Final thoughts before WSU-Drake

And a whole lot of interesting tidbits.

A quick reminder …

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In today's newsletter ...

Join the Podcast Vs. Everyone Bracket Contest

You’ve probably gotten a dozen invitations to join bracket contests, but let me ask you this: How many of them are offering to send the winner a WSU t-shirt of their choice from Homefield Apparel??

Probably just us!

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It’s the big day at the Big Dance

Game day has finally arrived, and it feels like it both got here in a flash while also taking forever. I guess that’s sort of what it’s like when you both haven’t been here in forever but also you’ve known for a while that you were, in fact, going to be included.

I’ve done more writing in the past few months than I did in the previous year combined, which is pretty wild for me, considering I’ve written 3,471 stories for CougCenter since 2008. (Yes, that is a real number.) But this run has been so damn fun, and it’s been lovely to find joy in writing again — which is the biggest reason why I appreciate all you folks so much.

Things will slow down when this run is over, which could happen tonight … or three weeks from now. And when the run does end, I think we all know what might be on the other side of that — potentially with our coach, potentially with a bunch of players. I’ve chosen not to focus on that, because I want to soak up every moment. This stuff is just too rare for us.

And I’m a basketball geek at heart! I always have been.1 Being included in this party is the ultimate. So thank you for indulging me. Let’s have some fun today.

I don’t have much more to say about tonight’s game beyond what I wrote yesterday and what we talked about on the podcast. I feel great about the Cougs’ chances. Maybe I’m overconfident, but what’s the fun in entertaining existential dread?

To that end, here’s a bunch of random fun stuff I’ve run across this week that you might be interested in.

Like numbers? Here’s some more

One of my favorite things to do after the bracket drops is look at the simulation odds at both and In a nutshell, they take their efficiency ratings, plug all of the tournament teams into a spreadsheet, simulate the tournament — and all its potential matchups — a gazillion times, and report back on the rate at which teams advanced in those gazillion simulations.

For our purposes here, I’m just going to focus on the East:


  • WSU gets to the second round by beating Drake in 55% of simulations.

  • WSU gets to the Sweet 16 by beating Drake and the winner of Iowa State/South Dakota State in 13.7% of simulations.

Not bad! Unsurprisingly, Pomeroy’s odds are similar: 53.5% and 16.3%. If you’re wondering how that compares with the other 7s, Texas is really the only one with significantly higher opening round odds (58% at kenpom), but both Texas and Florida have higher Sweet 16 odds (around 20% at kenpom), thanks to both being rated more highly and having weaker 2 seeds in their regions.

Here’s a slightly different look at the East: How do teams (since 2008) with stat profiles similar to each team historically perform? On average, teams with WSU’s stats win 1.3 games, and they’ve made one Final Four:

What about teams with similar resumes? This is the metric that Torvik used to forecast the field, which we referred to a lot. This one is a bit less favorable — although I’ll point out two things:

1) The team with the most similar resume made it to the second weekend; and

2) I think this is only since 2013.


We mentioned yesterday that we were a little baffled by the general consensus that Drake was the more likely winner in this opening matchup. As you might expect, the shift in the betting markets from favoring the Cougs at opening to favoring the Bulldogs now is reflected in people’s bracket picks.

In this chart from Fifth Factor Plots (the original tweet has others that are worth checking out), teams that are below the line are being potentially undervalued relative to their actual strength vs. their first round opponent. In WSU’s case, they’re a 55% favorite to win but only picked in 45% of Yahoo! brackets:

High ceiling(?)

For this one, I’m not going to get to get too far into the weeds trying to explain how it was derived. I’m just going to point this out: WSU is very close to the “High Ceiling, Low Floor” box, which means they could be poised for a deep run given how they have played against their best competition this year:

Unfortunately, you might also note that Drake is actually in that box. Moving on!

Some funny stuff to make you smile

Kyle Smith’s choice here is … curious.

Digital Underground … ???

"My musical interest stopped in about 1992," Smith said. "They are kind of hip-hop, P-Funk fusion that was a party favorite. I really only listen to music in social settings and I am known as the world's worst or best wedding guest, depending on your perspective."

Wonder if he, like me, still knows all the words to The Humpty Dance.

Then there was this hilarious exchange on Twitter. It started innocently enough with this very typical tweet from WSU basketball:

As it turned out, a bunch of folks in Nebraska had some real issues with this graphic!

I would never have imagined the folks in Omaha would be so sensitive! It’s all very funny.

Before we sign off, we want to remind you that we’re promoting one of our favorite newsletters: Extra Points by Matt Brown.

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After you’ve done that, you can read all about how teams prepare for an NCAA Tournament opponent on such short notice. It’s worth your while!


1 The Seattle SuperSonics were my first love. I played in the basketball pep band at WSU so I could have a front row seat to the 1995-96 squad that was a Mark Hendrickson broken hand away from its own NCAA Tournament. I covered Isaac Fontaine’s run to 2,000 points for The Daily Evergreen, which I enjoyed as much as covering the 1997 Rose Bowl squad. I covered June Daugherty’s UW women’s basketball teams in my first job at The News Tribune. I specialized in college hoops at my second job at My blog before CougCenter focused on Bennett’s teams. I’m a nerd about this stuff.

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