The 10 Best Teams Left Out of the NCAA Tournament
It's easy to assume that the "first four out" teams are the best college basketball squads left out of the tournament. But that's not exactly true.
This isn't to say that the first four out didn't have good seasons. However, in truth, they're not the best teams left out of the big tournament. They're just the ones with the best resume under the selection committee's factors.
Based on our nERD metric, which measures the number of points a team would win by against an average opponent on a neutral court, we can identify the actual best teams who aren't in this year's big dance, regardless of resume. The table below shows just that.
Of all the teams in our power rankings, Florida, at number 37, is the best team that will be watching the tournament like us. They're the only team left with a nERD of 10 or more, and have a better nERD than many tournament teams -- the average nERD among tourney teams is 9.66.
Florida may have a record below .500, but they competed with Kentucky (as much as anyone has) on three different occasions this year, just to give you an example of why they were underrated this season. Florida's the lone team among the 10 that will not even compete in the NIT.
Miami is the only other team to crack our top 40, but the Hurricanes were much closer to making the field of 68. They finished with a record of 21-12, and went 10-8 in the ACC, once beating Duke at Cameron Indoor by 16 points. Miami is in the 80th percentile in offensive efficiency, and have been very consistent on the year -- they are in the 78th percentile in terms of consistency.
It's no coincidence that Miami finished just one spot behind UCLA, one of the last teams to make the tournament, in our rankings. They'll be a 2 seed in the upcoming NIT.
Unlike the aforementioned UCLA Bruins, the Stanford Cardinal are on the outside of the bubble looking in. Stanford finished with just one fewer loss than its conference foe, but their lackluster conference record did them in. Nonetheless, Stanford is one of the best offensive teams not to make the tournament, finishing the season with the 47th-best offense behind the dynamic Chasson Randle and Anthony Brown.
Stanford's defense just couldn't supplement their consistent offense enough. That's why the Cardinal are probably looking at the Bruins saying, "That could be us." Instead, Stanford will be a 2 seed, facing UC Davis, in the NIT.
The Commodores are the best offensive team among the 10 seen here. They finished the season in the 84th percentile in offensive efficiency and ranked 25th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. Vanderbilt, as good as they were offensively, struggled with defense and consistency. They did manage to take Kentucky into a competitive second half in a game in Lexington, in which Vanderbilt lost by eight.
Vandy experienced a lot of slim losses and a lot of bad luck this year -- the Commodores finished 346th in Luck Rating, according to KenPom.com. As a result, Vandy will enter the NIT as a 5 seed.
Illinois Fighting Illini
The last team to finish within our nERD-top 50 is the Fighting Illini of Illinois. Illinois had some very good quality wins on the season, including Baylor, Maryland, Purdue and Michigan State. Unfortunately, the Illini's leading scorer, Rayvonte Rice, missed over a month due to injury, so continuity was a problem for this team. Knowing that, however, Illinois has had an impressive season.
The Illini finished in the 81st percentile in defensive efficiency and have an Adjusted Defensive Rating of 94.7. They will go forward, with a healthy Rice, as a 3 seed and likely compete for an NIT championship.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Golden Gophers had a lot of close games this year, but they just couldn't beat anyone. They are, however, 44th in Adjusted Offensive Rating and 46th in Adjusted Tempo. Minnesota has been a very exciting and efficient offensive team, but their defense just wasn't good enough to get them in the tournament.
Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M just didn't have the resume to get into the tournament. They lacked in strength of schedule (79th), and lost to Alabama on two different occasions. On a positive note, they did fight blow for blow with Kentucky in a double-overtime game in which the Aggies fell to the number-one overall seed by a mere six points, and they finished in the top 50 in Adjusted Defensive Rating.
TCU Horned Frogs
TCU has had a rough go of it against the nation's top conference -- in large part due to their offensive weakness. The Horned Frogs finished in the 61st percentile in offensive efficiency, but they were much better defensively, ranking 63rd. TCU finished in the 99th percentile in consistency, too, which means if they were dancing, we'd know what to expect from them in each game.
After losing Chris McCullough to a knee injury in January, it was all downhill for the Orange. Though they were unable to make the tournament, eligible or not, Syracuse sports two of the best players not to make the tournament. It would have been fun to watch Michael Gbinije, Rakeem Christmas and Syracuse's 32nd-ranked defense wreak havoc in the tournament, but the offense and wins never came.
South Carolina Gamecocks
The Gamecocks played the 33rd-hardest schedule in NCAA basketball, but they finished just one game over .500. On the bright side, they beat four NCAA tournament teams, most notably the Iowa State Cyclones. The Gamecocks sported a defense in the 89th percentile, but had virtually no offense as they finished 195th in offensive efficiency.