BOZICH | Monday Muse: Picking your bracket; Six teams most likely to win
Who are the serious national title contenders? More reasons for Kentucky, Purdue and Indiana to howl? Picking the all-American teams. It's all here in the Monday Muse.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Before you drop your bracket into the pool (or shredder), invest several minutes in the Monday Muse.
I can’t guarantee you’ll collect the jackpot because I remember too many years when I finished behind Aunt Toots in the office pool. But I’ll try to help you earn an extra point or two.
Time to share nuggets I’ve uncovered.
1. KENTUCKY, PURDUE, ARIZONA MOST UNDERSEEDED
I wrote an entire column Sunday agreeing with John Calipari’s annual complaint that Kentucky deserved a better seed from the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.
It turns out that I understated Calipari's case.
If you follow the S-curve the committee used to seed the bracket, Kentucky was ranked the 15th best team overall or the third-best four seed. That's an E6.
I collected the rankings from four computer polls that the committee trusts – Ken Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin, Kevin Pauga and the Ratings Percentage Index. I averaged the rankings from those four polls.
This is what the numbers show: Kentucky’s average ranking was ninth in the country.
The Wildcats deserved to be the leading three seed. They were underseeded by six spots.
Two teams have bigger gripes – Purdue and Arizona.
Both the Boilermakers and Wildcats were underseeded by seven slots.
For the record, here are the top 10 teams in the consensus rankings:
1. Kansas; 2. Virginia; 3. North Carolina; 4. Villanova; 5. Michigan State; 6. Oklahoma; 7. West Virginia; 8. Oregon; 9. Kentucky; 10. Miami.
2. THE SIX REAL TITLE CONTENDERS
Now it’s time to slice the field one more time to the teams that are most likely to win the championship in Houston April 4. The next test to apply is the offensive and defensive efficiency test.
The team most likely to win it all needs to rank in the Top 20 nationally in both of those categories. Six teams make the cut:
Kansas, Virginia, Michigan State, North Carolina, Villanova and Oklahoma. I'm taking Michigan State with Kansas, Oklahoma and West Virginia joining them in the Final Four. Too Big 12 heavy? The analytics guys say that was the best league.
Defensive efficiency is what eliminates Kentucky. Although the Wildcats rank as the most efficient offensive team in the nation, they’re only No. 70 on defense. That’s too much to overcome for six games.
3. PAC-12 MANIA
It’s difficult for me to get a comfortable read on Pac-12 basketball. There is the time difference issue. There is also the exposure issue. The Pac-12 Network has never been able to reach an agreement with DirecTV. I didn't see California play all season. Or USC.
But I know this: The Tournament Selection Committee was totally gaga about the Pac-12. (So was Charles Barkley. Did you know he lives out West these days?)
Checking my consensus ratings numbers, Pac-12 teams appear to be the most overseeded teams on the bracket
Oregon got a one-seed, even though their average computer ranking was No. 8. That translates to the final two seed.
Utah earned a three-seed with an average computer ranking of No. 16, the last four seed.
California is 16th on the S-curve, but only 18th on the average computer numbers. Oregon State got too much love, too. I'll get to that in the next item.
Pac-12 teams earned seven bids, just like the big boy leagues – the ACC, Big Ten and Big 12. Time for John Wooden’s league to stand and deliver. We'll be watching here in basketball country.
4. LOOKING FOR UPSETS?
I checked the Pomeroy and Sagarin numbers closely looking for the most likely first-round upsets. Here are three that stood out:
*Virginia Commonwealth, the 10-seed in the West, over another Pac-12 team that is overseeded – Oregon State, the seven-seed. Both the Pomeroy and Sagarin numbers favor the Rams – Pomeroy by 2 and Sagarin by 3.08.
*Hawaii vs. California. Ooops. Another Pac-12 team. See a trend? Both Pomeroy and Sagarin have this game surprisingly close for a 4 vs. 13 matchup. Pomeroy likes the Bears by 5, Sagarin by 5.94. California won eight of its last nine regular-season games, but five wins were at home and five were against opponents that failed to make the tournament.
*Yale vs. Baylor. Again, the predictive numbers are tight for a 5 vs. 12 game. Pomeroy likes the Bears by 3, Sagarin by 4.8.
For the record, Yale will be playing in Providence, a short trip from its Connecticut campus. Ivy League teams have won two of their last three first-round games and Harvard was beaten by two against North Carolina last season.
Happy to help.
5. STONY BROOK SHAKE DOWN
If there is one reason to wonder if Stony Brook can push Kentucky in the Wildcats’ NCAA opener Thursday night at Des Moines, it isn’t the news that Seawolves played Vanderbilt tougher in Memorial Gymnasium than Kentucky did.
It’s this: Stony Brook won the America East Conference and teams from the America East have not been overwhelmed in their last three NCAA Tournament appearances.
All three appearances came from Albany, the program Stony Brook toppled as league champion this season. Albany made the America East proud the last three seasons.
The Great Danes lost to Oklahoma by nine a year ago. They lost to Florida, a Final Four team, by a dozen in 2014. They lost to Duke by a dozen in 2013.
The last team from the America East to win more than a play-in game was Vermont, which upset Syracuse in 2005.
6. HOOSIERS DISRESPECT CARD
When was the last time a team won the Big Ten regular season championship and started the NCAA Tournament as a five seed?
It has not happened in a dozen years. Illinois won the league with a 13-3 record in 2004 and drew a five seed (For the record, the Illini won their first two NCAA games before falling to top seed Duke).
Indiana finished 15-3, two full games ahead of the conference field, and earned the fifth seed in the East Regional. The Hoosiers will start play Thursday night against Chattanooga in Des Moines, Iowa.
Over the last eight seasons, the Big Ten regular season champ had not been seeded worse than third. Four of the last five Big Ten champs earned one seeds.
That first-round loss against Michigan Friday as well as the stumbles against Wake Forest and UNLV in Maui had consequences for Tom Crean’s team.
7. CHATTANOOGA EXPRESS
Chattanooga is a formidable first-round opponent for Indiana. The Mocs won the regular season and post-season tournament in the Southern Conference. Their top players are juniors and seniors. They beat Georgia and Dayton on the road.
They’ve won 24 of their last 27 games.
What does bracket history say about teams from the Southern Conference?
Arkansas survived Wofford by three last season. Michigan beat Wofford by 17 in 2014. Marquette edged Davidson by a point three seasons ago.
The last team from the Southern Conference to win a first-round game was Davidson in 2008.
Had some guard named Curry.
8. REGULAR SEASON & TOURNEY TITLES – HOW IMPORTANT?
They say the committee looks at regular season conference championships. I looked at them over the last 10 seasons for another reason:
Do they show up in the DNA of teams that win the national title or make the Final Four?
I ran the numbers. Here they are:
Of the last 10 national championship teams, six won their conference regular-season title. (Duke finished second in the ACC last season and Connecticut finished third in the American Athletic Conference two years ago.)
The numbers were more predictive for getting to the Final Four – 24 of the last 40 Final Four teams (60 percent) advanced to the Final Four after winning their league regular-season title.
Here is the same breakdown on how national championship teams and Final Four teams have performed in league tournaments over the last decade.
Of the last 10 national champs, seven won their league tournament.
But, strangely, the percentage of Final Four teams that won their conference tournaments is much lower: Only 19 of 40 – just 48 percent.
9. ALL-AMERICAN TEAMS
I filed my top three all-American teams with the Associated Press over the weekend. The only requirement was to balance the groups with frontcourt and backcourt players. They didn’t want five guards or five forwards.
ESPN was not running the balloting so putting Ben Simmons on the first team was not required.
Here are my teams:
F -- Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
F – Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
C – Jakob Poetl, Utah
G -- Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
G -- Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
F – Brice Johnson, North Carolina
F – Georges Niang, Iowa State
G – Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
G -- Grayson Allen, Duke
G – Kris Dunn, Providence
F -- Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
F – Ben Simmons, LSU
F – Perry Ellis, Kansas
G – Jamal Murray, Kentucky
G – Gary Payton II, Oregon State
10. POLL RESULTS
How will University of Louisville fans follow the 2016 NCAA Tournament?
Root against Kentucky 37.6 percent.
Enjoy stress-free basketball 23 percent
Ignore it 19.3 percent
Root for Indiana 9.9 percent
Root for Kentucky 9.8 percent
Root against Indiana 0.4 percent.
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