Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Thank you all for the positive feedback, it is much appreciated and I'm glad that someone is reading all this. Today I will go through the teams that were overseeded by the committee and may be vulnerable to early upsets. Most of these teams are likely ones that you could point out already if you are an avid college basketball fan, but there might be some surprises, so take a gander and let me know what you think in the comments!
The introduction to what I'm doing can be found in the previous post on underseeded teams, at this URL: http://www.rockchalktalk.com/2013/3/18/4120404/comparing-efficiency-with-tournament-seeding
On to the comparisons!
Marquette (KP Rank: 25, Seed: 3)
The Golden Eagles are pretty much your classic "gritty" team that wins a lot of close games, gets a lot of press for being tough and doing the little things, and is mistrusted by the advanced stats community. Although Mark Cuban would tell you otherwise, a team that is consistently "clutch" in crunch time is a pretty rare commodity. I’m not here to get into a debate over statistics and the definition of "clutch" etc, but I generally try to avoid attributing the reasons a team wins to intangibles. I have to admit that last year’s Kansas team made me question that philosophy, but in general I don’t believe in "clutchness." So I would tell you to mistrust Marquette – this is a team that won a ton of close games (and also lost their fair share, as well) and was blown out by the two elite teams they played (Louisville and Florida). They are a worthy NCAA tournament team, but not the quality of your usual team that wins the Big East. So be wary of the fact that their pod seems easy – they can win both of their first two games, but I would bet that they are knocked out in either their first or second game before I would bet on them making it to the Sweet Sixteen.
Kansas State (KP Rank: 30, Seed: 4)
Ah Kansas State. We’ve been over this before (at least at BotC), but here they are. Why does Kenpom hate K-State so much? Well, as you can probably already guess, it is for many of the same reasons that apply to Marquette. K-State played a bad non-conference schedule, and did themselves no favors in the eyes of the computers by losing their only significant tests (other than Florida, obviously) and not consistently blowing out teams like Delaware, UMKC, and Texas Southern. However, unlike Marquette, K-State has an excuse. Those early season games were played while trying to incorporate Bruce Weber’s new motion offense, so it’s possible that could have had an effect on their ability to stretch out leads against overmatched opponents. There is some credence to this, as K-State was able to post a similar offensive efficiency in-conference compared to how they performed in the non-conference (to me, this heralds actual improvement, since a cakey non-conference artificially inflates those numbers and you would expect scoring to be significantly harder in conference play). However, K-State’s defense in conference play has been decently porous – 5th best in the conference, and significantly worse than the three teams that actually played good defense this season (KU, OSU, and Baylor). That’s been hidden by the slow pace that K-State plays at, but it is a big problem moving forward. I fully expect this team’s offense to be lethal in the NCAA tournament, but their defense (and in particular, their defensive rebounding) is going to have to improve if they want to be able to beat a team like, say, Gonzaga later on. Luckily, Wisconsin isn’t a great offensive rebounding team – the last thing you want to do is give a Bo Ryan team even more possessions on offense – but the fact that the Wiscy game is going to be played at a glacial pace on both ends makes it unlikely that the Cats will ever break that game open. It’s going to be a close one.
UNLV (KP Rank: 36, Seed: 5)
I’m not really sure how this team got a 5 seed. They played in a very good (if overrated) conference, and acquitted themselves decently. However, they have beaten exactly one good team on the road (San Diego State), and exactly one great team (or none, depending on how you feel about New Mexico). They also have somewhat puzzling losses to Fresno State (twice) and Air Force. That said, they beat some decent teams in conference, and are completely deserving of an 8 or 7 seed. Just not a 5. I don’t really like them against Cal, and I really don’t like them against Syracuse. A young team that doesn’t shoot the ball well (especially from three) and has problems holding onto the ball is not going to do well against Syracuse’s 2-3. Terrible matchup for them, in my mind.
Memphis (KP Rank: 39, Seed: 6)
It is somewhat ironic that Memphis sits in this spot this year, given that last year a much stronger Memphis team (8th in the country according to Kenpom) was absolutely shafted with an 8 seed…and then absolutely shafted again by being matched up against a woefully underseeded St. Louis team (14th in the country last year). That St. Louis team ended up losing by 4 to Michigan State…after one days rest, a position Tom Izzo’s teams traditionally thrive in. As such, due to two pretty ridiculous seeding errors, the country was cheated out of seeing Will Barton more than once in the NCAA tournament, and (more egregiously) cheated out of a potentially longer last ride for Rick Majerus. /rant over. This year, Memphis isn’t near as good as last year, yet got a much better seed. Unfortunately, they still are running up against a potentially underseeded team in St. Mary’s that plays a disciplined offense that could give Memphis problems. In their favor is the fact that St. Mary’s is not good at forcing turnovers, which have been the Achilles heel of Memphis’ offense. If you take that out of the equation, then Memphis’ offense is comparable to St. Mary’s, and their defense is much better. If Memphis is able to make it past St. Mary’s, then I actually like the way they matchup with the other favorites up until the Elite Eight.
Illinois (KP Rank: 42, Seed: 7)
This is a team that got a lot of mileage out of their non-conference performance in the eyes of both the committee and the computers. However, it is very apparent that the hot shooting that drove them up the rankings in November and early December was a flash in the pan – this is not a good shooting team. This team is entirely guard driven, and really struggles to create shots in the half court. This led to problems in the B1G, as Illinois was blown out repeatedly when Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson were not hitting. I wouldn’t trust Illinois at all (I’m also pretty sure I don’t have to tell you this), they are likely going to either a) win big in the first round and lose big in the second or b) skip straight to losing big in the first round. For what it’s worth, Colorado has a good enough backcourt that there is no sizable advantage there for Illinois, making it all the more likely that they head back to Champaign early.
UCLA (KP Rank: 44, Seed: 6)
I’ve heard a lot of people saying that UCLA was underseeded by the committee, but I’m having a hard time seeing it. They needed a ton of help to win a conference that no one seemed interested in winning, and still haven’t ditched the habit of putting in brain dead performances – losing by 12 to a WSU team missing 2 of their three leading scorers down the stretch of a conference title race comes to mind. Additionally, this team is just good on offense, not great. As I stated in my other post in the segment on Minnesota, they have a terrible first round matchup for them, and now they have to play without their second leading scorer, who is also their best perimeter defender (Jordan Adams). Toss in that by all accounts they are playing for a lame duck coach that is gone unless they make it to at least the Sweet Sixteen (and I’ve even heard that he will be fired unless he makes it to the Final Four), and I have a tough time believing this team is going to win a game, much less enough games to let Howland keep his job. Kind of ridiculous.
Butler (KP Rank: 52, Seed: 6)
Butler might be the first program to make it all the way from "criminally underrated" to "criminally overrated" in less than 4 years. Like many teams each year, Butler got a lot of mileage out of beating teams that were overrated early in the year, in addition to the added cachet they’ve gotten from making to back-to-back title games. The truth is, though, that this year’s Butler squad is not a great team. They are good on offense, and good on defense. Early on it looked like they might have a lethal offense, but the lack of a point guard on the roster has led to them putting the ball in Rotnei Clarke’s hands more than they should, and their offense (in particular their turnover rate) has suffered as a result. You will hear that this is a great defensive team. They are not. What they are is a great rebounding team, especially on the defensive glass. The Bucknell matchup is interesting for them. Although Bucknell has the 4th best eFG% defense in the country, their defense isn’t elite because it is terrible at forcing turnovers. I tend to believe that turnovers that are the result of not having a point guard are likely going to continue to occur whether your opponents are inherently good at forcing turnovers or not, so I feel like this is a very good matchup for Bucknell, and I think they will win it.
Temple (KP Rank: 68, Seed: 9)
This is the one case where I started collecting teams for this writeup and found something that gave me serious pause about one of my bracket picks. I though a veteran, slow-paced team that plays great defense like your traditional Fran Dunphy team would be a great pick against an impatient NC State squad that often just seems lazy on defense. So I picked Temple over NC State. Turns out, Temple isn’t great on defense. Like K-State (but in a worse way), the fact that they play at a glacial pace has masked the fact that they are in fact a pretty bad defense – 124th in the country, to be precise. What’s more, they are universally bad at defense – they rank between 125th and 176th in all four factors on defense. So….not so much D. On offense, this team is highly efficient, but primarily because they are excellent at holding onto the ball. You already know what I think about extreme turnover rates and Kenpom, so it won’t surprise you to know that I have a suspicion that Temple’s offense just isn’t that good unless Khalif Wyatt is knocking down shots and (more importantly) getting to the free throw line. Suffice to say that I’m rethinking picking this team to upset NC State.
Right but the committee is getting no credit:
Oregon (KP Rank: 43, Seed:12)
In actuality, KP has Oregon exactly where the committee seeded them, as they were originally slotted as an 11 before being moved to the 12 line to make the logistics work out. However, I still think Oregon is underseeded. Half of their eight losses occurred when their starting point guard was injured, including two losses to Cal and a loss to Colorado by a combined 7 points. I think they should have gotten more credit from the committee for how they performed when completely healthy, as their point guard has since come back into the rotation. However, Oregon played a pretty weak non-conference schedule and benefited a lot from an imbalanced PAC-12 schedule, so it is actually not that surprising that they ended up with a low seed. Definitely a bit surprising that they dropped all the way to 12. Still, I think Okie Lite will be able to handle them, before being dispatched by an awesome St. Louis team in the second round.