Every year I have to read some UC fan conspiracy theories about how and why UC is getting screwed by the committee. Sorry guys, they just aren’t. There are plenty of issues I have with how the committee seeds teams. They need to get rid of the RPI teamsheets and use advanced metric based teamsheets (like Sagarin, Kenpom or even BPI). When they breakdown top 25,50,100 wins they need to adjust for home road. Sagarin and Kenpom already have systems that do this… they’ll tell you that a road win over team X is the equivalent of a home win over team Y. The teamsheets should include these adjustments. However, UC was not a victim of this. UC finished 22 in kenpom and they are 22 on the S-Curve…. By some arguments they are one of the teams the committee got exactly right. I had UC as a 5 seed. I think it would have been reasonable to have them there, but their resume was a 5 or 6 seed based on how the committee generally seeds teams. This was not crazy.
The other big complaint I am getting is that UC was shipped out west. UC is a 6 seed…which means they are not a protected seed. When you are not a high seed you run the risk of being shipped to an unfavorable location. Hell even 4 seeds can run this risk if the committee runs out of favorable pods. Two of the 3 seeds were Oregon and UCLA. Those teams were placed in Sacramento. Because of this two 6 seeds were automatically going to be placed in Sacramento. Additionally, Mick and many other coaches have made it clear that they think teams that have to play on selection Sunday should not have to play until Friday in the tournament. If the committee is attempting to do that when possible then they had to avoid placing Cincinnati in Orlando.
UC playing Friday left two spots in Sacramento and a spot in Tulsa open. The Tulsa spot was the logical spot for SMU as the top 6 seed and because it was very close. Hence UC ended up in Sacramento. It’s not some vast conspiracy against UC, it’s the reality of how the committee puts the tournament field together. UC still gets to play a team they should beat and if they win likely a UCLA team that is flashy and great offensively, but really struggles to defend. UCLA is the kind of team UC should be able to score inside against. UC’s ability to make the other team play half court is another big advantage. If I am UCLA, I am not happy with having to play UC. UCLA is only a couple spots above UC in most the advanced metrics. It will be difficult for UC to make the Sweet 16, but this is not some awful draw where they have no shot.
A look at the rest of the Bracket:
Committee did a mostly fair job, despite the stupid metrics they use. I nailed the field exactly, nailed the 1 seeds and was able to predict 63 of 68 teams within one seed line.
One Seeds: I nailed all four of these and think they were the right choices. UNC over Duke seems to have created the most controversy, but the committee always likes to reward great regular seasons over a great week in the conference tournament. I think UNC’s consistency earned them this spot. I think North Carolina has the easiest path the elite eight of any 1 seed. They have by my calculation the weakest 5 and the weakest4. Neither second round matchup is particularly scary. I think Gonzaga is best team and has a reasonably good path as well. For that reason I like Gonzaga v. UNC to play for the Championship. I always like taking teams that have to play fewer difficult games.
Two Seeds: I hit 3 of these 4, having Oregon as a 2 instead of Louisville. I think this are perfectly reasonable 2 seeds. Duke is playing great and has a very reasonable path to the elite eight. I like Louisville in each game, but their second round matchup will be tough regardless of the team they play. Arizona’s path sets up nice for a rematch with Gonzaga.
Three Seeds: I only hit two of these as I had Oregon as 3 instead of Louisville and had West Virginia instead of Florida State. Florida State is fine because they have great wins and I am fine with valuing Louisville over Oregon. I don’t really feel great about any of the 3 seeds chances to make a deep run this year, though I feel best about Oregon. I think Oregon is a bit undervalued and they have a nice draw to the Sweet 16. They could avoid Louisville if things break right and Kansas is the weakest 1 seed.
Four Seeds: I missed on 2 of these as well. I had FSU instead of West Virginia and I had Notre Dame instead of Purdue. Again I was one seed off of all of them so no real complaints with the committee’s choices. I really liked both Florida and Virginia before the tournament so that could be a great second round matchup. I think I am going to take Vermont over Purdue, mainly because I am not huge on Purdue’s chances of making a run and I like that Vermont team. I could see Florida or West Virginia making a final four run, but not the other two.
Five Seeds: Once again I had them all within 1 seed line but the only actual 5 seed I hit was Virginia. I thought UC and Iowa State would be close enough that UC’s win at Iowa State would keep the Bearcats above the Cyclones, but the committee’s 5 seeds were mostly reasonable. I don’t quite get Minnesota as a 5, but I had them as a 6 so we weren’t really that far apart. I plan on picking against Minnesota. I know a lot of people like UNCW over Virginia, but I think Virginia understands playing against that style (just watch them against Louisville every year). The two 5/12s upsets I like the most are Princeton over Notre Dame and Middle Tennessee State over Minnesota.
Six Seeds: Creighton is the only 1 I had though I had the three others only one line apart. We talked extensively about UC, but I love SMU’s draw (which is likely what UC could have had with a win yesterday). Providence and USC are two of the weakest at large teams, Providence is 56 kenpom, USC is 61. By comparison Kansas State and Wake sit at 29 and 30 respectfully. Then SMU gets a Baylor team that got some amazing wins early, but has been pretty average the last month and half. I really liked SMU before the tournament and love them to get to a Sweet 16 right now. Maryland is about as underwhelming a 6 seed as there could be so that is a great draw for Xavier.
Seven Seeds: I had St. Marys and Michigan as 7 seeds, but here is where a couple of my biggest misses came. I had Dayton all the way down at a 10 as I just didn’t think they beat enough good teams to be higher. I had South Carolina as a 10 for the exact same reason. I am mildly surprised by these, though when you get the 7 through 10 you can often pull those teams out of a hat. Of the 7 seeds I think Michigan and St Marys are both incredibly dangerous, though I think Michigan has a coinflip first round game. St Mary’s v. Arizona could be an excellent second round game with the real chance for an upset. I don’t think Dayton or South Carolina are very big threats.
Eight Seeds: I missed on all of these though I had Arkansas, Miami and Northwestern in the 8/9 games as 9 seeds. I think Wisconsin is underseeded especially when you look at the Big Ten teams above them. Wisconsin is a dangerous 8 seed should they win and get to play Villanova. I think Miami is also a very dangerous 8 seed for a Kansas team I am underwhelmed by.
Nine Seeds: Once again I missed on all of these though I had Michigan State, Virginia Tech and Seton Hall all in the 8/9 games but as 8 seeds. My biggest miss in the group is a 15 loss Vandy team I had as one of the last 4 in. I am not very surprised they are higher because the committee consistently rewards SOS. Vandy had the #1 nonconference SOS and the #2 overall SOS. As a result the committee had them safely in. Of the 9 seeds I think Seton Hall has been playing the best basketball, but Virginia Tech has the offensive firepower to be difficult for Villanova. I think the VT / Wisconsin game should be really interesting.
Ten Seeds: I hit both Wichita State and VCU, but missed on the other two (though I had Marquette within 1 seed line). My biggest miss here was I had Oklahoma State as an 8 seed and they wound up a ten. I like that Oklahoma State team a ton and will be picking them against a Michigan team I also like. Louisville is in for a very tough second round game regardless. Wichita State is also a victim of the committees love of RPI top xyz wins. Most of the advanced metrics suggest the Shockers are a top 10-15 team. That’s a brutal draw for UK in the second round (Though maybe some poetic justice as the Shockers drew the supremely talented Wildcats as an 8 seed when they were a 1…still maybe the best second round game I can remember in the NCAA tournament). Some numbers suggest UK/Wichita is close to a coinflip so they may be a good team to take a risk on.
Eleven Seeds: I hit 3 of the 6 (Xavier, Rhode Island and Kansas State). I had Middle Tennessee State as another which dropped the other play in teams to a 12 seed. I had all of them within 1 seed line. Xavier has a great draw as they are actually rated higher by Kenpom than their opponent (not definitive but these teams are closer than you’d expect 11/6 to be). As noted UC’s possible opponents are pretty good for 11 seeds, but beatable. I don’t think USC or Providence have a great shot against SMU. Rhode Island and Creighton is a good matchup that I think could go either way.
Twelve-Sixteen Seeds: Hit all of these within a seed line. We’ve already discussed the upsets I like.