The 5 Most Overrated Teams in the NCAA Tournament
No matter how much the NCAA Tournament's selection committee relies on metrics and analytics, the decisions they make are ultimately decision-based. Yes, some teams are guaranteed spots in the NCAA tournament, but when it comes to assigning a team a seed in the tournament, subjectivity factors into the equation.
Whether it's schedule strength, conference, name recognition, or some other factor, though, some teams get better seeds than they probably deserve.
Conversely, some teams get the short end of things and are ultimately underrated squads entering the tournament.
Which teams, though, are the most overrated based on our nERD metric, which gauges by how many points a team could be expected to win against an average opponent on a neutral court? Let's find out.
Tournament Seed: 8
nERD Ranking: 53
Oregon drew an 8 seed and will square off against Oklahoma State, a team that struggled to end the season, so they got lucky there. Based on our metrics, they also got lucky with their seeding. Their nERD score of 8.73 ranks just 53rd in the nation, but they got seeded as, roughly, a top-30 squad.
They had just the 42nd-toughest schedule in the country but do boast an offense better than 85.0 percent of schools in the country. They have a below-average defense, ranking in the 47.6th percentile. Their Offensive Rating (109.2) places them 50th in the country, and their Defensive Rating (102.3) ranks just 201st.
Their nERD of 8.73 is actually lower than Oklahoma State's (10.88), who ranks 32nd in the metric. A 9 seed's defeating an 8 seed isn't really an upset, but based on our metrics, this Ducks team is overseeded.
Tournament Seed: 8
nERD Ranking: 51
Much of what applied to Oregon can be applied to Cincinnati -- if you reverse the team's strength. Cincinnati is clearly a defensive squad that plays at one of the slowest paces in the entire tournament. Cincinnati owns a nERD score of 8.76, which is just outside the top 50.
Cincinnati's defense is better than 96.5 percent of the schools in the country, but the Bearcats drew a team that we think is better than they are -- much like the case for Oregon. The Purdue Boilermakers rank 42nd in nERD (9.39) yet got the wrong side of an 8-9 matchup. Sure, we can call it a wash, but in those always-difficult-to-predict coin-flip matchups, you might want to consider opting for the 9 seeds over the 8 seeds.
Tournament Seed: 4
nERD Ranking: 33
Maryland got a seed suggestive that they're a top-16 squad in this tournament, but our metrics disagree. The Terps come in with a nERD of 10.72, which ranks 33rd in the country. They've got a balanced approach, ranking in the 84th percentile on defense and the 75th percentile on offense.
Still, based on overall efficiency, they are very much overseeded. Their Offensive Rating (106.5) ranks 91st, and their Defensive Rating (96.9) ranks 81st, but those numbers don't necessarily constitute a 4 seed. Their schedule was 41st-toughest in the nation and their RPI ranked ninth, which can't be ignored, but the math suggests being cautious about trusting that 4 seed. Valparaiso's nERD of 6.52 (73rd) is more than four points below Maryland's (10.72), but West Virginia, their potential third-round matchup, boasts a nERD of 12.91 (21st).
Southern Methodist Mustangs
Tournament Seed: 6
nERD Ranking: 30
SMU actually has a better nERD (11.13) than Maryland does (10.72) but drew just a 6 seed. SMU is squaring off against the struggling UCLA team, but our math suggests they're overrated. Their offense ranks in the 87th percentile, and their defense ranks in the 91st percentile. Their schedule ranked 44th in the country, and their RPI was 14th.
They're a worthy team, but the math suggests that they are just the 235th-most consistent team in the nation (out of 351 schools). SMU is a good team on paper, but UCLA, despite their struggles, ranks 39th in nERD (9.72). This matchup might be impossible to predict.
Tournament Seed: 10
nERD Ranking: 46
Not only does our math think the Hoosiers are overseeded -- even at a 10 seed -- but also thinks the Hoosiers' opponent, Wichita State is underrated. Indiana owns a nERD of 9.25, which ranks 46th in the country, but they were rewarded with the 37th-overall seed. On the other side of the matchup, Wichita State ranks 18th in nERD (13.31) but got the 26th-overall seed.
Indiana, a team that has been racking up losses at the end of the year, has the offense to make some noise in the tournament, ranking better than 97.7 teams in the country. However, its defense, ranking in the 18.5th percentile, is very much a cause for concern.
Our bracketologly gave them just a 16.41 percent chance to make the tournament, so a 10 seed is a bit generous no matter how you look at it.