The biggest think working against the Shockers in the ratings is their schedule. They’re 12th in the KenPom rankings and they have the most efficient defense in the country. If you’ve watched them play much this year and possibly had them to cover any large spreads, then I don’t need to tell you how stagnant their offense can become.

They’ll go long stretches where they just shoot a ton of jumpers, which is bad because they’re not really that good at shooting. They take care of the ball, but they don’t give themselves a bunch of second chances. Northern Iowa locked them down twice this year because the Panthers just made them shoot and Wichita couldn’t make nearly enough of them. Obviously they’re not new to the tournament and a great defense can keep you in any game, but their offense isn’t close to the level it’s been in recent years. They were much better in conference play, but the MVC also isn’t what it’s been in recent years.

9. Connecticut (9)

The program that has complete disregard for the rating system. I feel like I shouldn’t even talk about them because it’s all meaningless. I feel like Kansas will take care of them if Colorado doesn’t, anyway.

8. Arizona (6)

I like the Cats better than my own ratings, but here we are. A lot of that is schedule because their non-conference was Pittsburgh/Louisville levels. In fact, if you took schedule completely out of it, they’d be top rated team in the region and second in the whole field.

But you can’t completely disregard the schedule, especially when you consider the fact that they were 19-1 against non-tourney teams and 6-7 against those in the field (1-4 against teams above an 8 seed).

They’re a highly effective offense when they don’t turn the ball over. They can score it inside and out and they get a lot of offensive rebounds. They’re pretty good defensively overall. The problem is they also don’t create turnovers and the ratings hate them because of their tempo on that end. It’s not a huge cause for concern, though.

7. California (4)

Their strength lies on the defensive end and nobody’s better at protecting the rim. They simply don’t let you shoot threes out of your offense. Their physicality can be a grind on the opponent, but they also send teams to the line often.

Offensively, they shoot pretty good percentages from the field, but they turn it over a lot and they’re terrible at the free throw line. A recent concern is the play of Jaylen Brown. He’s a high usage guy that went 4-23 from the field in their two Pac-12 tournament games.

In a situation I’m not sure I’ve ever seen, Cal was just forced to fire one of their assistant coaches on Monday. Really tough to project how that will affect the team.

6. Iowa (7)

Tough to like a team that finished 2-6. They can be explosive offensively, but their 2FG% is atrocious for a team at their level. They’ll win turnover battles, but lose on the glass against good teams. They’re pretty poor defending inside when teams get it in there. They showed how good they can be in January, but it seems like they’ve reverted back to the team many expected them to be before the year.

5. Maryland (5)

I sold my stock on Maryland about a month before it was cool to do so in mid-February. The thing that’s confused me the most all year was the mainstream media pushing their supposed depth. Their starting five is talented, but their bench consists of a three-point specialist that shot 26% from three in B1G play and a big guy that averaged 1.5 FGA per game. WHAT DEPTH!

Now, obviously they’re still a pretty good team. They’re just not the top five team they were supposed to be or thought to be for months. They shoot really well from the floor when they give themselves a chance, but they turn the ball over so damn much. They’re good defensively, but they’re not a good rebounding team, especially for all their size.

The X-factor with this team is if Melo Trimble snaps out of his funk all of a sudden and goes on some Kemba/Bazz/Burke/Steph type tear. He’s capable, but he hasn’t had the year he was hoping for.

4. Villanova (2)

Ah, the ratings tell you to fade Nova in March as well. They’ll probably make the second weekend this year because of who they’ll play, but who knows after that.

They rate in the top-11 in both efficiencies, but there are a couple things that really hurt them in the ratings.

One, they’re a really poor rebounding team. And the second, for some reason the A/FGM ratio on defense is really important apparently. Final Four teams consistently rank highly and Nova comes in at 292nd in the country. There have been a couple teams that have been that low that made the final weekend, though. One of them was Villanova in 2009.

3. Vanderbilt (11)

Yeah, I know. I checked for miscalculations. Nope.

The Dores are four-point dogs to even get out of the play-in game.

But they also don’t have any fatal flaws defensively. The biggest negative on that side is that they don’t get steals, but that hasn’t proven to be a necessity. Big advantages in their favor on that side are how low opposing teams shooting percentages are. Also, that A/FGM number.

Their biggest weakness is by far their rebounding, which is kind of ridiculous given how much size they have. It wouldn’t be unprecedented for a ratings darling from the SEC be forced to win the 11 seed play-in game and then go on a run to the second weekend. Tennessee did it in 2014. The teams numbers aren’t all that similar but Tennessee was 21-12 with an 11-7 SEC record and Vandy is 19-13 with an 11-7 SEC record and both teams’ coaches played for Purdue. Tell me you’re not at least thinking about it now. You can’t.

2. Miami (3)

Miami might be Pittsburgh in 2011 (detailed in the History section in case you skipped it) type of team. Actually, maybe they’re just Miami in 2013. An experienced team with good college players that can win a lot of games, but they’re not going to go very far come tournament time.

But the ratings do like them a lot (fourth overall) and there’s nobody they can’t beat on their half of the region. Their interior is the weak spot. They don’t defend the rim as well as you would hope for their level and they don’t rebound. Tonye Jekiri and Kamari Murphy do both things pretty well, but they have no depth behind them and any foul trouble on those two is a cause for concern.

Their guards are a big asset, though, and they don’t beat themselves. They have no holes offensively besides rebounding.

1. Kansas (1)

The best team in the field by 200+ points. If you pull out the eight most important components, they’re the best team in that as well and their rating essentially doesn’t change in number. They check every box – efficiency numbers, trends, Pythagorean rating – that you look for. They disappointed last year, but they weren’t at the same level as this team.

If you’re looking for a weakness, it’s turnovers on offense and sending teams to the line on defense. With that makeup, the exact team to beat them should be West Virginia. And the Mountaineers did in Morgantown back in January. They shot an absurd 47 free throws. But Kansas just played them on a neutral floor, turned the ball over 20 times, committed 23 fouls, and still won by 10.


West Region


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17. Holy Cross (16)

They’ll be lucky to beat Southern.

16. Southern (16)

They’ll probably be the first 16 to win because I have a +8000 ticket for Oregon to win it all.

15. CSU Bakersfield (15)

If you discredited schedule strength, they’d rate higher than Oregon State and Temple. That’s something. They probably don’t have the offense to keep up with Oklahoma, but they defend the three pretty well and that’s not a bad place to start against the Sooners.

14. Green Bay (14)

The Phoenix love to get out and run, which will be interesting against Texas A&M. For a team that plays up-tempo, they do an especially good job of taking care of the rock. Their downfall will more likely be defensively, where they struggle to defend the paint.

13. UNC Wilmington (13)

On a non-fact based assertion, I always feel like CAA teams are a tough out going back to the VCU days. Last year, as a 14 seed Northeastern gave Notre Dame all they could handle on the Irish’s way to the Elite 8. It’s a bear of a league to win and Wilmington won the regular season and the tournament. It rates as the 9th toughest conference in the nation on KenPom, the highest its been in the site’s 15-years of existence.

The Seahawks problem is that they aren’t very good defensively and that’s a bad thing to be when you play the 2015-16 version of the Duke Blue Devils. The good news is that they might be able to keep up with Duke. They scored 90+ on eight different occasions this season. They’re only six-point dogs on KenPom’s projections. Just saying.

12. Yale (12)

I don’t really know what you do with Yale post-Jack Montague. They went 7-1 without him, but their one loss was the only quality opponent they played. Turnovers are their biggest issue and Baylor will exploit that in the first round. Otherwise, they’re actually really solid. Another “take away the schedule and they’d rate four or five sports higher” team. If they take care of the ball, they’ll have a really good chance to pull the upset and you’ll see why soon. Only three-point KenPom dogs.

11. VCU (10)

Their AdjDE is 22nd, but they get crushed for their 2P% on D. That’s a key component for predicted success and it basically doubles its weight because it has such a big impact on EFG%. And it triples its weight, if you’re bad at it on the other end of the floor, which is true of VCU. The good news for the Rams in regard to their first round matchup with Oregon State? They’re a lot worse at both.

10. Northern Iowa (11)

Apparently this is just the region that can’t defend the paint, but the Panthers actually are trending up in that area, improving that number quite a bit in MVC play. They force teams to shoot a lot of threes with their zone, which could be interesting against a Texas team that doesn’t shoot it well. They don’t foul and they don’t turn it over.

Probably the oddest thing about this team is that they’re the worst offensive rebounding team in the country, but they’re in the top 20% in defensive rebounding. Texas gives up a ton of offensive boards, so in my mind there’s a distinct possibility that Northern Iowa will miss a shot and nobody will grab it. The ball will just sit on the floor as the clock runs out.

I’m not sure if there’s a correlation between teams finishing conference games strong and playing well in the tournament, but after the Panthers started 10-11, they rattled off 12 of their last 13.

9. Oregon State (7)

See VCU above. The only reason the Beavs are ranked higher is because they played a Pac-12 schedule, but they’re metric underdogs.

8. Baylor (5)

Why so low? They’re pretty bad defensively for a 5 seed and they turn the ball over a ton. Their EFG% on defense is 230th. No team that’s made the Final Four has ever been worse than 174th. Guess who? Our old friend VCU from 2011.

I just don’t consider them a real threat to make it out of the region.

7. St. Joseph’s (8)

Interior defense. Poor. Rinse and repeat.

They do turn defend the three well though and they don’t send teams to the line. Basically their defensive statistical footprint is almost identical to Northern Iowa.

DeAndre’ Bembry is obviously the focal point of the offense. He’d be even better if he didn’t shoot like three three-pointers a game, even though he only hits 25%. As a team, they take care of the ball as well as anyone and are really effective if they can get into the paint. That could be tough against…

6. Cincinnati (9)

The Bearcats. They muck it up in the middle, but they’re susceptible if you can shoot. They’re like the opposite of Northern Iowa in terms of rebounding. They’re really active on offense, but they give up a bunch on defense.

Their offense is a mess. Those offensive rebounds are probably the only reason they’re not below average. It’s an eyesore to watch them score.

5. Texas (6)

Man, this region is kind of a drag. Another team that’s not very good at scoring, but they don’t give away possessions.

There’s not a lot to say about their defense. They’re solid, they make teams work, but they’re not especially great at anything. They block shots, but that doesn’t carry much weight.

I will say this about the Horns: they survived a brutal league schedule and they might blossom now that they’re out of the league. They were good enough to beat North Carolina earlier this year. But so was their first round opponent. And if they win, they’ll probably play Texas A&M, who they already played. If they win that, they’ll probably play…Oklahoma. So much for that theory.

4. Duke (4)

Obviously they’re pretty piss poor defensively. That’s not great for winning in March, but it’s pretty entertaining to watch. Their offense is awesome. It’s not a hard team to figure out. If they get in to foul trouble, they’re kind of screwed with their lack of depth, but that doesn’t happen too much.

I will say that last year the Blue Devils were 57th in AdjDE before the tournament started. After they went on a run and won the title, they were 12th. That type of dramatic jump doesn’t often happen and this isn’t the same team at all, but it’s still Coach K.

3. Texas A&M (3)

After losing five of six in the middle of SEC play, the Aggies won eight straight before losing to Kentucky in overtime of the SEC championship game.

They have a lot of length and get after people defensively. It’s tough to get easy buckets on them unless a team gets second chances, which does happen often against this team, especially when they’re in zone. They’ll give it right back on the other end, so it kind of evens out. They’re not the most efficient shooters, but they don’t make a lot of careless turnovers that give teams easy run outs.

2. Oregon (1)

The Ducks are the only one seed in the negatives. They’re just not a great defensive team. Teams shoot really well from the outside against them and that causes their EFG% to be well below your typical Final Four team. They do block a ton of shots – well, Chris Boucher and Jordan Bell do – and they do force teams in to turnovers.

Their offense is able to overcome a lot of their defensive ineffectiveness. Casey Benson’s the only guy who plays major minutes that doesn’t score much, but he’s not a total liability. They have four guys who are capable of dominating a game offensively, which makes them an incredibly difficult team to guard, especially because they don’t turn it over much.

The potential matchups with Oregon and Baylor or Duke in the Sweet 16 and Oklahoma in the Elite 8 would be highly entertaining.

1. Oklahoma (2)

They’re the team that’s really scary to invest in to win in the tournament. They have such a high dependency on making threes, they’re ineffective in the paint, and they turn the ball over. Then again they won their Big 12 tournament game where they shot 4-21 from outside and lost when they shot 11-21. 21 turnovers on 66 possessions would be the reason for the loss to West Virginia though. Guess who turns people over and defends the three pretty well? Bakersfield.

Defensively, they’re really solid. They give up too many offensive rebounds and teams hit a lot of threes against them, but they don’t give up many easy buckets and they won’t send you to the line very often.

The Sooners being in the top spot here speaks to how wide open the West might be, in my opinion. If a region goes sideways, I think it’ll be this one.

East Region

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18. Fairleigh Dickinson (16)

Congratulations to them on making the tournament.

17. Florida Gulf Coast (16)

Same. FGCU is the highest rated 16 seed, so extra congrats.

16. Weber State (15)

Weber does a lot of things really well, but they’re close the the worst in the country at others. The best team they’ve played all year is BYU, who they lost to by only five on a neutral floor. They split with South Dakota State. I don’t think they’ll beat Xavier, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s close.

15. Stephen F. Austin (14)

The Jacks get crushed for their schedule, but metrics tell you they’re a lot better than a typical 14 seed. They’d be a lot higher in these ratings if not for the schedule. They’re basically West Virginia-lite, who they happen to be playing in round one. The difference is, this team can light it up from the outside.

They got destroyed by Baylor in the first game of the season and didn’t have a quality win at any point this year. They’ve been a 12 seed the past couple years. Two years ago they beat the 5 seed VCU and last year they were in it most of the way with Utah. It should be a wild game with the Mountaineers.

14. Chattanooga (12)

The Mocs are solid, but I’m not sure they have the horses to keep up in round one against Indiana. They defend the three well, which is a good start. They can get abused on the inside though. Whether IU takes advantage with Thomas Bryant or not is a toss up because they ignore him a lot. Justin Tuoyo will block some shots, but he can’t do it alone.

Offensively, they turn it over too much and they don’t shoot great percentages, but they’re really effective when they’re getting to the free throw line. The best way they can combat Bryant on the other end is if they get him in foul trouble while he’s defending.

13. Stony Brook (13)

The Jameel Warney show. It’s going to be interesting to see him go up against Kentucky’s front line in round one. The Cats aren’t what they used to be in that department, but they still have about five guys to throw at Warney if they want. The Seawolves aren’t totally one-dimensional though. They’ve got a couple guys who shoot over 40% from outside. That’ll be important to stretch out the Kentucky defense.

Defensively they’re pretty solid, but they’re susceptible to good shooters and that’ll be a problem against Jamal Murray, Derek Willis, and Tyler Ulis.

But they can rebound with the best of them. If Kentucky isn’t hitting from outside, Stony Brook has a chance to get to round two.

12. Tulsa (11)

The team that’s inexplicably in. They’ll win a lot of turnover battles, but not many rebounding ones. They get to the line, but don’t shoot it well there. They can’t shoot threes and they can’t defend threes. They score well in the paint and they also defend it well.

11. Michigan (11)

Michigan gets abused on the inside and is generally just pretty poor at defending people. They can score with the best of them though. They’re a team that’s capable of getting hot and winning a couple of games.

10. Providence (9)

I swear the Friars are the most talked about mediocre team in the country. I guess LSU probably holds that title, but the point remains. Kris Dunn is much more consistently effective on defense than offense. He’s at his best offensively when he’s distributing and making plays for others and not jacking 17 shots. Ben Bentil’s an absolute force, but the team as a whole is kind of a mess offensively. They shoot too many threes for how poor they are at making them. They’re solid defensively, until teams get inside.

9. Pittsburgh (10)

Ugh. They rebound well and they hit their free throws. They aren’t good defensively, but they don’t give teams second chances.

8. Indiana (5)

Definitely a bit of a surprise that they’re this low. There’s two major reasons for that. One, teams shoot a high percentage against them. And two, they turn the ball over a lot.

The Hoosiers can really shoot it, however, and they get a ton of offensive rebounds. If they’re hitting, they can make it to the second weekend or possibly even the Final Four. Big “if” in the tournament though.

7. Wisconsin (7)

Grind-it-out Wisconsin is back. Their offense is not pretty, but they have started shooting it from outside better. The biggest knocks against them are their 2P%, which is well below average, and opponents’ 3P%. That’s also well below average, but it’s kind of minimized by the fact that teams just don’t get off many threes against them. It’s gonna be an ugly one against Pitt.

6. West Virginia (3)

The reason for this ranking is mainly due to their style, although not completely. There aren’t a ton of pressing teams that have gone on deep runs, but Louisville won the championship in 2013 that way. Because of that, there’s not a ton of value in creating turnovers, which the Mountaineers are very good at.

Where they’re different from that Louisville team and what hurts them so much is that they send teams to the line more than anyone else in the country and they turn the ball over a lot themselves. Also, the Cards didn’t give up a higher percentage on 2FGs. West Virginia does. Their overall AdjDE is 6th in the country though.

They are the best offensive rebounding team in the country, but they can’t shoot.

It’s a hard team to figure out.

5. Notre Dame (6)

They’re horrible defensively and as good as their offense can be, they’ve slipped recently. Demetrius Jackson hasn’t really been the same player since he was injured in late January.

If they get past Michigan or Tulsa, it could be a pretty interesting game against West Virginia. They’re a top-10 team in taking care of the ball and shoot a high percentage at the line. They don’t get there a lot typically, but the Mountaineers will take care of that. Rebounding will be a problem, however.

4. USC (8)

The ratings hate the region and that’s really the biggest reason the Trojans are this high. There isn’t that big of a gap between them and Indiana.

Things in their advantage: They shoot the three well and defend it well. They don’t turn it over, they don’t foul a lot, and they’re big.

The biggest knocks against them are their inefficiencies inside the paint and how many offensive rebounds they give up.

3. Xavier (2)

The Muskies are a distant third, due to their interior defense and that they play a fast pace that typically doesn’t play come tourney time.

They’re a great rebounding team that makes up for their so-so shooting percentages by getting to the free throw line. If they force you to shoot jump shots – which they often do – they’re a really tough out.

Given the matchups, I don’t really see anyone beating them in the first weekend.

2. Kentucky (4)

The Wildcats are really solid across the board, except for two areas. They give up too many offensive rebounds and their frontcourt guys foul a ton.

Outside of that, they make it really difficult to score and they’ve got the most efficient offense in the country. Their only weakness at that end is shooting free throws. Otherwise, there’s not a major hole.

The cause for concern if they see Indiana in the second round would definitely be the Hoosiers getting second chance opportunities.

1. North Carolina (1)

The Heels have two holes: three-point shooting and defending three-point shooting. They give up too many offensive boards, but they’re better at getting their own. They don’t turn it over and they own people in the paint. They didn’t lose to anyone outside the KenPom top-40 when Marcus Paige was playing.

Midwest Region

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16. Hampton (16)

Their coach is funny. Unfortunately, funny doesn’t help you score against Virginia.

15. Middle Tennessee State (15)

Your top-rated 15 seed by a pretty good margin. Congratulations you get to play Michigan State in March. They shoot really well, which might keep them in the mix for a while.

14. Fresno State (14)

Also, the top rated 14 seed, but that’s mainly due to scheduling. They’re not great defending the paint, which is a bit of an issue when you play Jakob Poeltl. The best attribute they have on offense is that they don’t turn it over, which doesn’t really lead to points, but it’s something. Nothing about them wows you, but they also did just win nine straight in the Mountain West. Obviously the league is down, but still. I’d be kind of surprised if they weren’t at least within single digits of Utah.

13. Iona (13)

They can’t guard, but they can score. They shoot really well, but they don’t give themselves a lot of second chance opportunities. They’re basically the same team as Iowa State, just shorter and less talented. I don’t think the talent gap is that large though. AJ English is one of the best pure scorers in the country and Jordan Washington is instant offense inside.

12. Arkansas Little Rock (12)

You’ll hear a lot about their Pack-line defense, if you haven’t already. It’s designed to keep people out of the paint and that’ll be their opponent’s (Purdue) focus. And the Trojans are a great defensive team overall. I’ll get more into the matchup in the Upset Watch discussion tomorrow, but I’d be a little weary of all that.

Offensively, they’re another good shooting team and they don’t turn it over. Where they don’t help themselves is getting to the line or grabbing their own misses.

11. Dayton (7)

The Flyers can really guard, but it can be like pulling teeth for them to score. I’m sure it’ll be a close game with Syracuse, but neither of those teams is beating Michigan State.

10. Butler (9)

Brad Stevens ain’t walking through that door, which is apparent from this team’s defense. They’ve always been a defense first program, but this team – which was 7th in AdjDE a year ago – is 131st now. Chris Holtmann’s a good coach in his own right, but this team’s defensive struggles are kind of baffling.

They can shoot it, but it’s not what they rely on, which is actually a good way to be successful this month. They take care of the ball, as well. They can definitely win game one, but I don’t think they have the juice to beat Virginia.

9. Syracuse (10)

Essentially every Cuse game turns into a three-point shooting contest.  They turn it over too much and they don’t score much inside. They’re not a big threat.

8. Texas Tech (8)

The biggest benefit to Tech’s score was their schedule, so I guess if you’re taking them you’re just hoping they’ll be a better team now that they’re out of the Big 12. Other than that, the best thing do is get free throw attempts and make them. They’re good enough to beat Butler, but not much else.

7. Seton Hall (6)

The Pirates obviously finished the season strong, winning the Big East Tournament and 12 of their last 14 games. They’re really good defensively, but they’ve got some holes offensively. They don’t shoot a high percentage from anywhere and they turn it over a bunch. They get a lot of offensive rebounds, but they also give up a lot. I’m not sure riding the hot hand is the right play in this scenario, given that the opening line had them as an underdog in round one.

6. Gonzaga (11)

And the Zags would be the favorite in Vegas and the favorite in the ratings. The difference between the two would be huge if not for the Zags softer schedule. They don’t have any major holes anywhere and their shooting percentages both ways are among some of the best in the country. Their biggest weakness is that while they play solid defense, they don’t do much to totally disrupt their opponents. They don’t turn people over and they don’t block shots.

5. Iowa State (4)

I don’t know what it is about the Cyclones, but they just don’t seem to have it. Maybe it’s their lack of pros or the fact they don’t have much bench help at all, or maybe it’s just because they can’t guard people. They can’t defend inside, which if they end up playing Purdue in the second round, is gonna be a real problem. They’re not much better on the perimeter. They’re a prolific offensive team, but they still don’t rebound. Rebounding was their undoing last year against UAB.

4. Utah (3)

The Utes are a distant fourth here. I’m gassed, so let’s keep it quick.

Good: defensive shooting percentages, 3P% and EFG% on O, Jakob Poeltl

Bad: Rebounding, lack of turnovers on D, scoring in the paint

3. Purdue (5)

Both Purdue and Michigan State are hurt by their schedules. The bottom of the Big Ten being a dumpster fire certainly didn’t help. If you just look at the eight most important numbers – schedule not included – the Boilers would be fourth behind Kansas, Michigan State, and North Carolina.

Their really one and only weak spot is turnovers. As someone who’s watched most of their games, it’s not just that they turn it over, but it’s the type of turnover. They have a lot of throwaways that their opponents take back for easy buckets.

But they own the paint and the glass. Their strength is obviously the three big behemoths they have down low. Their guards aren’t world-beaters, but they’ve all kind of settled into their roles nicely and they’re hitting a high percentage of outside shots. They’re about as good as anybody when that happens.

2. Michigan State (2)

They’ll obviously be a very popular pick to win it all. They check every major box defensively. Once again, they’d be the top rated in this region, if not for their schedule. But they definitely haven’t just beaten up on soft opponents. Like Purdue, they can also be pretty careless with the ball. They also don’t shoot a lot of free throws, but they’re the top shooting team from three in the country.

1. Virginia (1)

The Cavs are 4th in AdjDE in the country. That probably doesn’t come as a surprise to many. But when you look at the details, they’re defensive shooting percentages are as poor as they’ve been since 2011 when they didn’t make the tournament. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s definitely noteworthy. If you go back and look at their losses, quite a few of them involved teams hitting a high percentage of threes.

This is the best offensive team Tony Bennett has had though. They can score it in and out. They’re not an outstanding rebounding team, but it’s nothing too detrimental.


Picks of the Day: CBB and NBA 3/12

11-8 yesterday. 29-25-1 on the week. 2H winners St. Joseph’s and Michigan State. Loser was UC Irvine. It was a winning day, but it kind of felt like a loser after holding Kansas, Cal, and UMass first half tickets.

Little secret today: It’s your boy’s birthday. If the gambling gods have any heart, it’s gonna be a huge day.


UL Lafayette (+2) over Little Rock – First Half

Michigan State (-6) over Maryland – 2 Units

VCU (-4) over Davidson – First Half

Louisiana-Monroe (+2.5) over Arlington

Seton Hall (+6.5) over Villanova

Oregon (-1.5) over Utah


NUGGETS (-1) over Wizards

CBB YTD: 309-276-16 (52.8%)

NBA YTD: 95-85-1 (52.7%)

Total YTD: 404-361-17 (52.8%)

Above .500 days: 35

.500 days: 22

Below .500 days: 24