Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Bracket - Hottest Teams Prevail - Nobody Hotter Than 4-Seed (Are you Kidding Me?) Auburn

Let me start with what I posted on Facebook about this bracket - then I will run through some other hot teams we pegged under this system.

Here is the quick reference of brackets with the links to this and each of the other brackets.

Facebook Post at https://www.facebook.com/john.pudner.5 

This isn't a prediction, because I always put out several scenarios that lead to different brackets based on possible trends each season - but I do see one logical scenario where the hottest team in the country (Auburn) beats the best team in the country (UConn) in a Sweet 16 game and then goes all the way to the national title.

First of all the only thing more ridiculous that the 2nd best conference (the Big East) getting only 3 bids, is that the hottest team in the country would play the best team in the Sweet 16. If the brackets were fair, I would give UConn almost a 50% chance of making the Final 4 and I'd give Auburn almost a 25% chance. The fact that they meet in the top HALF of the East bracket - and then even assuming one of them wins could get another killer game against either the Big Ten or Big 12 champ (Illinois or Iowa State) is ridiculous, and I believe lowers UConn's chances of making the Final 4 to 37% (still the best of any team) and lowers Auburn's chance of making the FInal 4 to 15%.

One of my other brackets is based on Coaches past success, and you could argue that either Dan Hurley (who I got a little chuckle from last week with a question in the Big East press room - you can listen to the question I asked of UConn's 7-foot-2 center in this story) or Bruce Pearl are the best coach in the nation. However, I base that upcoming bracket on the most impressive runs by a coach in past tournaments.

Hurley's run last year with UConn Men's Basketball was one of the greatest ever - beating all non- BIG EAST foes in the season and tournament by double digits.

However, no one match's the number of stunning runs by Pearl. I end up on a Cleveland elevator in 2005 with the Alabama team that had won the SEC West only to have Pearl beat them with a Milwaukee team that was not even in the top 40 coming into the tournament right before Milwaukee then beat the Big East co-champions Boston College to take Milwaukee Sweet 16.

In 2010, Pearl took a Tennessee team that was barely in the top 40 coming into the tournament to the Elite 8 - and that was his third trip to at least the Sweet 16 in just a few years. Then in 2019 he takes an Auburn team that was not a Top 10 team AND THEN LOST THEIR BEST PLAYER to the Final 4 and in fact was one missed call against UVa from being in the championship game with them.

To sum up, a potential Sweet 16 game between UConn and Auburn would be the Sweet 16 game most likely to produce a national champion - and by most likely I mean there is about a good 20% chance that the game happens and the winner goes all the way - but its the game with the biggest chance at producing a champ of all the possible Sweet 16 games.


Other notes:

Let's state the obvious, how in the world was Auburn still a 4-seed after destroying everyone in the SEC tournament to shoot up to No. 7 in the final AP poll? As hot as UConn is as well,, Auburn kicked around between 15th and 22nd in www.kenpom.com early in the year and is now No. 4 - so while UConn is still a little better, if you go based on who has improved the most, if that trajectory were to continue then Auburn would sneak past UConn and all the way to the title.

This is also the scenario most likely to result in an all-Wisconsin Elite 8 game. The 41 points Houston scored in their Big 12 loss is bound to give Coach Gard, who has won so many games over the years by frustrating opposing offenses, to bump Houston - and the history on first round conference tournament losers like Kentucky also getting upset in the NCAA gives Marquette a nice chance.

As hot as Marquette was, they were obviously cooled off by the injury to Tyler Kolek, and even assuming he is back, Wisconsin's final stretch was very impressive even in the only two losses (having led both Purdue and in the title game against Illinois) so if the hotter teams are winning this tournament that seems to be Wisconsin's ticket to the Final 4 and I'd even say the title game.

I also give Mississippi State their best chance to knock off UNC in this scenario, but then losing to Saint Mary's due to them beating Gonzaga against for the conference title to close out the season hot.

That being said, I also have Gonzaga making a run if the hotter teams are winning, because people thought the Zags were finally going to miss a tournament a couple of months ago and despite losing two of three to Saint Mary's they were one of the fastest rising teams the final two months of the year.

The hottest teams don't always do the best - and many overemphasis picking teams that are on a roll, since a hot streak can begin with just one tournament win.

However, if this is a year where hotter teams are winning, then Auburn could certainly be like some other  teams in the past 15 years that clearly were not likely to win the tournament with a  month left in the season but then pulled it together and caught fire. 

But UConn is hot too - the one top seed that also rolled through their conference tournament and in fact lost only one of their last 21 games playing in the second best conference (the Big East).

To give a deeper breakdown on a closer call, let's look at the game to be UConn's second opponent before the potential war between UConn and Auburn that could ultimately be for the national title.

As for UConn's first opponent, while we'd give Florida Atlantic the edge over Northwestern, based on this bracket we need to give Northwestern the edge. You may not think going 6-4 down the stretch is that hot, but in fact Northwestern entered the game with Nebraska ranked 51st and all six wins have been strong and even the four losses all good showings in the tough Big Ten, in the end moving them up from 51st to 46th at www.kenpom.com during these final 10 games.

While Florida Atlantic has had some strong wins late in the season, overall it has been a steady slide. The headed into Christmas 10-2 coming off their huge win against Arizona to rank 10th at www.kenpom.com and while their 15-6 record the rest of the way may still sound strong, their have been some weak opponents. Closing the season being stunned by Temple dropped them all the way to 41st at www.kenpom.com, a drop off 31 spots since their high.

So you can see that while Florida Atlantic still ranks higher than Northwestern, if you look at the trajectory based on which team is hotter, if this trend continues Northwestern would seem ready to beat and shoot past Florida Atlantic. Too bad if they do they just happen to need to face UConn next.

That's just one example of how we look at the trajectory of each team and emphasize it for this bracket based on which team in hotter in each match-up.

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