Mid-majors, lower seeds have done so well
No 16-seed had ever beaten a 1-seed in the guys’s NCAA tournament till 2018. Now it’s taken place
twice.In the very first 28 tournaments that included 15-seeds (1985-2012), 4 15s had actually beaten 2-seeds. 7 have done so in the past 11. No 15-seed had reached the Sweet 16 until Florida Gulf Coast did it in 2013; now it has taken place for three straight competitions, and Princeton is one win far from putting a No. 15 in the Elite Eight for the 2nd straight year.The Sweet
16 will not feature any of Kansas, Duke, North Carolina or Kentucky for simply the 4th time in 70 years … and the second time in three. We’re openly pondering a Last Four with no 1-seeds, and the Elite 8 might include up to 4 programs from what we normally call mid-major conferences.Parity is as strong as
ever in college basketball. Players, coaches and fans from Kennesaw State to Furman to, naturally, Fairleigh Dickinson, all got their moments in the spotlight on Thursday and Friday, and Princeton and Florida Atlantic will get another go-round this coming weekend. It produced among the NCAA tournament’s more wonderful opening weekends in current memory (even without all that many close second-round games).
We can discuss how we’ve gotten here– it probably has more to do with the decreasing quality of the top groups than the bottom teams– and we can debate whether this is really great for the sport. TV ratings tend to gain from the existence of at least a few blue bloods, after all, and lord knows sports like European soccer haven’t suffered all that much from an absence of input from upstarts. However the NFL likewise hasn’t suffered since of the big-brand Dallas Cowboys’ annual failures (they have not reached a Super Bowl in 27 years).
At its finest, parity persuades a huge variety of fan bases that their group can win all of it– or at least make a substantial run– and enthusiastic fans are engaged fans. ESPN’s TV ratings this season were apparently as high as they’ve been considering that before the pandemic, and Thursday’s first-round TV viewership was the greatest in 8 years. At worst, the success of mid-majors in the NCAA tournament hasn’t harm anything. At best, it has actually assisted significantly.So why aren’t more mid-majors getting tourney bids?Last year I ranked all of the NCAA tournaments returning to 1979, creating a formula that took upsets, close games and usually remarkable moments into account.In the top eight tournaments from that list– 1985, 1990, 1983, 2006, 2010, 2014, 1987 and 1997– 75%of possible at-large bids went to teams from what we could call power conferences: the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 (or, for the 1980s tournaments, the Big 12 and SWC ), Pac-10/ Pac-12 and SEC. Outside of that group, approximately 4.9 other conferences got numerous teams into the field, 5.3 if we consist of 1980s independents as their own entity. Even the more current competitions on that list were diverse and outstanding. The 2014 competition, for instance, included 10 total multibid conferences. The Atlantic 10 got six groups in that year; the A10’s Dayton reached the Elite 8, and the AAC’s UConn– technically a mid-major at that specific moment in time– won it all.Over the previous 7 competitions, the portion of at-large bids going to power conferences has actually increased to 85%. Typically, just 3.7 other conferences, besides the power six, have actually gotten several bids. This year, just three did: the Mountain West, AAC and West Coast Conference, a.k.a. the most renowned of the mid-major conferences. Of the last 4 at-larges in the 2023 field and the very first four out, 7 were from power conferences.You could make the case that the last couple of NCAA competitions have been excellent regardless of themselves. The choice committee provided 13 tourney quotes to Huge Ten and ACC groups this year, and just two made the Sugary food 16; the committee offered an overall of 6 to
the WCC, AAC, C-USA and Ivy, and four made it to the second weekend.Most #MarchMadness quotes by conference:8-Huge Ten 8- SEC 7-Big 12 5- ACC 5-Big East 4- Pac-12 4-Mountain West 2- WCC 2-AAC pic.twitter.com/755EcxaeIN!.?.!— NCAA March Insanity(@MarchMadnessMBB )March 12, 2023 Now, it should be acknowledged that part of the reason for an increase in power conference tourney existence is the reality that power conferences themselves are
bigger. Subscription in these conferences has
almost 50%considering that the tournament expanded
to 64 groups in 1985. Simply in the past 10-12 years, the Pac-12 trapped 1998 finalist Utah, the Big 12 bundled TCU and the Big East dissolved and then reformed to include 2010-11 finalist Butler, plus Creighton, DePaul and Marquette. And we’re about to go even further down this road: The Big 12 is including Houston (a No. 1 seed in this year’s competition), Cincinnati, BYU and UCF, and it’s possible that the Pac-12 might quickly expand to consist of San Diego State and maybe SMU or UNLV.”
Gonzaga to [Big 12/Pac -12]” rumors have gotten steam again just recently, too. And as second-tier conferences have actually lost members to bigger conferences, they have actually in turn plucked members from further down the food chain.This debt consolidation has actually had an apparent impact; it’s not as if the choice committee itself has had evil, elitist intentions in favoring the power conferences. Still, those conferences continue to get the advantage of the doubt even if or when they do not earn it in the tournament.Are we using the wrong selection criteria?Per the NCAA, Purdue conqueror Fairleigh Dickinson entered into the competition with the lowest-rated strength of schedule in the country. The only BPI top-100 team the Knights had played was Pitt, and the Panthers had beaten them by 22.
An overall absence of schedule strength in no other way avoided them from beating the East’s top-seeded Boilermakers, then acquitting themselves well prior to being up to 9-seed FAU in the second round.Who states you need to be battle-tested to win in March?FDU had the simplest schedule out of 363 D-1 groups. #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/hITgtsZQYv!.?.!— NCAA March Insanity(@MarchMadnessMBB)March 18, 2023 Is there something to that and the reality that, in the previous 4 competitions, 14 of the 17 top-four seeds that lost to double-digit seeds had finished the season ranked greater in Strength of Record (a résumé score)than in BPI (a quality rating)? Might we be misestimating schedule strength and at least a little undervaluing actual quality when it pertains to choosing or seeding tourney groups? Approved, no requirements would have made FDU look particularly excellent– after all, the Knights didn’t even win their conference tournament– however it might be fair to wonder if some
of the high seeds that have lost recently shouldn’t have been seeded as high.Then again, what’s the alternative? Using tools that aren’t opponent-adjusted? Rewarding groups for great records, context-free, and indirectly dissuading strong nonconference scheduling? That partly solves one issue and creates several more.Really, the selection requirements are probably about as excellent as they’re going to be. If we want to create a fairer field, we must maybe follow a different course: using tourney success to figure out future tourney bids.Bring on the coefficients!There’s no law stating we have to offer exactly one automatic quote per conference. In European soccer and plenty of international sports, the variety of quotes into a competition is obtained a minimum of in part from how you’ve performed in the past. The UEFA coefficient, a score originated from competitive success over a five-year period, figures out the variety of clubs different nations enter into soccer’s
Champions League, and if it works for the Premier League and LaLiga, why couldn’t it work for the ACC and Big 12? We could use the concept of a coefficient in various ways.CONFERENCE COEFFICIENTS Based upon the scoring system of option, we might use a conference’s five-year performance to give out several automated bids to deserving conferences.For an example, I created a points system that grants one point for a first-round win, 2 for a second-round win, and so on, approximately six for a national title game win.(We will not fret about
First 4 wins.)So if you win
the title, you make a total of 21 points for your conference (1 +2 +3 +4 +5 +6), and if you win your first-round game and get removed, you make one.Looking at the previous five NCAA competitions(2017-19, 2021-22), you would wind up with these per-tournament averages utilizing existing conference subscription *. Conference Average points(per competition )Big 12 19.8 ACC 18.6 Big Ten 12.8 SEC 10.4 Big East 9.0 Pac-12 7.0 West Coast 5.6 AAC 4.6 Atlantic 10 3.0 MAAC 1.2 MAC, MWC, Summit 0.6 Missouri Valley, WAC 0.4 America East, ASUN, Big West C-USA, Southern, Sun Belt 0.2 Others 0.0 * What I suggest by” existing conference membership” is, when Loyola Chicago moved from the Missouri Valley to
the Atlantic 10 in 2015, it would have taken its coefficient points with it.Who’s to say we couldn’t award a second automatic bid for any conference with an average over 1.0? That would mean that the fantastic run of Saint Peter’s last season would have made the MAAC an extra slot in this year’s field.(Since Iona won both the regular-season title and conference competition, that would mean the 2nd bid might either go to second-place Rider or, more likely, tournament runner-up Marist.) The Atlantic 10’s recent success
would have sealed a spot in the field for conference and competition runner-up Dayton.For any conference with an average over 5.0, we could assure a 3rd bid too, which would not make
|much of a distinction for the Big 12s and ACCs of the world(|
|they normally get way more
|than three in)||however would in|
|this case indicate that||the West Coast would get anothergroup in addition to Gonzaga and St. Mary’s
||— third-place Santa Clara,
||competition semifinalist (BYU)? QUADRANT COEFFICIENTS What if we
||used the exact same concept, but
||applied it to clusters of conferences instead?
||We could divide the
||conferences into 4
||groups of eight using a
||of option. For convenience, I’ll use five-year BPI averages
||, however the NCAA might certainly use web rankings or whatever else. We take a look at the typical success of each quadrant and identify bids from there.Quadrant 4(Huge Sky, Big South, MEAC, NEC, OVC, Patriot, Southland, SWAC): 0.0 competition points on average.These conferences get zero additional bids.Quadrant 3( America East, ASUN, Big West, C-USA, CAA, Horizon
, Ivy, Sun Belt ): 1.0 average tournament points.These eight conferences get one additional quote, offered to the highest-rated non-automatic qualifier (likely either North Texas, Liberty or UAB). Quadrant 2(A10, MAAC, MAC, MVC, MWC, Southern, Top, WAC): 7.0 typical competition points.These conferences are approved two or 3 extra quotes, which they really received in this year’s tournament– the MWC got 4 groups into the field.Quadrant 1 (AAC, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big 10, Pac-12, SEC, WCC): 87.8 average tournament points.Give them as numerous extra bids as you want– they already get a minimum of that many.Both of these coefficient approaches benefit conferences in some method for their real tournament performance, and merit is never a bad thing. But they likewise don’t really change the competition field much. The conference technique exchanges, state, Pitt, Nevada(a mid-major!)and Arizona State for Marist, Dayton and BYU. The quadrant technique trades Pitt or Nevada for North Texas. That definitely impacts fans of those groups but produces only a little ripple otherwise. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
But we could get much larger and weirder.BASE THE
ENTIRE FIELD ON LAST YEAR’S TOURNAMENT What if we offered a second automatic bid to any conference that won a minimum of one round-of-64 game last year? Since of wins by Saint Peter’s, Murray State, New Mexico State and Richmond, respectively, that would suggest giving extra 2023 bids to the MAAC(most likely Marist ), Ohio Valley (regular-season champ Morehead State), WAC(regular-season champion Utah Valley) and Atlantic 10(Dayton
one bid.OK, that last one is most likely too far, however any of these are technically manageable and merit-based. However there’s another alternative as well. It’s most likely more likely.We might lastly simply broaden the competition once again I’ll pause while you shout,” NO. NEVER. STOP. BAD.”All right, are we great now?The perfection of the 64-team bracket– and, if we’re being truthful, its symmetrically fantastic fit on a single sheet of paper– has kept us at or near 64 groups for almost four years now. In 2010, when the report emerged that the tournament was broadening to 96 groups, the unfavorable response was nuclear-grade.
Last summer, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey raised
the idea once again following Texas A&M’s narrow miss out on, and ACC commissioner Jim Phillips followed suit. The termination from fans and commentators was again swift. We like our competition, and our brackets, precisely the way they are. We enjoy the lost work efficiency of the first Thursday and Friday of the competition. It is perfect and has been especially perfect the past number of years. The competition did expand in 2010, but just to an awkward 68. The Choice Committee’s First 4 Out. #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/w1qirGJjI6!.?.!— NCAA March Madness(@MarchMadnessMBB)March 12, 2023 For all the eye-rolling we give to the idea of bracket creep, nevertheless, and for how quickly we dismiss the(right)idea that growth would be a huge, tradition-bucking money grab for the NCAA and those to whom the NCAA composes March Insanity checks, it’s really rather wild to consider how little the bracket has sneaked. In the nearly 40 years since the first 64-team competition in 1985– which originated after an extended battle about how much of a tradition-bucking, regular-season-diluting cash grab it would be– we have actually added only four groups to the field, a 6% increase. The number of groups in Department I has actually increased by 29%in that time, the U.S. population by 41%, however we have required our perfect bracket stay in place.The way the college sports world tends to work, though, the only way we’ll get more mid-majors into the field is by including more power-conference teams, too.ESPN’s John Gasaway has actually already highlighted how and why competition growth wouldn’t assist only the huge men.
To be sure, it would help the big men: a field of 80 or 96 teams this year, for instance, would have likely included 18-15 Oklahoma State, 17-14 Wisconsin and possibly
17-16 Colorado or 17-16 Washington State. However it would have also
opened the door for 27-7 North Texas, or 26-7 Sam Houston, or 27-8 Liberty, or 26-9 UAB, or 22-12 Dayton, any of whom were far much better than FDU in the routine season and were more than efficient in winning a number of competition games. If stated growth led to more automated quotes for conference champs– or at least champions of conferences with a certain level of competition success, à la the ideas above– that’s even better.We might broaden the tournament all the way to 96 teams without essentially modifying whatever it is we hold most dear about the current setup. Even at 96, the logistical change would not have to be substantial: Instead of eight locations hosting eight teams playing six games over a Thursday-Saturday or Friday-Sunday, we quickly make that 12 groups in each venue, with eight playing games on Tuesday or Wednesday to qualify for the Thursday or Friday games.We could redraw things from scratch, seeding four areas from 1-24, offering the top eight seeds byes and winding up with first-round pairings like 9 vs. 24, 10 vs. 23, and so on. That would potentially develop harder matches for front runners– No. 1 Houston
may play, state, 16-seed Liberty or 17-seed Michigan in the round of 64– and instead of beating Purdue, a wonder run by a group like FDU may first go through a 9-seed in the preliminary, then an 8-seed in the 2nd. If that’s merely too much modification for our delicate perceptiveness, then we could instead go wild with play-in games: The top 8 seeds in each area still get byes, while eight groups play for the right to make the four 9-seeds (FAU vs. Penn State, for instance ), 8 play for the No. 10s (Providence vs. Rutgers?), and so on, all the way down to the 16-seeds. Out of interest, I buffooned out a 96-team field that, in essence, folded the majority of the NIT’s field(minus teams that completed at or under.500)into the NCAAs and included a set of NIT-eligible groups that begged out of the field(
a disappointed North Carolina and a banged-up Dayton). Amongst these 96 teams were 11 from the Big 10, 9 from the SEC, eight from the Big 12, 7 each from the ACC and Pac-12 and 5 each from the Big East and MWC. However this field also included several quotes for 22 conferences and used spots to a few of the best groups from the mid-major universe: Liberty, Sam Houston, Yale, Dayton, UAB, North Texas, Bradley, Hofstra, Toledo, Utah Valley and others.That feels like a fair trade to me. Possibly it doesn’t to you. Regardless, there are huge and small ways to reward the mid-major universe for its contributions to what remains among the best parties on the sports calendar. Who understands what that group could do with a couple of more merit-based seats at the table?