It is that time of year again; time to fill out a bracket.
Somewhat counter-intuitively, filling-out a bracket becomes increasingly more difficult with the more knowledge of college basketball you have. To win your bracket, you have to look for upsets. For example, a 12 seed typically knocks off a 5 seed and this year the 12 vs. 5 match-ups seem like toss-ups.
(12) Villanova vs. (5) Clemson
(12) George Mason vs. (5) Notre Dame
(12) Western Kentucky vs (5) Drake
(12) Temple vs. (5) Michigan State
Judging these match-ups based on pure instinct, I would have to say that Temple is most likely to upset Michigan State. Temple won their conference tournament in a very competitive Atlantic 10 Conference.
The Owls are peaking at the right time, having won seven straight games. The Temple Owls have not been to the Big Dance since 2001 when they made it to the Elite Eight.
By contrast, Michigan State is 5-5 over their last 10 games and seemed to have peaked too early in the season.
My next possible upset would be Villanova over Clemson. Clemson was runner up in the 2007 NIT and they are the more experienced of the two teams. Villanova, though, played in a tougher conference this year, the Big East. Nova is 7-8 vs. the RPI top 50 and 2-4 vs. the top 25. One statistic that jumps off the page is the fact that Nova is 4-1 when playing in neutral courts.
Clemson is 0-3 vs. the top 25 and 2-5 vs. the RPI top 50. Clemson is 1-1 when playing in neutral courts. Temple is 3-5 vs the RPI top 50 and 1-3 vs. the RPI top 25.
Temple is ranked 47th in the RPI and their opponent, Michigan State is 16th in the RPI. The Spartans are 4-5 vs. the RPI top 50 and 4-4 vs. the RPI top 25. Michigan State is 7-7 in games played on the road and on neutral courts whereas Temple is 8-8 overall in games played on the road and neutral courts.
Drake is the least likely of all five seeds to get upset. Drake has a high RPI, an undefeated record on neutral courts and a 6-1 record vs. the RPI top 50.George Mason will be very competitive vs. Notre Dame. One thing that sticks out is the fact that Notre Dame has a 83 SOS ranking and George Mason plays well on neutral courts 5-2. Notre Dame will win, however, because of the inside-out combination of McAlarney and Harangody.
I have identified what I believe to be the most important factors for determining upset: road record, neutral record, record vs. RPI top 50, record vs. RPI top 25 and Strength of Schedule (SOS) and Ratings Percentage Index (RPI).
RPI SOS Top 25 Top 50 Road Neutral
TU 47, 42, 1-3, 3-5, 7-5, 1-3
MS 16, 50, 4-4, 4-5, 4-6, 3-1
GM 61, 126, 1-1, 2-1, 5-7, 5-2
ND 26, 83, 2-4, 6-5, 5-4, 2-2
Nova 51, 52, 2-4, 7-8, 4-7, 4-1
Clem 19, 34, 0-3, 2-5, 7-5, 1-1
Drake10, 64, 1-0, 6-1, 10-3, 4-0
WKU 39, 142, 0-2, 1-4, 10-3, 4-1
WKU- Western Kentucky; Drake- Drake; Clem- Clemson; Nova- Villanova; MS- Michigan State; ND- Notre Dame; GM- George Mason; TU- Temple.