Tune in for Michigan at upstart Rutgers tonight. (Early Start!!! 6:30 ET) In case you didn’t see it, Rutgers gave the now stumbling Wildcats everything they could handle over the weekend and Doug Collins could be seen sitting in the stands riding the emotional roller coaster while watching his son coach on the sidelines. I’m thinking that Rutgers might be better than their record, but part of Rutgers looking good over the last couple of games is the competition they were playing. The Wildcats also lost at Lowly Illinois last night, only scoring 50 in the process against one of the B1G’s worst Defenses…Starting to wonder what happened to the Wildcat Team that beat Wiscy at Wiscy? (Side Note: Northwestern at the bottom of the B1G in overall adjusted efficiency - yikes)
Regardless, every game Michigan has left is a BIG GAME that they need to win. Not saying desperate, yet. Just saying they need to take care of business and win.
Instead of Cramming for the Final during Conference Championship Weekend, the MMPG thought you might find it interesting if I shared a little insight over what I’ve seen in college hoops over the last three or four weeks. If you’ve been following college hoops at all (after the Super Bowl, of course), you’re getting a really good look at some teams that are going to make a difference in March and also a REALLY good look at who the pretenders are…
You can Thank the MMPG later for this insight when it comes to filling out your brackets (If it works, of course. Follow my advice and lose and I’ll simply tell you to consider the source!!!!). I’m only commenting on teams that I’ve watched in games for the last couple of weeks. No statistical reasoning here (yet), just the eye test….
First, the MAJOR PRETENDERS (Also known as March Madness FRAUDS)!!! I’m defining these as teams that currently have a projected high seed or a very high RPI, BPI and Kenpom but carry the burden of being a Blue Blood or Old School that are false gods and idols that should be avoided in the tourney at all costs! (or you should AT LEAST consider picking them to lose when the opportunity presents itself!)
- Gonzaga – (WCC Conference) Ever since The Zags “Shocked” the world and advanced to the elite 8 in 1998-99 as a 10-Seed, they’ve been an upset darling for Bracket Pickers all over the country. Only problem is, they’ve since earned the respect of the hoops community and they get much higher seeding as a result, but have never made a Final 4. I’ve seen the Zags play this season. I know you CANNOT put all your picking eggs into one game. But the game I saw convinced me that this is not Mark Few’s best team that he’s ever had. I’m going to contradict myself as they have an extremely high BPI/Kenpom rank, but based on the visuals and the quality of their opponents, I will be looking to hop off the Zaga train early this season…As early as the 2nd round of 32, depending on the match-up. For sure scrutinize the Sweet 16 opponent when you get to that decision…
- Virginia – (ACC) possibly the most overrated team in the tourney (if not the country at this point), IMHO. Virginia started out on fire this season, but has taken a dive in the last 4 games. I tuned into Monday night’s Miami-Virginia game and gleaned WAY TOO MUCH information on exactly how bad Virginia is (on offense). Granted, they’re playing like beasts on the defensive side of the ball, but they can’t score for crap (right now). They are scoring 0.85 Points per Possession in the last 4 games. That’s the exact BOTTOM of the ACC right now. And they just don’t look good on offense. I know things can turn around quickly in hoops, but when I’m looking for momentum teams heading into March, Virginia does NOT fall into that category. 1st or 2nd round upset would be an easy pick here….But I may revisit this one after the ACC Tourney.
- Kentucky – (SEC) I shouldn’t say this, and I’ve learned my lesson about betting against Calipari in March. But this is NOT a great Kentucky team. They play down to the level of their competition and go long streaks without scoring. Still, they’re the cream of the crop in the SEC and Calipari knows how to get to the FF. But if I see a shaky match-up in the 64-team bracket, I’ll be looking or an early exit by the Wildcats….
- Saint Mary’s – The Gaels have only lost to Gonzaga and UTA, but they lost both times and they didn’t look that formidable in the loss that I tuned in for (I obviously have a bit of a bias AGAINST the WCC). Also – They lost to University of Texas Arlington (UTA) early in the season. Again, they have a high BPI/Kenpom, but I could easily be swayed if they come in as a 5-Seed where they’re projected to be one of my 12-5 upset picks….Depending on the match-up.
Also Considered: Kansas. Kansas is kind of a mess (both on and off the court) and while I respect Coach Self, this team has problems. And Kansas has “Exiting in the First Weekend” Issues. I’m sure the committee will give them an easy road, but I could be easily persuaded with statistical evidence to jump off the Jayhawks bandwagon when the time comes.
MAJOR CONFERENCE Teams that will be High-Seeded Difficult OUTS!!!
K-State – I wanted to put them in, but they went on a 3-game slide after losing a close rivalry game to Kansas (which I watched and came away impressed). However, they barely squeaked by Texas to get back to winning and I would probably treat K-State very Chalky at this point when it comes to tourney picks…
Georgia - This is a pretty good team that has lost a lot of close games to the top heavy SEC where they lucked out and had to play everybody twice. With the loss of their leading scorer (Monte Teyam) I doubt they make the tourney at this point but they would have been a nice upset pick …
Mid-Major Dark Horses That You Need To Be Aware Of
This is the section where I try to call out the previously unknown but make a lot of March Noise George Masons, Butlers, Middle Tennessee State U’s, and Florida Gulf Coasts of the world!
- Cincinnati – While not EXACTLY under the radar, the Bearcats are always a tough out and have enough weapons on offense to make a deep run, in my opinion. I watched them play and blow out South Florida and that was no competition. Depending on their seed, Cinci will be another in vogue pick to make the Sweet 16. If they get the 4-Seed, It’ll be very tempting indeed. IF they get the 5-Seed, the road will be a little trickier….
- Akron – A solid, gritty team that is not an unknown to a lot of March Madness experts and novices alike, but they are kind of a sleeper they may become an oft talked about upset pick depending on their seed and match-up.
- Marquette – IF THEY MAKE IT IN. Marquette has some great wins on their resume, but they were also destroyed by a hot shooting Michigan team early in the season. Still, they beat Villanova (that’s worth something) and you’ll hear every pundit talking about these guys like they are the best kept secret of the tourney. Very high RPI (81!!!) but better BPI and Kenpom ranking. Beware the opponent and choose wisely with the Golden Eagles.
- UTA – (Sun Belt) IF THEY MAKE IT IN. This is a team I have NOT SEEN PLAY, but I’ve read and heard things…This is a pretty good Mid-Major that has owned some teams early (but lost) and needs to win their conference to get to the dance. IF they get in, I’ll get you more details….
Tourney Coaches You Should Never Bet Against
Ranked by EXPECTED WINNING PERCENTAGE based on Seeding expectation. This is a stat that looks at more than winning percentage in the NCAA Tourney. It actually looks at your seeding and whether or not you over or underachieve based on that seeding. In other words, depending on your Seed, you have a projected win percentage. A 16-Seed has a 0 wins expectation factored into their percentage and a 1-Seed has 4 wins expected factored into their percentage that count as additional appearances. If you’re a 2-seed, the expectation would be 3.5, for a 3 seed 3.25, and a 4-Seed, 3 wins on down to the 16-Seed. Everything after 4 wins in any tournament for any Seed is gravy (meaning if you were a total overachiever, you could be over 100% winning percentage!). Michigan’s Beilein has one of highest percentages due to upsets (from being ranked a lower seed) and his Championship run in 2013. Coach K has a lower winning percentage than what you’ll see for his “Tourney Record Percentage” (around 86%) due to the fact that he was upset as a high seed many times. Vice Versa for a coach that doesn’t get there a lot, but makes the most of it.
EXAMPLE: Steve Fisher was at 185% with this stat!!!
When he won every game in 1989!!! (6 wins out of the expected 3.25 wins when Michigan was a 3-Seed!)
- I’ve already mentioned him: Michigan’s Beilein (76.5%) is one of the winningest NCAA Tourney Coaches by Expected Winning Percentage when factoring in Seeding!
- Krzyzewski (74%) – How do I remember how to spell that name? Easy. Krazy Zewski. Take out the “a” and you’ve got it! You’re welcome. Coach “K” is another coach you really shouldn’t bet against in the tourney and that’s partly due to his Final 4 appearances and NCAA Championships.
- Calipari (74%) – Already mentioned, but his expected wins vs. his results is also offset by his multiple Final 4’s and Championships. I believe the website I use also looks at the vacated appearances, because, let’s face it: He’s probably still cheating at Kentucky….
- Roy Williams – (71%) I can’t pick Roy Williams to win…Anything. But his UNC Tarheels are poised to win the ACC and will end up with the ACC Tourney 1-Seed and a 1-Seed overall in the field of 64. That DOESN’T MEAN I like UNC at this point. When shit happens to you like what happened in the NCAA Championship last year against Villanova…Well, You’re Jinxed. Just sayin’…..
General Observations (I will be repeating these and more stuff like this A LOT as we get closer to Tourney Time):
- Nationally, the B1G gets “ZERO” Respect when Sparty and the Hoosiers suck. Don’t let that fool you come tourney time! Wiscy is Wiscy and Purdue is Purdue this season. Maryland will also be a pain and difficult to beat. Sort of like when the MMPG (along with everybody else) dissed the Beast last season and Villanova wins the whole thing, I would NOT BE SURPRISED to see a B1G Final Four team this season (depending on seeding). Advice: Two Brackets – One B1G Centric and One with whatever everyone else will be doing. Actually, that’s never bad advice. If you believe there’s a conference that’s unusually strong, lean towards a conference in 1 bracket. Last year: the ACC for example….
- While I was sort of right on the Beast last season (everyone but Villanova was OUT after the first weekend), the ACC is giving me the same feelings this season. The top is strong, but the rest…I dunno. (Although the ACC did get 6 teams to the Sweet 16 last season!)
- Last Season (first time ever), 9(x3), 10(x2), 11(x3!), 12(x2), 13, 14, and 15-Seeds (THANKS AGAIN Middle Tennessee State!!!) won games. Keep that in mind when filling out your brackets, but know that picking 13,14, and 15 seeds will always be against the odds…but if you can pick your 9-12 seeds correctly (with the upsets last season prevailing), you’re going to have an edge on the field. And Don’t Forget: two years ago in 2015, TWO 14-Seeds made it to the Sweet 16!!!
- The Big 12 is also quite top heavy and if they get 6-7 in, I don’t expect any more than 3 to the round of 32. Less to the Sweet-16.
So, that’s enough before we actually see brackets unless I see a game that I think you should know about.