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

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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.

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