Thoughts on the Fourth #1 Seed

by David Mihm | March 8th, 2010

At this point, Kansas has all but locked up the overall #1 seed, in the Midwest region.  Syracuse and Kentucky will continue to battle for the #2/#3 line, but because Syracuse can’t play in the East region (whose semi-final and final it hosts), Kentucky will be in the East and Syracuse in the South.  Which leaves the #1 seed in Salt Lake still open for plenty of discussion.

As far as my own thoughts about the final #1 seed…my S-Curve looks like this:

4 West Virginia
5 Ohio State
6 Duke
7 Purdue
8 New Mexico
9 K-State
10 Villanova

All of those teams can still play their way up to the #1 line depending on what they–and the other teams in that cluster–do in their conference tournaments.  Surprisingly, Purdue is the team that controls its own destiny.  If Robbie Hummel were still healthy, there wouldn’t be any debate about the last number one.  So the Committee will be watching their Big Ten Tournament performance very closely to see how the Boilermakers do with out him.

As several people have said, Ohio State is going to get plenty of Committee love for Turner’s injury because of what they’ve done with him back healthy.  If they win the Big Ten Tournament title and WVU and/or Duke make early exits, I think they’ll be the last #1 seed with both a regular season and tournament victory.

As far as the WVU – Duke comparison…which team’s wins look better to you?

WVU: N-Texas A&M, Ole Miss, @Seton Hall, Marquette, @South Florida, Ohio State, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall, Georgetown, @Villanova

Duke: N-Arizona State, N-Gonzaga, Clemson, Wake Forest, @Clemson, FSU, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Virginia Tech

Duke only has TWO wins over teams above the #8 seed line.  West Virginia has SIX. Beating the Wildcats yesterday in Philadelphia was a phenomenal late-season win.

K-State is not as strong as most fans think, in my opinion.  Most of their wins came in the far weaker Big 12 North, and they haven’t beaten a top-half seed since January 26 at Baylor.

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13 Responses to “Thoughts on the Fourth #1 Seed”  

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  1. James G Says:

    As of right now I like Duke. Primary reason is their high ranking [either #1 or #2] in all predictive computer rankings, suggesting to me that they are better than West Virginia. Now, I think for WVU, Duke, Ohio State, and Purdue, the conference tournaments all have major impact. I completely agree with you on Kansas State, and don’t see anybody else besides the WVU/Duke/OSU/Purdue foursome getting the last #1 seed. Big problem for Purdue & Ohio State is that Big Ten title game isn’t until Sunday, and usually the committee has to finish their job before that game is over.

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  2. DT Says:

    WVU and Duke Comparison:

    Without understanding the RPI and simply throwing teams up on the board for a cursory comparison does not do the NCAA tournament selection committee justice. Bottom line is that Duke is 8-4 against the RPI top 50 and WVU is 6-4 against the RPI top 50. In the committee’s last 12 games comparison, Duke has gone 10-2 (both losses to teams in the top 20 RPI), and WVU has gone 9-3 (With a loss to Connecticut who is #55 in the RPI ratings).

    Duke is clearly in the driver’s seat on the #1 seed and I believe your selection criteria are flawed and not aligned with some of the primary criteria the committee will be looking at for tournament seeding.

    As far as placing Ohio State with a possibility of getting a #1 seed, that is off the mark with them currently sitting at #28 in the RPI. They have played well but they have not earned a #1 seed. I predict they will get a #2 seed. They are 5-4 against the RPI top 50.

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  3. David Mihm Says:

    DT, I respect your opinion, but I’ll put my record at doing this kind of thing up against anyone in the country. The Committee seems to have been much more concerned with the seed numbers of the opponents you’ve beaten rather than the RPI, at least since Lee Fowler exited the group. To throw out ‘record against top 50′ without looking at the actual teams does not provide nearly as high a level of detail.

    Incidentally, the “Last 12 games” is no longer a criterion for this year’s committee, not that it makes any real difference for this debate anyway.

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  4. DT Says:

    Thanks Dave for your response. Thank you for clarifying the last 12 game analysis, I was not aware of that. I do find the fact that you prioritize a subjective tool of analysis over a a quantitative tool of analysis to be puzzling. I understand that there is a degree of subjectivity to the selection process, but are you saying that you believe that the committee will first consider a team based on their subjective perception of the teams Duke and WVU have played versus the quantitative ranking of the team (RPI) in the decision process? I would assume the committee would prioritize RPI first and if they are fairly close use a subjective tool of analysis to differentiate the teams from each other. I would enjoy hearing your opinion. Thanks!

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  5. David Mihm Says:

    It is reasoned subjectivity. If the Selection Process were 100% objective, there would be no need for a Committee at all…the NCAA would just pick the top 34 at-larges based on RPI and seed them accordingly. I’m not saying that the Committee necessarily looks at the name of the school, but rather where that school is seeded in the actual field. The exact phrase from the by-laws says something like ‘record against other teams under consideration’ and I interpret that to mean consideration of seeds as well as selection.

    For these two teams that would look something like

    West Virginia: N-4, 11, @13, 7, @12, 2, 10, 3, 13, 5, @3
    Duke: N-13, N-7, 8, 10, @8, 8, 13, 5, 11

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  6. DMoore Says:

    I agree with James G. The committee usually looks at both the Sagarin & Pomeroy numbers in their analysis, where Duke is ranked 1st based on both predictive models. The reason for that ranking is Duke’s margin of victory in their games — they have 22 double digit victories this year. Even so, this is actually an extremely tight decision, and that’s partly because one of the usual tiebreakers to decide is very, very close. Pomeroy rates WV’s schedule as the toughest in the nation, and ranks Duke’s as 4th.

    To get that last 1 seed, each of them really needs to win their conference tournament.

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  7. David Mihm Says:

    “To get that last 1 seed, each of them really needs to win their conference tournament.”

    That’s exactly right. However, in a tie-breaker where both teams do that, I’d almost certainly give the edge to West Virginia.

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  8. Ed Says:

    If WVU wins the Big East Tourney, they’ll probably have to go through at least two top-3 seeds to do so. Imagine them going through Louisville, Pitt, and Syracuse versus whatever three teams Duke has to beat. And the Pomeroy and Sagarin numbers for WVU are pretty impressive in their own right. Surprisingly so.

    I think if both Duke and WVU both run the table, WVU should deserve the #1. The only thing Duke would have on its side would be margin of victory, which is pretty good this year, but not comparable to dominant Duke teams of old.

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  9. Jack Says:

    If Pitt runs the table in the big east tourney, I would give it to pitt.

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  10. James G Says:

    Actually, I agree that if both WVU and Duke run the table, that the advantage goes to WVU because of the wins they will pick up on the way. However, if the season stopped today, I’d have to go with Duke. If Duke, WVU, Ohio State, and Purdue all lost prior to their league championships, I think I’d have to stick with Duke, although that would depend on who they beat before going down, and who they lost to.

    I just don’t see Pitt at all. #1 seeds just don’t lose to Indiana. I know Pitt had early season injuries, but Evan Turner-less Ohio State beat Indiana by 25. I could see them up to a #2 if they won the Big East tournament, though.

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  11. Mike Says:

    Great analysis. I’d like to see more folks outside of the WVU fanbase crunch these numbers. We beat Ohio State, and we’ve got a much better resume than Duke. Despite the fact that Duke’s RPI is slightly higher than that of WVU, the Mountaineers should pass the Blue Devils in that category IF we win the Big East Tournament (winning the BET is the only way we get a 1).

    Let’s go Mountaineers!

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  12. Brian Says:

    I like West Virginia as the 4th #1, and I think they could sew it up. I think it’s going to be about who has the best wins.

    West Virginia has squeeked by Villanova on the road and somewhat routed both Pitt and G-town at home. They also beat a very good Texas A&M team at a neutral site. (Also, they beat Ohio State)

    Duke’s best win is against Maryland to this point… doesn’t really scream #1 seed, but they are on top of the ACC and have been very consistent this year, I guess.

    I don’t believe Ohio State should be included in the discussion, but let’s suppose they win their tournament… they will have beaten Purdue twice, Wisconsin, and Michigan State… but lost to WV.. to me that gives WV the nod over them no matter what happens the rest of the way, but who knows?

    Purdue has beaten WV, Tennessee, Wisconson, Mich St, and Ohio St. They have the head-to-head with WV whereas Ohio State does not, so if Purdue wins their tournament, they have a shot at getting the 4th #1. I think Tennesee and Mich St are not as good wins as Villanova, Pitt, Georgetown, and Texas A&M. But, they could still squeek by into a #1.

    New Mexico has only beaten BYU and Texas A&M for their top wins — not enough for a #1 seed in my opinion — but they have been very consistent!

    I don’t think Villanova and K-State are close enough to discuss, but I suppose I would take Villanove over K-State

    So, here is how I would right now rank/rate the chances of a #1 seed:

    West Virginia – 25%
    Duke – 22%
    Purdue – 21%
    New Mexico – 12%
    Ohio State – 10%
    Villanova – 8%
    K-State – 2%

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  13. Matt G. Says:

    Ive posted before that I was an OSU alum. That being said, I love OSU but I will admit, we are not a #1 seed. End of discussion. This is coming from a diehard. However, we are an extremely solid #2, and very deserving of a #2. ET also deserves Player Of Year. I project OSU as top #2 seed and playing in a favorable region and geographically close to home. There is no other hotter team in the nation right now too.

    As I type this, WV is up 7 with only 8-mins to go. If the Mountaineers hang on to win, I think WV gets the #1 over Duke.

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