Judging the NCAA Selection Committee (2006-2019)

Hello, college basketball fans!

I have been posting mock brackets all season. This will climax with a final bracket on Selection Sunday after all of the games have been played and before the final NCAA bracket is unveiled. The Big Ten Tournament final is usually scheduled for 3:30pm ET and the bracket is normally started at 6pm ET so there isn't much time to make changes after the Big Ten final (the AAC final is normally around 3pm ET as well).

The Bracket Matrix site collects my bracket as well as many brackets on the internet including many of the popular media brackets including CBS Sports' Jerry Palm, ESPN's Joe Lunardi, and FOX Sports' Michael DeCourcy. At the end of each season, the site counts the number of brackets each team is chosen in for the case of at large teams and the teams with the most number become the at large bids. A consensus "Bracket Matrix" bracket is created with teams seeded by the average seed of each team in the brackets. An example is the Bracket Matrix from 2019, the last NCAA Tournament. The website likes to compare the brackets to the actual NCAA field and gives each bracket a score as to how close each bracket is to the real one. This score is built under the assumption that the NCAA Selection Committee's bracket is correct which often I find not to be true. What I like to do is assume that the Bracket Matrix is correct and compare the Selection Committee to the Bracket Matrix. Now I can compare the Selection Committee to my own brackets but I can be biased. The Bracket Matrix grew from just 23 brackets in 2006 to 195 brackets in 2019. If a lot of bracketologists are putting a team into the NCAA field and the NCAA is leaving them out, I tend to believe it's the NCAA that is wrong, not the bracketologists.

Keep in mind that the NCAA Selection Committee is made of college/university athletic directors and conference commissioners. If one of their schools is selected for the NCAA Tournament, they gain. Do you see an obvious conflict of interest? I'm not saying all of them are biased or corrupt but there have been cases where I have seen pretty blatant favoritism towards teams with representation on the Selection Committee. Committee members by rule cannot vote on their own teams but who's to say there isn't any under the table deals between members or "you scratch my back. I'll scratch yours"?

George Mason University's athletic director Tom O'Connor was on the Selection Committee during the 2006 NCAA Tournament. His team was selected to make the NCAA's that season. A team that beat George Mason twice that year, including in the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament semifinals, Hofstra, was not selected. In the CAA semifinal, a GMU player punched a Hofstra player in the groin. George Mason made the Final Four that year. They also played their Sweet 16 and regional final games in Washington DC, practically in their backyard. Do you think it was a coincidence that they were assigned to that regional? George Mason was one of the teams that was not chosen by the Bracket Matrix to make the 2006 NCAA Tournament and Hofstra was chosen although it was pretty close (13 of 23 brackets chose Hofstra, 11 of 23 chose George Mason, it is possible that some brackets chose both or neither).

The 2006 NCAA Selection Committee was one of the worst in the history of the Bracket Matrix as they let in three teams that did not belong in the opinion of the Bracket Matrix (and consequentially left out three teams that did belong). The 2011 and 2016 Selection Committees also let in three teams that didn't belong. The two best committees were the 2013 and 2017 Selection Committees that chose the "correct" 68 teams.

In the 14 year history of the Bracket Matrix (last year doesn't count since there was no tournament), a total of 21 teams have been left out of the NCAA Tournament that belonged. Here are the teams and the percentage of brackets that they were chosen in, the higher the percentage means the more the team belonged in the NCAA Tournament.

Year Team Conference Brackets Possible %
2011 Virginia Tech ACC 87 89 97.75%
2007 Syracuse Big East 29 30 96.67%
2019 TCU Big 12 182 195 93.33%
2018 USC Pac 12 173 187 92.51%
2006 Missouri State MVC 21 23 91.30%
2015 Colorado State MWC 124 136 91.18%
2011 Colorado Big 12 81 89 91.01%
2015 Temple AAC 122 136 89.71%
2006 Cincinnati Big East 20 23 86.96%
2016 St. Bonaventure A-10 124 144 86.11%
2014 SMU AAC 96 121 79.34%
2016 St. Mary's WCC 94 144 65.28%
2008 Illinois State MVC 33 53 62.26%
2016 San Diego State MWC 83 144 57.64%
2006 Hofstra Colonial 13 23 56.52%
2012 Seton Hall Big East 65 115 56.52%
2011 St. Mary's WCC 49 89 55.06%
2007 Drexel Colonial 16 30 53.33%
2018 St. Mary's WCC 87 187 46.52%
2009 San Diego State MWC 28 61 45.90%
2010 Mississippi State SEC 32 83 38.55%

Of the 21 teams on the list, 10 of them were chosen by 80% of the brackets submitted for a given year. If any of those teams are left out in a given year, they definitely got screwed. Seven of the teams were chosen by 90% of the brackets including 2019's TCU.

Here's a list of the teams the NCAA chose that the Bracket Matrix did not. I listed Pac 12 for teams in the old Pac 10.

Year Team Conference Brackets Possible %
2016 Tulsa AAC 1 144 0.69%
2014 NC State ACC 3 121 2.48%
2006 Utah State WAC 1 23 4.35%
2006 Air Force MWC 1 23 4.35%
2012 Iona MAAC 7 115 6.09%
2015 UCLA Pac 12 14 136 10.29%
2018 Syracuse ACC 23 187 12.30%
2011 UAB C-USA 11 89 12.36%
2009 Arizona Pac 12 8 61 13.11%
2007 Arkansas SEC 5 30 16.67%
2011 VCU Colonial 15 89 16.85%
2010 Florida SEC 19 83 22.89%
2019 Belmont OVC 56 195 28.72%
2016 Vanderbilt SEC 46 144 31.94%
2011 USC Pac 12 29 89 32.58%
2018 Arizona State Pac 12 62 187 33.16%
2008 Oregon Pac 12 20 53 37.74%
2016 Syracuse ACC 55 144 38.19%
2007 Stanford Pac 12 13 30 43.33%
2006 George Mason Colonial 11 23 47.83%
2015 Mississippi SEC 80 136 58.82%

Of the 21 teams, 11 were chosen by less than 20% of the brackets for a given year. These teams clearly had no business in the NCAA Tournament. 5 of these teams were chosen by less than 10% of the brackets! George Mason was a corrupt pick but statistically they weren't the worst pick by the 2006 Selection Committee, they picked TWO teams that were chosen by ONE out of 23 brackets. The 2016 Committee made the worst pick in Bracket Matrix history, a Tulsa team that ONE bracket out of 144 brackets thought belonged in the NCAA field. I don't know if Tulsa's AD was on the 2016 Committee but if he or she was, would you think it's a coincidence that they made the field???

You can also look at the conferences to get a little more insight at the biases over the Bracket Matrix Era (2006-2019). St. Mary's has the distinction of being left out of the NCAA Tournament despite being chosen by the Bracket Matrix THREE times (2011, 2016, and 2018). All three of those years St. Mary's was a very debatable pick, in 2018 they were chosen by a minority of brackets (they would have been the last team in that year). The Big East has had three teams that belonged left out although none since 2012. MWC teams have also been left out three times. Of the 21 teams left out, 13 were "mid majors" (leaving out ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10/12, and SEC).

Looking at the list of "Selection Committee pets" you find the opposite is true. 13 are from the six power conferences and only 8 are from mid majors. In fact, none of the 13 are from the Big East so it's really 13 from the Power 5 FBS conferences. Even worse, none of the 13 are from the Big Ten or Big 12!

And it's pretty clear as to the conference that the NCAA Selection Committee is biased the most towards. It's the Pac-12 or as I like to call it, the Pathetic 12. Of the 21 teams that didn't belong in the NCAA Tournament, SIX of them are from the Pathetic 12! The list includes the 2009 Arizona team chosen by a whopping 13.11% of brackets (8 of 61) and the 2015 UCLA team chosen by just 10.29% (14 of 136). You wonder if the Selection Committee didn't just choose the name rather than the resume as Arizona and UCLA are big names in college basketball. Only one Pac-12 team that belonged didn't make the field, the 2018 USC team.

On the other hand, if you are in favor of mid majors and against the power conferences, the NCAA has screwed over some of the biggest powers including 2019 TCU and 2018 USC (92.51%) and has let in some mid majors like 2012 Iona (6.09%) although not as many (I'm not sure the MWC and WAC back in 2006 or the AAC today really qualify as mid majors).

If you are putting your bracket towards the NCAA Selection Committee, you'd probably want to be biased against the mid majors and towards the power conferences, especially the Pathetic 12.