Bracketology: Which data is relevant (and not) to selection committee


Before deeming your team fit for this floor, know what the committee considers. (Getty Images)
Before deeming your team fit for this floor, know what the committee considers. (Getty Images)

As you might imagine, I hear from a lot of fans making the case for why their team should be in the tournament or seeded higher than I have them in my bracket. A lot of those arguments cite all kinds of metrics, partial records and other positive aspects of their team’s resumes, some of which are relevant, but many are not.

Recently, the NCAA has started posting almost daily updates of their team sheets. A team sheet contains all of the data the committee looks at about a team when evaluating it and comparing it to others.

Keep in mind that selecting and seeding the tournament is a subjective process guided by objective data. Individual committee members will interpret this data differently. Everyone on the committee has their own opinions as to which information is more important. I’m often asked what the committee considers more important, good wins or bad losses? My answer is both are a part of who you are as a team, and that often it depends on who you are being compared to and what stands out in those comparisons. If you asked the 10 committee members that same question, you might get 10 different answers.

So, if you want to make your team’s case for selection or seeding, you sticking to data on those sheets is the best way to reach a conclusion. I want to point out a few things that are and are not used by the committee.

1. RPI is the only metric: You may love KenPom, Sagarin, whatnot. Doesn’t matter. The AP and coaches polls? Neither is a factor. Until one of those other ratings shows up on these sheets, they aren’t relevant to this process. That said, RPI alone is never decisive. The committee never, ever compares two teams and picks the one with the higher RPI because it has a higher RPI.

2. Conference records and/or standings: Neither appears. Teams are judged on their entire seasons, not their conference seasons. The only conference-specific data that appears is the strength of schedule within the conference. Also note that unlike football, head-to-head is not a major factor either. It can be if two teams are relatively equal (nothing is ever totally equal), but again, teams are judged on entire seasons, not one, or two, or sometimes even three games.

3. Game dates: There is a common perception that how a team is playing at the end of the season is more important. Many people feel it should be. None of those people are on the committee. That used to be a factor, which is likely why many people still think it is. They used to track how teams performed in their final 12 games, but got rid of that several years ago. Now, you can’t look at those team sheets and even determine how a team has done lately in your head because the dates of the games aren’t listed. The committee is committed to the concept that every game counts equally no matter when it’s played.

There also are a couple pieces of relevant information that don’t appear on the sheets. One is information about roster issues. Injuries, suspensions and such are reported separately, but rest assured, the committee knows all about whatever problems a team has had. It’s not terribly important, though. In general, a team’s profile is its profile. The committee will not assume a team would have won a game it lost had it been at full strength. They also will not ignore the game. There may be some slight seeding consideration given, but sometimes that doesn’t even happen. Those adjustments tend to happen more to teams that have lost key players for the season rather than for a few games.

Another relevant piece of data that will never appear on the sheets is the team’s record against teams already in the field (by either winning their conference or having been voted in by the committee) or under consideration (teams on the committee’s at-large consideration list). They don’t appear on the sheet because they don’t even exist until the selection meeting starts, and it can change frequently during the meeting. It’s important, though, because only one team in the past 21 years has received an at-large bid without a win against a team in the field, and only about one team per year gets in with only one such win.

We have a tool on the site to help you compare two Division I teams showing much of this data. Have fun playing with that. Draw your own confusion.

>> Want more Bracketology? Bubble Watch | Team comparison tool


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