Miscellany

2011 NCAA Tournament Bracket Analysis: How Much Does Experience Matter in March?

Last night, Seth Davis of CBS sent out a tweet that said: “My best advice is favor experience. Go to kenpom.com. He has whole country ranked on experience. Teams like UK, UNC and Texas rely on frosh.” Now, being the general skeptic I am, I had to drop the preview of the Southeast Region that I was procrastinating about, and immediately check this out. My mind went to counter-examples, like the Fab Five that was just featured in an ESPN documentary last night, or Carmelo Anthony leading Syracuse to the title in 2003.

So, I went to Ken Pomeroy’s site, and looked up the teams by experience. He only has that information for the last four years, so we are somewhat limited by the information available. Still, I looked at the teams seeded 1-12 in each of those four seasons (192 total teams) and divided them into quartiles. (I limited it to #12 seeds or better since lower seeds rarely win, experience or not). I then looked at the top 12 and bottom 12 teams in “experience” on Pomeroy’s site, which is weighted for playing time.

The 48 “experienced” teams were expected to win 58.1 games based on seeding, while the “inexperienced” teams were expected to win 64.2. Close, but the inexperienced teams were seeded slightly higher on average. However, the actual results were pretty dramatic. The experienced teams won 70 tournament games, for a +11.9 win differential.

The inexperienced teams, only 45 tournament wins, -19.2 wins below what should be expected based on their seed. Five #1 seeds were in the top 12 in experience, and four reached the Final Four, with the last three national champions all being #1 seeds that ranked in the Top 12 in the experience factor among teams seeded #12 or higher. The five #1 seeds that were in the bottom 12 in experience: 1 Final Four (UCLA 2008).  The “inexperienced” teams that were seeded between #3 and #6 went a dreadful 9-8 in the first round of the tournament.

So, who are these teams this year?

Top 12 Most Experienced Teams Seeded 1 to 12, per Pomeroy’s metric

  1. #6 St. John’s
  2. #12 Utah State
  3. #9 Old Dominion
  4. #2 Notre Dame
  5. #5 West Virginia
  6. #12 Richmond
  7. #10 Penn State
  8. #11 Virginia Commonwealth
  9. #6 Xavier
  10. #2 San Diego State
  11. #10 Georgia
  12. #8 Butler

Top 12 Least Experienced Teams Seeded 1 to 12, per Pomeroy’s metric

  1. #12 Memphis
  2. #8 Michigan
  3. #3 Connecticut
  4. #2 North Carolina
  5. #4 Kentucky
  6. #7 UCLA
  7. #3 Syracuse
  8. #11 Gonzaga
  9. #5 Arizona
  10. #4 Texas
  11. #5 Kansas State
  12. #5 Vanderbilt

[photo via Getty]

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