Wednesday, March 20, 2019

2019 NCAA Tournament Preview

There are really only two things I look at before going about filling out my NCAA Tournament brackets. Well, 3 things. If you count my brain. Which is crammed full of all sorts of college basketball whatnot from both this year and years past. But since I won't be loaning my brain out, I recommend you consult these 2 other tools before getting down to business.

1. Ken Pomeroy Ratings: Ken's "tempo free" analytical ratings are notorious both for identifying tournament teams that may have been "improperly valued" by the selection committee, and for pointing out which teams are obviously the best equipped to ultimately cut down the nets.

Example: Ken has Louisville @ #17, and Wofford @ #19. Yet both were given #7 seeds in the Tournament. Meaning the committee views them more as the 25th-28th best teams in the Tournament. Similarly, St. Mary's finds themselves as #31 on KenPom, yet were seeded #11, in the 41-44 range.  Finding "discrepancies" like that (AKA "value") can often help point you in the right direction in terms of which teams may overachieve...


2. First Round Spreads: Target "upsets" in first round games with close spreads. Some 10+ point underdog will probably win outright. But attempting to identify that team is a futile enterprise. Stick to games with closer spreads, and try to identify any irregularities.

Example: #12 Oregon was a 2 point favorite against #5 Wisconsin, in a game that's seen wild swings in the spread (Oregon is now (+2)). The 3 other #5 seeds are 4, 5, and 6 point favorites, respectively. Not a huge discrepancy, necessarily. But value doesn't always come in massive helpings...

Remember. All 7/10 and 3/14 games aren't created equal. So if the spread looks closer than the seeding should suggest, then that game could very well present some solid value in terms of picking an upset...

OK, so. You've used KenPom to identify value, and you've scouted first round games for suspicious looking spreads. Nice! Now, all that's left, is to avoid picking Duke to win, and you should be all set!

I say that half jokingly, of course. Duke could certainly win. In which case you would most definitely need them as your champion in order for you too to cut down the nets. And if you're entering lots of different brackets (weeeeeee!), it's certainly OK to throw the blue Devils in there, somewhere. Just know that, when you do pick Duke, you'll also need a relatively clean bracket heading into the title game in order to expect a big payday. Barring that, you'll likely be devoured by the myriad of other Duke entries in your pool, who had you pipped by 1 or 2 picks like 3 weeks earlier. And if that's your poison, by all means. But I'm all about value. And with Duke clearly being the champion of choice among the masses (nearly 50% of brackets are projected to have them as the winner), that value lies pretty much anywhere other than Durham, North Carolina...

And that philosophy doesn't just apply to Duke. More often than not, you want to fade ( or avoid) what you feel will be the more popular selections. Not because they're more likely to be the right selections. But because the payoff will be more than high enough when they are right, to make up for all of the times when the chalk and the public prevail. Again, it's all about value. And there's no value in riding with all of the most popular squads. No matter what that "bracket expert", whose only success came when all 4 #1 seeds made the Final Four in 2008, will try to tell you...

Sorry, I just couldn't resist that final shot. Had to do it. And now Duke's gonna win, just to spite me. Oh well...

OK. Now, without further dudes, here's what I got when I put my aforementioned strategy into place. Enjoy! And good luck!


Sleepers: (7) Cincinnati; (9) Oklahoma; (11) St. Mary's; (12) Oregon; (13) UC Irvine

Winner: (1) Virginia


Sleepers: (8) Syracuse; (10) Florida; (12) Murray St.

Winner: (1) Gonzaga


Sleepers: (7) Louisville; (11) Belmont; (14) Yale

Winner: (2) Michigan St.


Sleepers: (6) Iowa St.;  (7) Wofford; (13) Northeastern

Winner: (1) North Carolina


(2) Michigan St. vs (1) Gonzaga

(1) Virginia vs (1) North Carolina


Virginia Cavaliers


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