The Big 12 Tournament starts tomorrow night, and once again it doesn’t seem that the Kansas Jayhawks have a whole lot to play for. They won the Big 12 regular season by 2 games, are solidly a 1 seed, and seem to be dealing with injuries of various severities across the lineup. But just exactly what IS at stake for Kansas as they tip off against the winner of the Iowa State Cyclones and Oklahoma State Cowboys on Thursday at approx. 2pm Jayhawk Time in Kansas City?
If you believe Joe Lunardi, nothing. (I can’t find a link to the tweet, but I keep hearing he declared that the Jayhawks are a lock for the overall number 1 seed)
But being fairly skeptical of a single bracketologist, I decided to dive a bit deeper to figure out if they truly are “locked” in as the overall number 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
I started by noting that Kansas is #1 (by a lot) in the following rankings: KenPom, Torvik, NET, AP and Coaches Poll. Seems like that should be enough. But then I looked back at the last few overall number 1 seeds, and it didn’t take long to note that Duke was the overall top seed last year even though Virginia had a much better profile (at least according to KenPom). I remember a particularly large eye-roll when that was announced, so I decided I needed to look a little deeper.
To that end, I found the Bracket Research tracker that looks at quadrant wins and losses and attempts to compare them using single metric. They’ve developed the Q score, which gives 4 points for each quad 1 win, down to 1 point for each quad 4 win. It then subtracts 1 point for each quad 1 loss, up to 4 points for each quad 4 loss. The overall score is then divided by the total number of games.
Using this metric, Kansas is by far the best team, with a Q score of 2.67. The Baylor Bears are next closest at 2.30. Of the other teams that could realistically jump Kansas for the overall number 1, the Dayton Flyer have a 2.16, and the Gonzaga Bulldogs have a 2.00. While this obviously isn’t a definitive metric, I would think that someone would need to get above or at the very least close to equal to Kansas in order to have a case for jumping them in the ranking for seeds.
If Kansas loses their first game in the Big 12 tournament, it would be a quad 2 loss. That result would drop their Q score down to 2.52.
Gonzaga has only 1 game left before Selection Sunday, which is a quad 1 opportunity. A win there bumps their Q score to 2.06. Not good enough.
Dayton could potentially pick up 2 Q1 wins and 1 Q2 wins, which would bring their Q score up to 2.29. Still not nearly good enough.
In the best case scenario, Baylor could get 2 Q1 wins and 1 Q2 win, which would bring their score up to 2.42. Much closer, but still not enough.
That’s it. No one else can even come close.
To recap, Kansas is well ahead of EVERYONE right now in consideration for the overall number 1. Even if they lose in their first Big 12 tournament game and EVERYTHING goes right for those chasing them, there doesn’t seem to be a way for anyone to make up the gap.
So ultimately, it seems impossible that anything Kansas does Thursday will matter in their quest for the top overall seed. Which of course means that you can sit back and just enjoy the game(s).