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Inside the Bracket: Teams (names) behind the numbers …

It’s always an interesting exercise when you take a team’s name away from its numbers.   To demonstrate, let’s look at some numbers used by the NCAA Selection Committee to select and seed teams for the tournament.  We’ll refer to them as Team A, etc. during the first part of the exercise, and reveal the names at the end of the column.  Data comes from collegerpi.com (through Feb. 7).

Let’s go Inside the Bracket …

Team           Road    RPI 1-50    Top 100    Losses 100+    SOS    NC-SOS   Field wins

Team A         2-5         3-3           6-3             142, 144            48           90             3

Team B         2-3         5-5           7-6                139                20           121            4

Team C         8-3         3-1           5-3                151                94           137            2

Team D         5-2         4-3           6-3                 NA                85            208           4

Team E         3-3         0-4           3-7                 NA                83             94            0

Team F         6-1          3-1           6-2                NA                123          166            2

Team G        3-3          3-4           5-6                 NA                79            226           2

Team H        7-2          2-2           8-3                 NA                35            41             2

We purposely didn’t include overall Division I record (through Feb. 7) or conference record to make it more difficult to identify the teams in question – even though both are important factors.  Field Wins refers to victories over teams currently projected to make the NCAA tournament (from our latest bracket projection).  For simplicity, we didn’t include teams from non-BCS conferences who were in the bracket as automatic qualifiers.  SOS refers to strength of schedule and NC-SOS refers to non-conference strength of schedule.

Using the data above, how would you rank the teams?  Everyone will have a different opinion on which criteria is most important.  That’s why the actual selection process involves a series of confidential voting procedures.  Committee members debate, make arguments, discuss concerns, etc.  Then, it’s put to a vote.  A certain number of votes are needed for teams to move “IN” the bracket or to be placed on a seed line.  I’m looking forward to learning more about the process during the NCAA Mock Selection event next week in Indianapolis.

Are quality wins your most important criteria?  Road record? How do you factor in losses to sub-100 teams?  These are just a few considerations.  Something else to note: take away wins over teams ranked below 200 in the RPI (lower third of Division I).  Sometimes, that gives you a different insight into how well a team’s overall record matches its performance.  We’re not picking on Murray State – an excellent team having a remarkable season. But let’s use the Racers as an example.  If you remove Murray’s 12 wins against teams ranked 200 or lower, the Racers’ D-1 record is 8-0.  That’s why it will be difficult for Murray State to earn a protected seed.

Time to reveal the names behind the numbers.  See if it changes your opinion of how you ranked them …

Team A: Florida … Team B: Illinois … Team C: Creighton … Team D: San Diego State … Team E: Washington … Team F: St. Mary’s … Team G: Kansas State … Team H: Southern Mississippi

The purpose of the exercise isn’t to make you change your mind.  Rather, it’s designed to provide an insight into a team’s evaluation without the potential bias associated with the name on the jersey.  Hopefully, you found the exercise informative.

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