2021-22 Bracketology, Vol. 3: where Tennessee stands, SEC Tournament scenarios, and possible draws

If you missed the previous two editions, here’s Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

Well, hey: this has been a pretty fun season. I’ve had a decent-enough time writing about it. Now, we get to a month that is either torture or more torture, no matter who you root for.

I promise that March can be, and should be, fun. You’ve just got to let it be fun in the first place. What could be more fun than exploring numerous hypotheticals that may or may not come true? For a stats obsessive like myself, it’s my college hoops prime time: all sorts of scenarios, many of which do not really exist.

Cutting to the chase here because this is a long post: these are the six things I’m covering in today’s article.

  • Where Tennessee stands, bracket-wise, as of March 7
  • Various SEC Tournament scenarios and seeding potentials
  • Partner likelihoods
  • Best 1/2/3/4/etc. seeds to pair with
  • Location likelihoods

This is the same format as Volume 2, which was posted just over a week ago, which makes sense to me. Based on feedback from various readers, I’ve tweaked some of the sourcing here and am trying to incorporate what the Bracket Matrix views as the very best bracketologists, alongside with the stats stuff you already know about. Onward!

Where does Tennessee stand at this moment?

Prior to this weekend, it felt like Tennessee would likely lock themselves in at no worse than a 3 seed by beating Arkansas. I think that still remains the case, but after Duke lost at home to a mediocre North Carolina team and Wisconsin lost at home to a wretched Nebraska side missing a starter, you can start to envision the path to a 2 seed, one that may not even require an SEC Tournament title.

That’s all hypothetical, which we’ll entertain in a bit. For now, Tennessee ranks 11th on the Bracket Matrix seed list. One person requested a seed list that was just the top 10 bracketologists on the Matrix (I’m refusing to use BM for obvious reasons); that has Tennessee as the 10th overall seed, barely a hair behind Purdue for 9th overall. The teams Tennessee has to pass to get a 2 seed, at least from the general consensus, are Purdue (9th) and Villanova (8th). (This is where I note that I am not understanding why Duke is 7th on the seed list.) Wisconsin (11th) and Texas Tech (12th) are also in that mix, but both posted worse losses this weekend alone than anything Tennessee’s done this year.

How does the SEC Tournament affect this?

We’ll cover a variety of different scenarios here:

  • Tennessee goes 0-1 against either Mississippi State or South Carolina, both of which would be Quadrant 2 losses
  • Tennessee goes 1-1 and loses to Kentucky
  • Tennessee goes 1-1 and loses to Alabama
  • Tennessee goes 2-1 and loses to Auburn/Arkansas
  • Tennessee wins the SEC Tournament

Might as well get the worst possible outcome out of the way first.

1. Tennessee goes 0-1, losing to either Mississippi State or South Carolina

Expected impact: Drop of 2 spots on seed curve, per Torvik; 0.6 drop in Average Seed, per INCC Stats
Seed range: 10th-13th overall; 3-4 seed

This, obviously, is the worst scenario. Tennessee posts their first Quadrant 2 loss of the season as the worst possible time, ruining their status as one of just eight teams with zero Q2-Q4 losses. Maybe State jumps into the top 50 as a result, but considering they would likely get plowed by Kentucky immediately after, I doubt it.

The net impact of this one is pretty intriguing, though. Torvik (who is not a bracketologist, just a stats guy) has Tennessee 8th on his site’s seed list right now, so his simulation places a loss to MSU as only costing Tennessee two spots on the seed curve. It even might be preferable to actually being 8th and having to draw Gonzaga as your 1. Even so, that seems rosy, and it’s probably a situation that has Tennessee closer to 12th or even 13th overall.

2. Tennessee goes 1-1, losing to Kentucky

Expected impact: …nothing. Zero change on seed curve, per Torvik; zero change in Average Seed, per INCC Stats
Seed range: 8th-12th overall; 2-3 seed

This is the status quo. The path to a 2 seed would be very dependent on everyone else. Auburn is likely locked in at no worse than a 2; same for Kansas and Kentucky. That leaves two 2 seed spots open for six or so teams. At that point, Tennessee is rooting for at least four of Duke, Wisconsin, Villanova, Purdue, and Texas Tech to fail to improve their resume in some meaningful fashion. The problem is that you become even more dependent on the teams likely ahead of you (the first three) to all really blow it. Duke would have to fail to win an ACC Tournament game; Wisconsin probably would, too. Villanova…maybe 1-1, with that one being a bad loss? Not sure.

Either way, pretty hard to go 1-1, lose to an agreed-upon top five team, and drop below the 3 line. If anything, this probably just solidifies Tennessee’s status as a 3 seed.

3. Tennessee goes 1-1, losing to Alabama

Expected impact: …also nothing. Zero change on seed curve, per Torvik; -0.1 change in Average Seed, per INCC Stats
Seed range: 8th-12th overall; 2-3 seed

This is the same scenario as above, just more annoying because it’s Nate Oats and you’re losing to the wonder boy that directed his team to an SEC Tournament 6 seed. I know we’re including the 8th overall seed (the last 2) as a possibility here but it would feel pretty frail. If you lose to Kentucky by three points or something nobody will care; if you lose to Alabama by three points, it’s a lot less impressive. This would be a 3 seed.

4. Tennessee goes 2-1 and loses to Auburn/Arkansas

Expected impact: +2 change on seed curve, per Torvik; +0.2 change in Average Seed, per INCC Stats
Seed range: 7th-10th overall; 2-3 seed

At this point, you’re really on the line. Even in a scenario where Tennessee is beating Alabama on the way to the title game, that’s an additional Quadrant 1 win at a neutral site, and Alabama would be the highest NET team Tennessee’s beaten away from home. If it’s Kentucky, well, even better.

By process of elimination, one of Wisconsin/Purdue (potentially, both) will fail to win the Big Ten. Texas Tech is third-best in odds to win the Big 12. Duke plays in the worst Big Six conference and lost the same number of conference games as Tennessee. Even if Villanova were to win the Big East, you’re staring down a scenario where Tennessee could very well be no worse than 10th overall, could easily be no worse than 9th, and could potentially slip in as the final 2 seed depending on other outcomes. Not bad.

5. Tennessee wins the SEC Tournament.

Expected impact: 404 file not found
Seed range: 5th-9th overall; 2-3 seed

I mean it has been 43 years, after all. But in the unlikely event Tennessee finally does the thing we have been begging them to for eleven Presidential administrations, the following things will happen in turn:

  1. I will hoot and holler;
  2. Tennessee will be a 2 seed, unless…

So: 5th may even be a little aggressive. I reached out to the guy that runs Delphi Bracketology, and he indicated that it would be very unlikely for anyone below Kentucky (6th overall) to grab that final 1 seed. I would agree with him. Those top six seeds may even be fully locked in, and Kentucky may be unable to fall to 7th or lower.

That said…this would be a Tennessee team with 10 Quadrant 1 wins, zero Q2-Q4 losses, and at least one win over one of the two SEC teams in contention for a 1 seed. It wouldn’t really matter what anyone else would do. Tennessee would pass Duke with relative ease, and we already covered that one of Wisconsin/Purdue will eliminate themselves from 2 seed competition. At that point, as long as neither Wisconsin/Purdue win the Big Ten (again, the most likely scenario) you should be fine. 2 seed, just root for not getting Gonzaga as the 1.

Who do you think Tennessee is most likely to draw?

Well, because I am the protagonist of history and everything is specifically designed to harm me, not you, Tennessee will be drawing the First Four winner of Michigan/Memphis in the Round of 32.

More specifically, there aren’t that many updates from last time. The committee rules state that the top four teams (in seed lines 1-4) from a conference cannot be in the same bracket, meaning Tennessee won’t see any of Auburn/Kentucky/Arkansas until a hypothetical Final Four appearance. You can eliminate them from any bracket designs. Beyond that, Tennessee will have nine potential opponents among their 1-4 seeds: three for each seed line, excluding the one Tennessee is on.

Right now, per the consensus, these are the teams Tennessee is technically allowed to be paired with by seed line. Included are the 3 seeds in the event that Tennessee is not a three:

  • 1 seeds: Gonzaga (WCC), Baylor (B12), Arizona (P12)
  • 2 seeds: Kansas (B12), Duke (ACC), Villanova (BE)
  • 3 seeds: Wisconsin (B1G), Purdue (B1G), Texas Tech (B12)
  • 4 seeds: Providence (BE), UCLA (P12), Illinois (B1G), Arkansas (SEC)

Considering the next team up on the seed list is currently Houston, a team that just got pantsed by Memphis, I feel it’s reasonable to state that no fewer than 12 of those 13 teams will be among the top 16 on Sunday. So: you can feel pretty confident in who you’re looking at here.

Beyond that, you have to consider the other conferences, too. We know that the SEC teams cannot be paired together. Who must the 1 and 2 seeds avoid?

  • Gonzaga: none, unless you don’t want them to play previous opponents Duke or UCLA again
  • Baylor: Kansas (2 seed), Texas Tech (3 seed), and probably Texas (5 seed)
  • Arizona: UCLA (4 seed)
  • Kansas: same as Baylor
  • Duke: just other ACC teams, but the committee may want to avoid Gonzaga and Kentucky rematches
  • Villanova: Providence (4 seed), Connecticut (5 seed)

Attempting to figure out how the committee would actually order these teams is a struggle. My guess is that if Baylor wins it’ll be hard to keep them out of the overall 1 seed, but any other scenario results in Gonzaga as the 1. For the purposes of our simulation (of a sort), we’re going with the following seed order based on top bracketologists:

  • 1 seeds: Gonzaga, Baylor, Arizona, Auburn
  • 2 seeds: Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, Villanova
  • 3 seeds: Purdue, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Texas Tech
  • 4 seeds: Illinois, UCLA, Providence, Arkansas

Along with this, I’m indulging a specific and silly part of the equation: seed list rankings. Technically, Tennessee would be #10 on this list. Duke would be #7, Auburn #4, so on. The goal, in theory, is to create a bracket that totals 34 from these rankings: 1 vs. 8, 9 vs. 16. The problem is that when conferences get involved, it gets pretty difficult to actually do that. This is the most even seed line ranking I could produce:

West Region (34)

  1. Gonzaga (1)
  2. Villanova (8)
  3. Purdue (9)
  4. Arkansas (16)

South Region (34)

  1. Baylor (2)
  2. Duke (7)
  3. Tennessee (10)
  4. Providence (15)

Midwest (lol) Region (34)

  1. Arizona (3)
  2. Kentucky (6)
  3. Texas Tech (12)
  4. Illinois (13)

East Region (34)

  1. Auburn (4)
  2. Kansas (5)
  3. Wisconsin (11)
  4. UCLA (14)

See how it gets jumbled on the final two regions? Because of the prominence of the SEC, Big 12, and Big Ten on the top seed lines, it becomes pretty hard to just slate these teams in an easy order. Still, this is a way of getting to 34 per region. Also, while we’re on this subject, Duke has technically requested to be in the Midwest Region, but that request only works if you’re a 1 seed, which is…unlikely. (Don’t doubt the selection committee to somehow find a way to indulge this, though.)

To answer the original question here, it’s just very dependent on results. Tennessee is technically equally likely to draw any of the nine teams they’re allowed to draw, but depending on where Tennessee falls on the seed curve, they’ll be much more likely to grab one versus another. For instance, if Tennessee does end up 10th in the committee rankings, it’s more likely that they are paired with the 2nd overall seed (Baylor as of now), assuming that there are no conflicts with the 2 or 4 seed. Likewise, Tennessee would be less likely to draw the worst 4 seed (16th overall) unless it’s not possible to fit the bracket evenly otherwise.

Who does Tennessee want to be paired with most and least at each seed line?

This is a modified version of the GOAT/Poop Draw that I’ve done the last few seasons for Tennessee. Instead of building a full region out, though, it seems more useful just to give you a general overview of who’s hot and who’s not at each seed line. (Plus, the last time I did the draws, a guy got very mad at me for the concept of them in the first place. Happy Tuesday, guy!) This is ordered from 1 to 16, just like the real thing. WARNING: because of the nature of one-bid leagues, about half of which see a conference tournament upset of the 1 seed, it will get very wobbly towards the end. Stay with me.

For the purposes of this exercise, we’re sticking with the teams currently slotted to be at those seed lines, per the Matrix consensus.

  • 1 seeds: I mean, as long as you don’t draw Gonzaga (#1 overall by 5.3 points in KenPom), it’s probably agreeable. Whether you trust the metrics is besides the point; I simply think that Tennessee does not have enough roster options in the post-Nkamhoua era to contain both Timme and Holmgren for a full 40. Everyone else is at least rational. If you read into late-season performance, Arizona (#2) has played like the 11th-best team over the last 10 games, and Tennessee is technically allowed to play them again. Not great for a 1 seed. Other than that, uh…Baylor?
    • Also: this is kind of a bad batch for 1 seeds, with three currently sitting at +28 AdjEM or lower. While someone has to make it to the Final Four, the last year where at least three of the four 1s entered at +28 or lower in KenPom was 2014, a year when Florida was the only 1 seed to make the Final Four. Before that: 2006, when no 1 seed made it.
  • 2 seeds: The good news is that, by way of being in the SEC, you cannot draw Kentucky (#3), who is likely to be the highest-ranked 2 seed by some distance. The worst team you can technically draw is Duke (#6), who did just lose at home to a team Tennessee beat by nearly 20. Pardon me if I am more than a little worried at the whistle Coach K, who demands to be feted at every turn, will receive in March. Beyond that, your current options are either Kansas (#9) or Villanova (#10). If Tennessee ends up a 3, hope that Wisconsin (#30) won the Big Ten.
    • Speaking of which: On Wisconsin! Yes, seriously. Over the last 20 years, 17 3 and 4 seeds that ranked outside of the KenPom Top 25 have made it to March. Zero have made it beyond the Sweet Sixteen, and only two have made it to the Sweet Sixteen. You want Wisconsin in your bracket. Promise.
  • 3 seeds: I think I speak for everyone when I say no one wants a Tennessee/Texas Tech (#11) rematch. The other options here are Purdue (#13) and Wisconsin (previously covered, #30), both of whom would be reasonable.
    • Purdue is on pace to enter the Tournament with the nation’s #105 ranked defense. The sample size of teams with sub-100 defenses is predictably low, so I’ve extended it to teams with defenses ranked 90th or worse. This is still just a nine-team sample size, but of nine 1-4 seeds with a sub-90th defense, only one of those teams (2015 Notre Dame) made it beyond the Sweet Sixteen. Five went out by the Round of 32.
  • 4 seeds: I don’t know that any of these are like…truly wretched? But if you’re somehow a 1 seed you don’t really want UCLA (#8, #11 NET) in your bracket. Feels like they’re on a collision course with whoever the last 1 seed is, though. (They can’t draw Arizona, and their resume actually ranks second-strongest among the current four 4 seeds). Illinois (#18) is very hot and cold. If you’re Tennessee and, for some reason, you want your 1 seed to stay intact, root for Providence (#36), who will be the lowest-rated 4 seed since 2011 Vanderbilt (#37; lost in Round of 64) if everything holds.
  • 5 seeds: I know that your most recent impression of Houston (#5!) is that they got blown out by Memphis and that they’re down two starters, but think of it this way: they’ve been down two starters since January 2. Since that time, Bart Torvik’s site ranks them as the fourth-best team in America. It speaks to how good a coach Kelvin Sampson is that this is the case. If anything, as long you’re not a 1 or a 4, you badly want Houston as your 5 seed. Anyway, the other 5 seeds, as constructed, are all pretty dangerous: Texas (#15), Saint Mary’s (CA) (#16), and Connecticut (#20) all have at least one win over a Top 10 team.
    • The concept of all four 5 seeds being…well, 5 seeds (20th or better) would actually be somewhat novel. It’s only happened twice before: 2018 and 2005. In those years, 5 seeds went a combined 7-1 in the Round of 64, produced five Sweet Sixteen teams, and two Final Four teams. That may or may not happen this year, but now you know.
  • 6 seeds: Considering Tennessee’s likely status as a 3 seed, know that you only have two options here, as the other two are Alabama and LSU. Tennessee would not want to draw Iowa (#14), who is kind of bad defensively but top 5 on offense and has All-American Keegan Murray on their team. Tennessee would want to draw Ohio State (#26), a team that feels pretty collapse-ready. Ohio State actually rose to 17th before losing by 13 at home to Iowa on February 19, a loss that kick-started a terrible stretch where they’ve gone 3-4 and lost to Michigan and Nebraska at home.
    • A fun OSU fact: their two closest statistical comps are 2009 California (a 7 seed that got stomped in the Round of 64) and 2011 Arizona (a 5 seed who came a point short of the Final Four). Who knows!
  • 7 seeds: Fraught territory for 2 seeds this year, potentially. No one wants to draw Murray State (#25), a team that has lost once since Thanksgiving (to Auburn) and is scalding-hot. Colorado State (#33) is less metrics-impressive but has several good wins. Meanwhile, USC (#40) has a very thin resume for 25-6 and has fallen off defensively.
  • 8/9 seeds: Again, given Tennessee’s positioning and the general fluidity of these seeds, you probably want the 1 seed to have the toughest possible draw. In that case, you’re hoping your 1 seed has to beat either San Francisco (#21) or San Diego State (#23) to make the Sweet Sixteen. You could also hope for Boise State (#27), another Western team that’s flown well under the radar. A bad draw here would be Michigan State (#43), who is coached by Tom Izzo but has played horrendous basketball for the last six weeks.
  • 10 seeds: If you’re a 2, you don’t want Wake Forest (#34), who is the only 10 seed currently inside the top 40 on KenPom. Everyone else is whatever. Worst offender is Creighton (#70), who ranks a spot below Chattanooga, a team that will be either a 12 or 13 seed.
  • 11 seeds: This is where it gets hairy. 6 seeds are 19-21 versus 11 seeds since the First Four became a thing. I can’t imagine that’s much of a surprise. The 11 seed line has generally turned into the best teams from one-bid leagues + the best messy teams from high-majors. The 6 seed that has to play either Memphis (#28) or Michigan (#31) will be dreading it immensely, as will the corresponding 3 seed that has to play the equivalent of a 7-8 seed. The other 11 seeds are frankly not scary, unless…
  • 12 seeds: Loyola Chicago (#24), just like COVID-19, will never go away fully. I think they probably end up an 11 seed, which is why I’m discussing them immediately…but as of the time of writing, they were the highest-rated 12 seed. You don’t want to play them. The 12 seed you would want is Rutgers (#73), who would be a First Four winner. Also not that into the idea of playing North Texas (#48) if I’m a 5.
  • 13 seeds: WARNING! From here on out, it’s sketchy territory at best; none of the teams mentioned will, at the time of publishing, have won their conference. Anyway, the best 13 seeds this year are all helpfully ranked right next to each other: Vermont (#66) and Towson (#67). Furman (#74) is also close, though by the time you read this they may have lost the SoCon title game. The safest option for 4 seeds this year would be a hypothetical matchup with Princeton (#105).
  • 14 seeds: The good news for 3 seeds: as of now, there shouldn’t be any truly scary 14 seeds. Last year, three 14 seeds entered the Tournament in the KenPom top 100, which was pretty unusual. This year, we might have one, and that’s only if very few conference tournament upsets happen or if New Mexico State (#87) gets underseeded somehow. Other than that, the options are teams like Wagner (#127) or Montana State (#142).
  • 15 seeds: It’s not 100% going to happen, but there’s a potential scenario where multiple teams on the 15 line are rated higher by KenPom than anyone on the 14. Colgate (#125), for instance, is currently tracking for a 15. Similarly, Jacksonville State (#141) could be a little plucky if they can find their way into the field. The 15 seed that went to the Sweet Sixteen last year entered the Tournament 151st, and FGCU entered the 2012-13 dance 124th. Anything can happen, but somewhere around 150th is probably the rough barrier.
  • 16 seeds: It feels pointless trying to project these because they never end up with the teams they start with, but Norfolk State (#165) is actually a little spicy. Considering the average 16 seed enters the NCAA Tournament around 205th-210th, gotta take what you can get.

Where will Tennessee be headed for the first two rounds?

I’ll repost the chart I did last time.

Teams Within 500 Miles of a Site, Per a Website My Brother Sent Me

  • Buffalo, NY (Thu/Sat): Kentucky (440 miles), Purdue (447), Duke (476), Villanova (280), Providence (388), Connecticut (193), Ohio State (290)
  • Fort Worth, TX (Thu/Sat): Kansas (445), Baylor (83), Texas Tech (269), Houston (236), Texas (174), Arkansas (292)
  • Indianapolis, IN (Thu/Sat): Kansas (488), Auburn (496), Kentucky (148), Purdue (62), Duke (474), Tennessee (290), Wisconsin (286), Illinois (113), Ohio State (168), Alabama (435)
  • Portland, OR (Thu/Sat): Gonzaga (294)
  • Greenville, SC (Fri/Sun): Auburn (235), Kentucky (251), Purdue (459), Duke (213), Tennessee (115), Ohio State (355), Alabama (271)
  • Milwaukee, WI (Fri/Sun): Kansas (474), Kentucky (386), Purdue (186), Wisconsin (76), Illinois (203), Ohio State (327)
  • Pittsburgh, PA (Fri/Sun): Kentucky (289), Purdue (364), Duke (330), Villanova (256), Tennessee (376), Illinois (435), Providence (457), Connecticut (236), Ohio State (161)
  • San Diego, CA (Fri/Sun): Arizona (361), UCLA (112), USC (112), Saint Mary’s (CA) (451)

I imagine the selection committee doesn’t have an exact-mile point-to-point chart in the room on Selection Sunday, but they probably have a general idea of which teams prefer which locations based on proximity. It matters, otherwise they’d put Kansas in San Diego or whatever.

Anyway, this is how I think each location shakes out as of now, based on the current top 16. All of these are assigned in order, based on closest available location.

  • Buffalo: Providence, Arkansas
  • Fort Worth: Baylor, Kansas
  • Indianapolis: Kentucky, Purdue
  • Portland: Gonzaga, UCLA
  • Greenville: Auburn, Duke
  • Milwaukee: Wisconsin, Illinois
  • Pittsburgh: Villanova, Tennessee
  • San Diego: Arizona, Texas Tech

Some brief comments:

  • Buffalo could shift based on if Villanova wants that over Pittsburgh, but considering the latter is a shorter drive by about 1:15, I doubt it. However, the committee could make an executive call here. Arkansas fans are rabid, but how many are willing to travel on Buffalo on short notice?
  • Fort Worth is locked in.
  • Indianapolis is probably locked in. The only thing that could change is if Purdue falls behind Tennessee in seeding order or if they pick Milwaukee instead.
  • Portland is half locked-in with Gonzaga. UCLA obviously makes more sense in San Diego, but I made an executive decision to send Tech to its closest remaining location as they’re ahead in the pecking order.
  • Greenville is locked in unless Duke falls beneath Tennessee/decides they’d rather play in Pittsburgh for some reason. Considering Greenville is a four-hour shorter drive, it would be weird to elect to go elsewhere.
  • Milwaukee is locked in unless Illinois falls to the 5 line or Purdue wants to play there instead.
  • Pittsburgh is fluid. Villanova would prefer this over Buffalo, but refer to the Buffalo notes for the issues there. Tennessee would prefer both Greenville and Indianapolis, but both may fill up by the time Tennessee is slotted somewhere. If Tennessee goes to Indianapolis instead, Pittsburgh probably becomes a landing spot for a helpless 4 seed…like Arkansas!
  • San Diego is half-locked in with Arizona. Texas Tech is somewhat close to a lock because I can’t figure out where else you’d send them.

How does the mess you typed out affect Tennessee?

…seems like you should be looking at Pittsburgh hotels or AirBNBs? Maybe? I’d give the percentages as such:

  1. Pittsburgh (55%)
  2. Indianapolis (20%)
  3. Greenville (20%)
  4. Randomizer (5%)

Complain about the odds if you want, but Indianapolis simply seems more realistic because I can envision Tennessee moving ahead of Purdue more than I can them moving ahead of Duke. I do not agree with that being the case – frankly Purdue’s resume is significantly better than Duke’s – but it appears to be the case. Worth noting that ~77% of the odds here correspond to a Friday/Sunday site.

Can you repost the thing about how Tennessee only plays day games in March?

Sure. From last time, here’s Tennessee’s tip times since the field expanded to 68:

  • 4:30 PM ET (2021)
  • 3 PM ET (2019)
  • 12:40 PM ET (2018)
  • 2:45 PM ET (2014)
  • 12:40 PM ET (2011)

That’s five consecutive daytime tips in a row. A fair(ish) Selection Committee and TV crew would give Tennessee an evening slot, but they could’ve done that after three or four in a row, too. My recommendation is to not be surprised by anything that happens.

Anything else?

If there’s more I’ll just Tweet it out, because 4,200+ words is enough. I think there’s a compelling case to be made for Tennessee as having a better resume than the counterparts they share the 3 seed line with, but if I’m going to make it I would prefer for it to not sound fanboy-ish. Thanks for reading; more to come.

Revisiting Tennessee’s remaining schedule, from an NCAA Tournament resume perspective

Look: it is January 2 as I type this. I have not much to do at this point in time. I am watching my beloved, stupid Detroit Lions blissfully keep pace for the #1 overall pick. I am sitting through the longest break in Tennessee basketball’s schedule that they’ll have all season. So, naturally, this leads to me checking in on Twitter and seeing a truly terrific tweet from an online buddy:

Content! Content! Thank you for the content.

This is merely a quasi-symptom of what I’ve thought about doing for a few days: providing everyone an update of what Tennessee’s schedule is likely going to look like the rest of the season. I did this in the preseason for the season preview, but it’s been two months, so an update seems useful. Tennessee has 18 games left; 17 of those are SEC opponents, one of those is Texas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. My guess is that people would like to know how Tennessee measures up here in all likelihood.

I’ve decided to measure this in a two-step method:

  1. First, I’m just using the projected Quadrant 1/2/etc. games as given by Bart Torvik’s website. Torvik actually does projected NET ratings using the available formula, which is really cool. We’ll also use his rankings, which are slightly different from Ken Pomeroy’s but use the same general idea.
  2. Also, I’m using hoop-explorer.com’s Build Your Own Top 25. I’ve weighted it as such: efficiency matters more than W-L, but only by a hair; there’s a mild bonus given to more dominant teams; there’s also a slight boost by weighting the last 30 days 10% more than the resume as a whole. These ratings, to my understanding, use KenPom as a source.

What this is going to do: provide you with two ratings. The first rating is their current rating on Bart Torvik’s website; the second is the BYOT25 rating. How useful is this? No clue, but it beats doing nothing.

The breakdown here is going to follow the NCAA Teamsheet format of Quadrants 1, 2, 3, and 4. Explanation(s) below. All numbers are NET rankings, which we obviously do not have but will be replaced with the Bart Torvik/KenPom/Haslametrics combined numbers for breakdown purposes.

  • Quadrant 1: Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1-75.
  • Quadrant 2: Home 31-75; Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135.
  • Quadrant 3: Home 76-160; Neutral 101-200; Away 136-240.
  • Quadrant 4: Home 161-plus; Neutral 201-plus; Away 241-plus.

I’ll list out any differences between the two methods as they exist. Right now, Tennessee ranks #13 on Torvik, #12 on KenPom, and #16 in the BYOT25 thing because the non-conference schedule did…not exactly come together as planned. (Recall that Colorado and Memphis were preseason Quadrant 1 games.) Onward.

Quadrant 1

Previously, this also included Quadrant 1-A, but there’s no difference this time out, so…yeah.

Scheduled games:

  • January 8 at LSU (#12/#13)
  • January 15 at Kentucky (#16/#17)
  • January 22 vs. LSU (#12/#13)
  • January 29 at Texas (#7/#19)
  • February 9 at Mississippi State (#35/#44)
  • February 15 vs. Kentucky (#16/#17)
  • February 19 at Arkansas (#67/#57)
  • February 26 vs. Auburn (#8/#5)

Expected wins: 4.1 out of 8 (Torvik); 4.2 (KenPom)

I guess if you like stability, it’s worth knowing that seven of these eight are the same as they were two months ago. The only new game is home LSU on January 22, a suddenly-pivotal affair for SEC title race purposes. Tennessee projects as an underdog in three of seven, all on the road (LSU, Kentucky, Texas). Regardless of what numbers you’re using, these seven games represent the toughest, most ruthless chunk of Tennessee’s remaining schedule. The most likely outcome for each is a close, tight affair that you’re rooting for the coin flip to land in your favor.

As of now, Tennessee is 2-3 against Quadrant 1 opponents, and if they can find a way to somehow get over .500 across 13 total games (7-6, or 5-3 here), that would be quite a big win. Torvik’s numbers currently project just nine teams in all of college basketball to finish above .500 (min. 10 games) against Quadrant 1 competition. Even six Quadrant 1 wins would be pretty useful, because only 15 other teams are projected to get that many. (In the last full season of 2019-20, 18 teams did this.)

A top ten team would be expected to go either 4-4 or 5-3 against this eight-game slate; it would behoove Tennessee to get to one of the two.

Odds of various records:

  • 0-8: 0.3%
  • 1-7: 2.5%
  • 2-6: 9.3%
  • 3-5: 20.2% (5-8 overall)
  • 4-4: 27.2% (6-7 overall)
  • 5-3: 23.5% (7-6 overall)
  • 6-2: 12.5%
  • 7-1: 3.9%
  • 8-0: 0.5%

Quadrant 2

Scheduled games:

  • January 18 at Vanderbilt (#84/#89)
  • January 26 vs. Florida (#25/#38)
  • February 1 vs. Texas A&M (#81/#56)
  • February 5 at South Carolina (#121/#82)
  • March 5 vs. Arkansas (#67/#57)

Expected wins: 4.01 out of 5 (Torvik); 3.92 (KenPom)

Tennessee will be favored to win all five of these, and in the case of a couple of them (Texas A&M and South Carolina), they’re likely going to be favored by double-digits. Yet none of these five are super-sure things. They’d only be a five-point favorite at Vanderbilt right now, for example. Colorado is a Quadrant 2 game now, and remember how wobbly that felt going in. Even home Arkansas isn’t a cinch.

It’s once again worth noting the rarity of going undefeated against the second Quadrant. As of now, only one team with a minimum of four games against Q2 is projected to go undefeated (Houston). Last year, that number was also one (Baylor); in 2019-20, it was six; in 2018-19, 11. The trend is decidedly not moving in the right direction, which probably makes sense with 2021-22 possessing the highest amount of returning roster talent in the sport’s history. It will be pretty tough to go 5-0 against this group; let’s just hope that if there is a loss, it’s an understandable one.

Odds of various records:

  • 0-5: 0.03%
  • 1-4: 0.6%
  • 2-3: 5%
  • 3-2: 20.2%
  • 4-1: 41%
  • 5-0: 33.2%

Quadrant 3

Scheduled games:

  • January 5 vs. Ole Miss (#112/#112)
  • January 11 vs. South Carolina (#121/#82)
  • February 12 vs. Vanderbilt (#84/#89)
  • February 22 at Missouri (#252/#147)
  • March 1 at Georgia (#217/#239)

Expected wins: 4.57 out of 5 (Torvik); 4.5 (KenPom)

Well, all five of these teams stink in various fashion. All five have terrible losses; all five would be terrible losses if they happened. Tennessee will be double-digit favorites in all of these. As a reminder, the top 22 teams in NET in 2019-20 combined to go 135-2 against Quadrant 3 competition, which is probably a small overachievement but still gives you an idea of how bad it would feel to lose any of these games. Missouri and Georgia are actually Quadrant 4 as of now, but Torvik forecasts them to barely scrape above 240 in NET by year’s end; the less Quad 4 games you play, the better. It seems like it would be hard for either to fall below 240 simply by virtue of playing in an agreed-upon top-four conference.

The most likely outcome here is Tennessee going 5-0, and it better be. Any of these losses would be so singularly embarrassing that it would have the power to cancel out a win over, like, Kentucky. You would beat Kentucky at Rupp and still be thinking about losing to Ole Miss. Don’t do it.

Odds of various records:

  • 0-5: well, imagine a bunch of zeroes followed by a one
  • 1-4: 0.03%
  • 2-3: 0.6%
  • 3-2: 6.3%
  • 4-1: 31.3%
  • 5-0: 61.7%

So: let’s talk most likely overall records, then. Right now, Tennessee sits at 9-3, 0-1 in the SEC. Bart Torvik’s numbers project a 12-6 finish in the SEC for Tennessee, which would put them in a four-way tie for second. KenPom: 12-6, tied for third with Alabama. (They would lose this tiebreaker and be the 4 seed, which still gives you a double-bye.) ESPN’s BPI: 13-5, three-way tie for first with Kentucky and Auburn.

If you’re looking for probabilities, Bart Torvik’s numbers give Tennessee an 85.4% chance of finishing somewhere between 10-8 and 14-4 in the SEC. My opinion here is that, if you’re looking for a regular season title, it’s going to take a minimum of 14 conference wins to at least get a share of the championship. In every metric system I use, at least one team is projected for 14 right now; maybe you get some late-season luck (2017-18, as an example) and it ends up being 13. But: 14 wins is probably the goal.

The only way Tennessee can realistically get to 14 or better is by playing like a top ten team the rest of the season with essentially no serious interruptions. If they go 4-3 in their remaining games against SEC Quadrant 1 competition (losing to Texas in this scenario), they’d have to go perfect against Quadrants 2 and 3. Is that possible? Certainly; it happens in a hair under 21% of all scenarios. But that’s not probable. It merely means it can happen. Tennessee’s gotta be really, really good to make that happen. If they do indeed play like one of the ten best teams in existence, that 21% figure rises to a little under 26%.

Even so, Tennessee will find it pretty hard to find more than 13 SEC wins this year. That’s fine; it’s what I had penned in the preseason. 13-5 in an SEC with five Top 20 teams and an expectation of 7-8 NCAA Tournament teams is a very good record and would likely be enough to lock Tennessee in as no worse than a 3 seed in the NCAAs entering SEC Tournament weekend. (It also probably locks Tennessee in as no worse than a 3 seed in the SEC Tournament, for the record.)

So: that’s the situation Tennessee is in. If Auburn can find a way to be less than expected…if Kentucky keeps having hiccup games…if Alabama can simply have enough off-nights…even if LSU simply isn’t the best defense in America, Tennessee stands to benefit from it. 12 games worth of data with all preseason baselines removed have Tennessee slotted as the 12th-best team in America, per Torvik. Even including preseason, they’re 12th on KenPom. Nearly every metrics system in existence has Tennessee as somewhere between the 8th and 15th-best team in America. I promise you there’s worse positions to be in.

2020 Tennessee high school football playoff projections, Semifinals edition

Happy Thanksgiving! Hope you’ve all had a great one. Last week’s picks went 22-8 (73.3%), with a couple of serious shockers happening. (Oak Ridge beating Knoxville West and Tullahoma losing to Nolensville were the main two.) The playoff picks are now 142-26 (84.5%) overall. Here’s this week’s games, with championship games to come next week.


Remaining championship odds: South Pittsburg 77.6%, Fayetteville 12.2%, Lake Co. 6.9%, Coalfield 3.3%

Most likely title game: South Pittsburg vs. Fayetteville (50.7% odds of happening)

  • (R2 #1) Coalfield 15 at (R3 #1) South Pittsburg 39
  • (R5 #1) Fayetteville 30 at (R7 #2) Lake Co. 27


Remaining championship odds: Peabody 70.8%, Meigs Co. 15.6%, Trousdale Co. 12.6%, Waverly Central 0.9%

Most likely title game: Peabody vs. Meigs Co. (48.3% odds of happening)

  • (R2 #1) Meigs Co. 23.2 at (R4 #2) Trousdale Co. 22.9
  • (R6 #1) Waverly Central 11 at (R7 #1) Peabody 40


Remaining championship odds: Alcoa 52.2%, Pearl-Cohn 24%, Milan 14.7%, Red Bank 9.1%

Most likely title game: Alcoa vs. Pearl-Cohn (42% odds of happening)

  • (R2 #1) Alcoa 29 at (R3 #1) Red Bank 17
  • (R5 #1) Pearl-Cohn 25 at (R7 #1) Milan 22


Remaining championship odds: Elizabethton 45.5%, Nolensville 19.2%, Lexington 19.1%, Haywood 16.2%

Most likely title game: Elizabethton vs. Lexington (32% odds of happening)

  • (R1 #1) Elizabethton 27 at (R4 #2) Nolensville 21
  • (R6 #1) Lexington 27.0 at (R7 #1) Haywood 26.9


Remaining championship odds: Oak Ridge 36.3%, Summit 25.5%, Henry Co. 24%, South-Doyle 14.2%

Most likely title game: Oak Ridge vs. Henry Co. (34% odds of happening)

  • (R2 #2) South-Doyle 22 at (R3 #2) Oak Ridge 29
  • (R5 #1) Summit 24 at (R7 #1) Henry Co. 25


Remaining championship odds: Oakland 38.8%, Maryville 32.9%, Brentwood 16%, Bartlett 12.3%

Most likely title game: Oakland vs. Brentwood (27.9% odds of happening)

  • (R2 #1) Maryville 29 at (R3 #1) Oakland 31
  • (R6 #1) Brentwood 22.2 at (R7 #3) Bartlett 21.6


2020 Tennessee high school football playoff projections, Quarterfinals edition

Last week’s picks went 48-8 (85.7%), which is pretty good for a system that literally took the system off. That brings these picks to 120-18 (87%) through two rounds. Regression will come eventually, but I am very pleased with how these have done so far. Again, not doing analysis this year; it’s just the picks and the numbers.


Favorites (30% or greater to win title): South Pittsburg (50.3%)

Second-tier contenders (15% or greater to win title): Moore Co. (15.5%), Gordonsville (15.2%)

Darkhorses (5% or greater to win title): Fayetteville (10%), Lake Co. (5%)

Most likely championship game: South Pittsburg vs. Moore Co. (24.6% odds of happening)

  • (R2 #2) Oliver Springs 17 at (R2 #1) Coalfield 27
  • (R3 #1) South Pittsburg 32 at (R4 #1) Gordonsville 24
  • (R5 #2) Moore Co. 23 at (R5 #1) Fayetteville 22
  • (R7 #3) West Carroll 26 at (R7 #2) Lake Co. 35


Favorites: Peabody (64.7%)

Second-tier contenders: Watertown (16.8%)

Darkhorses: Meigs Co. (9.6%), Trousdale Co. (5.2%)

Most likely championship game: Peabody vs. Watertown (39.7% odds of happening)

  • (R1 #1) South Greene 18 at (R2 #1) Meigs Co. 32
  • (R4 #2) Trousdale Co. 19 at (R4 #1) Watertown 27
  • (R6 #2) Riverside 19 at (R6 #1) Waverly Central 23
  • (R7 #2) McKenzie 13 at (R7 #1) Peabody 37


Favorites: Alcoa (48.2%), Pearl-Cohn (33.1%)

Second-tier contenders: none

Darkhorses: Milan (9%), Red Bank (6.8%)

Most likely championship game: Alcoa vs. Pearl-Cohn (48.9% odds of happening)

  • (R2 #2) GPittman 10 at (R2 #1) Alcoa 41
  • (R3 #2) Loudon 19 at (R3 #1) Red Bank 29
  • (R5 #1) Pearl-Cohn 40 at (R6 #1) Stewart Co. 5
  • (R7 #2) South Gibson 20 at (R7 #1) Milan 29


Favorites: Tullahoma (45.9%)

Second-tier contenders: Elizabethton (23.7%)

Darkhorses: Haywood (12.6%), Lexington (6.8%), Hardin Co. (6.8%)

Most likely championship game: Tullahoma vs. Haywood (28.4% odds of happening)

  • (R1 #2) Greeneville 20 at (R1 #1) Elizabethton 34
  • (R4 #2) Nolensville 13 at (R4 #1) Tullahoma 32
  • (R6 #2) Hardin Co. 21 at (R6 #1) Lexington 23
  • (R7 #2) Ripley 15 at (R7 #1) Haywood 38


Favorites: Knoxville West (41.3%)

Second-tier contenders: Beech (21.3%), Henry Co. (16%)

Darkhorses: Oak Ridge (7.5%), Knoxville Central (5.4%)

Most likely championship game: Knoxville West vs. Beech (26.8% odds of happening)

  • (R2 #2) South-Doyle 24 at (R2 #1) Central 27
  • (R3 #2) Oak Ridge 18 at (R3 #1) Knoxville West 30
  • (R5 #1) Summit 20 at (R6 #1) Beech 31
  • (R7 #2) Northeast 16 at (R7 #1) Henry Co. 38


Favorites: Maryville (41.4%)

Second-tier contenders: Oakland (27.6%), Brentwood (17%)

Darkhorses: Bartlett (8%)

Most likely championship game: Maryville vs. Brentwood (26% odds of happening)

  • (R1 #1) Dobyns-Bennett 14 at (R2 #1) Maryville 35
  • (R3 #2) Riverdale 21 at (R3 #1) Oakland 35
  • (R6 #4) Franklin 16 at (R6 #1) Brentwood 30
  • (R7 #2) Collierville 20 at (R7 #1) Bartlett 31


Favorites (40% or higher): Davidson Academy (69.6%)

Second-tier contenders (20% or higher): none

Darkhorses (10% or higher): University School of Jackson (14.2%)

Most likely championship game: Davidson Academy vs. University School of Jackson (45.6% odds of happening)

  • (W #2) University School of Jackson 23 at (E #1) Donelson Christian Academy 22
  • (W #3) Nashville Christian 15 at (W #1) Davidson Academy 34


Favorites (40% or higher): Christ Presbyterian Academy (52.7%), Lipscomb Academy (41.9%)

Second-tier contenders (20% or higher): none

Darkhorses (10% or higher): none

Most likely championship game: Christ Presbyterian Academy vs. Lipscomb Academy (73% odds of happening)

  • (M #1) Lipscomb Academy 33 at (W #1) Evangelical Christian 17
  • (M #3) Goodpasture Christian 14 at (M #2) Christ Presbyterian Academy 35


Favorites (40% or higher): Brentwood Academy (50.6%)

Second-tier contenders (20% or higher): Montgomery Bell Academy (22.8%)

Darkhorses (10% or higher): McCallie (13.3%), Memphis University (13.3%)

Most likely championship game: Brentwood Academy vs. Montgomery Bell Academy (44.5% odds of happening)

  • (E #3) McCallie 20 at (E #1) Brentwood Academy 31
  • (W #3) Memphis University 18 at (W #1) Montgomery Bell Academy 22

2020 Tennessee high school football playoff projections, round one

Hello, and welcome to a yearly tradition here at Stats By Will dot com: the TSSAA high school football playoff projections. I’m a little surprised to be bringing this back this year, as in early September, I announced my plans to not cover high school football at all this year. Without going into great detail, I’ve taken on more responsibilities in my professional role, and to be honest, I care a lot more about my work in basketball than I really do this. That being said, I do enjoy the fun that projections like these can bring. In particular, the playoff projections are pretty easy to put together each year once the field is set.

This year, there won’t be any class-by-class analysis beyond what I’ve posted on Twitter, which were the class-by-class odds. I’ll put the favorites, second-tier contenders, and darkhorses for each class above the projections here so you can get a grasp on what’s at stake in each class. The game with the highest Quarterfinals swing at risk will be bolded and italicized in each class as well. This is not necessarily the best game, but the one that looks to mean the most to the eventual fields of 8. Other writers, like Tom Kreager and Donovan Stewart, know far more about this stuff than I do, so you should listen to them when it comes to high school football. However, I do enjoy providing this simple service for those that enjoy it.

I’ve made a few tweaks to this year’s playoff projections:

  1. The ratings are a little different mix than usual. This year, I just used Cal Preps and Massey Ratings, as Sonny Moore’s ratings haven’t performed as well as those two in my time using both. Also, for the first time ever, my preseason ratings have a very small say in what you see here. They’re factored in at a rate of about 1.8%, which is miniscule, but has helped the ratings be a very tiny bit more accurate on the whole. (For instance, this probably would’ve made my call on last year’s Monterey/Whitwell game less extreme – by the time the game arrived, Monterey was a 95.8% favorite to win, but Whitwell won. They were the higher-ranked team in preseason by far.)
  2. I’ve added a small amount of extra uncertainty to game-by-game picks. It isn’t much, but it’s enough to reflect that any sports season in COVID times is going to be more unpredictable than usual. I already know of two teams that can’t participate in the playoffs because of contact tracing issues. Also, some teams played six or seven games while others got in their full ten. I’m trying to do the best I can with this abnormally-small sample size.
  3. I gave Alcoa a 30-point boost because otherwise, their fans will protest outside of my home. Not really, they’re simply as good as they always are.

Typically, these projections get around 80% of the games right during the playoffs, but I do expect this year to be a little lower. It’s a strange season, I’ve been told. Also, I think I still owe a guy a T-shirt because the school he played for beat the spread in one of the playoff games. If you are this player, please email statsbywill@gmail.com and I will write something very silly on a shirt for you.


Favorites (20% or higher): South Pittsburg (42.5%)

Second-tier contenders (5% or higher): Gordonsville (15.9%), Moore Co. (9.3%), Fayetteville (8.7%), Huntingdon (7.5%), Lake Co. (7%)

Darkhorses (1% or higher): Coalfield (3.2%), Greenback (1.4%), Monterey (1.3%)

Most likely title game: South Pittsburg vs. Moore Co. (12.1% chance of happening)

  • (R1 #3) Jellico 9 at (R2 #2) Oliver Springs 40
  • (R1 #4) Hancock Co. 0 at (R2 #1) Coalfield 57
  • (R2 #3) Greenback 47 at (R1 #2) Unaka 16
  • (R2 #4) Midway 25 at (R1 #1) Cloudland 24
  • (R3 #3) Sale Creek 11 at (R4 #2) Monterey 38
  • (R3 #4) Whitwell 8 at (R4 #1) Gordonsville 44
  • (R4 #3) Clay Co. 19 at (R3 #2) Copper Basin 22
  • (R4 #4) Byrns [Jo] 5 at (R3 #1) South Pittsburg 46
  • (R5 #3) Huntland 25 at (R6 #2) Collinwood 20
  • (R5 #4) Cornersville 22 at (R6 #1) Huntingdon 32 (49.7% Quarterfinal swing – Huntingdon 41.2%, Cornersville 8.5%)
  • (R6 #3) Wayne Co. 10 at (R5 #2) Moore Co. 37
  • (R6 #4) Hollow Rock-Bruceton Central 8 at (R5 #1) Fayetteville 36


Favorites: Peabody (63.6%)

Second-tier contenders: Watertown (17.4%), Meigs Co. (10.6%)

Darkhorses: Trousdale Co. (2.4%), Lewis Co. (1.7%), McKenzie (1.2%), Bledsoe Co. (1.1%)

Most likely title game: Peabody vs. Watertown (38% chance of happening)

  • (R1 #3) Happy Valley 12 at (R2 #2) Rockwood 23
  • (R1 #4) Cosby 0 at (R2 #1) Meigs Co. 61
  • (R2 #3) Oneida 17 at (R1 #2) Hampton 30
  • (R2 #4) Cumberland Gap 7 at (R1 #1) South Greene 46
  • (R3 #3) Tyner Academy 17 at (R4 #2) Trousdale Co. 34
  • (R3 #4) Tellico Plains 1 at (R4 #1) Watertown 45
  • (R4 #3) Westmoreland 29 at (R3 #2) Marion Co. 38
  • (R4 #4) Cascade 10 at (R3 #1) Bledsoe Co. 30
  • (R5 #3) Eagleville 12 at (R6 #2) Riverside 29
  • (R5 #4) Loretto 13 at (R6 #1) Waverly Central 35
  • (R6 #3) East Hickman Co. 19 at (R5 #2) Forrest 27 (31.2% Quarterfinal swing – Forrest 23.2%, East Hickman Co. 8%)
  • (R6 #4) Scotts Hill 5 at (R5 #1) Lewis Co. 44


Favorites: Alcoa (58.2%), Pearl-Cohn (24.4%)

Second-tier contenders: Red Bank (6.6%)

Darkhorses: Milan (4.6%), Covington (2.9%), South Gibson (2.1%)

Most likely title game: Alcoa vs. Pearl-Cohn (46.2% chance of happening)

  • (R1 #3) Unicoi Co. 17 at (R2 #2) GPittman 42
  • (R1 #4) Johnson Co. 0 at (R2 #1) Alcoa 52
  • (R2 #3) Kingston 30 at (R1 #2) Chuckey-Doak 17
  • (R2 #4) Pigeon Forge 30 at (R1 #1) Claiborne 25
  • (R3 #3) Brainerd 33 at (R4 #2) Smith Co. 18
  • (R3 #4) Signal Mountain 20 at (R4 #1) Upperman 28
  • (R4 #3) York Institute 5 at (R3 #2) Loudon 42
  • (R4 #4) Grundy Co. 0 at (R3 #1) Red Bank 49
  • (R5 #3) East Nashville 29 at (R6 #2) Fairview 17
  • (R5 #4) Stratford 22 at (R6 #1) Stewart Co. 23 (33.5% Quarterfinal swing – Stewart Co. 19.5%, Stratford 14%)
  • (R6 #3) Harpeth 7 at (R5 #2) Giles Co. 38
  • (R6 #4) Camden Central 0 at (R5 #1) Pearl-Cohn 56


Favorites: Elizabethton (36.5%), Tullahoma (33.6%)

Second-tier contenders: Lexington (10.1%)

Darkhorses: Hardin Co. (4.9%), Haywood (4.1%), Anderson Co. (2.7%), Nolensville (2%), Springfield (1.7%), Dyersburg (1.5%), Marshall Co. (1.5%)

Most likely title game: Elizabethton vs. Lexington (15.4% chance of happening)

  • (R1 #3) Sullivan South 24 at (R2 #2) East Hamilton 27
  • (R1 #4) Grainger 13 at (R2 #1) Anderson Co. 39
  • (R2 #3) Howard Tech 14 at (R1 #2) Greeneville 40
  • (R2 #4) East Ridge 1 at (R1 #1) Elizabethton 48
  • (R3 #3) Livingston Academy 12 at (R4 #2) Nolensville 32
  • (R3 #4) Stone Memorial 4 at (R4 #1) Tullahoma 42
  • (R4 #3) Marshall Co. 30 at (R3 #2) Macon Co. 18
  • (R4 #4) Spring Hill 17 at (R3 #1) DeKalb Co. 27
  • (R5 #3) White House-Heritage 11 at (R6 #2) Hardin Co. 38
  • (R5 #4) White House 9 at (R6 #1) Lexington 40
  • (R6 #3) Jackson North Side 25 at (R5 #2) Creek Wood 28
  • (R6 #4) Jackson South Side 10 at (R5 #1) Springfield 34
  • (R7 #3) Dyersburg 37 at (R8 #2) Millington Central 11
  • (R7 #4) Crockett Co. 35 at (R8 #1) Fayette Ware 22 (47.2% Quarterfinal swing – Crockett Co. 40.9%, Fayette Ware 6.3%)


Favorites: Knoxville West (30.6%)

Second-tier contenders: Henry Co. (17.4%), Beech (17.1%), Oak Ridge (9.8%), Powell (8.1%), Summit (5.7%)

Darkhorses: Knoxville Central (4.2%), South-Doyle (1.7%), Hillsboro (1.4%), David Crockett (1.3%), Rhea Co. (1%)

Most likely title game: Knoxville West vs. Henry Co. (18% chance of happening)

  • (R1 #3) Daniel Boone 22 at (R2 #2) South-Doyle 30 (52% Quarterfinal swing – South-Doyle 37.6%, Daniel Boone 14.4%)
  • (R1 #4) Morristown East 13 at (R2 #1) Central 34
  • (R2 #3) Knoxville Halls 26 at (R1 #2) Tennessee 28
  • (R2 #4) Sevier Co. 24 at (R1 #1) David Crockett 44
  • (R3 #3) Powell 35 at (R4 #2) Walker Valley 22
  • (R3 #4) Fulton 21 at (R4 #1) Rhea Co. 29
  • (R4 #3) Soddy Daisy 10 at (R3 #2) Oak Ridge 43
  • (R4 #4) Lenoir City 0 at (R3 #1) Knoxville West 53
  • (R5 #3) Columbia Central 16 at (R6 #2) Gallatin 23
  • (R5 #4) Lincoln Co. 8 at (R6 #1) Beech 39
  • (R6 #3) Hillsboro 29 at (R5 #2) Page 22
  • (R6 #4) Hillwood 10 at (R5 #1) Summit 37
  • (R7 #3) Dyer Co. 32 at (R8 #2) Brighton 24
  • (R7 #4) Clarksville 20 at (R8 #1) Munford 31


Favorites: Oakland (30.1%), Maryville (29.7%)

Second-tier contenders: Ravenwood (12.7%), Bartlett (9.1%), Brentwood (7.1%)

Darkhorses: Dobyns-Bennett (2.6%), Independence (2.3%), Riverdale (2.2%), McMinn Co. (1.6%), Collierville (1.1%)

Most likely title game: Oakland vs. Ravenwood (13.4% chance of happening)

  • (R1 #3) Bearden 18 at (R2 #2) McMinn Co. 38
  • (R1 #4) Science Hill 15 at (R2 #1) Maryville 42
  • (R2 #3) Bradley Central 28 at (R1 #2) Farragut 35
  • (R2 #4) Cleveland 13 at (R1 #1) Dobyns-Bennett 36
  • (R3 #3) Warren Co. 24 at (R4 #2) Mount Juliet 27
  • (R3 #4) Blackman 21 at (R4 #1) Hendersonville 30 (38.5% Quarterfinal swing – Hendersonville 30.8%, Blackman 7.7%)
  • (R4 #3) Wilson Central 12 at (R3 #2) Riverdale 32
  • (R4 #4) Rossview 10 at (R3 #1) Oakland 45
  • (R5 #3) Stewarts Creek 9 at (R6 #2) Ravenwood 43
  • (R5 #4) Cane Ridge 12 at (R6 #1) Brentwood 35
  • (R6 #3) Independence 39 at (R5 #2) LaVergne 12
  • (R6 #4) Franklin 26 at (R5 #1) Smyrna 24


Favorites: Davidson Academy (64.2%)

Second-tier contenders: University School of Jackson (18.6%), Donelson Christian Academy (9.4%), Nashville Christian (5%)

Darkhorses: King’s Academy (1.3%), Friendship Christian (1%)

Most likely title game: Davidson Academy vs. University School of Jackson (46.6% chance of happening)

  • (E #5) Grace Christian Academy 20 at (W #4) Trinity Christian Academy 37 (14.8% Semifinals swing – Trinity Christian 14.3%, Grace Christian 0.5%)
  • (E #6) Webb Bell Buckle 5 at (W #3) Nashville Christian 45
  • (W #5) Jackson Christian 24 at (E #4) Friendship Christian 33
  • (W #6) Columbia Academy 26 at (E #3) Middle Tennessee Christian 28 (game forfeited by Columbia Academy due to COVID-19)


Favorites: Christ Presbyterian Academy (50.8%), Lipscomb Academy (41.7%)

Second-tier contenders: CAK (5%)

Darkhorses: none; Evangelical Christian (0.9%) closest

Most likely title game: Christ Presbyterian Academy vs. Lipscomb Academy (66.9% chance of happening)

  • (W #4) Harding Academy 4 at (W #2) Lausanne Collegiate 46
  • (W #5) St. George’s 6 at (M #1) Lipscomb Academy 45
  • (M #4) Battle Ground Academy 32 at (W #3) Northpoint Christian 12
  • (M #5) Franklin Road Academy 20 at (W #1) Evangelical Christian 31 (55.8% Semifinals swing – Evangelical Christian 46.8%, Franklin Road Academy 9%)
  • (E #3) Webb 19 at (M #3) Goodpasture Christian 30
  • (E #4) Chattanooga Christian 23 at (E #2) Grace Christian 29
  • (E #5) Silverdale Academy 0 at (M #2) Christ Presbyterian Academy 48
  • (E #6) Boyd-Buchanan 12 at (E #1) CAK 41

There are 88 games this week in all; the expected record of these projections is roughly 73-15 (83.1%). We’ll see how they do.

A special best of luck to my former high school, Warren County, who will be playing my little brother’s high school, Mount Juliet. In a true battle for the ages, Warren County has the opportunity to secure their first playoff win since 1983 (!), along with their first nine-win season since 1983. It’s been a historic year, and I sincerely hope they pull this one off.

Good luck to all teams involved, and I’ll be back next Friday morning with more projections.

How the stats would’ve picked this year’s (theoretical) 2020 NCAA Tournament

BIG OL’ EDITOR’S NOTEEverything you are reading, as follows, is a hypothetical simulation. The 2020 NCAA Tournament obviously did not happen, but I’ve pieced together a field that A. seems realistic and B. helps me waste more time by thinking about it.

So, here we are. I don’t know how much everyone reading this has changed their lives to reflect our global issues, but I do think we all should. The NCAA certainly did, and it’s tough to be rational about it, but we have to. That said, this is our time.

Something I’ve done just about every year since I knew what statistics were was create a mock NCAA Tournament bracket before the real one. This bracket would reflect how I would pick every game when the time came simply because I like being prepared. For the 2019 Tournament, I created a Google Doc that had stats for every seed line. All of this, objectively, would sound purely ridiculous to someone who spends less than ~2 months of the year thinking about college basketball. And yet: I got three of the four Final Four teams right and you didn’t. I’m sorry, that’s a ridiculous brag, but I had to fit it in somewhere.

Anyway, that’s a long way of saying that in the midst of the NCAA Tournament uncertainty on Thursday, I decided to create a fake bracket on my lunch break at my day job. The Google Doc for this one is titled “Let’s have some fun,” because it should be. Here’s how I made my field of 68:

  • For the most part, I just took the highest-rated conference champion for the Big Six and assumed no bid thieves. Cincinnati technically won the AAC due to the cancellations, so I let them in without a further simulation.
  • For the other 26 conferences, I ran RAND() functions in Excel based on the likelihood that the best team in each conference would win it. This was to reflect that upsets frequently happen in conference tournaments. As such, we ended up with 11 non-first-place conference tournament winners, which is actually a little lower than you’d expect, but makes sense given our restrictions. To save time, every conference that had a team at >50% to win the conference tournament was given a pass into the field. Seemed fair and seemed realistic; I am not God.
  • At-larges made the field on a combination of their Bracket Matrix average seed and Bart Torvik’s projected average seed. This shifted the field a small amount, but 66 of the 68 teams that would’ve made the Matrix’s field of 68 as an at-large made mine. (Xavier and NC State are in my field, while UCLA and Stanford are not. Sorry to all Pac-12 fans; I can create a contingency bracket if you want.)
  • Lastly, the field was seeded 1-68 on said seeding combination. It feels right, and I like how it turned out.

Enough wailing. Here’s your field. Where necessary, I’ve included an asterisk* where the conference champion was someone other than the 1 seed.

The 2020 Will Warren Invitational Field of 68

  • 1 seeds: Kansas, Gonzaga, Baylor, Dayton
  • 2 seeds: San Diego State, Florida State, Villanova, Michigan State
  • 3 seeds: Creighton, Duke, Maryland, Seton Hall
  • 4 seeds: Oregon, Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State
  • 5 seeds: Wisconsin, Butler, BYU, West Virginia
  • 6 seeds: Michigan, Auburn, Penn State, Iowa
  • 7 seeds: Virginia, Illinois, Arizona, Houston
  • 8 seeds: Colorado, St. Mary’s (CA), Providence, Marquette
  • 9 seeds: Rutgers, LSU, Florida, Oklahoma
  • 10 seeds: USC, Texas Tech, Indiana, Arizona State
  • 11 seeds: Utah State, Wichita State/Xavier, Cincinnati, East Tennessee State
  • 12 seeds: Richmond/NC State, Yale, Stephen F. Austin, Liberty
  • 13 seeds: Vermont, New Mexico State, Belmont, Western Kentucky*
  • 14 seeds: Bradley*, Hofstra, Northern Colorado*, North Dakota State*
  • 15 seeds: Texas State*, Winthrop*, Northern Kentucky*, Ohio*
  • 16 seeds: UC Santa Barbara*, Boston University*, Siena/North Carolina Central, Robert Morris/Jackson State*

First four out: Stanford, Texas, UCLA, Mississippi State
Next four out: Northern Iowa, Purdue, Arkansas, Oklahoma State

A quick Q&A session, based on questions I would imagine people asking:

  • Why is Baylor the third overall seed? By Kansas winning the Big 12 Tournament here, we’re assuming Baylor now has four losses on the season, which, in my mind, would elevate Gonzaga to the second overall seed. I don’t know, dude, I just did it because I felt like it.
  • Explain Creighton and Duke as 3 seeds. Creighton was white hot down the stretch of the season; Duke was not, but they are named Duke, so we all rightfully expect them to win the ACC. Again, in our simulation, Florida State won it, so a 3 seed feels accurate. Meanwhile, Creighton did win the Big East in this simulation, but Villanova ranked ahead of them. Why? 1. Ask someone who does this for a living I really don’t know. 2. It actually isn’t that absurd; by Wins Above Bubble, Villanova ranks 7th and Creighton 9th.
  • Kentucky as a 4??? Hater! Correct! I do not like Kentucky. Anyway, this is a team that didn’t crack the KenPom top 20 after January and closed the season 12th in WAB. I’m gonna guess that the teams in actual good conferences would’ve gotten the nod ahead of them. Everyone really undersold how awful it was to watch SEC basketball this season.
  • Explain the Last Four In. Again, not God, but a very white guy who’s drinking coffee out of a Charleston Rainbow Row cup as I type. Anyway:
    • Wichita State ranked 31st in WAB, had good metrics across Torvik and KenPom, and, in our simulation, wins at least one AAC Tournament game.
    • Xavier only ranked 46th, but they had no true bad losses (16-2 against Qs 2-4) and had a true marquee win: their 74-62 road victory over Seton Hall in early February.
    • Richmond: 38th in WAB, made the A10 championship game in our simulation. Xavier got the 11 seed nod only because they were in a significantly stronger conference.
    • NC State: On first run, this was Stanford, but then Stanford totally blew it to Cal in their lone Pac-12 Tournament game…which pushed NCSU just over the edge. They ranked almost exactly the same in metrics averages, but NCSU had a slightly better WAB with one additional Q1&Q2 win. I don’t like either team, to be honest.
  • Explain those who got left out. Just discussed Stanford. UCLA had a worse WAB than any of the four who got in and farted around for half the season. Texas did have a good-enough WAB at 39th but left an awful impression on the committee with a Big 12 quarterfinals loss to Texas Tech, another bubble team. Mississippi State lost to Florida in the SEC quarterfinals and had a worse WAB than the four who got in. The only team in Next Four Out that had a realistic case to me was Northern Iowa, who ranked 41st in WAB, but I simply couldn’t imagine a committee rewarding a blowout MVC quarters loss to Drake with even a First Four Out nod, sadly.

Okay! That’s a lot of words! You came here for a bracket.

The Will Warren 2020 Invitational Bracket

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