Quick Takes: Balancing Numbers and Vision
As the non-conference season comes to a close, we’re caught in a balancing act of numbers and vision. I’ll demonstrate more below. But for quick reference (since this is Quick Takes), we’ll throw Texas Tech into the ring. The Red Raiders are 11-1. They have a KenPom ranking of No. 27 this morning (pretty good). They have an RPI ranking of 90 (not ideal, but again its early). Why such a disparity? Some of it is the mathematical equations used to generate the rankings. There’s also this: Texas Tech has played the No. 291 ranked schedule (per RPI) and No. 348 (of 351 per KenPom, adjusted) – which is not only bad, it’s quite ugly. And could certainly hurt the Red Raiders if they’re near the bubble in March. How do you seed a team like this? It varies, obviously, but when you’re best wins are Rice and Richmond, and you have an NC SOS number like that, you’re probably not in the bracket (or necessarily close).
A couple of other (and better) examples …
- West Virginia: RPI (55), KenPom (7), ELO Chess (22), NC SOS (197). Our vision tells us the Mountaineers are a tough matchup and a quality team. They also have a high-end win at Virginia (even as we’re still figuring out how good this UVA team actually is). Their other notable non-conference numbers? A 1-1 mark against bubble teams Illinois (win) and Temple (loss). As of this morning, West Virginia sat at No. 14 on the Seed List. You could argue higher (win at Virginia) or lower (rather poor overall schedule).
- Iowa State: RPI (114), KenPom (30), ELO Chess (49), NC SOS (194). Again, vision indicates that while the Cyclones are a step down from last year, they still “look” like an NCAA team. Their best win is Miami-FL. Close losses to Gonzaga and Cincinnati are fine. The loss at Iowa? The RPI says it’s bad, but I think it’ll look better (less worse?) in another month, purely based how the Hawkeyes’ numbers are likely to improve. Outside those three teams, ISU’s non-conference slate isn’t worth much. Next up, ISU plays aforementioned Texas Tech. That’s a Bracket Watch game.
- Ohio State: RPI (77), KenPom (40), ELO Chess (40), NC SOS (125). We weren’t trying to pick on the Big 12, so here are the Buckeyes. OSU looked the part in losses to UCLA and Virginia, and has a solid win over Providence. Of course, they also have that home loss to Florida Atlantic (RPI No. 259) and barely escaped UNC Asheville at home last night. Would they be in a current bracket for you? I could see it either way. In this case, both the numbers and vision are a bit suspect. Can you say bubble?
Enjoy your last night of college hoops for a while. A new Seed List and Bracket arrive on Christmas Eve morning. And you can unwrap them early if you want.