12 March 2017

Final Rankings NCAA 2017

Seem to be the best two teams now.
1) Gonzaga 10-1 - 6 top 25 wins, but 3 are against St Mary's
2) Villanova 19-3

Other likely title contenders.
3) North Carolina 17-7 - top rebounding team, 6 top 25 wins
4) West Virginia 17-7-1 - forces tons of turnovers
5) Kentucky 20-5

Mixed bag, mostly teams to avoid taking too far.
6) Louisville 14-8 - only 8-7 in Road/Neutral games
6) Kansas 20-4  - lowest 1 seed, 6 top 25 wins, 14 top 50
8) Wichita St 4-4 - 10 seed, 0 top 50 wins
9) Virginia 14-10 - 5 seed, #1 defense
10) Duke 18-7-1 - most top 25 wins, 8, 15 top 50 wins, also most
11) Florida 17-8

12) SMU 10-3-1 - 6 seed, but rates higher than 3 seed Baylor
13) Purdue 15-6-1
14) Oregon 14-5  -only 2-3 vs top 50
15) UCLA 11-4
16) Baylor 19-7 - 13 top 50 wins
17) Iowa St 16-10 - 13 top 50 wins

Upset potential teams (in either direction)
18) Florida St 15-7-1 - 13 top 50 wins, losing record in road/neutral games
19) Michigan 15-11 - 10 top 50 wins
20) Arizona 12-4
21) Cincinnati 10-5
22) Wisconsin 16-9 - 10 top 50 wins, but 8 seed...for some reason? (RPI has them at 32, I'm not sure how)
23) St Mary's 5-4
24) Notre Dame 14-9
25) Oklahoma St 13-12 - 10 seed, #1 offense, bad defence
26) Butler 17-6-2 - 11 top 50 wins
27) Creighton 11-9 - started year 18-1 overall, but slumped since starting PG was injured (was leading nation in assists)

Most teams from here will have middling records against competitive teams.
Non-NCAA bid teams will appear in italics
28) Marquette 9-11-1 - top 3 point shooting team, but awful defense
29) Kansas St 10-13
30) Wake Forest 8-13 - 3-13 vs top 50, worst defense among at-large teams
31) South Carolina 15-9-1 -only 3-5 vs top 50, worst offense among at-large teams to make the field, plays de facto home games in first and second round (7 seed)
32) Miami 8-11
33) Minnesota 13-9
34) Vanderbilt 12-14-1 - 4 top 25 wins got them in
35) Indiana 9-13-2 - first team out
36) Xavier 10-13- only one good win post-injury (Butler)
37) Northwestern 10-11 1st NCAA bid in school history
38) Arkansas 14-8-1 - 3-7 vs 50
39) Clemson 9-15 
40) Rhode Island 8-7-2
41) Michigan St 11-13-1
42) Dayton 10-4-3
43) TCU 9-15 - 2-8 in last 10 games
44) Syracuse 9-12-2 - 2-11 in Road/Neutral games
45) Texas Tech 7-14 - 2-11 in Road/Neutral games
46) Virginia Tech 11-9-1 - 8 top 50 wins
47) Maryland 14-7-1
48) VCU 8-7-1 - 1-3 vs 50
49) Middle Tennessee 4-1-3

Last "out" at larges and mixed upset mid-majors/low rated at-larges
50) Utah 4-8-3  - 0-6 vs 50
51) Houston 5-7-3  - 1-5 vs 50
52) Nevada 5-3-3
53) Seton Hall 11-9-2
54) Alabama 8-14  
55) Georgia 11-14 - 1-11 vs 50!
56) Illinois St 1-3-3 
57) Providence 10-9-3
58) UNC-Wilmington 4-3-2 - 0-2 vs 50
59) California 6-11 - 0-7 vs 50
60) USC 5-8-1 - lowest rated at-large team, 2-6 vs 50, got in because of RPI rating (41)
65) Vermont 0-4-1
66) ETSU 2-4-3 - 0-1 vs 50
70) Princeton 1-5-1

Rest of Field
77) Bucknell 3-5-3 - 1-2 vs 50
93) New Mexico St 0-1-4
105) Florida-Gulf Coast
110) Winthrop
112) Iona
132) Kent St
134) Troy
144) N.Kentucky
155) UNC-Central
166) Jacksonville St
178) North Dakota
179) South Dakota St
186) Texas Southern
194) Mount St Mary's (only team in field with negative scoring margin, also gets clobbered on the boards)
202) New Orleans
205) UC-Davis

Critical injuries
Xavier- Sumner (6-7 since, but 3 of those wins are against DePaul)
Creighton - Watson PG (6-6 since)
Oregon- Boucher (injured in conference tournament)

03 March 2017

Cultural critique

I've been off to the side watching a lot of film and TV, during what appears to be a golden era of TV and TV writing, and cultural nerd/geek ascendancy in film. 

There are two major issues I keep seeing repeated. 

1- It's a visual medium, use "show, not tell." This fails the viewer on many levels. Showing us acts of heroism/villainy or romance or cleverness establishes clearly these features as a reason to care about or relate to the character. Telling us someone is clever or a hero is the same function as a person assuring us "I am smart". In that it generally tells us "you are an idiot." Dialogue can be used to establish any of these things instead of action, but there is a less is more style approach to this that is frequently abandoned, as though the expectation is the viewer won't understand what is going on without being spoon-fed lines of exposition constantly. Dialogue of this sort should be more about establishing the character, by making them seem more real or relatable. For example, to tell a joke or a moving back story to another character, having them gossip or engaged in some act of chicanery and mischief, rather than about spoonfeeding us details about them. With a more complicated show with many moving parts and characters (the Wire, or Game of Thrones say) this might be true that the viewer needs a little bit of explanation to follow it. Game of Thrones essentially invented the concept of "sexposition" as a method of having complicated pieces of information conveyed while someone, or several someones, is nude and engaged in various salacious actions on screen. By contrast. The Wire has a sequence, a entire brilliantly written and shot sequence, where the two characters communicate entirely by variations of phrases including "fuck" key within them, with no dialogue exposition whatsoever. It's all shown through reenactment and body language what they are thinking and doing and the viewer is simply expected to apply what exposition they've had before and know what's going on. And it isn't hard to follow in spite of this limitation of words and precision. 

The most dramatic cultural difference I've noticed is between Marvel's films and DC's in the last few years. We are constantly told Superman is a hero, and then rarely see much heroism and instead watch a city getting destroyed through collateral damage in his own fight with the main villain. This doesn't really convey much of a reason to care much about this apparently indifferent and possibly sociopathic superhero because the depiction we are seeing is at odds with the depiction we are told we are seeing. Guardians has a bunch of anti-heroes, or at least very unlikely heroes and their tree creature companion, running around eventually working together to save a planet that probably hates or fears them just as much as we are told Superman is hated or feared by humanity. It's acted out and it fits more or less what we are told needs to be done in those moments of exposition between explosions. 

Romance plot lines in most films follow a similar problem, where the chemistry and interplay and dialogue between the main love interests is usually an unconvincing dud that is neither escapist entertainment nor realistic depiction of human pair bonding and attraction. 

Even with Game of Thrones, which is one of the better shows on TV for avoiding the show not tell problem (although it often dwells too heavily on the showing of barbarism), spends most of the last couple of seasons telling us that Tyrion is clever and wise, and then watching most of his plots and clever schemes blow up in his face. We are buoyed along by the fact that he has done clever and wise things in the past, but no longer seeing the more convincing evidence of this fact. 

2- "it’s more interesting in theory than in practice." This is a frustrating component of a ton of film and TV. Rogue One could have been a very interesting and compelling work of fiction set in the Star Wars universe to tell us a story most people could conclude was not going to work out that well. The way it could have done this was to have interesting characters who will all, eventually, be sacrificed for a good cause. We should care more who these people are, why they are fighting, and that they are dying. Dirty Dozen managed to carry this off in a war-themed film, where most everyone dies (spoiler alert if you haven't been alive since 1967). Instead the characters are fairly disposable means of creating action sequences. Some of them may as well have been named "plot device", for all I know they were. This is frustrating because there's an angle where the context and content that's available should have been really interesting and engaging, but nobody bothered to use it. 

The most common example of this is sci-fi themed. Westworld and the Expanse are both shows that hit some interesting questions of psychology, neuroscience, or philosophy. What would a world with AI be like, what is consciousness, what would the discovery of alien life do to a primitive space-faring human society and its messy politics? But they fall short by being a tangled mess of story that rarely allows people to care about dynamic characters doing something interesting on its own. There is a huge gap between Omar in the Wire, a guy who runs around robbing drug dealers who should not at all be a popular and well-regarded character (and is), and whoever the hell these people are in the Expanse (I have a vague idea of names other than one of them does the voice for a Quarian admiral in Mass Effect). Or William in Westworld. One of these is a well-developed character who doesn't even appear until the 3rd or 4th episode of the series. And the others, I've been following these people around for an entire season of a show and still don't really feel like they are anything other than ciphers and plot devices around which things are supposed to happen to make me feel like there's something interesting happening. I don't relate to them. They don't seem to have complicated motivations, or even get along all that well to where I'd understand why they back each other up. 

Where I think this is falling flat mostly is that stories are about the people in them and how we feel about them. And it feels like writers or show runners have forgotten that. Sometimes in favor of flashy action sequences. Not always. A writer can and should expose people to interesting concepts or ideas, but stories they tell are primarily about people (actually primarily about themselves or the people they know well, which is why so many films or shows are about people trying to act or write or succeed in some creative endeavour). The ideas are smuggled in alongside that. I thought that having everyone important in the story die (spoiler alert from 1977) in Rogue One should have been a really interesting risk to take with a film, especially when it seems to be a war film. This would confront us with the horrific cost of war and violent resistance and that even if there seems to be a valorous sacrifice in the works, a victory will feel hollow and painful for the losses we accrue to get there. But then I didn't care about any of these people and they barely seemed to care about each other. So. It didn't work very well as a story about people. It traffics, as Force Awakens did before it, but in a less reliant way, on a cultural memory that we have seen from characters before (Han Solo or Darth Vader), rather than giving us much new about these characters now. 

There are films and shows that get around these problems. I may be expecting a bit much for a big blockbuster production to have ideas and complex characters in it for example. Still. It isn't that much of an ask to have the main character not be "the explosion in scene 24" either. 

March NCAA Ranks

All records are top 100 records only (with any losses to non-tournament quality teams designated).

1) Gonzaga  9-1
2) West Virginia 14-7

I still don't feel like these are the two best teams. Gonzaga has only played one meaningful game since last month. The gap has also closed. The next two teams are right behind them now
3) Villanova 19-3
3) North Carolina 15-6

5) Kentucky 15-5
6) Florida 16-6
7) Kansas 21-3
8) Louisville 13-7
9) Virginia 12-9

10) Wichita St 2-4
11) UCLA 11-3
12) Purdue 14-6
13) Duke 14-6-1
13) Baylor 17-6

15) Oregon 13-4
16) Florida St 12-7

17) Oklahoma St 13-10
18) SMU 11-3-1
19) Butler 18-5-1
20) Iowa St 13-9
21) St Marys 4-3
22) Wisconsin 14-7
23) Cincinnati 10-4
24) Arizona 9-4
25) Creighton 12-7
26) Notre Dame 13-7

Bubble thoughts going into the tournament weeks
Teams I have "in". These are not all teams I would put in, in fact none of them are). These are teams ranked high enough to sneak in basically.
31) Wake Forest 7-12 - All of Wake's losses are in the top 50.
34) Texas Tech 7-12
36) Kansas St 7-12 (yes all three of these teams have 7-12 top 100 records)
38) Indiana 7-13-1
39) Clemson 10-14
40) Vanderbilt 9-13-1
46) Houston 7-6-2

Of these, Wake, Kansas St, Vandy, and Houston are the only ones even getting bubble chatter. The fact that any of these teams are seems like a problem. The bubble looks incredibly soft this year.

Teams I have "out" that will almost certainly get in
47) Michigan St 12-11-1 (injuries and actually a decent record against top-100 teams and a tough schedule)
56) Providence 11-9-2
58) Seton Hall 10-9-1
67) USC 5-7-1

Actual bubble right now
42) Xavier 11-12, fallen about 15 spots in the ranks in the two weeks. Probably safe, but fading badly
44) Syracuse 8-12-1
49) Rhode Island 5-7-2
50) California 4-8-1
51) Illinois St 1-2-3 (not much of a schedule)
All of these teams are in right now, probably. If there's a couple of at-larges because of upsets in conference tournaments, these are the teams getting axed. Syracuse appears to have a terrible RPI, but will probably be getting in anyway (again). Which is a good sign the RPI is useless and starting to be ignored/replaced.