Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Regionals and you: The 2015 primer to NCAA tournament sites

Here's what you need to know about who's hosting what:

The First Four is in Dayton, as always.  You know what to do with that.

The 4 sites for the regional finals:
Cleveland (Midwest regional, Thu/Sat)
Los Angeles (West regional, Thu/Sat)  Pepperdine host
Houston (South regional, Fri/Sun)  Houston/Rice host
Syracuse (East regional, Fri/Sun)  Syracuse host

The only team that could suffer a geographic penalty for hosting is Syracuse, obviously.  Notice that Cleveland is pretty eastern for a midwest regional, so some midwestern teams might end up in the South instead.

The 8 sites for the 2nd and 3rd rounds:
Jacksonville (Thu/Sat), Jacksonville host
Louisville (Thu/Sat), Louisville host
Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat), Duquesne host
Portland (Thu/Sat), Oregon host
Charlotte (Fri/Sun), Charlotte host
Columbus (Fri/Sun), Ohio St host
Omaha (Fri/Sun), Creighton host
Seattle (Fri/Sun), Washington host

Some rather big names mixed in there.  Quick thoughts on impact:
1) Louisville and Ohio St host and get "kicked out"....but look at the map.  OSU with a good season can play in Louisville and vice versa.  Kinda solves itself, no?
2) The 2 western sites are in the northwest this year.  Seattle/Portland.  None in California, or Arizona, or New Mexico, or Texas, or Colorado.  Teams in that area are going to have to travel and travel hard.  Very curious decision by the NCAA to do two regionals up there.  Travel will be pretty bad for 4/5/12/13 seeds.
3) Obviously too early to say, but having Louisville and Pittsburgh near Dayton should help the process of travel for play-in game participants this year.
4) Charlotte is a host, and Duke and UNC appear to have little resistance towards gobbling up those spots.  Funny how that works.
5) Pittsburgh is the most northeast any site gets...then Columbus or Charlotte.  Many northeastern teams are going to have to travel more than they're usually used to.
6) The Big 12 vs. Wichita St will be a battle within a battle.  There's only 2 spots in Omaha available, followed by a lot of travel to any other site.
7) Pittsburgh/Columbus/Louisville will likely host all the top Big 10 teams, Kentucky, and the northern ACC teams.  Hopefully, with all 3 sites, no powerhouses get grouped together to play each other early.  If you remember last year, the NCAA had a disaster on its hand with the St Louis regional and its geographic preferences - it resulted in that hilariously loaded Wichita St/Louisville/Michigan/Kentucky path.  This year, there's no "group of death" site that will have all the top teams naturally funnel to it.

And finally, here is the geographic breakdown on preferred 2nd/3rd round regional sites.  This gives you an idea of the competition your teams will likely face to play close to home.

Portland/Seattle:  teams in California, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, etc.

Omaha:  teams in Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Colorado for sure.  Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri teams.  Probably some Texas teams.

Jacksonville:  everyone in the SEC but Kentucky.  Teams in eastern Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida.  Southeast.  You get the idea.

Charlotte:  Duke and UNC ;)  Special note:  with one site to the south and several just northwest, the path is pretty clear.

Pittsburgh/Columbus/Louisville:  everyone else.  Great Lakes (Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois).  Northeast.  Beltway.  Obviously the B1G teams prefer Columbus, the northeast teams Pittsburgh, etc.  But I suspect these regionals will be more interchangeable this year.  More flexibility for the committee to balance the bracket.  For example, sending a northeast team to Columbus instead of Pittsburgh is no big deal, IMO.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Conference realignment recap

More teams changed places this year.  Let's catch everyone up on who changed places, and what it means for your brackets.

Conference #1:  Maryland and Rutgers to the Big 10

Remember when the ACC had 9 teams, and was king of the college basketball world?  Then they went to 11 teams, then 12, then 14 and now 15.  Slowly, they've eroded.  UNC and Duke are still good, but the middle-to-back of the conference got progressively weaker, and the resumes of the bubble teams suffered from the loss of round-robin play.  Teams that could count on 4 chances at signature wins only got 2 or 3.  The more teams, and more mediocre teams there were, the more it hurt the ACC.

This is what will happen to the B1G, unless Maryland rebounds a bit.  With 12 teams, each team played 7 home and homes in conference play.  That's down to 5 with 14 teams.  Less chances at signature wins.  More erosion.  It'll look subtle at first, but it'll be there.

Conference #2:  The ACC trades Maryland for Louisville

And the ACC, after suffering from expansion as described above, get a boost back in the other direction.

Conference #3:  The American changes everywhere.  Louisville and Rutgers out.  Tulsa, Tulane, and East Carolina in.

Last year, the bottom half of the AAC was terribad, and it directly hurt the conference.  SMU missed the tournament, and everyone, including the champs UConn, got underseeded.  All because the rest of the conference dragged them down.

And now, no Louisville, and two more potential albatrosses (Tulane, ECU).  Uh-oh.  Study the numbers for this conference closely.  Tulsa might end up being a decent add, to be fair.

Conference #4:  CUSA with big changes again.  Out are East Carolina, Tulane, and Tulsa.  In is Western Kentucky

Actually not a bad deal for CUSA.  Got rid of two albatrosses, and Tulsa/WKU is close enough to say that trade is a wash.  CUSA is a sneaky place for an at-large bid to emerge this year, IMO.

Conference #5:  The Sun Belt makes football moves.  In comes Appalachian St and Georgia Southern.  Out goes Western Kentucky.

A massive underachiever of a conference, it just gets 10 times worse now, with no WKU.  This is nowhere near a top 15 conference.

Conference #6:  The A-10 adds Davidson.

This gets the A-10 to 14 teams.  Overall effect on the conference:  neutral.  We'll have to wait and see how Davidson does with the upgrade.

Conference #7:  The SoCon got busy.  Out is Davidson, also loses Elon and Georgia Southern.  In comes East Tennessee St, Mercer, and VMI.

Obviously Davidson is the key here.  They were the one program that could elevate the conference to relevancy.  With them gone, it'll be a battle for them to avoid the 16 line.  Mercer does brings a lot of recent success to the conference.  The new adds show more potential than Elon and GSU ever had, but this conference will have to fight to be a top 20 conference going forward.

Conference #8:  Oral Roberts gives up on the Southland, goes back to the Summit.

Minor blow to the Southland, minor boon to the Summit.  Not a big enough move to warrant major changes to projections in the two conferences.

Conference #9:  The A-Sun loses Mercer and East Tennessee St,a dds...nothing?

This puts them in direct fire of the play-in game.  FGCU should roll this conference this year.

Conference #10:  The Colonial adds Elon.

The CAA has fallen on very hard times recently.  Elon won't change that.

Conference #11:  The Big Sky takes Idaho from the WAC.

No effect on either conference, really.

There you go.  This, at least for the moment, is the end of basketball realignment.

Friday, October 24, 2014

S-Curve PRESEASON

The 1 line: Kansas, Wisconsin, Duke, Arizona
The 2 line: Kentucky, Wichita St, North Carolina, Michigan St
The 3 line: Villanova, Louisville, Texas, Virginia
The 4 line: Florida, SMU, Iowa St, San Diego St
The 5 line: Nebraska, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Iowa
The 6 line: Colorado, UCLA, Syracuse, Michigan
The 7 line: UConn, VCU, Kansas St, Oklahoma
The 8 line: Cincinnati, Dayton, Ohio St, Minnesota
The 9 line: Pittsburgh, Harvard, UNLV, Memphis
The 10 line: Louisiana Tech, Stanford, LSU, Northern Iowa
The 11 line: BYU, Utah, George Washington, Xavier
The 12 line: Akron, Green Bay, UTEP, Notre Dame, St John's
The 13 line: Illinois, Toledo, Iona, New Mexico St, Murray St
The 14 line: Stephen F Austin, UC Irvine, American, Georgia St
The 15 line: Wofford, IPFW, Coastal Carolina, North Carolina Central
The 16 line: Weber St, Towson, FGCU, Hartford, Robert Morris, Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Bubble in:
UNLV
Memphis
Stanford
LSU
Northern Iowa
BYU

Next 4 in:
Utah
George Washington
Xavier
UTEP

Last 4 in:
Notre Dame
St John's
Illinois
Toledo

Last 4 out:
Baylor
Seton Hall
New Mexico
Florida St

Next 4 out:
Oklahoma St
Arkansas
Indiana
Georgia

On the board:
North Carolina St, Tulsa, Richmond, Western Michigan, Old Dominion, Wyoming, California, St Mary's

Break it down!
Big 10 8
ACC 7
Pac 12 5
Big 12 5
Big East 4
AAC 4
A-10 3
SEC 3
MVC 2
WCC 2
MAC 2
CUSA 2
MWC 2


Bracket will come soon enough.  Some posts analyzing the tournament setup this year will be posted before it goes up.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

We're baaaaaaaack

It's time to start thinking about the upcoming season.

I'll post a few short ditties up over the next week, getting everyone ready for the new season and what to watch for, from a bracket standpoint.  Then, October 10, look out for the first bracketology of the season - preseason edition.

So prepare your bodies.  We're back.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Closing time

You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.

This marks the official end of Bracketball's analysis of the 2013-14 season.  In reality, it ended at 6PM EST on Selection Sunday, but I had a group of reaction posts I wanted to write about the process.  I've gotten all of them up now.  Of course, I might think of something else I want to say, but for now, I'm done with the 2013-14 season.

Sometime in the summer I'll play around with a first preseason bracketology for next season, and I'll start talking about various scheduling quirks that pop up.  But otherwise, the blog'll go dark for awhile.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Conference hierarchy, one more look

Remember the preseason when I posted my conference hierarchy?  Let me post my preseason rankings, and see how I did.

Tier 1:  Royalty
1) Big 10
2) ACC

The B1G ended up 2, but the ACC was 5th.  ACC had plenty of power at the top, and 9 of 15 teams were in the top 100.  The issue was that BC and VT bottomed out below 200.  Once again, the bottom hurts the rest of the conference.

Tier 2:  Power conferences
3) Pac-12
4) SEC
5) Big East
6) Big 12

Well, I missed on the Big 12.  #1 overall.  Only 10 teams large, everyone but TCU would up in the top 125, which is the recipe.  Nailed the Pac-12, and the BE finished 4th.  So that leaves the SEC, which finished 7th.  And not just 7th, but 7th by a lot.  There's a clear separation between the top 6 and the SEC.  They were a tier down from the other three conferences in this list.

Tier 3:  Purgatory, part 1
7) AAC

The AAC ended up 8th, about level with the SEC.  The bottom half was completely awful.

Tier 4:  Purgatory, part 2
8) MWC
9) A-10

The A-10 had a big season with 6 teams inside the RPI top 50.  Another 3 teams inside the top 100 was just as key, eliminating deadweight potential.  This got the A-10 to 6th overall.  The MWC, on the other hand, regressed badly to 10th.

Tier 5:  Don't call us mid-major
10) MVC
11) WCC

In a strange dynamic, the WCC beat the MWC, getting to 9th behind 4 top 70 teams.  They had better top-to-bottom depth than the MWC.  MVC had a really down year and still held 11th.  I think we can safely say that there is an 11-conference breakaway in college basketball when it comes to relevance.

I won't reprint the rest of the tiers, but things that stood out:
1) The MAC and CUSA were 12th and 13th, pretty clearly separating from the rest of the pack.  They're a tier of themselves now.
2) The next grouping of conferences:  Horizon, CAA, MAAC, Summit.  Summit was the outlier because NDSU overperformed.
3) Football money does not matter for the Sun Belt.  Finished 19th.
4) The WAC way overperformed in 21st place, because of New Mexico St.
5) I had the OVC 15th entering the year.  Finished 24th.  Oops.

So with all this in mind, here are my new tiers for future years:

Tier 1:  Big 10, ACC - not tempted enough to change this, yet
Tier 2:  Big 12, Pac-12, Big East, SEC - the order within this tier changes, but not the grouping
Tier 3:  A-10, MWC, AAC - this group is clearly below Tier 2.  AAC is about to get smacked with the realignment stick again, so they belong here
Tier 4:  WCC, MVC, CUSA - I'm going to give CUSA the bump up to this tier.  It's debatable.  I think we'll see a 12-conference breakaway now
Tier 5:  MAC, MAAC, Horizon, CAA - Conference numbers 13-16 here.  Just good enough to be ignored by the selection committee every year.
Tier 6:  Sun Belt, Summit, Ivy - Ivy is carving out a niche in the middle of the tiers here.  These are conferences #17-19.
Tier 7:  OVC, Patriot, Big West, A-Sun - Conferences #20-23.  These are the ones who can realistically hope to win a game in March every year, and who won't bottom out.  The common trait?  Top-tier teams who can remain constant threats (Murray St, Belmont, Boston, UCSB, LBSU, Mercer, FGCU).
Tier 8:  Big Sky, NEC, S'land, Big South, A-East, WAC, SoCon, MEAC - I see these guys being interchangeable going forward.
Tier SWAC:  SWAC

Ok, one more RPI note

I always think it's fascinating to see the highest RPIs left out of the tournament.  So here they are:

33 Southern Miss
38 Toledo
49 Missouri
50 Minnesota
53 SMU
54 Florida St
57 Belmont
58 Green Bay
59 Iona
61 St Mary's

Actually a pretty good mix of high-major and mid-major here.  No trend can be discerned from this.

Worst RPIs to get an at-large bid:

56 Iowa
55 North Carolina St
51 Kansas St
48 Nebraska
47 Xavier

Again, no real outlier.  This is a pretty quiet year.  Normally when I do these, there's more volatility and clearer biases.