BracketBot: December 16, 2019

1. Kansas (8-1; 0)
2. Duke (9-1, 1-0 ACC; +1)
3. Ohio State (9-1, 1-1 Big Ten; -1)
4. Maryland (10-1, 1-1 Big Ten; +1)
5. Auburn (9-0; +3)
6. Louisville (10-1, 2-0 ACC; -2)
7. Baylor (8-1; +2)
8. West Virginia (9-1; +6)
9. Virginia (8-1, 2-0 ACC; -2)
10. Michigan State (7-3, 1-0 Big Ten; -4)
11. Oregon (8-2; 0)
12. San Diego State (10-0, 2-0 MWC; +7)
13. Arizona (10-2; +2)
14. Dayton (8-1; +7)
15. Memphis (9-1; +12)
16. Gonzaga (11-1; -4)
17. Butler (10-1; -1)
18. Florida State (8-2, 1-1 ACC; -5)
19. Villanova (8-2; +1)
20. Kentucky (8-1; -3)
21. Arkansas (9-1; +7)
22. Penn State (9-2, 1-1 Big Ten; +9)
23. Colorado (8-2; -5)
24. Indiana (10-1, 1-1 Big Ten; +10)
25. Michigan (8-3, 1-1 Big Ten; -15)
26-30. Wichita State, Oklahoma State, Marquette, Texas, Xavier
(All records are against D-I opponents only)

It was a crazy week in college basketball, and it looks like this is gonna be an absolutely crazy year. At least to this point, no team is as good as the top few teams were last year, so we could be in line for a season where 10 different teams occupy the #1 spot!

Speaking of which, it’s Kansas staying in the top spot this week, but this time not being inflated by their pre-season expectations – they’re #1 in this system whether preseason influence on the rankings is included or not. We still need a bit of that, by the way – otherwise Richmond would outrank Michigan State, and I don’t think that is actually true. But its impact on the rankings is lessening – right now preseason expectations account for about 18% of this output, which will continue to automatically lessen as the season continues, and it’ll be basically gone a month from now. You can see the impact of that in the rankings above with the drop of Michigan State, Kentucky and especially Gonzaga, all of whom were highly-thought-of by talent evaluators but have not sparkled so far in this algorithm’s eyes.

Gonzaga’s placement here is probably going to be a sticking point for a lot of people (this week’s AP Poll is not yet out as I’m writing this, but they might jump to #2?), so let me try to defend what the system is thinking about them here. It stems mostly from the low quality schedule they’ve played outside of the four top teams they’ve faced (Oregon, Michigan, Washington, Arizona). While those four games, on their faces, paint a rosy picture for the Zags (they won 3, with two of those being true road games and the other two on a neutral site in the Bahamas), the rest of their schedule has consisted of complete walkover teams. The next-highest-ranked team on their schedule so far is #216 UT Arlington, closely followed by #218 Texas A&M, a name that looks good on a schedule but isn’t. (The game against UTA, by the way, was a close one; only a six-point victory.) I’m interested to see what happens when Gonzaga hosts the Tar Heels on Wednesday – that’ll be a nice intermediate test for them. I’d be really surprised if UNC wins, but it’s not out of the question. If Gonzaga wins that game by 20+, though, like I think many experts would predict, then maybe this algorithm is penalizing them too much for having played all those terrible teams. I don’t think that’s going to happen, though – I peg that game at Gonzaga -11.5.

Overall, there are four new teams in this week’s update that weren’t here last Monday:
– Memphis leaps from unranked at #27 all the way to #15. The Tigers only played one game this week, but it was a big one, picking up a road win against rival Tennessee. Memphis has been ranked in about the #15 range by the human polls, so it seems I’m just catching up on them a bit. Of course, they’re still playing without this year’s #1 recruit, James Wiseman, who will be back in a few weeks at the end of his suspension.
– Arkansas jumps from 28th last week up to #21, benefitting from the lessening influence of preseason data. The 9-1 Hogs don’t have any top-100 wins in my system (the top opponent they’ve played was their one loss to #88 Western Kentucky), but they haven’t played any bottom-100 teams either. I’ll be very interested to see how they fare about two weeks from now in a game at Indiana.
– Penn State makes a huge jump from #31 to #22 this week. In contrast to Arkansas, PSU had one of the more high-profile wins of the week, taking down #4 Maryland on Tuesday (this week was so chaotic that Maryland rose from #5 to #4 in this ranking on the same day that they lost). They then survived their home date with Alabama over the weekend, so they certainly deserve their spot. The Nittany Lions also have a road win over Georgetown that is going to continue to look better and better.
– Speaking of Indiana, they’re into the top 25 too, climbing from #34 to #24. IU finally got a win away from home this week, beating UConn at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday. Their 10-1 record looks worse when you notice they’re 9-0 at home, but they easily defeated a really good Florida State team a few weeks ago so it isn’t unearned.

Four teams falling out as well:
– Xavier was on the fringe last week at #23 after their big rivalry win over Cincinnati, but a loss to Wake Forest over the weekend will push them out to #30. Just like Indiana, one of X’s best wins is over Connecticut on a neutral floor, but in this case it probably actually is their best achievement.
– Florida didn’t play this week, but drop from #25 last week to #31 this week anyway. This would be explained by teams around the Gators simply passing them up, but also a devaluation of the teams that UF has played (mostly Xavier, but also UConn)
– It was a dreadful weekend for Purdue, who suffered a pretty embarrassing 14-point loss to Nebraska Sunday. Their demolishing of Virginia now feels like a lifetime ago, as they drop from #24 last week to #46 this week.
– But nobody had a worse week than North Carolina, who were #22 in last week’s update but fell all the way to #49 this week. The Heels’ résumé before this weekend wasn’t great, but it was something you could make excuses for; losses to Michigan, Ohio State and Virginia are losses, but they’re losses to good teams. But their only game this week was a loss at home to Wofford. If you followed college basketball closely last season, you’ll know that last year’s Wofford was a really good team, and a #7 seed in the tournament. But this year’s Wofford is not that. Carolina now probably has to worry about making the tournament at all rather than being in the top 25.

Notable unranked teams include #31 Florida, #32 Tennessee, #33 Stanford, #37 Georgetown, #40 Washington, #41 Arizona State, #42 Duquesne and #48 Liberty (the other two remaining undefeated teams), #45 Texas Tech, #49 North Carolina, #50 Illinois, #54 USC, #59 Connecticut, #63 TCU, #72 Ole Miss, #73 Saint Louis, #77 Missouri, #110 UCLA, #137 Loyola Chicago, #179 Murray State, #186 Illinois State, and #340 SIUE (that’s out of 353). Let me know if you’d like regular updates on where your favorite team is ranked – I can be sure to include them in this spot as the year rolls along.

That’s all for this update – I think I’ll run a Season Sim at some point this week so look out for that as well.

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