The 5 Most Inconsistent NCAA Tournament Teams
As an NBA fan, I'm forced to deal with the championship being decided by a slew of best-of-seven series.
It's a good way to determine the better team. Four wins in seven games helps smooth out variance. There are more possessions, more shots, more rebounds, and just flat out more opportunity for the better team to prove it.
March Madness doesn't afford teams that luxury.
In the all-or-nothing, single-elimination format, a team's fate might be decided on 60 or 70 offensive possessions. An off shooting night can be the death of a Final Four hopeful -- even against a weaker team by many measures.
Hey, it's fun.
And that's why inconsistent teams -- those who can win by 20 or lose by 20 and those dedicated to the three-point shot, for example -- can be dangerous squads in March.
Who are the five most inconsistent teams in the field with a seed of 1 through 10, according to our Consistency metric?
Butler, 9 Seed, Midwest Region
Butler has been a March darling for years now, but this year's squad has been wildly inconsistent, in terms of point differential throughout the season, for a few reasons. The first is that they beat Citadel 144-71 this year, a margin of 73 points. Yes, that's a good thing, but that means volatility regardless.
Throw in another four wins by at least 30 and five losses by double-digits, and you can see why this squad grades out the way they do.
Their offense, based on Offensive Efficiency, ranks in the 95th percentile among all teams in the country, but their defense grades out in just the 65th percentile. Only 30.5% of their field goal attempts are from beyond the three-point arc, the 57th-highest rate among the 68 qualified teams in the tournament, so they aren't volatile in that regard, but they're about as likely to win by 20 as they are to lose by 10.
Pittsburgh, 10 Seed, East Region
Pitt's matchup against Wisconsin, the most consistent single-digit school in the tournament, could wind up being a barn-burner or a laugher.
They rank just 52nd in Three-Point Rate, but their gamelog is a rollercoaster. They topped Central Arkansas by 53, Cornell by 44, Saint Joseph's (Indiana) by 41. Throw in a 34-point win against Maryland-Eastern Shore and a 33-point win over Eastern Washington, and it's going to be hard to wind up consistent.
So the 21-point and 17-point losses to North Carolina, an 18-point loss to Louisville, a 17-point loss to North Carolina State, and three more double-digit losses really make it hard to pinpoint Pitt's potential against Wisconsin, especially given their defense, which ranks in the 61st percentile.
West Virginia, 3 Seed, East Region
Much like longtime rival, Pitt, WVU doesn't rely on the deep ball, ranking just 54th in Three-Point Rate among tournament teams.
The Mountaineers have 11 20-point wins, including three 40-point wins and a 53-point win. Only one of those wins came against a tournament opponent (Texas Tech). Five of their eight losses were by double-digits. The biggest was against Florida, a 17-point defeat, but our metrics were high on the Gators this year.
All of their other losses were against teams with a tournament bid: Virginia (1 seed) once, Oklahoma (2 seed) twice, Kanas (1 seed) twice, and Texas (6 seed) twice. Overall, though, our metrics see them as the fifth-best team in the nation.
Utah, 3 Seed, Midwest Region
The Utes won six games this season by at least 30 points and eight by at least 20. The lost only eight, so that's not bad, right? Well, six of their eight losses were by double-digits.
Oregon, a 1 seed, beat them three times -- by 31, 18, and 10. Miami, a fellow 3 seed, beat them by 24. Wichita State, who advanced as an 11 seed, beat them by 17, and Cal, a 4 seed, bested them by 13.
The yo-yoing of scores really plants them as an inconsistent squad, and the inability to avoid big losses against good schools plagued them -- just like these other inconsistent teams. Ranking 15th in Three-Point Rate only exacerbates Utah's up-and-down style.
Baylor, 5 Seed, West Region
Baylor wasn't quite as top-heavy as some of these other teams but did net four wins by at least 39 points. In all, 16 of their wins were by at least 10 points.
However, three of their 11 losses were by at least 18 points, all of which game against NCAA Tournament teams: Kansas (1 seed) by 28, Texas A&M (3 seed) by 19, and Texas Tech (8 seed) by 18.
They're an elite rebounding squad, ranking seventh in Total Rebound Rate and second in Offensive Rebound Rate, but they're susceptible to big losses, mainly because of their defense, which ranks in the 60th percentile -- far behind their offense in the 95th percentile.