"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, March 14, 2022

We Have a Bracket!

Greg Elliott is the returning Marquette player from last year's win at Chapel Hill
 Photo by Gerry Broome | Associated Press

The bracket was released yesterday and Marquette is headed to Fort Worth to take on North Carolina with the winner likely facing Baylor for a trip to the Sweet 16. You can check out your Scrambled Eggs podcast feed for the latest on the matchup and more Fort Worth tips from resident Joe McCann. If you need a place to stay, check out Joe's creepy Texas basement. I plan to have a preview of North Carolina as well in the coming days. But today, we break down how Cracked Sidewalks did in the prediction game now that the bracket is finalized.

The Results

Cracked Sidewalks finished 66th out of 211 brackets this year (69th percentile...nice). We correctly picked 66/68 teams. Regarding seeding, we had 46 teams seeded exactly correctly and 19 more seeded within 1 line of their actual seed. Our score of 355 came up just short of last year's 357 but was still good enough to place ahead of bracket luminaries such as Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm as well as some of the best current bracketologists such as Delphi Bracketology and the entire Fielding the 68 panel.

The Bubble

The two teams we missed were Notre Dame and Rutgers, picking Texas A&M and SMU instead. The A&M pick was one made by 94.8% of the brackets, so we're in fine company there, but it really reinforced what we said last year (and then went against this year) that you CANNOT play your way in during Championship Week. It can't be done. Not only A&M being left out, but Virginia Tech getting an 11-seed shows that if you aren't in when the week starts, you aren't getting there, period. You can play your way out (Wake, Xavier are examples of that) but you aren't going from out to in unless you cut nets.

It's hard to wrap our heads around Buzz Williams being left out this year
 Photo by Andy Lyons | Getty Images

So why did we miss ND and Rutgers? Simply put, both were unprecedented. Notre Dame was the first at-large team to not be ranked in the top-47 of at least one of resume or predictive metric averages on the team sheet. Not only did SMU and Texas A&M check both boxes, Oklahoma, Wake Forest, and VCU, all also left out, checked at least one and would've been a better pick than Notre Dame based on past precedent. Rutgers was even worse in both categories. The Scarlet Knights had a NET of 78 and resume average of 57.5. Both of those are the lowest numbers ever for an at-large selection. Yes, they had good wins, but we are told the entire season matters (which would've led Xavier to inclusion) and the entire resume matters (SMU). Clearly the Selection Committee did not believe that message.

That said...the Notre Dame/Rutgers winner got a pretty sweet spot on the bracket and either could make a run. 6-seed Alabama has 4 losses to sub-50 kenpom teams (both ND and Rutgers fit that mold). Good offense tends to beat good defense in March, so 3-seed Texas Tech could also be vulnerable, particularly to Notre Dame's attack. Just because these teams did not deserve to be placed in the field on merit from November through Selection Sunday doesn't mean they couldn't win some games now that the Madness is here.

Our Seed Miss

As far as seeding, we're very happy with our placement. 65 of the 66 teams we placed were within one line of their actual spot. Had we picked the other two at-large teams correctly, it would've been 67/68 as we had Texas A&M and SMU on the same 11-line that Notre Dame and Rutgers occupy. The only 2-line miss we had this year is one of the same we had last year. We gave Loyola-Chicago a 12 and the Selection Committee gave them a 10. I can't argue here, however. Our spreadsheet had Loyola-Chicago as a 10, but historically the Selection Committee places the bottom 22 autobid teams from the 12-16 lines. This is the first time since 2014 that an at-large play-in game is not on the 11 line.

Because of that trend, and because we had Loyola as a 6-seed last year and saw them unjustly given an 8-seed, we expected the Selection Committee to follow the 11-seed play-in trend as well as again picking the lowest autobid and dropping them to make that happen. Credit to the Selection Committee, it was the correct choice, even if not the one we expected.

Regional Thoughts

West: The seeding in the region is fine, but man does Gonzaga get a tough road. If you filter Torvik for the past 6 weeks (to January 28) three of top six teams in the country are in this region. Gonzaga and potential second round foe Memphis are two of them, while Texas Tech is another in the bottom half of the bracket. Also lurking in the bottom half are two teams that beat the Zags this year, Alabama and Duke. If Gonzaga makes another Final Four, they will have to earn it.

South: Seeding here is fine, but another tough region. Per kenpom, four of the top-11 teams in the country are here.

East: Don't be surprised if there's some chaos in Marquette's region. The 11-seed Virginia Tech, 12-seed Indiana/Wyoming winner, 13-seed Akron, and 15-seed St. Peter's were all underseeded, in our opinion. If you're looking to pick a double-digit seed, the East is probably the place for it.

Midwest: Kansas got what looks like the easiest region. 3-seed Wisconsin and 4-seed Providence both fit the profile of overseeded teams that would be expected to lose sooner than their seed indicates. One other team to watch here might be Iowa State. While they fell to an 11-seed, the Cyclones are a perfect 13-0 against teams outside the Big 12.

Final Thoughts

We had the Protected seeds all correctly selected, with only 3-seed Wisconsin and 4-seed UCLA placed on the incorrect lines. Nailing 65 teams within one seed line feels very good. Selection was frustrating, mostly because last year it seemed that the choices of Syracuse over Louisville and Utah State over Colorado meant metrics were more important than resume at the end of the cutline while this year the opposite was the case. It shows how sometimes you just guess the direction the Selection Committee is going to go and despite showing a history of zigging, sometimes they zag.

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