What Should Be Different About the Selection Committee's Top 16 Seeds?
Usually, we have to wait until March to criticize the NCAA tournament selection committee's decisions, but for the first time ever, the selection committee revealed which teams would be the top 16 seeds had the big dance started this Saturday.
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As always, there were some questionable picks. However, those mistakes don't always have to pointed out by opinion. The numbers can do it for us.
By seed, here are the key points of agreement and contention between the committee and the numbers.
As a first impression, things are looking good. We are in agreement on three of the four 1 seeds -- Villanova, Gonzaga, and Baylor -- and that the returning champions are deserving of the number 1 overall seed. After all, by our measure, the Wildcats rank fifth in offensive efficiency and own a defense in the 89th percentile of all college basketball teams.
Also in line with the committee, we have the undefeated Zags pegged as the last of the four teams on the top line. It has nothing to do with their performance, as they rank in the 99th percentile of teams in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Rather it's all about strength of schedule, in which Gonzaga ranks 116th of 351 teams, according to KenPom.com.
Where we have a slight disagreement is on Baylor's placement among the four. The committee has them at three, but the Bears, with a record of 22-3, come in second overall by our calculations. They're in the 90th percentile on the offensive end and the 92nd percentile on the defensive end. What's most impressive is that, according to KenPom.com, they've faced the nation's seventh-hardest schedule.
Our biggest point of contention on the 1-line is that, in place of Kansas, Louisville should be the final 1 seed at this point in time. They're 20-5 against the nation's 13th-toughest schedule and have played up to the NCAA's 5th-best defense, in terms of efficiency. As such, the Cardinals slot in third overall behind 'Nova and Baylor.
In the group of 2 seeds, we don't share as many of the same sentiments. First and foremost, our numbers confirm North Carolina as the top 2 seed in the bracket. Against the nation's 18th-hardest schedule, the Tar Heels have gone 21-5 with an offensive attack worthy of our number six ranking.
As for the Tar Heels' ACC foe, the Florida State Seminoles, they are also deserving of a 2 seed. They're also 21-5 and rank within the 96th percentile in offensive efficiency. Their defense is also better than 82.8% of teams, yet we would place the 'Noles last among the four 2 seeds, whereas the committee assigns them the sixth overall seed.
Following their absence from the 1-line, the Jayhawks could not possibly drop any further than a 2 seed. They're eighth in strength of schedule, according to KenPom.com, and are more efficient than 96.6% of college basketball offenses.
Like with Kansas, we are also a little less impressed than most when it comes to Oregon. In their place as the second-ranked 2 seed, we have Butler, who ranks 11th in strength of schedule and are better than 91.1% of offenses. The Bulldogs are 19-6 with wins over 'Nova, Cincinnati, and Arizona.
Speaking of the Arizona Wildcats, we -- like the committee -- believe they're worthy of a 3 seed. With both an offense and defense ranked in the 91st percentile, how could they not be? However, we have them as the third 3 seed, not the first.
As for the aforementioned Ducks, they slide to the 3-line, where they're the fourth and final squad. They're better than 96.5% of defenses and 93.4% of offenses but have done so against the nation's 58th-ranked schedule.
We are in full agreement on the other two 3 seeds, though -- and one of them isn't Kentucky. By our metrics, Florida and Virginia rank 12th and 3rd in defensive efficiency and are better than more than 90% of offenses to boot.
While the Gators are 20-5 against college basketball's 16th-hardest schedule, the Cavaliers are 18-6 against the nation's 9th-hardest schedule. For that reason, Virginia gets the slight edge over Florida as the top number 3 seed in the committee's early bracket release.
We already know that we have Butler -- a number 4 seed, according to the committee -- much higher on the board. The opposite can be said for Kentucky, which falls to a 4 rather than 3 seed, so says our algorithms. The Wildcats, as the final 4 seed, are the 16th overall seed by the numbers, in comparison to the committee's number 12 overall rank.
They're number three in our power rankings and are the nation's 9th-most efficient offense, but their resumé is lacking do to the nation's 27th-ranked schedule and losses to Florida and unranked Tennessee.
Unlike Kentucky, we agree with 4 seeds Duke and UCLA. The Blue Devils, after winning five straight, are our second 4 seed and possess an offense more efficient than 97.4% of all teams. Their defense is also in the 86th percentile and has them as our 12th overall team.
The Bruins sport the nation's best, most-efficient offense and are our 13th-ranked team. As such, they sit atop the 4 seeds despite a poor schedule (ranked 91st in the nation).
The West Virginia Mountaineers are the team that's missing here. While they own the nation's 6th-best defense, they've lost to five unranked teams and have faced lower competition overall (52nd-ranked strength of schedule). Instead, we insert Cincinnati as the other 4 seed. They're 22-3, rank 10th in defensive efficiency and have an offense better than 92% of NCAA teams.
The biggest difference is Butler as a 2 seed, as an alternative to a 4, by the committee's standards. But, maybe the most notable change is at the top, where we suggest Louisville over Kansas as a 1 seed.
Overall, we can't fault the committee. We would only substitute the Bearcats for the Mountaineers at the back end of the top 16, and by our numbers, they got 15 out of 16 correct.
Let's just hope that carries over to Selection Sunday.