Chat with Peter Keating
ESPN.com's "Giant Killers" blog is Insider's annual metrics-based forecast of NCAA tournament upsets. A Giant Killer is a team that beats a tourney opponent seeded at least five spots higher.
A senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, Keating, @PKStatsBlog, has covered investigative and financial stories since 1999. He joined the Giant Killers team in 2008.
Send your questions now and join Keating Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET!
Peter Keating (3:01 PM)
Hi everyone, and welcome to our Giant Killers chat. Let's keep your brackets smoldering instead of moldering!
If UConn gets past St. Joes, are they a good pick to take down Villanova?
Peter Keating (3:04 PM)
Just based on their power rankings, they would have a good though not great chance, about 1 in 3, according to our statistical model.
Kentucky is an 8 seed. Providence is an 11. Iowa or TN is a 11. Can a team from a major conference be a GK?
Peter Keating (3:05 PM)
We used to answer no to that question, Erik, because to a lot of folks, it just doesn't seem right to lump such big and famous programs in with the Morehead States of the world ...
Peter Keating (3:06 PM)
... but if you're a Giant Killer often enough, you become a Giant yourself, so we started making exceptions for Gonzaga, Butler and so forth. And then conferences started realigning more rapidly, so we decided to stop making new exceptions every year. So a Killer is any team that beats an opponent seeded at least five slots higher.
Is this the best chance for a #16 to beat a #1 with Wichita St.?
Peter Keating (3:08 PM)
None is at all likely, but we see Virginia as smidgen more likely to get knocked off than the Shockers. Still less than 2%.
Giant Killer most primed to make a Final Four run?
Peter Keating (3:09 PM)
This is a terrible year for Giant Killers. A lot got knocked off in their conference tournaments -- 13 mid-majors aren't sending their best team to the NCAA tournament! Plus there weren't many potentially good Killers who got at-large bids, and the matchups aren't great, either. I would be very surprised if any made the Sweet Sixteen, let alone the Final Four.
Best choice in the entire tournament to be a GK?
Peter Keating (3:11 PM)
Whoever wins the Iowa-Tennessee game has an excellent chance to take down U.Mass, which really has no business being a 6-seed.
Will University of South Carolina hiring Darrin Horn over Gregg Marshall go down as the worst coaching hire of all time? Also does the job kill Frank Martin or does he kill someone else first?
Peter Keating (3:14 PM)
Wait, what? These aren't Giant Killers questions, but let's just say I'm a St. John's fan, so I can think of at least one historical coaching hire quite worse than passing up Gregg Marshall.
Duke is one of the safer teams against Giant Killers, yet aren't getting picked to even make the Final Four by most. What gives?
Peter Keating (3:16 PM)
A lot of people can see Duke going down to Iowa or Tennessee -- and appropriately so, according to our spreadsheets.
Given that a #2 seed usually gets knocked out in their second game- which do you think is more likely to happen: Oregon over Wisky or New Mexico over Rock Chalk?
Peter Keating (3:19 PM)
Neither is likely, but Kansas is considerably safer against New Mexico, even without Embiid, than Wisconsin is vs. Oregon. New Mexico just isn't a good Killer: few threes, few turnovers forced ...
Peter Keating (3:20 PM)
... And Wisconsin is weaker than usual. We named a whole family of Giants after Bo Ryan, but this year's edition doesn't really play like a Bo Ryan Giant.
#8 Kentucky over #1 Wichita St. or #9 Oklahoma St. over #1 Zona cant possibly considered GK's can they?
Peter Keating (3:21 PM)
Sure, why not? Wouldn't it be quite the felling of a Goliath to take down an undefeated team or the #1 team in the country? ...
Peter Keating (3:22 PM)
... Both of these, along with Pitt, are what we've been calling wounded assassins, teams that fell far short of initial expectations, earned mid-bracket seeds -- but are still potentially lethal. Not everyone can be Eastern Kentucky.
Most difficult matchup for you to predict right now?
Peter Keating (3:24 PM)
I go back and forth and back and forth on whether to actually pick North Dakota State as an upset. Our model sees them as having a good but not great chance. Oklahoma is vulnerable and ND State is smart, but plays much more like teams that dominate smaller conferences and then lose than like past Killers ... Hmmm.
Peter Keating (3:25 PM)
I see President Obama is on board with North Dakota State. I wish he would answer my call about whether that's just because he felt his brackets needed another upset.
Do you think New Mexico States size will cause San Diego State problems?
Peter Keating (3:27 PM)
This isn't a slam-dunking contest!
Peter Keating (3:29 PM)
The Aztecs could have serious trouble against an opponent who hits a lot of threes or forces a lot of turnovers, because they can't shoot and play slower than your grandma. But NM State doesn't do either. They're also sloppy with the ball. Classic case of a team built to win the WAC, not the West.
Peter Keating (3:29 PM)
I will do my best to pass along your thanks in person.
Al (Des Moines)
I think First Four selection Tennessee has Elite 8 potential, which would include knocking off Duke. Do they look like a giant-killer to you?
Peter Keating (3:33 PM)
Tennessee actually doesn't profile as a classic Killer, but: they are underseeded, and they crush it on the offensive glass. Two Vols (Stokes and Maymon) are both in the top 20 in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. That can keep you in any game, Giant or Killer. Also, if they get by Iowa, they are a considerably better team than U.Mass, straight up. So they've got all that going for them.
Peter Keating (3:35 PM)
But note: It doesn't pay to pick any play-in team if you have to choose before tonight, or have to go with whoever wins, or something like that. Tennessee does have to win an extra game just to make the Round of 64.
Which team is the closest to being fool proof against Giant Killers?
Peter Keating (3:37 PM)
Louisville. One of the two or three best teams in the country, and the Pitino style, which they're executing very well, is very hard for Killers to beat. Unless they are the type that can slow a game way down, get a lead and grab dozens of rebounds. Kenneth Faried did that! But it's a tall order.
If you added Lebron to any of these teams, would they be the favorite to win it all?
Peter Keating (3:39 PM)
What a cool question. Off the top of my head, I will say yes and call this a subject for future research.
Aaron (Leesburg, VA)
Is UNC on upset alert versus Providence?
Peter Keating (3:41 PM)
If they're not, they should be! Watch Providence slow this game down, grab second-chance shots. I can easily see the Friars doing to UNC what Miami did this season. Or UAB.
LA-Lafyette has two NBA prospects per Chad Ford. Doesn't that scream Giant Killer?
alex r (ny)
Why is no one talking about the Ragin' Cajuns? Two NBA caliber players who average 19 ppg each. Also, how far can you see Baylor going?
Peter Keating (3:45 PM)
Uh, nobody's talking about Louisiana-Lafayette because we're in the Round of 64 of the NCAA tournament, not the night of the NBA draft. And to do some damage, you generally need to be better than the 115th-or so team in the country, and to have won your conference by a better margin than the skin of your teeth over Georgia State. Just saying.
Peter Keating (3:46 PM)
The Ragin' Cajuns are a fun story, but come on, they are a case study in why mid-majors should send their regular-season champions to the big dance. Creighton will be tested -- they don't hit the offensive glass, and you know how reliant they are on threes. But probably not here.
Charles (San Jose)
Has to be a yes on the LeBron question. 22 year old Larry Bird took a bunch of nobodies to the championship game.
Peter Keating (3:47 PM)
Another vote for yes.
Which #13 statistically has the best chance of pulling off an upset? New Mexico St?
Peter Keating (3:49 PM)
Tulsa. They don't play like a classic Killer, but UCLA's weak offensive rebounding makes them very vulnerable.
How far can ucla go in the tournament? If they beat Florida could they get to the final four
Peter Keating (3:50 PM)
UCLA has a better chance of losing one of their first two games than beating Florida. Much better.
What is it about Jamie Dixon's style that Pitt breeds so much in season success but proves ineffective come tournament time?
Peter Keating (3:50 PM)
I have a feeling it might be the reverse this year!
Duke Fan (Pennsylvania)
Does a team having 2 potential lottery picks like Duke make them any safer against GK's?
Peter Keating (3:51 PM)
Not in and of itself, though of course it makes Duke a better team, which means they're better against everyone.
I have Dayton-Western Michigan meeting in the round of 32. Which of those 2nd round upsets are a safer bet?
Peter Keating (3:53 PM)
Wait, what? Did your pool assign picks at random? I think if I entered the calculation into our spreadsheets, they would explode, so I have to do the math in my head ... I think there's about a 1% chance of Dayton meeting WMI. Dayton is a much better team and likelier to actually make it to your dream matchup.
Western Michigan have a chance to knockout the slumping Cuse? They can bomb threes over the zone with the best...
Peter Keating (3:56 PM)
Just to follow up, Western Michigan actually scores a very low percentage of their points on bombs, and doesn't grab a lot of offensive rebounds even with Shayne Wittington, who is, what, 8 feet tall? So they're not a tough matchup, whatever condition Syracuse is in.
Are we adding today's LeBron or the eighteen year-old LeBron that went to the NBA? Yes with the first, No to the second.
LeBron couldn't do it. Kevin Durant played at Texas, a major conference school, and lost to UNC in the sweet 16.
Peter Keating (3:56 PM)
I meant yes to today's LeBron. And let's stick to Giant Killers!
Tony (Richmond, CA)
Can VCU make another magical run in the NCAAs? Or did the loss of a key player put a damper on their hopes?
Peter Keating (3:58 PM)
Losing Melvin Johnson hurts. They need his shooting -- already weren't anywhere near as good as last year even with him. That said, they are an excellent Giant. Very tough for Killers to get and keep a lead the way VCU forces turnovers and shuts down the perimeter.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who do you think will be the 2013-2014 NCAA Men's College Basketball National Champions?
Peter Keating (3:59 PM)
At the moment I like Louisville. But honestly, I spend so much time on Stephen F. Austin and Dayton that I haven't paid any attention to matchups beyond the Sweet 16. My brackets are only guaranteed for two rounds!
Give me your Giant Killer/Wounded Assassin Final Four...(Pittsburgh, St.Josephs, Oklahoma St., Tennessee)
Peter Keating (4:01 PM)
Oklahoma State, Kentucky, St. Joe's, Pitt. Great question!
First team in the Midwest to be taken down by a Killer is . . .
Peter Keating (4:02 PM)
One more time: U. Mass!
Peter Keating (4:05 PM)
Thanks so much for participating, everybody. You can find a lot more of this kind of info on our Giant Killers blog -- and we love feedback. Good luck with your brackets!