A few days ago, in our post about NCAA Tournament Flaw #1, we suggested that yesterday—the end of the regular season—should have been Selection Sunday for the Tournament field. We had three reasons for the suggestion:
- The regular season is a better barometer of team performance than is a contrived-for-money single elimination conference tournament;
- The NCAA field is watered down when the regular season champion of a single bid conference loses in its conference tournament; and,
- Conference tournament results skew selection committee evaluations in favor of teams that win a game or two in their conference tournaments. Joey Galloway calls this “recency bias.”
As we watched games this weekend we found another supporter of the concept of making tournament selections after the regular season and before the conference tournaments: the eminent Jay Bilas. He added a fourth thoughtful reason to our list when he pointed out that Power Conference teams had an unfair opportunity to pad their resume against highly ranked opponents in their tournaments while teams in mid-major conferences would not play highly ranked opponents in their conference tournaments. Again, that plays into “recency bias.” Thanks, Jay.
Had yesterday been Selection Sunday, we’d have given #1 seeds to Duke, Virginia, Cincinnati and Villanova in that order. Number 2 seeds would have gone to Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State and Purdue, in that order. We’d have selected Gonzaga, Michigan, Xavier and Nevada for #3 seeds and Auburn, Houston, Tennessee and Kansas for #4 seeds. In that order.
As you can see from these seeds, we like teams from overlooked mid-major conferences—Cincinnati, Wichita State, Nevada and Houston—much more than does “Joey Brackets” and other “experts.” We also like some highly touted teams—Kansas and Xavier, in particular—a whole lot less than do the “experts.” We call the tendency to favor recognizable names “brand bias.”
Kansas and Xavier have amassed shiny won/lost records while playing unremarkable basketball. In the case of Kansas, they’ve also beaten over-hyped competition in the Big 12. This weekend was typical for Xavier as it turned in another low performance grade in its lackluster victory over DePaul.
When teams are over-rated, they get higher seeds than they deserve and either defeat weaker opponents than they should have played, or they become early round upset targets in the tournament. In homage to the idea that yesterday should have been Selection Sunday, we have not updated the poll rankings (which should no longer matter). The tournament seed column in our ranking table reflects the committee’s early reveal which looks sillier and sillier as time goes by.
We’ve now published posts about NCAA tournament Flaw #1 and Flaw #2. Look for our posts about Flaws #3, #4, and #5 later this week so you’ll have all the info in hand as you watch the belated Selection show next Sunday.
This week’s up-to-the minute RPG rankings can be found at www.nemosnumbers.com/basketball-rankings/.