As we head down the final stretch of the season, several teams are still in contention for receiving a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday. One could reasonably argue that the difference in quality between 1-seeds and 2-seeds (the best 8 teams) isn’t very big. In fact, 1-seeds have faced a 2-seed in their regional final (Elite 8 game) 45 times, and the series is split 23-22 with a slight advantage to the 1-seeds. So does it really matter whether a team gets a 1-seed? Yes it does!
Undeserving 1-seeds have consistently under-performed, and this year North Carolina and Kansas fit the bill.
I am using team ratings from my computer model to determine if a team is over-seeded in the tournament. 1-seeds should be one of the top four teams, 2-seeds should be teams 5-8, and so on. I’d like to mention that my model’s not too shabby, either. It performed better than ESPN’s model at picking against the spread.
Historically (going back to 2013), only the top seeds (1 through 6) have demonstrated a clear trend of under-performing when my model says they were over-seeded
- My model says Duke and Arizona both should’ve been 4-seeds
- 26 of the last 60 2-seeds were over-rated by that much or more.
- None won the championship
- Two (including Duke in 2012) lost in the first round
- Ten lost in the Second Round
- Only 5 reached the Final Four
- Duke and Arizona do, however, have the DNA of a championship team
- 3-seeds that should be be 6-seeds or worse have consistently under-performed
- This year, only Baylor is that overrated
- There is one outlier – in 2011, Connecticut should’ve been a 6-seed, but they won it all
- There have been 16 other 3-seeds that overrated
- None reached the Final Four
- Two lost in the First Round
- Seven lost in the Second Round
- Purdue should’ve been a 5 and Butler a 6
- 27 of the last 60 4-seeds were over-seeded
- None reached the Championship game
- Only 2 reached the Elite 8 and one reached the Final Four
- 8 lost in the First Round
- 9 lost in the Second Round
- Minnesota should’ve been an 8-seed
- 24 of the last 60 5-seed have been as grossly over-seeded as Minnesota or more
- 13 (over half!) of them lost in the First Round
- In 2010, Butler surprised everyone by reaching the Championship game as a 5-seed
- Besides Butler, none of the other over-seeded 5’s in this group reached even the Elite 8
- Maryland shouldn’t have even made it into the tournament
- 22 of the last 60 6-seeds were significantly over-seeded
- 13 (59%) of them lost in the First Round
- None of the reached the Final Four
- 5 of them actually won multiple games, so all is not lost for Maryland. Forget about a Final Four run, though.
By undeserving, I’m talking about 1-seeds that my computer model says are not one of the top four teams in the tournament.
This year, my model says North Carolina should’ve been a 2-seed and Kansas should’ve been a 5-seed.
Going back to 2003, my model says 23 out of the 60 1-seeds were over-seeded.
The average number of wins for deserving 1-seeds was 3.8 (4 wins get you to the Final 4), while the average number of wins for undeserving 1-seeds was 2.3. That’s a big difference!
5 of the 23 undeserving 1-seeds lost in the Second Round, and none of them reached the championship game.
That’s a decent number of data points to indicate my model’s on to something here.
Definitely don’t pick Kansas to win it all. Fight the urge! Remember, the Quarterfinal Rule already declared them ineligible.
The data shows an overseeded 1-seed hasn’t won the championship since 2003, so think twice about picking UNC.
I’m predicting Iowa State to knock Kansas out in the Second Round and UNC to lose in the Elite 8 to… I’m not sure, take your pick between Kentucky, UCLA, and Wichita State.