This weekend the SEC and Big 12 conferences staged their interconference “challenge” games, a concept made popular by the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Unlike the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, which occurs during the non-conference season, the SEC-Big 12 challenge happens after all the experts have reached “informed” opinions about the teams based upon twenty-or-so games already in the record books. So, the experts had high opinions of, and high rankings for, Oklahoma, West Virginia and TCU. All three were beaten this weekend by unranked SEC teams. Throw in Florida’s total beatdown of Baylor and a couple of other wins and the SEC came away with the bragging rights, six wins to four for the Big 12. It’s entirely possible that, just as in football season, the Big 12 has been overrated and the SEC has been underrated. We have the Big 12 teams ranked at numbers 10 (Kansas), 11 (Texas Tech), 13 (West Virginia), and 15 (Oklahoma) while the polls have three of the four ranked higher than we do.
Today, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, AKA Joey Brackets, released his third version of Bracketology, i.e. his seedings for the NCAA Tournament. As you all know, since the field expanded to sixty-four teams in 1985, #1 seeds have won twenty times, #2 seeds have won five times, #3 seeds have won four times, and lightning has struck four times (one #4, one #6, one #7, and one #8). These skewed results have not occurred because dominant #1 seeds have consistently been four times better than #2 seeds, but rather because the tournament format gives #1 seeds a built-in advantage. It is not true that simply being in the tournament field gives everyone an equal chance to win the tournament. It is not true that a #1 seed and a #2 seed are essentially the same thing. Every increased seeding position from #8 to #1 increases a team’s chances to win it all and the most important differences are between #4 and #3 and between #2 and #1. So, seeding matters.
As has been the case for most of the season, our rankings, which can be found at bit.ly/2ClnKLc, correlate more closely with the ESPN BPI than with the polls and the RPI. Basically, we like North Carolina better and the BPI likes Kansas better than we do. Most eyes this weekend were on Virginia as it eked out a narrow victory at Duke, but the highest graded victory actually belonged to Kentucky (131.87) in its win over West Virginia. The lowest graded win was recorded by Arizona (99.99) against Utah. All wins are not equal. The “best” loss award goes to Miami (95.52) in overtime at Florida State and the worst defeat was suffered by North Carolina (86.94) at home to NC State. All losses are not equal.
We’ve been running with nineteen teams in our rankings for much of the season but now the field can be expanded to include a few teams that seem to have proven themselves worthy. Candidates are: Auburn, Tennessee, and Florida from dreaded SEC, St. Mary’s from the WCC, Ohio State from the Big Ten, Clemson from the ACC, and Creighton from the Big East. Look for an update later this week.