Mmmmmmm. Those are some mighty fine seeds…wait, what?
Sunflower seeds are delicious (especially those BBQ-dusted ones). But as a diehard Kentucky fan, I prefer different type of seed – number one overall seeds in the NCAA Tournament. They are my favorite. In fact, they are empirically the best. They provide you with the best statistical chance (theoretically, if the selection committee does their job well) to win the National Championship.
With the Wildcats sitting atop the all the top-25 polls for the fourth straight week, any logical person would assume that sweeping the rest of the SEC season and winning the SEC tournament in New Orleans would lead to an easy number one overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Right? Of course.
Not so fast my reasonable friends.
The good folks over at The Big Lead threw up this post today asking whether Syracuse would be more deserving of the #1 overall seed in the selection committee’s mind, in that case that both UK and ‘Cuse win out. At first this may seem ridiculous – how could the consensus number one ranked team in America not get the highest seed in the greatest sports event of the year?! Well, apparently the term ‘concensus’ is open to debate. The selection committee’s criteria involves taking into account much more than just the public’s and coaches’.
The Big Lead broke down the resume of each team, including the selection committee’s often criticized criteria. Take a look:
RPI: Syracuse 1, Kentucky 3
Strength of Schedule: Syracuse 11, Kentucky 73
Non-conference Strength of Schedule: Syracuse 30, Kentucky 113
Record vs. RPI Top 25: Syracuse 5-0, Kentucky 4-1
Record vs. the RPI Top 26-50: Syracuse 3-1, Kentucky 2-0
Kentucky’s best four wins — vs. UNC (at Rupp), vs. Kansas (neutral in November), vs. Louisville (Rupp), vs. Florida (Rupp). Best road win so far? Vanderbilt.
Syracuse’s best four wins — vs. Florida (home), vs. Marquette (home), vs. Georgetown (home), vs. Louisville (road). Best road win so far? Louisville.
TBL consents that, right now, UK’s best two wins of UNC and Kansas look much better than Syracuse’s wins against Marquette and Georgetown. Also, they bring in the KenPom numbers. Pomeroy’s algorithm currently shows 1) OSU 2) UK 3) KU 4) MSU 5) Wisky 6) Syracuse, which is another factor that play’s into UK’s factor. Everyone knows the RPI is a skewed and overvalued number, but so much talk revolves around it come Selection Sunday.
But let’s be honest. This Kentucky team is damn good. As the most talented team in the country, they shouldn’t fear anyone. I have faith in these Cats against any team in America if they play anywhere near their potential. But therein lies the rub – the NCAA Tournament is an event in which teams can play both well above and well below their abilities. Throw in a bit of luck (which is another factor that makes it the best sporting event in America), and you’ve got a formula that says there’s a good chance your on-paper dominance doesn’t matter.
This is why having the number one overall seed is important to ultra-elite teams like the Wildcats. In order to give themselves the best chance, they need that top seed so that they don’t end up squaring off against the best #2 seed, #3 seed, etc. Yes, theoretically, this team doesn’t need the help of seeding. But anything can happen in March, especially when you’ve got a target on your back.
What do y’all say? I think it’s clear that, if both teams win out, UK is more deserving of the top seed. Take your silly numbers like RPI and downplay their significance, selection committee. This isn’t about what the computer says. While stats are important, a dominating season like the one put on by the Kentucky Wildcats if they close out an undefeated SEC season cannot be challenged for the nation’s top spot.
Here’s a look at the probable #2 seeds at this point according to TBL: Michigan State, UNC, Duke, and Kansas. All of them would be tough outs, so playing the lowest seeded one at the time would be nice. This all probably doesn’t matter, though – the selection committee is sure to blow the seeding this year, just as they did last year by throwing OSU, UNC, and UK into the same regional.