BtB's Annual RPI-Only Bracket Extravaganza (Now With KenPom)

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 10: Markieff Morris #21 of the Kansas Jayhawks throws up a shot a he falls over Jarred Shaw #1 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys during their quarterfinal game in the 2011 Phillips 66 Big 12 Men's Basketball Tournament at Sprint Center on March 10, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

As Selection Weekend has arrived, and the letters R, P, and I have moved to their annual, short-term position of national prominence, dominating conversations in places outside of Troy, New York for a few days,  I figured it was time to present my annual look at how a bracket based solely on this metric compares to one created by a committee (or in my case, person) that is based on a lot more data. As an added bonus, I've added a projection based one the most popular metric out there that uses advanced statistics to project a teams performance, Ken Pomeroy's ratings.

Since I feel this will be the year that this hobby of mine will actually jump the shark, thanks to the sheer unpredictability of the teams in the middle and lower portions of the at-large pool, I thought it was especially important to show the impact different ratings systems could have on the selection and seeding process. By comparing these simple approaches to a bracket that was created based on real analysis and comparisons, albeit by one person instead of 10, you can appreciate how difficult the selection committee's job really is, particularly in a season as wacky the 2010-11 campaign.

After the jump, three sets of S-curves and brackets, with a smattering of analysis on the single-metric ones.

For starters, here's how my Thursday S-curve and bracket look. I used every tool at disposal to create this projection: selection sheets from Basketball State, the RPI, my own knowledge of the teams and how they've been playing all season (and of late), and Ken Pomeroy's and Basketball State's differing ratings.

Teams in bold have clinched their respective league's automatic bid.

1 line 1. Kansas*
2. Ohio State*
3. Pittsburgh* 4. Notre Dame
2 line 8. Purdue
7. Florida* 6. San Diego State
5. Duke
3 line 9. BYU* 10. North Carolina
11. Syracuse 
12. Texas
4 line 16. St. John's
15. Louisville
14. Kentucky 13. Wisconsin
5 line 17. Arizona
18. Connecticut
19. Xavier* 20. West Virginia
6 line 24. Temple 23. Cincinnati 22. Kansas State 21. Vanderbilt
7 line 25. Georgetown
26. Texas A&M 27. UNLV 28. Old Dominion*
8 line 32.  Missouri 31.  UCLA
30. George Mason
29. Florida State
9 line 33. Tennessee  34. Utah State
35. Gonzaga*
36. Marquette
10 line 40. Villanova 39. Butler*
38. Michigan
37. Illinois
11 line 41. Washington 42. Georgia
43. Richmond
44. St. Mary's
12 line 48. Clemson
(First Four)
47. Virginia Tech
(First Four)
46. Michigan State
(First Four)
45. Boston College
13 line 49. Colorado
(First Four)
50. UAB* 51. Belmont*
(13 seeds begin)
52. Harvard*
14 line 56. Kent State* 55. Wofford*
(14 seeds begin)
54. Indiana State*
53. Oakland*
15 line 57. Bucknell*
58. Long Beach State*
59. Morehead State*
(15 seeds begin)
60. St. Peter's*
16 line 64. UNC Asheville* 63. Boston University*
(16 seeds begin)
62. Northern Colorado* 61. Long Island*
17 line
(First Four)
65. Arkansas-Little Rock* 66. Bethune-Cookman* 67. McNeese State*
68. Texas Southern*
First Four Out
69. Alabama 70. USC 71. Memphis 72. Penn State
Next Four Out
76. Washington State 75. Missouri State 74. Colorado State 73. VCU

 

National Semifinal Matchups

(1) Southwest vs. (4) West
(2) East vs. (3) Southeast

First Four

Automatic Bid Teams
March 15: Bethune-Cookman (MEAC) vs. ARKANSAS-LITTLE ROCK (Sun Belt) (NEW) to Washington on March 17th
March 16: McNeese State (Southland) vs. Texas Southern (SWAC) to Cleveland on March 18th

At-Large Teams (Last Four In)
March 15: Michigan State vs. Virginia Tech to Denver on March 17th
March 16: Clemson vs. Colorado to Cleveland on March 18th

Next Four In (automatically in the Round of 64): Georgia, Richmond, St. Mary's, Boston College

Previous seeds are in parentheses. Teams that have earned an auto bid are in ALL CAPS.

SOUTHWEST
San Antonio (March 25 and 27)
EAST
Newark (March 25 and 27)
Tulsa (Fri/Sun)
Cleveland (Fri/Sun)
1. Kansas (Big 12)
16. UNC ASHEVILLE (Big South)
1.  Ohio State (Big Ten)
16. McNeese State/Texas Southern
8. George Mason
9. Tennessee
8. Missouri
9. Marquette (11) 
Denver (Thu/Sat)
Tucson (Thu/Sat)
5. Arizona
12. Michigan State/Virginia Tech
5. Xavier (Atlantic 10)
12. Boston College
4. Louisville
13. BELMONT (Atlantic Sun) (12)
4. St. John's
13. INDIANA STATE (Missouri Valley)
Charlotte (Fri/Sun) Washington (Thu/Sat)
6. Kansas State
11. Richmond 
6. Vanderbilt
11. Washington
3. North Carolina (ACC)
14. Bucknell (Patriot)
3. Syracuse
14. WOFFORD (Southern)
Chicago (Fri/Sun) Charlotte (Fri/Sun)
7. Georgetown (6) 
10. BUTLER (Horizon) (11)
7. UNLV
10. Illinois
2. Purdue
15. MOREHEAD STATE (Ohio Valley)
2. Duke
15. ST. PETER'S (Metro Atlantic)
WEST
(Anaheim: March 24 and 26)
SOUTHEAST
(New Orleans: March 24 and 26)
Chicago (Fri/Sun)
Washington (Thu/Sat)
1. Notre Dame
16. Boston University (America East)
1. Pittsburgh (Big East)
16. Bethune-Cookman/UALR
8. UCLA
9. GONZAGA (West Coast)
8. Florida State
9. Utah State (WAC)
Cleveland (Fri/Sun)
Tampa (Thu/Sat)
5. West Virginia
12. Clemson/Colorado
5. Connecticut
12. UAB (Conference USA)
4. Kentucky
13. OAKLAND (Summit)
4. Wisconsin
13. Harvard (Ivy)
Tulsa (Fri/Sun)
Denver (Thu/Sat)
6. Cincinnati
11. Georgia
6. Temple (7)
11. St. Mary's
3. Texas
14. Long Beach State (Big West) (15)
3. BYU (Mountain West)
14. Kent State (MAC)
Tucson (Thu/Sat)
Tampa (Thu/Sat)
7. OLD DOMINION (Colonial)
10. Michigan
7. Texas A&M
10. Villanova (9) 
2. San Diego State
15. NORTHERN COLORADO (Big Sky)
2. Florida (SEC)
15. LONG ISLAND (Northeast)


Conference Breakdown

Big East: 11
ACC, Big Ten, Big 12: 6
SEC: 5
A-10, MWC, Pac-10: 3
CAA, WCC: 2
21 one-bid conferences

RPI-Only Bracket

The second S-curve and bracket in this post are based solely on the RPI. I only made minor tweaks to fulfill the biggest bracketing rules (preventing early conference rematches, keeping teams from playing on their home floor. separating the first three teams in a conference when possible). However, I didn't go out of my way to prevent first weekend regular season rematches.

Teams in bold have clinched their respective league's automatic bid.

1 line 1. Kansas* 2. Ohio State* 3. San Diego State 4. BYU*
2 line 8. Purdue 7. Pittsburgh* 6. North Carolina* 5. Duke
3 line 9. Notre Dame 10. Florida* 11. Georgetown 12. Kentucky
4 line 16. Arizona* 15. West Virginia 14. Texas 13. Wisconsin
5 line 17. Utah State* 18. Syracuse 19. Kansas State 20. Xavier*
6 line 24. UNLV 23. St. John's 22. Old Dominion* 21. Louisville
7 line 25. Connecticut 26. Vanderbilt 27. George Mason 28. UAB*
8 line 32. Missouri 31. Cincinnati 30. Texas A&M 29. Temple
9 line 33. UCLA 34. Harvard* 35. Butler* 36. Tennessee
10 line 40. Illinois 39. Georgia 38. Memphis (NEW) 37. Villanova
11 line 41. Cleveland State (NEW) 42. Missouri State (NEW) 43. Colorado State (NEW) 44. Boston College
12 line 48. St. Mary's
(First Four)
47. Michigan State
(First Four)
46. Washington 45. Florida State
13 line 49. Princeton (NEW)
(First Four)
50. VCU (NEW)
(First Four)
51. Oakland*
(13 seeds begin)
52. Belmont*
14 line 56. Bucknell* 55. Long Island*
(14 seeds begin)
54. Morehead State*
53. Gonzaga*
15 line 57. Kent State* 58. Indiana State* 59. Long Beach State*
(15 seeds begin)
60. St. Peter's*
16 line 64. UNC Asheville* 63. Boston University*
(16 seeds begin)
62. Northern Colorado* 61. Wofford*
17 line
(First Four)
65. McNeese State* 66. Texas Southern* 67. Arkansas-Little Rock* 68. Bethune-Cookman*
First Four Out
69. Marshall Thundering Herd 70. Southern Miss. Golden Eagles 71. Penn State 72. Michigan
Next Four Out
76. Wichita St. Shockers 75. UTEP Miners 74. Clemson 73. Richmond

 

National Semifinal Matchups

(1) Southwest vs. (4) Southeast
(2) East vs. (3) West

First Four

Automatic Bid Teams
March 15: ARKANSAS-LITTLE ROCK (Sun Belt) vs. Bethune-Cookman (MEAC) to Denver on March 17th
March 16: McNeese State (Southland) vs. Texas Southern (SWAC) to Tulsa on March 18th

At-Large Teams (Last Four In)
March 15: Princeton Tigers (NEW) vs. St. Mary's to Tucson on March 17th
March 16: Michigan State vs. VCU (NEW) to Tulsa on March 18th

Next Four In (automatically in the Round of 64): Colorado State, Boston College, Florida State, Washington

Teams that have earned an auto bid are in ALL CAPS.

SOUTHWEST
San Antonio (March 25 and 27)
EAST
Newark (March 25 and 27)
Tulsa (Fri/Sun)
Cleveland (Fri/Sun)
1. Kansas (Big 12)
16. McNeese State/Texas Southern
1. Ohio State(Big Ten)
16. UNC ASHEVILLE (Big South)
8. Cincinnati
9. Harvard (ivy)
8. Temple
9. UCLA
Denver (Thu/Sat)
Tucson (Thu/Sat)
5. Utah State (WAC)
12. Florida State
5. Kansas State
12. Princeton/St. Mary's
4. Arizona (Pac-10)
13. Oakland (Summit)
4. West Virginia
13. BELMONT (Atlantic Sun)
Chicago (Fri/Sun) Tampa (Thu/Sat)
6. UNLV
11. Boston College
6. St. John's
11. Colorado State (NEW)
3. Notre Dame
14. Kent State (MAC)
3. Florida (SEC)
14. INDIANA STATE (Missouri Valley)
Chicago (Fri/Sun) Washington (Thu/Sat)
7. Connecticut
10. Georgia
7.  George Mason
10. Illinois
2. Purdue
15. MOREHEAD STATE (Ohio Valley)
2. Pittsburgh (Big East)
15. ST. PETER'S (Metro Atlantic)
SOUTHEAST
(New Orleans: March 24 and 26)
WEST
(Anaheim: March 24 and 26)
Denver (Thu/Sat)
Tucson (Thu/Sat)
1. BYU (MWC)
16. UALR/Bethune-Cookman
1. San Diego State
16. Boston University (America East)
8. Missouri
9. Tennessee
8. Texas A&M
9. Butler (Horizon)
Washington (Thu/Sat)
Tulsa (Fri/Sun)
5. Syracuse
12. Cleveland State
5. Xavier (Atlantic 10)
12. Michigan State/VCU
4. Wisconsin
13. MOREHEAD STATE (OVC)
4. Texas
13. Gonzaga (WCC)
Cleveland (Fri/Sun)
Tampa (Thu/Sat)
6. Louisville
11. Washington
6. OLD DOMINION (CAA)
11. Missouri State (NEW)
3. Kentucky
14. LONG ISLAND (Northeast)
3. Georgetown
14. Bucknell (Patriot)
Charlotte (Fri/Sun)
Charlotte (Fri/Sun)
7. UAB (C-USA)
10. Villanova
7. Vanderbilt
10. Memphis (NEW)
2. Duke
15. NORTHERN COLORADO (Big Sky)
2. North Carolina (ACC)
15. WOFFORD (Southern)


Conference Breakdown

Big East: 10
Big Ten, Big 12, SEC: 5
ACC, MWC: 4
CAA, Pac-10: 3
A-10, C-USA, Horizon, Ivy, MVC, WCC: 2
17 one-bid conferences

The best thing about this RPI-only bracket is that a whopping 14 conferences receive more than one bid, and eight at-larges come from below the Red Line. However, the seeding doesn't take into account how teams are playing right now, with their current roster. (See three seed Georgetown.) The seeding also shows that going merely by the RPI doesn't allow the committee to go inside the numbers. Take UAB, a 12 seed in my Thursday projection (and out on Friday's after their C-USA quarterfinal loss to East Carolina), for example. In this bracket, they'd be a seven, despite having only one win over a Top 50 team (VCU) and several over teams rated between 51-100 who don't have much hope for selection in the real world.

Remember, the RPI is not a basketball-specific tool; thus, it can be used to rate any sport. And even though the NCAA has tweaked the base formula, it's still not perfect. By design, it requires users to go deeper into the numbers and not accept them as truth.

KenPom.com Bracket

The final S-curve and bracket for this post are based solely on the ratings found at KenPom.com. Since this is a more predictive ratings system than the RPI, expect this look to be radically different. I followed the same rules as in the RPI-only bracket, so my tweaking is minimal.

I decided to add this projection because of some chatter on Twitter about whether the Selection Committee uses more advanced statistical tools, like Ken Pomeroy's ratings, when evaluating teams. Evidence suggests they don't, but I figured a bracket based on this ranking system was a worthy avenue to explore.

Teams in bold have clinched their respective league's automatic bid.

1 line 1. Ohio State* 2. Kansas* 3. Duke 4. Purdue
2 line 8. BYU* 7. Wisconsin 6. Pittsburgh* 5. Texas
3 line 9. San Diego State
10. Kentucky 11. North Carolina*
12. Syracuse
4 line 16. Washington 15. Notre Dame
14. Louisville 13. Utah State*
5 line 17. Cincinnati 18. Illinois 19. Florida*
20. Belmont*
6 line 24. Kansas State
23. Connecticut 22. UNLV 21. West Virginia
7 line 25. Missouri 26. Georgetown 27. Vanderbilt
28.  George Mason
8 line 32. St. John's
31. Villanova 30. Marquette 29. Arizona*
9 line 33. Gonzaga* 34. Clemson 35. Xavier* 36. Maryland (NEW)
10 line 40. Florida State
39. UCLA 38. Temple 37. Virginia Tech
11 line 41. New Mexico (NEW) 42. USC (NEW) 43. Michigan State
44. Michigan
12 line 48. Washington State (NEW)
(First Four)
47. Alabama (NEW)
(First Four)
46. Texas A&M
(First Four)
45. Nebraska (NEW) (First Four)
13 line 49. Old Dominion* 50. UAB* 51. Butler*
(13 seeds begin)
52. Oakland*
14 line 56. Bucknell* 55. Wofford*
(14 seeds begin)
54. Long Beach State*
53. Harvard*
15 line 57. Morehead State* 58. Indiana State* 59. St. Peter's*
(15 seeds begin)
60. Long Island*
16 line 64. Boston University* 63. UNC Asheville*
(16 seeds begin)
62. Kent State* 61. Northern Colorado*
17 line
(First Four)
65. Arkansas-Little Rock* 66. McNeese State* 67. Texas Southern* 68. Bethune-Cookman*
First Four Out
69. Penn State
70. St. Mary's
71. Richmond 72. Tennessee
Next Four Out
76. Colorado 75. Duquesne
74. Minnesota 73.Georgia

 

National Semifinal Matchups

(1) East vs. (4) West
(2) Southwest vs. (3) Southeast

First Four

Automatic Bid Teams
March 15: McNeese State (Southland) vs. Texas Southern (SWAC) to Chicago on March 18th
March 16: ARKANSAS-LITTLE ROCK (Sun Belt) vs. Bethune-Cookman (MEAC) to Cleveland on March 18th

At-Large Teams (Last Four In)
March 15: Alabama (NEW) vs. Texas A&M to Tucson on March 17th
March 16: Nebraska (NEW) vs. Washington State (NEW) to Cleveland on March 18th

Next Four In (automatically in the Round of 64): New Mexico, USC, Michigan State, Michigan

Teams that have earned an auto bid are in ALL CAPS.

EAST
Newark (March 25 and 27)
SOUTHWEST
San Antonio (March 25 and 27)
Cleveland (Fri/Sun)
Tulsa (Fri/Sun)
1. Ohio State (Big Ten)
16.UALR/Bethune-Cookman
1. Kansas (Big 12)
16. Boston University (America East)
8. St. John's
9. Maryland (NEW)
8. Villanova
9. Clemson
Denver (Thu/Sat)
Tucson (Thu/Sat)
5. Cincinnati
12. UAB (C-USA)
5. Illinois
12. Alabama/Texas A&M
4. Washington
13. Butler (Horizon)
4. Utah State (WAC)
13. Oakland (Summit)
Tucson (Thu/Sat) Tampa (Thu/Sat)
6. Kansas State
11. USC (NEW)
6. Connecticut
11. New Mexico (NEW)
3. San Diego State
14. INDIANA STATE (MVC)
3. Kentucky
14. MOREHEAD STATE (OVC)
Chicago (Fri/Sun) Washington (Thu/Sat)
7. Georgetown
10. Florida State
7.  Missouri
10. UCLA
2. Wisconsin
15. ST. PETER'S (MAAC)
2. Pittsburgh (Big East)
15. LONG ISLAND (NEC)
WEST
(Anaheim: March 24 and 26)
SOUTHEAST
(New Orleans: March 24 and 26)
Chicago (Fri/Sun)
Charlotte (Fri/Sun)
1. Purdue
16. McNeese State/Texas Southern
1. Duke
16. UNC ASHEVILLE (Big South)
8. Arizona
9. GONZAGA (WCC)
8. Marquette
9. Xavier (A-10)
Tampa (Thu/Sat)
Cleveland (Fri/Sun)
5. BELMONT (Atlantic Sun)
12. OLD DOMINION (CAA)
5. Florida (SEC)
12. Nebraska/Washington State
4. Notre Dame
13. Long Beach State (Big West)
4. Louisville
13. Harvard (Ivy)
Charlotte (Fri/Sun)
Washington (Thu/Sat)
6. West Virginia
11. MIchigan
6. UNLV
11. Michigan State
3. North Carolina (ACC)
14. WOFFORD (Southern)
3. Syracuse
14. Bucknell (Patriot)
Tulsa (Fri/Sun)
Denver (Thu/Sat)
7. Vanderbilt
10. Temple
7. George Mason
10. Virginia Tech
2. Texas
15. Kent State (MAC)
2. BYU (MWC)
15. NORTHERN COLORADO (Big Sky)


Conference Breakdown

Big East: 11
ACC, Big Ten, Big 12: 6
Pac-10: 5
MWC, SEC: 4
A-10, CAA: 2
22 one-bid conferences

Since Kem Pomeroy's ratings incorporate a team's level of competitiveness, some of these seedings are particularly surprisng, like Washington and Utah State finding themselves on the four line and Belmont rising up to a five. Luck, via the Pythagorean winning percentage, is a key piece of the ratings system, so teams that lose a lot of close games do better than they would in other rankings.

For me, the key takeaway from this bracket is that the selection process would favor the major conference, as just two teams from below the Red Line would make it in as an at-large based on the KenPom ratings, but teams that rolled through their conferences (Belmont and Utah State) would be rewarded in the seeding process.

Note that the Big East received 11 bids in this projection and 10 in the RPI-based one.

While it's interesting to look at alternate selection approaches and metrics, I firmly believe the system we have now is the best way to do things. That's not to say that it's perfect, as it's not, thanks to the potential of over-reliance on the RPI, the ignorance of other metrics, and the fact that the administrators who are appointed on the committee have other things to deal with to spend the majority of the five months from November to March focusing on hoops alone. (I'm looking at you, Gene Smith.)

Perhaps it's time to get basketball voices, not people who may know their stuff but who have to deal with 15 to 20 other sports too, more involved in the process.

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