But first, here’s a Final Four of the Favorite Blog Posts, According to our Readers…
- Sons of NBA Players in College Hoops vs. 4. Championship Week Updates
- Best Hair in College Hoops vs. 3. Suspect Spreads Saturday
BY MATT DE SARLE
Shortly after Valentine’s Day, I have officially fallen in love with a few teams. In this article, I make the argument for why these teams would advance in a fictitious bracket designed by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi in his bracketology.
Big 10’s fifth through tenth best due to get snubbed
The headline for this February 16th simulation of a bracket is that the Big 10 teams, from the fifth best conference record to the tenth best record, will get snubbed. What I mean by that is the talent discrepancy among the Big 10 teams is not that large. Wisconsin is currently listed as a 5 seed, but it has lost to the tenth best team in the conference, Maryland. Right now Michigan and Ohio State occupy the hypothetical 1 lines. However, Ohio State lost to Minnesota, a projected 10 seed. It also lost to Purdue, a projected 6 seed. Those of us watching college basketball know that those higher seeded teams are nearly as dangerous as the Buckeyes. If the Buckeyes have a 80% chance of making the Sweet 16, you’d have to put the Purdue Boilermakers odds somewhere in the 60-70% range. That’s just my humble opinion in watching these games.
Defense can still win championships, even in College Basketball
Another trend that I am expecting by doing this mock bracket is the scarcity of elite defensive teams. When you look at the current Kenpom.com defensive analytics, there are many team in the top 30 of defensive efficiency that might not even make the tournament. For example, Memphis is the sixth best defensive team according to Kenpom’s measurement. Teams like Utah State, Mississippi, Maryland, VCU, Stanford and Kentucky are all firmly in the top 30, but half of those teams won’t make the tournament. Even Clemson, a projected 7 seed and 13th best Kenpom defensive team, is not guaranteed to make the tournament in a (historically) weaker ACC season.
I bring up the math test because it’s confirmed by my eye test. Even in just the left hand side of the bracket, I love the top defensive clubs to make the field of 32.
Just on the left hand side of that bracket, you would have four of the best 7 defensive teams win their first game. And all those teams, Gonzaga, Houston, Loyola Chicago and Alabama, can score the rock!
Heavyweight matchups could litter the first two days of the NCAA Tournament
If this mock up is any indication, there could be some serious heavyweight fights in just the first 48. Creighton versus Utah State, Purdue versus Drake, and Wisconsin versus Belmont represent some match-ups where the winner could easily become among the Elite 8.
Conclusions from a February Eye Test Bracketology
These simulations, whether the ESPN or CBS publishing, continue to show a possible Baylor Illinois rematch in the Elite 8. I think that Illinois is actually among the three or four teams nationwide that can beat Baylor, because of its size and blossoming core of young guards. It’s also very difficult to sweep any legit basketball team 2-0 in any season. Ayo Dosunmo did not play well offensively in the first half of their first matchup in late 2020. That’s a matchup I am keeping a close eye on for March.
Meantime, I am going to continue to trust my eyes and its perfect marriage (at least at the moment) with the analytics. That’s why Western Kentrucky, Loyola Chicago, Rutgers and Belmont is making my Sweet 16 as of February 17th.
Predicting a Final Four with Numbers that Mimic Recent History
This blog is all about the eye test, not necessarily the numbers. But sometimes your eye can’t avoid the usual suspect numbers. We know as college basketball fans that the Final Four is never a perfect grouping of 1 seeds. That has only happened once in history (2008 with Kansas, Memphis, UNC and UCLA).
And so the total sum of all the Final Four seeds added together is normally 10 or more. In the last five tournaments, it’s been more common to have a 7 seed than a 3 seed (two occurrences versus none). A 6 seed hasn’t made it since 1992 with the Fab 5 and Michigan.
And so with this Elite 8, I followed my instinct of taking a high ceiling low seed Big 10 team (6 seed) in Purdue. My 5 seed is Creighton. Texas had two hiccups in its schedule during the dead of winter while navigating COVID-19 related absences. And so the Longhorns slipping to the 4 seed doesn’t deter me. They join Gonzaga, Illinois and Creighton in my Final 4. The total seed count is 12.