Throughout the year, I’ve been bringing you a projection of how the bracket would shake out come Selection Sunday. Now, with the final bracket in our hands, let’s take a step back and assess what was right, what was wrong, and what we can learn from it all.
The Nitty Gritty:
65 of 68 Teams correct
44 of 68 (65%) teams seeded correctly
15 of 68 (22%) teams +/- one seedline
5 of 68 (7%) teams +/- two seedlines
1 of 68 (1%) teams +/- three seedlines
At the Top: Two big misses at the top of the bracket were UVA as the number one overall seed over Duke and Michigan State a one seed over Gonzaga. I’m not surprised by either of these. In the case of Virginia vs. Duke, I’m more inclined to be ok with Duke getting the nod over UVA based off their H2H record than I am with the Committee dismissing or forgiving Duke’s play without Zion Williamson, but alas, here we are. You’re not going to get an argument from me if you think Duke is the best team in the country, I just didn’t think they had the body of work to leap from the Hoos. As far as Michigan State/Gonzaga is concerned, again, I’m not surprised as I had Gonzaga as a one seed, going against what my own numbers were telling me up until they lost to St. Mary’s in the West Coast Conference Tournament. But overall I felt that Michigan State winning both the regular season and tournament championships in arguably the best conference in the country would be enough. Which leads me to...
Big Ten Whiff: Let me start by saying I am not a big Big Ten fan. I felt their teams loaded up on quality wins via a very balanced league and one that I didn’t feel struck fear in me as the season went along. The fact is that Penn State, Rutgers, Northwestern, and Illinois all provided quality wins even though quality is a word I wouldn’t use to describe any of those teams. Maybe I should have gone with my gut here and not given the Big Ten so much credit. Along with leading me to overseed Michigan State, of the four teams I overseeded by two or more seedlines, three of them came from the Big Ten (Wisconsin -2, Iowa -3, Minnesota -2). It also led me to include Indiana, one of the three teams I included who ultimately missed out.
The Misses: I got three teams wrong in my predictions, including N.C. State, Indiana, and TCU. The three I had out who received bids were Arizona State, St. Johns, and Temple. I won’t get too much into the teams who were left because if you’ve reading this all year you know I shed no tears for teams that get left out of the tournament. The back end of the tournament field is littered with mediocre teams. When power five teams play good teams and lose more often than they win, it does nothing for my excitement level at the prospect of seeing them in March. As for the teams that got in, I’m ok with Temple. I had them in most of the year as a solid yet unspectacular team. Shizz Alston and Quinton Rose are worth the price of admission, but I felt their early exit at the hands of Wichita State would have been enough to keep them out. Looking back on it now, you could argue this is a lifetime achievement bid for Fran Dunphy who is coaching in his last season. I really shouldn’t have missed that.
Now, on to St. John’s and Arizona State. While there was momentum among other Bracketologists for their inclusion, I just don’t see it. St. John’s looked like a lock just a month ago before they lost five of their last seven games. It appears as if their two wins over Marquette, a win over Seton Hall, and a win over VCU propelled them into the tournament. However, are we really excited over a team that went 8-10 in a conference who’s best teams only got six-seeds? Frankly, I’m not. Then there’s Arizona State from the vaunted Pac-12. I really felt Oregon stealing the automatic berth would be enough to leave the Sun Devils out. But again, here we are. The Sun Devils looked ok after the non-conference with wins over Mississippi State, Kansas, and Utah State sandwiching losses to Vanderbilt (KP 154) and Princeton (KP 175). Then they began conference play, in let me remind you, one of the worst power five conferences we’ve ever seen. They got a home win over Washington and split with Oregon (neither win was on the road), but here’s where it gets ugly. They lost three games to teams 114th or worse in KenPom (two of them at home), including a loss to Washington State checking it a putrid 210. All told, that’s five losses to sub-114 KenPom teams. Not exactly a stat that get’s me going for Arizona State. Which leads me to...
Lessons Learned: There are two things that jump out at me as things to tweak in my model for next year. The first was the penalty I gave for bad losses. I’m a firm believer that I don’t really care who you play (strength of schedule). Play bad teams for all I care, just make sure you beat them. Apparently the committee didn’t agree. In addition to my exclusion of Arizona State, I also had Syracuse a ten seed. They got an eight seed from the committee. It was likely a product of the fact that I wasn’t a big fan of Syracuse’s three sub-100 KenPom losses, two of which came at home.
Then there’s the NET. It’s clear the Committee used NET for quad wins/loss purposes, but actual number next to a team didn’t matter nearly as much. I’m actually really surprised by this. I’ve never liked the RPI as, like I said above, I couldn’t care less who you play as long as you beat them. However, the RPI was a metric that rewarded tougher strength of schedules. I’m glad it’s gone, and feel the NET is an improvement. The question becomes, if the Committee wasn’t really going to use it, why do they have it. It’s as if they created this new tool only to get folks off their back for relying too heavily on RPI. Relying on RPI was a choice, not something they were forced to do based on the absence of better analytic tools. I gambled a bit weighing NET a little more heavily in my ranks under the assumption they’d use it. I won’t do that again next year.
Now, with the selection process behind us, on to filling this bad boy out.