Selection Sunday sparks a raging debate among college basketball fans: Which four teams deserve a 1 seed from the NCAA tournament selection committee?
This question, however, begs another one: How much does getting a 1-seed actually matter?
Two weeks ago, we took at the eight team race for a 1-seed this year. 1-seeds historically perform very well in the NCAA tournament, so there is understandably a lot of media and fan focus on — or rather, obsession with — that seed line. After all, 1-seeds are (in theory) the four best teams in the country and have (in theory) the four easiest roads to the Final Four.
Still, NCAA tournament 2-seeds share a fairly similar story. Is all this obsession over 1-seeds justifiable based on past tournament history? And more generally, just how important is seeding overall?
Over the next week, you are going to get bombarded with bracket picking advice by the media, friends, and that random dude next to you at the bar.
Here are five reasons why all that advice is almost certainly worthless:
- It assumes that your strategy should be the same for every type of bracket pool. This is simply absurd, because incorporating factors like your pool size and scoring system into your bracket picking strategy is critical for increasing your odds to win. Not one major media bracket picking article we’ve ever read has showed even a glimmer of understanding that the best picks for a 10-person pool with 1-2-4-8-16-32 scoring and no upset bonus are going to be WAY different than the best picks for a 500-person pool with Round + Seed based scoring and an upset bonus. There is no such thing as a universal “good pick” across all types of bracket pools.
The surprise team in the Big Ten conference this season has been Nebraska. After Sunday’s win over Wisconsin, Nebraska earned the final Big Ten quarterfinal bye as the 4-seed. Who would have thought Ohio State would have to win an opening round game for a chance to play Nebraska in the Big Ten conference bracket?
Seven teams in the Big Ten are in position to potentially get an NCAA tournament bid without winning the conference tourney. Iowa and Minnesota are the two teams out of the seven with work still to be done.
With conference tournaments for the college basketball power conferences starting today, here’s a quick review of our predictions for each one, along with a link to see all teams, seedings, and round by round survival odds:
Our New Ratings, which drive our conference tournament predictions, are high on Duke this year. Vegas futures also favor the Blue Devils to win the ACC tournament this year, but not by as wide a margin of probability. Given that the top four seeds in the ACC bracket are virtual locks to make the NCAA bracket, the side story in this tourney is whether a team like Pittsburgh or Florida State can make a run and lock up an NCAA bid. Interesting fact: 2-seed Syracuse is the top ranked team in the ACC in away games, according to our ratings.
It’s been a strange season for a major conference when the 3-seed in the conference tournament has no legitimate at-large NCAA bid hopes. That’s the case in the SEC, where it appears that Georgia must win the conference tournament to make the NCAA bracket. Florida and Kentucky will almost certainly be representing the SEC in the NCAA tourney, but there are only three other SEC teams with good enough resumes to be called bubble teams.
The SEC conference tournament bracket will feature must-win quarterfinal games for Tennessee, Arkansas and Missouri. Our bracketology algorithm is currently projecting, on average, 2.9 NCAA tournament bids for the SEC. Three bids is more likely than two, but two bids wouldn’t be a total shocker either.
The first year of the new and improved ACC hasn’t gone exactly as hoped by the conference brass. The 15-team conference currently has just six teams with NCAA tournament hopes heading into the ACC tournament. Unsurprisingly, the top four seeds (Virginia, Syracuse, Duke, and UNC) are all virtual locks to make the field.
Our 2014 ACC bracket and predictions have the probability of one of the top four seeds winning the tournament at 85%. Bubble teams Pittsburgh and Florida State don’t have to win the entire tournament to get into the 2014 NCAA bracket, but a strong performance would really help their odds.
Seven Pac-12 teams enter the conference tournament with legitimate NCAA aspirations. Arizona and UCLA, the top two seeds, are virtual locks to make the field of 68. However, the next best NCAA bracket resume likely belongs to the 7-seed, Oregon. That makes for some extremely important quartefinal matchups in the Pac-12 tournament bracket.
The potential 3 vs. 6 (Arizona St-Stanford) and 4 vs. 5 (California-Colorado) games feature four teams all with different levels of NCAA tournament uncertainty.
Last week, we looked at the Big 12′s NCAA tournament outlook. Our bracketology algorithm then was projecting 6.2 bids for the conference. At the time, the two teams on the bubble were Baylor and Oklahoma State.
Since then, the conference’s outlook has improved in terms of potential tournament bids. Our bracketology projections now have the Big 12 getting on average 6.5 tournament bids, largely due to Baylor’s recent wins over Iowa State and Kansas State. Even with the Big 12 tournament this week, we already know a lot more about the Big 12 than most conferences.
The number of Big East teams expected in the NCAA tournament has fluctuated all year. The league has had a realistic chance at getting anywhere from two bids to five bids, depending on who you read. While Villanova and Creighton have been the class of the league all season, four more bubble teams have emerged. Xavier, Providence, St. John’s, and Georgetown have a lot at stake in the upcoming Big East tournament bracket.
Our 2014 bracketology currently lists Villanova and Creighton (obviously) as well as Xavier as Big East teams who are odds-on favorites to make the NCAA tournament field. However, our projections also deem it likely that the Big East gets more than three teams in overall; our bids by conference predictions indicates the Big East on average receiving 3.9 bids. What’s the reason for this discrepancy?
The answer is due to the nature of conference tourneys. Four teams will naturally win games to get to the Big East tournament semifinals; the whole conference can’t lose. In other words, at least one or two of the bubble teams outside of Xavier are going to help their resume and increase their tournament bid odds — we just don’t yet know which ones.
Arkansas’ current six-game winning streak has significantly helped increase their NCAA tournament hopes. Three weeks ago, our bracketology projections gave Arkansas just a 14.5% chance of making the bracket. Now we have the Razorbacks at a 41.1% chance of joining the field of 68. That 26.7% gain is the ninth highest for all teams over that time period in our 2014 bracketology trends.
Still, our bracketology projections are actually conservative for Arkansas relative to the bracketology consensus. Most everyone else has the Razorbacks currently in the field. However, what makes this story quite interesting is the large disparity in the Razorbacks’ home vs. away play.
Arkansas’ NCAA Tournament Resume
As previously mentioned, Arkansas has one of the best home-court advantages in the country. This season, our New Rankings have Arkansas ranked 12th in the country when playing at home. Even with the road win at Rupp Arena, our New Rankings have Arkansas just 80th in the country when playing on the road. This is the norm for Arkansas in Mike Anderson’s three years with the team. It seems like Anderson’s aware of the trend too. Arkansas didn’t play a single true road game in non-conference play this year.