The NCAA Tournament's 5 Most Overrated Teams
When the NCAA Tournament bracket is announced each year, there are plenty of complaints with regard to teams who built solid regular season records, but were left out in favor of undeserving teams.
While the committee did a pretty fair job in including the right teams this year -- Syracuse and Illinois State may disagree with that -- they clearly made some mistakes with the seeding. We are going to look at five teams that were overseeded (i.e. overrated).
To determine which teams are being overrated in terms of their seeding, we are going to use a little math, more specifically our nERD metric. For those of you unfamiliar, nERD measures the number of points we'd expect a team to win by against an average squad on a neutral court.
Let's see which teams were most undeserving of their respective seed.
nERD Rank: 44th
The Maryland Terrapins were given a 6 seed after finishing 24-8 and in a tie with the Wisconsin Badgers for second place in the Big Ten. They come into the tournament with a 10.40 nERD rating and a 44th place standing in our power rankings.
If we use a bit of history, the average 6 seed in past tournaments posted a 12.02 nERD rating -- 1.62 points better than the Terps -- showing us right away that Maryland's metrics are underwhelming compared to what we should expect. By comparison, the other 6 seeds -- SMU, Cincinnati, Creighton -- have an average nERD of 14.95, roughly 4.5 points better than Maryland.
The Terrapins don't do one thing particularly well, as they ranked 86th or worse in both offensive and defensive efficiency. While they have a quality wins over teams in the field of 68 -- Oklahoma State, Kansas State, and Michigan to name a few -- the Terps finished the season in a slump, winning just 4 of their last 10 games.
Seton Hall Pirates
nERD Rank: 51st
Based on a strong finish in the Big East -- 8-3 in their last 11 games -- the Seton Hall Pirates were rewarded a 9 seed for their efforts. They were 21-11 overall and 10-8 in conference play while posting a 9.76 nERD rating, good for a 51st overall. The Pirates' rating was nearly a full point less than the average nERD score of the three other 9 seeds in the tournament -- Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt.
One of the best rebounding teams in the nation thanks to junior forward Angel Delgado (led Division I with 13.1 boards per game), the Pirates play a grind 'em out style. They rank in the 39th percentile for quickness of pace, and despite that, their defense doesn't dominate like you'd would expect. Seton Hall allowed 70.1 points per game, ranking 120th -- out of 351 teams.
Their defensive efficiency wasn't much better, either -- the Pirates landed 131st overall and didn't get that much better when adjusted for strength of schedule (41st).
Southern California Trojans
nERD Rank: 58th
The USC Trojans were awarded one of the last at-large bids in the field of 68 after posting a 24-9 record to go along with a 5th place finish in the Pac-12. Their nERD rating of 9.00 was the second-lowest score for any at-large team besides their opponent in the First Four game, the Providence Friars. While both teams are overrated, USC takes the spot due to the way they finished the season.
The Trojans started the year 14-0, but became average once conference play started, going just 10-9 over their last 19 games. Even seven of those wins came against teams with a rank of 119 or worse, according to nERD.
USC's defense is one of the worst in the country, ranking 211th in points allowed and 185th in unadjusted defensive rating. Their defense at the perimeter is simply bad, allowing opponents to shoot 36.5% from three, ranking 260th in the nation.
nERD Rank: 19th
The Arizona Wildcats earned a 2 seed after tying for the Pac-12 regular season championship and winning the conference tournament. They finished with a 30-4 record and impressive wins over a pair of 3 seeds in Oregon and UCLA. While those are some nice accolades, the numbers aren't as impressive as the committee was with 'Zona's resume.
Per sports-reference.com, the Wildcats' strength of schedule ranked 61st in the country, likely due to the Pac-12 being extremely weak beyond the first three teams. Wins against Washington, Washington State, and Oregon State, aren't going to do much to boost your numbers. All three were 160th or worse in our power rankings. Arizona was also 6-4 against teams in the field of 68, with half of those wins coming against USC (11 seed) and Texas Southern (16).
Their nERD rating of 15.38 was by far the worst of all 2 seeds. In fact, all the 3 seeds and even all but 1 of the 4 seeds (Butler) posted a better nERD rating than the Wildcats. Their nERD score is low due to an unremarkable standing in both offensive (23rd) and defensive (53rd) rating. They're a solid overall team, but not one worthy of such a high seed.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
nERD Rank: 31st
The Minnesota Golden Gophers snagged a 5 seed after going 24-9 overall and 11-7 in the Big Ten. They finished with a 12.03 nERD rating and a 31st place standing in our power rankings.
Minnesota ended with a nERD score well below their fellow 5 seeds. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish were the closest, and they still owned a 14.26 mark. If we look back on the average nERD rating from past 5 seeds, the Golden Gophers fall nearly 1.0 point short.
While their defense is respectable (38th in defensive rating), the offense has been horrid. Minnesota ranked 123rd in points scored and 169th in efficiency, but when you look at their shooting woes, it gets worse. The Golden Gophers ranked 202nd in three-point accuracy (34.5%) and 231st in field goal percentage (43.5%).