Wichita St

March 16, 2014 Basketball # , , , , , , ,

The EPW Bracket – FINAL

The wait is finally over. Here is the EPW bracket that will be submitted to Bracket Matrix, assuming Florida and Michigan St. are victorious.

Spreadsheet

The #1 seeds are Florida (South), Arizona (West), Villanova (East) and Wichita St. (Midwest). Their pods are Orlando, San Diego, Buffalo and St. Louis.

The #2 seeds are Virginia (East), Syracuse (Midwest), Wisconsin (South) and Iowa St. (West). Their pods are Raleigh, Buffalo, Milwaukee and St. Louis.

The #3 seeds are Michigan (Midwest), Kansas (South), San Diego St. (West) and Michigan St. (East). Their pods are Milwaukee, San Antonio, Spokane and Orlando.

Finally, the #4 seeds are Creighton (Midwest), Duke (South), Louisville (East) and Cincinnati (West). Their pods are San Antonio, Raleigh, Spokane and San Diego.

Final Bracket - Top 16

 

 

 

 

 

#5 seeds: Connecticut (Midwest), UCLA (South), New Mexico (East) and Saint Louis (West)

#6 seeds: Gonzaga (Midwest, Massachusetts (South), Pittsburgh (West) and VCU (East). *Notes, Ohio St. and North Carolina both forced down a seed line. VCU jumps two spots.

#7 seeds: Ohio St. (West), North Carolina (South), Oklahoma (East) and George Washington (Midwest)

#8 seeds: Kentucky (East), Harvard (South), Texas (Midwest) and Providence (West)

Final Bracket - Top 32

 

 

 

 

 

#9 seeds: Baylor (West), Oregon (Midwest), Memphis (South) and Saint Joseph’s (East)

#10 seeds: STEPHEN FULLER AUSTIN (Memphis), Colorado (East), Southern Miss (West) and Arizona St. (Midwest)

#11 seeds: Xavier (South), SMU (West), Oklahoma St. (Midwest) and North Dakota St. (East)

#12 seeds: Florida St. (Midwest), Toledo (South), Stanford/Green Bay (East), Nebraska/BYU (West)

#13 seeds: Manhattan (Midwest), North Carolina Central (East), Delaware (West) and New Mexico St. (South)

#14 seeds: Western Michigan (West), Mercer (South), Tulsa (East), Eastern Kentucky (Midwest)

#15 seeds: Louisiana Lafayette (Midwest), Milwaukee (East), American (South), Wofford (West)

#16 seeds: Weber St. (West), Albany (South), Coastal Carolina/Mount St. Mary’s (East), Texas Southern/Cal Poly (Midwest)

Final Bracket - Complete

 

 

 

 

 

Last Four In: Stanford, Green Bay, Nebraska, BYU

First Four Out: Dayton, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana Tech

Next Four Out: Kansas St., North Carolina St., Tennessee, Minnesota

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March 14, 2014 Basketball # , , , , ,

EPW: Mock Bracket Walkthrough

I’ve meant to do this exercise for a few weeks. This will be a full walk-through of the seeding process, using my rankings as an S-Curve. I’m going to attempt to build the bracket using the selection committee rules, while trying to stay as true to the ratings as possible. I will do this on Selection Sunday so that I can send a bracket to Bracket Matrix to track the results. I want as little human interaction as possible, but I know I can’t just seed everyone straight through with the rankings, otherwise we can end up with 6 teams from the same conference in the same region. The only thing I won’t pay attention to is potential re-matches from non-conference opponents. I’m only one set of eyes and I don’t have the time to double-check everything while still writing this post. Enough explanation, let’s do this.

This whole process starts off simple, but gets harder as it goes as more teams need to be shuffled. The four #1 seeds are, in order, Arizona, Florida, Villanova and Syracuse. Arizona goes to the West Region (Anaheim) and is placed in the San Diego Pod. Florida goes to the South Region (Memphis) and gets the Orlando pod. Villanova will be in the East Region (New York) and gets a Buffalo pod, with Syracuse rounding it out in the Midwest Region (Indianapolis) and grabbing the other Buffalo pod. The bracket lines up like this:

Bracket - #1 seeds

 

 

 

 

 

Next, we have the #2 seed: Wichita St., Wisconsin, Kansas, San Diego St. Wichita St. goes first, being placed in the Saint Louis pod and the South Region. Wisconsin goes to the Milwaukee pod and the Midwest Region. Kansas joins Wichita St. at the Saint Louis site, while heading to the East region. San Diego St. is unable to be placed in the San Diego pod, since it is their home floor, so they’ll be heading to Spokane and grabbing the spot in the West. So far, so good.

The #3 seeds are as follows: Michigan, Creighton, Virginia and Iowa St. Michigan has a few favorable pod locations, so to make things easier for some other #3 seeds, but since both Buffalo pods have been taken, they’ll grab the 2nd spot in Milwaukee. The Midwest would be their best region geographically, but since Wisconsin is already in that region, they move to the East. Creighton’s two best pods (St. Louis and Milwaukee) have already been filled, so they’ll head to San Antonio for their first game and be placed in the Midwest. Virginia is next, and they’ll head to Raleigh and take a spot in the South, with Iowa St. going to San Antonio and the West.

Moving on to the #4 seeds, we have Duke, Cincinnati, Saint Louis and Michigan St. Duke gets a first round game in Raleigh and is heading to the East region. Cincinnati has to head to Orlando, via process of elimination, but gets a spot in the Midwest. Saint Louis and Michigan St. both draw short straws for pods, heading to Spokane and San Diego, respectively. Saint Louis is placed in the South region, with Michigan St. heading to the West. Not a lot of perks for Michigan St. as the last #4 seed, but what can you do? The bracket now looks like this:

Bracket - Top 16

 

 

 

 

 

The #5 seeds are Louisville, Massachusetts, Connecticut and North Carolina. Louisville can’t go to the Midwest, due to the presence of Cincinnati, so they’ll be put in the South. Massachusetts is next, heading to the East. Connecticut is locked out of the Midwest and the South, the East has already been filled, so process of elimination puts the in the West. Which should mean that North Carolina goes to the Midwest, however that is where Syracuse is seeded. The only region that does not have an ACC representative at this point is the West, meaning the Tar Heels need to be bumped down a spot on the seed line. The next team in like is Gonzaga. Since they have no conflicts, they can be placed on the #5 line in the Midwest.

Now the #6 seeds should be North Carolina, Ohio St., New Mexico and Pittsburgh. Now UNC can slot into the West. Ohio St.’s only possible location at this point is the South. New Mexico can’t go to the West because of San Diego St., so they’ll be in the Midwest. That leaves Pittsburgh to be placed. Pittsburgh will be the 5th ACC team to be seeded, meaning there will now be multiple conference teams in one region. With Duke being the #4 seed in the East, Pittsburgh can slot in as the East’s #6 seed, which avoids any potential conference re-match until the Elite 8. Perfect.

Bracket - Top 24

 

 

 

 

 

Next up is the #7 seeds, Texas, VCU, George Washington and Oklahoma. Texas goes to the South, VCU to the Midwest, and George Washington is forced to the West as the 4th A-10 rep. These leaves Oklahoma unable to be seeded as a 7, as their only potential landing spot at the point is in the Midwest. UCLA is next in line, so they snag a cross-country trip to the East, if they make a Sweet 16 appearance.

The #8 seeds are now Oklahoma, Harvard, Baylor and Memphis. Oklahoma heads to the Midwest and Harvard takes a spot in the East. Baylor makes team number 5 for the Big 12, so their spot requires some analysis. The Big 12 has no teams in top half of the two remaining regions, so placing them in either one will work. That’s a different story for Memphis, though. The AAC has teams in the top half of both of those regions, so the Tigers will be forced to drop to the #9 line. The next team up is Oregon, who can be placed in the South without problem, which makes Baylor to the West official. This type of musical chairs becomes quite regular from here on out.

Half of the bracket has now been seeded. Potential conference re-matches have been minimized and pushed out as late as possible. An all-chalk 2nd round is now visible for the entire bracket, which looks like this:

Bracket - Top 32

 

 

 

 

 

Now, the first round matchups start being created. The #9 seeds are Memphis, Kentucky, Southern Miss and Colorado. Memphis goes to the East, since the AAC has teams in the other 3 regions, where they’ll meet Harvard. I don’t think Kentucky would get a spot in the Midwest, as that could potentially put Syracuse in a semi-road game in the 2nd round, so they head to the West to play Baylor. Southern Miss goes to the South to take on Oregon, since Colorado’s only potential region is the Midwest and a game against former conference mate, Oklahoma.

For #10 seeds, we have THE LUMBERJACKS OF STEPHEN FULLER AUSTIN, Xavier, Toledo and Providence. Stephen F. Austin heads to the Midwest for a date with VCU. Xavier is the South region and draws Texas. Toledo ends up in the East and matches up with UCLA. Lastly, Providence goes to the West and plays George Washington.

In the 8 total games that have been set-up so far (ignoring any potential home court adjustments), only Kentucky is projected to be a favorite in their game.

Moving on to the #11 seeds, we have Stanford, Arizona St., Florida St. and SMU. Since the Pac12 already have 4 teams in the bracket, the region choices have some limits. The East is the only region to have a Pac12 in the bottom half of a region, so Stanford gets a spot in the West against North Carolina, while Arizona St. takes on Ohio St. in the South. Florida St. takes Midwest’s #11 seed, taking on New Mexico, with SMU joining the East region and taking on Pittsburgh.

Bracket - Top 44

 

 

 

 

 

The #12 seeds traditionally are the most popular upset teams in the tournament, and in this instance, one of these teams is particularly strong. This group of teams also includes the first play-in game. The teams are Oklahoma St., Dayton, the winner of Nebraska/Saint Joseph’s, and North Dakota St. Seeding these teams was a little tricky due to the play-in game, but ultimately everyone can be kept on this seed line. Oklahoma St. heads to the South to take on Louisville in what I would assume is one of the strongest 1st round games in the history of the NCAA tournament. It’s absolutely a doomsday scenario for the defending champs. Louisville will still be favorites in the game, but the relative strength of the rest of the 12-seeds pales in comparison to OKST’s. Dayton goes to the West for a game against Connecticut. The Nebraska/St. Joe’s winner is placed in the Midwest, which has an top-half of the bracket without any teams from the BigTen or A10. Both teams are underdogs in that match-up with Gonzaga, though. The last 12-seed in North Dakota St., who heads to the East to face Massachusetts.

#13 seeds include the winner of Green Bay and BYU, Louisiana Tech, Manhattan and North Carolina Central. With BYU as the projected winner, they’ll be in the East region as Duke’s opponent. Louisiana Tech would be in the Midwest and would take on Cincinnati. Manhattan goes to the South for a date with Saint Louis and NC Central heads to the West to take on Michigan St.

The #14 seeds are Delaware, Georgia St., New Mexico St. and Mercer. Delaware gets placed in the Midwest to take on Creighton, Georgia St. is in the South region and draws Virginia, New Mexico St. is in the West region and plays Iowa St., and Mercer finishes off this group in the East against Michigan.

Per KenPom ratings, half of the Sweet 16 teams have now been decided.

Bracket - Top 60

 

 

 

 

 

This leaves just the #15 and #16 seeds. The #15 seeds are UC-Irvine, Eastern Kentucky, Stony Brook and Milwaukee, with the #16 seeds being American, Wofford, and the winners of Weber St./Coastal Carolina and Mount St. Mary’s/Texas Southern. UC-Irvine takes a crack at Wisconsin in the Midwest. Eastern Kentucky takes on Kansas in the East. Stony Brook locks up with undefeated Wichita St. in the South, and UW-Milwaukee heads to the West and “battles” San Diego St.

Finally, the #16 seed match-ups are American taking on Syracuse in the Midwest, Wofford against Villanova in the East, the Weber St./Coastal Carolina winner against Florida in the South and the Mount St. Mary’s/Texas Southern winner against Arizona in the West.

All of this creates a bracket that looks like this:

Bracket - Complete

 

 

 

 

 

All of the games are done using a straight comparison of the higher KenPom rating. No need to run any sims on this hypothetical. So much can change just by simply putting teams in different regions. For example, even though Louisville makes it to the finals, the game against Oklahoma St. would severely lower their overall chances of doing that. Replace Saint Louis with Duke and you have an even more difficult road. All in all, I think this is a really fun exercise. The bracket was able to come together with a very small amount of restructuring due to conference alignments. I’ll be very interested to see how this measures up to the rest of the brackets that are tracked at Bracket Matrix. Anything in the top half will look like a very big success.

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March 11, 2014 Basketball # , , , , , , ,

EPW: College Basketball Rankings through March 10

Spreadsheet

Seeds

1: Villanova, Florida, Arizona, Syracuse

2: Wichita St., Wisconsin, San Diego St., Kansas

3: Michigan, Creighton, Virginia, Iowa St.

4: Duke, Cincinnati, Saint Louis, Michigan St.

5: Louisville, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Connecticut

6: Oklahoma, Ohio St., VCU, George Washington

7: Gonzaga, New Mexico, Pittsburgh, Texas

8: Memphis, Harvard, UCLA, Oregon

9: Kentucky, Stephen F. Austin, Baylor, SMU

10: Southern Miss, Arizona St., Colorado, Toledo

11: Xavier, Iowa, Providence, Nebraska,

12: Oklahoma St., Saint Joseph’s, (Dayton/BYU), (Florida St./Green Bay)

13: North Dakota St., Louisiana Tech, Manhattan, North Carolina Central

14: Delaware, Georgia St., Boston University, New Mexico St.

15: Mercer, UC Irvine, Eastern Kentucky, Stony Brook

16: Robert Morris, Wright St., (Wofford/Weber St.), (Coastal Carolina/Texas Southern)

 

Last Four In: Dayton, BYU, Florida St., Green Bay

First Four Out: Kansas St., Stanford, Missouri, St. John’s

Next Four Out: Arkansas, California, Tennessee, Minnesota

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March 10, 2014 Basketball # , , , , , , ,

EPW: College Basketball Rankings through March 9

There have been lots of changes since the last rankings update. I had planned on putting stuff up on Saturday AND Sunday, but got side-tracked by day-drinking on Saturday and a hangover yesterday. It happens. Also, I am now deeply immersed in South Park: The Stick of Truth. Absolutely hilarious game. Anyway, no one cares about that so I’ll get to the point.

5 teams have officially punched their ticket to the dance: Mercer, Coastal Carolina, Harvard, Eastern Kentucky and Wichita St. Stony Brook (or Albany, but whatever) replaced Vermont, Wofford (or Western Carolina) replaced Davidson and the Horizon’s automatic qualifier will either be Wright St. or Milwaukee. Green Bay took a tumble, dropping 12 spots since the last rankings. They are now slotted in the Last Four In, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them passed by some of the bubble teams with games left to play.

The biggest change, in my opinion, came at the top. Villanova is now the #1 team in the EPW rankings. Please understand, this does not mean that Villanova is the best team in the nation. It means that Villanova has performed the best relative to expectations, which is how I believe the tournament should be seeded. While they have one more loss than my #2, Florida, they’ve played a harder schedule. If Villanova can win the Big East tournament, and avenge the two beatings they took from Creighton, I truly believe they should be the #1 overall seed. I don’t think the committee will agree, but I think we all know that my opinion is way more important.

One more note before I provide the updated data is on Wichita St. The Shockers are the #5 team in EPW, meaning they would not be considered a 1-seed in the tournament. I think a reasonable argument can be made that Arizona, Florida, Villanova and Syracuse should be the four 1-seeds if they all win their respective conference tournaments. The chances of the tournaments playing out like that are small, so I don’t expect this to be an issue, but it is something to think about over the next week. Being undefeated should not be an automatic 1-seed.

Spreadsheet

Seeds

1: Villanova, Florida, Arizona, Syracuse

2: Wichita St., Wisconsin, San Diego St., Kansas

3: Michigan, Creighton, Virginia, Iowa St.

4: Duke, Cincinnati, Saint Louis, Michigan St.

5: Louisville, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Connecticut

6: Oklahoma, VCU, Ohio St., George Washington

7: New Mexico, Pittsburgh, Texas, Gonzaga

8: Memphis, Harvard, UCLA, Oregon

9: Kentucky, Stephen F. Austin, Baylor, SMU

10: Colorado, Southern Miss, Arizona St., Toledo

11: Xavier, Iowa, Providence, Nebraska

12: Saint Joseph’s, Oklahoma St., (Dayton/Florida St.), (Green Bay/Stanford)

13: North Dakota St., Louisiana Tech, North Carolina Central, Delaware

14: Iona, Boston University, Georgia St., New Mexico St.

15: Mercer, UC Irvine, Eastern Kentucky, Stony Brook

16: Robert Morris, Wright St., (Wofford/Weber St.), (Coastal Carolina/Texas Southern)

Last Four In: Dayton, Florida St., Green Bay, Stanford

First Four Out: Kansas St., BYU, Missouri, St. John’s

Next Four Out: Arkansas, California, Tennessee, Minnesota [4 states…weird]

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February 27, 2014 Basketball # , , , , ,

EPW: The Case for Stephen F. Austin

There are two things that I am hoping for in the next couple weeks. The first is Villanova getting a number 1 seed. A friend and I made a bet about Nova’s seed, hence my interest. The second thing I want to see happen is for Stephen F. Austin to lose in their conference tournament but still get an at-large bid. The problem is, they likely won’t get in.

The Lumberjacks (awesome nickname, imo) are 25-2. They haven’t lost since November 23, which was an 8 point loss at East Tennessee St. Their only other loss was at Texas on November 15. They lost by 10. They have four game left in their regular season, which would put them at 29-2 heading into the conference tournament. They are going to have a bye to the semi-finals. Let’s assume they win their semi-final game and then lose to Sam Houston St. in the final. They would sit at 30-3 and likely be heading to the NIT. I believe this is a travesty.

The first thing to discuss is their schedule. It’s shitty. Of the teams ranked in the top 100 in EPW, SFA’s schedule is dead last. In fact, out of all 351 teams I have rated, their schedule is the 5th easiest. Only Alabama St., Incarnate Word, Radford and Hampton have had an easier slate. So I get it. Besides Texas, they haven’t played anyone of value. All of their wins are in Tier 4. But should that matter?

When I run my baseline teams through SFA’s schedule, the Lumberjacks have a positive result. They have won MORE games than either Clemson, Nebraska, Baylor, Providence, Colorado or Harvard would have been expected to win against that schedule. They have done everything expected of them and then some. Is the NCAA tournament really better off taking a team like St. John’s, who now sit at 18-11. I say no.

I wonder where the line gets drawn. If they had only two losses (Texas and the conference tournament final), I believe they’d get an at-large. For some reason, that one extra loss has removed them from the conversation entirely. I see so many people on Twitter talking about “X” team’s SOS. Usually “X” is Wichita St. They mentally bring them down a peg because of it. The problem with those people is that they have no baseline. They immediately think weak schedule = bad, without ever trying to determine how much that schedule affects them. You can play a weak schedule and still exceed expectations against that schedule. Would SFA (or Wichita St.) really look better because they scheduled a game at Syracuse in December and lost? Absolutely not. Winning is what matters. Stephen F. Austin has done a tremendous job of it so far. I’d hate to see them not be rewarded for it because of bad reasoning.

Here’s the embedded spreadsheet with ratings through yesterday, along with the direct link to the document. The two columns to the far right are the ranking from February 19th and the difference between that ranking and today’s ranking, for those looking to see the movement in the last week.

 

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February 20, 2014 Basketball # , , , , ,

EPW: College Basketball Rankings through February 19

I’ve got a new toy to play with.

At the beginning of January, Ken Pomeroy had a blog post about the fairness of wins. The basis of the post is simple. All wins are not created equal. The location of the victory plays a huge role in its worth. So last night, I stole his idea (Thanks, Ken!) and created buckets for every game played this year. I have broken the games in to four tiers. I used Providence as my baseline team, as they were my “First Team Out” when doing the research last night. For example, a Tier 1 win can be classified as a win over a top 20 team at home, a top 40 team at a neutral site or a top 65 win on the road. All three of those buckets have the same average win%. Then, I did the same exercise for Tier 2, Tier 3 and Tier 4. The following is a snapshot of Wichita St. Not that this is showing anything we didn’t already know.

wichita st tiers

 

Even though the Shockers are the only remaining undefeated team, EPW isn’t putting them on the top line for seeding. The breakdown of their victories tells the story. Having only two high ranking victories (@ Saint Louis, home vs. Tennessee) will weigh them down like an anchor on Selection Sunday.

creighton tiers

 

Compare their resume to a Creighton team that sits one spot behind Wichita St.   The Blue Jays have four Tier 1 wins, plus three more in Tier 2. These are the type of numbers that jump off of the page when evaluating resumes. People will ignore the fact that Creighton is projected to have five losses at the end of the regular season. It’s all about the big wins. I was able to clean up my spreadsheet over the past two days, so I know have the EPW ratings for every team in D1. In case you are curious, Southern Utah brings up the rear with a negative .756 rating. I’ve embedded the output so you can take a look at the ratings for every single team. If there’s a number in the “S-Curve Rnk” column, this means they are projected to be in the NCAA tournament. Click here to open the sheet in a new tab.

(*Also, I am currently in the middle of my third annual Celebrity Death Pool draft. You can follow along at home by clicking the links on the sidebar for the 2014 version. Scoring system based on life expectancy from actuary tables, if you are curious.)

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February 17, 2014 Basketball # , , , , , , ,

EPW: College Basketball Rankings through February 16

After an eventful weekend in college basketball, I was pretty excited to refresh my spreadsheet to get the updated rankings. First, a disclaimer. I have changed the baseline teams. There are two reasons behind that but the main one is that the teams that I had originally been using were a bit too good. It was pushing up teams with poor SOS and good records. In a bit of a spoiler, I’ve added all conference leaders to this exercise, along with a ton of extra bubble teams. I noticed something was off when Stephen F. Austin was climbing way too high in the rankings. That’s when I remembered I needed to adjust the baseline. So now, the baseline teams are: Clemson, Nebraska, Baylor, Providence, Colorado and Harvard. The changes really aren’t dramatic. The scale of ratings is really the only difference, which will be seen in the graphics to follow.

College Basketball Automatic Qualifiers as of February 16

(Quick note: the average f(SOS) of the Top 40 teams is .604. Lower equals more difficult.)

I generally just took the team that is leading the projected standings from KenPom, unless there was a clear switch that needed to be made. It’s really not going to change anything if you think there’s a different winner in the Big South or something. They all suck. I currently have ratings for 93 teams, with Southern being the worst of the bunch. The “S-Curve” column is the ranking, in order, of the 68 teams EPW say should be in the tournament. Davidson, Weber St., Coastal Carolina and Southern would be the four automatic qualifier teams that play bullshit play-in games.

I’ve seen a lot of back and forth on Twitter lately about Wichita St. and the likelihood they’ll receive a one-seed on Selection Sunday. At first, I assumed there was no doubt they would be on the top line if they finished the regular season undefeated and won the conference tournament. Now, I’m starting to see the scenarios where this doesn’t happen. If Syracuse, Arizona and Florida win their conference tournaments, they will all be one seeds. I don’t think there is any debate. I think Villanova, Michigan St., Duke and Kansas can all get the last one-seed with strong regular season finishes and conference tournament wins. There is a gulf in schedule strength between the Shockers and the potential one seeds and I think the committee would look at the SOS and bump Wichita St. down a peg.

The more interesting thing to look at right now is the bubble. I tried to rate as many bubble teams as I could, but I’m sure I missed one or two. If there are any teams that should be rated, hit me up on Twitter and I’ll get them added.

College Basketball At-Large Candidates as of February 16

Florida St., Indiana St., Oregon and Saint Joes are the current last four in, with Providence, Southern Miss, BYU and Tennessee being the first four out. There is very little separating most of the teams on the bubble, so this section will be in constant flux. Simple changes in schedule strength from games played that don’t involve the bubble teams could jump a team like Providence over Saint Joes. I think these ratings do the best job of identifying teams that need a closer look, but really, when it comes to figuring out if Oregon or Southern Miss are the 51st best team in the nation, the answer is mostly irrelevant. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to blog about it for the next month, though.

As always, here is the Top 40:

EPW College Basketball Top 40 Rankings through February 16

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January 27, 2014 Basketball # , , , , , ,

EPW: The Undefeated Teams in College Basketball

With Sunday having been a dull slate of game, I decided to take a look at the three remaining undefeated teams, their schedules thus far and their outlooks for the rest of the season. Ken Pomeroy tweeted last night that the chances of at least one undefeated team at the end of the regular season was 48%. Whether or not any of these teams finish the regular season undefeated is largely meaningless. They don’t go from “unbeatable” to “suspect” just from a loss. It is, however, exciting (at least, to me) to think about a team having the potential to be undefeated heading into the NCAA tournament. Obviously, Wichita St. is in the best place to do so. They have a much larger chance than Arizona or Syracuse of finishing the regular season undefeated, along with a higher chance of winning their conference tournament. Most of the discussion really lands on Arizona and Wichita St., as Syracuse’s current chances at an undefeated regular season are a little over 1%, but I’ll be taking a look at all three teams anyway.

The first thing I want to take a look at is a visual representation of the games these three teams have played through January 27. What I have done in the chart below, is graph each team’s value added from each game played, from best to worst. For example, on the blue line (Arizona), the 1st data point is at .676, which corresponds to their victory at Michigan on December 14. The average likelihood of my original six baseline teams (UCLA, Iowa, Oklahoma St, Villanova, Pittsburgh and Wichita St) winning that game at Michigan was .324, therefore Arizona is credited with the difference between one full win, and that average result. Hence, that game is worth .676. I did this for every game each team has played, they graphed them in descending order.

Undefeated - Best to Worst

 

The two things that stand out the most, to me, are the amount of quality wins Arizona has compared to the other two teams, and the lack of quality wins that Wichita St. has at all. Now, to offer some context for that graph, the following table has all the pertinent information for this exercise.

Undefeated - Breakdown

 

Two quick things to point out in this graphic. The “Opp” column is the opponent’s current rank in the KenPom ratings, and the “Rank” column is a ranking of all 59 total games between the three teams ranked in descending order of value.

I don’t think I’m pointing out anything new when I say that Arizona’s best wins have been amazing. Between the three teams, Arizona has four of the best five wins. This isn’t a product of three teams with weak schedules, either. Of those four Wildcat wins, three of which came on the road (Michigan, San Diego St and UCLA), with the fourth (Duke) being at a neutral site. The only non-Arizona win to crack the top five actually comes from Wichita St., which will have most people who read this scratching their heads. The Shockers win at Saint Louis on December 1 ranks as the 4th best win of this entire bunch. I’m sure a lot of people would assume that Syracuse’s wins over Pitt and Villanova would rank higher, but in this instance, those people would be wrong (and it’s not really that close.) Saint Louis is a top 25 KenPom team. Beating a team like that in their own building is a difficult task.

Aside from that Saint Louis victory, however, things are a bit more bleak for the Shockers. Their next best win comes in at #12, a road win at Alabama. The entire group of victories between #6 and #11 all belong to Syracuse. They might not have the marquee victory yet, but those six wins are all very strong. If those six games were played by the mythical baseline team, the expectation of winning those all of those games is just under 10%.

Right now, this information lines up with the polls. Arizona is ranked #1 based on the strength of those top shelf wins. Syracuse slots in behind them with the bulk middle-tier victories, and Wichita St. is the third banana, a quality team hasn’t had the caliber of wins (and won’t have the opportunity to pick up those wins until the second weekend of the NCAA tournament) needed to change the perception from “Best Mid Major” to “Best in the Nation.”

undefeated-remaining

 

Looking at the above graphic of remaining games for each team, you can quickly see that Syracuse’s schedule looks very similar to Arizona’s starting schedule. The Orange own the four most difficult remaining games between the teams, with Arizona grabbing the next five in strength. Wichita St. only shows up twice in the top 20, which is why their chances to finish the regular season undefeated are around 40%. To put that 40% in perspective, Wichita St. goes undefeated in the regular season as often as Andrew McCutchen reached base last year in his MVP campaign. Arizona, however, is just under 12%, or Andrew McCutchen’s walk rate in 2013. Syracuse is bringing up the rear, finishing undefeated 1.3% of the time. To complete the baseball benchmarks, that’s how often McCutchen has ground into a double play over the course of his career. I have no idea how the rest of the season will go, but as a Duke fan, I hope the Blue Devils come in to 2nd base hard on Sunday. The last thing I want to see is Syracuse rolling a pair.

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