Dueling Bracketology

As the resident bracketologists here at 3MW, Jim and I (Ky) thought it would be fun to present our latest brackets together. As a bonus, we've included our email discussion critiquing one another's work. Enjoy!

Jim's Bracket:

Ky's Bracket:

Email Conversation:

Jim (10:28AM): First order of business - I think we both need to clarify how much of our bracket is based on results compared to our projections for the remainder of the season. I ended up weighting mine a little more towards results, as evidenced by Baylor being so high, Oregon being so low,  plus other things. How did you strike that balance?

Also, to clarify for our faithful readers, we used the highest-ranked KenPom team as the auto-bid winner. 

A couple teams I zero in on when looking at yours...I'm surprised how low you are on Creighton, undefeated with a convincing win over Wisconsin (plus iffy ones @ Nebraska and neutral vs NC State). Florida State being so high shocks me too - great KenPom rating, but weren't you pretty low on them in the preseason? Pretty swift fall for St. Mary's down to the seven-line after only one loss, as well. Miami and Pittsburgh are both higher than I have them as well - who has Miami beaten? Related to that, how are they so far ahead of Syracuse - seems like those two should be pretty close (and perhaps they should be closer in my bracket as well). 

Lastly - what's a mid-major team gotta do to get some love above a 12 seed?! Arlington and Middle Tennessee, in particular, have legitimately solid resumes. 

That's all for now. 

Ky (11:26AM): Hi!

If I were to assign percentages on results-based vs. projections on remainder of season, I’d say I was 75% results, 25% projections. This is always the inherent question when doing bracketology early in the season. Like, does Baylor have the best wins right now? Absolutely. But, is it arguable to have Nova, UCLA, Duke, and Kansas over them on the 1-line – I think so.

Addressing your “zeroed-in” teams:

·       Creighton – admittedly a little low, but I had a hard time vaulting them over any of my 3’s. Maaayyyybe West Virgina, but that win at Virginia was one of the best out of any team this season. KenPom’s #17 rating of the Jays and some future projections came into play here as well.
·       Florida State – the win against Florida was impressive, plus add in solid wins over Minnesota and Illinois (yes all at home). Sometimes I like to think about the committee as well – they see an AP-ranked 10-1 ACC team with 2 RPI top 25 wins (yes RPI is laughably garbage right now), which they’ll weight heavily. I was semi-low on the Noles pre-season, but Bacon/Isaac have changed my tune.
·       St. Mary’s – The Arlington home loss hurt a lot. Wins at Dayton and Stanford are good, but if those are your “marquee” wins outside of conference, your resume is slightly weak. The WCC is bad outside of the Zags and BYU, so Mary’s needs to at split those teams to get a top 5 seed IMO
·       Pitt is right where they should be – impressive wins vs. Marquette on a neutral and at Maryland. The Duquesne loss hurts, so I could buy a “put them lower than 8 argument”.
·       Miami is heavily projection based. Only good win is vs. Stanford. Considering the teams behind them, it’s hard to definitively argue any of them over Miami
·       Cuse has beaten NOBODY and lost to UConn – their RPI is non-existent currently (again RPI sucks, but committee pundits jack off to that metric)

LOVE the mid-major question! I wanted to address this because I saw an early draft of your bracket where you favor mid-majors higher than 12’s. This is 100% historical based, check these stats out:

Here is a list of the last time that a team from these particular conferences have earned an auto-bid higher than 12-seed:

·       MAC – 2008 (Kent State 9)
·       CAA – 2010 (ODU 11) (excludes 2-bid year in 2011)
·       Sun Belt – 2002 (WKU 9) (excludes 2-bid years in 2008 & 2013)
·       CUSA – 2013 (Memphis 6)
·       MAAC – 2009 (Siena 9)
·       Summit – not in the last 15 years

Similarly, here’s some stats about first-four at-larges:

·       11 seeds – 58.3% (both in 2015 and 2016) (2012 was the only year that neither at-large first-four was on the 11 line)
·       12 seeds – 25%
·       13 seeds – 8.3%
·       14 seeds – 8.3%

Can’t wait to see your bracket BIG BOI…

Jim (12:02PM): Whoops, I'm a bozo for not including my bracket. Attached it to this one. 

75/25 is a good split, I think. Definitely looking forward to seeing who tumbles and who rises throughout conference play. 

Mostly fair responses - I think you're underselling Syracuse's win over Monmouth (77th in KenPom) compared to Miami's win over Stanford (69th), but the Miami win was semi-neutral in Orlando at least, so that's fine. I think we're both able to lean on projection a bit here - I consider the Orange more likely to figure it out and play well through the ACC than Miami and Pittsburgh (Duquesne is baaad), despite how disgusted I've been with their offense. 

I like the historical points on the low-major auto-bids, research is cool! Right now, I see Arlington and Middle Tennessee as having played similar to the Butler teams of 2009 or, more closely, 2011. However, that 2011 Bulldogs team had just played in the national title game, so they were forgiven for 5 bad Horizon losses and awarded an 8-seed. 

To that point, I think the thing that always leads to these teams getting lower seeds is the bad losses they load up on in conference - four losses in the Sun Belt or the CAA is extremely harmful to seeding, along with the fact that the committee doesn't properly weight the difficulty of conference road games. They see a game at Georgia Southern and only see "RPI: 192" instead of the way KenPom (more correctly) sees it - a road game against a top-150 team, which is the equivalent difficulty level of a home game against a team ranked 70th or so - like Pitt! We can hope that some day, the true challenge of these games will be evaluated by the committee, but for now we'll have to settle for Mr. Pomeroy's calculations and forcing ourselves to reset our thinking to the Stone Age, as the committee does. 

That's another constant bracketology struggle - how much can we anticipate how the committee thinks. I'd love to believe they're using these non-RPI metrics more and more, but the evidence just isn't there, particularly based on how much last year focused on quantity of top-50 wins near the cut-line. Little Rock was the team most, including me, thought should be been higher than a 12 last year (29-4, 17-3 and won the Sun Belt Tournament), but if even they didn't get the seed bump, perhaps you're correct. 

Interested to see who you think is too high or low in my bracket, so I'll stop there.

Ky (12:25PM): Jimmer! Same 1 and 2 seeds – it must be true that handsome minds think alike.

The first thing that jumps out to me is your 3/4 line. Purdue is a 3 but Wisky (your Badge!) and Indiana are 4’s? The Boilers’ best wins are against Auburn and Arizona State (yeesh), versus Indiana beating Kansas and UNC (though the loss to IPFW hurts) and Wisconsin taking down Syracuse, Oklahoma, and Marquette at the Bradley Center. Then you have Virginia as a 3 but WV at a 4 – the Mountaineers beat ‘em at home baby! Fairly similar resume otherwise, and the Pom #5 ranking for UVA helps their cause. (Aside – I usually hate the “they beat that team, but are seeded lower” argument)

Why so low on your Louisville Cardinals?? You’ve been praising them all year and they currently sit at 9-1 with wins over Wichita State and Purdue (your 3 seed) with a #7 KP ranking. This is a top ten team in my opinion, and giving them a 5 is basically saying they’re a 17-or-higher squad.

Looks like Florida State is our biggest discrepancy – you have them at 11, I got ‘em at a 5. Care to defend your end?

Hey! You have Nevada in the field instead of San Diego State; you broke your KP auto-bid rule!

There are some fun hypothetical 5/12 & 4/13 matchups on here! ND vs. UNCW, Louisville vs. MTSU, Indiana vs. Monmouth, WV vs. Princeton – yes please!

P.S. – I LOVE that we both have Northwestern in our fields – this is their year!

Jim (3:43PM): I'll start with Virginia/West Virginia - I think, aside from squeaking one out in Charlottesville, WV hasn't done much besides murder terrible teams (331st-ranked overall schedule, per KP - mild apologies to Illinois), and I'm very hesitant to reward that. Virginia, on the other hand, has had some nice mid-tier wins, and they're still ranked 4 spots higher per Pom. As with your Creighton choice, there's some projection there, and also echoing you, relying too much on head-to-head is not a sound evaluation strategy IMO. 

I'm probably including some anti-favorite team bias (that's a thing, I swear!) with Wisconsin - they've been better lately, but I was disappointed in them early, so I bumped them down. Tough to punish Purdue for narrow losses at Louisville and vs #1 Villanova, and I like how consistent they've played to this point, but you're right - their wins are pretty weak. I mostly stand by having IU ahead of Wisconsin (two elite wins, but weak schedule), but I'll concede that Purdue should probably be #3 in the B1G based on their lack of big wins so far. This is why collaboration is good!

I will admit to having bumped Louisville down a slot from #16 overall - I was having some serious trouble getting my regions to balance while also obeying the "Separate the Top 4 from each conference if in the top 16" rule. Even with that, the Purdue win was at the friendly confines of the delicious Yum! Center, and eye testing their offense has been pretty offensive so far. As much as I love them, I'm concerned they'll struggle a bit against the ACC if  they're sitting in neutral on that end. Staying in the ACC - regarding the 'Noles, I'd like to see more done away from Tallahassee before I launch them up my board. I'm not an Illinois believer, and FSU sits comfortably with Syracuse and Miami on KenPom from 25th to 27th - I have them all between 41st and 47th in my S-Curve (Pitt 48th!), but will adjust as needed if FSU continues to play this well. Three of their first five ACC games are @ Virginia, vs. Duke, @ UNC, so we'll find out soon. 

Hehe on Nevada - KenPom needs to catch up with the real world. San Diego State has been bad, Nevada has been solid; I think there's way too much preseason weight in the SDSU rank, so I cheated a bit there. 

As they are every year, those fun 5/12 and 4/13 matchups are contingent on two weeks in March. Those awesome-looking matchups often tend to get watered-down by tourney upsets, which is why leagues should really figure out a way to make it more likely they send their best team (but that's a different article also). 

Ky (3:48PM): Tears over the 5/12 4/13 matchups – so true, so true...