NCAA tournament season is finally upon us: every team (well, except for the teams playing in conference championship games today) has at most one more loss left on their schedule. It’s finally put-up-or-shut-up time, and with no games remaining for the ‘Hoos after their 59-49 loss to Duke in the ACC championship, there’s not much else to do between now and tonight besides speculate about where the Cavaliers will end up.
The most important purely resume-based information for the committee comes from the quadrant system, which essentially groups a team’s record by the strength of their opponents according to the NCAA’s NET rankings. The criteria for the four “quads,” ranging from Q1 (toughest) to Q4 (easiest), are as follows:
Quad 1: Home 1-30, Neutral 1-50, Away 1-75
Quad 2: Home: 31-75, Neutral 51-100, Away 76-135
Quad 3: Home 76-160, Neutral 101-200, Away 136-240
Quad 4: Home 161-357, Neutral 201-357, Away 241-357
After their loss to Duke, here’s where Virginia (27-6 overall) sits in each quadrant:
Quad 1: 5-5
Quad 2: 6-1
Quad 3: 5-1
Quad 4: 9-0
Virginia’s results here are very in line with the 4- or 5-seed line: they won 50% of their games against Quad 1 opponents — the best of the best — while going a combined 11-2 against Quad 2 and 3, and didn’t drop any bad games against lower-level competition. Duke, another ACC team in this area of the bracket, has incredibly similar results: 5-6 in Q1 games, 11-2 in Q2/Q3, and 10-0 in Q4.
Importantly, Virginia’s team sheet will look markedly different from some other teams vying for high seeds from conferences like the Big 12, Big 10, and SEC. Because of the relative weakness of the ACC top to bottom compared to those other conferences this season, teams similar to Virginia from those larger conferences such as Iowa State, Indiana, or TCU will have worse records overall but more games played against top-level competition. For example, Iowa State went 10-11 in Quad 1 play alone this year.
Another metric to mention here isn’t totally descriptive, because it’s based on predictive metrics, but it feels like it fits: strength of schedule. Virginia’s overall SOS ranks 55th, per Warren Nolan, and their non-conference SOS ranks 47th. The selection committee has proved in recent years that when it comes to making close calls, non-conference SOS in particular can serve as a tiebreaker. This would be more important if Virginia were on the bubble — Clemson’s non-con SOS, along with their Q4 losses, are the reason they’re on the outside looking in right now — but as it stands, a strong non-con SOS is a good thing for the Cavaliers to have in their back pocket.
For a majority of the season, predictive metrics such as KenPom have been more bearish on Virginia than popular sentiment from systems like the AP Poll. In recent weeks, after Virginia’s poor performances against three very bad opponents in Notre Dame, Boston College and Louisville, the metrics turned even more negative on the Cavaliers.
There are differences in calculation between the predictive metrics, but they all follow essentially the same model. Predictive metrics tend to utilize pace-adjusted efficiency stats like points per possession instead of pure wins and losses, adjust those numbers based on strength of opponent, and looks to project a team’s strength in the future instead of grade how well they’ve performed to date.
Here’s a quick roundup of where the Cavaliers stand in the various publicly available predictive metrics:
NET (the NCAA’s metric, which they call “both descriptive and predictive”): 26th
KenPom (Ken Pomeroy’s pioneering predictive metric): 34th
BartTorvik (another analytics site, with similar methodology to KenPom): 32nd
EvanMiya (an analytics site with a more unique formula for calculation): 17th
ESPN BPI (Basketball Power Index): 22nd
These predictive metrics generally tend to place Virginia a bit lower than the popular consensus. Part of this is because of the ACC’s relative weakness this year — there’s a phenomenon in predictive college basketball metrics where conference strength gets “locked in” during early-season non-conference play, and then reflected in team metrics from that conference for the rest of the season. ACC teams that fail to blow out teams like Louisville are heavily penalized, while teams in stronger conferences like the Big 12 never have the chance to suffer those major drops.
That being said, Virginia also could’ve kept their rankings higher by playing better basketball against teams like Louisville, Notre Dame, Florida State, and Boston College. These low metrics will be the biggest blemish on Virginia’s tournament resume, especially in comparison to teams from those stronger conferences. If Virginia earns a high seed, it will be in spite of their low marks from predictive metrics.
This section is simply a collection of where public bracketologists have Virginia pegged as of the morning of Sunday, March 12:
Bracket Matrix, an aggregator of bracketologists that has historically been more accurate than any one bracketologist’s projections, has Virginia as the last 4-seed in the field (16th overall seed). Other ACC teams: Duke 5, Miami 6, NC State 11, Pitt 11. Clemson and UNC are the 4th and 5th teams out. One downside of this aggregation is that it does not project regions or the actual bracket, just the seed lines.
Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology has the Cavaliers headed to Orlando as a 4-seed to play Yale in the first round in the South region. Their 5-seed would be TCU, with 1-seed Alabama looming in the Sweet Sixteen. Other ACC teams: Duke 4, Miami 6, NC State 11 (play-in), Pitt 11 (play-in). Clemson is his second team out, and UNC is his sixth team out.
The Athletic’s Bracketology from Brian Bennett sends the Cavaliers to Greensboro (yes, please) as a 5-seed in the East region to face Charleston. Their 4-seed would be Tennessee, with 1-seed Purdue as a potential Sweet Sixteen opponent. Other ACC teams: Duke 5, Miami 6, NC State 11 (play-in), Pitt 11 (play-in). Clemson and UNC are his fifth and sixth teams out.
CBS Sports’s Bracketology from Jerry Palm has the Cavaliers as a 5-seed in the East set to play Oral Roberts in the first round, with Tennessee as their 4-seed and Purdue as the 1. Other ACC teams: Duke 4, Miami 5, NC State 10, Pitt 11. North Carolina is his fourth team out.