NCAA Team’s Selection
Everyone knows how the brackets work once the teams are chosen. It’s the “choosing” that seems to cause the most trouble. It should be a fairly straight forward process but it’s not. It should be numerically based but it’s not. While there seems to be a “system” or a factual base it also relies on human input. It’s this “human” part that seems to cause so much disagreement about the teams chosen. Obviously, the winners of their respective conferences should go on to the championship playoffs with an automatic bid. What is not so obvious is the selection of the “at large” teams.
I can assure you that even after all the explanations, formulas, and discussions much of the final seeding and selections of “at large” teams will seem arbitrary and confusing at best. The formula for selecting the 68 teams is to say the least complicated. In 1985, the total number of teams changed from 53 to 64, and then in 2011 the number was changed to 68. This last change was an effort to include the lower ranked teams. Thirty-two of the teams are included automatically based on their respective conference championships. The remaining thirty-six slots are called “at-large” bids and are determined by the NCAA Selection using a very complicated process.
In 2014, 10 of the thirty-six at large teams came from the runner’s up from the conference championships. This left only twenty-six possible slots for the remaining teams. This is where the selection committee uses it’s “criteria”.
According to the NCAA the selection committee uses several criteria for choosing the “at large” teams. The criterion includes:
- Ranking in the national polls
- Conference record
- Road record
- Wins versus ranked opponents
- The way a team finishes its regular season
- Rating Percentage Index (RPI). (We’ll talk about this later!!)
Unfortunately, it does not seem like the committee sticks to these criteria. For instance, when looking at the “national polls”, which one do they use? There is the Associated Press (AP), The Coaches, and CBS Sports polls, just to name a few. And like everyone else, each one puts their own spin on the selection. Looking at the 2014 data, Kansas is ranked 3rd based on its RPI, 10th by the AP and Coaches polls and was seeded 7th in the official seeding list for the tournament. As you can see from the table below, this is just one of the many discrepancies. It seems safe to say most of the discrepancies between the RPI, AP, and Coaches has to do with “personal” feelings. The rational is “the numbers say one thing, but the experts put their own spin based on their feelings about how the team is really doing”. This puts a little too much subjectivity into the rankings. If the RPI is determined by:
- the team’s winning percentage against Division 1 teams (25%),
- strength of schedule (50%),
- the team’s opponents strength of schedule (25%).
Then how can there be so much discrepancy in the rankings? Then in 2004, the formula was changed again to give more weight to teams that win on the road! Next they will be taking the weather into account for its effect on the wins!!