Hot Reads: The Four Brackets that Have the Huskers In
Photo Credit: James Wooldridge

Hot Reads: The Four Brackets that Have the Huskers In

March 07, 2018

Nebraska basketball coach Tim Miles took to the airwaves (and Twitter) on Tuesday to do the only thing he can do this week – politic for the Huskers to get into the NCAA Tournament in his typically amusing way.

Exhibit A:

Everyone's very familiar with the arguments at this point, but Miles makes them with a smile on his face. I don't know if that helps sway the committee, but it makes it a lot more fun to watch.

Exhibit B (aka The Tweet That Brought the Hope Back):

That's former Nebraska volleyball coach Terry Pettit pointing out that one site did indeed have the Huskers with a 79-percent chance to get in on Tuesday. It's up to 81-percent this morning. What exactly is going on?

I don't know because we don't know much about TeamRankings.com's method beyond what's explained at the top of the page: "Every day, we run thousands of computer simulations of the college basketball season, including all remaining regular season games, all conference tournaments, NCAA selection and seeding, and the NCAA tournament itself."

I guess there are two things worth noting about TeamRankings.com, which has the Huskers as a 12 seed. One, it sells picks, which isn't a negative in my mind, just something that should be mentioned. Two, its game picks have been some of the most accurate this season, for whatever that's worth as it pertains to bracket projections.

That projection still is very much an outlier. It's just one of four projections listed at The Bracket Matrix that has the Huskers in right now. BoW Sports Analytics had the Huskers as a nine(!) seed this morning. Haslametrics has a bracket projection based on if the season ended today and it has Nebraska as an 11 seed. Real-time RPI is listed on the Matrix as having Nebraska in, but its bracket page doesn't reflect that so maybe there's a lag time there.

So what are we supposed to do with that? Considering that the above paragraph included the words analytics, metrics and matrix (twice!), maybe we should switch to the human element in this whole process. Creighton AD and selection committee chair Bruce Rasmussen – who is doing a great job as chair, by the way – gave a really good interview to Matt Norlander of CBSSports.com.

This characterization of RPI made me laugh, and I don't even play golf:

The RPI is like a 5 iron in my golf bag. I've got it in my bag. When I use it, I hope it works well, but it's not my putter and it's not my driver. As we look at and as we become more familiar with maybe some metrics that are more accurate, we've got to have that blend with the committee, even though the RPI is still the official tool. It's a balance and it has made it a little more difficult for the committee, I think.

If you're a Husker fan looking for reasons to feel good about trusting the four bracket projections that include Nebraska rather than the 129 that don't, this is a good analogy. The Huskers aren't landing on the 68-team green on Sunday via the 5-iron. They'll need someone, maybe Rasmussen, to use the driver.

This quote also struck me as potentially quite good for Nebraska (emphasis mine):

The committee has a lot of conversations in private about those last two quadrants. However, when we're out talking, we tend to talk about the positives and not the negatives. I look at it from two [ways]. One, I think one of the hardest things to do is win the games you're supposed to. I don't think we talk about that enough. It's not necessarily that they're great wins, but you win the games you're supposed to — 18- to 21-year-olds, that's hard. 
If you coach, you see that over a 30-game period of time, probably a handful of games you say, "Boy, I wish we played this way all the time." And a handful of games you go, "I don't know who put on our uniforms, but let's just get the hell out of town." I don't want our committee to put too much value on those couple games where it just wasn't working. Or in those couple games you say, I mean, Butler beat Villanova. They hit 13 out of their last 14 3s. That's an anomaly. That's an outlier. You're trying to describe the team by looking at the entire picture, and, yes, you want to give them credit for that great win and you want to make sure you're aware of that bad loss but also understand the nature of 18- to 21-year-olds and playing 30 games.

What Rasmussen just described is really the strongest part of Nebraska's résumé, which is viewed as lacking in most other traditional measures. Most of the time, Nebraska played closed to its ability. That wasn't quite good enough to get wins over teams like Kansas, Creighton, Michigan State, Purdue or Ohio State. It was good enough against Michigan at home, but not in New York. But it was also good enough, minus the loss at Illinois, for Nebraska to beat the teams it should beat to the tune of 20-plus wins.*

If the rest of the committee thinks the same way, maybe Miles was right when he told BTN's Rick Pizzo, "We're in, that's what I know."

*Here is where I plug my hastily conceived win-shares method, an idea I'm liking more and more as the specific patter of tournament talk reaches its crescendo this week. Imagine a world where some guy saying, "Notre Dame needs to win two games in the ACC Tournament and they're in" wouldn't just be some guy saying it because we could actually show that to be true.

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