Rock-M-Tology, February 4: College basketball bracket projections

Notes:

  • Last year, I took a new path for setting up my brackets, and it worked beautifully. I looked back through 10 years of bracketing and gauged how strongly they aligned with the factors we know and love -- RPI (overall, conference, non-conference), overall record, road/neutral wins, good wins, bad losses, Pomeroy ranking, etc. I calibrated the weight of these factors based on the strength of their correlations. The result: I got all 68 teams right! So I'm not changing a damn thing this time around.
  • The approximate weights for each factor: RPI (4x), Top-50 wins (3x), Pomeroy ranking (3x), Win percentage (2x), non-conference RPI (1x), conference RPI (1x), 101+ losses (0.5x), road/neutral wins (0.1x). This obviously doesn't mean that the committee simply looks at a team's RPI and top-50 wins and makes decisions; it just says that it very much values what RPI brings to the table and looks first at who you played, then how you played. (I hate this, but you've heard that rant.)
  • More than a month from Selection Sunday, these weights carry both evaluative and predictive elements. The Pomeroy rankings suggest how a team will play throughout the rest of the season, while the heavy usage of RPI looks simply at what happened thus far. In part because of the predictive element (and in part because their best wins are over St. Louis and Tennessee), I have undefeated Wichita State as a No. 2 seed. If they win out, they'll almost certainly be a No. 1, of course.
  • We'll get into the overrateds, underrateds, and unknowns in future weeks. For now, we'll go straight to the nitty gritty.

Last Few In

Names in italics would be among the last in without their conference's automatic bid.

Tennessee (13-7)
Minnesota (14-7)
Green Bay (15-4)
Kansas State (15-7)
Florida State (13-8)
Stanford (14-7)
Toledo (17-3)
Missouri (16-5)
BYU (14-9)
Louisiana Tech (17-5)
St. Joseph's (15-6)

Missouri's win over Arkansas keeps the Tigers on the right side of the dividing line, but they'll probably need a win over Ole Miss on Saturday to stay on the right side.

First Few Out

LSU (14-6)
Clemson (14-6)
Oregon (15-6)
Baylor (12-7)
Richmond (14-8)
Stephen F. Austin (16-2)
Ohio (15-5)
North Dakota State (13-6)
Indiana State (15-5)
Ole Miss (15-6)
Indiana (14-8)
Boise State (13-7)

Baylor loses five in a row, then wins at Oklahoma State. Absolutely no telling what they'll be capable of down the stretch. Meanwhile, as we well know, LSU is surging after home wins over Missouri, Kentucky, and Arkansas. A recent road loss to Alabama and that awful loss to Rhode Island are keeping the Tigers out, but there's obviously plenty of time.

By Conference

6 - ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12
5 - Atlantic 10, AAC
4 - Big East, SEC
2 - Conference USA, Mountain West, West Coast

The break-up of the Big East means we no longer have a conference threatening to take, like, 10 bids. The result, of course, is that bracketing is a bit less of a nightmare.

The Bracket

FIRST FOUR (in Dayton)

Missouri (16-5) vs. St. Joseph's (15-6)
BYU (14-9) vs. Louisiana Tech (17-5)

Northern Colorado (11-6) vs. Southern U. (9-10)
Davidson (11-11) vs. Coastal Carolina (10-9)

WEST REGIONAL (in Anaheim)

1 Arizona (21-1) vs. 16 N. Colorado / Southern
8 Ohio State (17-5) vs. 9 Providence (16-6)
in San Diego

5 Iowa (16-5) vs. 12 Kansas State (15-7)
4 Kentucky (16-5) vs. 13 BYU / La. Tech
in Spokane

6 Oklahoma State (16-5) vs. 11 Harvard (16-3)
3 San Diego State (17-1) vs. 14 New Mexico State (16-7)
in Spokane

7 Pittsburgh (18-4) vs. 10 SMU (17-5)
2 Wichita State (22-0) vs. 15 Georgia State (13-6)
in San Antonio

MIDWEST REGIONAL (in Indianapolis)

1 Michigan State (19-3) vs. 16 Boston U. (15-8)
8 George Washington (17-4) v. 9 North Carolina (14-7)
in Milwaukee

5 Louisville (18-4) vs. 12 Stanford (14-7)
4 Iowa State (16-4) vs. 13 Mizzou / St. Joe's
in St. Louis

6 Oklahoma (17-5) vs. 11 Green Bay (15-4)
3 Virginia (17-5) vs. 14 Delaware (16-7)
in Orlando

7 VCU (18-4) vs. 10 Arizona State (16-6)
2 Villanova (19-2) vs. 15 N.C. Central (13-5)
in Raleigh

EAST REGIONAL (in New York City)

1 Syracuse (21-0) vs. 16 Bryant U. (13-9)
8 New Mexico (17-4) vs. 9 Southern Miss (17-3)
in Buffalo

5 Wisconsin (17-5) vs. 12 Toledo (17-3)
4 UCLA (17-5) vs. 13 North Dakota State (13-6)
in San Diego

6 St. Louis (19-2) vs. 11 Tennessee (13-7)
3 Cincinnati (21-2) vs. 14 UCSB (12-6)
in Buffalo

7 Gonzaga (19-3) vs. 10 California (15-7)
2 Creighton (18-3) vs. 15 Canisius (16-6)
in Milwaukee

SOUTH REGIONAL (in Memphis)

1 Florida (19-2) vs. 16 Davidson / Coastal Caro.
8 Memphis (15-5) vs. 9 Colorado (16-6)
in Orlando

5 Texas (17-4) vs. 12 Florida State (13-8)
4 Michigan (16-5) vs. 13 Stephen F. Austin (16-2)
in San Antonio

6 UMass (17-4) vs. 11 Minnesota (14-7)
3 Duke (17-5) vs. 14 Belmont (16-8)
in Raleigh

7 UConn (17-4) vs. 10 Xavier (14-6)
2 Kansas (16-5) vs. 15 Vermont (12-9)
in St. Louis

My At-First-Glance Final Four

Arizona-Villanova-Syracuse-Florida

Second glance: Kentucky-Michigan State-Cincinnati-Kansas

Missouri's inevitable path to destiny (ahem)

St. Joseph's, Iowa State, Louisville, Michigan State, Villanova, Arizona, Syracuse. NO BIGGIE.

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