Hello, college basketball/Big Ten fans!
The NCAA announced the field for the NCAA Men's Tournament yesterday. Earlier yesterday I posted my "Schmolik 64" bracket of who I thought should make the field as did many bracketologists. Each year, the Bracket Matrix lists a group of bracketologists including myself as well as several national websites including ESPN's Joe Lunardi and CBS Sports' Jerry Palm. I personally like to thank Brian for putting together the Bracket Matrix. He has been doing this work since 2006. The first year there were just 23 brackets (I was one of them). This year there are 211 brackets, the most ever, and the number grows every year. I use the Bracket Matrix in two ways, to see how reasonable my bracket is and how reasonable the NCAA bracket is. I trust the bracketologists more than the NCAA Selection Committee because there are 211 of us compared to just 12 members on the committee and the 12 members are either athletic directors of a university or commissioners of a conference and would have an interest as to who makes the NCAA Tournament.
First, I will compare my bracket to the NCAA Selection Committee. I differed with the NCAA on three teams. I had Texas A&M, Oklahoma, and Xavier in and Wyoming, Notre Dame, and Rutgers out. Using the NET rankings, Oklahoma is 39, Xavier 40, and Texas A&M 43 while Wyoming is 50, Notre Dame 53, and Rutgers 77. All three of the teams I picked had higher NET rankings than the three teams the NCAA picked. I understand the NET is not the only tool they use to pick the teams. Another one of their criteria is their performance in their defined "quadrants". Rutgers did spectacular there, with six Quad 1 wins, as many as Duke. Wyoming also had four Q1 wins. On the other hand, Notre Dame had just two Quad 1 wins. Xavier meanwhile had five Quad 1 wins and Texas A&M and Oklahoma had four each. Another supposed NCAA criteria is strength of schedule, especially non conference schedule. Rutgers's non conference schedule was ranked 297 out of 358 teams (according to Warren Nolan's site). Rutgers also lost a home game this year to Lafayette, ranked 319th in the NET.
The biggest reason I can think Notre Dame made the NCAA's was a win over Kentucky. Texas A&M beat Auburn, a better team than Kentucky according to the NCAA's own seed list. Oklahoma beat Baylor, a #1 seed as well as Texas Tech, a #3 seed. In fact, Texas A&M BEAT Notre Dame this year on a neutral court this year. I didn't even realize that when I put together my bracket. I didn't even have Texas A&M in my First Four teams. I feel the Selection Committee made their mind up on Texas A&M before the week started and wouldn't put them in unless they won the SEC Championship. They gave ACC Champion Virginia Tech an #11 seed and #46 overall ranking, lower than three of the First Four teams! There's no doubt if Virginia Tech had lost they would not have made the NCAA Tournament.
But how did the Bracket Matrix bracketologists see it? Out of 211 brackets, 200 of them had Texas A&M in the field (95% to the nearest whole number)! I'd say I was biased but could 200 brackets be "wrong"? It is percentage wise one of the biggest snubs in NCAA Tournament history. By contrast, Xavier was only chosen by 41 brackets (slightly more than 1 of 5 or 20%) and Oklahoma by just 29. I probably messed those up. I left Wyoming off my bracket and not only did the NCAA take them but a large majority of brackets (173 of 211, 82%) had them although that is a significant number of brackets that didn't have them. There were 66 teams that were chosen by 200 or more brackets (95% or more). Wyoming would have been team #67. The "last team in" if the Bracket Matrix bracketologists were in charge would have been Rutgers, chosen by 84 brackets to 75 for Notre Dame (Notre Dame had a higher average seed among the brackets that chose them). In addition to Xavier and Oklahoma, SMU was a fairly popular choice, tying Xavier in being chosen by 41 brackets. The NCAA said that DAYTON would have been chosen had Richmond not won the Atlantic 10 Championship. Now all of these brackets assumed Richmond did win the A-10 but THREE brackets had Dayton in the NCAA's and I had tracked the Matrix on the weekend and Dayton hadn't been getting much support all weekend. I can't imagine they would have been picked on many brackets even if Richmond had lost. I think the NCAA is lucky Richmond won because there would have been way more head scratching over Dayton than they got over Rutgers and Notre Dame.
If you compare the Matrix to the Selection Committee, the Matrix's four #1 seeds and the NCAA's were the same and it was pretty crystal clear. The Matrix lists an "average seed" for each team. Gonzaga and Arizona were both unanimous #1 seeds, Kansas had an average seed of 1.01, and Baylor's average was 1.04. I counted just 2 brackets that had Kansas as a #2 seed and 6 that had Baylor as a #2.
If the Matrix was in charge, Tennessee would have been a #2 seed instead of Duke and it wasn't even close. Kentucky would have been ahead of Auburn by average seed (Kentucky 1.99, Auburn 2.02). Villanova's was 2.19 and Tennessee's was 2.23! Duke wasn't even the highest #3 seed, that was Purdue (Purdue's was 2.78, Duke was 2.83). Texas Tech's average seed was 3.11 and Wisconsin's was 3.40. It's interesting that Wisconsin was the NCAA's top #3 seed while they were the Matrix's last #3 seed. How much of a difference would that make? In the NCAA's, Wisconsin got to stay in the Midwest. If the Matrix was in charge, Wisconsin likely goes West. The Matrix #4 seeds were the same as the NCAA"s (UCLA 3.67, Illinois 4.03, Arkansas 4.11, Providence 4.35). I had Houston as a #4 instead of Providence.
The Matrix's regional placement might have looked like this instead:
West: 1/1. Gonzaga, 2/8. Tennessee, 3/12. Wisconsin, 4/13. UCLA
South: 1/2. Arizona, 2/6. Auburn, 3/11. Texas Tech, 4/14. Illinois
Midwest: 1/3. Kansas, 2/5. Kentucky, 3/9. Purdue, 4/16. Providence
East: 1/4. Baylor, 2/7. Villanova, 3/10. Duke, 4/16. Arkansas
I don't think there were any significant seeding errors below the top 4 seed lines (below then one seed line usually doesn't make as much a difference as say a #2 vs. a #3). I had Virginia Tech a #7 seed, that was too high according to the Matrix (10.34 average seed). I also had Boise State a #6 which is two higher than the Selection Committee but the Matrix had BSU at 6.94 which translates to a #7.
I think the Selection Committee did a decent job although don't tell Texas A&M that and the last thing they want to hear is Notre Dame is the reason they didn't get in, they're still bitter from that other sport:)
I'll have Schmolik Bracket Analysis in the next day or two.