Friday, March 26, 2010

Addendum on surviving Cliff Lee with 11 pitchers: A Bullpen Plan

To further elaborate on surviving Cliff Lee's loss with six relievers instead of being forced into a bench-shortening 12 man pitching staff, I'll toss out a concrete plan that could work with an eleven man staff.

The key is to be more organized with your bullpen. Let's assume a bullpen of the closer, David Aardsma, two short men in Brandon League and Mark Lowe, and three longer relievers in Shawn Kelley, Sean White and Rule 5 pickup Kanekoa Texeira.

We commonly accept using five starting pitchers in a set rotation. This goes back decades (though farther back they used 3-4 pitchers instead of five). This helps define a timetable for each pitcher, as they know what day they have to throw on and that they will get days off to rest... and sets a mostly definitive workload: They know they will throw up to 100-120 pitches every five days.

Why not use your relievers in a rotation of their own?

The only man that will not work on a schedule is Aardsma. In the traditional closer's role, he will come on to lock down any game with a 1-3 run lead, preferably to start the 9th but sooner if needed. On occasion, he will step into a tie game in extra innings.

Otherwise, take the two setup men and work them on alternate days. Lowe is on standby to work the first day. The next day, Lowe gets the night off and League is on standby to work. Flip flop, rinse and repeat. Now, on a given night it's possible the designated short guy may not be needed. Felix could go eight strong innings and Aardsma can just take the ball in the 9th, or Felix could finish the game himself. In that case, it's your call whether to use the unused setup guy the next night or skip him turn and call on the other guy right on schedule. This setup guy will typically work the 8th, or 9th in a non-save situation. He'll be expected to face 3-6 batters, maybe less in the right situation.

The other three relievers? They will work in a three man rotation of their own. Each man, on his designated day, will take the ball when the starter is done, whether in the 7th or the 5th, and face up to the entire lineup a single time (up to 9 batters faced). Some days, he might only have to face 2-3 batters. Some days, he may need to face the entire lineup once. Rarely will it be bad enough that he faces nine guys and isn't at least part way through the 7th, if not to the 8th.

Obviously, this will usually require a lot of work for a reliever in this rotation, so each guy gets at least two days off following his outing. For example, Kelley will work one day, then Texeira the next, then White the next, and then back to Kelley. Rinse, repeat.

This schedule can be adjusted if need be. For example, maybe a middle reliever isn't needed on a given day, as Ryan Rowland Smith threads the needle for 7 innings so Wak goes with Lowe on his scheduled day in the 8th before turning to Aardsma. Thus the unused reliever can go the next day and give the other middle relievers an extra day off. Or maybe Ian Snell gets shelled the next day, and both the previously unused reliever and the middle man that was originally slated to go on Snell's day can each face 9 batters to bridge the gap. This would probably shorten the rest for one guy if you stay on the middle relief rotation, but it can typically be managed. A great start from another pitcher or a timely off day or rainout can get you back on track, or to a lesser extent a starter goes 6.1 innings and the overworked middle guy only has to work a couple batters or something.

A lot of dominos would have to fall for this plan to fail enough that you have to cave in and call in a 12th pitcher. If a guy gets hurt or something, DL or option him and call someone else up. Tacoma should have a fair share of options (Luke French, Garrett Olson and a couple others) than can step into either the middle relief rotation or setup rotation.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Mariners can survive with 11 pitchers and without Cliff Lee

After news of Cliff Lee's strained abdomen raised the distinct possibility that he would be out the first couple weeks of the regular season, suddenly the Seattle Mariners' goal of breaking camp out of Spring Training with a six man bullpen instead of seven seems in jeopardy. This wouldn't matter that much except it cuts off a valuable bench spot, on a bench that's already limited due to the presence of Ken Griffey Jr as a pinch hit bench bat that can't really play any position well due to his balky knees. This limits the versatility of the bench, and may force the team to DFA a pitcher or two when Lee returns.

There's no need for this. This mindset assumes that you're going to burn your bullpen arms as specialists who only face two or three batters... a needlessly inefficient usage of the bullpen in the first place.

If you're facing life with six relievers that are going to get extra work due to the temporary loss of a star SP, the key is to stretch out your relievers and use them to face anywhere from six to nine batters at a time, regardless of how good or bad the outing goes. Instead of using three to five relievers a night, you only need to use two or three. While the outings will be longer and require more rest... your pitchers will get more time between outings since you'll be using fewer pitchers each game. At most, keep two short guys to work the end of a game. Aardsma can be your closer, and you can use the other short guy (Brandon League? Mark Lowe? If one's going to be a short man the other's got to be able to face 6-9 batters at a time) on alternate nights, to either set him up or close if Aardsma's been overworked. The other guys should be able to give you two innings or so if needed.

If someone outside of the short men can't be counted on to get you through 6-9 batters without damage, you send them away. If someone really struggles, you send them down and call up someone fresh, preferably a hot hand in Tacoma or West Tenn.

As for the starters, who likely will struggle to some extent, just make sure they face at least 27 batters regardless of the quality of their outing. That's a full three times through the lineup, and most pitchers can work 27 batters in about 95-105 pitches regardless of how they're doing... and 27 batters on average is about 6 innings of work. Sometimes it's 5. Sometimes it goes well and it's about 7 or 8.

Getting off to a good start as a team is important and doing your best to set yourself up to win is important, sure, so I can see concern about leaving a guy out there if things aren't going well. Look at it this way: If your starter gets shelled for six runs in the first two frames and you fall behind by 4-6 runs, your chances of coming back aren't that great whether he stays in and faces his 27 batters, or if you bring in a bullpen relay of relievers to mop up. You may as well minimize the eventual load your pen will have to work and leave him in until he's faced a full 27, unless he's absolutely getting annihilated, taking 6-8 pitches to face every batter, walking the world or of course (and heaven forbid), he's hurt. If he's tiring early, you as an organization have screwed up because your starters should be in condition to throw 100 pitches under the usual pressure.

And when those relievers come in with the end of the game a ways away, may as well have each one face the whole 9-man lineup a single time and get as much mileage from them as you can. You might even finish the game using only two relievers, though it's likely in such a situation you'll need three. Just don't take a disposable approach to your bullpen. Bring guys in not with the intention of getting the next 1-2 guys out, but of facing the whole lineup once.

In tight games where matchups may be important and you're 1-3 innings from the closer... suck it up and trust the guy you bring in. Usually he'll get the job done, or at least not do any worse than if you played the matchups or brought in a fireman if he gets in trouble.

The Mariners can still get away with a six man bullpen, but it's going to take a bit of open mindedness on manager Don Wakamatsu's part and GM Jack Zduriencik's part, and possibly a concerted effort to stretch a couple people out. The guys who break camp in the Mariners bullpen (outside of League/Lowe and Aardsma) should be able to power through multiple innings. Many of the potential guys they still have in camp can do so. Shawn Kelley intends to stretch out and will at least be used in longer situations. Kanekoa Texeira did pitch a bit as a swingman in AA and would work well if the M's stretch him out. If Sean White stays healthy and gets stretched back out, he can pitch multiple innings. Jury's out on Luke French's abilities as a starter, but if he can get people out as a reliever then he's a good middle or long man.

Speaking of French, you can rotate the last two rotation spots between Doug Fister, Jason Vargas and French in case any of those three struggle. And when Lee returns, if you want to bring in someone from Tacoma to give you a better situational bullpen then you should be able to option any of the potential starters (Dave Cameron found documentation that indicates Vargas and Olson should have option years this season).

Ultimately, if it turns out these guys can't hold the fort as a six man bullpen, you can cave in, send off a bench player (and with some of the season gone you can flesh out who best fits your positional needs off the bench) and add a pitcher. But it's certainly in the realm of possibility that the Mariners can do fine with a six man bullpen, even if they have to live without Cliff Lee for a couple weeks.

How a 96 team NCAA Tournament would have looked this year

To illustrate what a field of 96 would look like, I went through bracketing an entire 96 team field of this season's teams. Of course, the seeds go from #1 to #24 for each region. The top eight seeds in each region receive a first round bye. The lowest seed from there plays the next highest available seed, the 2nd lowest vs the 2nd highest and so on, i.e. #9 plays #24, #10 plays #23, #11 plays #22... until you get to #16 vs #17.

Unlike the 65 team format, being #15 or #16 doesn't mean you suck. Those teams are now in the #23-24 range. The teams at #16 in a 96 team field are more NIT-like: UAB, Texas Tech, NC State and Arizona State are examples of teams in that range. The #16-#17 matchup ensures the #1 seed gets a competitive opponent in the round of 64, now know as the 2nd round.

I itemized all the conference champs, and gave at-large bids to the remaining teams according to their Sagarin ratings. Save for the #1 seeds, and deferring to the Committee's decision to seed Purdue #4 due to the perceived impact of Robbie Hammel's injury... I pretty much followed the Sagarin ratings verboten in assigning the seeds. I did my best to separate conference teams from each other in the brackets, and made sure none of them could meet any earlier than the Sweet 16... and in those cases, such teams were often lower seeds that would each have to pull upsets to meet in the Sweet 16. The most I shifted a team to make a bracket work was one seed higher or lower than they ought to have been, and did my best to put such teams in as competitive a situation as possible relative to what their seed should have been whenever I did shift them.

The last at-large bid was handed to Northeastern, rated #85 by Sagarin. As mentioned, I bypassed six higher rated teams with losing records (I gather the NCAA would have the decency not to invite teams with losing records to the NCAA Tournament). I did not encounter any teams right at .500 but had I done so I would have left them out as well. Winning records only!

96-team bubble teams that just missed: Arizona (16-15), Louisiana Tech (24-10), Charlotte (19-12). Once you pass the #21 seed, the at-larges disappear and you get into the small conference champs and upset mid-major tourney winners. I did my best to keep those teams in a region somewhat close to their home base. The #1 seeds got placed relate to their location: The western-most #1 seed, Kansas, fronts the West Region. Duke gets the South, Kentucky the Midwest and Syracuse the East. As for everyone else, I ignored geography and used an S pattern to seed them in as competitive a manner as possible while keeping conference mates separated.

Now an interesting part. Here are conferences with multiple bids, with their seeds. (C) notes the conference tournament champ:

ACC: 10 bids. #1 Duke (C), #4 Maryland, #7 Georgia Tech, #7 Clemson, #8 Florida State, #9 Wake Forest, #10 Virginia Tech, #15 Miami-Fla, #16 North Carolina and #16 NC State. They could have sent literally all 12 of their teams, but Boston College (#76) and Virginia (#77) had losing records at 15-16.

Atlantic 10: 6 teams. #4 Xavier, #6 Temple (C), #11 Richmond, #13 Dayton, #14 Rhode Island, #20 St Louis.

Big East: 13 teams. #1 Syracuse, #2 West Virginia (C), #3 Villanova, #5 Georgetown, #6 Pittsburgh, #9 Marquette, #12 Notre Dame, #14 Louisville, #15 Connecticut, #15 Cincinnati, #17 Seton Hall, #17 St John's, South Florida.

Big Ten: 7 teams. #2 Ohio State (C), #3 Wisconsin, #4 Purdue, #6 Michigan State, #12 Minnesota, #13 Illinois, #19 Northwestern. (Fun fact: This would have been Northwestern's first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.)

Big 12: 8 teams. #1 Kansas (C), #2 Kansas State, #3 Baylor, #3 Texas A&M, #5 Texas, #5 Missouri, #10 Oklahoma State, #15 Texas Tech.

Colonial: 3 teams. #9 Old Dominion (C), #17 VCU, #21 Northeastern.

Conference USA: 6 teams. #10 UTEP, #14 Memphis, #16 UAB, #18 Marshall, #19 Tulsa, #22 Houston (C). At #106 in the Sagarin ratings, Houston still wouldn't have been good enough to qualify at-large.

Horizon: 2 teams. #4 Butler (C), #20 Wright State.

Mid American (MAC): 2 teams. #18 Kent State, #21 Ohio U (C). Only a 2 bid conference because of Ohio U's upset run to win the tourney.

Missouri Valley: 2 teams. #8 Northern Iowa (C), #17 Wichita State.

Mountain West: 4 teams. #2 BYU, #6 New Mexico, #11 San Diego State (C), #12 UNLV. No other MWC team had a winning record.

Pac 10: 4 teams. #7 California, #9 Washington, #16 Arizona State, #20 USC. Arizona would have just missed, while USC would be one of the last teams in get in at-large.

SEC: 7 teams. #1 Kentucky (C), #5 Tennessee, #8 Vanderbilt, #11 Ole Miss, #12 Mississippi State, #14 Florida, #18 Alabama.

West Coast (WCC): 3 teams. #7 St Mary's (C), #8 Gonzaga, #20 Portland.

WAC: 3 teams. #11 Utah State, #19 Nevada, #21 New Mexico State (C). NMS of course was not in line for an at-large bid before winning the WAC, rated #96 by Sagarin. Louisiana Tech just missed.

So for those wondering how expansion would expand the at-large field, there's how. Here would be the teams who are the sole reps for their conference:

#23 Vermont (America East)
#23 East Tennessee State (Atlantic Sun)
#21 Montana (Big Sky)
#24 Winthrop (Big South)
#22 UC Santa Barbara (Big West)
#10 Cornell (Ivy League)
#13 Siena (Metro Atlantic)
#23 Morgan State (MEAC)
#24 Robert Morris (Northeast)
#13 Murray State (Ohio Valley)
#24 Lehigh (Patriot League)
#19 Wofford (Southern)
#22 Sam Houston State (Southland)
#24 Arkansas Pine Bluff (SWAC)
#22 Oakland (Summit League)
#23 North Texas (Sun Belt)

Another illustration of the field's dilution: Anyone seeded higher than #22 would have gotten in at-large.

Here are my first round matchups. In effect, BTW, the pecking order for the first 12 seeds is how I would have seeded those teams in the actual 65 team NCAA's. The #24s are who would have been my actual #16s, the #23s my actual #15s and the #22s my actual #14s. At #21 and above it's hypothetical at-large teams in a 96 team field.

I'm doing just the first round matchups in text since drawing up a 65 team bracket is enough of a pain, and 96 would be too convoluted to get into a single set of images for this exercise. To help you visualize what the drawn up bracket would look like, first note that the bye recipient would play the winner of the matchup below them. Then note where the #9-16 seeds are in these matchups, and think about where those seeds would go in a conventional 64 team bracket. The winner of the matchups between the #9-16 seeds and their lower seeded opponents would slide into the same place as the #9-16s would typically go within a round of 64, i.e. the #16-17 winner playing the #1, the #13-20 winner playing #4, and then the brackets proceeding accordingly from there. Perhaps if I get time I'll draw these into a JPEG with an actual visual bracket to make it an easier visual, but until then hopefully that helps.

Also, see if you can spot a little childhood in-joke in two of the first round matchups. Clue: I grew up in Vegas watching UNLV basketball.



#1 Kansas

#16 NC State
#17 Seton Hall

#8 Northern Iowa

#9 Wake Forest
#24 Ark Pine Bluff

#4 Butler

#13 Murray State
#20 St Louis

#5 Georgetown

#12 Mississippi State
#21 Montana

#3 Wisconsin

#14 Louisville
#19 Tulsa

#6 Temple

#11 Utah State
#22 UC Santa Barbara

#2 BYU

#15 Miami-Florida
#18 South Florida

#7 California

#10 Oklahoma State
#23 North Texas



#1 Duke

#16 Arizona State
#17 VCU

#8 Vanderbilt

#9 Marquette
#24 Winthrop

#4 Xavier

#13 Illinois
#20 Portland

#5 Texas

#12 UNLV
#21 New Mexico State

#3 Villanova

#14 Memphis
#19 Nevada

#6 New Mexico

#11 Ole Miss
#22 Sam Houston State

#2 Kansas State

#15 Connecticut
#18 Kent State

#7 St Mary's

#10 Virginia Tech
#23 East Tennessee State



#1 Kentucky

#16 UAB
#17 St John's

#8 Florida State

#9 Washington
#24 Robert Morris

#4 Purdue

#13 Dayton
#20 USC

#5 Missouri

#12 Notre Dame
#21 Northeastern

#3 Baylor

#14 Rhode Island
#19 Wofford

#6 Michigan State

#11 San Diego State
#22 Oakland

#2 West Virginia

#15 Texas Tech
#18 Alabama

#7 Georgia Tech

#10 UTEP
#23 Morgan State



#1 Syracuse

#16 North Carolina
#17 Wichita State

#8 Gonzaga

#9 Old Dominion
#24 Lehigh

#4 Maryland

#13 Siena
#20 Wright State

#5 Tennessee

#12 Minnesota
#21 Ohio University

#3 Texas A&M

#14 Florida
#19 Northwestern

#6 Pittsburgh

#11 Richmond
#22 Houston

#2 Ohio State

#15 Cincinnati
#18 Marshall

#7 Clemson

#10 Cornell
#23 Vermont


And there you have it. What kind of possibilities would you foresee from such a set of matchups and brackets?

Should the NCAA Tournament expand to 96 teams?

If we are to believe a thinly sourced blog's report of an offhand quote on a sports talk show by Lesley Visser, the NCAA is not only seriously considering the expansion of the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams, but they are going live with the expanded format next season, as well as eliminating the NIT.

While I wouldn't miss the NIT, I'm not sure where I stand with the proposed expansion personally.

On the one hand:

- It eliminates the possibility of an inflammatory snub. Virginia Tech, the highest rated team to get the cold shoulder, was in the top 40 overall, with as many as 10 teams rated below them getting in at-large. Under a 96 team format, they would have definitely made it. And the new bubble would be around the 80's in rank, hardly a point where anyone would complain about someone getting left out. At that point we're talking teams that probably don't even qualify for the NIT today. Talk about the bubble gets a lot less exciting, and in a good way.

- We get more exciting early round basketball! Most of March Madness' excitement is all about the small colleges in the early rounds trying to pull a big upset or spark a Cinderella run, as well as the general chaos of CBS furiously flipping between up to four games at once, making sure to keep their eyes on the close contests. Once you reach the Sweet 16, you have one or two fleshed out Cinderella teams against a field of power teams, and your best hope for an upset otherwise is for a #4 seed (one of the top 15-20 teams in the nation) upsetting a #1 seed.

With an additional round, and better parity within that additional round, we get three rounds of non-stop action and serious upset and Cinderella potential... compared to the two we have now.

- It would give the small college teams an actual chance in hell. Right now, the least of the bunch gets a #16 seed and is force fed to one of the top four teams in the country. #16 seeds are now 0-104 all time vs the #1 seed since the field expanded to 64 in the mid-1980's, and the best chances we've seen at a 16-1 upset came years ago. As the power teams get better and better, the prospects of a #16 seed making the round of 32 get dimmer and dimmer: The average 16 seed has no better than a 7-8% chance of winning vs a #1, typically a 2-4% chance.

But in an expanded 96 team format, those bottom teams would become #24 seeds, and instead of playing a #1 seed, they would open against a #9 seed, with the winner getting the #8 seed. Their chances would still be somewhat dim against a #9 seed, but they would at least have a fighting chance, as at the #8-9 range you're talking about talented but flawed top 40 teams, weak in one or more aspects or inconsistent in general. Catch them on a bad day or match up with them well, and you could have a serious chance at an upset.

The only way a #24 would see a #1 seed is if they won two tournament games, which would be two more than they have ever won in the 64 team tournament (clearly I am not counting the Play-In Game as part of the tournament proper). And at that point, it would have already been a more than satisfying run in the Tournament, compared to the current M.O. of 'get annihilated on Thursday and go home'.

On the other hand:

- It would dilute the tournament with an excess of power conference teams. Big East commissioner John Marinatto's claim of getting 16 teams in with an expanded format is a bit outlandish, but not by much. In an expanded format they would have sent (according to Sagarin ratings) about 13 teams. The one conference that would have sent all their teams? The ACC. At that point....

- ... why even hold conference tournaments if you're a power conference? Small conference tournaments would still have a purpose, as many conferences don't have a team rated highly enough to qualify at large, let alone several, so there's leverage to winning a conference tournament. But the power conferences are loaded with teams with strength of schedules in the top 3rd of Division I. Many of the conferences would send half of their conference at-large, if not their entire conference. Holding a tournament at that point is kind of meaningless, unless you're trying to get a really weak conference team in to squeeze out an additional bid for the conference. But in the case of the ACC and Big East, that's kind of silly because most or all of your conference can get in easily.

If all or nearly all of your conference's teams are going to the NCAA's, is there even a purpose to holding a tournament to determine who gets the automatic bid? At that point, everyone with a winning record is getting an automatic bid. The lowest rated team in most power conferences is around the 70's, well within the likely cutoff of 80 or so for a 96 team format. Why so many at large teams?

- More mid-major and small conference champs would have the rank to climb in at-large, and once you get to the last of the at-large bids, you're encountering teams with losing records. This is the ultimate proof that 96 teams is too many. Go to the overall Sagarin ratings and you'll hit your first sub .500 team at #75, Iowa State. At that point, after subtracting the conference champs and handing at-large bids to the highest rated teams otherwise, you've still got six at-large bids left. I passed about four teams with losing records before I found 65 qualifying at-large bids. And many of the teams hypothetically let in were only 2-3 games over .500.

I suppose you could minimize this slightly embarrassing issue by handing bids to small-conference regular season champs who lose their conference tournaments, but it still illustrates how weak the bottom of the at-large barrel gets once you expand to 96.

Plus, not that all or most conferences are inherently corrupt, but letting in the regular season champ AND the tourney champ could encourage smaller and mid-major conferences to dive their top seeds with biased officiating to faciliate an upset loss so they can get an additional teams into the tournament (There's no guarantee that didn't happen in the WAC or Conference USA this year). It's probably a better idea not to create such a rule, and at least give the CBI and/or tournaments a reason to exist by allowing those deposed small conference regular season champs to play there instead. The latter consolation tournament has pushed itself as a small and mid-major championship anyway, so it would play right to their appeal factor as a consolation tourney.

- Since bottom end power conference teams could qualify at-large with a winning record, you'll see power conference teams playing much weaker schedules to pad their records, knowing they can pad their strength of schedule in conference play and probably sucker in even if they finish dead last in their conference. This will reduce opportunities for all but the worst of the small and mid-major conference teams, and if any were to (heaven forbid) upset a few of these power teams, they would probably never get scheduled again. You'd create (or further solidify) a Division I caste, where power and mid-major teams play among themselves, small conference teams play among themselves, and the pecking order only deviates when a power team sees a chance at an easy win against an overmatched opponent.

Basically, it'd be kind of like what we have now in the regular season, except exaggeratedly so. Except the Gonzagas of the world won't be able to find good non-con opponents to play because the power conference teams will gain nothing from playing them that they can't gain from a good conference schedule and a dozen easy non-con wins over crappy opponents.

- It will dramatically reduce the chances of the top seeds making the Final Four, let alone winning the tournament. The #1 and #2 seeds, instead of playing weak small conference foes in round one, would now face more competitive NIT-quality teams. They would still be big favorites, but the contests would not be walk-overs (with the occasional scare). The UABs and Seton Halls of the world can hang with and beat the Dukes and Kentuckys of the world on a good day, instead of once in a century. Instead of a 92-98% chance of winning their first game, they would have a 70-85% chance, still good but giving dramatically greater chances of an upset. Many of the upsets we just saw in rounds one and two were pulled by teams with 10-20% chances of winning. They happen: 20% means that one of every five such contests will end with an upset.

Wait... I guess that can be seen as a good thing. But then again, the best teams will now have a much harder time winning a national championship. We may be surprised at the quality, and the number of losses, of the eventual champions of a 96 team tournament. It'll more and more resemble a poker tournament, where the winner isn't usually the best team, but the luckiest.


So anyway, I'm not sure how I would feel about a 96 team tournament, but I'm sure I could live with it as easily as I could live without it. Next I'll map out a hypothetical bracket and show what a 96 team tournament field would have looked like had the NCAA done it this year.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

2010 NCAA Tournament Preview: West Regional

While lacking the straight-forward predictability of the South and Midwest Regions or the wide open situation of the East, the West Regional has two favorites at the top, with one dark horse and a lot of long shots. It's no surprise Syracuse, despite back to back losses prior to the NCAA's, is a 5 to 2 favorite, with Kansas State right on their tails at around 4 to 1. But the dark horse is a surprise. Yes, I'm going to make you wait to find out.


. Pomeroy says 8 seed. Sagarin says 5-6 seed. The Committee says 3 seed. The Committee must love when a team loses four of five to close January, including losses to NIT-worthy Seton Hall and South Florida... and listless 50-45 Big East tourney losses to Notre Dame to close your season. Instead of a deserved mouth-punch game with a serious bubble team or 30-ish rank squad, the Panthers get an undeservedly easy game with #14 Oakland. This team can't force turnovers to save their lives and their defense pretty much hangs on hoping their opponents can't hit shots. Their offense relies on getting second chance points and drawing fouls. If both checks fail, they are beatable fodder. Oakland's probably not beating them but #6 Xavier has a good shot at the "upset" (and yes, Xavier would actually be a 57.2% favorite in a round 2 match with Pittsburgh).

Vanderbilt. Every year, Vanderbilt seems to get a seed way higher than they deserve, implying a close, intimate relationship between Vanderbilt's AD (and possibly more attractive female members of his extended family and/or student body) and the Selection Committee. This year a Commodores team that fits as a #7... gets a #4 seed and an easily winnable 1st round matchup with tough but not tough enough #13 Murray State (63.7%). #5 Butler is a 49-51 shot against Vanderbilt, and #12 UTEP would also have a real shot at knocking them out (47.8%).

Even granted that, Vanderbilt has a stronger than deserved shot at the Sweet 16, not because they're good (their defense is ordinary and their offense relies a lot on getting calls and getting to the line) but because they got an undeservedly high seed that makes their first game easier than a deserved 7-10 matchup would have been.

Florida. The Gators probably shouldn't even be in the tournament. They were easily the most dubious at-large selection (#47 Sagarin), made more so by the omission of Virginia Tech (#34). But on top of that, instead of a more deserved #12 seed they get a #10, bypassing a challenging #5 for a more beatable #7. However, karmic justice prevails (or Holy justice if you ask their opponent), because their opponent....

Got the Shaft:

. Yes, Florida gets fed to a BYU team that Sagarin rated #10 and Pomeroy rated #7, and who did not take a loss this year to anyone outside of the field of 65. I'm not sure if the Committee penalized the Mormon Cougars for their religious refusal to play Sundays or not, but BYU was a better fit for a #3 or #4 than the #7 seed.

You can't even argue that the Mountain West was a weak mid-major conference this year given the MWC sent four teams to the NCAA Tournament this year (BYU themselves, New Mexico, UNLV and San Diego State) and a 5th, Colorado State, was at least good enough to get invited to the CBI.

The irony is that this combination of bad seeding actually table-set a 7-10 upset, as BYU is a 73-27 favorite to up-end the Gators. However, instead of a likely matchup with a beatable #5 or #6 in round two, they will probably have to look up at #2 Kansas State, one of the favorites to win the regional, an injustice to a good program that seems to have taken Gonzaga's title of Official Mid-Major Selection Committee Seeding Screwjob Recipient.

Florida State. The best defense in the nation according to Pomeroy took a few late season lumps, including two losses to NIT-bound NC State, and the committee downgraded them to a #9 seed. But aside from their Wolfpack foil, none of those seven late season losses came to anyone outside of the top 20: Two losses to Maryland, two losses to Clemson and a loss to Duke, plus the Duke loss was the only defeat by a double digit margin. Hardly embarrassing losses, and they held serve against unspectacular but solid ACC competition with nine wins after January 4's win over Texas A&M Corpus Christi. FSU probably should have gotten a #7 instead of a #9, and even if they beat Gonzaga (which they have a 62.1% chance to do) they then have to look Syracuse in the eye and pull a big upset to see the 2nd weekend. They have a 33% chance at such an upset, but still.

UTEP. Yes, dropping a load in the Conference USA final to Houston was embarrassing, but the Miners still had a great season buoyed by a 16 game winning streak to close the season, and even against a weakish schedule that should be worth an #8 seed.

But instead UTEP gets the #12 shaft and is now everyone's darling upset pick against #5 Butler. It'll be close, with UTEP 48.8% to win, and they have a real chance in the 2nd round to make the 2nd weekend. But in an allegedly weak tournament field, the Committee downgraded UTEP far too hard for not winning the Conference USA tournament... even though they allegedly weren't factoring in the conference tournaments in their decisions. Right, Dan Guerrero, and I can hit 50 home runs in the Majors left handed.

Vermont. A bit trifling to debate whether a team deserves a #15 or #16 since both get force fed to a top 8 team in round one, but given no #16's ever won while we've seen at least two #15 upsets, it's a difference in scope of hope. And Vermont (#145 per Sagarin) isn't the sort of dead weight that Lehigh (#204) is. Several teams that had a case for #16 got a #15, like Morgan State (#144), North Texas (#153) and Robert Morris (#191). The Catamounts arguably deserved better, and you could make a case of swapping them out for any of those three #15 seeds at #16.

A team like Vermont, which rallied around key contributor Evan Fjeld after the recent death of his mother, could have used more from the Committee than a force-feeding to Syracuse, in which they're a 15 to 1 underdog. But hey, at least the Orange are the most vulnerable #1 seed in the field, right?

Speaking of underdogs facing the gaping maw of death, a 42 to 1 boxing longshot named Buster Douglas lost his mother three weeks before he knocked out heavyweight champ Mike Tyson in Tokyo, Japan to become the new champion back in 1990. So never say never, Catamounts. Your ability to contest shots and get to the line may give you a chance in hell.

Contrary to Popular Belief:

While the favorite, Syracuse is not a huge favorite to make it out of the East Region. Kansas State can definitely give them a game in an Elite Eight matchup, but they could run into trouble before then: #9 Florida State defends well and could give them a matchup problem in round two, plus they would likely only be a 70-75% favorite in the Sweet 16 (Possible opponents: Vanderbilt, Butler, UTEP), meaning the average opponent would have a 25-30% chance of ending their run. Xavier and BYU would also pose a challenge (40% chance of beating the Orange) if either team made a Cinderella run to the Elite Eight. There is a 70.8% chance someone sends Syracuse home before the Final Four.

Watch out for:

BYU: Yes, I still attest they got shafted, but they're one of the region's best teams, and if they can beat Florida and squeeze past Kansas State to make the Sweet 16, they are a dangerous shot to make the Final Four, as they would only be an underdog to Syracuse (44.1%) and a 60-70% favorite versus anyone else.

Minnesota: I counted them out after a blowout loss to Michigan late this season, a game I said the Gophers at least had to play close. But they blew out Iowa and Penn State, then took Michigan State out in OT in the Big Ten tourney and surprisingly blew out Purdue to worm their way into the bubble hunt even despite their eventual blowout loss to Ohio State.

They totally deserved their low-ish #11 seed, but they're a 50-50 shot in round one against #6 Xavier, and can certainly beat #3 Pittsburgh in round two. They become 35-65 underdogs to most likely opponents once they reach the 2nd weekend, but as they showed down the stretch, the Gophers can play up to and beyond their competition. I could easily see BYU and Minnesota clashing in the Sweet 16... not that that's likely, just that it's possible.

Not a prayer:

They got really lucky in receiving a #15 seed they probably didn't deserve, but North Texas is probably going to get run off the floor just as easily by #2 Kansas State as they would have by any #1. NTU is a 17 to 1 longshot to see the 2nd round, and a 22,789 to 1 shot to make the Final Four.

You have a better chance of... passing a kidney stone as a teenager. I was among the 1 in 20,210 who visited a hospital while passing one in high school. Passing a stone really hurts, and you need a lot of hospital-grade drugs to stand the doubling-over, vomit inducing pain it causes.

Compared to that, getting annihilated by 30 points should seem like a breeze for North Texas.


1. Syracuse. Sweet 16: 66.3%. Final Four: 5 to 2
2. Kansas State. Sweet 16: 54.9%. Final Four: 3.8 to 1
3. Pittsburgh. Sweet 16: 35.9%. Final Four: 20.3 to 1
4. Vanderbilt. Sweet 16: 32.8%. Final Four: 20.2 to 1
5. Butler. Sweet 16: 27.7%. Final Four: 25.4 to 1
6. Xavier. Sweet 16: 31.1%. Final Four: 16.5 to 1
7. BYU. Sweet 16: 36.6%. Final Four: 6.7 to 1
8. Gonzaga. Sweet 16: 9 to 1. Final Four: 66.5 to 1
9. Florida State. Sweet 16: 22.7%. Final Four: 16.7 to 1
10. Florida. Sweet 16: 12 to 1. Final Four: 91.7 to 1
11. Minnesota. Sweet 16: 30.9%. Final Four: 16.7 to 1
12. UTEP. Sweet 16: 25.8%. Final Four: 29.0 to 1
13. Murray State. Sweet 16: 6 to 1. Final Four: 105.2 to 1
14. Oakland-PA. Sweet 16: 49 to 1. Final Four: 4612.1 to 1
15. North Texas. Sweet 16: 199 to 1. Final Four: 22789.1 to 1
16. Vermont. Sweet 16: 110 to 1. Final Four: 7881.3 to 1

2010 NCAA Tournament Preview: Midwest Regional

The ratings indicate Kansas is probably the favorite to win this thing, so you can probably guess that I figure them as a Final Four team. At 48.3% to win the Midwest Region, no one in particular poses a serious challenge to their potential title run. But that doesn't mean we can't go mining for upsets and bad seeds. And wow, there are a lot, as Kansas was handed a fairly easy bracket full of overseeded teams.


Ohio State: Pomeroy really likes Ohio State, a good shooting offensive team that plays a clean game but struggles for second chance points. Sagarin figures them around 11th in the country, which hangs them around low-3 seed territory. Yet they get seeded at #2, on par with West Virginia and Kansas State. I can understand a tough Big Ten Schedule and winning the Big Ten Tournament bolstering their profile except the Big Ten wasn't actually that tough this year, nor was their non-con. Pomeroy ranked their 28-7 schedule in the 40's and Sagarin pegged it in the 50's. If you wanted a strong team with several top 25 wins (OSU has four), then why not Baylor (who has six, but gets a #3 seed)? I still peg them as a dark horse candidate that has a good chance to face Kansas in the Elite Eight but they're going to find several tough outs along the way, and there's a 61% chance someone gets them before then.

Michigan State: Sounds like I'm being hard on the Big Ten this year, sure, but I had turnover prone MSU scraping into the Top 25, especially given a similar schedule, a quick Big Ten tourney exit to Minnesota and several late season losses and early losses to what turned out to be pretender teams from North Carolina and Florida. The only truly impressive win on their resume was a scrappy effort over Wisconsin. The Committee says they're a #5 but I see them as closer to a #7 than a #6. They can get out of the first round but I don't see them winning a likely 2nd round match with Maryland.

Oklahoma State: A comparitively weak defensive team that struggles to contest shots, the Cowboys battled down an up and down stretch before bowing out of the Big 12 Tourney with a 22-10 record. Big wins over Baylor and Kansas (!) late in the season looked very good, but listless losses to Texas and Texas A&M, as well as a loss to Texas Tech (yikes) looked very not so good. A #7 seed was a bit of a gift for a team that was probably more of a #9, and chances are good that they may not make it out of the 1st round.

UNLV: Yes, I'm not above cutting down my hometown alma mater. Lon Kruger's built himself a good, solid program that controls the ball and plays solid defense. But they had a big of a weak-ish non-con schedule and a big win over BYU came with two losses to lowly Utah and another to a weak USC squad. As usual, they made a tourney run on their home court, but this time fell flat in the final against a San Diego State squad they could have beaten. The Committee calls them an #8 but I never had them higher than #10. Once they closed the season I had them on the bubble, close to #11 or #12. I think they can beat Northern Iowa, but previous squads had a better chance against Kansas than this undersized, unspectacular one.

New Mexico State: Even after upsetting Utah State to win the WAC, I did not peg NMSU any higher than a #13 seed, probably more like #14. #12 is a seed reserved for teams around the at-large bubble, ranked around the 40's and 50's. Sagarin has New Mexico State at #97 and Pomeroy has them at #115. Once you get into double digit seeds, I guess it ultimately doesn't matter where you're seeded since you're an underdog out of the gate. But New Mexico State was way overseeded, and certainly isn't likely to pull the fabled 5-12 upset against Michigan State. They play weak defense and are hopeless on the boards against a competent rebounding team, let alone a good one.

Got the Shaft:

Georgia Tech
: Despite a spate of late season losses, I didn't exactly have Georgia Tech on the bubble and neither did the ratings. Pomeroy had them #27 and Sagarin #30, right around #7-8 seed territory. Tech had one of the nation's toughest schedules, and nine of their 11 losses came against top 50 teams (ten if you count Wake Forest, which Pomeroy has at #51). Six came against top 25 teams and two, including Tech's ACC Tourney loss, came against Duke. Along the way, they beat Duke in another matchup, as well as Clemson, Wake and Maryland (in the ACC Tourney) while holding serve against their weaker foes: Only two foes rated below #51 beat them (Georgia and Virginia). Not exactly weaker at-large #10 seed material. The good news for Tech is that they're the favorite anyway in a winnable game with #7 Oklahoma State, and either way they'd be in line for a 2nd rounder with #2 Ohio State. But a #7 may have gotten them a somewhat easier first round matchup.

Contrary to Popular Belief:

Lon Kruger is not on the prowl for another team to jump ship to. UNLV's forthcoming elimination will end his 6th season with the Rebels, his longest tenure with a team since his six years with Florida... and that tenure ended with him getting subtlely run out of town after a 12-16 season. He's reportedly very happy with his situation at UNLV and has been for years, probably the most secure situation he's had in his career. That's not to say he won't ever leave for the right opportunity, but that's nowhere on the horizon and won't be for some time.

Michigan State is notorious for looking ugly in the regular season against a tough schedule and then unloading in the NCAA Tournament against non-battle-hardened foes. However, they're going to need to take care of the ball (their 21.3% turnover rate is 222nd out of 347 D-I teams) and they have to hit their free throws (68.1% as a team, 206th) to do it. This sort of ugliness is atypical of those Tom Izzo Spartanerrela teams.

Not so Contrary to Popular Belief:

Kansas may have arguably the easiest region of any #1 seed in the field. No one in the region has more than a 30% chance (Ohio State) of upending one of the big favorites to cut down the nets in Indy next month.

Not a prayer:

Pretty much anyone in this field not named Kansas, Ohio State, Georgetown or Maryland. The last three are somewhat dim dark horses themselves to the Jayhawks. The chance of someone other than those four crashing the Final Four? 16.6%

Lehigh is probably the weakest of the #16 seeds (even though Arkansas Pine Bluff's million to one hopes improved to around 303,000 to 1 with their Play-In victory on Tuesday), and with a 49 to 1 longshot to up-end Kansas, their overall chances of making the Final Four are 94,985 to 1.

You have a better chance of... escaping the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament with a perfect office pool bracket. Yes, whether with strong knowledge of the game or picking the favorites of picking the better mascot, your typical chances of being perfect in round one are 13,039 to 1. My picks based on Sagarin Predictor ratings and probability metrics, assuming the probabilities are dead-on, would be slightly better... about 10,650 to 1.

Watch out for:

Uh... highlights from the next Kansas blowout? There really aren't any big surprises distinctly possible in this bracket. Georgia Tech at #10 is a 57-43 shot to up-end #7 Oklahoma State, and #11 San Diego State has a reasonable 41% chance at upsetting #6 Tennessee. Both also have real shots at 2nd round upsets in the 32-35% range as well. And if Northern Iowa wins their 47-53 matchup with UNLV, their Four-Corners-like tempo could wreak havoc with Kansas and could threaten an epic upset if they thread the needle (George Mason used a similar slow-tempo approach in their 2006 Final Four run).

But in all likelihood, the favorites should otherwise hold serve, making this one of the more ho-hum brackets unless somebody goes crazy.


1. Kansas. Sweet 16: 83.6%. Final Four: 6 to 5 (48.3%)
2. Ohio State. Sweet 16: 62.6%. Final Four: 5.4 to 1
3. Georgetown. Sweet 16: 53.6%. Final Four: 9.1 to 1
4. Maryland. Sweet 16: 51.6%. Final Four: 9.5 to 1
5. Michigan State. Sweet 16: 41.3%. Final Four: 17.8 to 1
6. Tennessee. Sweet 16: 27.5%. Final Four: 28.3 to 1
7. Oklahoma State. Sweet 16: 6 to 1. Final Four: 76.8 to 1
8. UNLV. Sweet 16: 10 to 1. Final Four: 79.0 to 1
9. Northern Iowa. Sweet 16: 13 to 1. Final Four: 110.1 to 1
10. Georgia Tech. Sweet 16: 22.5%. Final Four: 32.5 to 1
11. San Diego State. Sweet 16: 5 to 1. Final Four: 79.9 to 1
12. New Mexico State. Sweet 16: 47 to 1. Final Four: 5538.2 to 1
13. Houston. Sweet 16: 19 to 1. Final Four: 843.4 to 1
14. Ohio University. Sweet 16: 32 to 1. Final Four: 2224.2 to 1
15. UC Santa Barbara. Sweet 16: 99 to 1. Final Four: 15400.1 to 1
16. Lehigh. Sweet 16: 499 to 1. Final Four: 94985 to 1

Monday, March 15, 2010

2010 CBI Tournament Probabilities; Early Rounds

The CBI is the brain-child of the Gazelle Group, who decided in 2007 that a 65 team NCAA Tournament and 32 team NIT wasn't enough postseason basketball, and thus the 16 team CBI was born.

Between these three tourneys and the newly created Tournament, there were a lot of spots and in a down year not a lot of eligible and willing teams. Appropriately enough, several eligible teams refused to play in the CBI. The snubs and the alternate tournament left such a dearth of eligible teams that the CBI actually had to delay announcing their field for several hours as they scrambled to fill it. The end result though, similar to the Tournament, is a mix of mid-majors and high end conference low-enders.

Since the CBI follows a wonky four pod seeding format and then re-seeds teams before their semifinal, I'm not going to do a full tournament projection. Instead, I'll project each team's chances of making the CBI Final Four. I'll do a subsequent post after the re-seeding for the CBI Final Four teams.

Motivations will not be considered here as I did with the NIT, since most of these teams are low and mid-major conference teams who are happy to play.

Odds of making the CBI Final Four:


1. Saint Louis: 53.9%
2. Akron: 29.2%
3. UW Green Bay: 10 to 1
4. Indiana State: 12 to 1


1. George Washington: 31.1%
2. Eastern Kentucky: 6 to 1
3. College of Charleston: 9 to 1
4. VCU: 43.3%


1. Oregon State: 42.1%
2. Morehead State: 36.8%
3. Colorado State: 8 to 1
4. Boston U: 9 to 1


1. Hofstra: 41.0%
2. Princeton: 26.3%
3. Duquesne: 11 to 2
4. IUPUI: 5 to 1

Quick notes:

- As you can see, very few teams are out of the hunt. This is a fairly competitive field from top to bottom, with a lot of parity. Had many of the CBI's desired majors accepted a bid, this would not have happened. As it stands, a lot of low and mid-majors meshed with the lesser big conference teams to create parity.

- VCU was badly mis-seeded but it looks like the CBI got it right otherwise.

- In fact, without knowing the re-seeding matchups, VCU is my pick to win this thing.

Final note: Though I planned to do a preview of the Tournament (CIT), the unspecified re-draw format for subsequent rounds makes that a bit infeasible. Therefore, I won't bother. But I will say my bird's-eye pick to win the CIT is Portland.

Predicting the Hard to Predict NIT

It's not a rigorous field that makes the NIT difficult to project, but the motivation factors of major and mid-major conference teams deflated over missing the NCAA Tournament. Many teams who don't refuse an invitation to the NIT often fall flat, opening the door for a more motivated middle of the road team to make a run at the NIT Final Four in Madison Square Garden.

Projecting the NIT would be straightforward and easy if not for the distinct possibility that many of the top teams will likely phone in their first and/or second round games and take a quick exit. The challenge is figuring our which of the favorites and dark horses will come to play... and which of the favorites may not be up to the task.

So rather than weigh the odds (and, since you're wondering, those odds all say the #1 seeds are at least 2 to 1 favorites on paper, though that assumes the teams will play at full speed), let's play media psychoanalysis for a bit and examine the reactions of key teams to gauge who's going to geek up for the NIT and who's probably going to go through the motions and take a quick exit.

Dead weight:

: Whether or not they're disappointed, the Illini have already run into a hubris-related problem. They can't play their 1st round game with Stony Brook in Champaign because the school booked Cirque du Soleil to play the home gym that night, obviously anticipating the Illini would make the NCAA Tournament and not need it. Though the Illini remain a favorite to beat the lowly Seawolves, the America East regular season champs, it's not a good start for a team many figured would roll into the NCAAs in March.

Money quote: "The guys were extremely disappointed in the locker room. It'll be tough to get out of the mindset of disappointment." - Bill Cole, Forward

Mississippi and Mississippi State: Both Mississippi teams came into the SEC Tournament on the outside of the NCAA Tournament bubble looking in, and neither managed to do enough to get in according to the committee. Both coaches (Andy Kennedy for Ole Miss, Rick Stansbury for Mississippi State) tried to downplay their teams' disappointment and insist they were upbeat for the NIT. But Mississippi State is likely gassed physically and emotionally after taking Kentucky to the wire in the SEC Final, and Ole Miss probably isn't feeling hot after following an easy four game win streak to close the regular season with a thud-loss to Tennessee in their opening SEC tourney game. It's doubtful either loses their opening round NIT game: Ole Miss should be able to handle Troy, and Mississippi State can take care of Jackson State. But each faces matchup problems in the next round with possibly motivated foes.

Money quotes: "We had our opportunities to close it out (the SEC Final vs Kentucky). That's part of the game," Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said. "And I can promise you, there's not one ounce left in them."

"Although we are obviously disappointed in not reaching the NCAA tournament, we're looking forward to continuing our season against Troy," said Rebels coach Andy Kennedy.

Note the political clean-ness of the last quote by the head coach. This is typically code for, "Yeah, we're phoning this bad boy in."

Virginia Tech: They got screwed by the Selection Committee to the benefit of marginally deserving Florida, and at this point Seth Greenberg's working as hard to get his team motivated for a tournament run as he is to assemble footage of his opponents. Tech's laid enough eggs to show they don't have the pedigree to just flip on the cruise control and ride into MSG, so they need to play with passion to get there and indications are that... it's not there.

Money quote: “We’ve got a chance to play,” said Seth Greenberg. “We have a chance to go to New York and cut down the nets. That’s going to be the vision we’re going to sell to our team and you know, we’re playing against a team that won 23 games so you know, we’re playing against a team that’s used to winning. We’ve got to get ourselves ready to play and that’s my job.”

Money Quote #2: "Obviously, they were disappointed, why wouldn't they be disappointed?" Tech coach Seth Greenberg told reporters Sunday night. "But as I told them before we started practice today, whether we get in or do not get in, it shouldn't take away from what we have accomplished this year. This team showed tremendous resiliency and they should be really proud of what they accomplished and feel good about themselves."

Reflective quotes on the season are sign #2 that a team is tuning out for the NIT.

Coming to play:

: Despite losing junior forward Rashad Bishop to team-rules suspension, the Bearcats gave a spirited effort in the Big East Tournament, upsetting Louisville before suffering defeat to West Virginia, and appears geeked up for the NIT. They shoot bricks from anywhere outside hook-shot range, but rebound well and play decent enough defense to make a serious run at MSG if Illinois doesn't want it.

Money quotes: The Bearcats said they’re excited about playing in the NIT. “It ain’t the tournament that I wanted,” said senior guard Deonta Vaughn. “But what can we say? We lost a tough one (to West Virginia). That kind of hurt us deep down inside. But the NIT is better than the CBI.”

“It would mean that we made a lot of progress,” Vaughn said. “First we got the CBI, now we got the NIT, then hopefully next year they’ll go to the NCAA.”

“The NIT will help us build on what we’re going to be next year,” said junior forward Ibrahima Thomas. “Our next season is going to start with the NIT.”

Arizona State: The Sun Devils kind of knew after losing to Stanford in the Pac 10 Tourney that they were probably out of the big dance despite finishing 2nd in an admittedly weak Pac 10. Still, any disappointment appears to be more with their inconsistent season as a whole rather than being left out of the dance. Signs point to the Sun Devils taking the NIT seriously as they earn their second #1 NIT seed in three years.

Money quote: “The season isn’t over,” Eric Boateng said. “We’re still in the NIT and there’s still great competition, players and teams. That’s where my focus is now. The season’s not over until it’s over. We still have basketball to play and hopefully a championship to win.”

North Carolina: Coach Roy Williams is a man of pride, and even amidst one of his worst seasons as a major college head coach leading to a disappointing miss from the NCAAs and his first ever trip to the NIT, he's not about to let a team of his pack it in and lay an egg in the NIT under his watch. He gets a good but beatable William and Mary squad at home in round one, then likely travels to Mississippi State against a deflated Bulldogs squad ripe for the picking. Dadgumit, this team might actually win a title yet... even if it is the NIT title.

Money quotes: "I'm just really excited for another opportunity to play," fifth-year senior Marcus Gilyard said. "I'm just hoping we finish this off better than we did the regular season."

"I'm playing for this year," Roy Williams said. "I don't think I can cheat (seniors) Deon (Thompson) and Marcus, that's not fair. ... I'm coaching for this year, this team, trying to get this team to win one more game. And if we do that, I'll try to get them to win one more game. I think that's the best way I can do it."

UAB: UNC's biggest obstacle might not be top seed Mississippi State, but Mike Davis' Blazers, who came into this season hoping for the NCAA's but appear very enthusiastic about playing in the NIT. They certainly have the pedigree to get to MSG, mixing solid shot-contesting defense with an uncanny ability to draw fouls and get to the line.

Money quote: UAB point guard Aaron Johnson still was excited about the team’s postseason opportunity. “I just think about being able to play basketball again,” Johnson said. “I know we were very close to making the NCAA Tournament but that was on us. We let ourselves down, nobody else let us down. We just are happy to be able to play some more basketball.”

2010 NCAA Tournament Preview: South Regional


Duke dominates a top heavy yet mediocre South Regional, with little more than a couple of dark horse challengers en route to a fairly likely trip to the Final Four.


Notre Dame
: The Irish weren't exactly on the bubble (they hung firmly in the 35-40 range for most of the season), but they weren't exactly #6 seed material either, as a gruesome midseason 3-7 Big East conference stretch showed with losses to NIT-worthy Cincinnati, St John's and Seton Hall as well as to lowly Rutgers. Despite the Conference's alleged overlooking of a team's last 12 games, the only real indication of quality was a six game winning streak that bookended Notre Dame's season before falling to West Virginia in the Big East Tournament. Now they get a matchup with a #11 Old Dominion team that could well beat them.

Richmond: This is not to say that the Spiders don't deserve some credit for one of their best seasons in a long time. But the Spiders have only three top 25 wins, can't rebound on the offensive end to save their lives and, aside from their ball control, the only element of their game that can be considered "good" is their ability to contest shots on the defensive end and generate steals. Defense wins championships, sure, but this isn't the A-10, and Richmond is not a #7 seed. They probably should switch seeds with another team that....

Got the Shaft:

St Mary's (CA)
: Like Richmond, the #10 Gaels had a fine season, in their case despite the loss of star guard Paddy Mills, showing that they were not a one man show and that they had the shooting accuracy and perimeter game to play big time basketball en route to the WCC title. A #10 beating a #7 isn't much of an upset, as like the #8 vs #9 matchup it's considered more of a matchup of equals, but the Gaels are probably the favorite against Richmond, and #2 Villanova is no lock to walk over them en route to the Sweet 16. But the Gaels probably should have been a #7 or #8, not a #10.

Utah State: Okay, jobbing in your conference title game to New Mexico State is never a good move, but the Aggies were one of best outside shooting and ball control teams in the country, and a strong rebounding team as well. That should be worth at least a #10, especially if you were going to reward lucky shot New Mexico State (who may not even be a top 100 team) with a #12 seed. Giving Utah State a #12 and a first round date with #5 Texas A&M only makes sense if you're sowing the seeds for a classic 5-12 upset, as A&M has a problem with hitting free throws, getting stuffed inside and... guess what... defending three point shooting teams. Uh ohs.

And yes, that's one of your two upset picks. The other as mentioned is #11 Old Dominion, who was seeded right but is facing a weak #6 in Notre Dame. ODU has one of the best defenses in the country and is the best offensive rebounding team in the country according to Pomeroy, which can neutralize the Irish's effective offense.

Contrary to Popular Belief:

Villanova belongs at #2 and Baylor's a legit #3
. People look at Nova's six late season losses in ten games, hold their nose and insist Nova is #2 in a different sense than the 2nd South Regional seed. But three of those losses came to top 15 powerhouses (Georgetown, Syracuse and West Virginia), a 4th came to top 20 Pittsburgh, and a 5th came to down but still competitive Connecticut. The 6th was a four point loss in their opening Big East Tournament game against top 30 Marquette. And during that stretch, they lost by double digits only twice (Georgetown and Syracuse) and beat West Virginia in another matchup. Finally, keep in mind... with eight legitimate bids, the Big East is probably the best conference in college basketball this year. 4-6 to close the season looks a lot worse in Conference USA than it does in an eight-bid Big East.

As for Baylor, I have no idea other than bias towards historical reputation why people are down on Baylor being a #3. They closed the regular season on a 9-2 run that included two wins against Texas (and they picked up a 3rd win over Texas in their first Big 12 Tournament game), another against a decent Texas A&M squad and another against a top 25 Missouri squad. Their eventual Big 12 tourney exit came against a top 10 Kansas State squad. Perhaps a loss to iffy Oklahoma State and a midseason job to lowly Colorado looked a bit poor, but Baylor's had one of the most consistent performances in a year full of inconsistent seasons. They have one of the top all-around offensive squads in the nation and can definitely hang with the top 10-15 teams in the country.

Not a prayer:

The Play-In Game is a joke, meant to a) protect all 34 at-large bids and b) siphon out one of two somewhat embarrassing 16 seeds, basically the lowest of the bunch, two automatic bid teams that, if the Committee had any say in the matter, would be left out of the dance.

It ultimately accomplishes little: The winner typically has little to no chance against the #1 seed two days later. Amidst the 96 team expansion proposal is an alternate proposal to expand the tournament to a more modest 68 teams and have four 16-seed play-in games. This would at least make some sense as it would give every 16 seed a chance to win one NCAA Tournament game before getting fed to the lions.

Meanwhile, this year's participants: Winthrop, the small South Carolina school from the Big South Conference that has made eight previous appearances and even scored a 1st round upset over Notre Dame as a #11 seed in 2007. They are definitely not that good this year, relying on their solid defense and ball control with a slow-ish tempo to disguise their gag-worthy lack of accurate shooting. The other foil: Arkansas-Pine Bluff, who began their season with a rigorous non-conference gang beating ERRRRRR schedule of mid-major and power conference foes that left them 0-11 going into conference play... where they channeled the hard lessons of that non-conference slate and unloaded on the lowly Southwestern Athletic Conference to the tune of a 14-4 conference record, before running the table in the SWAC Tournament to pick up the bid and a trip to Dayton to try and put some shine on their ugly 17-15 record.

The chances for a 16 seed making the Final Four are already long, since after all no #16 has ever beaten a #1 in the 1st round in 100 tries, so winning four games is kind of hard if you can't win the 1st. But the play-in game helps send the astronomical odds of these two teams into the next galaxy, as they each stand a competitive chance of beating the other (Winthrop currently is a 54.5% favorite to beat Pine Bluff) which virtually doubles each team's longshot odds.

Their chances look like the odds of winning a state lottery. Winthrop is a 1835 to 1 longshot just to make the Sweet 16. Their odds of making the Final Four?

889,564 to 1.

And guess what? Those are better odds than Arkansas Pine Bluff's. Is Pine Bluff a one in a million shot? Actually, being a one in a million shot would give them a slightly better chance of making the Final Four. Their odds stand at 1,065,522 to 1.

Makes #15 Robert Morris seem like a good shot at 53,834 to 1, doesn't it?

Don't expect any Cinderellas:

The top 4 seeds are comfortable favorites to make the Sweet 16, and chances aren't likely that Duke's rivals will knock them off en route to the Final Four. The road to Indianapolis is clear for Coach K and the Blue Devils.


1. Duke. Sweet 16: 76.9%. Final Four: 6 to 5 (46.6%)
2. Villanova. Sweet 16: 62.5%. Final Four: 13 to 2
3. Baylor. Sweet 16: 55.6%. Final Four: 15 to 2
4. Purdue. Sweet 16: 42.7%. Final Four: 12.1 to 1
5. Texas A&M. Sweet 16: 24.8%. Final Four: 31.3 to 1
6. Notre Dame. Sweet 16: 18.0%. Final Four: 58.1 to 1
7. Richmond. Sweet 16: 14.2%. Final Four: 86.3 to 1
8. California. Sweet 16: 15.6%. Final Four: 20.8 to 1
9. Louisville. Sweet 16: 13 to 1. Final Four: 69.3 to 1
10. St Mary's CA. Sweet 16: 22.7%. Final Four: 36.6 to 1
11. Old Dominion. Sweet 16: 22.8%. Final Four: 37.2 to 1
12. Utah State. Sweet 16: 23.4%. Final Four: 35.0 to 1
13. Siena. Sweet 16: 10 to 1. Final Four: 219.3 to 1
14. Sam Houston State. Sweet 16: 27 to 1. Final Four: 1393.9 to 1
15. Robert Morris. Sweet 16: 166 to 1. Final Four: 53834.2 to 1
16a. Winthrop. Sweet 16: 1834 to 1. Final Four: 889563.7 to 1
16b. Arkansas Pine Bluff. Sweet 16: 2197 to 1. Final Four: 1065521.6 to 1

2010 NCAA Tournament Preview: East Regional

First of all, there's no argument from me about the #1 seeds. All deserve them, and I'd say three of the four #2's are legit as well. Kentucky is no exception, but thanks to some underseeding, they've got what actually looks like the toughest bracket of the four #1 seeds.


New Mexico
. The media darling of the late college seasons got a lot of hype for a 3 seed and despite a semifinal Mountain West Tournament loss to San Diego State, they got it, the lack of stuffing to their 29-4 record makes them little more than a padded #6. This is going to prove all the more awkward should they face a likely matchup with legitimate #6 Marquette, or a legitimate #11 in Washington that has the speed and stamina to play like a top 25 team.

Wake Forest: I had the defense-minded Demon Deacons in by the skin of their at-large teeth after an ugly conclusion to their season (1-5), but the Committee thought them more of a #9. That's a shame, because their opponent....

Got the Shaft:

Texas: From my view, this region has three #4 seeds. It's just that only one of them got an actual #4 (Wisconsin), one got seeded an acceptable shade low (#5 Temple) and the other is #8 seed Texas. I'm not sure if the Committee saw their nine late season losses (7 of 9 which BTW came to top 25 caliber teams) and, forgetting that Texas plays in a tough Big 12 Conference, figured that the Longhorns were stumbling. Texas could easily go Harrison Bergeron with a higher seed and make it to the second weekend. But as it stands, they get a surprisingly beatable Wake team and then are slated to get fed to a seemingly unfair 2nd round matchup with Kentucky that's going to be a lot more competitive than people may think, and certainly moreso than the Wildcats would like.

Missouri: One of the nation's best defenses took the pipe in the Big 12 Tourney against Nebraska and despite Dan Guerrero's assurances that the Committee downplays or even ignores the last 12 games of the season, the Tigers were given a #10 seed on the strength of a couple of embarrassing mid-season slip ups (Oral Roberts and a poor Oklahoma team), that Nebraska loss and three losses to top Big 12 teams (Baylor, Kansas State and Kansas). Boy, is #7 Clemson going to be upset when they realize their #10 seed opponent is in fact a tough underseeded equal, and if I'm #2 West Virginia, I don't get too cocky about easily making the 2nd weekend.

Contrary to popular belief:

Cornell did not get overseeded. Sagarin has the deliberately paced but offensively talented Big Red around 50, which is right below the at-large cutoff point. This is a legitimately good team hidden in a mostly weak Ivy League (though Harvard had a good season and Princeton came on late in the year), and while their chances of beating top 20 Temple are dim, they certainly deserve to get seeded as high as 12.

Not a prayer:

East Tennessee State is the strongest #16 in the field but has a 7.3% chance of beating Kentucky. #15 Morgan State isn't much better, with only a 7.4% chance of ousting #2 West Virginia. ETSU has less than a 9600 to 1 chance of reaching Indianapolis, but Morgan State is the longer shot at 10700+ to 1.

You have a better chance of... dying of a drug overdose between the ages of 35 and 44. The odds of that are 7877 to 1.

Watch out for:

Wisconsin. Ken Pomeroy actually has the Badgers rated 3rd in the nation, while Sagarin has them at a more reasonable 14. The defense-minded Badgers have one of their best offensive squads in years, great at controlling the ball (their 15.1% turnover rate is 3rd best in the country) while their defense allows the fewest offensive rebounds per possession in the country at 25.8%. The Badgers are going to be a tough out for everybody, and has a very real chance of ousting Kentucky should they meet in the Sweet 16. A berth in the Final Four is not an unrealistic possibility.


1. Kentucky. Sweet 16: 55.7%. Final Four: 4.2 to 1
2. West Virginia. Sweet 16: 53.8%. Final Four: 4.3 to 1
3. New Mexico. Sweet 16: 31.7%. Final Four: 28.3 to 1
4. Wisconsin. Sweet 16: 61.9%. Final Four: 4.1 to 1
5. Temple. Sweet 16: 26.9%. Final Four: 22.2 to 1
6. Marquette. Sweet 16: 32.7%. Final Four: 17.7 to 1
7. Clemson. Sweet 16: 22.4%. Final Four: 15.9 to 1
8. Texas. Sweet 16: 34.3%. Final Four: 8.7 to 1
9. Wake Forest. Sweet 16: 9.2%. Final Four: 87.9 to 1
10. Missouri. Sweet 16: 23.1%. Final Four: 15.1 to 1
11. Washington. Sweet 16: 30.7%. Final Four: 20.0 to 1
12. Cornell. Sweet 16: 12 to 1. Final Four: 236.3 to 1
13. Wofford. Sweet 16: 27 to 1. Final Four: 945.6 to 1
14. Montana. Sweet 16: 20 to 1. Final Four: 1014.1 to 1
15. Morgan State. Sweet 16: 143 to 1. Final Four: 10732.5 to 1
16. East Tennessee State: Sweet 16: 125 to 1. Final Four: 9667.1 to 1

How bad seeding by the Selection Committee helps the NCAA Tournament experience

I am of the persuasion that Dan Guerrero and the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee deliberately mis-seeds the four regions to some degree in order to generate upset possibilities.

Think about it: If they were to seed everybody where they ought to be, the chances of early round upsets would go way down, because the legitimately best teams would play the legitimately weakest teams in the early rounds, leading to boring opening rounds like 2004, where there were only two "upsets" and both were wins many saw coming due to underestimated seeding for mid-major talents in Pacific and Manhattan, against legitimately seeded but beatable teams (in Providence and Florida). The media brayed about the two upsets but couldn't put a shine to a predictable slate of opening round games. It was one of the best jobs the Selection Committee did of seeding the teams, because nearly all of the seeded favorites won their early games. And the end result was one of the more boring tournaments in recent memory.

So in essence, while people howl and complain at erroneous seeding, it does in effect seed the tournament for upsets, if not in the early rounds then in the later rounds as the underseeded 4-8 seeds make what seems to the casual observer like Cinderella runs but are in fact legitimate runs by good teams that the Committee underseeded.

This is not to say that every underdog team that makes a Cinderella run is in fact an underseeded giant. But many are: Many don't realize that George Mason in 2006 was a legitimately good 23-7 team that got in at-large and was probably more of an 8-10 seed than an 11 before their miracle Final Four run.

Coming up is a look at the four regional brackets and see who's got a gift seed, who got shafted with a bad matchup and who's got a chance to make a deep run.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A glimpse at my current baseball research

I spent this weekend battling OpenOffice's slowness over coffee while compiling ball in play stats. My current project is to assemble run data for the use of projecting pitchers for 2010, and perhaps projecting fielders These are going to be based on a four year composite that weighs last year's run expectancy stats more heavily (to account for the present day parks and talent), and preceding seasons less so until 2006, which is weighed the least. I could go as far back as 2005 if the sample's still small enough that the averages shift. But I'm already seeing the run values settle in around firm numbers. Based on my composite RE data, groundouts are worth -0.088 run, flyballs are worth about 0.025 run and line drives are worth 0.324 run. I still need to verify my walk and strikeout numbers (0.30 and -0.28, respectively), as well as verify stolen bases and caught stealing.

Ultimately, even if someone were to copy this approach verbatim (always a risk especially among bitter enemies), I would be using different weights on year to year data than the incumbent sabermetric community probably would, and I would probably tweak my methodology and breakdown as I discovered new trends, compared to testing methodologies within the context of incumbent theories and methods as is the norm.

Plus I'm not doing this for any sort of sabermetric glory, or anything other than being able to project players and perhaps succeed at fantasy leagues. Anyone trying these ideas out in the context of wOBA, SIERA or tRA can certainly do so: Those numbers have their uses and their limits, and this approach can be productive within the context of those metrics.

I may look into doing ball in play run values by base/out situation, but that could take some time and I may not end up with enough of a reliable sample to give me firm data there. I ended up with about 40000 flyballs, over 20000 line drives and over 500000 groundballs for 2009. Broken up by base and out situation, would I have enough data to conclusively state a run value for, say, a line drive hit with two outs and men on the corners? You could go back ten years and get all the sample you need, but the farther back you go, the less contextually relevant the data you compile is. The run environments of 2002 aren't the run environments of today. Sure, you could park adjust, but any adjustment is based on incumbent assumptions, which belies the point of collecting a sample to determine accurate inherent values anyway.

This is just a sliver of what I've been working on with my baseball research. More will come as things flesh out.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bulleted thoughts on Championship Week's developments

- Thanks to Utah State and UTEP losing, the bubble just lost two bids. Utah State should still get in, but barely, while UTEP is still comfortably in and is probably a 9 seed... but now they're taking at-large bids instead of automatic bids. The bubble might have got one back when UW downed Cal in the Pac 10 final, but UW was looking to sneak in anyway so maybe not.

- Thanks to their surprise run to win the Mountain West, San Diego State is in, though they may have made it at-large anyway on the strength of their upset over New Mexico in the semis. Said upset should quiet the darling hype the Lobos were getting from the media, as the upset loss probably now leaves them as a #6. SDSU is a #10 or #11. Though the MWC final looked like an elimination game going into today, UNLV may barely make it in as a #11 or #12: They probably had enough on their resume to get in before that game.

- Who probably loses in the bubble race? Believe it or not, the SEC. Mississippi State played themselves onto the bubble but the UTEP/Utah State upsets screwed the pooch there, so now they've probably got to beat likely #1 seed Kentucky to get in... not likely. And Ole Miss and Florida played themselves out with early SEC Tournament losses. The SEC may only send three teams: Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. They can make it four if UK lays down for the Bulldogs. UK is still a #1 seed, though, while Tennessee is probably a #5 and Vanderbilt (unless they get another favor from the Committee) is probably a #7.

- Another likely bubble casualty is Wake Forest, who took a drop from an upset loss to Miami-Fla and would have been right on the edge of the bubble had the UTEP/Utah State losses not happened.

- And the way the upsets fell like dominoes today, you have to wonder if conference refs had top teams take a dive to get extra conference teams in. Ethics are only something to bully-pulpit about in the NCAA.

- Don't be surprised to see Northern Iowa get a single digit seed on Sunday.

- Syracuse might have played their way out of a #1 seed with their quarterfinal loss to Georgetown, who might have played their way into a #3.

- Minnesota, left for dead on the side of the road after getting owned late this season by Michigan, may have played their way in with today's surprising annihilation of Purdue, who without Robbie Hammel may now have dropped to a 3 seed, maybe lower if the Committee's that unimpressed.

- The Big East is still sending eight teams. Not that I had serious doubt, but Richmond's upset of Xavier solidifies them as the A-10's 3rd tourney team

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

2010 Men's College Basketball Conference Tournament Probabilities: Western Athletic Conference (WAC)

Part 30 of a 30 part series. Using Sagarin's Predictor ratings in a prediction formula, I'll weigh the probability of each conference team in each possible tournament matchup and through a Markov chain determine their chances of winning the tournament.

After 29 other tournaments and several convoluted tournament scenarios and formats... our final tournament is a straightforward eight team, three round tournament with a clear favorite, a clear dark horse and a bunch of longshots.

Utah State's move to the WAC years ago was a good idea, even as the conference was besieged with defections and the founding of the Mountain West. They are the big dogs in a conference with enough of a mid-major profile to get them on the map, and rated 38 in the Sagarin ratings, they have what it takes to get in at-large if somehow they don't win the WAC tournament, which they should as a 50.8% favorite.

The obvious dark horse to knock them off is the #2 seed and tournament host, Nevada. With the tournament in Reno and a halfway decent team that might win the CBI but nothing more, the Wolfpack have a 7 to 3 shot (30.3%) to win, and post the biggest challenge to the Aggies in the Final.

But really, it's likely Utah State rolls through their three rounds, collects their trophy and cruises on into the NCAA's as a #10 seed.

Here are the WAC odds for every team involved.

1. Utah State: Even (50.8%)
2. Nevada: 2.3 to 1 (30.3%)
3. New Mexico State: 28.1 to 1
4. Louisiana Tech: 11.8 to 1
5. Fresno State: 57.4 to 1
6. San Jose State: 54.3 to 1
7. Idaho: 37.9 to 1
8. Boise State: 62.5 to 1

And with that, this 30 part series of conference projections is complete! I hope you enjoyed a look at everyone's odds, and perhaps gotten a better idea of what odds teams face of winning a conference tournament. I look forward to projecting the forthcoming NCAA Tournament, NIT, CBI and Tournament.

2010 Men's College Basketball Conference Tournament Probabilities: Southeast Conference (SEC)

Part 29 of a 30 part series. Using Sagarin's Predictor ratings in a prediction formula, I'll weigh the probability of each conference team in each possible tournament matchup and through a Markov chain determine their chances of winning the tournament.

Kentucky's definitely the best team in the SEC and, as things stand, a likely #1 NCAA Tournament seed coming into the SEC tournament. But believe it or not, they're not the favorite.

Kentucky, at 11 to 5 (31.0%) to win as the #1 East seed, isn't as good a shot to win as tournament host Vanderbilt at 9 to 5 (36.2%). This would be a 50-50 matchup if these two teams were to meet in the tournament final, but Vandy, as the #2 East seed has a slightly easier road to the Final than Kentucky. Vanderbilt is no less than a 71.4% favorite in any possible game up to the finals, but Kentucky will likely face a dangerous foe in the semis in #2W Ole Miss (29.7% chance of beating UK) or #3E Tennessee (39.4%).

After that, only 7 to 1 Tennessee is a dark horse. The next closest shot to win is #1 West seed Mississippi State at 13 to 1. And despite their high seed, Mississippi State is rated 56 in the Sagarin ratings, indicating they're probably NIT bound if they don't win out.

The SEC has an unusually perilous at-large perch. Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt are definitely in, but Florida and Ole Miss are on the bubble.

Florida, rated 43, absolutely has to beat Auburn in the opening round, then it's a toss up as to whether a 50-50 matchup with Mississippi State in the quarters requires that they win or if they can afford a loss and still get into the NCAA's. For their sake, the Gators may as well assume they need to win that game to get in. Anything beyond that is gravy.

Ole Miss, rated 45, would be an underdog to likely opponent Tennessee (LSU's a 10 to 1 underdog to beat the Vols) and jury's out if a close loss would be enough to bump them in. With few upsets rattling the at-large picture, ranking in the low 40's might be enough, but that's danger territory no matter what.

As for the definite ins, Vanderbilt has a funny tendency of getting higher than deserved seeds from the Selection Committee, so far be it from me to say their projected #7 is absolute. But it's highly recommended they reach the final if they want to take advantage of that favoritism. The committee may be willing to humor that #7-ish placement otherwise.

Tennessee is about a #5 right now, and as an opening round seed, they could boost that profile with a run to the semis. They have a chance against Kentucky (39.3%) but are definitely an underdog in a potential semis matchup. They could play their way up from #5 if they pull that upset.

Kentucky is one of my picks for a #1 seed, and they've got to win out to keep that rep, even though I find it hard to believe West Virginia or Villanova in the Big East could play their way into giving the Big East a 2nd #1 (Syracuse is a lock for a #1 seed) unless they win out. Kentucky can end that conversation, however, by winning out.

Here are the SEC odds for every team involved:

SEC East Seeds:

1. Kentucky: 11 to 5 (31.0%)
2. Vanderbilt: 9 to 5 (36.2%)
3. Tennessee: 7 to 1
4. Florida: 22.2 to 1
5. South Carolina: 173.8 to 1
6. Georgia: 174 to 1

SEC West seeds:

1. Mississippi State: 13.1 to 1
2. Mississippi: 15.1 to 1
3. Arkansas: 388.3 to 1
4. Alabama: 84.5 to 1
5. Auburn: 411.2 to 1
6. LSU: 9628.8 to 1

Next: Our final conference tournament... the WAC

2010 Men's College Basketball Conference Tournament Probabilities: Big Ten

Part 28 of a 30 part series. Using Sagarin's Predictor ratings in a prediction formula, I'll weigh the probability of each conference team in each possible tournament matchup and through a Markov chain determine their chances of winning the tournament.

Don't believe the hype behind Robbie Hummel's injury sinking Purdue. Aside from a home loss to surging Michigan State, Purdue hasn't lost since their star forward's season ending injury and is part of a three team horse race in the lead to win the Big Ten Tournament. Purdue, the #2 seed, is 3 to 1 (25.8%), while #4 seed Wisconsin is 5 to 2 (27.8%) and everyone's pick, Ohio State, is a bit behind them both at 3 to 1 (24.3%).

#3 Michigan State is the dark horse at 15 to 2, with no one else closer than 16 to 1 (#6 Minnesota, who by the way blew their chance at an at-large bid down the stretch).

The Big Ten has four tournament-worthy teams. Seeds are estimated according to Sagarin rating.

- Purdue's loss of Hammel may bump them from a deserved #2 seed unless they make a do-able run to the title.

- Ohio State may take that #2 seed if they indeed win out, but Wisconsin is a threat (54.4%) to take them down in the semis, while either Purdue (49.3%) or Michigan State (41.0%) could give them a serious fight in the final. Ohio State is in #4 seed territory right now and definitely needs to make the final to improve that.

- Wisconsin should be a #3 seed but loses points for being #4 in the Big Ten. They are favored in every possible matchup and could get that #3 by winning out... maybe more if the Selection Committee's impressed with the run.

- Michigan State slots as a tenuous #6 seed right now, and getting as far as the semis will solidify that, but short of winning the tournament there's not much they can do to go higher than that. A loss to Minnesota in the quarters could drop them to #7.

Speaking of Minnesota, they're definitely an NIT team, as is Illinois. Northwestern might be. An upset would turn 'might' into 'definitely will'.

Here are the Big Ten odds for every team involved:

1. Ohio State: 3.1 to 1 (24.3%)
2. Purdue: 2.9 to 1 (25.8%)
3. Michigan State: 7.4 to 1
4. Wisconsin: 2.6 to 1 (27.8%)
5. Illinois: 41.2 to 1
6. Minnesota: 15.8 to 1
7. Northwestern: 138.2 to 1
8. Michigan: 102.2 to 1
9. Iowa: 6810.3 to 1
10. Indiana: 5558.3 to 1
11. Penn State: 579.6 to 1

Next: The SEC

2010 Men's College Basketball Conference Tournament Probabilities: Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)

Part 27 of a 30 part series. Using Sagarin's Predictor ratings in a prediction formula, I'll weigh the probability of each conference team in each possible tournament matchup and through a Markov chain determine their chances of winning the tournament.

We are now down to the last of the major conferences. This series will be done after tonight and all that's left is to watch the tourneys and see how they play out.

The ACC is one of college basketball's strongest conferences in a down year, with 6-7 likely tournament teams among the field. But like the Big 12 the field will be at the mercy of one big dog: The Duke Blue Devils. Duke is a 63.8% odds on favorite to win, with no one all that close to catching them. #2 Maryland, at 13 to 2, is the 2nd most likely team to win the ACC and the only team at under 14 to 1 to win.

With North Carolina down this year and such a muddled ACC field that Florida State and Virginia Tech have first round byes, Coach K's kids have no excuses. The only reasonable outcome for them is to win out and clinch a #1 seed in the NCAAs.

All that said, let's see where the potential tourney teams stand and what they need to do in the ACC tourney to improve their position.

#2 Maryland: Pretty much a #4 seed in the NCAAs barring an amazing development. Amazing developments include laying a quarterfinal egg against Georgia Tech or North Carolina, getting chop blocked in the semis or finals by some freak ACC Cinderella run, and beating Duke in the final to win the ACC Tournament outright. Anything inbetween is reasonable and shouldn't adversely affect their possible seeding. A run to the finals could get them a #3. Anything higher and the committee's in the bag.

#3 Florida State: Rare is the year FSU is a serious contender, but they're probably a #7 even if they fall in the quarters after their bye (Clemson would be favored if the Tigers won their opening round game to meet FSU). They could sneak a #6 seed if they face and knock off Clemson, then give at least an admirable effort in defeat in the semis. If Duke falls, there is a reasonable chance they could win the whole thing, and that of course would boost them farther.

#4 Virginia Tech: Repeat what I said about FSU contending for VT. Tech basketball just isn't supposed to do well, let alone get 1st round byes in the ACC tourney. VT is in the driver's seta for an #8 seed provided they at least play a close game with the winner of Wake Forest and Miami. A win will at least seal that, and they're probably facing Duke in the semis so not much to prognosticate beyond that.

#5 Wake Forest: Amidst a down year like many other big time programs, Wake is probably a #9 or #10 this year, but should be in unless they get somehow humilated. They're a favorite to beat Miami in the opening round, and getting a win before bowing to Virginia Tech isn't too bad or unreasonable an outcome.

#6 Clemson: Always a scrappy contender, Clemson's on the bcak end of a #6 seed right now and looking at a #7 unless they give a strong showing, which means beating NC State in the opening round and at the least taking Florida State to the wire in the quarters if they're going to lose. Winning that game would be nice. As with the others, Duke taking an early upset loss would upgrade their ACC title chances to 'fairly possible' and that could probably get them a #4 or #5.

#7 Georgia Tech: The one ACC team on the bubble, the Yellow Jackets have a difficult first round matchup vs a North Carolina team with their backs to the wall. GT has to win this game to stay out of bubble trouble. A win after the first round is unlikely, but unnecessary. They are probably a #10 or #11 provided they get in.

Anyone not mentioned is on the outside looking in, and nowhere close to qualifying at-large. Anyone not named Virginia is an NIT candidate (Virginia's only chance at the CBI-level tourneys is to reach the semis, and given they're a 30 to 1 shot to reach the semis, good luck to that). If Boston College loses in the first round, though, no NIT for them: They'd be 15-16 in D-I play and losing records are dealbreakers.

NC State is 17-14 but being 71 in the Sagarin ratings indicates they may be on the NIT bubble. UNC and Miami, however, are definitely in the NIT if they choose to play.

Chance of upsetting Duke in a head-to-head matchup:

Maryland: 24.1%
Florida State: 18.2%
Virginia Tech: 13.4%
Wake Forest: 14.9%
Clemson: 20.5%
Georgia Tech: 15.2%
Boston College: 8.4%
Virginia: 7.1%
North Carolina: 11.3%
NC State: 8.9%
Miami-Fla: 9.7%

Here are the ACC odds for every team involved:

1. Duke: 63.8%
2. Maryland: 6.7 to 1
3. Florida State: 14.2 to 1
4. Virginia Tech: 28 to 1
5. Wake Forest: 37.2 to 1
6. Clemson: 16.3 to 1
7. Georgia Tech: 44.5 to 1
8. Boston College: 210.5 to 1
9. Virginia: 385.4 to 1
10. North Carolina: 123.2 to 1
11. NC State: 269.3 to 1
12. Miami-Fla: 157.1 to 1

Next: The Big Ten