If the Selection Committee Were Stat Geeks Like Us
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In order to become the next VCU or Butler, you first need to make like those teams and actually, you know, make the Tournament field. It all starts with getting an invitation to the Big Dance. That's what makes Selection Sunday so much fun, since you never quite know what criteria the selection committee is searching for.
But one thing is for sure: they never get it 100 percent right.
There is a usually a slight difference between the nation's best teams in terms of offensive and defensive inefficiency and those whose resume looks good on paper. Thankfully for the selection committee, though, we're here to help.
Feel like your team is about to be snubbed on Selection Sunday? Then read on and find out whether you would have a legitimate reason to feel down in the dumps. Barring an Ole Miss upset of Florida, these are the six teams that should be dancing in the NCAA Tourney.
Our Chief Analyst Keith Goldner has crunched the numbers and determined three main statistics that show just how successful a team would be come Dance time.
1. Opponent-adjusted offensive rating - How many points does your team score per 100 possessions? That is the crux of the number, but we've adjusted it a bit to make up for the fact that scoring a 100 offensive rating is tougher against Georgetown than, say, the Presbyterian Blue Hose.
2. Opponent-adjusted defensive rating - Think the previous offensive rating, but in reverse. Since this number is based on 100 possessions rather than 40 minutes, those teams with a slower pace (have to love Bo Ryan) are scored exactly the same.
3. Consistency - Is a team prone to alternating between 90 points and 50 points every game? Do you go into matchups sweating because you don't know whether your defense will lock them down or roll over in the lane? Then your efficiency scores have a high standard deviation, which says you're not very consistent. But that's not necessarily a bad thing: especially for bubble teams, it means that you're more likely to pull an upset.
We decided to take Joe Lunardi's Last Six In from Saturday morning, as well as his first seven out, and number them from 13 to 1. Remember, in this list, the top six should be in.
13. Massachusetts Minutemen
Adjusted ORtg: 104.26
Adjusted DRtg: 102.30
Consistency StDev: 10.60
Why exactly are they on the bubble, again? They're in the 60th percentile of NCAA D-I teams in Offensive Rating, right below the Albany Great Danes. They're in the 42nd percentile for defensive rating, right above the Utah Valley Wolverines. They barely score more points per possession than they allow. Please, just stop now.
12. Tennessee Volunteers
Adjusted ORtg: 105.80
Adjusted DRtg: 99.63
Consistency StDev: 11.70
You would think that in a weaker SEC, Tennessee would be able to be more efficient are stopping opposing offenses. But their 99.63 points allowed per 100 possessions ranks just 153rd out of 347 Division I teams, and their 106th ranked offense isn't nearly enough to make up the difference.
11. Alabama Crimson Tide
Adjusted ORtg: 101.88
Adjusted DRtg: 93.93
Consistency StDev: 11.96
If offense was a problem for the Terrapins at No. 111, what about Alabama's No. 185 ranking in offensive efficiency? The Crimson Tide are in the bottom 50 percent of NCAA teams in offensive efficiency this season, scoring more than two points per 100 possessions fewer than any other team on this list. It also doesn't help that Alabama doesn't have upset potential, with their standard deviation one of the lowest on this list.
10. Maryland Terrapins
Adjusted ORtg: 104.72
Adjusted DRtg: 95.42
Consistency StDev: 14.44
Maryland is the lowest team on this list that has a legitimate argument, but it is their offensive efficiency that is their undoing. Ranked just 111th in NCAA Division I, their offensive efficiency sits directly the California-Davis Aggies, Arkansas Razorbacks, and Hawaii Warriors. A consistency in only the 63rd percentile of NCAA teams means, despite the Duke game, upset potential isn't a top selling point either.
9. La Salle Explorers
Adjusted ORtg: 108.45
Adjusted DRtg: 98.11
Consistency StDev: 13.46
The Explorers are the first team on this list that average 0.1 more points scored per possession than they give up, but it still shouldn't be enough to get them into the Tourney. Pick your poison: a defensive efficiency that ranked just outside the D-I top 100 (No. 105, 70th percentile) or a consistency that doesn't lend itself to many upsets.
8. Iowa Hawkeyes
Adjusted ORtg: 105.72
Adjusted DRtg: 93.79
Consistency StDev: 16.07
The Hawkeyes have the upset potential; we just saw that against Michigan State (an overrated team in their own right, but I digress). The Hawkeyes also have the defense, as their 93.79 DRtg sits 42nd in Division I. That offense, though, just couldn't pick it up when needed, as Iowa's offensive efficiency sits in 10th of the 13 potential bubble teams on this list.
7. Boise State Broncos
Adjusted ORtg: 111.56
Adjusted DRtg: 98.57
Consistency StDev: 12.83
How about that Boise State offense? In the 93rd percentile of all D-I teams in offensive efficiency, the Broncos certainly have the firepower to stick with other Tourney teams. What they don't have, though, is the statistical standard deviation to prove they can raise their game: their consistency rating sits a sad 197th-most useful in our adjusted rankings.
6. Wichita State Shockers
Adjusted ORtg: 108.79
Adjusted DRtg: 94.43
Consistency StDev: 11.60
The Shockers certainly have the profile of an NCAA Tournament team; the net difference between their points scored and points allowed per possession ranks 44th in the NCAA, directly above Kansas State, San Diego State, and Cincinnati. The only thing that may keep them out is their upset potential, with the second-lowest standard deviation (other than Massachusetts) on this list.
5. Ole Miss Rebels
Adjusted ORtg: 110.65
Adjusted DRtg: 95.44
Consistency StDev: 15.83
Only three teams on this list are in the top 20 percent of NCAA teams in both offensive and defensive efficiency: Middle Tennessee State, Kentucky, and these Ole Miss Rebels. They don't have a single overwhelming stat that places them as a can't miss, but an offensive efficiency in the 88th percentile, defensive efficiency in the 81st percentile, and halfway decent upset chance makes them a solid Tourney choice.
4. Kentucky Wildcats
Adjusted ORtg: 110.04
Adjusted DRtg: 95.56
Consistency StDev: 20.06
Want a team that could pull a few upsets? The Wildcats certainly apply. Their high standard deviation places them as the second-most conducive team to their position (bubble teams want to pull upsets, top teams want to be consistent) in the NCAA. Couple that with a 14+ point difference per 100 possessions between points scored and allowed, and Kentucky's SEC Tourney loss should only be a blip on the radar.
3. Virginia Cavaliers
Adjusted ORtg: 106.65
Adjusted DRtg: 90.28
Consistency StDev: 14.23
Joe Lunardi currently has the Cavaliers out of the tournament, but that's a mistake. Virginia has scored 0.16 more points per possession this season than they've allowed, even after adjusting for opponents. Combine that with an overall defensive efficiency that sits 14th in Division I, and the Cavaliers should be an easy add rather than sweating on the bubble.
2. St. Mary's Gaels
Adjusted ORtg: 116.89
Adjusted DRtg: 98.69
Consistency StDev: 15.21
Maybe St. Mary's doesn't play in the toughest conference, with Gonzaga as their only true competition. However, our analytics are adjusted for the strength of opponents played, and the Gaels still shine. It's that incredible offense that should have the NCAA selection committee salivating; only Indiana, Gonzaga, Michigan, Florida, and Creighton have higher opponent-adjusted offensive efficiencies this season.
1. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders
Adjusted ORtg: 108.91
Adjusted DRtg: 88.31
Consistency StDev: 16.13
Middle Tennessee State is perhaps the ultimate Giant Killer this year... if they can make the Tournament. All of the press goes towards their defensive prowess, as it should: their 88.31 points per 100 possessions allowed ranks as the sixth-best mark in Division I (and fourth-best mark among presumed Tourney teams). But their offense isn't exactly a slouch either; that unit ranks 52nd in efficiency, the 84th percentile.
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