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February 23, 2010
Tuesday Truths
Now Bracket-Aware

by John Gasaway

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Welcome to the latest installment of Tuesday Truths, where I look at how well 126 teams in 11 conferences are doing against their league opponents on a per-possession basis. (For a tidy little homily on why this stuff is so very awesome, go here.)

ACC: Pity the two-seed that gets "seven-seed" Maryland

Through games of February 22, conference games only
Pace: possessions per 40 minutes
PPP: points per possession Opp. PPP: opponent PPP
EM: efficiency margin (PPP - Opp. PPP)

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM   
1.  Duke             11-2   66.1    1.11    0.95    +0.16
2.  Maryland          9-3   68.6    1.08    0.97    +0.11
3.  Clemson           7-5   68.8    0.98    0.93    +0.05
4.  Virginia Tech     8-4   68.9    1.00    0.97    +0.03
5.  Florida St.       7-5   66.9    0.99    0.97    +0.02
6.  Wake Forest       8-5   69.8    1.00    1.00     0.00  
7.  Georgia Tech      6-7   69.4    0.98    0.99    -0.01
8.  Virginia          5-7   64.8    0.97    1.00    -0.03
9.  North Carolina    3-9   69.8    0.96    1.04    -0.08
10. BC                4-8   64.6    1.00    1.08    -0.08
11. NC State         3-10   67.5    0.97    1.06    -0.09
12. Miami             3-9   65.9    1.00    1.10    -0.10

Anyway that's where I'm seeing the Terrapins slotted in the mock brackets right now. Let's see, how do I put this? That's way too low. (Especially in view of the fact that I'm also seeing Wake Forest as a six.) The Terps have outscored the ACC by as much as Purdue has outscored the Big Ten or Syracuse has outscored the Big East. If he's smart the head coach of a two-seed that gets put in Maryland's bracket will utter some R-rated treasures when he sees this pairing.

Big 12: The curious case of Kansas State

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Kansas           13-0   68.1    1.15    0.96    +0.19
2.  Kansas St.        9-3   71.3    1.08    0.98    +0.10
3.  Baylor            7-5   66.6    1.13    1.05    +0.08
4.  Missouri          8-4   70.0    1.06    0.99    +0.07
5.  Texas             7-5   72.6    1.07    1.00    +0.07
6.  Oklahoma St.      7-5   69.9    1.07    1.03    +0.04
7.  Texas A&M         8-4   65.5    1.03    1.02    +0.01
8.  Colorado          3-9   69.8    1.01    1.10    -0.09
9.  Texas Tech        4-8   72.1    0.99    1.09    -0.10
10. Oklahoma          4-9   67.8    0.99    1.10    -0.11
11. Iowa St.         2-10   69.3    0.95    1.07    -0.12
12. Nebraska         1-11   64.5    0.94    1.10    -0.16

I'm seeing Frank Martin's Wildcats listed as a two-seed, and at first blush that does strike me as a bit high. Then again I'm really not sure where to put the 'Cats. They have the second-ranked D in the Big 12 because they force turnovers on no less than 24 percent of conference opponents' possessions. It's true that if you can just hang on to the ball against K-State, you're facing the equivalent of the Iowa State defense. (Both teams give up about 1.27 points per TO-less trip.) But it's also true that the Wildcats have indeed forced all those turnovers and, with the right pairing, they could do so again in the tournament.

Big East: Georgetown's talented and looks good--and apparently that matters

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  West Virginia    10-5   64.3    1.13    1.02    +0.11
2.  Syracuse         12-2   69.1    1.08    0.97    +0.11
3.  Villanova        11-3   72.5    1.16    1.06    +0.10
4.  Marquette         8-6   63.3    1.11    1.04    +0.07
5.  Louisville        9-5   64.9    1.13    1.06    +0.07
6.  Georgetown        8-6   67.3    1.09    1.03    +0.06
7.  Pitt             10-4   62.9    1.08    1.02    +0.06
8.  Connecticut       7-8   68.5    1.01    0.99    +0.02
9.  Notre Dame        6-8   65.8    1.13    1.13     0.00
10. Cincinnati        6-8   65.1    1.02    1.05    -0.03
11. Seton Hall        6-8   67.7    1.05    1.10    -0.05
12. St. John’s        5-9   65.3    0.97    1.02    -0.05
13. S. Florida        6-8   64.9    1.02    1.09    -0.07
14. Providence       4-10   73.0    1.07    1.14    -0.07
15. Rutgers          4-10   68.5    0.97    1.14    -0.17
16. DePaul           1-13   63.1    0.94    1.13    -0.19

The Hoyas are appearing in brackets as a three-seed, which one could suggest is generous for a team with the Big East's sixth-best offense and, what do you know, its sixth-best defense. Meanwhile a team like Pitt, two full games ahead of Georgetown in the standings and equal to the Hoyas in per-possession terms, is popping up as a four-seed. Maybe that little "4" next to the Panthers' name should be replaced with something more honest and direct: "They lost to Indiana!"

Big Ten: Purdue's first among equals

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Ohio St.         11-4   63.5    1.07    0.96    +0.11
2.  Wisconsin        10-5   57.3    1.08    0.97    +0.11
3.  Purdue           11-3   64.4    1.08    0.97    +0.11
4.  Michigan St.     11-4   63.4    1.06    1.00    +0.08
5.  Illinois          9-5   65.0    1.03    1.01    +0.02
6.  Minnesota         7-7   64.0    1.06    1.05    +0.01
7.  Michigan          6-8   59.4    1.02    1.02     0.00
8.  Northwestern      6-9   61.9    1.08    1.13    -0.05
9.  Penn St.         2-12   61.1    0.98    1.09    -0.11
10. Iowa             3-11   61.5    0.94    1.06    -0.12
11. Indiana          3-11   64.1    0.94    1.11    -0.17

In any year there's a tremendous gravitational pull toward giving the Big Ten's best team a one-seed. The question this season, as seen here, is whether there's going to be a single best team. If Purdue can win at Minnesota tomorrow night they'll have every opportunity to win the conference outright and receive a one-seed as a matter of course. Wisconsin, on the other hand, may be looking at something more like a five-seed. Don't be fooled. Those two teams, along with Ohio State, are very similar in terms of in-conference performance.

Pac-10: Don't get me started....

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Cal              10-5   67.9    1.11    1.01    +0.10
2.  Arizona St.       9-5   64.1    1.04    0.97    +0.07
3.  Washington        8-7   71.5    1.07    1.01    +0.06
4.  USC               8-6   62.0    0.96    0.91    +0.05
5.  Arizona           7-7   67.6    1.04    1.00    +0.04
6.  Oregon St.        6-8   62.0    0.95    0.97    -0.02
7.  Stanford          7-8   66.0    1.00    1.05    -0.05
8.  UCLA              7-7   63.8    1.01    1.06    -0.05
9.  Washington St.    6-9   66.1    1.01    1.09    -0.08
10. Oregon           4-10   65.2    0.94    1.08    -0.14

Yes, the Pac-10 is down. Yes, Cal should be kicking themselves for losing at Oregon State last week. But a 10-seed for a team that outscores its major conference by 0.10 points per trip? Really? (Last year Villanova reached the Final Four after outscoring the Big East by 0.09 points per possession during the regular season.) I would say I feel sorry for the seven- and two-seeds, but the truth is the Bears may well be flown across some time zones for their opening weekend.

SEC: Apparently 0.01 in efficiency margin is highly important

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Kentucky         11-1   71.5    1.07    0.92    +0.15
2.  Vanderbilt        9-3   70.4    1.10    1.05    +0.05
3.  Florida           8-4   66.1    1.09    1.05    +0.04
4.  Tennessee         8-4   67.3    1.00    0.97    +0.03
5.  Arkansas          7-5   71.9    1.05    1.02    +0.03
6.  Mississippi St.   7-5   69.0    1.00    0.98    +0.02
7.  Ole Miss          5-7   69.2    1.04    1.04     0.00
8.  Alabama           4-8   64.1    0.98    0.98     0.00
9.  Georgia           4-8   67.7    1.04    1.07    -0.03
10. South Carolina    5-7   68.4    0.99    1.04    -0.05
11. Auburn            4-8   69.6    1.03    1.09    -0.06
12. LSU              0-12   64.0    0.89    1.11    -0.22

Vanderbilt and Florida look really similar here, but the Commodores are being shown as a three-seed in the mocks while the Gators are an 11. Personally I doubt there's that much difference between these two SEC East teams with really good offenses and leaky D's, but you be the judge.

A-10: This would be so cool....

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Xavier           10-2   71.5    1.13    0.95    +0.18
2.  Temple           10-2   62.6    1.10    0.95    +0.15
3.  Richmond         11-2   64.3    1.07    0.93    +0.14
4.  Dayton            7-5   67.4    1.03    0.90    +0.13
5.  Rhode Island      8-5   68.8    1.09    1.03    +0.06
6.  Saint Louis       9-3   63.3    0.95    0.91    +0.04
7.  GW                4-8   66.6    0.99    0.99     0.00
8.  Charlotte         8-4   68.8    1.00    1.01    -0.01
9.  Duquesne          6-7   71.0    0.99    1.03    -0.04
10. UMass             4-9   70.7    0.99    1.05    -0.06
11. St. Bonaventure   4-8   67.6    0.96    1.02    -0.06
12. La Salle          3-9   70.8    0.98    1.06    -0.08
13. Saint Joseph’s   3-10   70.0    0.92    1.04    -0.12
14. Fordham          0-13   70.5    0.89    1.15    -0.26

Here's the thing. I'm seeing Xavier projected as a seven-seed, and with a ranking that laughably low it's not beyond the realm of possibility that the Musketeers could actually be neutral-court favorites (in me/kenpom terms) in their second-round game if they draw the right (i.e., overrated) two-seed. A power-conference heavy like Villanova could fit that description by then. We shall see.

Conference USA: UTEP is synonymous with "underrated" until further notice

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  UTEP             11-1   67.2    1.06    0.90    +0.16
2.  Marshall          8-4   68.2    1.10    0.99    +0.11
3.  Memphis          10-2   65.6    1.17    1.06    +0.11
4.  Southern Miss     6-6   58.8    1.00    0.96    +0.04
5.  UAB               9-3   66.0    1.00    0.96    +0.04
6.  SMU               5-7   59.2    1.03    1.00    +0.03
7.  Tulsa             8-5   66.5    1.03    1.00    +0.03
8.  Houston           5-7   68.4    1.04    1.01    +0.03
9.  UCF               5-7   64.1    1.01    1.09    -0.08
10. Tulane           2-11   67.0    0.89    1.01    -0.12
11. Rice             1-11   65.5    0.95    1.09    -0.14
12. E. Carolina       3-9   68.7    0.90    1.08    -0.18

The Miners are popping up as a nine-seed, but I will grant that this is a special situation. With CUSA only now emerging from its long period of total Memphis bid-blackout, it is true that the other programs in the conference don't have much to show in the way of recent NCAA tournament experience. It's hard to know how they'll react to this strange new territory.

Missouri Valley: Only one-bid league on this page?

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  N. Iowa          14-2   58.6    1.05    0.91    +0.14
2.  Wichita St.      11-5   63.7    1.04    0.98    +0.06
3.  Illinois St.     10-6   62.9    1.07    1.02    +0.05
4.  Missouri St.      7-9   64.5    1.11    1.09    +0.02
5.  S. Illinois      6-10   65.0    1.02    1.01    +0.01
6.  Bradley           8-8   65.0    1.04    1.03    +0.01
7.  Indiana St.       8-8   63.2    1.04    1.06    -0.02
8.  Creighton         8-8   63.9    1.02    1.05    -0.03
9.  Drake             7-9   63.1    1.03    1.06    -0.03
10. Evansville       1-15   64.8    0.94    1.12    -0.18

Northern Iowa's appearing in the mocks as a six-seed, pretty much the default neighborhood for a Valley team this good. No complaints.

Mountain West: Guess which team will get the highest seed?

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  BYU              10-2   70.3    1.14    0.92    +0.22
2.  San Diego St.     9-4   65.2    1.10    0.98    +0.12
3.  New Mexico       11-2   66.0    1.08    0.97    +0.11
4.  UNLV              8-5   66.8    1.07    0.97    +0.10
5.  Utah              5-7   65.7    0.98    0.99    -0.01
6.  Colorado St.      6-6   67.1    0.94    1.02    -0.08
7.  TCU               4-8   62.2    0.96    1.05    -0.09
8.  Wyoming          2-11   69.0    0.95    1.12    -0.17
9.  Air Force        1-11   57.8    0.90    1.15    -0.25

I'm mystified as to how New Mexico (nascent three-seed, if the mocks are correct) has persuaded the country that they're some kind of high-plains juggernaut this season. Meanwhile San Diego State may well miss the tournament entirely, and aberrantly dominant BYU is being listed as a four. Go figure. The Mountain West, of course, plays a true round-robin, so if all of the above trends continue I may have to drop the boyish chagrin and hurl me some thunderbolts in a couple weeks. Nation, you've been warned!

WCC: And if they hadn't lost to Loyola-Marymount?...

                      W-L   Pace    PPP   Opp. PPP    EM
1.  Gonzaga          10-2   68.4    1.13    0.98    +0.15
2.  Portland          8-4   63.7    1.11    0.99    +0.12
3.  Saint Mary’s      9-3   66.8    1.12    1.01    +0.11
4.  San Francisco     7-5   67.7    1.01    1.01     0.00
5.  Loyola Marymount  6-6   68.1    1.01    1.05    -0.04
6.  Santa Clara       3-9   65.1    0.95    1.02    -0.07
7.  San Diego        2-10   62.2    0.93    1.05    -0.12
8.  Pepperdine        3-9   66.6    0.96    1.12    -0.16

The mock bracketeers see Gonzaga as equivalent to teams like BYU, Michigan State, and Pitt--projected four-seeds all. Conversely I see the Zags as more similar to teams like San Diego State and Cal. But, hey, it's still February. Maybe we'll all end up agreeing about every team. I dream big.

John betrays a total ignorance of Olympic hockey brackets on Twitter: @JohnGasaway. College Basketball Prospectus 2009-10 is now available on Amazon.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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