RotoWire Bracketology 2.0: The Metrics to Trust

RotoWire Bracketology 2.0: The Metrics to Trust

This article is part of our RotoWire Bracketology series.

For a live-updated bracket throughout the week check out our RotoWire Bracketology page.

The NCAA released the NET rankings a couple years ago with the thought that it'd be the stat the committee uses when deciding on the field for March Madness. However, in the midst of a pandemic season, the NET doesn't really work as intended. If used as intended, both Colgate (NET 10) and Loyola Chicago (NET 13) would've been 3-seeds in last Saturday's top-16 reveal, which ended up looking like this:

Clearly, some tinkering has to be done. The other outlier, and one that doesn't involve mid-majors, is that Ohio State (NET 6) was ranked ahead of Illinois (NET 4) despite being two spots lower in the rankings.

The NCAA committee saw the NET and ignored it with a No. 1 seed, likely because the Buckeyes have two more Quad 1 (now three) wins with one fewer loss. It doesn't matter that they both have 11 Quad 1 and 2 wins – it's all about Quad 1 when comparing the top teams. That's the main thing to keep in mind when dealing with Houston, which has two Quad 1 wins as of writing. Throw in a Quad 3 loss and Houston was the last No. 2 seed for the committee on Saturday.

Given that NET still has a lot of tweaks to make, is there a reason we should keep citing it? The committee clearly ignored it when it revealed its top 16 last weekend, whereas other metrics were a bit more helpful. 

For the past few years, I've used a combination of KenPom (KP) and Strength of Record (SOR) to project which teams will make the tournament and where they'll go. While NET uses a lot of different metrics and throws them together in the hopes that it'll be perfect, KenPom and Strength of Record are fairly straight forward. 

KenPom looks to the future. It's a predictive metric that doesn't fully care about win-loss record, only if you're competitive. That's the main reason teams with losing records like Notre Dame and Kentucky can be in the top 65 of the rankings. As for Colgate, it's been around 100 the past few weeks. 

Strength of Record is all about what you have done. It's a "measure of team accomplishment based on how difficult a team's win-loss record is to achieve."

Isn't that kind of what matters most? Sure, there are some outliers like Clemson at No. 11 of SOR, but if you look at their schedule, it makes sense. They beat Alabama and Purdue on neutral courts and four of their five losses have come on the road, while the lone home loss was against Virginia. While they probably aren't a top-10 team, not many in the country would be able to beat both Purdue and Alabama on neutral courts, at least when you take into account their rankings (Alabama SOR 6, Purdue SOR 22). 

If you want to find where your team lands on the national landscape, use KenPom and Strength of Record.

BEST OF THE REST

I'll look at some teams that didn't make the committee's top-16 reveal, but ones that could make a run to the Sweet 16 and further come tournament time.

Arkansas (KP 22, SOR 19): The Razorbacks should be downgraded because of a weak non-conference schedule, but they don't have a bad loss, which can go a long way. If they can get past Alabama next week, that could push them into 4-seed territory, but if not, they'll be a 5 or 6-seed that no one wants to play against.

Colorado (KP 17, SOR 45): Colorado's lack of elite wins is seen in their SOR, as well as losses to Washington and California. That will likely keep them off the 4-seed line, but led by McKinley Wright, who is looking to make his first NCAA tournament ever, the Buffaloes could make some moves if they can sweep USC.

Creighton (KP 14, SOR 15): This isn't much of a surprise because the Bluejays have been in the Top 25 all season, but a couple bad losses kept them out of the top-16 conversation. That'll likely change if they can sweep Villanova and if not, they'll be a 5-seed with Sweet 16 aspirations.

Florida State (KP 13, SOR 14): The Seminoles didn't play a true road game in non-conference play and lost at home to UCF, which is why they haven't been considered a top team most of the season. However, double-digit wins against Louisville, Clemson and Virginia show that this team is just as good as prior versions, if not better. They have a slew of road games to close the season, but if they can sweep those, a No. 4 seed is in sight, though anything better is unlikely because of the weak ACC.

USC (KP 12, SOR 9): The Trojans may be the best of this bunch. They were oddly overlooked in the top-16 reveal despite now winning 13 of their last 14 games and it's not like they got a huge win in the past week. The downside is that the Pac-12 isn't good and they lost to UConn in non-conference play. The upside is they have one of the best players in the country in Evan Mobley, who would be a fun player to face Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.

Virginia Tech (KP 37, SOR 18): The Hokies rate well in SOR because they beat Villanova on a neutral court and also have wins against Virginia and Duke. They're far from an elite team, but a favorable schedule the rest of the way could see them finish with five total losses, including the ACC tournament. The resume isn't overly impressive, but they're someone to keep in mind heading into March.

Metrics prior to games on Friday, Feb. 19.

For a live-updated bracket throughout the week check out our RotoWire Bracketology page.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adam Zdroik
Adam, a 2019, 2018 and 2017 Finalist for FSWA Soccer Writer of the Year, is RotoWire's assistant soccer editor. He also runs RotoWire's Bracketology, as well as writes on other various college basketball content. He has previously worked at ESPN and Sporting Kansas City, and he is a former Streak for the Cash winner and Michigan State graduate.
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