The 5 Most Inconsistent NCAA Tournament Teams, Presented By The Belko Experiment
Being an inconsistent team isn't a bad thing when it comes to the NCAA Tournament, especially for a lower seed. That's because inconsistency is really just variance, and bad teams need variance in order to pull an upset.
Granted, things can go south really quick for a team that's been inconsistent throughout the regular season. Look no further than West Virginia in last year's tournament, one of the most inconsistent teams in college hoops according to our metrics. They went on to lose to 14-seeded Stephen F. Austin in the first round.
By 14 points.
But if you're looking for an upset in the tournament, consistency rankings can help. Let's take a look at the five-most notable inconsistent teams in 2017's big dance.
5. Miami (8 Seed)
Miami finished the regular season as the 25th-most inconsistent team in college hoops according to our numbers after losing by large margins to teams like Syracuse and Florida State and winning big against squads like North Carolina State and Pitt. They enter the tournament having lost three of their last four games, but their numbers aren't awful: they ended the year ranked 29th in adjusted net rating, and their 11.83 nERD -- a metric we use at numberFire to determine the number of points we'd expect a team to win by against an average one on a neutral court -- is above-average for an 8 seed historically.
4. North Carolina (1 Seed)
As good as this North Carolina team is, there should be some concern about the potential for variance in this year's tournament. They only lost seven games this year, but four of those seven losses were by a double-digit margin, and six of the seven were by eight or more points.
That's a big reason they're listed here: they've won big, big games, but when they've lost, it hasn't been in, say, overtime.
They've got a fairly easy path to the Elite Eight, though, so the variance shouldn't be a huge deal at the start of the big dance.
3. Virginia (5 Seed)
It's a little odd to see Virginia listed here -- they play at such a slow pace (the second-slowest in the country) that you would think it would be tough for them to be truly inconsistent.
Perhaps their biggest Huh? moment this year came when they lost to Pitt in early January, but the true reason our numbers see them as inconsistent has to do with their margin of victory in wins. Early in the season, they beat Grambling by 56 points, and then they went on to defeat Robert Morris and East Carolina by a combined 63 points in back to back games.
That actually makes me feel good about them beating up on inferior competition in the tournament.
Considering a good number of their losses were to strong, tournament-caliber teams, I wouldn't look much into this ranking. Nevertheless, the undervalued Virginia squad has been deemed inconsistent according to our numbers.
2. Florida State (3 Seed)
Oh, look, another ACC team.
Florida State had some bad losses this year, which is more than likely the reason our algorithm sees them as inconsistent. In February, they lost by 14 to the lowly Pitt Panthers, and they were crushed by Georgia Tech in January, losing by 22.
But there were also big wins: they beat an underrated Clemson team by 48 points in February, beat the aforementioned Miami by 18, and defeated Duke by a 16-point margin.
Ladies and gentlemen, that's inconsistency.
Their variance may be a big reason some folks lose their pools this year, though: there's a potential for a Sweet 16 matchup between Florida State and Arizona, and the public is really into Arizona this year. If "good" Florida State shows up, watch out.
1. West Virginia (4 Seed)
Just like last year, West Virginia is a top inconsistent team in college hoops. And, as noted in the intro, just like last year, that's kind of scary.
Don't get me wrong: our numbers love West Virginia. According to nERD, they're the fifth-best team in the entire country, making them one of the most underseeded teams in the entire tournament.
This season, things are a bit different with the Mountaineers. Similar to Virginia, our algorithm sees WVU as inconsistent because of how big some of their wins were. An insane 11 of their wins came by a 20-plus point margin, while they won five of their games by 40 or more points.
On the other side of things, West Virginia's losses are actually encouraging. Each of their eight defeats came by single-digit points, with three happening in overtime.
In other words, West Virginia's inconsistency isn't necessarily a bad thing here. If anything, it shows that they've been better than what the selection committee thought.