Which region is most likely to blow up?

Yesterday, I attempted to identify which past dance the 2014 tourney most resembled. Based on the seed quality curves, it looked like 2006 and 2011 were the closest comparisons. Both of those dances were particularly mad. 2006 featured the George Mason Cinderella run with no top seeds in the Final Four. 2011 was 19.8% crazy on the Madometer scale and tied the record for upsets with 13. That should scare everyone.

Today, I want offer some insight into which of the four regions is likely to blow up like last year’s West region. That was the quadrant where Wichita State upset Gonzaga on their run to the Final Four. It included five of last year’s 11 upsets, including the 3v14 Harvard win over New Mexico, the 4v13 La Salle win over Kansas State, the 5v12 Ole Miss victory over Wisconsin, along with the Shockers 1v9 and 2v9 surprises.

I took the Pythag values of the top 14 seeds for every region in the 2014 tourney, then I overlaid the same numbers for the 2013 Shocker bracket. Here’s a handy animation, cycling through the curves every five seconds:


First, I’ll make a few observations about each region, then I’ll compare them to the havoc that was the 2013 West:

2014 South: The top seven seeds are slotted in fairly orderly fashion. Five seed VCU is a tick better than UCLA, but nothing is really glaring here until the whipsaw that is #8 Colorado versus #9 Pittsburgh. After that, the 10-14 seeds descend in keeping with their efficiency numbers. Maybe that’s why I’m having trouble pulling the trigger on any 4v13, 5v12 of 6v11 upsets in this region. I’ll say this: you do have the second weakest four seed and the nearly the strongest 13 seed (Manhattan’s Pythag is .0003 better) in the UCLA/Tulsa match-up. And I might consider a 1v8 upset, given Pitt’s unusually high Pythag. But then again, it’s Pitt. And it’s Jamie Dixon. And I said I would never get burned by the Panthers again.

2014 East: This region features the second weakest one seed and the second strongest four seed. No wonder people are leaning toward Sparty in a potential 1v4 match-up. Villanova rates out as the toughest two seed, and they could be on a collision course with the weakest three seed in Iowa State. UConn is the toughest of the four seven seeds, so they might be an intriguing second-round upset pick. As for the 5v12 and 6v11 match-ups, unlike the South, this region may be ripe for surprises. While Cincy and North Carolina are the second strongest five and six seeds, Providence is the second toughest 11 and Harvard is far and away the best 12. Looking for a big shocker? North Carolina Central is easily the toughest 14 seed and ISU is the weakest three. Hmm…

2014 West: With the strongest one seed and the second weakest two in Wisconsin, it’s no wonder people can’t figure out anyone else to advance here but Arizona. On top of that, you have the weakest four and second weakest five in San Diego State and Oklahoma. Trouble might loom on the other side of this region, where Creighton is just a hair behind Duke for the mantle of best three seed. And the Badgers’ weakness as a two may open the doors for Baylor or Oregon. They aren’t the strongest six and seven seeds, but they’re right in the mix. The unsual strength in this region comes at the eight and nine positions. Both Oklahoma State and Gonzaga look to be formidable second-round opponents for Arizona. Maybe that—and Marcus Smart—is why so many people are wondering about a Cowboy shocker over the Wildcats.

2014 Midwest: The weakest one, the weakest two, the strongest three and the strongest four. That just begins to explain the craziness that is the Midwest region. The majority of pundits are tabbing Louisville to beat Wichita State and reach the Final Four. And why not? Look at the gigantic disparity in numbers. We’re talking about the second most efficient team in the country. But that might not be the only craziness to ensue in this region. First of all, Kentucky’s the best eight…so a second-round match-up with the Wildcats is no cake-walk for the Shockers. And look at how pathetic the five through seven seeds are. Yes, NC State is a weak 12…but they looked pretty dang good last night. And Tennessee is off the charts are an 11. The 7v10 game looks like a toss-up too. In the second round, should the Vols advance, they could pose problems for either Duke or Michigan, two teams that don’t defend well. Tennessee’s offensive efficiency isn’t great (29th in the country), but they’re the 13th best defense. Could be scary for Blue Devil and Wolverine fans.

Comparing the regions to the 2013 West Shocker: What distinguished last year’s West explosion was a set of great 11-13 seeds and better than average 8-10 seeds. No single region can claim the same make-up in 2014. The East may have the best 11-12 pairing in Providence and Harvard and it also features a weaker one and soft three seed. The Midwest has decent 11-12 seeds and woeful fives and sixes. Then there’s the whole “one-seed-in-disguise” factor with Louisville and the unusual strength of Kentucky. The other region that could blow up, not so much in round one round two, is the West. I think Wisconsin is a weaker than average two seed, with a solid three in Creighton and intriguing six and seven seeds in Baylor and BYU.

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16 Responses to Which region is most likely to blow up?

  1. Adam says:

    You mention in the last line that BYU is an intriguing seven seed – they are the ten seed playing seventh seeded Oregon. Did you mean Oregon was the intriguing one? I can’t see BYU winning after losing Collinsworth in the WCC championship.

  2. scott mohr says:

    I am in a pool with normal points 1 for 1st round ,2 for 2nd round etc. We have 150 entries. I am sure most will have fla,mich. st, louisville and ariz. I like the same ones to get to the final four. What do you think the chances are of villinova wiinning the east, and UCLA or Syracuse winning the south, and longshot OK st, or Baylor winning the west

    • ptiernan says:

      It’s always your call, but Villanova was the only team in the field with zero pretender disqualifiers. And they passed three champ tests. UCLA is riskier, as is Syracuse. Kansas is an undervalued pick. Your longshot west is intriguing. Something tells me that Baylor/Creighton/Oregon/Wisconsin bracket will go bonkers.

      • scott mohr says:

        What do you think of
        these elite eight picks
        south fla/kansas
        east mich st/villanova
        west Ok St/Baylor or Creighton
        Mid west Louisville/ DUke
        Final four
        Fla Villanova
        Louisville Baylor or Ok St
        Florida over Loisville

  3. Dee says:

    Greetings, fellow BS (Bracket Science) pickers.

    Here is my lock of the tournament.

    Tennessee VS Louisville in the Elite 8 match.

    If this happens I almost promise you’ll bank a win in your pool, I entered this pick in my two pools.

  4. Gary Diny says:

    Opening round point spreads
    Florida -21.5; Virginia -19; Arizona -14.5; Wichita St not up with unknown opponent
    Kansas -13; Villanova -14.5; Wisconsin -10; Michigan -14
    Syracuse -13; Iowa St -9; Creighton -14.5; Duke -10.5
    UCLA -9; Michigan st -13; San Diego ST -6; Louisville -12.5
    VCU -8; Cincy -3.5; Oklahoma -2.5; St Louis -2.5
    Ohio St -5; North Carolina -5; Baylor -2.5; UMass not up with unknown opponent
    New mexico -2; UConn -4; Oregon -2; Texas -2.5
    Colorado +6.5; Memphis -2.5; Gonzaga +1; Kentucky -4
    Some interesting ranges within the seed levels. Not sure if Las Vegas knows more, but they don’t build those large casinos without knowing a thing or 2 about making some money.


    • larry k says:

      Gary, you are a smart man…. :-)

      take a look at those spreads for the 5-12 and 6-11 games…. Vegas is BEGGING you to take the favs in those matchups…

  5. Tom says:

    FYI: it was the West region that blew up last year, not the South.

    The South did include 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast advancing to the Sweet 16 and #1 seed Kansas getting knocked out in the Sweet 16, but other than those two and an 11-over-6 upset, the South last year basically held to form. The West was Gonzaga’s region and completely blew up.

  6. ptiernan says:

    Tom – Good catch. I fixed it.

  7. Andy says:

    Just a few last comments…..

    Pitt always has the numbers, but also still has a coach who gets upset and never wins as a lower seed. Colorado is by far the weakest 8, but they were by far the weakest 11 two years ago and still managed a win. The last time Pitt was this strong a 9, they got beat by another rather weak 8 seed, Pacific, in I think 2005. Not saying it will happen, but that’s a hint to where I’m leaning.

    I know you’re against it, but I do always try to find one 13 over 4. It’s happened every year since 2008, and I quickly eliminated Louisville and Michigan State as victims. If Tulsa and New Mexico State had traded spots, my decision would have been easier, but I still like Tulsa over UCLA. Not only is Steve Alford a woeful overachiever, I really hate advancing a coach who has lost twice in the first round as a 3 to a 14. Tulsa has also won 11 in a row, while even though UCLA won the Pac-12 tourney, took a horrendous loss at Washington State just before it.

    Otherwise, other than Florida, the rest of the South goes nuts. I’m not buying Kansas (their most recent win was an overtimer, and surrounded by two losses), Syracuse (again, hurting in momentum and they underachieve with this weak an SOS), Ohio State (WAY too weak of an offense), or New Mexico (Mountain West, need I go further?) You heard it here first, I think we are looking at a 10v11 matchup. I know it’s not popular, but I stand by it, with Stanford advancing. I don’t think a team with a Pythag below .8000 has ever reached the Elite Eight (ahem, Dayton). Plus, Stanford won a couple games in the Pac-12 tourney, while Dayton won zero.

    I think the West is the region most likely to blow up. Arizona wins it as expected, but there will be blood. Wisconsin will go down quickly to Oregon for started. I like Creighton in the Sweet 16, but their lack of defense and negative turnover margin will hurt them before they can overachieve too much. I know Dana Altman is snakebit, but he has had double digits seeds in all by I think one of his appearances, so some benefit of the doubt should be given in my opinion. Plus, no one except Oregon came remotely close to beating Louisville before the Final Four last year. Oh, and San Diego State and Oklahoma as weak teams? Simple solution, don’t take either to the Sweet 16! Take North Dakota State, an upstart underdog that has had some challenges this year.

    Iowa State is the weakest three, and I wanted to take them out, but again, Roy Williams can’t get to the Sweet 16 seeded lower than 4, yet still wins his first round game every time. Plus, Iowa State’s three-point arsenal is a HORRIBLE matchup for Villanova. But no need to fear, you can take them out to Michigan State. Call me nuts, but I even contemplated George Washington over Virginia, albeit briefly. All in all, chalk Sweet 16, but 3v4 Elite Eight with the 4 winning.

    The Midwest also goes chalk in the Sweet 16, but there will be two upsets with Tennessee and NC State advancing, I think. I mean, St. Louis has won just ONE game in its last five, and it was a grand total of two points over….UMass. But once again, it’s a 3v4 Elite Eight. Louisville is tempting, but I’ve beaten my case against them going to the Final Four like a dead horse, so I won’t go further. Duke makes the Final Four.

    • Dave says:

      Nice post, I’m really on board with your Oregon over Wisconsin pick.

      To your point with Dayton — VCU had a Pythag of 0.7465 heading into the tournament before their Final Four run in 2011.

      • Andy says:

        Wow, interesting! Thank you for pointing that out about VCU. I knew it was close though. Then again, VCU was in a regional chock full of snakebit or regularly underachieving coaches, so they had a rather accommodating draw to make it that far. I also can’t help but trust a team that won more games in its conference tournament more than a team that lost its first game in its tournament. Believe me though, it was a very difficult decision. But at least I take solace in the fact that the winner will have next to no shot at beating Florida, with Billy Donovan and his reliably overachieving ways.

        • Andy says:

          Phew, that was close…but got one Dayton win! Feeling a little more comfortable about omitting them from the Elite Eight after this one. Then again Ohio State WAS the strongest 6 by Ken Pomeroy so maybe this isn’t a huge surprise. Still, I’ll take it!

          Colorado not looking too good. Maybe Tad Boyle can only beat Mountain West teams that don’t win in the tournament. The pick still felt good but guess I am not winning a billion. Hey, I can still get first prize though and/or win my pool though, right? Not like I had Colorado beating Florida.

  8. nationalsfan says:

    er, that 2006 run was by George Mason not VCU!

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