As is tradition around here I like to put together a bracket widget and suggest some resources to use. This time someone stepped up to sponsor it. That would be Draftkings, who also offered their site for a place to enter your online brackets, given how much I complained about where we've been doing it. The link: https://www.draftkings.com/gateway?s=673740228 The 612x612 box with the the link:

612x612_FREE

I presume you know how a bracket works. It locks out at tipoff on March 21st, so get on that. Also presume you know it's for 21+. Eligibility restrictions apply. See website for details.

As for how to fill it out, the internet has some resources, starting with…

1. Seth's Amazing Google Sheet 2000 of 2019!

I like just having all of a ton of information in comparable form when making my selections, so I make this little tool on Google Sheets that you can have too (clicking the link will give you your own copy so you don't mess up my master):

Most of the data are from Kenpom. Injuries start from DonBest's list, but I write the impact and do a search because he misses a lot. Distance factor was calculated by putting the schools' addresses into Google Maps (I have a tool).

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Favorite Online Tools

I don't recommend just my little comp tool. You should learn a thing or two about each team and think about their matchups. Take a team like Iowa: they play a lot of zone, their defense is bad because their center is atrocious at it, and they murder you with outside shooting. If they're playing a team that takes away the three and scores a ton in the post, you don't want Iowa.

1. KENPOM. The gold standard, somehow even more useful, but no longer a secret known only to bloggers and stat-heads. I don't know how this isn't a homepage on your phone already. Ken Pomeroy uses tempo-free stats to pare down to predictive efficiency metrics. It's great for sweeping generalities, but doesn't account for situations teams find themselves in, for example it doesn't know the difference between Duke with or without the #1 pick. For that you can turn to…

2. BART TORVIK. Let's peel off whatever we want to from the Kenpom stats and see how that changes things. Then let's make a graph out of it. Torvik's site is for the real nerds, but he's got loads of pages that simplify bracket questions like "What's this coach's recent tourney results versus expectations?" Another other extremely useful bracket tool on Torvik is "Similar Resumes." Last I like his Team Bubbles Chart, which I can play around. For example try just High Major teams versus Quad 1 opponents (wish the bubbles could represent # of games charted but Torvik Wish Lists are part of the Torvik experience. If all this sounds like too much math and you just want someone who can summarize this easily, try…

3. THE POWER RANK. You know Ed Feng from the MGoBlog Roundtable on WTKA. This stuff is wheelhouse; in fact he literally wrote the book on it. Non-members are restricted to his standard "TPR" (the power rank) metric, which is based on team rankings, margin of victory, and strength of schedule, and spits out a predicted margin of victory over an average (read: ~160th) opponent). His turbo stat is based on how teams performed based on their Vegas odds, which is great because those take into account EVERYTHING—like who was not full-go that night. To entice signups he often leaks some of the more interesting predictions this spits out so he's a good tourney time follow. If I was a better friend I'd be on his site more often, but honestly I spend a lot more time on…

4. HOOP-MATH. The owner is Jeff Haley, the Seth of Burnt Orange Nation (the Longhorns blog), and his stats are produced from play-by-play data. I know because he's slow to update the data so I usually have to update opponent pages myself to include the last game. Here's how he gets his stuff:

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Some find/replace and formulas converts that to a spreadsheet:

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This is how I get my "At the Rim" and "Percent of Points Assisted" stats that you see on my charts. Or at least, this is where I get the raw data to produce those. Brian is on Hoop-Math every preview so he can tell you things like "this team gets half their shots from transition and triples their eFG% so shutting that down is a priority."

It's a great site for finding hidden upsets, especially for subscribers, who can download the data and get access to additional boxes like late offense and individual shot blocking at the rim versus at large. Are they a transition-reliant team facing an opponent that doesn't turn it over? Are they a mid-major with a big taking a ton of unassisted shots at the rim facing an elite defensive center? How bad are they when their banged up SG gets in…waitaminute, now I'm getting them confused with the similar layout of:

5. HOOP-LENS. This is a paid (not expensive) service for breaking down individual players, and well worth your while for the fun to be had from turning your work's instant messaging channel into a wall of splits:

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There's no better way to quickly find who's a defensive presence, though you have to look at the 3FG% for a non-3PA defender to make sure you're not just looking at a small sample size that happened to catch a hot shooting streak on one side. His PAM (points above median) page is my first stop to see who's a Guy or a Dude, and also to quickly visualize who's doing what for a team's shooting efficiency:

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Again, however, you need to contextualize this with usage data and assist data. For that you can go back to Kenpom, or try…

6. SPORTS-REFERENCE.COM, whose Usage metric is almost the same as Pomeroy's (the biggest difference is they rate a free throw as 43.5% of a possession vs. Kenpom's 47.5%), and far more accessible for spreadsheeting purposes. Best known for baseball-reference, these statistical aggregators used the same scripts to build a database for college basketball and all the other major sports.

Because it's so automated there are mistakes that pop up, so don't use them for deep historical aggregates (e.g. Tom Izzo's career wins). Also their attempts at building their own statistics are almost always disasters—these are coders, not mathematicians, and their general understanding of the data they collect is about on par with that of your average basketball announcer (likewise their understanding of their own level of understanding). Exception: I like how they visualize a season that you can mouseover for context.

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But you don't care about that, because their usefulness for raw stats is up there with having your average basketball announcer on speed dial, i.e. unparalleled. Try to focus more on your vast appreciation for what they provide, and less on how funny it is that in 2019 you still have to scroll past per-game to get to the raw and tempo-free numbers.

Of course if you're not into stats and scrolling, and just want to not be dumb about the plotlines you missed by not following college basketball beyond what Michigan did and the relentless proliferation of Zion Williamson news, catch up with…

7. ESPN's BASKETBALL STAFF. Somehow John Gasaway and Joe Lunardi (and TomVH) managed to survive The Worldwide Leader's recent staff slimdown to a bare handful of loud, vastly overpaid morons and SEC slappies. Even after the field is picked, Bubble Watch stories will familiarize you with the recent goings on for the hardest picks. Gasaway is the Dude in college basketball—all the context you're trying to parse out of stats and waterfall graphs above is already embedded in his brain, along with years of basketball watching to put that in context.

Just make sure you've got some strong anti-autoplay apps running on your browser. Or you could eschew the guys everybody reads for some familiar Twitter faces of…

8. BIG TEN GEEKS: A group of Big Ten fans who like to play with stats—@CT_In_TC is the Michigan fan there and also the keeper of the blog-beloved stat PORPAGATU, ie points over replacement per adjusted game at that usage. It's the closest thing to baseball's WAR in college basketball. Of course, if you've got $15 to spare and really want to geek out…

9. HOOP VISION'S 2019 TOURNAMENT BIBLE: This is Jordan Sperber and Rafi Goldman's scouting information on every team in the tournament and invaluable to our coverage. Jordan and Rafi were D-I video coordinators so this is exactly the kind of reports coaches get. In fact it's really made for the coaches. But you coach from the sideline, right?

[JD Scott]

I would have liked to have seen Not Montana. Not because of the quality of this year's Griz—significantly down from last year, particularly on D—but because of that one lady.

Queme los game film.

Make sure the audio track burns, too.

In the Before Time, when I could still hear pitches above a high B-flat, Montana jumped out to a 10-0 lead over a Michigan squad that very much looked like it'd had an extended layoff. The Wolverines adjusted to the aggressive trapping Grizzlies defense and held a three-point lead at halftime. A woman screamed as if she, also, was trapped by grizzlies.

Hopefully she was a senior or is in jail for unrelated crimes. Giving Michigan the late game against Montana again is some kind of troll.

Although not too much of one. Last year's Montana team was fairly big for a Big Sky outfit. They ran out two 6'8" guys in their starting lineup. One of those guys graduated and the other got hurt midway through the year so the Griz's starting C is now the kid with the headband from last year's game. "You mean that wing" you ask? Yep.

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Bobby Moorhead, #24 above, has added 10 pounds per the Montana roster, but he's still a wing. He gets about half of Montana's minutes at C. Another 6'7 guy who has in fact cracked 200 pounds gets most of the remainder.

Everyone else came back for the Griz so this move from biggish to really tiny is entirely responsible for their defense dipping from 58th to 161st. Their two point D has dropped from 40th to 123rd; they're forcing far fewer turnovers than they did a year ago. And both of their games against major conference opponents were blowouts: Creighton shot 66/54 and rebounded almost half their misses en route to 1.46 points per possession in a 26 point win; Arizona only put up 0.9 but they held the Griz to 0.62 PPP on 31/22 shooting. Creighton is #50 in Kenpom; Arizona is #99. Arizona's defense isn't even good.

Montana still may pose some problems. You no doubt remember last year's grind in which Montana trapped all ball screens, and they're still doing that:

I assume they'll switch everything since they don't really have a C and that's been Michigan kryptonite this year. But this is not last year's feisty bunch; at #137 in Kenpom they're about 6 points worse in efficiency margin than Illinois, the worst team in the Big Ten. Should be fine.

[After THE JUMP: first glimpses at round two and beyond]

1 hour and 13 minutes

The Sponsors:

This show is presented by UGP & The Bo Store. Do you like Michigan sweatshirts and stuff? Buy one from them. Our other sponsors are also key to all of this: HomeSure Lending, Peak Wealth Management, Ann Arbor Elder Law, the Residence Inn Ann Arbor Downtown, the University of Michigan Alumni Association, Michigan Law Grad, Human Element, Phil Klein Insurance, and Lantana Hummus

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1. Michigan's Pod

(starts at 0:58)

The "last two seed" means Michigan doesn't have to play Duke. Montana is without their two bigs from last year. Good at preventing assists on made baskets—we think that means they force you into a lot of iso ball. Nevada was good but played nobody. Seth shares what vomitorium means (got it from the great youtubist CGP Grey). But Nevada's best player, Jordan Caroline, has an Achilles flare, and they just lost to San Diego State without him. Clear preference is Florida.

2. The Rest of Michigan's Region

(starts at 22:41)

How good is Gonzaga? We like that Syracuse is the and Florida State are with them because those two are talent-independent hoodoos. All Syracuse does is have Tyus Battle drive in the lane. Texas Tech is the three seed, and the other great defense. Who grad transfers from St. John's? Highly dependent on a Culver, a high-assist/usage guy Matthews will be checking. They're not a switching defense. They give up a lot of threes but we're guessing those are 24-foot step-backs. How do you shoot 211 threes at 26%? Marquette has Marcus Howard (36% usage!) who's just a jack-it-up shooter. FSU is a forest of arms.

3. MSU III

(starts at 45:44)

When Michigan faces a switching defense they just freeze and take bad shots because their answers don't work: X isn't a stepback shooter, they don't have any Iso guys, Matthews is not a good offensive player, and they can't feed the post. Izzo admits he "couldn't play Ward" but also auto-benched Tillman and Michigan immediately swung out to a double-digit lead. Hat tip to Cassius Winston. Grumbling about the slow development of Poole, and Michigan wings being so slow to recover to McQuaid. A 20-percent win percentage flip on a blown call at the end is especially galling because it will never change. Just once it would be nice to play a rival without the rival getting an assist from the officiating.

3. Iowa/Minnesota

(starts at 1:06:03)

Rote blowouts and flexing. Michigan fixed the Iowa problem as soon as they stopped putting Iggy on Garza and Teske on Cook—Cook is the Big Ten's biggest foul magnet, Iggy can't guard Garza. As soon as they stopped doing that it was over. Minnesota was just dog tired.

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MUSIC
  • Space Cowboy"—Jonzun Crew
  • "Anthems for a Seventeen-Year-Old Girl"—Broken Social Scene
  • "Can't Get There from Here"—REM
  • “Across 110th Street”
THE USUAL LINKS

The people are what spews forth from the vomitoria, not the contents of the people

State won a gritty BTT final and completed the rare three-game sweep of Michigan.

I am a bowl of petunias in free fall.

once more into the breach 

Michigan just destroyed Minnesota

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