How the 2019 NCAA Tournament bracket was built and the Selection Committee used its new stat, NET

The NCAA Tournament bracket is out and it is hard to find anything significant to complain about — unless your team missed the tournament. Then, go for it. Your complaints will fall on deaf ears here.

The NET did not have as much of an impact as some expected. The committee said they would use it the same way as it did the RPI, and its members lived up to that.

The main test case for me was NC State. The Wolfpack played the worst non-conference schedule in Division I and had an overall strength of schedule ranking of 178. That seems impossible for a team playing in the ACC, but NC State pulled it off. The WolfPack’s NET ranking was 33, which is 64 spots higher than their ranking in the RPI. In the RPI era, this team wouldn’t have gotten more than a moment of consideration. In the end, the gaudy NET number did not fool the committee as the Wolfpack was not even among the selection committee’s first four out.

In fact, the three teams in the top 40 that were left out were all major conference schools. Clemson was 35th and Texas came in 38th. Each of those teams had something significantly negative about them that ended up being deal breakers with the committee. Clemson was the highest rated of those in the RPI at 60. Texas is 69th. It just goes to show that your own ranking by itself doesn’t get you anything. That is how it was with the RPI also.

The highest rated major conference team left out using the RPI was No. 40 Cincinnati in 2006, back when the Bearcats were part of the Big East.

Belmont was the team that I missed this year in my final bracketology projection, and I am happy they got a bid. I am not sure the resume stacks up though. The Bruins strength of schedule ranks only 199th, which is the third worst ever for an at-large team. They did go 5-2 against the top two quadrants, but the win at Murray State was their only one over a team in the field. That said, I like their draw, and they could win a game or two.

NC-Greensboro was the first team out. The Spartans are the second team ever to be left out with nothing but Quadrant 1 losses. Missouri State in 2006 was the other, which had eight losses and an RPI of 21, which was also a record for the highest ranked team left out.

Michigan State fans are not too happy that it appears that rivals Michigan got the easier draw.  The bracket is driven by geography and MSU was the No. 6 team overall. Tennessee was No. 5 and place in its closest region, which is Louisville. The Spartans than got the closest one still available to them, which was Washington, DC, headed by Duke. As No. 8, Michigan got what was left, which was the West region. MSU was moved ahead of Kentucky after the win over Michigan. Had that not happened, the Spartans would have been sent to KC with North Carolina. They only way they were going west was if they lost to Michigan.

The only seed I thought was a bit harsh was Cincinnati getting a seven. The committee does not usually overreact to a run through the conference tournament. Still, it felt like the Bearcats resume deserved something closer to a five. That said, they got placed in Columbus, Ohio, a short drive from campus. I’m sure they will be happy with a lower seed and a short trip.

All in all, the committee did a pretty good job, especially making sure they got the right teams in, which is always the most important job.  As they like to say, you can play your way out of bad seed, but you can’t play your way out of not getting selected.

Categories: National Sports

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