Monday, October 5, 2015

Preseason S-CURVE

The 1 line:  North Carolina, Maryland, Kentucky, Kansas
The 2 line:  Arizona, Duke, Wichita St, Villanova
The 3 line:  Indiana, Gonzaga, Oklahoma, Michigan St
The 4 line:  Iowa St, Virginia, Wisconsin, Baylor
The 5 line:  Louisville, Georgetown, San Diego St, Purdue
The 6 line:  California, Xavier, Notre Dame, Rhode Island
The 7 line:  Butler, Vanderbilt, Michigan, Utah
The 8 line:  UConn, Dayton, Florida, Tulsa
The 9 line:  Florida St, Texas A&M, Boise St, Northern Iowa
The 10 line:  Buffalo, LSU, Oregon, Cincinnati
The 11 line:  Oregon St, Davidson, Texas, Ohio St
The 12 line:  North Carolina St, Marquette, UCLA, Central Michigan, Old Dominion, Valparaiso
The 13 line:  Iona, Belmont, Harvard, Montana
The 14 line:  Hofstra, UC Irvine, North Florida, Stephen F Austin
The 15 line:  Louisiana-Lafayette, Wofford, South Dakota St, Stony Brook
The 16 line:  New Mexico St, Robert Morris, High Point, Lehigh, North Carolina Central, Texas Southern

Next 4 in:
Oregon St
Ohio St

Last 4 in:
North Carolina St
Central Michigan

Last 4 out:
Illinois St
West Virginia

Next 4 out:

Break it down! (seeds in parens):
Big 10 7 (1, 3, 3, 4, 5, 7, 11)
ACC 7 (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 9, 12)
Pac-12 6 (2, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12)
Big 12 5 (1, 3, 4, 4, 11)
Big East 5 (2, 5, 6, 7, 12)
SEC 5 (1, 7, 8, 9, 10)
AAC 3 (8, 8, 10)
A-10 3 (6, 8, 11)
MVC 2 (2, 9)
Mountain West 2 (5, 9)
MAC 2 (10, 12)

1) I expect the Big 12 to be more top-heavy.  It's certainly possible teams outside the big 4 this year (KU/ISU/OU/BU) get pulled up by osmosis, but for now I predict a 4-team breakaway and only enough wins for one other team (Texas for now) to get through.  I don't think you'll see 6 or 7.
2) Pretty clear who the top 2 conferences are this year.  B1G and ACC with 7 apiece, and I could easily see 8 for both.
3) I'm struggling to find Pac-12 teams that I think can really be high up.  They'll get their fair share in, but they may not be highly ranked.  Same situation in the SEC, but that's not new.  Actually, I'm willing to bet it's more likely the SEC has a second high seed than the Pac-12.
4) The AAC is in all sorts of trouble, especially if SMU dominates the conference like I think they could.
5) If you do not know, it's tradition here to project an at-large bid for the MAC.

Preseason BRACKET

1) North Carolina vs. 16) Texas Southern/Lehigh
8) Florida vs. 9) Northern Iowa
4) Baylor vs. 13) Montana
5) Purdue vs. 12) North Carolina St/Marquette
@Des Moines
3) Michigan St vs. 14) Hofstra
6) Notre Dame vs. 11) Davidson
2) Villanova vs. 15) Stony Brook
7) Utah vs. 10) Cincinnati

@Oklahoma City
1) Kansas vs. 16) New Mexico St
8) Tulsa vs. 9) Boise St
4) Wisconsin vs. 13) Harvard
5) Louisville vs. 12) Old Dominion
3) Gonzaga vs. 14) UC Irvine
6) Rhode Island vs. 11) Oregon St
2) Arizona vs. 15) South Dakota St
7) Michigan vs. 10) Buffalo

@St Louis
1) Kentucky vs. 16) Robert Morris
8) Dayton vs. 9) Florida St
4) Virginia vs. 13) Iona
5) Georgetown vs. 12) UCLA/Central Michigan
@Des Moines
3) Indiana vs. 14) North Florida
6) Xavier vs. 11) Texas
@St Louis
2) Wichita St vs. 15) Louisiana-Lafayette
7) Butler vs. 10) LSU

1) Maryland vs. 16) North Carolina Central/High Point
8) UConn vs. 9) Texas A&M
4) Iowa St vs. 13) Belmont
5) San Diego St vs. 12) Valparaiso
@Oklahoma City
3) Oklahoma vs. 14) Stephen F Austin
6) California vs. 11) Ohio St
2) Duke vs. 15) Wofford
7) Vanderbilt vs. 10) Oregon

Here's some odd things that showed up when I bracketed this:
1) Among the top 16 seeds, I have 3 ACC teams, 4 B1G teams, and 4 Big 12 teams.  This eventually led to the odd situation of not being able to separate the top 4 Big 12 teams into 4 separate regionals.  Well, I could, but I'd have to send several teams way away from their geographic preference.  Presented with this puzzle, I think the committee would put a 3 seed and 4 seed from the same conference together.
2) Rhode Island, going cross-country to play Oregon St in Spokane, then Gonzaga if they survive.  This is because they were the last 6 seed on my S-Curve.  If they were the first 7 seed, they'd play in Brooklyn.  I wonder if URI would gladly give up a seed in this scenario.
3) Oklahoma has a golden chance to play early in OKC, but they gotta beat out their Big 12 bretheren to do it.
4) Right now, I have a play-in game winner going to Spokane.  Here's the issue:  I only have 1 of 4 sites hosting a 12 seed being a Friday/Sunday site, and that's Spokane.  Same for the 13 line.  On the 11 line, 2 of 4 sites is a Friday/Sunday sites, but that's Spokane and OKC.  With UCLA in my play-in game, they need to be Friday/Sunday to allow them to travel...but Cal blocks them from OKC.  All and all, it's a mess, and I gave up since it's just the preseason, but early returns are that the sites closest to Dayton (St Louis and Des Moines and Brooklyn) won't be in position to actually host those winners.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Regional sites and you: a 2016 primer

Let's peek ahead to see where the 2016 tournament will be played, and if we can glean some useful nuggets from it.  There's usually a built-in geographic advantage or disadvantage for a few teams, just based on luck of the draw.

First and second round sites:
Thursday/Saturday sites:  Providence (hosted by Providence), Des Moines (hosted by Iowa St), Raleigh (hosted by NC State), Denver (hosted by the Mountain West)
Friday/Sunday sites:  Brooklyn (hosted by the A-10), St Louis (hosted by the MVC), Oklahoma City (hosted by the Big 12), Spokane (somehow hosted by Idaho.  What?)

Yeah, Idaho is the host site for an arena.  Which is in Washington State.  You figure that one out.  The other 3 programs hosting sites might get hurt a bit (Providence can still wind up in Brooklyn, Iowa St in St Louis, and NC gonna have to travel).

You'll notice the southernmost sites are really in Raleigh and Oklahoma City.  The southeastern-based programs (looking at you, SEC), might be in for a bit of a hurt, especially once you consider that UNC and Duke are going to want to play in Raleigh.  You'll also notice a void in the southwest, with no regionals in California, and the two western regionals being north in Spokane and mountainous in Denver.

The geographic cluster happens in the plains, with Des Moines, St Louis, and Oklahoma City.  Expect OKC to house the best of the Big 12.  The best of the Big 10 will likely funnel to Des Moines/St Louis (with the obvious exception of Maryland).

All these notable things aside, however, the geography is rather balanced.  You have 3 east coast regional sites to house your east coast teams, 3 midwestern sites to house all those teams, and 2 west coast sites that should be good enough to cover all the best west coast teams.  Reasonably balanced.

Regional final sites:
Thursday/Saturday:  Anaheim (hosted by the Big West), Louisville (hosted by Louisville)
Friday/Sunday:  Chicago (hosted by the Big 10), Philadelphia (hosted by LaSalle)

For Louisville, at least Chicago isn't that far away, so not the biggest deal.  Again, notice the lack of southern options in general.  The ACC frontrunners and Maryland will have 2 reasonably close sites in Louisville and Philly to choose from.  Other Big 10 favorites have Chicago to gun for.  Pac 12 favorites have Anaheim to go for.  Big 12 frontrunners will have to travel a bit, though.  And Kentucky has an in-state option.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Conference realignment 2015-16

The good news is that for the first time in a long time, the landscape is quiet.  There's only a couple of minor changes from last year to this year, and neither will have a major impact on the bracketing process.  This is a stark change from the last couple of years where the changes impact most of the smaller conferences.

Northern Kentucky goes from the Atlantic Sun to the Horizon - the Horizon is a full step behind the multi-bid conferences of the A-10, MVC, WCC, et al.  This won't help that, but will stabilize them long-term.

NJIT goes from independent to the Atlantic Sun - the A-Sun is bottom-of-the-barrel, and NJIT might be able to content immediately.

We had a lot of changes the previous years.  What has been the impact of the changes?

- Maryland and Rutgers to the Big 10 - well, Maryland's going to pay off for them now
- The American adding basketball deadweight to help out football - for two straight years now, the AAC has been hurt in selection and seeding because of their bottom-feeders.  They need to rectify this situation sooner rather than later
- CUSA going to 16 teams - they had some good teams at the top, but some bad ones at the bottom.  Based on how the computer numbers played out, the bad teams hurt more than the good teams helped.  More evidence that bigger is not better for mid-major conferences

Things should continue to be mostly quiet (although Coastal Carolina is now on the move).  Right now, it looks like the advantage is going to the mid-majors who are sticking to 10 teams instead of 14 or 16 (MWC, MVC, and WCC are getting a boon here).  Along these lines, I expect that the Horizon is done after adding NKU, and the A-Sun will have a fighting chance to escape the 16 line in March.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Welcome to the 2015-16 season

This blog is back to being semi-active, starting today.  Expect a few informational articles to come this month with the usual details (regional sites, conference realignment, etc.), and a preseason bracket in the next week or two.

Friday, May 1, 2015

S-Curve FINAL (pinned)

Putting this at the top of the blog so you can find it.

The 1 line:  Kentucky (33-0), Villanova (32-2), Duke (29-4), Wisconsin (31-3)
The 2 line:  Virginia (29-3), Arizona (31-3), Gonzaga (31-2), Iowa St (25-8)
The 3 line:  Kansas (26-8), Notre Dame (29-5), Maryland (27-6), North Carolina (24-11)
The 4 line:  Oklahoma (22-10), Baylor (24-9), Northern Iowa (30-3), Louisville (24-8)
The 5 line:  West Virginia (23-9), Wichita St (27-4), Georgetown (21-10), Butler (22-10)
The 6 line:  Utah (23-8), Arkansas (26-7), SMU (26-6), Michigan St (23-11)
The 7 line:  VCU (26-9), Providence (22-11), Xavier (21-13), Oregon (24-9)
The 8 line:  St John's (20-11), San Diego St (25-8), Dayton (25-8), Iowa (21-11)
The 9 line:  Cincinnati (22-10), North Carolina St (20-13), Ohio St (23-10), Purdue (20-13)
The 10 line:  Davidson (22-8), Oklahoma St (17-13), Boise St (23-8), Georgia (21-11)
The 11 line:  Indiana (20-13), Colorado St (26-6), BYU (23-9), Ole Miss (20-12), LSU (22-10), Texas (20-13)
The 12 line:  Stephen F Austin (26-4), Wyoming (23-9), Buffalo (23-9), Wofford (26-6)
The 13 line:  Valparaiso (25-5), Harvard (20-7), Georgia St (22-9), Northeastern (23-11)
The 14 line:  Eastern Washington (23-8), North Dakota St (21-9), UAB (18-15), UC-Irvine (19-12)
The 15 line:  Belmont (21-10), Albany (24-8), New Mexico St (21-10), Texas Southern (22-12)
The 16 line:  Coastal Carolina (20-9), North Florida (20-11), Lafayette (19-12), Manhattan (19-13), Robert Morris (19-14), Hampton (16-17)

Last 3 in:
Ole Miss

Last 3 out:
Temple (23-10)
UCLA (20-13)
UConn (20-14)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

RPI and SoS

Time for my annual rant on RPI and SoS as evaluation tools in the bracketology process.  There's a bit of tl;dr involved, I'll bold the important statements throughout.

People always misunderstand the original purpose of RPI (the selection committee included).  The RPI was never meant to be more than a blunt object instrument, an approximator of teams' worth.  The problem is, once people see the number, they expect it to be definitive.  The RPI was never meant to be definitive.  It's the public's fault for misinterpreting what RPI was supposed to mean.  I feel like I'm doing a public service announcement every year when I say this.

We must get out of the business of using RPI as a whole, IMO.  Even if we de-emphasize a team's RPI, we're emphasizing the RPI of their opponents.  We look at record vs. top 50, vs. top 100, etc.  By using the RPI as a grouping tool, we're still subjecting the process to approximations.  It would be much better to come up with a measurement that has more of a sliding scale impact.  Wins against great teams worth more than against bad teams, but instead of just putting them in a column, we figure out a sliding scale to assign values to each win.  The public is too willing to just blindly look at the record vs. Top 50 and assume it's an ironclad statement on a team's worth.

I've heard people complain that RPI is flawed because 75% of the formula is based on who you play instead of your own record.  This is actually mathematically incorrect.  Yes, only 25% of the formula counts your record, 50% counts your SoS, and 25% counts your opponents' SoS.  People look at the percentages and think the impact of the first category and third category are the same.  They're not.

Let's look at the numbers more closely.
1) 25% of the RPI is a team's winning percentage.  A perfect team scores an even .2500 in this metric (hi, Kentucky).  A great team (Iowa St at 25-8)  A good team, like, for example, Providence (22-11) scores around .1667 here.  A bad power conference team (let's say Washington St at 13-18) scores around .1049.  The difference between the greatest team and worst team is .2500, and the difference between a generally good team and bad team is around .0400 and .0700.

2) 50% of the RPI is a team's strength of schedule.  The #1 SoS in the country is Kansas, and they're credited with .3135 in the formula.  The #351 SoS in the country is Alabama St's.  They get .1928 in the formula.  The difference between the greatest team and worst team is .1207.

The #75 SoS is LaSalle, who gets credit for .2724 in the formula.  #225 SoS (Lamar) gets credit for .2378 in the formula.  Therefore, the difference between a generally good SoS and a generally bad SoS is around .0350.  Therefore, SoS has less overall impact on the RPI than a team's record.

3) 25% of the RPI is the opponent's strength of schedule.  It should be abduntantly clear right off the bat what will happen between the best and worst teams in this category.  Since every team on a schedule has their SoS averaged in with everyone else, there simply isn't much difference between a good team and a bad team.  This is where playing in a great conference or bad conference gives you a small advantage/disadvantage, but for the most part, the impact this metric has on the overall RPI is negligible.

With that out of the way, let's do look at SoS in deeper detail.  There are 351 D1 teams.  There are many good teams, but I think we can come to a consensus in saying the bottom 150-200 teams are not good teams compared to the top 100 or so, and are more or less equal.  Now, obviously some teams from 201+ RPI are better than others, but let's say you're Notre Dame, or Iowa St, or Kentucky.  You'd be expected to beat every team ranked 201 and above, and there's not much difference for you if you play RPI 201 or RPI 351.  For most good teams, and even for most bubble teams, there just isn't much difference in teams, once you reach the lower third of D1 basketball.

Here's the problem with SoS - there IS a big difference between RPI 201 and RPI 351 when it comes to the numbers.  Here's an example to illustrate the point.  Dartmouth was 14-14 this year.  So their SoS hit is actually decent - they're .500.  San Jose St was 0-for-everything against D1 this year, so their SoS hit is catastrophic - they're .000.  If you're a top 15 team, you're beating both Dartmouth and San Jose State handily.  However, according to the RPI, there's an enormous gulf of difference between playing Dartmouth and SJSU.  In fact, if you're, say, Iowa St...the difference between playing Kentucky and Dartmouth this year is the EXACT same as the difference between playing Dartmouth and SJSU.  On the court, the difference between UK and Dartmouth is very large, and the difference between Dartmouth and SJSU is smaller.  Off the court, the RPI treats the differences as equal.  That's a problem.

The end result of this effect is this:  it's more important to avoid really bad teams than it is to play good teams.  There's two elements that go into creating a good schedule - scheduling good teams, and avoiding bad ones.  The RPI forces teams to overemphasize bad team avoidance more than getting good teams.  The end effect is that a team has more incentive to play as many good-but-not-great teams as possible.  For example, playing several teams that are just above .500 is more important.  If you schedule many of those opponents, you can build a really good SoS without actually playing a top 25 team.  And if you play a couple top 25 teams, you can actually remove all the benefits of it by playing a couple of bad teams.

Look at Notre Dame.  They played Michigan St, UMass, Purdue, Providence.  Not the greatest schedule, but not awful.  However, their non-con SoS was 319.  Why?  Binghamton (RPI 332), Coppin St (311), Grambling (351), Chicago St (333), FDU (312) destroyed their average.  The bad team effect ruined them.

Compare Notre Dame to Clemson.  Their toughest 4 games in the non-con were LSU, Arkansas, South Carolina, High Point.  Weaker than UND's, for sure.  We can agree on that.  However, their non-con SoS is 187.  Why?  They played FAMU (RPI 350) and Nevada (301), but everyone else was inside the RPI Top 210.  Winthrop, Gardner-Webb, Oakland, Rutgers, all weren't awful hits like UND's cupcakes were.  I think we agree that both Clemson and UND should've handled all teams on their non-con schedule outside the top 4, but since Clemson got two of the teams that contended for the Big South title, and a Horizon contender, instead of teams that went to the basement in their leagues, their SoS is over 120 spots better.

The solution to this effect?  Another sliding scale implementation.  We must find a mathematical way to limit the amount of  damage a single bad team can do to an SoS.  And we must find a way to mathematically award teams for playing the best of the best.  Right now RPI is a linearly scaled metric, with the distance between a perfect team and .500 team being the same between a .500 team and a winless team.  Right now teams are more concerned with bad team avoidance and scheduling a bunch of decent teams, instead of just playing better teams and not worrying about the impact of the worst teams.  RPI and SoS are emphasizing the wrong parts of a team's resume.  We need to adjust the formula.