"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

What's the NET Worth?

In 2011, the NCAA field expanded to 68. That change allowed lower RPI teams into the field than ever before. In the 8 years that followed, 10 teams made the NCAA field as at-large teams with RPI ratings below 60. The two worst RPI teams to get in were #67 USC in 2011 & #66 Arizona State in 2018. In general, sub-60 teams making the field were rare & sub-65 teams were veritable unicorns. With that in mind, I'm shocked that in the first year of the NET, the majority of the brackets at bracketmatrix.com have not just one but two sub-65 teams in the field.

Those teams are #66 St. John's & #67 Arizona State. While both have some big, flashy wins on their resume, they also have abysmal non-con schedules & bad losses not befitting at-large teams. If the first Top-16 reveal was any indicator, there is a formula for disappointing the Selection Committee. I pointed out after that reveal that 14/16 top-16 NET teams were in the top-16 reveal & the only exceptions had abysmal NCSOS numbers. If that is any indicator of what the Selection Committee will do, teams like St. John's & Arizona State will be left out in favor of either smaller schools that challenged themselves like Belmont & Lipscomb or high-major schools with better NET & NCSOS rankings like Creighton.

This is the first year of the NET & the Top-16 reveal indicated it will be very important in the Committee's seeding. The only two top-16 teams left out of the reveal (Virginia Tech & Texas Tech) were both mentioned as 5-seeds. The other two teams mentioned as 5-seeds were ranked 17th (LSU) & 19th (Villanova) in the NET at the time. The Selection Committee basically told the entire country "we are going to use this metric heavily" & yet people still have the #66 & #67 teams in while teams in the 30s & 40s are left out.

Personally, the lowest at-large NET team I have in the field is #62 Seton Hall, who has a NCSOS ranked 100 & better Q1 chops than St. John's or Arizona State. UNC-Greensboro is the next lowest at #57 & is aided by their insanely low Average NET Loss of #16, which is the 6th best average loss in the country. Every team with a better number is seeded on the 2-line or higher. Quite simply, no one has beat the Spartans that isn't really good.

One other more traditional number to look at is total wins. In the modern era, no team has earned an at-large bid with fewer than 17 wins. Currently on the Matrix, Texas is safely in with 16 wins (could be vying for a bid as a 16-16 at-large) & Florida is in with 17 wins. Indiana & Alabama are both in the First Four Out with 17 wins. Will those teams get strong consideration if they can't make some noise in the conference tournaments? Again, looking back to 2011-13, would any of those teams have been given any consideration with a 17-15 record?

I'll be the first to say I could be wrong. Maybe the Selection Committee will put their brand new metric that the NCAA put a ton of time & effort into to the side & act like it's less meaningful than the RPI by putting 2 unicorns into the same field. Maybe the newly low & mid-major membership of the Committee will reward mediocre high-majors like the trend we saw in the past 5 years with a Committee whose membership was slanted more towards high-majors than any time in recent history. But between the membership, the NET, & the Top-16 reveal, I feel like the writing is on the wall for programs like St. John's & Arizona State. Win some games this week or you will be left out.

Here's the updated S-Curve, with few changes:

1-Seeds: 1-VIRGINIA, 2-GONZAGA, 3-North Carolina, 4-Duke
2-Seeds: 8-Michigan, 7-MICHIGAN STATE, 6-Tennessee, 5-Kentucky
3-Seeds: 9-Texas Tech, 10-HOUSTON, 11-LSU, 12-Purdue
4-Seeds: 16-KANSAS STATE, 15-Wisconsin, 14-Florida State, 13-Kansas
5-Seeds: 17-Virginia Tech, 18-Marquette, 19-VILLANOVA, 20-Maryland
6-Seeds: 24-NEVADA, 23-BUFFALO, 22-Misissippi State, 21-WOFFORD
7-Seeds: 25-Iowa State, 26-Auburn, 27-Utah State, 28-VCU
8-Seeds: 32-Iowa, 31-Louisville, 30-Cincinnati, 29-WASHINGTON
9-Seeds: 33-Mississippi, 34-Baylor, 35-Syracuse, 36-Ucf
10-Seeds: 40-Minnesota, 39-Seton Hall, 38-Temple, 37-Oklahoma
11-Seeds: 41-Belmont, 42-Tcu, 43-Ohio State, 44-Unc Greensboro
12-Seeds: 50-Nc State/49-Lipscomb, 48-Clemson/47-Creighton, 46-LIBERTY, 45-MURRAY STATE

Last Four Byes: Belmont, TCU, Ohio State, UNC-Greensboro
Last Four In: Creighton, Clemson, Lipscomb,NC State
First Four Out: St. John's, Florida, Texas, Indiana
Next Four Out: Furman, Arizona State, Alabama, Georgetown

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