DON'T SMOKE BRACK...ET: March 2

By Patrick Vint on March 2, 2020 at 11:00 am
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In the aftermath of a big win over Penn State, it's time we check in on the bracketologists in their labs.

THE BRACKETS

ESPN (Joe Lunardi, 3/2):  5 seed, West Regional vs. Wichita State/Utah State

Even though they were at home and against teams that are ranked right around Iowa's current placing, the wins over Ohio State and Penn State are hugely consequential.  For one, both of those teams hold more sway with the analytics guys than the AP: OSU was Kenpom No. 8 headed into the Iowa game, and PSU was No. 20.  For another, the OSU game was the rare Iowa appearance on ESPN; yes, college basketball coverage has dispersed, but getting onto the Worldwide Leader still means more eyeballs.  It's not a coincidence that the Luka Garza Player of the Year candidacy went to the stratosphere after that appearance (and the MSU loss, too).

So Iowa took two of three from OSU, MSU and PSU, and voila!  It's a five seed from Lunardi.  I, for one, would thoroughly enjoy this draw: Garza going up against Wichita State's Jaime Echinique, then Iowa-Creighton in the NCAA Tournament's First-to-200-wins game, with the Hawkeyes just settling scores for Drake, UNI and all of the other leftover Missouri Valley squads like the big brother they are.

 

SB Nation (Chris Dobbertean, 3/2): 4 seed, Midwest Regional vs. Akron

Dobbertean is back to being our favorite person.

Last week, BTB moved Iowa back to a five seed.  This week, it's the last of the four lines, which would mean a trip to Indianapolis and a matchup with Akron.  And if you think that doesn't much matter, consider this: Move Iowa down to the top 5 line and the Hawks would draw Liberty.  Yes, the Flames' 27-4 record is padded by a whole bunch of garbage, but their style -- basically ripped from Tony Bennett's in-state program -- would be problematic, and their shooting is freakishly good.  Akron is a respectable 22-7, but their efficiency numbers are nowhere close to as good as Liberty.  And that doesn't even factor in that the Committee could get cute and pair Iowa with a 12 seed UNI.  I don't want to see UNI ever again, particularly in a 5/12 game.

CBS Sports (Jerry Palm, 3/2): 5 seed, South Region vs. Texas/Richmond

Pairing Iowa with the only 12 vs. 12 play-in game -- his other 12 seeds are Akron, ETSU and Stephen F. Austin, all auto-bid recipients -- implies that Palm has the Hawkeyes as his worst 5 seed.  It's an interesting spot, considering that Ohio State is also a 5 and Penn State is a 4.  Not gonna lie: This isn't the first time that Palm's bracket has lacked a certain internal logic.

Texas hadn't beaten anyone with a pulse all year until this week; the volume of TEXAS IS BACK talk based on wins over West Virginia and Texas Tech is positively football-esque.  Richmond beat Wisconsin in November and has a beast of a center in Grant Golden.  Not wild about seeing either one of them, to be honest.

Bracket Matrix (3/1): 5 seed

Bracket Matrix hasn't factored in the March 2 brackets yet, which is important: 

This weekend was a disaster for teams ahead of Iowa.  Colorado got mollywhopped at Stanford yesterday, its third loss in a row.  Auburn lost at Kentucky Saturday,which should theoretically be factored into those March 1 brackets but might not be in all of them.  West Virginia lost again, their sixth in the last seven games.  This is going to shuffle considerably in the next couple of days, but with Iowa as the bottom 5 seed, it's not certain to result in a significant move up.

 

THE PERIPHERALS

NCAA NET rating (through 3/1): 29
Kenpom: 21

Not much movement here.  The discussion now turns to just how much NET matters to the internal bracketing.  Scott Van Pelt laid it out in plain terms last night (about 1:13:00 into the show):

I preemptively ask one question: Not who is seeding this Tournament, but how...We tend to focus on the top of the bracket and the bubble, and I'm less interested in both of those issues at the moment.  And I'm trying to wrap my head around how the committee will differentiate elsewhere....

How predictive are the NET rankings?  This is the big one.  It's great for Duke if they are, because they've lost three out of four.  They have not budged.  They're still sixth, which is where they started before all of these losses. 

Shockingly, I'm going to use Maryland again as a basis for concern about those rankings, as a home loss to Michigan State dropped the Terps six spots.  That says it's worse to lose by a dozen at home to a Michigan State team that is a tournament lock, than it is to lose on the road to NC State by 22, and by 11 to Wake Forest who's sub-.500.  It literally had zero negative impact on the Devils' ranking.  Meanwhile, Virginia's gotta be looking around going, 'How do we beat Duke and go up exactly one spot?' 

The committee became too beholden to RPI, which is how we ended up with the NET.  Now it looks like the NET might not be properly reactive to real-time results, at least not in differentiating between the pack of teams from seed lines 3 through 7.  I am not convinced that is going to matter, when the committee has to justify its better mousetrap somehow.

John Gasaway Bubble Watch: LOCK
Eamonn Brennan Bubble Watch: LOCK

We can officially stop watching bubbles.  Iowa's in the field.

CURRENT STATUS: Probably a 5 seed, but the sands are quickly shifting.

GAMES TO WATCH:

We're going to be doing these a few times this week, so the look-ahead is only for a couple of days.  Obviously, that starts with Iowa's game against Purdue Tuesday.  At the same time, West Virginia is in Ames (ESPNU), allowing ISU one more chance to screw Iowa this year (as if their all-out assault on Iowa's strength of schedule wasn't enough).  Marquette's playing DePaul that night (FS1), as well, but the Golden Eagles have lost four out of five and fallen back into 7-seed range.  A Kentucky loss to Tennessee (ESPN) would be unlikely but potentially beneficial.

Tonight's slate isn't nearly as consequential.  There are only two Power Six games, both on ESPN.  A Texas Tech win at Baylor could boost the Red Raiders out of 8/9 territory, but would also theoretically improve Iowa's strength of schedule.  NC State and Duke is of no real consequence, unless another Blue Devil loss would drop them into the 4/5 games and potentially pair Vernon Carey against The Peacock in the second round.

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