Month: February 2014

Is #1 Florida A Surefire #1 Seed?

source: Times Free Press

Right now, the Florida Gators are a #2 seed in the Crotistics bracket. Of the other 92 brackets in The Bracket Matrix, only a single bracket other than Crotistics has the Gators as a 2. Clearly, an extreme majority of people view the Gators as a 1 seed. Let’s take a deeper look at why the Gators appear on the 2 line.

Arizona Wildcats: The current overall #1 seed in the tournament, Arizona, like Florida has only 2 losses. While the Gators are 4-2 against the Crotistics top 50, the Wildcats are 9-2. That fact alone has Arizona a decent amount ahead of Florida.

Wichita St. Shockers: No matter what you think of the Shockers, if they are undefeated when the season ends they will be a #1 seed. That is a fact. The Shockers were a #1 seed when the Mock Bracketing process was done weeks ago. If they do finish undefeated, they’re a 1.

Syracuse Orange: Differentiating between the Orange and the Gators is extremely tough. My numbers have them virtually identical. They have pretty much the exact same record. They have pretty much the exact same Strength of Schedule. Syracuse has 10 wins away from home while Florida has 9. Syracuse has 8 top 50 wins while Florida has 5. Obviously, Syracuse has the loss to Boston College, which is the sole reason why Syracuse isn’t surely ahead of Florida. How much does that loss hurt? Is it worth way more than the big wins? To me, it’s a virtual toss up between these two teams at this point.

Seemingly, these 3 teams and Florida would be your #1 seeds. But that’s not necessarily the case.

The Kansas Jayhawks have a resume unlike any other in recent memory. Is it unthinkable that a 6 loss team could grab a #1 seed from one of these other teams? To date, Kansas has played a total of 10 games against teams outside of the Top 50. They’ve played 28 games in total. Take a minute to let that sink in. It is still February, and Kansas has played 18 games against the Top 50 teams. They’re 12-6 in those games. 12 wins against the Top 50 teams is insane. 7 of them are against the Top 25. Their worst loss is at #43 Kansas St. by 3 points. Kansas is #1 in the RPI, #1 in Conference RPI, and #4 in Non-Conference RPI.

There is a very legitimate case for Kansas being a #1 seed, and with the results against that ridiculous schedule, they probably should be. The committee has a track record of rewarding teams that play a tough schedule, and nobody has been challenged more than Kansas. To come away with the results they have is extremely impressive.

So, there is a dilemma. Right now, there are 5 teams that have a legitimate case for being a #1 seed. If the tournament started today, Arizona would be the #1 overall seed. Wichita St., if undefeated, will not be denied. And Kansas could very well be rewarded for their work. If that’s the case, which isn’t all that unlikely, one of Syracuse and Florida has to be knocked off the top line. It remains to be seen whether a single loss after a 25-0 start is enough to knock Syracuse off. If it isn’t Florida could be the odd man out.

Bubble 2014 vs. 2013

source: ESPN

There will undoubtedly be some statements made regarding how weak this year’s bubble is. It’s the same deal every year. Comparing 2013 to 2014 is a good start. I will reference a few of the Crotistics metrics which are great predictors of seeding in the post below including Win Strength and Strength of Schedule.

WIN STRENGTH: This is a formula that is a recursive calculation based on teams you have played to date.  Currently there are 351 teams in Division 1.  If you have beaten the #1 ranked team you get 351 points.  This is a declining score, so if you beat the #351 team, it is only worth 1 point.  Losses work in reverse.  A loss to the #1 ranked team is only -1 point, while a loss to the #351 team would be worth -347 points.  The average of the sum of these points is a team’s “Win Strength”. This correlates extremely highly with seeding

SOS: I use a geometric average instead of an arithmetic average. What does this mean? This means that if you’ve played the #1 team and the #100 team, your strength of schedule is viewed as being more difficult than a team that has played the #30 team and the #40 team. An arithmetic average views the second example as the more difficult schedule.

Let’s take a look at a few:

SMU

The Mustangs are trying to get back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in over 20 years. For a while, it looked like they would be in pretty good shape, but a recent loss at bottom feeder Temple has changed things. SMU has done well at home, but they haven’t proven much away from home. They still travel to UCONN and Memphis and play Louisville at home. The opportunities will be there to get it done.

Best 2013 Comparison: Middle Tennessee

This may seem surprising, but SMU is virtually identical to Middle Tennessee’s 2013 profile right now. They have a Tier 2 SOS and a Tier 4 Win Strength, just as Middle Tennessee did last year.  SMU has a worse win % against a somewhat tougher Schedule. SMU has some better wins, but overall these two teams end up with virtually identical numbers. The Cro-Curve projected Middle Tennessee as the last team to miss the field of 68, which was only 1 spot off from their true position on the seed curve. The current Crotistics projection has SMU as one of the final 4 teams in.

Arkansas

There’s really not much talk about the Razorbacks as a legitimate at-large contender. In the most recent Bracket Matrix, only 2 of 89 brackets had Arkansas in the field. They sport a solid, yet unspectacular 17-9 record, and have won only 3 games away from home. These are typical bubble team numbers. They got a home win against Kentucky, as well as a home win against the aforementioned SMU. Other than that, they pretty much beat the teams they should have and lost to the teams they should have. Losses at Texas A&M and Georgia don’t help their case.

Best 2013 Comparison: Maryland

No team with a Tier 5 Win Strength in 2013 received an at-large bid. Likewise, Maryland played a tough schedule but did not have enough. At some point, you have to beat someone, and win some solid games on the road. Minnesota and Vanderbilt are nice wins away from home, but they probably will need more. Winning at Mississippi St. and Alabama are probably musts if this team wants to get an at-large bid. Crotistics had Maryland as one of the last 4 out last year, and they missed the tournament. Likewise, we currently project Arkansas as one of the final teams to miss the field.

Oregon

The Ducks are another team that has kind of a funky profile. They cleaned house in the non-conference slate and were ranked in the top 10 in the country! Now they’re on the bubble, despite staying healthy. This certainly will be yet another interesting case to see how much conference record comes into play, as Oregon is currently only 5-8 and in 10th place in the Pac-12. Some have Oregon in while others have Oregon out. But their conference losses aren’t terrible. They lost by 2 at Arizona, by 9 at Colorado, by 2 at Arizona St., by 2 at home to UCLA, by 4 at Washington, by 2 at home to Stanford. They’re in virtually every game, but just can’t seem to pull off a big road win.

Best 2013 Comparison: North Carolina St.

No team with a Tier 3 Win Strength missed the tournament in 2013. The Wolfpack’s 2013 profile compares very similarly to Oregon here, only without a marquee win. Oregon’s best win to date is a home win over BYU. Crotistics projected NC St. last year at #31 on the seed curve, which is just one spot away from their true placement. Right now, Crotistics has Oregon at #36, which may be a little bit high. Regardless, the Ducks last 3 losses have come against 2 top 25 teams and another projected in the field by a combined 6 points. They should be one of the best at-large teams on Selection Sunday, and barring a collapse, it would be surprising not to see Oregon in the field.

The Big 12 Conundrum

source: ESPN

There is something going on this year unlike any other in the past. The 10 team league known as the Big 12 has a chance to send 7 or 8 of its 10 teams to the Big Dance. This is truly unbelievable. What is going to be interesting is seeing how much conference record comes into play.

While it is rare for teams with losing conference records to be selected as an at-large team, it has happened. Even rarer is 2 teams from the same conference with losing conference records to be selected as an at-large. It has only happened twice: In 1998 in the ACC and in 1991 in the ACC. Also not since 1998 has a team been selected that finished more than 2 games under .500.

But the 2014 Big 12 could be historic. Baylor is currently 5-8 in conference, and Oklahoma St. is currently 4-9 in conference. Oklahoma St. is on a 7 game losing streak, including the last 3 without hothead Marcus Smart.

If the tournament started today, it is very likely that 1 or both of these teams would make the field. Each accomplished enough during the non-conference slate to be in the field. But it remains to be seen how much that glaring conference record comes into play. Should it matter? If the schedule were reversed and each of these teams had a strong conference record, would they be more deserving?

 

That is a big question at this point for one specific reason: The West Virginia Mountaineers

In the recent media mock selection process, Baylor was not included in the field, while West Virginia was. Since that time, Baylor has two big wins and may have made the field if the process were done again, but it is not unreasonable to think that conference record certainly came into play. In a 10 team league where the 9th place team could be rewarded with an at-large selection, West Virginia is over .500.

When you look at the Baylor resume vs. the West Virginia resume and you ignore what conference their opponent plays in, it is hard to argue that West Virginia has the better resume. Baylor has more big wins, fewer losses, and has no truly terrible losses. Yet the mock committee placed West Virginia in the field.

 

It will be very interesting to see what happens with these three teams. They could all make the tournament, and they could equally all miss it. This is going to be a huge test to see if conference record is a big factor.