28 March 2016

Thoughts on Drumpf

"For one thing, what’s wrong with a lot of what he says isn’t about truth or falsity but moral repugnance. If you are an adult and you don’t know why it’s insane for Trump to mock prisoners of war or call for intentionally killing innocent family members of terrorists there’s nothing the media can tell you to change that. The government already spent twelve years paying to educate these people for eight hours a day five days a week and for many that apparently didn’t work. I’m not sure how an hour of Anderson Cooper every night is going to accomplish much." I've been looking at this narrative for a while, several months really; that the problem is that the media covered him too much. Except that at the outset, the media more or less chose to ignore him. Various entities have tried to boycott or block him. The whole thing is a mess. There's also been a lot of work involved in this idea that dismisses the behavior and ideas of his followers. I don't think that's necessary at all. This sort of thing was an ugly possibility anywhere. The US has never quite embraced it. Not for decades at least. Some of the uglier Progressive era policies (which accounts for most of the stuff Wilson and Hoover did), maybe? The campaign involved in Prohibition often resembles this. Jim Crow does also. Huey Long got shot before anything came up there. Father Coughlin went off the air (because of the war). Andrew Jackson might be the last populist to succeed in American politics at this level and he won a major battle in a war that was already technically over to allow him to pretend to be a war hero (incidentally, he was also a POW). Trump doesn't have even this kind of faux credibility. (To be clear, Jackson was probably one of the worst Presidents in US history, and this is largely why). So even this modest possibility of capturing a nomination of a major political party suggests an institutional problem has occurred in the country to create this. I would put forward the proposition that the media did not do this. They didn't create several million people willing to vote for this idiot. Though they certainly haven't helped (bending over backward to talk to him, and thus giving him free airtime instead of making him pay for his primary campaign in order to get publicity and attention, not the best idea in the world). That means WE are the problem. The public. The populace has to be in a position to embrace a populist. We created this. Expecting the media to mediate it, to reduce it, or to push us away from what (some of) the public tends to be, when it tends to endorse as darker and more craven impulses, that's not going to work. We have had a series of curious moral failures. Large numbers of the public believe torture is morally acceptable. Huge numbers of Republicans do, but that there are not acceptably large numbers of liberals and Democrats who reject such a policy, and indeed who do not insist on the treaty agreements that were put into place by Ronald Reagan (of all people), that we should prosecute violations of torture and human rights ordered by or carried out by our government officials, is suggestive this is a deeper problem than merely red state politics running off the deep end. We shouldn't have to waste time explaining why these are not things Americans should do; torturing captives. Bombing civilians deliberately. Murdering families. Excluding thousands of suffering people from emigrating away from their homes because of their religious prayers referencing Allah instead of Jesus. Vast numbers of people apparently believe these are acceptable behaviors now. How did that happen? Who is to blame? Fear? Maybe. Rage? More likely. Ours has historically been an optimistic culture. Even as it recognizes that it fails miserable to live up to that promise of opportunity, freedom, fairness, justice. A certain amount of idealised nonsense pervades what constitutes patriotic fervor at any time, a certain amount of blindness is necessary to pretend this is a great thing. "A noble experiment." It seems clear that there is among us a certain subset of people who perhaps felt that experiment was fine so long as they believed that experiment was rigged to favor people like themselves. This belief has collapsed for some number of people. Trump does better (if not his best) in counties that voted heavily for George Wallace. That was nearly 50 years ago. Entire generations of families have been raised and grown old since. These counties apparently have had nothing better to do than to harbor and protect resentments. Few of them have changed substantially, apparently. I can't in good conscience defend such people and their views, to shield them by giving them the excuse that it "was not their fault". These views, given form in a public figure, are morally repulsive. As are the people who hold them. We were supposed to conclude in 2008, I felt erroneously, that racism had been destroyed. That our resentments were no more. I think it is clear from events since that this is not the case. We were to conclude that the death of Osama bin Laden meant that the "war on terror" was over. Cynically, I was aware this would not be the case. And that fear remains a powerful weapon to exploit. But that fear existed before most of these people had ever heard of OBL. If it is fear that these people are engaged with, and wrestling with, I am not the best messenger for overcoming it. I do not recognize most of these as valid fears ("race wars", fear of other religious beliefs, fear of terrorism, fear of immigrants). Indeed, I find there is no evidence in support of any of these to be generalized as policies, or carried out in our names. Such fears are unreasonable and best suffered and indulged alone and in private than as a public recrimination. But if it is rage that drives us, and in turn hatred and not merely fear. That is something else entirely.

22 March 2016

Quick pot odds projects

These will be premised not on the likelihood of an upset statistically, but on the relative nature of how many people are likely to pick it compared to that statistical probability. (bold is the post-first weekend reactions)

1) Champ
Avoid Kansas or Michigan St. Michigan St would be currently my favored pick if I had to pick someone, but there's a big drop-off and they have been heavily hyped it appears.

There's about an 8 or 9 team draw that makes the most sense to pull from as a title shot.
(In no particular order) Kansas, Michigan St, Oklahoma, Virginia, Carolina, Kentucky, and Villanova, with West Virginia and Purdue being the outside shots (although Virginia playing so slow doesn't help). Of these, Kansas, Michigan State, Carolina and Villanova seem the strongest. Oklahoma's offense isn't as great, Virginia plays too slowly, and Kentucky's defense is pretty meh (they have the top rated offense). (of these teams, 4 are gone, but two were outside shots anyway, only two of the top 7 are, and I avoided Michigan St on account of lots of people had picked them).

2) South Region

Best odds for improvement on the Final Four pick would be to take Villanova or Arizona.

Best odds for upsets:
Arizona losing in the first round - this is mostly the public not liking the play-in game winners. Also the winner of that game (Arizona/Wichita/Vandy) over Miami. (partly right)
Iowa to hold off Temple - this is not an upset, it's just undervalued because Iowa hasn't played well in the Big Ten.

3) West Region

Best odds for Final Four
Most teams here are about priced in correctly. The public seems to have figured out that Oregon was overrated. Oregon may actually be the best "bet", but Oklahoma still seems to be the favorite. Oregon's main weakness is an average defense.

VCU. Oregon St is pretty meh. For some reason this isn't being taken like crazy as a gimme. (duh)
Yale over Baylor - Yale is pretty good. Baylor is a little low for a 5 seed. Yale also looks promising as a rare pick versus Duke (Baylor only looks okay for an upset there). Neither Duke or Baylor has a good defense. (huzzah)
Texas advancing deeper in the field - Elite 8 for example. Northern Iowa is a reasonable upset chance in the first round, but about priced in correctly. After that, Texas is a little underrated. (fortunately didn't take my own advice)

4) East Region

Final Four
Indiana actually looks slightly favorable here, but mainly taking West Virginia would be useful. (ouch)

Notre Dame losing to Michigan or Tulsa. Notre Dame cannot play defense. (struggled against SFA even)
Pitt or Wisconsin over Xavier. (huzzah)

5) Midwest Region

Final Four
Virginia or Purdue. Avoid Michigan State if possible

Gonzaga over Seton Hall (and Utah) (huzzah)

Daredevil Season 2

Spoilers. Obviously.

1) Fight sequences remain top notch. The staircase sequence at the tail end of episode 3 should rival anything ever done to this point. It doesn't have the same resonance for me as the fight at the end of episode 2 in season 1 (the hallway fight). But it's still ridiculous. Fights with Punisher, fights alongside Elektra, fights by Punisher/Elektra, all pretty good. Several fights with the Hand are interesting/impressive.

2) Murdock as a character isn't well constructed this season. They make a very small reference to him being okay with people being killed. But unlike season 1 where there is a long-drawn out conflict over murder/vigilantism internal to being/becoming Daredevil, there's kind of a short couple of conversations where he goes from nearly getting Elektra killed in order to avoid killing to now letting Stick/Frank/Elektra kill people alongside him and him essentially trying to kill Nobu. Because he has to? Because they're all trying to kill him and there's no legal system to deal with the Hand? Because he's suddenly fighting a war against legions of katana wielding ninjas? It isn't made clear what flipped this switch other than that he now has flipped it.

He has some really vague and poorly written sequences intersecting with his legal career. The DA putting the firm on the shit list doesn't really seem like it would have any real impact. They have really weird clients anyway and Elektra gives them a cash infusion. I don't understand how they would notice a drop-off in work or a major change in the bills. The Punisher case is handled strangely throughout, clumsily used as a plot device to give Foggy something to do to distinguish himself from Matt, and eventually leave to do more important things in future seasons/other Defenders series (one could see him popping up in Luke Cage/Jessica Jones pretty easily as another crossover character like Claire). Foggy is thereby well written therein (both in the trial and in the earlier sequence with Claire at the hospital), but Matt's "questioning" of Frank is lame, the overall handling of the case makes little sense (they basically repeatedly ignore that their client won't play ball with the defenses they have planned, and then put him on the stand?), and the entire plot line involving the DA doesn't really fly either as it feels like an extremely ham-fisted attempt to cover up something throughout.

3) Karen is also written very strangely. I did not mind her poking around in the Punisher case and developing a rapport with him. I did mind the "article" she writes at the end, which wasn't a news article. It felt more like a high school speech. I did mind that they kept using her as a plot device to place someone in danger for Daredevil or Punisher to come rescue (lazy). She nearly freaked out in the first season after someone tries to frame her, and then kill her, a fairly ordinary response to danger. So how's she going to handle nearly being killed 4-5 times in a couple of days? This was setup by basically making her kind of shrug the first time it happens (after Frank nearly kills her), but it isn't much of a changeover (much like Murdock's change on killing). I do think they've set up a Born Again plot with Fisk and her past and her knowledge of who Daredevil is. But while she has good investigative instincts, she's not a reporter. That whole plot line made no sense as a result.

Claire's departure from the hospital also is handled strangely. There's clearly some kind of setup to indicate that the Hand bought off the hospital administrators to hush things up, but we don't really explore that (nobody thinks to mention this to Murdock or Elektra?). She remains one of the better characters in the show when they use her, but her reaction to setting up a special wing to care for some curious patients on DD's behalf doesn't really make much sense. Note: I would expect her to show up in Luke Cage later in the year. Even though he doesn't need much medical care/help and he seems the most balanced ethically of the four-five major characters that have been introduced (DD, Elektra, Frank, JJ), he will be around people who will/might.

4) Frank/Punisher is by contrast pretty well constructed. He has a straightforward setup as a character. And he more or less owns most of the sequences he is in, basically the first four episodes, plus two more. They left enough unanswered about the character that it will probably be a spin-off series of its own soon enough. They gave him a pretty weak send-off in the finale, as he shows up to snipe a couple of ninjas and show off his trademark armor and then go off to do other Punisher things.

5) Elektra is often not given much to work with as far as the writing/setups for her character. I wouldn't blame the actress so much as the material being sort of meh. I think Jennifer Garner did about as well with far worse material in the previous incarnation of the character, but there's going to be more time to get this right and let her flex a little more. She doesn't really have a chemistry with DD other than that she is a catalyst for everything else (she is literally a plot device a couple of times, much like Karen is). I suspect part of the problem is simply the awkward way DD and her interact at times and her sometimes playing a (weakened) love interest and then sometimes playing an aggressive and dynamic female character. The change of paces that involves don't usually make sense and often slow down too much from fight sequences or some other dramatic event (when she kills the ninja in Murdock's apartment for instance).

She's supposed to be a super-bad-ass fighting machine, then Nobu and a few ninjas nearly take her out a couple of times so she comes off almost like a damsel in distress half the time instead of being pretty resourceful and crafty as she comes off the rest of the time. She's given a sort of wild child edge most of the time which it starts out more interesting and then goes off into "ah ha, plot mcguffin territory!" instead of that being a balanced and well-defined character trait. Contrast this with the way Catwoman may be the only character in DKR that works, in large part because there's a clearer arc for how she interacts with the city/villains/heroes despite being an anti-hero of sorts throughout in her actions (there's a similar parallel to her being fine killing/using guns and Batman finally overlooking this).

As an added bonus though Elektra looks a lot cooler most of the time. DD's suit still needs some work here and there (the look in black for most of season 1 still destroys his armored costume most of the time for looking awesome. Though getting the billy club was a nice touch).

I did like the Hand fights where they figured out DD's weaknesses and exploited them, and that he learned how to compensate, but Nobu was "generic comic book villain in charge of a shadowy organisation" for most of the series once he shows up. Several of their activities weren't really well explained. What's that giant hole doing? What were those infected kids doing other than looking like a bad Halloween movie? What are they doing with the hospital? Why are their warriors previously dead guys? Why doesn't DD buy into the mystical bullshit? (he's religious, so he already buys some mystical bullshit, and he's up against some really freaky opponents who can mask their movements, heartbeats, etc). Few of these are well examined. One imagines because of how the season ended, some of these questions will be answered and examined later. But so far they're very unsatisfying.

6) Fisk's two episode cameo was very unexpected and very good. I approve. Though it also gives some suggestion of how weakly the Nobu/Hand villain plot line was handled. And the Blacksmith arc for Punisher.

Overall I'd say something like a 6 or 7/10 for this season, and maybe 8.5/10 for the first. The finale last year maybe lowers it to 8/10, but it's much more tightly constructed as a season of events where this sprawls and doesn't do quite enough running to cover all the ground while also expending a lot of time dropping leftovers for the next series/seasons. There's a couple of very good episodes (early on there are two in particular, and one of the later episodes involves some nice touches on the morality of what's going on). But they're all good largely because they're practically Punisher episodes (or involved Fisk). Which almost certainly bodes well for creating a spin-off series, but doesn't bode well for working with the DD characters/arc.

14 March 2016

Extended bubble thoughts

Lunardi's apparently throwing a fit about Tulsa and San Diego St, and it appears the AD at St Bonaventure is throwing a fit as well.

Looking at these specific cases:

San Diego State of the 8-9 bubble teams had the worst case by far for inclusion. They have one quality win (Cal). That's it. The only other top 100 wins they have are Fresno (lost to them twice) and Boise St (split in conference). They did play an impressive non-conference slate (Kansas, West Virginia, Utah, UALR, plus the aforementioned Cal game), but they lost those games. Most of them were not close. UALR was at home. They also lost two more non-conference games to poor quality opponents (San Diego and Grand Canyon). The idea that they had a case was premised on one win and some decent computer rankings that the committee never looks at (they are a top 50 team in those). That's not a very good case.

St Bonaventure is a poster child for "why we should abandon the RPI". They lost both meaningful non-conference games they played; Syracuse and Hofstra, plus another loss to Siena for good measure. They have two wins over St Joe's and a split with Dayton as their best wins, and one win over George Washington. Somehow or another in the magical formula that is RPI, despite none of their other wins being over teams ranked comfortably in the top 100 in any other computer ranking I can find, this means they have 7 top 70 wins in the RPI. I count 4 good wins, and zero are over teams in the top 40 (Dayton is in the top 25 in RPI, but they're not in any other system). To add to this, they have random losses to LaSalle, Duquesne, and Davidson. They would be banking a lot on that win over UD and requiring us to overlook a bunch of bad losses. This is not a good case for inclusion. The only case for inclusion was an absurdly high RPI ranking.

Tulsa - Has a win over Wichita St. Has splits with Connecticut, Cincinnati, SMU, Houston, and Temple (all in conference), a random win over Iona, and losses to UALR, South Carolina, Oregon State, two (blowout) losses to Memphis, and one very curious loss to Oral Roberts. This is a much more impressive resume than SDSU and St Bonaventure based on these merits. It includes several wins over actual teams and only one strange loss. While I did not think they would necessarily merit inclusion, over say, Florida State, South Carolina, Valparaiso, or Monmouth, they were certainly an easier case than these two alternatives. Who had very weak cases in support.

The others that inspired some puzzlement. Were less puzzling for me.

Syracuse: Wins over Texas A&M, Duke, Connecticut, Notre Dame. 3 of which were at neutral sites or on the road. Secondary wins over Georgia Tech, Florida St (split), Virginia Tech, and NC State. All solid top 100 teams that did not get in the field. Only one baffling loss to St John's without Boeheim as coach. Every other loss was to a team in the top 70. Swept by Pitt, 3 times actually, and North Carolina. Virginia, Louisville, Miami, Clemson, Wisconsin, and somehow, Georgetown. Two of those losses were in overtime. They also beat St Bonaventure head-to-head by 13. Those 4 top 40 wins, 2 in the top 25 were easily enough to get them in. I don't even think this was a close decision. A better argument here would be that Lunardi has been slipping in not including them in the first place. Most every bubble conversation I heard over the last week was puzzled by his decision not to put them in.

Vanderbilt: A more interesting decision. Here's the case for them: Zero bad losses and they scheduled hard. The worst loss was to Mississippi State by 1 point on the road, another loss to Mississippi by 7 on the road. I assume Tennessee looks much worse on the RPI than it does on other rankings, but they only lost to them in the conference tournament (beat them twice earlier in the season). Losses out of conference to Kansas, Purdue, Baylor (2 points on the road), Texas, and Dayton (5 teams in the top 30). Swept Florida (underrated team), split with Kentucky (underrated team), Texas AM (not underrated), and also lost to South Carolina and LSU. Random win over Georgia. Then they absolutely clobbered every non top 100 team they played. Most wins were by 20 points or more. The problem is that only Kentucky and Texas AM got into the field from the list of teams they defeated. But Kentucky and Texas AM are top 4 seeded teams. St Bonaventure defeated a 7 and an 8 seed, by comparison. They were slotted as a play-in team. So I think this was a fair assessment.

I think there's an excellent case to be made that the committee struggles to place teams in a sensible manner on seed lines. There were numerous strange decisions this season (Oregon as a 1 seed, Michigan St not as a 1 seed, Kansas and Virginia's regional placement being weird, Kentucky below Texas AM, Arizona/Cal/Oregon St being in a very weird order, SFA and some other teams downstream being seeded oddly, etc), and this has been a long-running problem that largely stems from the futility of RPI as a sensible computer ranking system (it has Oregon #2, and Michigan State #11 I believe, as an example, essentially reversed from other rankings). But they actually do a pretty decent job of picking teams despite the flaw of using the RPI so extensively. There are usually no more than one or two very strange picks (UCLA was one last year, and they ended up in the sweet 16 anyway), and these are being pulled from a list of teams that all have pretty weak cases for inclusion. This is not their problem. They have a much harder job snaking teams into the 68 spots correctly.

13 March 2016

Random bracket thoughts, brain dump

Bubble team wise. The committee did not do terribly. Tulsa was a major shock to be included at all. I assumed that being blown out by Memphis would sink their chances. Syracuse and Michigan both had decent cases relative to the rest of the options. All of these teams were fairly middling
Teams that got in who were on the bubble or off the radar
25) Vanderbilt 9-13
39) Syracuse 9-12-1
50) Michigan 8-12
65) Tulsa 7-10-1
93) Temple 8-10-1

Teams that did not
31) St Mary's 4-3-2
38) Valpo 5-1-5
43) San Diego St 3-7-2 (very surprised they were considered at all as an at-large)
52) South Carolina 13-7-1 (biggest surprise not to be included. RPI ranks of their opponents probably screwed them out of some quality wins as I have them at 3 top 50 wins. They did not schedule well out of conference as another ding).
66) Monmouth 5-4-3
87) St Bonaventure 5-4-4 (very high RPI, 5-8 record is underwhelming, with zero top 25 wins).

What I notice is that the teams that got in have a) far more "quality games" played against top 100 opponents, b) zero or 1 bad loss only outside of that, and c) more top 25 or top 50 wins as well.

It is unclear to me why there was a campaign around Monmouth instead of Valparaiso as the small conference team that got screwed. Based on this assessment, probably the team that got screwed (by Tulsa being included) was South Carolina and not these other two however.

Final Ranks first
1) Kansas 21-3-1
(there's a very slight gap here, and yes, Kansas lost to a non top 100 opponent, they were blown out at Oklahoma State)
2) Michigan State 16-5 (was screwed out of #1 seed by the timing of the Big Ten title game)
3) North Carolina 19-6
4) Virginia 19-7
5) Villanova 17-5
6) West Virginia 13-8

7) Oklahoma 15-7
8) Kentucky 18-7-1 (totally baffled as to how they ended up a #4 and Texas AM got a #3. I can only conclude losing to Auburn on the road hurt them quite a lot.)
9) Purdue 13-7-1
10) Louisville 10-8 (ineligible)

11) Arizona 13-8
12) Indiana 12-4-3
13) Oregon 20-4-2
14) Miami 17-6-1
15) Texas AM 17-8
16) Xavier 13-5
17) Duke 13-10

18) Wichita St 4-7-1 (underwhelming record)
19) SMU (ineligible)
19) Iowa St 11-11
19) Iowa 10-8-2
22) Maryland 13-7-1

23) Gonzaga 6-7
24) California 12-8-2
25) Vanderbilt 9-13
26) Baylor 10-11
27) Connecticut 12-10
28) Seton Hall 12-7-1
29) Utah 17-7-1
30) Cincinnati 9-10
31) St Mary's 4-3-2 (NIT)

32) Texas 12-11-1
33) VCU 4-7-3
34) Butler 9-9-1
35) Notre Dame 10-11
36) Wisconsin 10-9-3
37) Florida 10-14 (NIT)
38) Valpo 5-1-5 (NIT)
39) Syracuse 9-12-1
40) Pittsburgh 8-11
41) St Joseph's 8-5-2
42) USC 11-11-1
43) San Diego St 3-7-2 (NIT)
44) BYU 3-5-5 (NIT)
45) Florida St 9-13 (NIT)
46) Texas Tech 9-11-1
46) Creighton 5-12-2 (NIT?)
48) Providence 11-7-3
49) Dayton 10-6-1
50) Michigan 8-12
51) Kansas St 4-15-1 (?)
52) South Carolina 13-7-1
53) Colorado 7-11
54) UALR 4-1-3
55) Clemson 7-12-2 (?)
(last likely upset bids were in that big clustered group)
56) Stephen F Austin 0-3-2
57) Yale 0-3-3
58) Georgia Tech 10-13-1 (NIT)

64) Hawaii 3-2-3
65) Tulsa 7-10-1
66) Monmouth 5-4-3 (NIT)
67) Oregon St 10-11-1
72) Northern Iowa 8-3-9 (9 bad losses?)
78) South Dakota St 0-1-6
87) Stony Brook 1-2-4
88) Iona 2-6-4
89) UNC Wilmington 5-3-4
93) Temple 8-10-1
100) Fresno St
101) Chattanooga
110) Bakersfield
121) Green Bay
122) UNC Asheville
124) Middle Tennessee
134) Buffalo
135) Weber St
(16 seeds)
179) Florida Gulf Coast
218) Austin Peay
219) Southern
246) Hampton
263) Fairleigh Dickinson
268) Holy Cross

General thoughts
Oregon looks like a very weak #1 seed. They beat a lot of teams but lost two games to inferior squads, and have a margin of victory that looks more like a #4 seed.

Michigan State effectively leads the nation in margin of victory (SFA is the only team ahead of them, and they have played no one) and rebounding margin. How that does not get a #1 seed, not sure.

Kentucky and Texas AM should have at least been flipped.

Arizona was probably screwed by seeding. They will now get a tough game against a pretty good #11 seed play-in (either team is pretty good), plus have to play a game in Providence, all the way across the country.

All of the 9 seeds look better than the 8 seeds. USC-Providence is the only one that even looks close. Tulsa in the field? Oregon St looks incredibly weak for a #7.

Weakest top 20 seeded (1-5s) teams for the first round really only looks like Cal (bad on the road). Baylor has bad odds against Yale, because the game is being played in Providence.

Easiest "upsets" possibilities appear to be Oregon St and Seton Hall to lose. Arizona has unpleasant odds against Vandy and Wichita also (partly because they must travel across the country).

East Region has 5 top 15 teams and then a huge drop (Notre Dame is the 6th best team in the region, but ranks like an 8-9 seed).

Midwest Region has 4 top 20 teams and a smoother drop.

South Region has 6 top 20 teams and 10 top 30 teams, then a big drop. Considering Kansas is the #1 overall, this is not an encouraging development for them.

West - 4 top 15 teams and a big drop after that. This is by far the "easiest" region. 

11 March 2016

NCAA bubble thoughts

Most of the teams on the bubble this year, as usual, are pretty average to mediocre. I see no more than 2 teams on the actual bubble right now.

All of the A-10 and American conference teams that I see as likely or possible but not given (Temple, Tulsa, VCU, Connecticut, St Joe's, St Bonaventure; Dayton and Cincinnati are definitely in the field) are still active in their conference tournaments as of this. So it is likely one or two of them will end up getting automatic bids and remove the question mark anyway. Michigan is also still active.

I am using the bracket matrix bracket to assess whether a team is considered in safely or out.

Teams that aren't quite universally in but probably safe:
16) Wichita State - Lost in Arch Madness to Evansville. Doesn't have many quality wins (5-7-1 record). Almost certainly still makes the field at-large. Only one win in the top 50 (Utah).
29) Saint Marys - Gonzaga beat them to win the WCC tournament. Zags might have missed the field otherwise. Also hasn't played anyone. 3-3-2 record won't get it done. And two of those wins are against Gonzaga. But they also probably make the field.
38) VCU 4-7-2 Probably makes it. Most of their highest quality opponents were very competitive games. But all losses. *Could also win the A-10 tournament still.

Teams that have to win their conference tournament but are close to at large bids:
43) San Diego St 4-5-3. Beat Cal as the only notable win. Lost to San Diego.
59) UALR - 4-1-3 Was much higher until a late season loss to Appalachian St. Beat San Diego St and Tulsa.

Teams that are in the muddled bubble (only one of these teams probably gets in, possibly neither).

32) Connecticut 9-10 Probably makes it in, especially if they beat Cincinnati this evening. Win over Texas and SMU are about it though. No bad losses helps. Worst losses are being swept by Temple. *Pending result of today's game.
39) Syracuse 9-12-1 - Lots of high end wins. Duke, Texas AM, Connecticut, and Notre Dame. Loss in the conference tournament was very close. Loss to St John's (who is terrible), happened when Boeheim wasn't there as coach.

Teams that are outside looking in with some chance of appearing.
36) Valparaiso 5-1-5 - Win over Oregon State appears to be it (lost to Oregon by 6). They did crush Iona. For what that's worth. They did dominate a minor conference. Sometimes that helps.
37) Florida 11-14 - Win over West Virginia in January carries some weight. Also St Joe's. That's it though. LOTS of high end losses to teams in the top 50. Lots of wins over 50-100 ranked teams (mostly other SEC teams of middling rank).
52) Michigan 8-11 - Beat Purdue, Maryland, and Texas (and now Indiana as well). Worst loss was Ohio St, who is decent. So no bad losses.
54) Tulsa 7-9-1 - Win over Wichita, split with the other four good teams in their conference (Cincinnati, Connecticut, SMU, Temple, and also Houston). Lost by 2 to Oral Roberts as the lone bad loss. *Blow out loss to Memphis, will be heading to the NIT.
64) Monmouth 5-4-3 Notre Dame, a split with USC, and beat UCLA in OT. Lost to Iona twice (once in the conference final). Another minor conference dominating team. Earlier in the season they were much higher.

Teams not even on the bubble radar in my top 50
42) BYU 3-5-5 - Way too many bad losses (Harvard, Pacific). Wins against Gonzaga, St Marys, and Northern Iowa is all they have. Not a team that will get in.
45) Florida St 9-13 Wins over Virginia, Notre Dame, Florida, Syracuse, and VCU help here. Worst losses are a sweep by Virginia Tech. This is a team that ordinarily should get in, but doesn't appear likely to.
46) Creighton 5-12-2 - Xavier, Butler, Seton Hall as good wins. Loss to Loyola is pretty ugly. This is not a team that would get in.
47) Kansas St 6-16 - Oklahoma and Texas Tech is it as good wins. 6-16 teams don't make the tournament. They have had a brutal schedule, on account of the Big 12 being brutal this year, so they ended up in the top 50 in spite of this ugly record.
49) Clemson 7-12-2 - Louisville, Duke, Miami, Syracuse, Pitt, and split with Florida St. Blown out by Georgia and lost to Minnesota and Massachusetts as the worst losses. There are a lot of losses to teams in the 50-100 range however unlike Florida, which is less impressive.

Teams outside the top 50 probably or almost certainly getting in
50) St Joesphs 7-5-2 - Doesn't look that impressive. Beat Dayton is the best win. Swept by St Bonaventure. They probably should not get in. Probably will anyway. *A10
51) Providence 11-6-3 - Pretty solid record, beat Villanova on the road and Arizona at a neutral site. Losses to Marquette, twice, and DePaul as the bad ones. Definitely in.
53) Colorado 7-11 - Arizona, splits with Oregon, Oregon St, and Cal. Beat BYU. No bad losses. Probably gets in.
54) Dayton 10-5-1 Definitely in. Beat Iowa, Vanderbilt, VCU, and Monmouth. Lost to LaSalle? *A10
63) Oregon St 10-11-1 - Splits with Oregon, Cal, Utah, USC, and Colorado. Beat Tulsa. Worst loss was Stanford. Almost certainly gets in (very high RPI).
82) St Bonaventure 5-4-3 - Basically only in contention because they won a lot of games at the end of the year (one of which was Dayton) and because of the RPI placing them very high (in the top 30). Sweep of St Joes, and a split with Dayton is best they have. Another team that somehow lost to LaSalle. This is not a team that should get in, but probably will. *Lost to Davidson first round of A10 tournament. I really would not put this team in.
92) Temple 8-9-1 - SMU, swept Cincinnati and Connecticut. Bad loss to East Carolina. They're poorly rated largely because they have very, very few blowout wins, even against mediocre teams. *American

Update #1
Vanderbilt losing to Tennessee yesterday dropped them into the "not universal but probably okay" category. Tennessee has a losing record but I still have them ranked in the top 100 (barely). So it isn't as bad a loss as it appears. I have them at 9-13, with no bad losses, and some key wins down the stretch (Kentucky being the biggest).
Michigan winning over Indiana may have pushed them back up into the field. The team most in danger there should be Connecticut or Syracuse. Possibly Vandy or even St Marys, but less likely.

Update #2
Tulsa is done. Getting blown out by Memphis is not going to cut it.
St Bonaventure losing to Davidson did not reassure me they deserve a bid.
Connecticut's 4OT game probably clinched a bid.
St Mary's on reflection looks like they should be in the bubble or outside looking in section.

03 March 2016

NCAA Week 3 rankings

1) Kansas 17-4
2) Villanova 13-4
2) Michigan State 12-5

4) North Carolina 14-6
5) Virginia 16-6
6) Oklahoma 16-6
7) Louisville (ineligible) 10-7
8) West Virginia 13-7

9) Kentucky 15-7-1
10) Indiana 11-4-2
11) Duke 13-8
11) Purdue 11-6-1
12) Wichita St 5-6-1
13) Xavier 12-4
14) Miami 16-4-1

15) Arizona 11-7
16) Iowa 9-8-1

17) Iowa St 13-9
18) SMU (ineligible) 8-4
18) Vanderbilt 9-11 (probably played their way to a bid over the last two weeks)
20) Texas AM 14-7

21) Maryland 12-5-1
22) Oregon 14-5-1
23) California 10-6-2
24) Utah 13-6-1
25) Gonzaga 4-7 (currently not listed on many brackets, which seems reasonable as they have few meaningful wins. As such may need to win their conference tournament to get in)

Edited to add another basketball note: there's been some complaining and discussion about the NBA three point line, mostly spurred by the shooting brilliance of Steph Curry. 

I see no pressing reason to move the line back. The quality of play by good teams remains very high, in particular the Warriors and Spurs this season but also the Thunder and Clippers teams, and these teams all have varying styles regarding threes; the Spurs in particular take very few of them relative to the rest of the league, and also defend them like crazy. Coaching via defensive offensive strategies should be allowed to evolve to deal with the shooting splurge to maximize it for their own teams. By attempting to optimize who takes such shots, and from where on the court, and by denying the other team their best shooters or allowing or even encouraging poor shooters to take more long jump shots. The Cavs did this with Curry in the Finals last year and he was not the Finals MVP because they were able to limit him specifically. They were not able to limit everyone on the Warriors team in order to win the series. Which is a different problem. 

Regardless, I do not think the best reason to move the line back is making any argument over Curry. The best shooters in the league will be unfazed by the distance of the line (within reason). A 25 ft line would have little impact on their ability to make three point shots. They may take somewhat fewer of them. I regard this as a poor effect as a result as we should want them to continue to take and make three point shots. The reason to move the line back before, when it was moved in for a few years, was that poor shooters like Antoine Walker or even old-style centers like Patrick Ewing were taking threes and this was producing a poorer quality product of play (many bricks), and also that there was poor offensive spacing because the line was too close to reduce post play. We still have poor shooters taking too many threes (LeBron James, Josh Smith), and centers (DeMarcus Cousins). But this seems more like a poor coaching decision now than a problem with the line being too close. Offensive spacing does not seem to be threatened by the current distances. And shooting percentages overall do not appear to be suffering. They suffered initially after the shift back to the current distance (for two seasons), but quickly recovered. I would be skeptical that such a change is needed to improve the quality of offensive play, or to improve the ability of defenders to defend. 

If I were to pick a single game strategy or tactic that needs to be looked at to improve the quality of game play, it would be intentional fouls of poor free-throw shooters (hack-a-Shaq as it was known when it started). As this breaks up the flow of the game, does not demonstrate high quality offense or defense, and doesn't really achieve much strategically as an advantage that I can determine in most games. Even for the worst shooters the expected points per possession is essentially a wash or a very small decimal figure at best. We also have intentional foul rules which differ at the end of quarters and games already. It seems odd that players are allowed to foul a poor free throw shooter when they do not have the ball and almost certainly do not affect the play on the court the rest of the game, and then that we would change this rule back at the end of games.