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I Got So Much Trouble on My Mind...

3/13/2006

It's the day after and I'm still irked about the NCAA seedings last night. To quote Bill Walton, the Selection Committee did 'a horrrrible' job with its selections and seedings. Here's a few more random thoughts and more detailed analysis as a follow-up to last night's post.

JCI vs. RPI

Needless to say, my bracket projections based primarily on the JCI, a formula firmly rooted in facts, logic and objectivity, did an extremely poor job when compared to the actual brackets. This isn't unexpected, since I was basing my decisions on who was most deserving, not necessarily who I thought would get in. I'll leave the job of trying to predict the irrational decision making of the Committee and use of misinformation to Lunardi and others. Kudos to them for doing a better job this year, however.

But let's take a look at the teams the deviated greatly from my projections:


2+ SEEDS BETTER THAN EXPECTED
+2 BETTERACT SDJCI SD_RPI RK__JCI RK_RPI SOSJCI SOS
Tennessee25616636
UCLA2510212985
Oklahoma6916282757
Nevada58193198147
Washington58353492109
Wis-Milwaukee11145379104172
Montana12156199186315
Wichita St7927325875
UAB9113239115108
UNC Wilmington9112844103124
Seton Hall101258463640
San Diego St11135676111200

Avg RPI Diff: -12.0; Avg RPI SOS Diff:-41.9


2+ SEEDS WORSE THAN EXPECTED
+2 BETTERACT SDJCI SD_RPI RK__JCI RK_RPI SOSJCI SOS
Illinois421475426
Pittsburgh5311103028
Bucknell974222181153
North Carolina St10851256443
Arkansas8645266849
George Washington84379207159
Texas A&M12844386774

Avg RPI Diff: +15.3; Avg RPI SOS Diff: +19.9


UNEXPECTED TEAMS IN THE TOURNAMENT
+2 BETTERACT SDJCI SD_RPI RK__JCI RK_RPI SOSJCI SOS
George Mason11OUT264589111
Alabama10OUT57501238
Arizona8OUT2351750
California7OUT52546178
Air Force13OUT5058158215
Utah State13OUT4673102177

Avg RPI Diff: -12.8; Avg RPI SOS Diff: -40.0


UNEXPECTED TEAMS OUT OF THE TOURNAMENT
+2 BETTERACT SDJCI SD_RPI RK__JCI RK_RPI SOSJCI SOS
CincinnatiOUT7403056
Florida StOUT963379453
MichiganOUT1047333733
Missouri StOUT1021404673
HofstraOUT103041129128
MarylandOUT1149421416

Avg RPI Diff: +4.5; Avg RPI SOS Diff: +2.7

I think it's pretty clear that the RPI is playing a huge role in the seeding and selection process, despite what the Committee is saying. You have to realize that these differences are completely artificial, a consequence of the flawed nature of the RPI formula. A team with a better RPI and SOS does not mean that they are more deserving or played a better schedule, yet the Committee is making key decisions based on this information. When a team with an overinflated RPI and SOS gets in above a more deserving team that happens to have a underinflated RPI and SOS, how can this be considered fair? And in the case of the Illini, it's having a direct impact on the team's chance to reach the Final Four. Why should other less deserving teams get a better shot at the championship?

INCONSISTENCY

The RPI explains a lot of the differences, but how do you explain Missouri State and Hofsta? The thing the bugs me even more than using a flawed tool such as the RPI is the inconsistent application of these key factors when it comes to their decision making. Basically after years of trying to figure out what the NCAA is up to, I've only been able to make one clear conclusion. Having lots of varied information, even if it's incorrect, gives the Committee the ability to justify any decision that they make. In other words, they can use certain factors only when it's convenient for them to do so. That's the only reason I can come up for continued reliance on the RPI. Again...doesn't sound very fair, does it? There should be more integrity behind the process.

So what other factors is the Committee looking at?

Last 10 Games? Maybe it explains Nevada, Washington, NC State, Michigan, Maryland and possibly Illinois, but how do you explain Tennessee, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Missouri St or Hofstra?

Extra weight for quality wins? How do you explain Illinois, Pitt, UCLA or Tennessee?

Conference Tourney Matters? Might explain UCLA, Illinois, NC State and Cincinnati but how do you explain Tennessee and Pitt?

Injuries/Suspension Considered? Might explain George Washington, but how do you explain George Mason?

As much as you try, you just can't make any sense of the Committee's logic, unless you consider the following factor...



ROLE AND INFLUENCE OF SELECTION COMMITTEE MEMBERS

One thing that I never even thought about before until last night was the role of the Selection Committee in the process. I remember seeing the list of Committee members back in November and thinking to myself, 'That sucks...no Big Ten representation'. That was the extent of it, it was just a fleeting thought. I never would've imagined that it could have a dramatic impact on the seeding process. I guess with all of the money going around, I shouldn't be so surprised. The Committee members definitely have their own agendas - to support and make sure they're conferences are represented (or overrepresented). It's definitely a conflict of interest, but the process doesn't look like it will change anytime soon.

Here's the committee:

  1. Craig Littlepage, Virginia (chair)
  2. Karl Benson, WAC
  3. Dan Guererro, UCLA
  4. Chris Hill, Utah
  5. Laing Kennedy, Kent State
  6. Jon LeCrone, Horizon
  7. Tom O'Connor, George Mason
  8. Mike Slive, SEC
  9. Robert Vowels, SWAC
  10. Gary Walters, Princeton

After looking at the committee, some of the 'head scratchers' become a little more clear. Generally, you see a lot of mid-major and West Coast representation. Both did very well in the seedings this year. Do you think the UCLA AD had an influence on the fact that UCLA, Washington were both overseeded and Arizona and California made the tournament at all (California as a '7' may be an even bigger joke than Utah State as a '12'). Should we believe that having WAC and MWC representation had nothing to do with Air Force and Utah State getting in at the expense of other more deserving teams? How about George Mason getting in despite suspension issues from one of it best players? Do you think Slive had any role in getting Tennessee a '2' seed when most had them pegged for a '4' or '5'? Do you think Cincinnati and Michigan might've had a better shot if there was somebody from the Big East or Big Ten on the Committee?

These are all perfectly valid questions that will probably never get answered. In some cases, it's the only way we can make any sense of the Selection Committee's decisions. If any of the questions above are true...how can they justify making those decisions to feed their own interests over the overarching objective to reward the most deserving teams with bids and appropriate seeds? This is something that needs to be addressed.

THE 'NEW' RPI

Something I alluded to last night was the role of the new RPI in the Selection Process. As I've been saying ever since the 40% home/road adjustments implemented in the RPI formula last year make the formula far worse than the old RPI, which is really saying something. Hard to believe because giving extra credit for road wins makes logical sense, but it's the crude nature of the adjustment which causes it to do more harm than good. However, my protests to Bowlsby last year fell on deaf ears and the new RPI went forward as planned. But a funny thing happened on the way to Selection Sunday. I was expecting the same level of disaster that we saw this year to occur last year. But it didn't...the final bracket projections were in-line with most peoples' projections, inlcuding mine. So what happened?

Well, I believe last year the Committee relied on the Sagarin Elo ratings (very similar to the JCI) after the new RPI was leading to some unintended strange results (plus they implemented the formula incorrectly). The Committee had both the Old and New RPI in the room and after they couldn't logically reconcile what was causing the difference, they went to an outside source. Because the Sagarin Elo rating is based on wins and losses and is a strong 'body-of-work' rating system, you ended up with seedings that looked pretty reasonable and fair.

Fast forward to this year. The new RPI is still in place in all its glory, warts and all. It's still got the same flaws at it had a year ago (although they did fix the miscalculation). However, it was the only number that was 'in the room' this year -- they stopped calculating the old RPI. Without the old RPI for comparison, there wasn't the motivation or need to go to an outside source. They simply took the RPI at face value. UCLA with a RPI of 10 and SOS of 29? Looks like the profile of a solid '2' seed to me. Who cares if it's wrong. How would they know unless they got really deep into the numbers?

Check out how my JCI-based seed projections did the last 3 years. 2004 was purely the old RPI formula. 2005 was some combination of old, new and the Sagarin ratings. And 2006 was purely the new RPI formula.

  2003-04 2004-05 2005-06
Teams Correct 60 64 59
Seed Correct 31 25 23
<2 Seeds Off 48 53 40
2+ Seeds Low 6 5 7
1 Seed Low 6 14 13
1 Seed High 11 14 4
2+ Seeds High 6 6 12

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