I’m passing no judgment on whether or not the following metrics are fair or make sense when it comes to seeding the NCAA Tournament. But they are the metrics used by the NCAA tournament committee, so until changes are made, you’re going to have to deal with them. (Yes, I realize everyone hates the RPI. I’m not a huge fan myself.) Here’s a quick comparison of the two best teams in the country, 1-loss Syracuse and 1-loss Kentucky:
Strength of Schedule:
Non-conference Strength of Schedule:
Record vs. RPI Top 25:
Record vs. the RPI Top 26-50:
Each team’s loss isn’t a bad one: Syracuse was without Fab Melo, its center who is 12th in the country in blocked shots, and lost on the road to Notre Dame (RPI: 36). Kentucky lost on a buzzer-beater on the road to Indiana (RPI: 15).
Here’s where it gets interesting – let’s say Syracuse wins out. And Kentucky wins out. If you just compare the above numbers, Syracuse has to be the top overall seed, right? The problem arises when you take a closer look at the schedules.
Kentucky’s best four wins – vs. UNC (at Rupp), vs. Kansas (neutral in November), vs. Louisville (Rupp), vs. Florida (Rupp). Best road win so far? Vanderbilt.
Syracuse’s best four wins – vs. Florida (home), vs. Marquette (home), vs. Georgetown (home), vs. Louisville (road). Best road win so far? Louisville.
If you cancel out the Florida game and Louisville games (though Syracuse had to go on the road), UK’s wins over UNC and Kansas are much more impressive than Syracuse beating Marquette and Georgetown. That being said, Kansas has improved dramatically since November. And neither Syracuse or Kentucky has done anything impressive on the road (blame the down year in the Big East and SEC). You can blame this game of circular logic all day. And then the committee will come back to those numbers above.
For the sake of argument, let’s bring the Ken Pom numbers into this. Ken Pom has Kentucky 2nd (Ohio State is 1st) and Syracuse is 6th. Very close. Toss in the fact that the Big East is better than the SEC this year, and I think you have to go with Syracuse as the top overall seed in the tournament.
Why does this matter? North Carolina, Duke, Ohio State, Michigan State, Missouri and Kansas are probably all battling for the last two No. 1 seeds and the No. 2 seeds. Missouri, which I’m still not sold on, will either get a No. 1 seed, or Kansas will. The other one is up in the air, but with the formulas loving the Big Ten this year, and the ACC being woeful, Ohio State wouldn’t be a bad guess. This would slide arguably the second most complete (roster wise, at least) team to the 2-line – North Carolina.
If the committee snakes the top eight seeds, this is what it could look like:
1. Syracuse 2. Michigan State (Big 10 runner-up)
1. Kentucky 2. Kansas (Big 12 runner-up)
1. Missouri 2. North Carolina (ACC runner-up)
1. Ohio State 2. Duke (ACC Champ)
Obviously there’s a lot of hoops left to be played, but which road looks tougher to you – Michigan State and Ohio State/Duke or Kansas and Missouri/UNC?