19: 2021 Brier preview

The Brier is starting on Friday, so it’s time for another Monte Carlo-driven preview. But first, let’s look back on our work for the Scotties.

I didn’t do bad. I mean, it was a fairly simple exercise. Einarson and Homan were clearly the two best teams in Canada when the world shut down and they ended up in the final. It’s not like you needed me to tell you that was likely to happen.

I warned Kerry Galusha about Pool A and by the end of her time at the event, she got the message.

Pool A went 12-4 in the Championship Pool and the three-team playoff was represented exclusively by Pool A teams. I don’t think the unbalanced pools had any impact on crowning the best team, but one can imagine if Galusha and Suzanne Birt had swapped pools, maybe Galusha would have been playing on the final Friday and Saturday.

We did miss (and generally when I miss on something, I will use “we” like there are other people influencing me) on the emergence of Team Zacharias, who struggled early and finished 3-5 in pool play. Their performance drops them from 19th to 26th in the ratings.

One notable thing that happened in this year’s Scotties was that there were noticeably fewer blanks. Just 9% of non-10th ends were blanked, easily a low for at least the past six years.

Blank % in the Scotties

Year   Blank%
2016 14.6
2017 15.1
2018 13.2
2019 13.6
2020 11.4
2021 9.0

Was this a result of rustiness? Possibly. The field was somewhat weaker than usual as well.

On a related note, this is the point where I confess I like the women’s game better than the men’s. There are more stones in play and the games are higher scoring. And as my basketball colleagues know, I like games with more points in them. So I’m hopeful that the blank trend will carry over this week. Last year, a whopping 21% of the first 9 ends were blanked in the Brier. Maybe that is fun for you, but I think it makes for less-interesting viewing.

But what the Brier lacks in terms of rocks in play and scoring, it makes up for in unpredictability. Let’s look at the doubletakeout.com forecast!

Rk  Rating  Team      Pool Playoff  Title 
 2  12.98   Gushue      B   58.2%   23.2%
 1  13.00   Jacobs      A   56.8    22.8  
 4  12.93   Bottcher    A   52.1    19.5  
 5  12.76   Koe         B   44.2    14.2  
 6  12.66   Epping      B   37.7    10.8  
 7  12.48   McEwen      A   24.4     5.7  
10  12.22   Dunstone    B   15.4     2.7  
16  11.94   Gunnlaugson A    6.0     0.7  
    11.70   Howard      A    2.6     0.2  
30  11.40   Murphy      B    1.0     0.06  
    11.33   Fournier    B    0.8     0.04  
31  11.34   Laycock     A    0.6     0.03  
42  11.02   Grattan     A    0.1     0.003  
81  10.43   Smith       B    0.009   0.0001  
     9.61   Mikkelsen   A   <0.0001 <0.0001
     9.55   Skauge      A   <0.0001 <0.0001
     9.23   MacKenzie   B   <0.0001 <0.0001  
     9.17   Mackey      B   <0.0001 <0.0001  

Note that Wayne Middaugh is (probably?) replacing Glenn Howard as skip for Team Howard and I have adjusted Team Howard’s rating from the 9th best team in the world to 20th.

There were just 5 teams in the Scotties that had at least a 15% chance to make the playoffs, but there are 7 such teams in the Brier and there would have been 8 had Glenn Howard not gotten into a snowmobiling accident. The men’s side has 8 of the top 10 teams in the world.

One need only look back to last year to see how competitive the top of the field is. Brad Jacobs entered the Brier as the top team in the world (well, if doubletakeout.com existed then) and suffered three losses in pool play. He still managed to make it to the playoffs after winning two tiebreaker games before losing in the 3/4 game.

We don’t have a lot of game results from this season to inform our analysis, but we do have a bit more than the women. Brad Gushue comes in as the favorite, although Jacobs technically holds a miniscule lead in the ratings. This tells us the path from Pool B appears to be slightly more comfortable and gives Gushue a slight advantage.

Gushue’s season consisted of beating up on what passes for elite competition in Atlantic Canada. (We are kidding, elite competition of Atlantic Canada!) In Gushue’s two events he went 12-0, with his most notable opponents included Jamie Murphy (twice), James Grattan and Greg Smith, who all will be in this year’s Brier, albeit none figures be around for next weekend.

Jacobs went 8-3 which included a 5-0 run against not-very notable competition at the Stu Sells Toronto Tankard. (We are not kidding this time.) In his other appearance, Jacobs lost to Tyler Tardi in the quarterfinals of the Ashley HomeStore Classic. It was his second loss to Tardi in the event, where he also lost to Glenn Howard. We shouldn’t read too much into such a limited schedule, but still, Tardi is barely in the world top 25 here and Howard is towards the back end of the top ten, and so Jacobs is going have to do better to succeed in the coming days.

I’m not going to parse every team’s results but one other team I’d like to highlight is Kevin Koe. Koe replaced Colton Flasch with the legendary John Morris in his lineup this season. Which might make you think they are a little underrated here since the bulk of their rating is based on last season’s work. But in fact Koe’s results in three events this season were not stellar. Yes, the team went 17-4, but against teams in the top 25 they were just 5-3. (And if we want to get sneaky, just 5-4 against the top 33.)

They did split with #4 Brendan Bottcher, so there’s some evidence they are still among the top teams in the world. Now, you’re saying, “of course with Koe and Morris they are one of the top teams in the world.” But I’m just saying they’re not the favorite here, nor should they be. That said, they are in the middle of the pack of the 8 teams that have a legit chance to make the three-team playoff.

Odds Oddities: Sports Interaction’s odds are, disappointingly, not simply based on the CTRS rankings as they seemed to be for the last two Scotties. Otherwise, John Epping would be the second best choice on the board, and he’s not. Here were their opening odds:

In fact, the odds track pretty closely with the doubletakeout.com ratings. I would say that the sportsbooks are on to me, but based on the volume of traffic to this site, that is doubtful. Maybe they just take the men’s events more seriously. Anyway, there is no value in any of the odds at SportsInteraction given the wide open nature of this event, so you’ll have to find something else to wager on. Maybe live table tennis?

At the time of this writing, Bovada/Bodog just posted their odds and they, too, have not followed the CTRS rankings. Still, they offer Team Bottcher at +500 which, as the kids say, is +EV, at least according to my simulations. So there’s that. There’s also some small value in Jacobs at +375.

Conclusion: I don’t have the confidence to declare any team a lock to make the playoffs as I did with Einarson and Homan on the women’s side. It’s safe to say that at least two of Gushue/Jacobs/Bottcher/Epping/Koe will get there with the final spot going to one of those five and McEwen/Dunstone. If you want a darkhorse, feel-good, model-breaking story outside of this group, then that discussion begins and ends with Jason Gunnlaugson and however you feel about the improvised Team Howard. No other team has a realistic chance.

Finally, if you want a nice prop bet, do you take a skip named Brad or a skip with some other name? The Brads have about a 45% chance of winning so I’m going with the non-Brads.

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