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What If NCAA Re-Seeded the Sweet 16?

Posted on March 22, 2011

Aerate and Survive.

I really enjoyed Matt Norlander's re-seeding of the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 teams. What would happen if that actually happened? Let's jump on the trolley and head to the Neighborhood of Make Believe.

Sunday of Conference Championship Week: CBS broadcasts the Selection Show. Directional regionals (East, Southeast, South by SouthWest) are dropped for the city hosting the Regional Championship. Jokes about the Newark Regional causes Twitter to failwhale. The seeds are announced with great weeping and gnashing of the teeth. After the show is over, ESPN starts their selection analysis show with Jay Bilas flogging himself with a Cat O' Nine Tails.

Tuesday and Wednesday Play-In 1st Round Games: Nobody cares except for the teams playing.

Thursday through Sunday 2nd & 3rd Round Games: Mostly Typical Madness. Second Round upsets won't be reseeded for their 3rd round matchups. Every high-seeded team that advances to the Sweet 16 ends up rooting for other higher-seeded teams to win. With more higher-seeded teams, the better chance one higher-seeded team will end up higher than 14th in the Sweet 16 Re-seeding. (Which means Florida State was really, really excited when VCU won.)

Monday at Noon: The NCAA Seeding Committee -- which consists of one or two additional analysis experts, preferably the sentient artificial intelligence Ken Pomeroy and Jeff Sagarin -- re-seeds the Sweet 16. Previous seeding are considered but not a lynchpin. Using Matt Norlander's overall re-seedings, the matchups would shake out as follows:

  • Ohio State vs. VCU
  • Florida vs. Wisconsin
  • Kansas vs. Marquette
  • Kentucky vs. Connecticut
  • Duke vs. Richmond
  • BYU vs. Florida State
  • North Carolina vs. Arizona
  • San Diego State vs. Butler

Weeping and gnashing of the teeth occurs. True mid-majors (like VCU) go from a winnable Sweet 16 game against Florida State to a death-sentence against Ohio State. High mid-majors (BYU, San Diego State) have a legitimate shot for a Final Four. Kansas loses their amazingly-weak Marquette/Florida State/VCU region. Bracket traditionalists declare jihad against the re-seeding.

Tuesday and Wednesday before Sweet 16 games: Americans enter in their Sweet 16/Elite 8 picks in their office pools and online bracket contests. The online game designers are immensely happy that millions of players are all logging in for a 2nd time to update their brackets and generate page views & clickthroughs. The secretary at the office who picked VCU because she saw a picture of Shaka Smart and thought he was cute is still ahead in the overall point standings but can really blow away her lead with bad picks in the regionals.

Thursday through Sunday of Regional Games: There will be one or two upsets just like a traditional bracket. Gus Johnson is given BYU's region and we are entertained. Every Elite 8 game is massively entertaining and competitive.

Monday at noon following Regional Finals games: NCAA Seeding Committee seeds the Final 4. Once again, the major underdog (probably San Diego State) is paired up with the best team (probably Ohio State). This time the weeping and gnashing of the teeth will be for the poor underdog who likely won't make it to the championship game. Everybody goes to update their brackets; fights break out over bracket scoring systems that make Fantasy Football scoring arguments look like mild disagreements.

Saturday and Monday of Final 4 Games: We all watch. When the National Champion is announced, columnists bend over backwards to declare the school won it's six games fair and square. Counter-arguments arise regarding how the overall #1 seed (supposedly the #1 team in the nation) is given every advantage in the tournament and criticism is leveled over the new importance on a team's overall schedule, RPI and Strength of Schedule.

The secretary in your office still wins the bracket. Most of America goes back to forgetting about college basketball until Feb 15th of 2012.

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Here Comes A New Challenger! Immediately!

Posted on February 15, 2011

(H/T for the awesome Thousand Pounds Fight Team video: Kotaku.)

The Kansas Jayhawks were rewarded the number #1 ranking in both polls in one of the most contested first-place voting races this season. Then the Jayhawks got Ultra Combo'd by Jacob Pullen and Kansas State. The lamenting of the Jayhawks' somehow-unworthy promotion started last night and continues today. I won't link to it all; It's the same-old stuff that happens every time a team loses their first game ranked #1 in the nation. There's hand-wringing from pollsters who weren't confident in their Kansas-as-a-#1-seed vote. Confident Kansas-as-#1 backers now must defend their decision. And of course those who didn't vote Kansas as the #1 team in the nation bask in the glow of Kansas State's incredible win.

I will link to CBS' Gary Parrish, who has already re-evaluated his poll ballot, keeping the Jayhawks in his top 4. Gary's justification isn't necessarily important; I do like the idea that his poll ballot needed immediate adjustment after Kansas's buttwhooping.

In this day and age of instant electronic communication, why can't we have college basketball polls changing on a day-by-day basis? What makes a week -- essentially two and sometimes just one game -- a better snapshot of the season-to-date than daily snapshots? Journalists and/or basketball experts who are entrusted with providing data with the poll should be watching nearly every team who's contending for Top-25 spots, so they should be able to provide proper rankings via game result.

Of course there would need to be some sort of rules to govern a daily electronic poll:

  • Voters will have to be locked out of voting during games. The electronic poll should close at about 2PM to give journalists some time in the afternoon review and write about it. The poll should open immediately after the last poll-influencing West Coast game is over. If Hawaii and Charminade are good teams, they immediately lose their universal love if they schedule late local-time games.
  • Only teams that have just immediately played a game can have their poll position updated. A team can be promoted, demoted or left in the same position.
  • Dropping a team out of the top-25 means promoting a team into the #25 position.
  • Tom Izzo's squads get an automatic 2-position bonus to poll rankings.
  • When a team becomes eligible to be added/reordered/removed from the poll, voters should have to enter a short text description with their reasoning. If anything, this gives writers nationwide incentive to make daily poll posts on their publications' mandatory blogs.

With an ever-changing electronic poll, teams are now evaluated by the number of days they are ranked. Variance in position will need to be accepted since we all know a bunch of voters will vote Team A over Team B when Team A wins a game, then vote Team B back over Team A when Team B wins a game. Placement in sections of the poll will be valued more than the actual positioning: A team who stays in the Top 10 spots for 40 days will seem obviously better than a team who's in the Top 10 for just 10 days.

During the NCAA Tournament, an constantly-adjusting electronic poll would be an incredible counterpoint to the results of that day. I have some concern that teams that play Thursday/Saturday might get pushed ahead of teams that play Friday/Sunday. Since the tournament is the final stage of the basketball season, I could see the need to lock voters out until all games of a particular round are finished.

I could see the NCAA's broadcast partners being against an always-changing poll, since they use a lot of resources to get you to watch #whatever vs conference-foe-we-projected-to-be-good-but-isn't-ranked on Big Thursday. But the AP/Coaches Poll could co-exist with the electronic poll, providing a good "old school vs. new school" contrast (and column fodder for the slow weeks in December/early January).

Just-defeated yet still #1 Kansas will be playing Colorado on Saturday. It would be pretty interesting to see where Kansas would be ranked after Texas plays this week. But until somebody implements an electronic poll we'll have to wait until Monday.

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