Vukovcan: Pitt Basketball’s Lack of Respect from Bracketologists Still Mind Boggling
If you’ve followed my twitter account over the past couple of months, you might have detected an obsession I have, and it deals with the seeding of the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
My issue and obsession deal with the formula and factors that these ‘expert bracketologists’ use to determine their seedings for March Madness.
Some will say, “Who cares, it’s no big deal. These guys aren’t on the NCAA committee and won’t be making the seeds on Selection Sunday.” While that’s technically true, the reality is that the brackets that are revealed by the committee often times mirror what’s been forecasted for weeks.
The sad and unfortunate truth is that, the days of knowing who a tournament team is by simply looking at their resume, their non-conference schedule, conference record and head-to-head matchups are long gone. Now it’s all about metrics, offensive and defensive efficiency, margin of victory and where outlets like the NET and KenPom have you slotted.
One of, if not the biggest victim of this new way of determining who an NCAA Tournament team is the Pitt Panthers.
The fact that they’re universally viewed as an 8, 9 or 10 seed is a complete joke and calls into question this entire process.
In normal times, any team that is leading the ACC with a 14-4 record and 21 wins overall isn’t on the bubble. Instead, they would be viewed as a No. 3 seed, at the very least a No. 4 seed. But these aren’t normal times, these are the NET and KenPom times. By the way, only No. 2 Alabama and No. 4 UCLA have more conference wins than Pitt.
But the Panthers are on the bubble.
To borrow a phrase from the great Chuck Noll, this new March Madness system’s problems are many and they are great.
I could make this column 4,000 words but I’ll spare you that and just say that one of, if not the biggest problem that currently exists is the random and subjective determination of strength of conference.
Because everyone in college basketball has determined that the collection of teams in Big 12 are the greatest group ever assembled, no team ever gets penalized for losing and virtually every game is a Quad One win. If a team loses, it’s excused because it was a Big 12 loss. All I’ll say about the Big 12 is they had better get at least two, if not three, teams in the Final Four to live up to all the praise they’re receiving.
On the other hand, because the national experts say the ACC is garbage this season, it’s impossible to do anything impressive during the conference season. The ACC would obviously be viewed differently if Coach K was still on the sidelines and North Carolina wasn’t having a down year.
I could go on and on, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a few ACC teams (Duke, Miami, North Carolina, Pitt) make a nice run in the NCAA Tournament.
Pitt’s potential run could get comprised if they’re unfairly placed as a No. 8 or No. 9 seed, because of potentially playing the No. 1 seed in the Second Round.
As of this morning, Jeff Capel’s team is No. 52 in the latest NET Rankings, which is just mind boggling.
Here are some of the biggest mistakes that I currently see with the current NET Rankings.
*All the Mountain West Conference teams, except San Diego St., that are ahead of Pitt. The NET loves the Mountain West and for no good reason because their non-conference resume is non-existent. The two most overrated of these teams are Nevada and Boise State. If the ACC’s teams were to play the Mountain West Conference teams in a midseason tournament, the ACC would dominate, but not according to the computers.
CURRENT MWC NET RANKINGS
New Mexico, No. 48
Utah State, No. 32
Nevada, No. 30
Boise State, No. 29
San Diego St., No. 15
*Pitt is No. 52 but Oral Roberts is No. 44, Liberty is No. 41, North Texas is No. 51 and Florida Atlantic is No. 19. I’m trying to keep from laughing too hard.
*Oklahoma State is No. 46 but is 16-13 and lost to every meaningful non-conference opponent, such as UConn, Virginia Tech, Central Florida and Southern Illinois.
*I could bring up West Virginia and their 16-13 overall and 5-11 conference record, which is next to last place, but I won’t. They’re still being discussed because they’re No. 27 in the NET and play in the “greatest conference ever assembled”.
*Rutgers is No. 35 but is 17-11 and has non-conference losses to Temple, Miami, Seton Hall and bad losses to Ohio State and Michigan.
*Despite leading the ACC, Pitt trails North Carolina in the NET although they beat them twice and UNC is only 1-9 against Quad One opponents. The Panthers trail NC State despite leading them by three games in the conference and beating them on the road. And they also trail Miami despite beating them head-to head. Looking at the Canes, their only two meaningful non-conference wins were against Rutgers and Providence.
CURRENT ACC NET RANKINGS
Pitt, No. 52
North Carolina, No. 47
NC State, No. 42
Miami, No. 34
Virginia, No. 28
Duke, No. 25
Hey, I get it, things change and most times it’s for the better but that’s not the case here. Metrics should have some role but not as much as currently exists.
If the old fashion eye test and common sense factors were used, Pitt would be a No. 3 seed instead of still battling to get in.
The good news is that for the first time in seven years, the Pitt Basketball team and fans are having March Madness conversation which is better than the alternative.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Mountain West teams do get that kind of respect when it comes to tournament seeding. I sorta hope so, so I can bet against them.
Get a good ACC tournament run with a regular season championship and hopefully squeak out a 5 or 6 seed. Honestly I’d rather see Pitt with a 6 seed if not a Top 3 seed. They’ll get fairly decent matchups and avoid 1 seeds until late in 2nd weekend. Most 3-5 seeds will be beatable opponents for Pitt.
I think one of the better metrics not used is road wins. Kansas is the only team in the Big 12 with positive road wins. It would be interesting to look at past tournaments, upsets, and see if the difference in road wins was a factor.
I am curious what Pitt’s NET ranking would be removing the first 4 games when they went 1-3. You would hope that someone determining the brackets would put that into consideration.
The Athletic (NYTimes) ran an article this week alluding to the focus on computer programs and that the selection committee may be discounting these “metrics”. Northwestern beat the #1 team in the nation recently and skyrocketed into the polls and the metrics. Pitt beating them by 29 this season has been discounted but WV’s victory over the Panthers by a similar score has not.
Who wrote the computer programs and what biases did they incorporate? Stay tuned.
Agreed…garbage in, garbage out.
My sentiments exactly. My bracket experiment this year will be to always advance the team with the higher NET/KenPom rating and see how it goes. That should be illuminating. I should also ask ChatGPT.
Iowa State of the Big12 which was ranked as high as #12 on Jan 23rd, went out of conference two games later and got thoroughly trashed by Missouri of the SEC, losing by 17 points. In their last 10 games, they are 3 wins 7 losses but somehow still ranked. And those losses include some of the Big12 bottom feeders like OK, OK State, TT & WVCC. They will probably be seeded higher than Pitt without even breaking 20 wins. Sitting at 17-11 & 8-8. I would think though they will finally be bumped from the next AP Top 25,
These NET rankings don’t seem to take into account much, that teams can get better thru the season and much better from the very early season, when players are new, lineups are still not set due to the incoming & outgoing of players on a wholesale basis. And they don’t seem to give much credit to Road Wins in the tough conferences. At least not to Pitt….who has one of the best Road Records in ALL of NCAAB among the major confs. Only bright thing is; Dixon Pitt teams were always high up in BPi & Kenpom rankings and usually… Read more »
❤️ it Mike .. but it’s college basketball not going to change
completely agree. saw today that someone mentioned UM dropping 6 places in one of these metrics for losing to FSU. We lost 15 places for a similar loss. What ? the #14 preseason pick losses to FSU and that is a bad loss but the “best” team in the ACC loses and its nothing. Unfortunately, it is a lose-lose for us. Early exit in the tourney will be an “I told you so” and better than expected will be “their opponent played poorly”. H2P!
Who would have thought we would have been having this conversation a yr ago?? Lol. Thought we would be talking about who would be the next coach of the Panthers. Glad I was wrong. Definitely should be a top 4 seed in the tourney. Top 3 if we win final 2 games and a few in the conference tourney.