Analyzing the First Four Teams Out of the NCAA Tournament
Being one of the first four teams out of the Big Dance is like waiting in line for a roller coaster at an amusement park for hours, getting ready to hop on the ride, and watching it break down right before you strap on your seat belt. That feeling of wasted time hits your mind, knowing that, after such a struggle, you're not even going to enjoy the ride. Instead, you're headed to the NIT.
This year, those unlucky teams were Wisconsin Green Bay, Southern Methodist, Florida State and Georgetown.
While the tournament selection committee usually does a decent job at picking the best field imaginable for a competitive March and April in college basketball, they sometimes get things wrong. And because of math, we can determine whether or not that was the case with these first four teams that were left out of the tournament.
Were they snubbed, or did it make sense to leave these four teams out? Let's take a look.
nERD Rank: 54th
Odds to Make the Tournament: 11.62%
Georgetown was one of the sub-20 win teams that I wrote about on Friday, mostly needing to make a run in the Big East conference tournament to make it to the Big Dance. I was surprised to see them listed as one of the first four teams out of the tournament, considering they lost to a 12-20 DePaul team earlier in the week.
The Hoyas' resume showed an impressive win against Creigthon (a three seed in this year's tournament), and another against a seventh-ranked Michigan State Spartans team. But they also saw some horrific losses, losing to Villanova by 18, an average Seton Hall team twice, and Kansas by 22.
In all, they finished with the 54th-best nERD score in the country, ranking between 40th and 70th in the country both offensively and defensively.
With just 17 wins, it was a little surprising to see Georgetown as one of the first four teams out of the tournament, especially when you consider they finished the season with a 2-5 record. We would've expected Missouri, who admittedly was a worse team according to nERD, to be in consideration before Georgetown.
Florida State Seminoles
nERD Rank: 42nd
Odds to Make the Tournament: 15.81%
Another sub-20 win team that was in the article with Georgetown was Florida State. The Seminoles had a golden chance to dance when they faced Virginia in the ACC tournament on Friday, but the 13-point loss was more than likely the main reason we see them as one of the first four teams out.
Should they have gotten in? Probably not. Florida State was a team that beat the squads they should have, losing to superior opponents throughout the entire season. Their best win was probably a five-point victory over Pittsburgh in February (they did beat VCU at the beginning of the season, too), while they lost to Duke, Florida, Virginia (twice), North Carolina and Syracuse. You can't say they didn't have an opportunity.
Of the four teams left out, FSU ranked second in terms of nERD, hovering around tournament teams Texas and Memphis. But a solid resume trumps a nice nERD ranking, which is why the 'Noles are on the outside looking in.
Southern Methodist Mustangs
nERD Rank: 32nd
Odds to Make the Tournament: 34.80%
Southern Methodist is going to look like the biggest snub of all, as they were a ranked team in the AP poll at the end of the season, sitting at 20-5 in mid-February. Three straight losses to end the season didn't help them though, especially their fall to Houston in the American Athletic Conference tournament.
At 23-9, it seemed as though the Mustangs were going to be a bubble team that made it, but an awful out of conference schedule was the reason, according to the committee, that they were left out.
According to our metrics, SMU was indeed a team talented enough to make the NCAA Tournament and compete in it. In terms of efficiency, they finished 18th in all of college hoops on the defensive side of the ball, and 60th on offense. Those numbers combined to make them a better overall unit than Tournament teams like Stanford, Memphis, Texas, Xavier, North Carolina State and UMass.
Had they beat Houston, perhaps we'd be singing a different tune.
Green Bay Phoenix
nERD Rank: 66th
Odds to Make the Tournament: 40.09%
The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix (that's a mouthful) entered Sunday evening with, according to our numbers, a 40.09% chance to make the NCAA Tournament. Those were better odds than plenty of NCAA Tournament teams, making them, of the four teams, probably the biggest snub of all.
Don't take that as Green Bay being a good team though. According to our metrics, the Phoenix were just 66th in nERD, behind teams like Marquette and Indiana.
An early-season three-point loss to Wisconsin, a two seed in the Tournament, showed us all that Green Bay could hang with almost anyone in the country. And then they beat the now one-seeded Virgnia Cavaliers, officially putting their name on the map.
It's a shame that the great work done by the Phoenix went to shambles in the Horizon League conference tournament, as they lost to a 7-9 in-conference Milwaukee team. Injuries to top two players Alec Brown and Keifer Sykes played a huge role into that, and in the end, it could be the reason this mid-major will be playing in the NIT.