On the NCAA Tournament

After allowing for some time for it to digest, I wanted to share some thoughts on the NCAA tournament in general.

The NCAA should really use the 2014 tournament as a wake-up call for the need to change their policies and procedures for seedings and the formulation of the bracket. This year, I give them a failing grade for both (1) the methodologies and rules used to develop the bracket and (2) the application of those rules. Several points:

1. There needs to be a change to the game locations for some of the lower seeds. What do UConn and Kentucky have in common? They both had home court advantages in their games (as 7- and 8-seeds) especially in their Sweet 16 and Elite 8 locations. Think about this: if Kentucky was the #1 overall seed, they would have been placed in St. Louis and Indianapolis as well. Or, alternatively, Wichita St., by being paired with Kansas St. and Kentucky as their 8/9 seeds, was guaranteed to have a Round of 32 opponent who was located closer geographically to St. Louis than Wichita. And, Wichita might have had to play Louisville in Indianapolis. Same with UConn. Villanova was "rewarded" with a trip to Buffalo that was equidistant from Connecticut. And, of course, we all know about the advantage UConn got at MSG. Higher seeds need to be rewarded much better than to have lower-seeded opponent having a major home court advantage. I get it -- Kentucky travels well and that plays a big role in their home court advantages, but having them in St. Louis and Indy as an 8-seed is not right.

2. Kudos to Kentucky for running the gauntlet that is the Midwest region and going to the Final Four. However, it is very rare for an 8-seed to have a homecourt and geographic advantage in all four of its regional games. (Note: UK had the geographic advantage in St. Louis and I'm calling their geography a tie with Louisville for Indy).

3. The NCAA goes to great lengths to seed teams #1-#68. I don't know why they do this because it doesn't even matter. They made no attempt to make the regions evenly distributed (or by going through a "snake" process). The Midwest had the strongest team of the four regions in five of the top nine seeds. In addition, the Midwest didn't have the weakest team of the four regions in any of the top nine seeds. On the flip side, the West had the weakest team of the four regions in four of the top nine seeds. In addition, the West didn't have the strongest team of the four regions in any of the top nine seeds. That. Is. Not. Right.

4. The NCAA uses RPI as their ratings methodology which is a broken system that doesn't take into account margin of victory. As a result, Louisville received exactly 0.0% RPI credit for having the highest margin of victory since 1999 Duke. Alternatively, Syracuse's half court buzzer beater to beat Pitt counted as a Win just the same as UofL's 33 point drubbing of UConn.

5. Speaking of the RPI, there were a cluster of teams that all sort of played each other who somehow became "RPI darlings" because of the formula (Kansas, Villanova, New Mexico, UMass, Creighton and Colorado). You can see how these RPI darlings performed in the tournament. On the flip side, there were a cluster of teams that sort of played each other but did not click with the RPI formula and thus those wins over each other became less valuable and those teams were underseeded (Louisville, Kentucky, UConn, North Carolina and even SMU). Kentucky and UConn are still playing. Louisville woulda-coulda-shoulda still be playing and SMU is doing well in the NIT.

Think about this: Kentucky and Colorado were the same seeds! Let's compare the fact pattern. Kentucky's most recent data point was losing by 1 point in the final possession on a neutral court to the tournament's overall #1 seed. Kentucky also has six (at minimum) first round draft picks on their roster. Kentucky gets sent to St. Louis and Indianapolis. Colorado stumbled through THE ENTIRE regular season, was mediocre at best and was not playing with their star player. Colorado gets sent to Orlando and (potentially) Memphis. Which one of those two teams would you rather see if you're a #1-seed or a #4-seed (...or a #2-seed...)?

6. As an aside, it's very funny to me that the knock on Louisville was that the didn't beat anybody and that their schedule was weak. Well, they have three victories over Final Four teams (tied with Florida for the most) and Louisville played five games this year against Final Four teams.

7. I'm not proposing that Las Vegas should be in charge of seeding but there were several occurrences that were so grossly out-of-whack that it is worth noting. (1) A Vegas Sportsbook manager saying #4-seed Louisville would be a favorite head-to-head against ANY team in the tournament, (2) #11-seed and play-in game participant Tennessee being favored by 4(!) against #6-seed UMass and destroying them and (3) #8-seed Kentucky being favored against #2-seed Michigan. Those are so grossly bad that something has to change with the seeding process.

8. Can we just get rid of the polls? They. Don't. Mean. Anything. Seriously -- Louisville is #3 in the polls but a #4-seed? I know people love lists, but I think the polls are only good for determining which 25 teams Sportscenter will show highlights of.

All of these things underscore the need for a change to the methodology and the process because this year proved that something is broken.

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