Haven’t we been through this nonsense before?
The nonsense of believing that because Gonzaga has a gaudy record, they deserve a 1 seed in March Madness? Yes, we have, just two years ago. And that team lost to a 9 seed, Wichita State, in the real second round (the round of 32, what the NCAA now calls the third round). Wichita State reached the Final Four and may have beaten Louisville if not for college basketball’s heinous possession arrow rule, but the fact remains that Gonzaga was a 1 seed and lost in the second round.
If the regular season ended today, there is no doubt that Kentucky would be the overall number 1. That leaves three more 1 seeds to give out, and I would give them to Virginia, Duke, and Kansas, in that order. Without going into a detailed discussion of RPI, BPI, KenPom, or any other such metrics, I will explain why. Those metrics are all important, but I am relying on the good old eye test and the BS meter.
Before going further, I’ll say that my foray into bracketology is a lot easier with the assistance of these great resources:
- The 2015 Bracket Matrix. I’ve been following this site for a few years as we get closer to tourney time. It’s an aggregate of 65 bracket projections that the site’s creators have found over time to be really good, i.e. projections that are as close to accurate as possible as we approach Selection Sunday.
- Team Rankings. This site runs computer simulations of the season over and over again to make its projections. It is included in the Bracket Matrix’s aggregate, and gives you an example of what Bracket Matrix is relying on – solid analytics from people who know what they’re doing.
I figured I may as well not totally reinvent the wheel.
Anyway, I lied… I did use a system of sorts. But it is quite simple. I just looked at the eight teams that I believe are on the 1 or the 2 line. I looked at overall record, conference record, considered the strength of the conference, and then broke down results as follows:
- Good wins: These are wins over teams that are currently projected to get into the tournament as high seeds (think 1-4), teams who are projected to get in as lower seeds (9 or below) but who would do so with at-large bids, or anything in between (5-8 seeds).
- OK wins: Wins over teams who are currently on the bubble, or teams who would be automatic qualifiers from mid-major conferences but aren’t really that good.
- “Good” losses: Yeah, there’s really no such thing as a good loss. In the words of Herman Edwards, “you play… to win… the game!” But what I mean by this is a loss against a good opponent.
- Bad losses: For a local example, think of Michigan losing to New Jersey Institute of Technology. I think that explains this category.
To save a bit of time, I didn’t bother looking at Kentucky’s schedule in detail, because anyone who doesn’t have them on the 1 line is functioning at the mental capacity of Darrell Bevell in the last minute of the Super Bowl. Kentucky is an obvious 1 seed. So here are the others. I noted whether games were at home or away; neutral-site games are italicized.
Virginia. 21-1 overall, 9-1 ACC. Projected Seed: 1.
Good Wins: at Maryland, at VCU, at Notre Dame, at North Carolina, vs. Louisville
OK wins: vs. Miami, vs. Harvard
Good losses: vs. Duke
Bad losses: None
Duke. 20-3 overall, 7-3 ACC. Projected Seed: 1.
Good wins: Temple, at Wisconsin, at Louisville, at Virginia, vs. Notre Dame
OK wins: Michigan State, Stanford, at St. John’s
Good losses: at Notre Dame
Bad losses: None
Kansas. 19-4 overall, 8-2 Big 12. Projected Seed: 1.
Good wins: at Georgetown, vs. Utah, at Baylor, vs. Oklahoma State, vs. Oklahoma, at Texas, vs. Iowa State.
OK wins: Michigan State, Rhode Island
Good losses: at Iowa State, vs. Oklahoma State, Kentucky (the fact that it was by 32 notwithstanding)
Wisconsin. 21-2 overall, 9-1 Big Ten. Projected Seed: 2.
Good wins: Georgetown, Oklahoma, vs. Iowa, at Iowa, vs. Indiana
OK wins: vs. Purdue
Good losses: vs. Duke
Bad losses: at Rutgers (this is inexplicable, and helped me choose Kansas as the final 1 seed over Wisconsin at this point)
Villanova. 21-2 overall, 8-2 Big East. Projected Seed: 2.
Good wins: VCU, vs. Temple, vs. Butler, vs. Xavier
OK wins: Illinois, vs. Syracuse (they sanctioned themselves out of the tournament last week, but I believe they’d be a bubble team if not for that), at St. John’s
Good losses: at Georgetown
Arizona. 20-3 overall, 8-2 Pac 12. Projected Seed: 2.
Good wins: San Diego State, vs. Gonzaga, vs. Utah
OK wins: at Oregon, at Stanford, vs. Oregon
Bad losses: at Arizona State, at UNLV, at Oregon State (these losses plus the relative weakness of the Pac 12 made Arizona an easy choice for the 2 line rather than the 1 line, for now)
Gonzaga. 24-1 overall, 12-0 Rec & Ed West Coast Conference. Projected Seed: 2.
Good wins: vs. SMU
OK wins: St. John’s, at UCLA, at BYU, Georgia
Good losses: at Arizona
So, which one of these isn’t like the others? Which one has by far the fewest good wins? Is one good win combined with cruising through a conference that is projected to get zero other teams to the Dance sufficient to earn a 1 seed? Well, the committee made that mistake in 2013, and I would urge them not to do so again this year.
I say this with all due respect. Gonzaga is a good basketball team. They are winning by an average of 20 points and have only lost once all year. But their body of work quite simply doesn’t match that of Kentucky, Virginia, Duke, or Kansas, teams that I currently have on the 1 line. It doesn’t match that of Wisconsin, Villanova, or Arizona either. In fact, I am closer to putting Gonzaga on the 3 line than the 1 line.
What makes all of this fun is that a little over a month from now (!), we’ll know the bracket, the tournament will begin, and all hell will break loose as usual, rendering seeding meaningless for those teams who become early victims of upsets. We have had some of the craziest tournaments in recent years; think back to last year when the seeds of the teams who reached the Final Four were 1, 2, 7, and 8. Or 2011, when they were 3, 4, 8, and 11!
But, we have to seed the teams before we can start, and in that spirit, look for some bracketology from me each Monday between now and the end of the regular season. Maybe I’ll even try to project the entire field a month from now, as we head into the conference tournaments. After all, college basketball is one of my favorite sports, and March Madness is my absolute favorite sporting event in the world.