We made it, guys. The most exciting weekend in all of sports, the 1st and 2nd rounds of the NCAA Tournament, is just a day away.
Now, before I go on a slightly passionate rant about the selection committee’s seeding, I will begin with this undeniable statement.
The NCAA Tournament is idiot proof. Regardless of how badly the committee misseeds or misplaces teams, the one and done format will always provide endless drama and captivate the hearts of millions of people across the globe. It is the one sporting event that truly never fails to disappoint.
With all that being said, it is time to address the fact that the committee’s protocol and criteria for selecting and seeding the field of 68 is outdated.
Not only is it outdated, but does anyone really know what statistics are being used to determine things on a given year? I honestly believe the people in the committee room do not even know.
Members of the committee have claimed that they seed and bracket teams under a set of standard procedures, but we are lying to ourselves if we think they follow the rules the same way every season.
The NCAA would save itself a lot of grief if they would just be transparent and upfront about things. Come out and tell everyone the exact statistics you are going to use to determine inclusion into the field and seeding.
Tell us how much each statistic is going to be weighed, and which criteria holds the utmost importance.
Hell, provide us with a list that goes in numerical order of things to be considered from most important to least important.
Hold a giant town hall style meeting and have all the division one coaches vote on which items should carry the most weight come March.
Boom, we got our criteria set.
As of right now, there is no way of knowing on any given year which statistics are being viewed as more important than others.
However, these past couple of years and this year specifically, it is apparent that the committee is still leaning more towards traditional, flawed, RPI statistics with an emphasis on “who did you play.”
Those things can still be used in some instances, but there is no excuse for continuing to blatantly disregard reliable advanced metrics such as Kenpom, Sagarin, and BPI.
This current setup tends to penalize schools who do not have the chance for very many quality wins. (The Wichita State’s and the Illinois State’s of the world)
Also, would it kill anybody to sit down and ask, “hey, which team do we actually think would win head to head on the court?”
If you’re the person that likes to beat your chest King-Kong style and exclaim to all your friends “computers are dumb, I actually watch the games,” well, good for you, but you are also probably the person that thinks taking shirtless mirror selfies is a form of art.
The advanced metrics have been very reliable when it comes to predicting success in the tournament.
Only (4) Final Four teams in the past ten seasons coming into the tournament were ranked outside of the top 17 in Kenpom’s overall rankings. Only 4! That may not sound all that telling of a statistic until you consider that (13) teams seeded on the 4 line and above have made the Final Four in that span. Only 4 of those 13 teams were ranked outside of the top 17 in Kenpom. (Hm, sounds like some teams might have been seeded incorrectly to me).
Thirteen of the past fourteen NCAA champions have ranked in the top 20 in Kenpom’s offensive and defensive efficiencies metrics.
Not to mention, in seven of the past ten seasons, Kenpom’s number one ranked team has cut down the nets. Not too shabby for a sport with widespread parity like college basketball.
I could go on all day and continue to bore you with stats highlighting Kenpom and the reliability of other advanced metrics, but that is not the point here.
I am not suggesting the committee should rely solely on these advanced metrics to form the bracket of the NCAA Tournament. I am simply asking for them to take on a larger role in the process, considering the dumpster fire that was this year’s seeding.
What in Tarnation:
Vanderbilt. (19-15)??? 15 losses. FIFTEEN freaking losses. Not only did the Commodores come up on the short end of the stick fifteen times, they lost to the Missouri Tigers 72-52. If you get 20 balled by Missouri, you should arguably be placed on NCAA probation for a year, let alone be granted a 9 seed in the big dance. (I’m not mad they were included in the field, but a single digit seed is indefensible).
Wichita State (30-4) has lost just one game since December 17th. They currently sit at #8 in Kenpom, #11 in Sagarin, #15 in BPI, and are ranked #19 in the latest AP top 25 poll.
Yet, they were dealt a 10 seed. According to Vegas Insider, the Shockers are 6.5 point favorites to win their opening round matchup with the 7 seed, the Dayton Flyers. Seems slightly unfair to Dayton, right?
Should both Wichita State and Kentucky advance to the round of 32, the Wildcats would only be around a 2.5 point favorite.
Next, you cannot look me in the eyes with a straight face and tell me the committee did not draw the Big Ten teams out of a hat to determine their seeding. I refuse to believe anything else.
Wisconsin’s run to the Big Ten tournament title game resulted in them receiving an 8 seed, and the worst draw of any team in the tournament. I am seriously asking for help on this one. Wisconsin beat Minnesota twice, finished above them in the conference standings, and would be favored over them on a neutral floor. Yet, Minnesota was gifted a 5 seed by the committee.
Oh yeah, and if the Badgers squeak by Virginia Tech in their opening round game, they get to play Villanova, the defending national champs.
Maryland lost 4 of their last 6 games to close out their season. If you look at the Terrapins resume, their best win of the year is probably the January 7th victory over 7 seed Michigan. However, this was long before Michigan decided they were going to be a decent basketball team.
Yeah sure, let’s put Maryland as a 6 seed!
Iowa State and Notre Dame were awarded 5 seeds, while Florida stumbled to the finish line going 3-3 in their last six games, really looking like a shell of themselves since the loss of big man John Egbunu to injury. Oh well, let’s still hand Florida a 4 seed!
At the end of the day, teams are still going to have to beat tough opponents to advance deep into the tournament, but correcting these things is really not a difficult task. Make the necessary changes. Please.
Now that we got that out of the way we can talk some actual hoops.
New Mexico State +13 Vs Baylor
I do not always offer gambling advice, but this is the one game I could not resist. I am a huge supporter of everybody becoming rich in this country.
You can take your first step towards wealth by betting NMSU + 13. This is the biggest lock in sports gambling history.
I am serious when I say this, if I am wrong then I may need to retire from journalism.
On a normal year, the trust level I have when it comes to Baylor winning games in the tournament is exponentially low. This year is a whole different ball game.
The Bears legitimately peaked in early January. Baylor is 5-6 in their last 11 games. Guard play and the lack of a true point guard has been a concern for them all season long, and their best option is now nursing an ankle injury in Manu Lecomte. New Mexico State has the size and experience to pull off the upset, and are hungrier than ever having been to five out of the past six NCAA tournaments with no wins to show for it.
And then we have the biggest X-factor still left to be accounted for: Scott Drew
If you try to come at me with the notion that he is a good coach, I will lose my mind. He is a decent recruiter. That is all that I will concede.
Lets take a look into Drew’s “success” in the Big 12. Since I am feeling generous today, I will discount the first couple of years of Drew’s tenure at Baylor since they were rebounding from a scandal that left the program in shambles. Since 2007-2008, this is where the Bears have finished in the Big 12 standings: (5, 9, 3, 7, 4, 6, 7, 4, 5, 2).
When you consistently have one of the top two or three most athletically gifted teams in the league and still manage to finish that low, yikes.
Also, here is a friendly reminder of how the Bears have performed in the last two NCAA tournaments as a 3 and a 5 seed: LOSS, LOSS
Scott Drew’s game plans could be drawn up by 8 year old cartoon characters riding in the back of the “Magic School Bus”. Baylor has never won a game because of a brilliant strategy from their coach. They win games because they have better players.
Lastly, do not even get me started on the paranormal activity that occurs when Baylor players break the huddle and attempt to execute a set play after watching Scott Drew scribble smiley faces on a whiteboard for sixty seconds during timeouts.
I will go to my grave believing that Scott Drew is the worst x’s and o’s coach in the power five.
Coaches and guard play matter the most in March. New Mexico State very well could win this game, but +13 is free money.
Random closing thoughts
-The four regions ranked from most to least difficult: South, East, Midwest, West
-If media outlets keep giving Lavar Ball (Lonzo Ball’s father) a platform to voice his egregious opinions regarding his sons, I’m going to go clinically insane
-The next Indiana head coach very well might be apart of the Wichita State/Dayton matchup (Gregg Marshall, Archie Miller)
-This is the year Gonzaga finally breaks through to the final four
-The potential Kansas-Iowa State Sweet 16 matchup in KC @ the Sprint Center would be absolutely insane
-I have no idea what is going to happen during this tournament and neither do you
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Feature photo courtesy of Wichita State Athletics.