numberFire Bracketology: 2/22/14
With Selection Sunday only a few weeks away, teams are really running out of opportunities to impress the committee.
This week, the North Carolina Tar Heels knocked off the Duke Blue Devils, bumping them up to a current six seed according to our math. The Tar Heels are on a roll as of late, having won eight in a row.
Meanwhile, Kansas barely survived against a much improved Texas Tech team earlier in the week. With Tubby Smith at the helm, the Red Raiders could make the Big 12 a nine-deep league very soon.
Arizona and Villanova seized victory in overtime and double overtime respectively, helping them maintain their cases for a number one seed. While that was happening, Florida came from behind at home against Auburn to win their 18th straight.
The biggest upset this week came from Boston College when they beat the undefeated Syracuse Orange. Boston College ranks just 125th in nERD (click here to learn about nERD), while Cuse is the 19th-ranked team according to the metric. As a result, the Orange fell out of contention for a one seed - according to numberFire metrics - despite only having a single loss. Wichita State is now the last undefeated squad in the country.
It was a wild week to say the least. How did it change the current field of 68, as well as the projected tournament bracket? Take a look below.
The One Seeds
The Kansas Jayhawks currently remain on top of the numberFire field of 68. Though they've had six losses, they've also faced the toughest schedule in the entire country. However, the Jayhawks are projected to slip to the number two overall seed and while losing at least another game according to numberFire simulations. They'll likely hold on for their 10th straight conference title though.
Arizona hasn’t been the same since losing Brandon Ashley, and their play of late has been very concerning for anyone who's rooting for them. They nearly dropped their third contest in five games against Utah on Wednesday, but held on for their 24th victory of the season. The Wildcats are number two in nERD and currently sit second in RPI, but are still simulated to overtake the Jayhawks for the number one overall seed. We'll see if this holds true without Ashley.
The Florida Gators haven’t lost in nearly three months, and are currently poised to take the top spot in both the AP and Coaches’ polls. Florida is second in RPI, but they've played only the 29th-hardest schedule up to this point, lower than any of the other expected one seeds. They're projected to stay as the third overall seed, and currently sit at 11 in nERD. Besides Kentucky to end the regular season, no other team on the Gators' schedule rank in the nERD top 60, so they very well may win out.
Villanova has been excellent this season, and sit as the final one seed according to our calculations. However, they've struggled against Creighton, a team that actually ranks fifth in terms of nERD, a couple of spots higher than 'Nova. In their two meetings, Creighton won by an average score of 98.5 to 74, a score much higher than Villanova's 68.5 average points allowed per game this year. Creighton ranks first in ORtg (offensive rating) while Villanova’s DRtg (defensive rating) sits at just 58th in the country - a tough offense can exploit Villanova, it seems.
The Surprise Conference
The Atlantic 10 has one team currently in the AP top 25 (Saint Louis). However, Virginia Commonwealth tops the conference with a 33rd-ranked nERD score, with Saint Louis (36th), UMass (44th), and George Washington (48th) not very far behind. While these ratings are tournament worthy, none of them scream high seeds for the conference.
However, the Atlantic 10 is expected to currently place six in the field, with the Dayton Flyers right on the bubble. Saint Louis is number 10 in the country, but currently hold a four seed having played only the 82nd-most difficult schedule in the country. On the other hand, both UMass and VCU are projected as a five and six seeds respectively, despite a combined two votes in the AP poll. George Washington is a current eight seed, while St. Joseph’s (80th in nERD) sits at a 10 and Richmond a 12.
Expected to Slip
At times this season, the Texas Longhorns have played at a level in which they can defeat almost anyone in the country. They knocked off Carolina in Chapel Hill, and won comfortably when they hosted Iowa State and Kansas. Without having any players mentally checked out early for the NBA (its most-crucial piece, underrated freshman Isaiah Taylor, still has a lot to improve before making the leap), they have been able to play together as a team. They now sit in second place in arguably the most difficult conference in the country.
The Longhorns are currently an expected six seed, but are simulated to drop to an eight. With brutal games at Kansas and at Oklahoma as well as a trip to Lubbock, all while hosting a surging Baylor squad, the Longhorns have a chance to finish poorly. They are only expected to drop another couple of games, but if they’ve yet again peaked early, they will continue to slide.
Can Oklahoma State Turn It Around?
The Oklahoma State Cowboys are unquestionably one of the most disappointing teams of this season. They went 12-1 in non-conference play with their only loss, a rematch against a Memphis squad they had beaten handily a couple of weeks prior. The Cowboys were as high as a number five seed at one point in the season, and were projected to enter conference play as a legitimate threat to Kansas’ reign of Big 12 dominance.
They barely fell to Kansas State in the “Octagon of Doom”, and bounced back to win their next three before falling by two points in Lawrence to Kansas. Since losing to the Jayhawks, they’ve only won once and have now lost seven straight to fall to ninth in the conference.
Now sitting at 16-10, things look bleak. But everything could improve rapidly for this talented squad, as Marcus Smart returns for the final five games of the regular season after a three-game suspension.
As you can see in the table below, Oklahoma State needs to bounce back with Smart now, as their schedule ends with an extremely tough three-game stretch.
|Oklahoma state||Texas Tech||TCU||Kansas||Kansas State||Iowa State|
|Current Big 12 Standing||9th||8th||10th||1st||T-3rd||T-3rd|
|Current Big 12 Wins||4||5||0||11||8||8|
|Current Big 12 Losses||9||8||13||2||5||5|
|Simulated Total Wins||19.04||14.89||9.22||23.36||20.19||23.03|
|Simulated Total Losses||11.96||16.11||19.78||7.64||10.81||6.97|
Oklahoma State is currently expected to just squeak into the field of 68 as a 12 seed, and are simulated to stay in that territory as well.
On the Bubble
The Tennessee Volunteers currently sit just outside the field of 68, and are expected to get in as the final team. At 15-10, they sit 51st in RPI and would be bumped out if there are significant upsets in conference tournaments. They are 35th in nERD, but haven’t converted their rating into a significant victory yet this year.
The California Golden Bears defeated Arizona a few weeks ago, but have split their four games since. They recently were blown out by UCLA at home in a situation in which a victory could’ve put them safely in. Instead, they currently are a 12 seed and although they're simulated to finish that way, they could be in trouble.