Monday, March 16, 2009

NCAA Tourney what to watch for

It's starting already -- the Gonzaga hype. Luke Winn is first on board, claiming the Zags could be a dark horse in the South Regional. It's the same thing every year: the sports journos want the little guy to win and make a great run in the Tourney, so they hype the Zags because once, a long time ago, Gonzaga went to the Elite Eight (1999). The Zags made the Sweet 16 in 2000 and 2001. Each time, Gonzaga overperformed based on its seeding (#12 in '99, #10 in '00, #12 in '01) -- if you're a 1-4 seed, you should make the Sweet 16, minimum; 5-8 = make the second round; 9-16, fail in the first round.

Since 2002, when the NCAA committee gave Gonzaga higher seedings based on its (often good) preconference schedule, the Zags have had an unremarkable-to-poor record in the NCAA.

2002, lost in the first round as a 6-seed
2003, lost in second round as a 9-seed (to their credit, in a great 2OT game against Zona)
2004, CRUSHED in second round as a 2-seed by a 10-seed
2005, lost in second round as a 3-seed
2006, lost in Sweet 16 as a 3-seed
2007, lost in first round as 10-seed
2008, lost in first round as 7-seed

From a perspective of meeting or surpassing expectations, Gonzaga has met expectations three times and underperformed four times in the last seven years and never beat expectations. That's 0-3-4. Not so good.

Pitt's profile is similarly bad:

2008, fourth seed, second round loss
2007, third seed, Sweet 16 loss
2006, fifth seed, second round loss (to a #13)
2005, ninth seed, first round loss
2004, third seed, Sweet 16 loss
2003, second seed, Sweet 16 loss
2002, third seed, Sweet 16 loss (to a #10)

That's 0-4-3 but it's worse -- adjusting Pitt's expectations based upon its opponents in later rounds means Pitt is 0-2-5 based on evolving expectations where it failed to beat teams it should have in later rounds.

And my own Orange, 2000s tourneys only:

2000, fourth seed, Sweet 16 loss
2001, fifth seed, second round loss
2003, third seed, NATIONAL CHAMPS
2004, fifth seed, Sweet 16 loss
2005, fourth seed, first round loss
2006, fifth seed, first round loss

This is more difficult to quantify. SU is 2-2-2 based on expectations, but has an odder history. In '04, they beat a #4 but lost to a #8. So they exceeded expectations by one round, and underperformed their adjusted expectations by one round. In '03, they beat a #1, #1 and #2 in their final three Tourney games, so they beat expectations by four rounds (a 3-seed is supposed to lose in the Sweet 16, not win the whole thing); but they played a #10 seed in the Sweet 16, so beat adjusted expectations by three rounds.

I'm still trying to forget about 2005. UGH, what a bad game for Boeheim.

Ultimately, what I'm showing is that Pitt and Gonzaga are serial underperformers and have been for at least seven years. That's why I have Pitt as my first #1 seed out right now.

Man, will I be peeved if Pitt turns into another 2006 Florida (although I'm doubting that -- UF was #2 in offensive efficiency, #5 in defensive efficiency that year; Pitt is #2 on offense but just #35 on defense and since 2004, no team below #25 in defensive efficiency has made the Final Four).

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