Friday, March 21 2014 7:28 AM EDT2014-03-21 11:28:45 GMT
RALEIGH, NC (WMBF) - This week, Coastal Carolina joins Duke, Virginia, Tennessee and several other big name schools at PNC Arena for a weekend of games as the NCAA Tournament is off and running. TomorrowMore >>
Chants take the floor for a practice in Raleigh before taking on top-seeded Virginia Friday night.More >>
(RNN) – It's that time of year again when all of your sports knowledge is put to the test and your reputation as someone who knows things is destroyed once again.
You've spent the last 12 months repairing your reputation as a sports fan after you eliminated Wichita State in the second round only to watch them sail into the Final Four.
Oh wait, that was me. The Shockers are the only undefeated team in college basketball this season, so I won't be making that mistake again. (SPOILER: I'm making that mistake again.)
Last year I attempted to find a way to not look grossly uninformed at predicting the outcome of the tournament, and that didn't go so well. The best bracket I had was one where I picked the straight favorites with no upsets whatsoever. It was supposed to be the control just to have a baseline comparison to gauge my methods by, and it ended up being better than all of them.
To a normal-thinking person, this would be an indication to use that as your bracket or give up all together, but to me it was evidence that I need better methods. I could probably start taking an interest in basketball and keeping up with teams the way I do with football, but that seems like a lot of work. It's much more fun to spitball ideas at the last minute and see what happens.
With that in mind, here are this year's attempts at looking smart. Gone are the mascot comparisons, defensive analysis and summoning of Abraham Lincoln's copper likeness. They were all terrible.
When it was all over last year, I said I was going to throw darts, but I started trying to figure out how that would actually work and it didn't really seem practical, so this year is all about uniform color, coaching experience and a 5-year-old boy.
The brackets can be viewed here. (And for more bracket nonsense, Slate did several variations as well.)
Once again this is supposed to just be for comparative purposes, but something tells me it's going to be the best one again.
It is, of course, boring because there are no upsets of any kind. (One click and some websites will fill out the bracket for you in this manner. Where's the fun in that?)
I chose Wichita State as the championship game opponent for No. 1 overall seed Florida because it is No. 2 in the Associated Press poll and finished the season undefeated.
Final Four: Florida, Virginia, Arizona, Wichita State
Championship game: Florida 70, Wichita State 68
My Actual Picks
This is purely me doing my thing, going by whatever notion pops into my head at the moment. It ended up being the best of all my attempts to beat the chalk last year, so maybe I'm not as terrible at this as I think I am.
All of ESPN's "experts" predicted Michigan State to win the national championship, so for better or worse, I made certain to eliminate the Spartans before the Final Four based on that information alone. In fact, I have them losing to 12-seeded Harvard in the second round.
Harvard is one of two double-digit seeds I have in the Sweet 16, along with No. 10 seed Arizona State. Otherwise, I picked the top teams from each region to advance. My Elite Eight has no team lower than a No. 4 seed, and my Final Four is two No. 1 seeds and two No. 3 seeds.
Three No. 1 seeds make the Elite Eight, but only one region has both the 1 and 2 seeds advancing that far. One region – the Midwest – has neither, with No. 3 Duke and No. 4 Louisville, whom I have toppling undefeated Wichita State, advancing.
I picked three No. 12 seeds – Stephen F. Austin, Harvard and North Dakota State – to advance in the opening round, two No. 10 seeds – Arizona State and BYU – and three No. 9 seeds – George Washington, Oklahoma State and Pittsburgh.
Though the East has Harvard advancing to the Sweet 16, it's the region with the fewest upsets.
This is also my entry for the $1 billion bracket challenge insured by Warren Buffet, so if it ends up being perfect, I'm moving to a private island and creating my own country. Law No. 1 will be outlawing sports I dislike, such as basketball and soccer.
Final Four: Florida, Virginia, Creighton, Duke
Championship game: Florida 75, Duke 67
One popular method for picking the tournament amongst novices is to go by the teams' uniform color. Conventional wisdom says to take the teams wearing blue since historical powers Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, UCLA and Kansas all wear blue.
Blue happens to be my favorite color, so that sounds good to me. For this purpose, a team with any blue in its color scheme was taken over a school with no blue, and darker blues won over lighter ones.
When neither team had blue, the team with the closest primary color to blue on the spectrum won.
If a team's color was simply "blue" rather than a specific shade, they won. In the case of a tie, the school's secondary color was used to break it. In the South Region, this led to Florida (blue) and Kansas (blue) meeting for a trip to the Final Four and Kansas advancing due to its secondary color of crimson being closer to blue on the color wheel than Florida's orange.
White was considered no color and any color beat it out, black beat all colors other than blue and the higher seed was used to break ties.
Problems arose when teams like Stanford (cardinal red) met New Mexico (cherry red). By applying the blue rules to other colors, I chose the darker shade and New Mexico advanced. Harvard's crimson lost to Cincinnati because the Bearcats list black as their primary color.
In the East Region, Villanova was able to advance to the Elite Eight, toppling Connecticut because of the higher seed tiebreaker and North Carolina owing to a darker shade of blue, but lost to Virginia because its secondary color is white.
North Dakota State was able to advance to the Sweet 16 in the West Region due to its green and favorable matchups, but its run ended against Arizona. No. 15 seed American University was able to take down No. 2 Wisconsin and survived BYU, but fell to Creighton.
The Midwest Region is where things took a turn for the worse. Wichita State's gold and black lost immediately to Cal Poly's green, No. 11 Iowa and No. 13 Manhattan both advanced and a blue tornado showdown in the finals saw Duke edging Michigan, but falling to Kentucky.
Creighton made the championship game over Kentucky because of the higher seed tiebreaker and Kansas (crimson) topped Virginia (orange) after an analysis of secondary colors, which it also used to beat Creighton (white).
All told, it's not a terrible plan. There are several early round upsets, five double-digit seeds made the Sweet 16 and a No. 8 seed reached the Final Four, but the higher seed tiebreaker likely saved this bracket from being a disaster.
Final Four: Kansas, Virginia, Creighton, Kentucky
Championship game: Kansas 77, Creighton 71
It's stat wonk time. Field goal percentage was a disaster last year, so I thought scoring margin might be a better plan. Scoring margin is the average difference in the number of points a team scores versus the points it allows.
The numbers were easy to find. The first thing I noticed when pulling it up is that Louisville will repeat as national champion and topple Wichita State exactly the way I picked it in My Actual Picks, so I feel good about that. (It also validated me by picking Harvard to beat Michigan State in the second round, which I now feel much better about.)
The second thing I noticed is that I would have had an opportunity to put my alma mater, Louisiana Tech, in the Final Four had it not lost to Tulsa in the Conference USA championship game. Eh, such is life.
The bracket again shows why purely statistical choices are problematic. Despite being 11th in the country in scoring margin, No. 3-seeded Duke wasn't able to advance even beyond the first round because it faced No. 14-seeded Mercer, which is ninth.
No. 12 seeds Harvard and Stephen F. Austin both made the Final Four, and surprisingly the West Region is almost straight chalk, except for North Dakota State beating Oklahoma in the first round and Creighton edging Wisconsin to make the Elite Eight.
Mercer was the lowest seed to win, and it made it all the way to the Elite Eight before falling to Louisville.
Final Four: Stephen F. Austin, Harvard, Arizona, Louisville
Championship game: Louisville 78, Stephen F. Austin 70
The idea here is that an experienced coach has several advantages. One of them being he's likely at a school that is a consistently successful.
Teams were picked to win based on the tenure the coach has at his current school, but coaches who have previously won a national championship won over those who haven't (multiple championships were not considered). Total years of coaching experience were used as a tiebreaker.
So, Jim Boeheim who has coached Syracuse since 1976 and won the national championship in 2003, sailed right into another one. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski cruised to the title game as well, having helmed the Blue Devils since 1980. Had multiple championships been considered, Duke would have won due to Krzyzewski's four previous tournament wins. Reversing the years the coaches were hired also made for a nice final score.
Coastal Carolina is the breakout star in this bracket. Cliff Ellis has led Coastal Carolina since 2007 and that tenure was able to help the No. 16 seed Chanticleers oust Virginia and Memphis to reach the Sweet 16 before Michigan State and Tom Izzo, who has both a national championship and longer tenure, ended the run.
But that wasn't the only No. 16 seed to get a win. Randy Rahe has coached Weber State since 2007, which is two years longer than Sean Miller has been at top-seeded Arizona. Additionally, Phil Martelli's tenure with St. Joseph's (he was hired in 2005) helped the No. 10 seed Hawks make the Sweet 16.
San Diego State was another surprise, riding Steve Fisher's 1989 national championship with Michigan all the way to the Final Four.
Overall, the bracket looks like it could be a fairly good one, though it will need a ton of minor upsets. No team lower than a No. 4 seed made the Final Four, but not a single No. 1 or No. 2 seed was able to do it.
Final Four: Syracuse, Michigan State, San Diego State, Duke
Championship game: Syracuse 80, Duke 76
So, what exactly is the RPI? I'm glad you asked.
RPI stands for Rating Percentage Index. It is an analysis of a team's strength of schedule and its success against that schedule. It's used by the selection committee to help determine seeding. It gets cited a lot in basketball circles, but also gets dismissed in a lot of discussions.
It's like a basketball version of the BCS, only basketball is smart enough to not use it to crown a champion. But the question is, what if they did? I'm glad you asked.
Virginia, which is a No. 1 seed, is eighth in RPI, and New Mexico is 12th in RPI, but is a No. 12 seed, so it's obviously not the end-all, be-all in the selection committee's eyes. Ideally, the advanced matrix used to calculate RPI will predict which teams are better. Let's see if it's right.
The conventional wisdom everyone has been spouting since the bracket was announced is that the Midwest is the toughest region. According to the RIP, it's actually the second weakest behind the West Region.
Could it be that people think Wichita State has no chance to make the Final Four due to their perceived weak regular season schedule and blaming it on a "difficult road?" That's possible. Could it mean the RPI is a massively flawed ranking? That's even more possible.
Either way, it's almost an entirely chalk bracket, and I almost decided against using it after seeing the result. No double-digit seeds advanced and George Washington was the only No. 9 seed to advance. Three of the four brackets have the 1-4 seeds in the Sweet 16 while the South has the 1-3 and No. Virginia Commonwealth, which has an RPI ranking of 13 – one spot ahead of No. 4 seed UCLA.
No. 3 seed Duke is the only team outside the top two seeds to crack the Elite Eight and Virginia was the only No. 1 seed to not make the Final Four, losing out to Villanova, who is No. 5 in the RPI.
There will undoubtedly be early round upsets, but the bracket is just different enough from the chalk bracket to be able to beat it even if only one or two games go its way, so it could work out in the end.
Final Four: Florida, Villanova, Arizona, Wichita State
Championship game: Florida 76, Arizona 75
I don't have kids, but some people I work with do and I enlisted the services of one of the little tykes to use whatever goes on his head to hopefully crack the March Madness code that adults have been struggling with for years.
I desperately want this bracket to be flawless. I think it would be hilarious for this to be the best bracket on ESPN.com considering it was filled out by a 5-year-old.
By the way, this 5-year-old is a great American. I know that because he picked American University to win the national championship. I have never been a bigger fan of a school than I am of the Eagles right now. But American was just one of three No. 15 seeds in this bracket to advance, along with Milwaukee and Eastern Kentucky.
Nowhere have double-digit seeds been given more respect than in this bracket. In the East Region, every double-digit seed except No. 16 Coastal Carolina moved to the next round and No. 11 Providence, No. 13 Delaware and No. 15 Milwaukee all made it to the Sweet 16 with Providence making the Elite Eight.
Only two double-digit seeds failed to win in the West, where No. 16 Weber State was picked to beat top-seeded Arizona. The 11, 13 and 15 seeds move on in the South, and the 12 and 13 seeds won in the Midwest where No. 12 Xavier not only survived a play-in game, but advanced all the way to the Elite Eight.
No second seed make it past the second round, but with the exception of American the Final Four isn't all that dramatic.
C'mon kid, don't let me down.
Final Four: Florida, Virginia, American, Duke
Championship game: American 76, Florida 70
Copyright 2014 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
Need something to help you get through two weeks of March Madness? Try playing Basketball Cliche Bingo. Mark off the words or phrases that are overused during each game of the tourney.More >>
Don't like basketball? Need something to help you get through two weeks of March Madness? Try playing Basketball Cliche Bingo. Mark off the words or phrases that are overused during each game of the tournament.More >>