The Top 16 Reveal: Dueling Bracketology

The 3MW's resident bracketologists had a friendly (read: HEATED) email exchange Friday morning/afternoon ahead of the Committee's first-ever reveal of the Top 16 on February 11th. Read the transcript and see their picks below...

(Ky, 9:40am)
Jim, ma bookie *Jabba voice*, it pains me to see the NCAA try to ruin their perfect Selection Sunday show by introducing this farce of an event that reveals who the Committee would choose to occupy the top four seed-lines as of February 11, 2017. We could drone on and on about how terrible of an idea this is, but I’ll keep this intro civil and get right into my picks for the current top 16 teams:

1.     Gonzaga - #1 seed??! Yes. They absolutely deserve this
2.    Villanova
3.    Kansas
4.    Baylor
5.    Louisville
6.    Florida State
7.    Oregon
8.    North Carolina
9.    Arizona
10.   UCLA
11.    Kentucky
12.   Butler
13.   Wisconsin
14.   Cincinnati
15.   West Virginia
16.   Virginia

It was really tough cutting Creighton out of this list, but I really think the Committee is going to discount them for the Watson injury.

Every step we take...every move we make...

(Jim - 10:23am)
Starting with a Star Wars reference, hey? That's either to win back the diehards you offended on the podcast (seriously, Luke beating the Empire in a movie that's literally called Empire Strikes Back?!) or an attempt to make me let my guard down, in which case you've succeeded - I'd rather be in an X-Wing right now. 

Totally agree about the farcical nature of this reveal. Obviously we're playing right into it by talking about it and watching, but we'd be doing a dishonor to our loyal readers/listeners if we ignored it. Another thing to note: we hate the RPI and all it stands for, but it's still the Committee's central metric, so we must factor it in/cite it when necessary. I actually went a step further than you and bracketed out the Top 16 (is the show going to do this?), but that's because I work harder than you, nothing new:

Virginia seems to be our biggest sticking point. I agree with you on the Creighton exclusion (we love you Mo), and I also think we'll both end up feeling dumb for leaving out the Committee's beloved Blue Devils, but I just couldn't bump anyone out. 

For me, the biggest questions around Saturday are:

1. What do you do with Gonzaga? Will the Committee be soft and hide behind the 119 SOS number and "only" 7 top-100 wins? Or will they sit firmly on the top line where we think they belong? I have them a smidge behind 'Nova (methinks some eye test and defending champ love will be present in the room), but I think I'd bump them to #1 overall with a W in Moraga this weekend. 
2. How the hell do you rank the Pac-12's top 3? You can twist yourself into a damn pretzel trying to rank Oregon, UCLA, and Arizona, but ultimately, it's a vital question because the winner probably gets the 2-seed out west in Gonzaga's region. You and I both went with Oregon (despite last night's close loss to Lonzo and the Bruins), I like that we agree there.
3. Reputation vs Resume - We are on the same page about Butler and Florida State's resumes being phenomenal. Butler has the two losses outside the top 100, but 15-3 vs the top 100 is outrageously good. And FSU gets the nod as my top ACC team behind their 9-1 clip vs. the top 50. But neither has the hefty perception value that, say UNC or Duke have. Will that cost them a seed line or two?
4. Just how much does the Committee value (or de-value) winning the watered-down Big Ten? Despite being this site's resident Badger lover, I think, based solely on blind resume (and some eye test lately), a solid argument can be made that Wisconsin is 5-seed material. BUT they are the clear leader of a Power 6 league, and championships typically carry weight for the committee. 

(Ky - 12:00pm)
The Empire gaffe on the Pod was unforgivable, but I’ll also put 10% of the blame on you for not catching it. I shirk responsibility like John Calipari shirks NCAA violations!

Pretty crazy (or maybe it’s not?) that we both have the same top 16 teams. I wonder if the Committee will agree. The top candidates for sneaking in would be Duke (all hail the Evil Empire), Purdue, and Creighton. Do we think anything totally unexpected will happen by the way?

Now to answer your fun questions:  

1.       I think the Committee goes Gonzaga #1. The SOS part, to me, isn’t THAT big of a number to overshadow the Zags’ undefeated season and the fact that they are LITERALLY eviscerating everyone they play (last game they played that was within 10 points was against Arizona on December 3rd). You could certainly make an argument for Nova though.

2.       The three Pac-12 teams are pretty close. Check out these numbers:
            a.       Oregon – 20-4; RPI #11; KP #19; SOS #38; 5-2 v. RPI Top 50; 10-3 v. RPI Top 100
            b.      UCLA – 21-3;  RPI #22; KP #18; SOS #139; 2-3 v. RPI Top 50; 8-3 v. RPI Top 100
            c.       Arizona – 22-3; RPI #9; KP #22; SOS #34; 4-3 v. RPI Top 50; 9-3 v. RPI Top 100
We are both correct for choosing Oregon. Honestly though, Arizona has the better numbers than UCLA; I just think the Committee is really going to give weight to that blowout against Oregon on February 4th.

3.       I think Butler is more likely to get “underseeded”, but yes unfortunately I agree that reputation means more than resume sometimes. IT SHOULDN’T!

4.       The winner of the Big Ten should and will be a top four seed. I think you could make a case for Wisky on the 3-line. Their resume is pretty good: 20-3; RPI #16; KP #12; SOS #89; 2-3 v. RPI Top 50; 11-3 v. RPI Top 100

Jim – you need to defend your Virginia over Louisville take RIGHT NOW.

(Jim - 1:07pm) 
Shirk away my friend - I did indeed completely whiff on catching it, I should have skewered you for that one. I have this sneaky feeling Duke will be in the Top 16 tomorrow, but the only resume I didn't like in my group of 16 is Wisconsin (1-3 vs top 25, 2 total top 50 wins, 241 NC SOS are pretty unbecoming of an elite team), but I do agree that B1G dominance will have them in there. I could see Butler or Cincinnati getting the shaft; Butler in particular would be a crime. 

I am more than happy to make the Virginia-over-Louisville case. Here's the side-by-side:
            1. Virginia: RPI #13, SOS #15, NC SOS #39, KP #2; 6-3 vs top 50; 12-5 vs top 100
            2. Louisville: RPI #5, SOS #7, NC SOS #10, KP #3; 3-5 vs top 50; 12-5 vs top 100

To me, the RPI/SOS/Pom numbers are close enough to not be a determining factor, though I suspect that will be your argument. The glaring number is the record vs top 50 - Virginia has just demonstrated a far greater ability to beat very good teams (including Louisville twice! - but notice that's not my tiebreaker). I'll take the team beating top teams over the one fattening up on 51-100 squads every time. The other huge factor is their work on the road... 

         1. Louisville's road wins are, in order of KenPom quality: #68 Pitt, #80 Georgia Tech, #156 BC, and #196 Grand Canyon - and that's it. 
         2. Virginia's road wins are, in order of KenPom quality: #3 Louisville (hehe), #25 Notre Dame, #43 Clemson, #47 California, #156 BC, #165 UNC Greensboro. Four wins better than the Cardinals' best road win! That's just head-and-shoulders better (sponsored by Head and Shoulders 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner). 

Your move, Jabba. 

(Ky - 1:25pm)

“I have no response. That was perfect.” – Chester James “The Ragin’ Cajun” Carville, Jr. – Old School (2003)

(Just kidding I’ll make some sort of conclusion):

Jim, I think we have the correct 16 in place. I think mine are super correct (hehe). I am a little excited to see the results (but still do not support the event), but I loathe the coming over-analysis from the college basketball talking heads.

Silver lining? Maybe they’ll stop talking about Trip Allen.

(Jim - 2:04pm)

Hey, that's why a committee makes the bracket, not some psycho dude alone in a room with A Beautiful Mind-esque data sheets taped to all of the walls!

We shall see just how right or wrong we are...