Tuesday, January 22, 2013

NEW and IMPROVED Back Iron Bracketometry: January 22

Those of you who have read in the past about the Back Iron Index (both of you) have seen brackets pitting the real 68 best college basketball teams in the nation. But, it was an incomplete sample.

Where were all the teams that might be on the bubble? Was I missing someone? How many more teams would make up the NIT pool, and possibly rank ahead of the ones that I was already listing?

From here on, the arduous process of ranking the best teams in America will include nearly ALL of the teams in America. Every team in every conference with an NCAA automatic bid has been ranked in the 10 BII metrics (including our newcomer TeamRankings.com, which replaces the pointless Bilas Index).

This does leave out the two independents and the last handful of teams left in the Great West, who'll just about all join the WAC soon enough anyway. Still, anyone want to take odds that a selection committee member will throw NJIT out there for an at-large bid? ("Hey, they nearly beat Providence." "Shut up and go pay the pizza guy.")

Yeah, me neither.

Read on to see what other improvements have been made to the Index.

The total rankings are now available for viewing online, complete with two separate S-curves.

The first is the BIT as we know it, the top 68 teams in America with the only caveat being that conference foes cannot meet in the first round. This BIT is now referred to as the "Back Iron Fantasy Bracket."

Secondly, there's the kind of curve that Joey Brackets has made famous, a more conventional projection including all the auto-bid qualifiers and adhering to many of the same rules that the actual committee must follow:
  • First three teams from each conference must be in separate regions;
  • Conference rivals should not meet until the regional finals if it can be avoided;
  • Regions should be balanced in terms of teams' rankings within their seed line groups;
  • BYU can't play on Sundays; and so on.
All of the selections have the BII as their backbone, as opposed to Lunardi guessing at the selection committee's fealty to the RPI, so this won't be referred to as "Bracketology." This is the far more advanced science of "Back Iron Bracketometry."

Notice that the top half of the fantasy S-Curve has all the same teams as the Bracketometry curve, just with a few concessions to committee rules. Your top 32 teams in the fantasy curve should be considered at-large locks.

Accent on should, and as evidence I point to the strange case of the Belmont Bruins. Beloved by the computers, packing RPI's in the low 30's and ranked 25th in the BII, Belmont should have a resume that rates inclusion, with or without a conference tournament title.

But, they play in the Ohio Valley Conference.

With SOS being dragged down by their league and losses to Northeastern and Central Florida, will the committee look for an excuse to keep them out, especially if they're on the same bubble as, say, Kentucky? Does Manti Te'o have bad luck with women?

The 9 and 10 seeds should be considered optimistic bubble teams, ones that may still need to sweat out something odd like an outsider winning the Missouri Valley or West Coast bid, but otherwise safe barring their own performance woes.

The 11's and 12's need to be nervous as hell and working feverishly to tighten their case.

The 13's through 16's are all the current leaders in their conferences and therefore listed as auto-bid qualifiers.

Last Four Byes: UCLA, BYU, Illinois, North Carolina
Last Four In: Boise State, Iowa, Georgetown, St. Mary's
First Four Out: North Dakota State, Maryland, Temple, LaSalle
Next Four Out: Rutgers, Texas A&M, Stanford, Indiana State

Some intriguing matchups from Bracketometry:
D.C. Region:
#5 Oregon v. #12 North Carolina--Many observers would have nodded their assent in the preseason if these seeds were reversed. Now, the Heels have a struggle on their hands and Oregon is actually leading the Pac-12.
#6 Colorado State v. #11 Bucknell--This would (or should, anyway) be a sexy upset pick in bracket pools nationwide. Either way, Colton Iverson vs. Mike Muscala would be a heavy matchup, and the Bison would be quite capable of knocking the Rams out, lofty RPI or no.

Los Angeles Region:
#5 Ohio State v. #12 BYU--BYU's got shooters and a big man who's strong on both ends. Ohio State has Deshaun Thomas.
#3 Miami (FL) v. #14 Valparaiso--If Miami came in without Reggie Johnson, who misses the meat of his seasons but not much meat on anything else, the Crusaders' frontcourt duo of Kevin van Wijk and Ryan Broekhoff could run Kenny Kadji ragged.

Austin Region:
#6 Butler v. #11 Kentucky--No, not #11 in the country. #11 in the region. Big Blue Nation will seethe if this number is next to UK's name, but then they'll go ahead and make their reservations for Atlanta anyway. Since, you know, no one can beat the Cats ever.
#3 Indiana v. #14 Weber State--Weber's got talent, but IU should get the job done. This would lead to either a rematch of the Butler loss on a TRULY neutral court or a Cody Zeller/Nerlens Noel heavyweight fight. Oh, and there would be nowhere for Calipari to hide this time. No pulling out of this matchup, Johnny.
#7 Belmont v. #10 Colorado--The backcourt tussle pitting Ian Clark and Kerron Johnson against Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie would be the main event, but the key undercard would be Andre Roberson and Josh Scott going up against the Bruins' undersized front line.

Indianapolis Region:
#6 UNLV v. #11 UCLA--In the preseason, I had Vegas headed for the Final Four and UCLA crashing and burning. In the freshman duel between Anthony Bennett and Shabazz Muhammad, NBA scouts' eyes would light up. The X-factor would be if Justin Hawkins could make Larry Drew II look like the Larry Drew that sulked off like a baby when he lost his job in Carolina. That 5-to-1 A/T ratio, that ain't Larry Drew.
#7 Marquette v. #10 Middle Tennessee--Very even matchup, this. MTSU goes a legit 10 deep, but they don't have anyone who can belly up to the 290-pound bulk of Davante Gardner.

Once again, I'm not expecting many of these picks to click, especially in those 9-12 seeds. Teams packing 40-ish RPI's will get in and teams with 30-ish computer averages will get left out. (I'm looking at Belmont and MTSU here if they hock up their league tournaments.)

Still, if you're a fan of a team I have listed in that range, feel free to point out this post and cite the documents as evidence to bolster your case when your team gets the shaft.

Because someone doubtlessly will.

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