Which teams are criminally under-seeded?

Now that everyone is filling out their brackets at the last-minute, I wanted to take a look at which teams are under-seeded and over-seeded. A very basic and crude way of calculating this is to compare the seed that the NCAA placed a team to an average of various ranking systems, such as the RPI, BPI, and Ken Pomeroy’s ranking system. These are the most common and easiest to obtain, so that’s what I’ll use.

Determining how well the NCAA seeded teams in this way comes with one huge caveat; it is based on the assumption that the three ranking systems we’re using are valid and proper ways to determine how a good a team actually is, and that averaging the rankings out will make the determinations that they make even better. Well, that’s not true, but it’s fun to compare those rankings to the NCAA selection committee’s seedings.

Since we don’t know exactly how the NCAA seeded each team from 1-68, I’ll use an average NCAA seed for each team at a specific seed. To find the number I used for the NCAA seed, I took the average ranking for each team at a specific seed. To get that, first you take all 68 teams and list them by seed, then put an overall rank of 1-68 (1 being the first number 1 seed and 68 being the last 16 seed in the list) next to each team. The average of the overall rankings for each seed is the number I am comparing the average computer ranking to; i.e. the 1 seeds are overall ranked 1,2,3,4 and the average of those four numbers is 2.5. The 4 seeds are overall ranked 13,14,15,16 and the average of those numbers is 14.5.

Then I take that number that each team with the same seed shares in common, and I subtract the average of the computer rankings to see how far the NCAA selection committee varied from the average of the three common computer rankings.That is the value on the right side of the table below.

This way to look at the bracket only works on the teams with at-large bids and champions from the bigger, power conferences. Once you get below the at-large teams in the NCAA seeds, you start to see that the computer rankings for these teams don’t line-up with this method of average NCAA seeds. For example, Texas Southern is the worst tournament team by computer ranking; Ken Pomeroy has them at 237 and RPI is 259, although they are no worse than the 68th team in the field. We can’t call Texas Southern over-seeded! So we’ll only look at teams with 11 seed or higher, since the last at-large teams are 11 seeds.

The red fields signify the teams in which the difference between the position the NCAA seeded and the rankings of the computer average was more negative than -4, meaning they are over-seeded. Michigan is the first example in which the computers say they should be about 9.5 places lower than where they are, or basically a 4 seed, rather than a 2. The green field means just the opposite; these are teams in which the NCAA seeding was much higher than the computer rankings thought they deserve. They are the criminally under-seeded, and if the NCAA Tournament wasn’t so crazy and unpredictable, they could be considered potential sleepers.

ncaa copy

So we can see that teams like Louisville, VCU, Gonzaga, Kentucky, and Oklahoma State are under-seeded. Out of that group, the preseason number 1 team Kentucky Wildcats were seeded 16.5 spots below where the computers have them. Some of the most over-seeded teams, according to the computers, are Saint Louis, UMass, Texas, Colorado, Memphis, and K-State. The table below shows the remaining seeds, and their average rankings between Ken Pomeroy and the BPI. The RPI only lists the top 68 teams, so many of the automatic qualifying teams don’t have an RPI.

Team NCAA seed KenPom BPI Avg
Harvard 12 33 38 35.5
North Carolina State 12 67 66 66.5
North Dakota St 12 55 64 59.5
Stephen F Austin 12 60 73 66.5
Xavier 12 42 48 45
Delaware 13 105 97 101
Manhattan 13 66 74 70
New Mexico St 13 72 77 74.5
Tulsa 13 68 83 75.5
LA-Lafayette 14 115 122 118.5
Mercer 14 99 103 101
North Carolina Cent 14 78 98 88
Western Michigan 14 113 120 116.5
American U 15 96 136 116
E Kentucky 15 129 139 134
Milwaukee 15 162 148 155
Wofford 15 186 174 180
Albany 16 174 196 185
Cal Poly 16 173 190 181.5
Coast Carolina 16 231 191 211
Mount St Mary’s 16 195 238 216.5
Texas Southern 16 237 259 248
Weber State 16 170 157 163.5

Are there any potential teams ready for an upset based on these numbers? Who knows? That’s what makes March Madness so fun and unpredictable. Will any of these numbers help you fill out your bracket? Probably not! But good luck!


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