College Basketball: Why the 2013 NCAA Selection Committee Is Best in 20 Years

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College Basketball: Why the 2013 NCAA Selection Committee Is Best in 20 Years
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Hello, college basketball fans!

I would guess that if I titled my article why the selection committee was the worst in 20 years, I probably would have more hits. People seem to like to complain.

Consider this my annual critique of this year's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament bracket as put together by the selection committee.

I usually begin by naming all of the teams that I chose for the Schmolik 64 that did not make the actual NCAA field, as well as all of the teams making the actual field that I did not choose for the Schmolik 64. 

Teams that made the 2013 Schmolik 64 but not the actual 2013 NCAA field:

Teams that made the NCAA field but not the Schmolik 64 this year:

Notice that both lists are blank.

That's because for the first time ever there were no differences in the teams chosen by me in the Schmolik 64 and the teams actually chosen.

According to my records, there were four years (2001, 2002, 2009, and 2010) where the selection committee and I disagreed on just one team. By contrast, in 2011 we differed on four teams.

This season, I think the only team that has a legitimate gripe would be Southern Mississippi. Its RPI was ranked No. 31 according to the final rankings on CBSSports.com, and the Golden Eagles lost their conference tournament to Memphis in double overtime. I didn't pick them because they had no wins against the RPI Top 50. Normally I don't think that should disqualify a team, but this year I had to cut someone, and that was the criteria I used.

Do you agree with the 68 NCAA teams chosen?

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The most talked-about omission seems to be last year's NCAA champion, Kentucky. I felt Kentucky was a bubble team most of the season, and it lost its first SEC Tournament game 64-48 to a sub .500 Vanderbilt. I believe the only NCAA team to lose in its conference tournament to a team with a losing record is California, which lost to Utah. All seven at-large teams from the Big East and all six at-large teams from the Big Ten lost to an eventual NCAA team.

This year, the Selection Committee followed the RPI much closer than in other years. .

This year, according to CBSSports.com's final RPI rankings, the lowest-ranked team to receive an at- large bid was California at No. 53. Only one team with an RPI above No. 53 did not receive an NCAA berth, Southern Mississippi at No. 30. While I don't think the RPI is perfect, I have said in the past that it should be a major part of the NCAA selection process. This year, for the most part, it was.

Gary Parrish of CBSSports,com has been tracking the use of RPI in tournament selections and has noticed a double standard when it comes to mid-major teams. According to his article, many teams with RPIs below the Top 40 have been rejected in past years, including Missouri State in 2006 (No. 21). 

While in general a large majority of NCAA bids come from teams from BCS football conferences, it is not a hard-and-fast rule.

Last year, the Pac-12 had only two teams in the field, and its only at-large selection was in a first-round game (which it lost). The regular season champion from the Pac-12 did not even get an at-large bid. 

Which team, if any, was the most snubbed by the Selection Committee?

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This year, the SEC had three teams in the RPI Top 60 (Kentucky, No. 57, Tennessee, No. 59, and Alabama, No. 60) that missed the field. By contrast, the Atlantic Ten and Mountain West conferences had five bids each.

I stated last week that the SEC was the hardest to figure out, and the conference tournament would have a huge impact on who made the tournament and who didn't. I had four SEC teams on "the bubble," the three listed and Mississippi, which won the tournament and clinched an automatic bid.

The reason I thought the SEC Tournament was so important was that the teams were hard to separate based on their regular season in-conference performance.

The SEC played with 14 teams this year, which meant SEC teams played many of their conference rivals just once. It made a big difference between who beat Florida (the only SEC school in the RPI Top 25) and who didn't (those who played the Gators at home most likely beat them, while those who played in Gainesville most likely lost).

This also had an effect on head-to-heads. Is it fair to say Alabama is better than Kentucky when the Tide beat the Wildcats in Tuscaloosa? I heard Rex Chapman say on TV yesterday that Kentucky beat Missouri this year. But the game was in Lexington, and they didn't play in Columbia. Missouri went 17-0 at home (9-0 at home vs the SEC, including a win over Florida) this year. I highly doubt Kentucky would have won at Missouri this year. So I do not agree that Kentucky is better than Missouri based on that game alone.

Unfortunately, the ACC and Big Ten will be heading to 14 teams in the near future, which means the same problems that came up in the SEC (as well as the Big East in previous years) will be more widespread in the future.

Now I am always going to say I am "right," and the selection committee is "wrong." But when it comes to choosing teams, there really is no right or wrong. 

On the other hand, I use the Bracket Matrix website to judge the performance of the NCAA Selection Committee. This is a collection of 120 (this year) brackets all throughout the Internet. This includes me, Brian (author of the Bracket Matrix), and many media brackets including CBS Sports, ESPN, and SI, among others). These people, referred to as bracketologists throughout this article, all (presumably) chose their brackets before the NCAA announced its final selections.

Keep in mind we are over 100 different voices. We all are different people with our own views as to who deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament and who does not. We all have different criteria as to our choices.

That being said, I think it is a good representative sample of public opinion when there is agreement. If a team is chosen by most of these brackets, chances are many people feel that team belongs in the field. The opposite is true. The same holds for seeding. 

So I often compare the NCAA bracket (and my own) to the consensus Bracket Matrix selections.

This season, the consensus Bracket Matrix bracket also chose every one of the teams the NCAA chose. 

Of the 68 teams in the NCAA field, 58 of the teams were chosen by all 120 brackets. 66 of the 68 teams were chosen by at least 115 (over 95 percent) of the 120 brackets.

The two teams that were chosen by the fewest number of brackets were La Salle and Middle Tennessee State.

La Salle was chosen in 94 brackets. That is still over 78 percent of the brackets chosen, so a large majority of the bracketologists agreed with La Salle's NCAA bid.

Middle Tennessee State was chosen by 73 of the 120 brackets, the fewest number of brackets for any team chosen by the NCAA. However, that accounts for over 60 percent of all bracketologists.

The most popular choice among teams that were not chosen by the selection committee was Tennessee. About 40 percent of the brackets chose Tennessee. The next highest was Kentucky, chosen by only 17 (about 14 percent) of the brackets. Next up was Southern Mississippi (11 brackets).

Jay Bilas mentioned on his Twitter account that the selection committee "gets a C for the job it did this year" and said Virginia belonged in the NCAA field. He later said that "If subject to APR, this committee would sit next year out."

A Huffington Post summarized many of Bilas' opinions, both via Twitter and on other media sources. He was quoted as saying, "We don't care about who you beat. We want to know who you lost to." 

Well, Jay, you are entitled to your opinion. But only seven of the 120 bracketologists thought Virginia was an NCAA Tournament-worthy team. Your colleague at ESPN, Joe Lunardi, was not one of the seven. You are clearly in the minority here.

As for your comment, of course the NCAA has to look at the entire picture. If you only care who teams beat, TCU would be in the NCAA field. Virginia, meanwhile, lost to an Old Dominion team ranked No. 319. You can't just count its win over Duke and overlook the seven losses to teams outside the RPI Top 100, including one at home. Also, I question Virginia's nonconference strength of schedule (ranked No. 303). By contrast, Middle Tennessee State's nonconference SOS was No. 9. That is a reason why many power conference teams were excluded.

The Bracket Matrix has been around since 2006, and never has there not been an NCAA Tournament team chosen by a minority of the Bracket Matrix brackets. In addition, this year not one team that was chosen by a majority of the Bracket Matrix brackets was not chosen by the selection committee.

The NCAA has chosen teams in the past that most, if not all, of the bracketologists disagreed with. Back in 2006, the NCAA chose Utah State and Air Force. At that time there were only 23 brackets. Only one of the bracketologists that year chose Utah State, and only one chose Air Force. Last season, Iona was chosen by only seven of 115 brackets.

Meanwhile, the NCAA has also rejected teams most of the bracketologists thought deserved to make the NCAA field. In 2011, Virginia Tech was chosen by 87 of 89 brackets that year (almost 98 percent) but didn't get an NCAA bid. In 2007, Syracuse was rejected, even though 29 of 30 brackets had them in. Other notable snubs were Missouri State in 2006 (21 of 23 had them in) and Colorado in 2011 (81 of 89 had them in).

I don't think I am alone with agreeing with the selection committee 100 percent when it came to the 68 teams selected. According to the Bracket Matrix, 41 of 120 brackets (over one-third) had chosen all 68 teams in the actual NCAA field this season. The previous record was 10 (out of 83) in 2010.

Based on the Bracket Matrix, I am declaring the 2013 NCAA Selection Committee the best in the history of the Bracket Matrix by a landslide. I think the ten committee members should be given permanent jobs. On the other hand, selection committee members typically serve five years, which means a few of these members probably served on the 2011 selection committee, which was one of the worst, according to the bracketologists.

However, no NCAA Tournament bracket is without controversy. There were, according to the bracketologists, some questionable seedings.

The selection committee and the Bracket Matrix consensus agreed on the four No. 1 seeds. Louisville was chosen as a No. 1 seed by all 120 brackets. Indiana was chosen by 114 out of 120 (95 percent), Kansas by 96, and Gonzaga by 92. 

Duke was the next most popular choice for a No. 1 seed as 45 brackets chose them in place of one of the four teams that did receive a No. 1 seed. The other 75 brackets put Duke on the No. 2 line.

Miami was the first ACC team to win the regular season and tournament but not receive a No. 1 seed. However, only 11 brackets had them on the top line (106 as a No. 2 and three brackets as a No. 3). The only other teams that were chosen at all for a No. 1 seed were Ohio State and New Mexico.

Georgetown, Ohio State, and New Mexico were the next most popular choices for No. 2 seeds. Georgetown and New Mexico were each chosen as a No. 2 seed on 74 brackets with Ohio State being chosen as a No. 2 seed on 72. However, the average seed among brackets for Ohio State was slightly lower than New Mexico (2.39 to 2.41). Georgetown's average seed was 2.38. It was very close,

Michigan State and Florida were considered clear-cut No. 3 seeds by most of the bracketologists. Michigan was a No. 3 seed on more than half of the brackets. Marquette, which the Selection Committee had as a No. 3 seed, was chosen as a No. 3 by just eight brackets. 69 of the brackets had Marquette as a No. 4 seed. In fact, 42 brackets had Marquette on the No. 5 line. Marquette seemed to have received a gift by the selection committee.

The most controversial seeding by the selection committee by far was Oregon as a No. 12 seed. The committee's 1-68 ranking had the Ducks at No. 43, which translates to a No. 11 seed. However, the average seed for Oregon on the Bracket Matrix was 7.67, which translates to a No. 8 seed. 39 of the brackets had Oregon as a No. 7 seed, while 46 had them as a No. 8. Only five brackets had the Ducks below a No. 9 seed.

The Bracket Matrix collectively also thought Pittsburgh (No. 6 seed in the matrix) and Minnesota (No. 9 in the matrix) were under-seeded. San Diego State, Villanova, and Bucknell were seeded two places above their matrix seed (although Villanova would have been a No. 10 according to its 1-68 list while Bucknell would have been a No. 12 as both were bumped up). The other 62 teams were either the same as or within one seed of the Bracket Matrix seed. 

Coming later this week is the Schmolik Bracket Analysis, Stay tuned to see who I think will make the Final Four, and who will win the NCAA Tournament.

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