November 22, 2017

Bracketology for KenPom truthers

We all have those friends that love to throw KenPom stats in our face when talking college basketball. So I’ve decided to see what the bracket would look like if the seeding was done using KenPom metrics.

Before I get into the specific regions, there’s a few things I want to hash out first. I believe that automatic bids should be determined by regular season conference winners, so that’s what I’ve done here. In addition, I believe if you win your conference you should never be sent to Dayton like the 16-seeds are now. If you’re in, you’re in. Thus, the “First Four” is completely full of bubble teams. Ok, now that those prerequisites are out of the way, here’s a couple things to note before we get to the actual brackets.

1-Seeds

Here’s how the 1-seeds differ between Committee/KenPom selections:

By Committee: Villanova, Kansas, North Carolina, Gonzaga

By KenPom: Gonzaga, Villanova, North Carolina, Kentucky

As you can see, Kansas gets swapped out for Kentucky and the order is rearranged, but otherwise, fairly similar.

Bubble Watch

The teams below are the four Committee selections that get replaced via KenPom metrics (KenPom ranking in parenthesis):

Committee Teams to be replaced: VCU (52), Seton Hall (53), Providence (56), USC (61)

KenPom Teams that take their spots: Clemson (35), TCU (41), Indiana (42), Texas Tech (46)

First Four

The matchups below are the new “First Four” matchups featuring the eight lowest ranked at large teams to make the field

  • 11 – Virginia Tech vs. Maryland
  • 11 – Michigan State vs. Texas Tech
  • 10 – Northwestern vs. TCU
  • 10 – Xavier vs. Indiana

Multi-Bid League Conference Allocations

  • ACC – 10 (+1)
  • Big 12  – 8 (+2)
  • Big 10 – 8 (+1)
  • SEC – 5
  • Big East – 5 (-2)
  • Pac 12 – 3 (-1)
  • Atlantic 10 – 2 (-1)
  • American – 2
  • West Coast – 2

Conference Winners

Below are the automatic bid earners that are replaced with regular season champions (KenPom ranking in parenthesis):

  • Sun Belt – UT Arlington (76) replaces Troy (130)
  • Metro Atlantic Athletic – Monmouth (79) replaces Iona (118)
  • Ohio Valley – Belmont (85) replaces Jacksonville State (158)
  • Horizon League – Valparaiso (97) replaces Northern Kentucky (147)
  • Mid American – Akron (99) replaces Kent State (141)
  • Big South – UNC Asheville (102) replaces Winthrop (112)
  • Western Athletic – Cal State Bakersfield (115) replaces New Mexico State (88)
  • Big West – UC Irvine (138) replaces UC Davis (218)
  • Summit League – South Dakota (144) replaces South Dakota State (187)

Alright, now it’s time to get to the brackets. I’ll break them each down each individually. I tried my best to use all of the bracketing and seeding principles of the Committee, but if I placed a team incorrectly, I apologize. No teams had to be bumped up or down a seed line for matchup/location purposes, but location advantage probably isn’t as accurate as it could be. I wanted to stick teams as close to their KenPom ranking as possible for this exercise. Here we go.

West Region

Movers

  • UT Arlington, UNC Asheville, Indiana and Cal State Bakersfield are all now IN
  • East Tennessee State, Florida, Michigan, and Xavier all move up one seed
  • Oregon moves down a seed line, Notre Dame & Virginia Tech move down two

Biggest Winner/Loser

  • Winner – Wichita State moves up eight seed lines
  • Loser – Maryland moves down five seed lines

Analysis

You’ll start to notice a trend here that many Big Ten teams were overrated by the Committee. Maryland has a gaudy record, but their wins are not overly impressive, and they have some baffling losses for a six seed, where they currently sit in the tournament. You’ll also see a drastic underrating in both of the mid major at-larges that the Committee selected – Wichita State and Saint Mary’s. It’s hard to properly rank them due to schedule strength, but this is where KenPom truthers would point you to another metric that accounts for these things when ranking teams.

East Region

Movers

  • Monmouth, TCU and UC Irvine are all now IN
  • Nevada moves up a seed line and Wisconsin moves up two seed lines
  • South Carolina moves down a seed line while Dayton, UCLA, Kansas and Northwestern all move down two

Biggest Winner/Loser

  • Winner – Virginia moves from a five seed to a two seed
  • Loser – Butler falls from a four seed to a seven

Analysis

There’s a lot less drastic movement in this region. For all of the crap I give Virginia and Wisconsin, they’re extremely efficient, and are probably undervalued at their current seeds. Meanwhile, Butler, with all there good wins, also takes a hit with some bad losses and even by being underwhelming in their wins against lesser opponents. Northwestern shocked the world by earning their first ever NCAA Tournament berth, but the reality is, they’re not as good as their seed. As one of the bottom eight teams, they would be headed to Dayton for the “First Four.”

South Region

Movers

  • Clemson, Akron, Texas Tech and South Dakota are now IN
  • Kansas State, Saint Mary’s and SMU each move up three seed lines
  • Creighton moves down a seed line while Florida State and Arkansas move down two

Biggest Winner/Loser

  • Winner – Oklahoma State moves up four seed lines
  • Loser – Michigan State moves down two seed lines to the “First Four”

Analysis

The other overarching theme with this exercise is that the Big 12 has been extremely undervalued by the Committee. Two new teams have moved in now (Texas Tech and TCU), and Oklahoma State moves up four seed lines. Of the six Big 12 teams placed in the field by the Committee, three are underseeded by this formula, two were left out, one was properly seeded and the Conference’s top two teams were overrated. Turns out the double round robin can be a blessing and a curse. With that many quality teams in the league – which the proved with their non conference dominance – it’s hard to rack up conference wins which accounts for more than half of a team’s schedule in a given year.

Midwest Region

Movers

  • Belmont and Valparaiso are now IN
  • Kentucky, Middle Tennessee State Rhode Island and North Carolina Central each move up a seed line while West Virginia bumps up one and Marquette jumps three
  • North Dakota, Duke and Baylor drop a seed line while Arizona drops three

Biggest Winner/Loser

  • Wake Forest moves up three lines just like Marquette, but this formula gets them out of Dayton
  • Minnesota drops all of four seed lines to the nine spot

Analysis

Once again we see the overvaluing of the Big 10 with Minnesota falling the farthest. This region also has the lowest number of teams accurately seeded by the Committee with Cincinnati at a six and Princeton at a twelve. Again, there’s not necessarily a right or wrong strategy to this whole mess, this was simply an exercise in another metric used to determine at large bids. National perception, having a “blue blood” name, and conference affiliation all tend to overvalue a team relative to where they should be seeded, and this becomes increasingly obvious as you get further and further down the bid list.

KenPom isn’t intended to be a ranking system, but rather a predictive metric to compare how teams would match up. If you pay attention to Vegas spreads at all, you’ll notice they almost always reflect KenPom predictions give or take half a point for home court advantage. By using Kenpom, you wouldn’t see situations where 10-seed Wichita State is a 6.5 point favorite over the 7-seed Dayton. You wouldn’t see games where 5-seed Minnesota is effectively a pick against 12-seed Middle Tennessee State. Just something to think about.

What do you all think of the revised bracket? Let me know on Twitter by tagging @tgatesociety or @tom_danielson.

 

Tom Danielson 67 Articles

Managing Editor

Every family needs an adult figure. That’s Tom’s job on this ship. After graduating from Iowa State University, Tom headed down the ‘failed professional golfer’ career path before heading back to his calling as an engineer in the great white north (Minnesota). He got his start in blogging, and continues to contribute at the critically acclaimed site, Wide Right & Natty Lite.  A student of the ‘you can’t fail if you don’t try’ philosophy, there’s no better way to describe Tom than a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’.

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