Monday, March 16, 2015

Comments on 2015 NCAA Field and 2015 Bracket Matrix

Hello, college basketball fans!

This is my chance to critique the NCAA Selection Committee, based upon not only my final bracket but those of many bracketologists around the country courtesy of the Bracket Matrix. As always, I would like to thank Brian for his hard work and dedication as well as the publicity.

In 2011, the NCAA expanded to a 68 team field and introduced the "First Four" where the last four teams to get at large bids now have to play another game to make the round of 64. Before then, it was one opening round game and it featured the two worst teams in the field, always automatic qualifiers.

Since then, it became crystal clear who the last teams to make the field were (in 2012, the NCAA went further and released to the public the full 1-68 ranking of NCAA teams). So usually if there is a difference of opinion between me and the NCAA's (or anyone else), it is these last four in. Last year, I picked three teams the NCAA did not. All three of the teams I picked that the NCAA did not were among the last four teams I picked and all three of the teams the NCAA picked that I did not were among the last four teams they picked. Every team we disagreed on was either in my First Four or there. It seemed to me like if we just picked 64 teams then there would be less disagreement. In 2013, the NCAA and I fully agreed on all 68 teams.

In 2015 there were three teams I picked the NCAA did not (Colorado State, Temple, and Tulsa). But only one of the three teams I had that the NCAA left out (Tulsa) were in my First Four and only one of the three teams the NCAA had that I had were in their First Four. My First Four were Indiana, Georgia, Texas, and Tulsa, who missed the NCAA's. The NCAA's First Four were BYU, Boise State, Dayton, and Mississippi, who I did not have. So if the NCAA still had just 64 teams the NCAA and I would have disagreed on FIVE teams. I cannot imagine that if Connecticut had won yesterday then Dayton, who played for the Atlantic 10 title just hours before Connecticut, would have been out (of course had UConn and Dayton both won, that would have been interesting).

I think in this year the NCAA has clearly showed more favoritism to the power conferences than in past years. The three teams the NCAA had that I didn't were Mississippi, LSU, and UCLA while the three the NCAA left out were not in power conferences. UCLA was to me a big joke even though I thought Mississippi was the least deserving team in the NCAA's. Gary Parrish of said that since 2005 the highest two RPI's left out were from non power conferences. This year, Colorado State (29) and Temple (34) were left out. Meanwhile, according to CBS Sports's RPI rankings, LSU (57), Mississippi (60), and Indiana (61) made the field. Some of you said Murray State but to be honest no at large team had a lower RPI than Murray State (63).

Usually the reason most often discussed to leave out a team with a high RPI is lack of quality wins. Colorado State beat two top 50 teams. So did Temple (and one of them was Kansas!) Meanwhile, UCLA also won two. And Georgia had ZERO! If a mid major with an RPI of 38 had no top 50 wins, they'd probably not even get consideration. But from the SEC? Not a problem. I'm glad Buffalo (28) and Stephen F. Austin (33) won their tournaments. With this committee, there's no chance either would've made it in as an at large had they lost in the final. Apparently, it's better to lose your first round game to Auburn than lose a final to a team with a top 100 RPI.

If I had my way, if you are in the top 40 RPI you should automatically get in and if you're outside the top 60 you cannot get an at large bid. I'm willing to go to 35 and 65 or even 30 and 70 as long as there's some criteria. The 30 cutoff would have gotten Colorado State in as well as 2006's Missouri State (21). What's the purpose of RPI when a team with an RPI of 29 is rejected in favor of teams with RPI's twice that (60 and 61)?

When the chair of the Selection Committee was asked about UCLA, he used the words "eye test" and failed to mention a specific criteria as to why they got in. I may disagree with the criteria or I can say "well the team that didn't make it also met the same criteria" but at least there is a reason. But to not even have a reason is an insult to all of us. "Eye test" is basically another way to say "we put in who we want and not need a reason." It's like a parent saying "Because I said so." I hope no one from UCLA or the Pathetic 12 was on the Selection Committee. I really feel the NCAA shouldn't have people from schools on the committee.

This year, there were a total of 136 brackets in the Bracket Matrix. If the Bracket Matrix were in charge, Colorado State (124 brackets) and Temple (122) would have made the field while Mississippi (80) and UCLA (14!) would not have. I did not have LSU in while 134 did. I took Georgia instead of LSU (despite the fact that LSU beat Georgia in their only regular season game) because of the higher RPI, extra win in the SEC Tournament, and fewer bad losses (LSU lost two games to teams outside the top 200 RPI to none for Georgia). But eight brackets left Georgia out (although Georgia's average seed was higher). Tulsa was my "long shot". Only four brackets total picked Tulsa. My logic was you couldn't leave Tulsa out and take Temple when Tulsa beat Temple twice (of course, the NCAA just left both of them out). I also felt that LSU's profile was close to Old Dominion who had a higher RPI and beat LSU head to head. What can I say, I feel strongly that if Team A and Team B are both on the bubble than you can't take Team B over Team A if Team A won the head to head. I think taking LSU over Old Dominion is a lesser case of power conference bias but nowhere near the bias by taking Mississippi or UCLA. If you go by the number of brackets where a team was chosen, the last four in would have been Indiana (107 of 134), BYU (118), Boise State (119), and Temple (122). Mississippi and Indiana should be glad that UCLA made it because it took the heat off them for making it, UCLA is clearly the worst choice but last year's NC State inclusion (3 of 121 brackets) was the worst choice ever according to the Bracket Matrix.

I had Arizona as the last #1 seed instead of Duke (but had Wisconsin lost to Duke, Duke would've replaced them as a #1 seed). In the Bracket Matrix, I counted just 2 that did not have Villanova as a #1 seed. Wisconsin had an average seed of 1.07 while Duke had an average seed of 1,21. Virginia's average seed was 1.82 while Arizona's was 1.84. I usually feel that the Big Ten teams in the final have a disadvantage because they play late (and yesterday's game went to overtime). It did not appear to hurt Wisconsin yesterday. The chairman even said Wisconsin still would have been a #1 seed had they lost. I understand Duke did beat Wisconsin but I still think a regular season championship and a tournament championship does count more than winning neither in Duke's case (it's the one time I didn't count head to head although I would had Wisconsin lost). I also had Arizona head of Duke (and Virginia) for the same reason.

The Bracket Matrix had the same four #1 and #2 as the NCAA Committee. They had Wisconsin ahead of Duke but otherwise had the same 1-8 ranking as the NCAA's did. I had Iowa State (2.88) as my last #2 instead of Kansas (2.15). To me, Iowa State had a 2-1 head to head edge and won the conference tournament. Kansas did win the regular season title but it was by just one game and if you count both regular season and tournament then the teams tied at 15-6 in the Big 12 with Iowa State having the tiebreaker.

Here's the Bracket Matrix List (average seed):
1: Kentucky (1.00), Villanova (1.01), Wisconsin (1.07), Duke (1.21)
2: Virginia (1.82), Arizona (1.84), Gonzaga (2.04), Kansas (2.15)
3: Iowa State (2.88), Notre Dame (2.97), Maryland (3.12), Baylor (3.38)
4: Oklahoma (3.72), North Carolina (3.90), Northern Iowa (4.15), Louisville (4.56)
5: West Virginia (5.03), Arkansas (5.07), SMU (5.21), Utah (5.43)
6: Wichita State (5.47), Georgetown (6.06), Providence (6.07), Michigan State (6.21)

I switched Duke and Arizona and Kansas and Iowa State but otherwise had the same Sweet 16 seeds. I had Wichita State and VCU on the #5 line instead of Arkansas and Utah. I had Utah as a 7 seed. My #6's were Arkansas, Georgetown, Providence, and Michigan State.

The odd ball on the list is Georgetown who made it in as a 4 seed.

Dayton was by far the team which was the most underrated by the Selection Committee. Had Connecticut won, Dayton would not have even gotten in. The Bracket Matrix gave Dayton an average ranking of 8.79. Dayton by the way was a UNANIMOUS choice to get in. If Connecticut had won, that would have been the worst decision in the history of the NCAA selection committee. I only saw two brackets that had Dayton as an #11 seed so at most 2 (if any) would've removed Dayton had UConn won.

Other than those already listed, I found no significant differences between Bracket Matrix seeds and NCAA seeds. I had Georgetown, Utah, Iowa and Purdue two places below their actual seed, VCU and Wichita State two places above their actual seed, and Dayton three places above their actual seed. I thought LSU didn't belong, the Selection Committee had them a #9 seed (the average Matrix seed was 10.48).

I am probably saying this because I am an alumnus of Temple and currently live in the Philadelphia area but this to me was the worst job by the Selection Committee since 2011. Last year, NC State was a worse pick than UCLA was this year but overall last year's group was better. The best IMHO was 2013, the only time I have ever picked all 68 teams in the Selection Committee (and the Bracket Matrix agreed unanimously with the NCAA as well, which rarely happens). The worst in the last 10 years to me was 2006, 2011, and 2015.

Coming soon, Schmolik Bracket Analysis!

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