Schmolik's Comments on the NCAA Men's Tournament and the Bracket Matrix

Hello, college basketball/Big Ten fans!

Each year I post a bracket of who I think should be in the NCAA Tournament before the actual tournament field is announced. I refer to it as the Schmolik 64. I call it that because when I first started doing this there were just 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament. I'm like the "Big Ten", no matter how many teams there are, it's still the Big TEN:)

I then compare my bracket to the actual bracket. I usually feel many people complain about teams not being in or teams getting in and not deserving but you don't really know who deserves to be in and out unless you go through the process of choosing teams yourself before a Selection Committee decides who's "in" and who's "out". It's easy to say who belongs in and who out but then you have a tournament field of 80 or 60. You need a field of 68 teams, no more and no less. The actual number of teams in a year that actually belong in the field is almost never "exactly" 68, it will usually be over or under, either some deserving teams will be left out or some non deserving teams will get in.

What did I differ on in the NCAA this year? Two teams. Both teams I thought didn't belong were in the ACC, NC State and Pittsburgh. NC State won just one Quad 1 game all year. I had mentioned this in the update I posted last Friday. They also lost three times to Clemson, a team that did not make the NCAA Tournament (or my field). The other team I didn't have in was Pittsburgh. They also lost to Clemson at home and their NET (according to Warren Nolan) is 67, the lowest NET of any at large team in the NCAA field. I have less of an objection to Pittsburgh making it than NC State despite the fact that NC State's NET was way higher (45) because of one Quad 1 win and three losses to Clemson (also Pittsburgh beat NC State in Raleigh). I don't think Clemson is an NCAA Tournament team either, their NET was 60, they lost two Quad 4 games, and their non conference SOS was 333 out of 361 teams.

The two teams I had in the field the NCAA didn't are Rutgers and Oklahoma State. I had Rutgers in as a #10 seed, not even in the First Four. I also didn't have Oklahoma State in the First Four either. Both teams had a reasonable NET (Rutgers 40, Oklahoma State 43), and both had a reasonable number of Quad 1 wins (Rutgers four, Oklahoma State six).

I also didn't like the fact that Houston was ranked ahead of Kansas on the #1 seed line. They both wound up with #1 seeds but Kansas lost the right to play in the Midwest Regional in Kansas City, having to go to the West Regional in Las Vegas instead. Kansas won 17 Quad 1 wins this year while Houston won just 7. They also lost a Quad 3 game this year at home to Temple, a team that isn't even in the NCAA Tournament, finished 16-16, and for all practical purposes fired their head coach (they "mutually agreed to part ways"). The NCAA refused to change the order of the #1 seeds from their "bracket preview" back on February 18. Were the last three weeks a waste of time? Kansas only lost twice since then, both to Texas. Maybe if Houston had won the AAC championship you can argue that they belonged ahead of Kansas but they also lost as well. Did Houston get the benefit of the doubt because their championship was so late? Houston was down big at halftime of the game, if the Selection Committee was planning ahead they should have assumed they were going to lose that game instead of win that game and it shouldn't be too hard to switch regionals between Midwest and West.

One thing the NCAA Selection Committee did switch from the bracket preview that I disagreed with was that they moved UCLA ahead of Arizona for the right to stay in the West Regional. The assumption was that Arizona was ahead in the bracket preview despite UCLA being ahead in the Pac 12 regular season at the time because UCLA won the head to head matchup. Well Arizona won the season series 2-1 including the Pac 12 championship so they should have deserved the right to stay out West. Instead the Selection Committee gave that right to UCLA because of the Pac 12 regular season title. Selection Committee chair Chris Reynolds mentioned during his comments that Rutgers lost out because of a key injury. Then why wasn't UCLA dropped behind Arizona because of the injury to Jaylen Clark?

Speaking of head to head, I bumped Duke ahead of Virginia for a #4 seed. Duke won the ACC Tournament final over UVa. Virginia shared the regular season title with Miami. In past seasons, the NCAA Selection Committee has valued regular season titles more than tournament titles. I had thought that Duke would get the benefit of the doubt because they are Duke and Duke seems to get preferential treatment in NCAA Tournament seedings but I also forgot so does Virginia. I also had my mind on the questionable no call between Duke and Virginia in the game between them. I will give the Selection Committee credit for elevating Xavier to a #3 seed over Connecticut after two head to head wins. They don't usually respect head to head but did in this case.

One thing about Chris Reynolds is he is the athletic director at Bradley, a "mid major". Now he is only one member of the Selection Committee but he is the chair and he likely can set the agenda. When discussing Oklahoma State, he did mention that t "they had 18 opportunities in the Quad 1, and they won only six games.". It also makes sense using that same logic to have Houston over Kansas. If you're from a mid major, winning a whole bunch of Quad 1 games isn't as impressive if you've played so many of them while a school that doesn't have a lot of Quad 1 games isn't punished if they didn't have as many chances. I personally disagree, I think 17-7 is more impressive than 7-2, if anything the 17-7 means that Kansas played 2 Quad 1 games vs. 9 Quad 1 games for Houston. Yes most of the Quad 1 games for Kansas (and Oklahoma State) is the result of the Big 12 being so strong but is that their fault? They won all those games. Oklahoma, the last place team in the Big 12, not only beat Alabama, the #1 team in the country according to the NCAA Selection Committee, but they blew them out. We may not see in 2023 how Houston would have performed in the Big 12 but at least we will in 2024 when they join.

I will say overall it was a decent job by this year's Selection Committee. I would say that in most years the average number of teams I miss in a given year is 3 so 2 means they are doing well. There weren't that many teams I saw seeded much higher or lower than normal, my Penn State (I got a graduate degree from them) got seeded two places lower than I had them. I had 62 teams placed within one seed and 49 teams placed exactly.

Now I discuss the Bracket Matrix, a group of brackets over the internet that I am annually a part of. First of all, a shout out to Brian who runs the Bracket Matrix and puts it all together.

This season a total of 229 brackets were included in the final Matrix, a record number of brackets. If the Matrix were in charge, both NC State and Pittsburgh, the two teams I said didn't belong, would have been in the field. On the other hand, there were a significant number of brackets that didn't include these schools. NC State was chosen by 197 brackets (missing on 32) and Pittsburgh by 139. If the Bracket Matrix were in charge, the only team that made the NCAA field that would not have made it would have been Nevada. Nevada was only chosen on 71 of 229 brackets (I was one of the 71 and that was about 31% of the brackets submitted). Rutgers was the one team that would have made it instead. According to Brian via Twitter,

"The matrix did have Rutgers (218/229, 95.2%) in its field. In percentage terms, this snub is only exceeded in matrix history by 2011 VaTech (97.8%) and 2007 Syracuse (96.7%). It’s also the 5th season in a row that a team in at least 90% of brackets was not chosen for the tourney".

It's pretty bad when 90% of brackets feel like a specific team should be in and you don't. It isn't just me who thought Rutgers should have been in.

As for Kansas vs. Houston, Bracket Matrix doesn't track who was "higher" on the S-Curve between Houston and Kansas. CBS's Jerry Palm, ESPN's Joe Lunardi, and FOX's Mike DeCourcy all had Kansas in the Midwest instead of Houston. Lunardi and DeCourcy had UCLA in the West instead of Arizona, Palm had neither in the West, he had Gonzaga as his #2 in the West and Baylor as has #3! In terms of overall seed, Houston would have had a higher seed based on average seed (1.01 for Houston, 1.02 for Kansas) but when the average seeds are that high, it is mainly the number of stray brackets that had one (or both) not as a #1 seed. Purdue's average seed was 1.06. The highest #2 seed was UCLA at 1.95 which means they did get some consideration for a #1 seed on some ballots. I would think Texas would have gotten more consideration for winning the Big 12 Tournament and beating Kansas twice in the last two weeks, both by wide margins, once in Kansas City. At least in the case of UCLA > Texas, it didn't really hurt them in terms of regional placement, Texas wound up in Kansas City, the regional they probably wanted to be in anyway. In my bracket, I had Texas the #5 overall seed but they went to New York (East Regional) which geographically was the worst for them (although they got the weakest #1 seed in Purdue).

I personally think the Selection Committee got it right making Xavier the last #3 seed but the Bracket Matrix chose Connecticut (3.24) as the last #3. In fact, Tennessee (3.73) had a higher average seed than Xavier (3.97). Virginia and Duke for the "last #4 seed" was very close, Virginia barely came out ahead, 4.55 for Virginia, 4.63 for Duke. It's a good thing this isn't the women's tournament because if it was Virginia would get to host the first two rounds of the tournament and Duke wouldn't. Instead, both schools literally wound up at the same location (Orlando) in the first round.

One seed I personally agreed with that the Bracket Matrix didn't agree with was Texas A&M. I had them as a #7 which is exactly what the NCAA seeded them. But the Matrix gave A&M an average seed of 5.37, a #5 seed. I believe that's the only two seed difference between the NCAA and the Bracket Matrix I saw among teams that were selected). There is a conspiracy theory that the NCAA wanted to pair up a second round matchup between Texas and Texas A&M and I myself had bracketed the two schools to meet there as well:)

I never let the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee get away without criticism unless they're perfect and they almost never are (although in 2013 they were, or I was, depending on whether you think the NCAA Selection Committee is correct or I am, I usually feel I am myself but I am biased:) In 2013, the NCAA Selection Committee and I differed on NO teams, it's the only time that has ever happened.

Later on today or tomorrow I will be back with another annual feature, Schmolik Bracket Analysis. I will go through the brackets and tell you who I think will win it all. Use these picks at your own risk!! I'm not responsible for any money you lose on them!

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