One of the major talking points after the release of the brackets on Selection Sunday is who got snubbed and who should have been in. If you've read much here at Banners, you'll know the weight we put on Ken Pomeroy's numbers and the work he does. KenPom is, by far, the premier stats guy on the college basketball scene. Using his numbers and research there are a handful of interesting storylines in this year's bracket.
SMU is the one that everyone is hammering on right now. Media pundits are walking around blowing on about how non conference scheduling matters (SMU did play Arkansas and Virginia), while also vehemently fluffing Wichita St, who played exactly no one. The Mustangs did themselves no favors by losing to Houston last week, but they are the highest ranked (30th) team in KenPom to not make the field. Louisiana Tech (35th), Utah (36th), St. John's (38th), Florida St. (41st), and Maryland (43rd) all also have decent arguments to make. While Clemson (51st) and Georgetown (54th) are the last two who probably have any sort of complaint at all.
The lowest at large to get in? That would be Xavier's opponent, NC State. I've always liked the Wolfpack because they aren't UNC or Duke, but they really don't deserve a bid this year. They finished 66th in the KenPom this year, two spots below Colorado, who somehow managed an eight seed. That doesn't make sense, but this is the NCAA, not a logical organization.
We've regularly mocked the American for being roundly mediocre despite all their desperate self-hype, and it seems the committee agreed. Louisville (#2 in KenPom) was slapped in the face with a four seed. UC and UConn, 24th and 25th in KenPom, got five and seven seeds respectively. SMU got snubbed, and Memphis snuck in as an eight seed with their 45th ranking. Just a thought here, but maybe having UCF, Rutgers, South Florida, and Houston on your slate doesn't help.
That brings us to Xavier in the play in game in a hostile arena. First, Dayton was 53rd in KenPom, had their best win (Gonzaga) the day before Thanksgiving. They shouldn't be in. They are though, and they missed the play-in. Are there at large teams ranked below Xavier that avoided the play-in? Yes, try ten of them. BYU, UMass, Nebraska, George Washington, and Arizona St. are all well below Xavier in the Pomeroy rankings and avoided having to play their way in and, more importantly, avoided having to recognize that the city of Dayton exists.
Finally, here's how the KenPom rankings see the field. I'll include on extra team as an 11 seed, one as a 12 seed, and one extra 16 seed. The team listed first on each line is the one with the highest ranking.
#1 Seeds: Arizona, Louisville, Florida, Virginia
#2 Seeds: Wichita, Villanova, Duke, Creighton
#3 Seeds: Kansas, Michigan St, Wisconsin, VCU
#4 Seeds: Tennessee, Michigan, Syracuse, UCLA
#5 Seeds: UK, Pitt, Ohio St., Gonzaga
#6 Seeds: SDSU, Ok St, Iowa St. UC
#7 Seeds: UConn, UNC, Iowa, New Mexico
#8 Seeds: Oklahoma, Oregon, Baylor, Harvard
#9 Seeds: Saint Louis, Stanford, Texas, Providence
#10 Seeds: Xavier, Kansas St, Memphis, George Washington
#11 Seeds: Arizona St, St. Joe's, BYU, UMass, Dayton,
#12 Seeds: North Dakota St, Stephen F. Austin, Colorado, NC St, Manhattan
#13 Seeds: Tulsa, New Mexico St, North Carolina Central, American
#14 Seeds: Mercer, Delaware, Western Michigan, Louisiana-Lafayette
#15 Seeds: EKU, Milwaukee, Weber St, Cal Poly
#16 Seeds: Albany, Wofford, Mt. St. Mary's, Coastal Carolina, Texas Southern
What jumps out is that the Pomeroy rankings think that Tennessee is massively underseeded, UMass and Saint Louis of the Atlantic 10 are overseeded, and that Xavier did get placed a couple of lines too low. What also jumps out from this list is that the chances for the big upset that makes all the headlines are quite limited. We have a human system right now, and that plays a part in making this week so great.