BOZICH | Louisville's Four-Seed NCAA's Worst Misfire Ever?
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Rick Pitino said that he'd better not comment when I asked him for a comment on the jarring news that Louisville was rewarded for winning 12 of its last 13 games with the fourth seed in the Midwest Regional of the NCAA Tournament.
On Saturday, after the Cardinals won the American Athletic Conference Tournament, Pitino said he thought Louisville had passed the eye-test to be one of the four top seeds.
Pitino was politicking. And posturing. And joking.
On Sunday we discovered that the Tournament Selection Committee doesn't have a sense of humor. Or a sense how well Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Montrezl Harrell and the rest of Pitino's team has played this season while winning 29 of 34 games and roaring to the top of the computer rankings.
But giving the Cardinals a four-seed is nearly as much of a joke as giving Louisville a number one seed would have been.
The Cards are first in the nation in one computer ranking, second in another and likely to be third in the human polls Monday. But the tournament selection committee believes Pitino's team is 15th. I'm no math major, but I believe I can determine which number is the outlier.
It gets better. Making Pitino coach his first game in this tournament against a team (Manhattan, Thursday in Orlando, Fla.) coached by one of his former players and assistant coaches (Steve Masiello) has the smell of trying to tweak a more powerful TV narrative.
There's more? You bet. The Cards were dropped into a group of teams that were quickly described as the Bracket of Death – unbeaten Wichita State (top seed); Michigan (Big Ten regular season champs by three games); Duke (ACC runner-up and always formidable under Mike Krzyzewski) and Kentucky.
The Wildcats also got a Louisville Slugger in the eye, earning a eight-seed – as well as a third-round game in St. Louis against Wichita State, if the Wildcats win their tournament opener against Kansas State Friday.
The best college basketball area in the nation got the worst tournament draw imaginable. Normally, I'm not a guy who rips the brackets. But this bracket takes foolishness to the next level.
Consider this: When the human polls – Associated press writers' and USA Today coaches' – are announced on Monday Louisville is likely to be ranked third in the nation.
You'll find the Cardinals positioned even higher than that in the two computer polls that pack the most credibility – Ken Pomeroy and Jeff Sagarin.
Pomeroy said Louisville is the second-best team in the nation. In his predictor rankings, the ones that he believes are his most accurate numbers because they include margin of victory, Sagarin has Louisville ranked first.
The NCAA Tournament selection committee disagreed.
They didn't like Louisville's non-conference schedule. I don't blame them. The schedule had issues, especially for a defending national champion. The Cards played only three teams that made the 68-team field – North Carolina, Kentucky and Louisiana-Lafayette, surprise winner of the Sun Belt Conference.
They lost to the Tar Heels and Wildcats. No bonus points for that.
The committee was also not dazzled by the American Athletic Conference. I don't need John Wooden to help me understand that. The bottom five teams in the league were blah, and the committee thought so little of Southern Methodist that the Mustangs did not make the tournament.
But here is the issue: Despite all that background noise, the human and computer polls love the Cardinals about as much as a team can be loved. Yet, the committee treated them as if they're the 15th best team in America.
You don't have to take only my word. Ask Nate Silver.
Silver is the most insightful number cruncher in America, the guy who predicted the presidential results accurately in all 50 states during the 2012 election. Baseball fans have drooled over Silver's statistical analytics. Silver is also a big fan of the NCAA Tournament.
This is what Silver said on Twitter Sunday night about Louisville's draw:
"NCAA selection committee says it doesn't care about RPI that much, but that's the ONLY reason they seeded Louisville as a 4. Ridiculous."
RPI, for the record, is the NCAA's outdated computer model for ranking teams. Louisville sits at 20 in the latest RPI, but outside of the NCAA, nobody thinks the RPI is a reasonable metric for judging teams.
Which teams got the love that Louisville deserved?
The Pomeroy rankings say you can start with a pair of three seeds – Iowa State and Syracuse. His numbers have the Cyclones ranked 23rd and the Orange 15th.
Sagarin agrees on Syracuse, ranking the slumping Orange 22nd in his predictor rankings. His numbers rank Iowa State 15th and Wichita State 17th.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has another idea. No wonder Rick Pitino did not want to comment.
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