Monday, December 5, 2016

2016 Death to the BCS Playoffs: Official Bracket

Ladies and gentlemen, it has all come down to this.

14 weeks and hundreds of games have narrowed down the 128 teams in college football. The ten conferences have crowned their champions. All that remains is to take them, and six deserving at large teams, and put them into a bracket to determine our national champion.

This is the system designed by Dan Wetzel, Josh Peter, and Jeff Passan in their classic depicted here: a more equitable college football playoff where everyone gets an opportunity to prove they belong. We also add to the excitement and enhance the regular season by giving home field advantage to the higher seeds for the first three rounds.

In their system, a selection committee still decided the field. I don't have those resources at my disposal, so I instead take a number of metrics and use these to help me in my decision making process: rankings of Non Conference Schedule Strength (NCSS), First Degree (PP1), Second Degree (PP2), and Adjusted Playoff Points (aPP), and computer rankings compiled by Jeff Sagarin (SAG), the late David Rothman (ROTH), and the website All My Sports Teams Suck (AMSTS). I organically try to combine all of these to build the fairest playoff bracket that I can.

And so, without further ado, here is your 2016 Death to the BCS Playoff field, seeded from 1-16.

2016 NCAA Playoff Points Rankings: Week 14

I've got a lot to catch up on.

This was Championship Weekend, with eight conference title games and a de facto title game being played, while two conferences wrapped up their regular seasons. This leaves me with one final batch of Playoff Points to calculate.

Most teams' numbers will end up remaining the same compared to last week; because not every conference has a title game I don't calculate conference championship games in Playoff Points. This means no receiving points for the victory, and no update to the victors' win totals or losers' loss totals. Some of these games may boost teams' scores based on early season matchups though, which is why I have to run the numbers one final time.

If you want one final reminder of how this works, my season introduction post has a primer on this metric. Let's check the stats one final time!

Game Notes: (MBK) Illinois Wesleyan University @ North Central College (12/3/16)

Final Score
NCC 84, IWU 75

Game Summary
This was a game that took a little while to really get going, and while the Cardinals (4-1, 1-0) were able to open the scoring and take an early lead, the Titans (5-1, 0-1) started hitting jumpers to grab the lead and control of this one. With foul trouble plaguing the Cardinals, the Titans were able to build a nine point lead with about five and a half minutes to play. But the Cardinals would not be denied, embarking on a 9-2 run to close the gap and even took the lead late in the half before a three pointer gave the Titans a 35-33 advantage heading to the locker room. The Titans returned to the floor guns blazing, pushing the lead back up to seven a couple times and maintaining control before the Cardinals finally tied the game back up a little over six minutes in. A quick two point lead a minute later was immediately wiped out on a three, and a bit of a back and forth ensued. The Titans seemed poised to control the ending with a three with 4:24 to play, but a conventional three point play sparked an 8-0 Cardinal run, and North Central was able to put the game away from there.
(skip ahead to about the 2:40:00 mark for the men's game)

Key Stats
  • Alex Sorenson (NCC): 9-21 FG (2-7 3PT), 5-6 FT; 25 pts, 5 reb (2 off), 1 stl. This was a pretty quiet 25 for Sorenson, but in terms of minutes it was an efficient 25 points. Sorenson was plagued by bulls*** officiating foul trouble and had to sit for a big chunk of the first half, as well as significant time in the second half, but he hit some key buckets when he did see the floor to help keep the Cardinals in the game.
  • Erwin Henry (NCC): 4-7 FG (1-4 3PT), 8-8 FT; 17 pts, 13 reb (1 off), 5 ast, 1 blk. Erwin definitely rebounds bigger than his size and has shown such this season, but I was flabbergasted when I heard his stat line after the game. 13 rebounds and five assists is an incredible floor game. He hit a few key shots to keep the Cardinals around early in the game, then hit eight straight free throws, including a pair of technical free throws, to ice the game.
  • Trevor Seibring (IWU): 6-13 FG, 4-7 FT; 16 pts, 6 reb (2 off). Seibring is Wesleyan's best player, and was the guy to stop if the Cardinals wanted to win. The Titans got some key contributions from a few of their guards to help their early control in this one, but North Central did a pretty good job overall of containing Seibring, though he did show his skills more than once. He also flopped to draw an offensive foul on Sorenson, which was his second of the game and forced Todd Raridon to pull him out.
CCIW Scoreboard Watch
  • Wheaton 82 (4-2, 1-0), @ Elmhurst 69 (2-4, 0-1)
  • North Park 87 (5-0, 1-0), @ Augustana 78 (5-2, 0-1)
  • @ Carthage 70 (4-2, 1-0), Millikin 59 (0-6, 0-1)
  • BYE: Carroll (4-1, 0-0)
Final Thoughts
I usually don't like to talk about this a ton, especially after a win, but the officiating in this game was awful. Both head coaches were barking at the referees all night, and while I can't recall any specific "NCC got away with that one" calls, the Titans benefited from this as well. I already mentioned the Seibring flop, but Sorenson's third foul was also an iffy one. The team argued about his fourth as well because he was "in the circle" and vertical, but he had also jumped, and I didn't really have any issue with that foul call. Fans on both sides were upset with how the game was called, so maybe it was officiated "fairly," albeit poorly.

Either way, this was a huge win for North Central after a tough loss to Platteville on Tuesday. The slow-developing offense didn't kill them in this one, and Jack Bronec played pretty well in foul trouble relief of Sorenson. Jagger Anderson also came off the bench in this one, but he responded very well to the role. It wasn't North Central's best game, but it was enough. NCC closes out their five game homestand on Wednesday as they welcome in Carthage. I will not be at the mic on Wednesday due to another commitment, but you can catch the game on at 7pm and see the Cardinals back in action.

Game Notes: (WBK) Illinois Wesleyan University @ North Central College (12/3/16)

Final Score
IWU 118, NCC 113 (OT)

Game Summary
This was another instant classic to add to the rivalry's illustrious history, as an early 5-0 run by the Cardinals (3-2, 0-1) gave them a 5-2 lead, but the Titans (4-3, 1-0) responded with six straight, and the seesaw battle was on. The Cardinals led by as many as seven late in the first quarter, but only carried a 24-23 lead into the second quarter. The Cardinals hit three straight threes to give themselves a six point lead, but the Titans would not go away, building a five point lead of their own. North Central stormed back and built a six point lead, but blew a pair of layups in the closing seconds that kept it a 57-51 lead at the break. The Cardinals led for most of the third quarter, going up by as many as eight points, but the Titans exploded for a 13-1 run to flip the script, though the Cardinals kept it close, only trailing 81-79 after three. The Titans remained just out of reach for most of the quarter, possessing an answer for every Cardinal basket and they would lead by as many as six before the Cardinals finally pushed over the hump and were the first to the century mark. The Titans bounced back again, taking a pair of two point leads in the final minute-plus, but the Cardinals forced overtime on a layup with two seconds to go. The Titans opened the scoring with a three almost a minute into the extra session and would lead by as many as five before the Cardinals came back to tie the game at 113 with 1:18 to play. But the Titans got their game-winning bucket with a minute to play, and the Cardinals were unable to mount a final comeback.

Key Stats
  • NCC 2nd Half: 13-23 FT (56.5%). I talked to Michelle Roof after the game briefly, and we lamented letting this one get away. The Cardinals got a little sloppy in the second half, but this stat was the one that killed me. In fairness, the Titans missed seven free throws of their own in that half, but with the Cardinals controlling the game for much of the third quarter and being unable to take advantage of free opportunities, this is a loss that might linger a little bit.
  • Molly McGraw (IWU): 13-29 FG (4-8 3PT), 7-9 FT; 37 pts, 6 reb (2 off), 4 ast, 3 blk, 3 stl. McGraw is probably the Titans' best player, and she showed why Saturday night. Usually with The System it's forwards who do most of the scoring damage (and to be fair, this did happen too), but once in a while a guard will have the game of her life against the Cardinals. McGraw had hers, hitting the three to get the Titans started in overtime after scoring 20 points in the second half. The fact that she also filled the rest of the stat sheet speaks to how great a player she is.
  • Mayson Whipple (NCC): 12-22 FG (3-9 3PT), 2-4 FT; 29 pts, 5 reb (2 off), 8 ast. Mayson all but keyed North Central's comeback in this one, as she went into attack mode as the game went on. Her eight assists are a season high, and mark the sixth time in the past two seasons she's reached at least eight in a single game. Mayson also hit the clutch floater to force overtime.
North Central System Watch
  • IWU Turnovers: 28. The Titans are one of the most disciplined teams in the country, so their turnover numbers against The System are going to be a little bit lower than most teams the Cardinals face. But North Central forced 21 of those turnovers in the first 20 minutes, so credit Mia Smith for making adjustments at halftime and to her players for executing as the game went on. Of the 28 assists, 19 of those came off Cardinal steals, led by four for Paula Zerante, while four other players registered two apiece.
  • NCC 3PT: 14-51 (27.5%). This is about the normal pace North Central ends up on, though it ended up about a point and half lower than the season mark to date. North Central had stretches of relatively hot shooting, but not like the five in a row they hit to put Piedmont away a couple weeks ago.
  • NCC Charges Drawn: 2. Anita Sterling picked up one late in the game, but someone else drew an offensive foul earlier on, and I didn't quite catch who. But it was good to see Anita get back to her usual self.
CCIW Scoreboard Watch
  • Wheaton 71 (5-1, 1-0), @ Elmhurst 53 (6-1, 0-1)
  • @ Carthage 96 (4-3, 1-0), Millikin 80 (4-2, 0-1)
  • @ Augustana 88 (6-0, 1-0), North Park 85 (3-2, 0-1)
  • UW-Oshkosh 84, @ Carroll 51 (0-7, 0-0)
Final Thoughts
I mentioned it already, but this one hurt. North Central always seems to match up well with Illinois Wesleyan, as the Cardinals had won four of the last six matchups going into Saturday, and the prior few games at Merner against the team in green had been phenomenal. This one gets added to the lore, but with the wrong outcome. Hopefully though, going blow for blow for 45 minutes with one of the country's best teams will bode well going forward.

Over on the Wesleyan side, my best wishes go out to guard Gabrielle Holness, who suffered an injury to her right leg in the second quarter. She had to be helped back to the bench and was on crutches the rest of the evening. I made a point to go over and wish her well before I left for the evening, and she seemed to be in decent spirits (though in fairness, a win probably helps). It's my sincere hope that she'll be able to see the court again before season's end.

Back to North Central, things don't get any easier, as they head up Naper Boulevard to take on Wheaton College on Wednesday and try to snap Wheaton's current win streak in the rivalry at 14.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

2016 COAS Pigskin Pick 'Em: Week 13

Thanksgiving was largely kind to the coalition, as we chug along to the conclusion of the third quarter of our season. We like our group, Logan is our leader in the clubhouse, and we have a lot of football left to play.

I continue to be fascinated by the breakdown of our group's picks so far. Adam has had tremendous success in hero picks, but he finds himself three games out of the lead at this stage. Last week he had Aiden pick for him, and the kid came through pretty well: of our record 12 disputed games, we split those evenly down the middle. Aiden also went hero five times, winning three games. You should be very proud of your son, Adam.

We get our final byes this week, which makes sense because the number of games played is odd. I also had taken a game out of Grant's picks last week because he forgot to pick the Thursday night game in Week 11. Logan did that with the Detroit-Minnesota game last week, but the rest of us were split between the two teams. So I took my dad's advice and counted those as losses.

This week, Adam and I disagree on only six games out of the 15 being played. Let's see if I can climb out of this fourth place hole.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Game Notes: UW-Platteville @ North Central College (11/29/16)

Final Score
UW-Platteville 57, NCC 40

Game Summary
This was a tough matchup from the outset, but the Cardinals (3-1) were able to open up a 10-5 lead in the early going. The Pioneers (5-1) clamped down on defense and got their offense rolling though, exploding for a 22-4 run over the next ten minutes to take complete control of the game. North Central recovered a little bit and got a three at the buzzer to make it 31-24 heading into the break. Coach Raridon lit into his team in the locker room, and they responded in the first couple minutes, scoring five points on their first two possessions and were able to tie the game at 35 with about 12 minutes to play. But the Pioneers answered immediately to retake the lead, then got a three point play to extend the lead to five. A North Central bucket cut it to three, and the Pioneers responded with nine straight points before an NCC three with 6:35 to play marked the last points of the night the Cardinals would muster.

Key Stats
  • NCC: 16-55 FG (29.1%). The Pioneers came into this game holding opponents to under 40 percent shooting from the floor, and under 30 percent from deep. They seemed to be everywhere in their 2-3 zone last night and forced some tough shots, but the Cardinals were just as guilty for this. They had a lot of terrible possessions where they just passed the ball around the perimeter and no one tried to go create a shot until the shot clock was nearly out. They've done this for a chunk of the season to date, but it hadn't cost them until last night.
  • Robert Duax (UWP): 4-8 FG (2-3 3PT), 5-7 FT; 15 pts, 9 reb (1 off), 3 ast, 1 blk, 3 stl. Duax was Platteville's best player coming in, and he sure played like it in this one. Giving up nine rebounds to an opponent is one thing, but to one of their guards? Even if he's one of their leading rebounders, this is an embarrassing total to allow.
  • Alex Sorenson/Connor Raridon: 10-30 FG (2-10 3PT), 3-6 FT; 25 pts, 15 reb (3 off), 5 ast, 4 blk, 2 stl. This... is not ideal. Connor was repeatedly forced into tough fallaway shots all night, and Alex took seven threes, only hitting one. Part of that was a credit to the Pioneer defense for locking down the inside, but you need your best guys to play better than this if you want to win.
Final Thoughts
I don't know how well you'll be able to hear it on the video above, but Todd Raridon's voice was shot in the second half. He could be heard outside the locker room at halftime, he was that upset about what transpired in the first half. To the Cardinals' credit, the team responded early in the second half, but that energy only lasts so long.

All in all, this was an embarrassing loss. You're at home, you're ranked sixth in the country, and you're hosting a team you blew out by 30 at their place last year. This shouldn't happen. The thought I had right at the end last night was that this was a trap game. And the Pioneers sprung the trap perfectly.

I don't want to overreact to this loss too much; it's one game, and one game doesn't define a season. But if the Cardinals play like this against Illinois Wesleyan on Saturday, they're going to lose by at least 30. Hopefully they play sufficiently motivated and angry in that one.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

2016 Death to the BCS Playoffs: Automatic Bid Games

Tuesday is normally my day of looking at NCSS rankings for college football. But at this point, we are done with all non-conference games, and this coming week is the slowest week in terms of college football games. However, this is a critical week for the Death to the BCS Playoffs.

Of our ten conferences at the FBS level, eight of them are large enough to accommodate conference championship games (and we'll have a ninth next year because the morons running the Big 12 decided to invalidate the regular season with one in a ten-team conference). The winners of seven of these games will receive automatic bids to the Death to the BCS Playoffs. The Big 12 doesn't have an official title game yet, but has a de facto one this year. And finally, the Sun Belt has a couple games that will impact the playoff picture.

So below, I will outline every game that impacts these automatic bids and how they play out with regards to the Death to the BCS Playoffs.