Z-Bracket 2014 (XII, if you will)
In the year since I last composed the Z-Bracket, I've made two moves and taken two new jobs, and suffered a very personal loss. I'm on a weird schedule right now that has delayed publication a couple of says. But we're ready to roll now, and by that, I mean we're ready to use this year's Z-Ratings through March 16 as the foundation for figuring out which sixty-eight teams I'd select, and how I'd match them up. (Summary of previous brackets | Jump to this year's bracket)
Selecting the field
Step 1: the automatic bids.
The number of automatic bids rises by one in 2014, thanks to the partition of the Big East into its successor, the American Athletic Conference, and the new Big East (aka the former "Catholic Seven" plus three schools). So we're up to 32, with every school save the Ivy League giving it to the conference tournament champion.
|Wichita State||Missouri Valley||1||Tulsa||Conference USA||99|
|Florida||Southeastern||2||New Mexico State||Western Athletic||104|
|Iowa State||Big 12||6||Delaware||Colonial Athletic||109|
|Virginia||Atlantic Coast||11||North Carolina Central||Mid-Eastern Athletic||114|
|Michigan State||Big Ten||13||Mercer||Atlantic Sun||121|
|Louisville||American Athletic||15||Louisiana - Lafayette||Sun Belt||132|
|UCLA||Pacific-12||17||Eastern Kentucky||Ohio Valley||135|
|New Mexico||Mountain West||22||Milwaukee||Horizon League||143|
|Gonzaga||West Coast||35||Weber State||Big Sky||181|
|Providence||Big East||38||American||Patriot League||183|
|Saint Joseph's||Atlantic 10||43||Cal Poly||Big West||196|
|Stephen F. Austin||Southland||55||Wofford||Southern||221|
|Harvard||Ivy League||62||Coastal Carolina||Big South||225|
|North Dakota State||Summit League||75||Mount St. Mary's||Northeast||231|
|Western Michigan||Mid-American||85||Albany||America East||233|
|Manhattan||Metro Atlantic Athletic||94||Texas Southern||Southwestern Athletic||265|
Step 2: the at-large bids.
Since the size of the tournament field is unchanged at 68, one at-large berth goes away, and we thus take the 36 highest rated teams not liated in the previous table, who are:
The three teams in italics was not selected for the actual tournament field; pretty good, though not as quite as spot on as only missing one last year. The three teams that the real-life committee took and I didn't are North Carolina State (52), Dayton (53), and Brigham Young (59).
|Syracuse||5||Ohio State||23||Kansas State||36|
|Wisconsin||8||North Carolina||25||George Washington||39|
|San Diego State||9||Oregon||26||Iowa||40|
Seeding the teams
The first round
There's a slight change to the First Four this year, as the principles for building the bracket specify the way the eight teams are to be paired. Otherwise, we continue with the rules I've been using the last two years:
- The last and next-to-last at-large teams will play in the first round, as will the third-to-last and fourth-to-last at-large teams. The bottom four seeds will be paired 65 v. 66 and 67. v. 68. (This is the change specified by the NCAA.)
- The seed that teams in the "First Four" will play for is determined by the field ranking of the higher-ranked team. That ranking will also determine precedence for the placement of the winners of the first-round games into the "main" 64-team bracket.
- Teams scheduled to play Wednesday, March 19 MUST be assigned to a Friday/Sunday pod for the second and third rounds. Teams playing on Tuesday, March 18 can be sent to either a Thursday/Saturday or Friday/Sunday pod.
In the event that other principles create conflict (particularly those concerning intra-conference matchups), the First Four pairings may be altered, but only as a last resort. Since the principles now allow rules regarding intra-conference matchups to be relaxes with respect to the teams in the First Four, this is no longer required.
Creating the seed list
Since we used the Z-Ratings to select the at-large teams, we use the very same ratings to order them for their seeding. Teams listed in the same cell will face off in the first round.
||104||54||New Mexico State
||114||56||North Carolina Central
||132||58||Louisiana - Lafayette
|3||9||9||San Diego State||
||55||48||Stephen F. Austin||
Mount St. Mary's
||75||50||North Dakota State||
Rk = overall ranking by the Z-Ratings.
FR = Field ranking - the ranking of the team among the field of 68.
Another good year with the seeding, with only two major seeding discrepancies, one in each direction (VCU too high, Pitt too low). Some might have an issue with Wichita State being the top overall seed, given their weak strength of schedule. It's a point well taken this year, due to the shortcoming of the Z-Ratings in handling an undefeated team (the first time I've had to do so since I've been keeping the ratings). I considered moving the γ (weighting of tied games) to a higher figure than the 0.05 I've used in the final weeks of the season, but for the sake of consistency, I'm leaving it there and not making any ad hoc adjustment. WSU is the number three overall in the actual bracket, so it's not like there was a massive gulf between my assessment of the Shockers and that of the committee (as there was with one-loss Murray State two years ago).
Establishing the bracket
Our regionals this year: East (New York City); South (Memphis); Midwest (Indianapolis); and West (Anaheim).
As has always been the case, the bracket is built using the principles established by the selection committee. They've changed a bit this time around, what with all the conference shuffling that transpired in the previous offseason:
- The point at which teams from the same conference can meet depends on how many times they've already squared off:
- Three or more times - regional final (round of 8).
- Twice - regional semifinal (round of 16).
- Once or not at all - third round (round of 32).
- The first four teams from a conference go to different regionals, provided they are seeded on the first four lines
- Teams seeded Nos. 1 thru 4 will not be put at a severe "home-court disadvantage" in the second round (the round of 64).
- A team cannot play in an arena where it has played more than three regular season games, excluding conference tournaments (i.e. any home court).
- A team cannot play at a site where its school is hosting. At the regional level, we can't place Memphis in the South or St. John's in the East. For the first weekend of the tournament, the only team affected is San Diego State, which can't play in San Diego.
- If two teams from the same region are in contention for the same slot, the one with the higher rating remains in its region. (The guidelines say "true seed," formerly "S-Curve"; we instead use our ratings, as they produced our seeds.)
- If necessary, a team's seed can be adjusted up or down one spot to meet the principles; as much as I hope to try to get through a bracket without doing this, I always end up having to. As was true last year, the committee voted itself the ability to move a team two lines from its true seed in "extraordinary circumstances."
We also adhere to the bracketing procedure outlined in the championship handbook (also at the link just above). As always, the three "additional considerations" listed after the procedure (relating to rematches of games from the regular season and last year's championship, and moving teams out of their natural region an inordinate number of times) and are not used in the construction of the Z-Bracket.
Step 1: Place the No. 1 seeds, and pair the regional winners for the national semifinals.
As it happens, we get pretty natural fits with our top four teams - Wichita State to the Midwest, Florida to the South, Arizona to the West, Villanova to the East. Since 2004, we set up the Final Four such that if all four of these teams advance to play under a video board nearly twice as long as the court itself, it's overall 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3. Thus it'll be Midwest v. East, and South v. West.
Step 2: Place the No. 2 seeds.
With Villanova in the East already, we can't place Syra- oh yeah, we totally can, since the Orange are in the ACC now! Iowa State to the Midwest; Kansas to the South; Wisconsin to the West.
Step 3: Place the No. 3 seeds.
San Diego State to the West. Michigan has to be sent to the East because neither Virginia nor Creighton can go there. The Cavaliers head to the South and the Bluejays to the Midwest. Incidentally, this setup helps with our balance.
Step 4: Place the No. 4 seeds.
Michigan State to the Midwest; Duke is constrained to the West with ACC teams already in the East and South; Louisville to the South; Cincinnati to the East.
Step 5: Check for conflicts and balance in the Nos. 1 through 4 seeds.
The balance of the bracket is checked by summing the field rankings of the four teams in each regional. Perfect balance is 34 for each; the lowest and highest should be within five. Those sums are 32, 34, 35, 35 (M, W, E, S, respectively); for the first time in a while, we don't have to consider any changes at this point.
Step 6: Assign first and second round sites.
Going in the same order as they were placed into the bracket, we assign the top 16 to the eight opening weekend sites.
St. Louis, MO: Wichita State, Kansas
Orlando, FL: Florida, Michigan State
San Diego, CA: Arizona, Cincinnati
Buffalo, NY: Villanova, Syracuse
Milwaukee, WI: Iowa State, Wisconsin
Spokane, WA: San Diego State, Louisville
Raleigh, NC: Michigan, Virginia
San Antonio, TX: Creighton, Duke
Step 7: Place the No. 5 through 16 seeds.
Based on the seeds, the remaining fifty-two teams aren't expected to be playing beyond the first Sunday of the tournament, so we place them in their natural region to the extent possible, given the other constraints of the bracket and based on the pods we just assigned.
Step 7a: Place the No. 5 seeds. (Available sites: Orlando, San Antonio, San Diego, Spokane)
UCLA to the East. Oklahoma to the West. Connecticut has to go in the Midwest because it has played Louisville three times already, and thus Baylor ends up in the South.
Step 7b: Place the No. 6 seeds. (Available sites: Raleigh , San Antonio, Spokane)
Texas to the Midwest, permissible since the Longhorns played Iowa State only twice. New Mexico must go East or South, to Raleigh either way; I'm choosing the East because it helps with the next team, Ohio State. The Buckeyes go to the South and Pittsburgh to the West.
Step 7c: Place the No. 7 seeds. (Available sites: Buffalo , Milwaukee, St. Louis)
There's no way to keep North Carolina in its natural region with these pods, so I'm putting them in the Midwest. The rest of the line is unencumbered, so Oregon to the South, Saint Louis to the West, and Kentucky to the East.
Step 7d: Place the No. 8 seeds. (Available sites: Buffalo, Orlando, San Diego, St. Louis)
Colorado to the Midwest; Oklahoma State to the South to enable Massachusetts to be placed in the East; and Memphis to the West.
Step 7e: Place the No. 9 seeds. (Available sites: Buffalo, Orlando, San Diego, St. Louis)
VCU to the South, which means that Arizona State goes to the East. Gonzaga to the West, and Kansas State to the Midwest.
Step 7f: Place the No. 10 seeds. (Available sites: Buffalo , Milwaukee, St. Louis)
Stanford to the West; Providence to the East; George Washington to the South; Iowa to the Midwest.
Step 7g: Place the No. 11 seeds. (Available sites: Raleigh , San Antonio, Spokane)
Xavier to the East; Nebraska to the West; Saint Joseph's to the Midwest; and the Utah/Tennessee winner to the South.
Step 7h: Place the No. 12 seeds. (Available sites: Orlando, San Antonio, San Diego, Spokane)
The winner of St. John's and Minnesota to the South; Stephen F. Austin to the West; Harvard to the Midwest; and North Dakota State to the East.
Step 7i: Place the No. 13 seeds. (Available sites: Orlando, San Antonio, San Diego, Spokane)
Western Michigan to the West; Manhattan to the Midwest; Tulsa to the South; New Mexico State to the East.
Step 7j: Place the No. 14 seeds. (Available sites: Raleigh , San Antonio, Spokane)
Delaware to the East; North Carolina Central to the Midwest (not the South, due to the home-court disadvantage provision); Mercer to the South, and Louisiana-Lafayette to the West.
Step 7k: Place the No. 15 seeds. (Available sites: Buffalo , Milwaukee, St. Louis)
Eastern Kentucky to the Midwest; Milwaukee to the South; Weber State to the West; American to the East.
Step 7l: Place the No. 16 seeds. (Available sites: Buffalo, Orlando, San Diego, St. Louis)
Cal Poly to the West; Wofford to the South; the Coastal Carolina v. Mount St. Mary's winner to the Midwest; and the winner of Albany v. Texas Southern to the East.
Step 8: Re-check the entire bracket for conflicts.
There are six possible matchups of teams from the same conference prior to the Elite Eight, all of which are in the Sweet Sixteen. In all six cases, the pairs of teams in question played once or twice this year:
The last one was only caught on the final review of the bracket; I'm lucky I didn't have to go through and start changing things around. Having satisfied those conditions, voilà!
- Arizona State / UCLA — January 12
- Oklahoma State / Baylor — February 1, February 17
- Utah / Oregon — January 2
- Texas / Iowa State — January 18, February 18
- Nebraska / Wisconsin — March 9
- Xavier / Providence — January 25, February 8
|MIDWEST (Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis)||SOUTH (FedExForum, Memphis)|
|1||Wichita State||Scottrade Center|
St. Louis, MO
|9||Kansas State||Virginia Commonwealth||9|
|Spokane Vet. Mem. Arena|
San Antonio, TX
|14||North Carolina Central||Mercer||14|
|7||North Carolina||BMO Harris Bradley Center|
St. Louis, MO
(AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX)
Midwest v. East
South v. West
|EAST (Madison Square Garden, New York City)||WEST (Honda Center, Anaheim)|
|1||Villanova||First Niagara Center|
San Diego, CA
San Diego, CA
San Antonio, TX
|12||North Dakota State||Stephen F. Austin||12|
|13||New Mexico State||Western Michigan||13|
|Spokane Vet. Mem. Arena|
|San Diego State||3|
|14||Delaware||Louisiana - Lafayette||14|
|7||Kentucky||First Niagara Center|
|BMO Harris Bradley Center|
|FIRST ROUND (UD Arena, Dayton) - Tuesday||FIRST ROUND (UD Arena, Dayton) - Wednesday|
|St. John's||(to South #12)||(to South #11)||Utah|
|Albany||(to East #16)||(to Midwest #16)||Coastal Carolina|
|Texas Southern||Mount St. Mary's|
Bells and whistles
Earlier, I said that I wasn't adjusting Wichita State's rating or seeding due to its rating. One effect that will have, however, is that I'm forgoing bracket simulations due to the expectation that the results will be skewed in favor of the Shockers. Doing a bracket with a much more significant γ would reorder the teams and change the bracket we've already made.
Once again, QB64, which is a light-years ahead of the old MS-DOS interface I'd been working with for so long. Ken Pomeroy, without whose raw data this task would be much harder. Of course, John Whelan and Ken Butler, upon whose shoulders I am merely standing.
That's all for this year - this thing is already late enough as it is. Thanks, and let's hope Cornell gets back on the upswing in 2014-15 (which is almost assured, since the Big Red can't fall much further).
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