BOZICH | Don't Finish Your NCAA Bracket Until You Read This - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Don't Finish Your NCAA Bracket Until You Read This

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Rick Bozich has some final tips to help you pick your NCAA Tournament bracket. Rick Bozich has some final tips to help you pick your NCAA Tournament bracket.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There are two recommended paths while picking your NCAA Tournament bracket.

You can ask for assistance from your Labrador retriever by instructing him to fetch names out of a hat. That's the way your Aunt Sonia usually wins the office pool even though she'll ask if Pete Maravich still plays for LSU.

Or you can torture yourself with hours in front of a computer trying to determine if offensive efficiency or defensive efficiency is a more important quality in March.

I lost my Lab last summer. So I've been parked in front of a laptop screen for the last 36 hours. I was tempted to turn to the coin flip approach. Or get a puppy. Before you turn in your bracket, here are a few more items to help (or confuse) you.

1. Do coaches matter most in March? Many think so.

So on Eric Crawford's recommendation, I went to Pete Tiernan's Bracket Science blog. It's worth the $10 investment if you're really interested in brackets and winning your pool. Tiernan charts how coaches have performed in the NCAA Tournament according to their seedings.

It's unfair to expect a guy whose team is seeded ninth or 10th to win a couple of games. It's not unreasonable to have the same expectation for a coach whose teams consistently have top four seeds and exits early.

Who are the five coaches whose teams consistently over-perform – and the five whose teams consistently under-perform. I checked Tiernan's data and decided to limit the lists to guys who have coached in at least five tournaments.

The top five (in order).

1. John Beilein, Michigan.

2. Sean Miller, Arizona

3. Billy Donovan, Florida

4. Tom Izzo, Michigan State

5. Rick Pitino, Louisville

And the bottom five?

1. Jamie Dixon, Pittsburgh

2. Steve Alford, UCLA

3. Dave Rose, BYU

4. Jim Crews, Saint Louis

5. Dana Altman, Oregon

2. What does Ken Pomeroy say?

KenPom.com has become the go-to site for college hoops junkies. It's $19.99 for a one-year subscription, and a bargain at the price. His computer formula ranks teams in multiple offensive and defensive categories. It's also one-click shopping that enables you to examine every game on a team's schedule.

Another bonus: You get a predicted score for every game. I checked the outcomes for every first-round NCAA game. I only uncovered one first-round upset, a mild one.

Pittsburgh (9) over Colorado (8) by five points.

But there are 10 other games where KenPom's projections encourage you to take a chance on the upset. I'll call them the one-possession games.

Texas (7) over Arizona State (10) by one.

Memphis (8) over George Washington (9) by one.

Gonzaga (8) over Oklahoma State (9) by one.

Cincinnati (5) over Harvard (12) by two.

Baylor (6) over Nebraska (11) by two.

North Carolina (6) over Providence (11) by two.

New Mexico (7) over Stanford (10) by two.

Kentucky (8) over Kansas State (9) by three.

UConn (7) over St. Joseph's (10), by three.

Oregon (7) over BYU (10) by three.

For pure bracket-busting, Harvard over Cincinnati would be the play.

Special note: Saint Louis (5) and Massachusetts (6) will play winners of First Four games. Pomeroy's numbers predict that Saint Louis will be favored against either North Carolina State or Xavier, but that Tennessee or Iowa will be favored against UMass.

3. I won't overwhelm you with a bunch of background information on Nate Silver. Just understand that he's as good as it gets in the prediction business. Ask readers of Baseball Prospectus or the political blog Silver once did at The New York Times.

Now Silver has taken his talents to ESPN – and his first big-time offering is deep look at the NCAA bracket.

Guess which team Silver gives the best probability of winning the tournament?

Your favorite four-seed – Louisville. The Cards are at 15 percent.

Here are the top 10 picks to win the championship from Silver's model:

1. Louisville, 15 percent; 2. Florida 14 percent; 3. Arizona 13 percent; 4. Kansas, Virginia, Michigan State 6 percent; 7. Wichita State, Duke, 5 percent; 9. Villanova, 4 percent; 10. Wisconsin, Michigan, Creighton 3 percent.

Silver puts Louisville's win probability over Manhattan at 93 percent while his numbers give UK a 74 percent chance to beat Kansas State, but only a 34 percent chance against Wichita State on Sunday.

Any upset specials from Silver?

Oklahoma State (52 percent) over Gonzaga. He also give UMass, a six-seed, only a 32 percent chance against Iowa or Tennessee.

4. Everybody has special tricks for picking the champion. One that has worked well over the last decade is this one:

Pick a team that ranks in the Top 20 in Ken Pomeroy's offensive and defensive efficiency numbers and has at least one first-round NBA Draft pick.

Currently, only four teams rank in KenPom's Top 20 on both ends of the court – Louisville (10th on offense, 6th on defense), Florida (17 and 5); Wichita State (8 and 5) and Villanova (16 and 14).

Louisville is the only team in the group with a player who is projected as a first-round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft – Montrezl Harrell.

Russ Smith is expected to be picked in the second round. Wichita State has a second-round pick in Cleanthony Early while Florida forward Patric Young is also expected to be taken in round two.

Proceed with care.

5. The American Athletic Conference got a warm serving of pudding from the Selection Committee, but the league has a perfect chance to respond to the background noise. All four of its NCAA teams are favored in their opening NCAA Tournament games.

That's not the case for teams from the Atlantic 10, a league that received a generous serving of a half-dozen bids. Three A10 teams are underdogs, including both teams George Washington (Memphis) and St. Joseph's (UConn) that are matched against AAC opponents. And UMass is certain to be a fourth underdog.

No wonder Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski snickered at the A10 getting six bids. I did, too.

6. By Thursday night, Rick Pitino will have you convinced that Louisville is playing the New York Knicks, not the Manhattan Jaspers. That's what coaches do.

Here's a better comparison – Colorado.

Manhattan ranks 67th in Ken Pomeroy's computer rankings. Colorado is 64th. But proceed to the next line. Manhattan ranks 139th in Pomeroy's offensive efficiency numbers and 42nd on the defensive end. That's similar to Colorado's profile – 141 on offense and 32nd on defense.

And the Buffaloes are an eight-seed while Manhattan is a 13. In fact, according to Pomeroy, Manhattan is the highest-ranked 13 seed in the field. So by that definition Manhattan is dangerous.

But know this about the Jaspers. They turn the ball over. They're shaky at the free throw line. And they've only beaten one team in KenPom's Top 100 – Iona.

7. What about Kentucky's Friday night game with Kansas State?

I spoke with former Western Kentucky and South Carolina coach Darrin Horn, who worked two KSU games this season. Horn said it is a favorable matchup for UK.

Why?

The Wildcats are undersized – no starters taller than 6 feet 7. And KSU often struggles to score with a freshman (Marcus Foster) at point guard. Kansas State ranks only 104 in KenPom's offensive efficiency.

8. Congratulations to former Indiana University coach Mike Davis, the last guy to take the Hoosiers to the Final Four. He's playing in the NCAA Tournament with Texas Southern, while the entire state of Indiana (10 Division I teams) is staying home.  Texas Southern gets Cal Poly Wednesday night with the winner drawing Wichita State Friday.

9. What are some of the most outrageous seeding blunders on the board – other than Louisville and Kentucky?

If you look at Silver's bracket, you'd go with Syracuse and Iowa State. Although both the Orange and the Cyclones earned three seeds, Silver gives each team only a 1 percent chance of winning the tournament.

If you prefer Pomeroy, the most under-seeded team is Tennessee. Played like a four-seed, earned an 11.

The most over-seeded team? Massachusetts. Played like a 12-seed and was given a 6.

10. The most interesting bracket on the Internet?

The Wall Street Journal's Blindfold Bracket is my overall top seed.

It's a brilliant concept. You're shown rankings for all the teams multiple categories – offense, defense, rebounding, experience, hot streak. You're also given generic information about their conference ties and a range for where they are actually seeded in the tournament.

What information is not provided?

The name of the team?

I picked the entire bracket "blind-folded." My winner?

Wichita State over Florida in the championship game.

Michigan State, the team I picked on my real bracket, disappeared in the Sweet Sixteen against Virginia. Kentucky (round of 32) and Louisville (sweet sixteen) both lost to Wichita State.

Creighton and Villanova also made my blindfold Final Four – and I don't like either of those teams with my eyes open.

It made me miss my Lab. 

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