I know, I know. I did it again. But this time of year it's hard to not think a little bit about amateur basketball.
Anyway, do you remember that time in "Moneyball" when guys figured out that the Pythagorean theorem can be applied to baseball and the quality of teams? Or as Joe Morgan and Lionel Hollins remember it, nerds doing nerd stuff.
Well, that was pretty cool and it outlined the fact that run/point differential is actually a really awesome way to tell how good a team is because wins and losses are binary and clunky as far as analytics goes. With basketball, it's better to take this even one step further and apply it to your differential in efficiency (Net Rating). This basically lets you know per 100 possessions how good a team is at scoring and preventing points. Pretty simple, but damn it when did the A's win any World Series, am I right?!
Now, obviously this isn't a perfect system anyway and there's tons of noise in the college basketball realm. Teams don't play remotely the same schedules across the NCAA and there's only 30 games so the samples might be a little on the small side. Still, when tasked with trying to determine who's good or not, I'll take my only slightly informed method over "well, I just don't think this team is that good" or "I hate Duke."
So I ran the numbers with a weighting for strength of schedule in a very crude facsimile of an NBA playoff system I use (the one that had the 2010 Finals as Suns/Magic, oh what could have been!) and here's what I got.
Over Rated Teams
Saint Louis (4-seed)
I feel like they'll be one of these darling picks to make some noise. However, they had a pretty average offense and a bad strength of schedule. Look for Oklahoma State to bounce them in round 2.
Kansas State (4-seed)
Trend alert! The committee made some interesting 4-seed picks. Their non-conference strength of schedule was pretty hilarious and they're not a particularly great defensive team. Wisconsin will probably have no trouble with them.
Yikes on bikes! They were the 63rd best overall team by my calculations and played some atrocious defense. NC State will beat them in the first round.
They were 52nd in my rankings hanging out around California and La Salle. Their record looked alright, but I think St. Mary's will upset them in the first round (though St. Mary's will be doing a lot of travel, going to Dayton and then Detroit, so it might be a wash)
Under Rated Teams
Pitt is number 13 overall in my ranks and should handle Wichita St. pretty easily. If I had to predict an early exit for a number 1 seed, I'd pick Pitt over Gonzaga. I don't think it will happen, but Pitt deserved a little better than this draw.
The Gophers can laugh all the way to the bank with the UCLA draw (the Bruins are overrated, but not heinously). If only Florida (3rd overall) weren't waiting in round 2.
St. Mary's (11-seed)
As discussed above with Memphis, I think St. Mary's will win their play-in game and get to The Palace to face Memphis. The only thing that will hold them back from being the second 11-seed upset will be the distance they have to travel.
Colorado St. (8-seed)
This could also be Missouri (the Rams 1st round opponent, making that game a hard call) or UNC. But I went to Duke, so deal with it Tar Heels. But yeah, CSU is probably a pretty alright team.
Preliminary Final Four Picks