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February 28, 1:30 PM ET
Chat: Peter Keating, Jordan Brenner

Jordan Brenner
  (1:28 PM)

Hi everyone. Glad to be chatting with you live from the Sloan sports analytics conference. Let's talk some early Giant Killer upsets!

Bill (Kansas)

Obviously, the big debate in Kansas is who's better, KU or WSU. I'd like to know what people think about this question....who gets knocked out of the NCAA sooner, KU or WSU? Supposedly, everyone thinks KU wins head-to-head, but who lasts longer? I actually think WSU has a better chance to make a deeper run, KU is too inconsistent for a 1-and-done tourney. Thoughts?

Jordan Brenner
  (1:30 PM)

Bill, I will have much, much deeper thoughts on Kansas and Wichita State in tomorrow's blog. But our model perceives Kansas to be a very safe Giant. Wichita State? Not so much. A year after beating a top-seed as No. 9 seed, it's not inconceivable that the Shockers could get bounced the same way.

Pearson Harper (Hillsborough, NC)

Vermont made themselves known this year after a 91-90 loss to Duke in Cameron Indoor, but how are their chances in the tournament?

Jordan Brenner
  (1:35 PM)

Pearson,UVM's chances aren't as good as you might think. They don't shoot a lot of 3-pointers (which is surprising, since they are accurate), which is key for Giant Killers.

Matt (Buried in Michigan)

Can you see a smaller B1G team like Nebraska or Iowa doing some serious damage?

Jordan Brenner
  (1:38 PM)

I'm not sure I'd consider Iowa a "small" team and Nebraska is going to have a hard enough time to make the tournament. Iowa can do some damage, sure, but that's because they're already a Giant this year, not a Giant Killer.

pj (midlo)

Hi guys, this year marks 23 years of traveling to NCAA opening rounds which I view as the best weekend in sports (bar none) I have seen some big upsets (Spiders over Cuse at cole field house is probably biggest) I am one that likes teams to be playing well at end of year when picking upsets - conversely big name conference teams that are limping home oin Feb. are ripe targets - giant killer for 2014 - Green bay

Jordan Brenner
  (1:40 PM)

The model doesn't seem to like Green Bay, which is surprising. Their lack of 3-point shooting and struggles on the defensive boards are big red flags for a team hoping to pull off a big upset.

Jon (Seattle, WA)

Is this year's Badger team any more capable of a deep post-season run? They seem to have recovered from the mid-season slip-up and they've played some great ball over the past couple weeks. Please tell me there's not a Davidson, Cornell, Ole Miss in their future.

Jordan Brenner
  (1:44 PM)

Wisconsin is capable of a deep run, sure. But they're also very vulnerable this year to an early upset. I touched on that in an upcoming issue of ESPN The Mag, in fact. There are some big statistical reasons to worry against a GK.

Victor (Monroe,Louisiana)

Do you gentlemen see lsu sneaking into the ncaa tournament with an upset over number one florida tomorrow?

Jordan Brenner
  (1:46 PM)

Bracketology questions are best saved for Joe Lunardi -- that's not our area of expertise. But we do know that if LSU finds its way into the bracket, the Tigers actually project to be a good Giant Killer.

Rich (New Jersey)

Hi, In the MAAC - Manhattan has 20 wins, Canisius - Iona - Quinnipac have 19 wins, guessing one of these 4 wins the MAAC tournament which of the other 3 has a chance of making the NCAA Tournament?

Jordan Brenner
  (1:48 PM)

It doesn't look like any of them has a real shot at an at-large. But of the four teams, Iona projects as the best Giant Killer.

Charles (San Jose)

Doesn't look like Georgetown will be around to lose to a double-digit seed. Who's your best bet to do so in their place?

Jordan Brenner
  (1:50 PM)

Good question, Charles. Obviously it depends on matchups and seeds, but of the top teams in the country, Iowa State has some serious issues. Don't bet heavily on the Cyclones.

Wizzy (Miami)

I know the conventional wisdom behind the type of teams that make for likely giant killers but do your stats tell a different story about the prototypical giant killer?

Jordan Brenner
  (1:54 PM)

Good question, Wizzy. Stuff like experience and depth turns out not to matter at all. The model hones in on categories like 3-point attempt frequency, offensive rebounds and turnovers forced as key components of its upset formula.

Kirk (The TC)

How much of a Giant Killer can the erratic Golden Gophers be in the B1G or the NCAA? Feel like they have to have all their stars aligned, but...

Jordan Brenner
  (1:55 PM)

Kirk,Our model loved the Gophers last year, and was rewarded with the upset over UCLA. It likes them again this year -- just not as much and for different reasons. Last year they dominated with offensive rebounds. This year it's about forcing turnovers and shooting 3's.

Jordan Brenner
  (1:56 PM)

Getting ready to hand the baton off to my partner-in-crime, Peter Keating, pretty soon. But keep the questions rolling!

sri (dallas)

Can SMU knock off Louisville in dallas?

Jordan Brenner
  (1:58 PM)

Anything is possible. Live your dreams.

Kevin (LA)

Best possibility of an upset killer form a major conference?

Peter Keating
  (2:01 PM)

Hi everyone, ready to start the second half of our Giant Killers chat. Welcome.

Jordan Brenner
  (2:01 PM)

Kevin,It's a little too early to tell, but one team I'm watching closely is Pittsburgh. Depending on where the Panthers are seeded, they could be dangerous.

Neal (Chicago)

Any chance Missouri State knocks off Wichita State this weekend?

Peter Keating
  (2:04 PM)

Very little. Our model sees Missouri State as abut the 150th best team in the country, without particular Giant-Killing skills.

Peter Keating
  (2:06 PM)

Though Wichita State fans need to watch out eventually. Their schedule strength is 6-12 points worse than the other top teams -- they're really not a top 4 or top 10 team, and they play more like a Killer than a Giant.

Charles (San Jose)

Harvard last year handled New Mexico pretty well yet was completely overmatched against Arizona. Which was more indicative of what they can do?

Peter Keating
  (2:08 PM)

Like they played against New Mexico in the Round of 64, then more like they played against Arizona. Harvard is legit, but as in top-40 material who would be in the running for an at-large bid even if they weren't Ivy champions, not as in realistically challenging the very best teams in the country.

Peter Keating
  (2:09 PM)

Oklahoma State! The voters and even some bracketologists don't like them because of all their recent problems. But three of their losses came without Marcus Smart and a few others were very close.

Peter Keating
  (2:09 PM)

There's little correlation between how well a team is playing going into the tournament and how well they play once they get there. OK State as an 11-seed? Seriously, would you rather face them or St. Joe's?

Brandon (Noh Weir)

Does BYU have to win out to make the NCAA tournament, or can they get in with a close loss to the Zags in the finals of the WCC?

Peter Keating
  (2:11 PM)

Think it's going to be tough without winning the conference. Most attention seems to be on the 5th-7th teams from the big conferences.

Sam (Boston)

Is your model published so that we can see where our teams are ranked?

Peter
  (2:12 PM)

We describe the aspects of the model, but not the precise formula.

Peter
  (2:12 PM)

Also, the numbers change slightly as teams keep playing games. Who are you interested in?

Greg (TX)

what characteristics are you looiking for in a giant killer team?

Peter
  (2:13 PM)

Giant Killers have to take chances. They have to increase the variability of their scoring, increasing the chances of beating a better team while also increasing the odds of losing by a lot. In a one-loss-and-you're-done scenario, who cares if you lose by 30? So you have to play a little crazy.

Peter
  (2:14 PM)

High-risk/high-reward means generating more possessions by crashing the boards and maximizing possessions by taking lots of threes. And turnovers are big.

Sam (Boston)

Where is Wisconsin, Michigan and Michigan St. ranked?

Peter
  (2:15 PM)

Wisconsin: 10th safest Giant, rating 77.5 (on a scale from 0 to 100)

Peter
  (2:16 PM)

Michigan State: 12th safest, 74.2Michigan: 8th safest, 79.5That's all pretty good. We have Arizona as the #1 team and Louisville as the safest Giant.

John (Tennessee)

I saw Vermont pretty much handle Stony Brook for most of the game last night. These guys are extremely balanced and unselfish. They lock down on defense and can shoot the ball. They lost to @Duke by 1 earlier in the year, thoughts on them providing a potentially huge upset?

Peter
  (2:18 PM)

I'm posting this because subjectively, I like Vermont a lot better than our statistical model does.

Peter
  (2:18 PM)

Vt's GK rating is just 9.3, meaning they have a 9.3% chance of beating a generic Giant.

Peter
  (2:20 PM)

But they play at a crawl, which helps if they get a lead. They generate turnovers, and they're great on the defensive glass. And they did schedule terrific non-conference opponents ... But they play a lot more like a team built to win a small conference and get an NCAA bid than the kind of reckless team that pulls off upsets once they're in. They're more Bucknell than FGCU.

Charles (San Jose)

How many Giants are there this season?

Peter
  (2:21 PM)

A Giant is any team seeded 5 slots higher than an opponent. We used to have some conference restrictions, but not anymore. So there will always be 24 Giants, seeded 1-6, as of Selection Sunday.

Ed (Queens Village)

Are there bubble teams rooting for Wichita St and Gonzaga to win there conference tournaments?

Peter
  (2:22 PM)

You bet! Including two great potential Giant Killers: Southern Miss and La. Tech. They both can't win the C-USA, and if one of them is going to get an at-large bid, they need fewer possibilities coming out of other conferences.

Alex (Anaheim)

I don't think my Lehigh alum dad will ever forget the Mountain Hawks beating Duke. Was that the biggest tournament upset ever?

Peter Keating
  (2:23 PM)

No, but for a reason you should like.

Peter Keating
  (2:24 PM)

It turned out, according to analytics that really didn't see this until after the fact, that Lehigh was much stronger than a normal 15-seed. They are the best 15- or 16-seed in our database.

Peter Keating
  (2:25 PM)

The biggest upset since 2007 was Norfolk State over Missouri in 2012. That's just a huge fluke no numbers can explain.

Dave (Stamford)

Peter, what are some of the best and worst picks your formula has made for tournament upsets?

Pete
  (2:27 PM)

We liked Cleveland State in 2009, Cornell, Murray State and Old Dominion in 2010, and Ohio in 2012, and we were enthusiastically on the VCU bandwagon in 2011 (and 2012).

Pete
  (2:27 PM)

We missed Florida Gulf-Coast. And for three years running (2011-2013), we loved Belmont but they always went one and out.

Pete
  (2:28 PM)

Probably our worst pick ever was saying Dayton had literally no chance to beat West Virginia in 2010. The good has outweighed the bad, but that was a lesson.

Rich (New Jersey)

Hi, Which teams need an excellent showing, in their conference tournaments, 2-3 wins or win the tournament, to get selected to the NCAA Tournament?

Pete
  (2:30 PM)

A whole bunch, but here are two to root for if you like upsets: St. Mary's in the WCC - they have a much better chance to knock off a Giant than anyone else out there. And Boise State in the MWC. Lots of three-point shooting and huge defensive rebounds mean they maximize opportunities at both ends, and nobody else coming out of that conference has a prayer. They both need serious runs, so keep your Killer fingers crossed.

Pete
  (2:32 PM)

Okay everyone, thanks for chatting, and good luck with your brackets!