UK Men's Basketball

What if computers created the NCAA Tournament bracket? It would have looked like this.

John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats are a No. 5 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats are a No. 5 seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament. aslitz@herald-leader.com

John Calipari clearly wasn’t pleased with the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee after his Wildcats were placed in a region that he — and many UK fans — perceived to be significantly more difficult than others Sunday evening.

Would Calipari and that disgruntled bloc of Big Blue Nation have preferred a bracket put together by computers instead of humans?

To find out, we built a bracket based on each college basketball team’s average ranking from three computer-generated sources: KenPom, the BPI and the Sagarin Ratings.

All three of those systems are used in some capacity by the Selection Committee, which takes several factors into account when seeding the teams.

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This bracket used just those three, however, keeping human hands out of the process, and the results were … interesting.

There were a few wacky variations in seeding (Xavier is a 4 seed in our system, for example, and a 1 seed in the real tournament). There were also seven teams that got in the real tournament that didn’t make our bracket, and, as a result, seven teams that didn’t get in the real tournament that our system sent to the Big Dance.

Louisville was one of those teams (and the computers spat out the Cards as a 7 seed).

But, on the whole, the computer seedings look fairly similar to the real thing. More importantly, the four regions in our system appear to be shockingly … fair.

That said, UK’s path through the NCAA Tournament isn’t all that much different.

(Two notes here: We used the S-curve with no conference/rivalry/etc. exceptions to place the teams in the bracket, and in any cases where two teams had the exact same KenPom-BPI-Sagarin average, the tie went to the team with the best KenPom number).

The Cats would still be a 5 seed in the South Region with the 18th-best ranking, according to this system. (The committee placed Kentucky at No. 17 overall). Strangely enough, our computer average paired UK with 12 seed Murray State, the only other team from the commonwealth to make the actual NCAA Tournament field.

The computers placed Wichita State as the No. 4 seed in UK’s region, which would have put the Cats and Shockers on a collision course for yet another second-round matchup. (Calipari surely would have had something to say about that).

The computers also put the Cats in the same region as top-seeded Virginia, just like the real bracket. On the other half of UK’s region in our bracket: No. 2 seed North Carolina and No. 3 seed West Virginia, the two teams that eliminated Calipari and the Cats from the Elite Eight in 2016 and 2010, respectively.

Maybe the computers are in on the conspiracy, too?

A couple other notes before we get to our computer bracket:

▪  The No. 1 seeds in the computer rankings are Villanova, Virginia, Duke and Cincinnati (the No. 2 seed in UK’s real-life region).

▪  UK’s first-round opponent in the real tournament Thursday night is No. 12 seed Davidson, which the computers say should really be an 11 seed.

▪  Arizona — a 4 seed in real life and UK’s possible second-round opponent — is a 5 seed, ranked one spot below the Cats, according to the computers.

▪  Louisville, Notre Dame, Penn State, St. Mary’s, Baylor, Southern Cal and Maryland are the seven teams the trio of computer rankings let in that the committee left out. The seven teams that are in the real tournament that the computers booted: North Carolina State, Arizona State, UCLA, Alabama, Syracuse, Providence and St. Bonaventure.

▪  Media darling and real NCAA snub Middle Tennessee was the sixth team out, according to the computers.

▪  Our last four in were Kansas State, Missouri, Maryland and Oklahoma, so those teams would have been playing in Dayton this week in our bizarro world.

And, now, the KenPom-BPI-Sagarin results:

2018 NCAA Tournament field, according to the computers

East

South

Midwest

West

1 Villanova

1 Virginia

1 Duke

1 Cincinnati

2 Kansas

2 North Carolina

2 Purdue

2 Michigan St

3 Gonzaga

3 West Virginia

3 Michigan

3 Texas Tech

4 Ohio State

4 Wichita State

4 Tennessee

4 Xavier

5 Houston

5 Kentucky

5 Arizona

5 Clemson

6 Creighton

6 Auburn

6 Florida

6 TCU

7 Butler

7 Seton Hall

7 Louisville

7 Notre Dame

8 St. Mary's

8 Texas A&M

8 Nevada

8 Penn State

9 Va Tech

9 Baylor

9 Miami

9 Arkansas

10 Rhode Island

10 USC

10 Texas

10 Florida State

11Okla/Maryland

11 Mizzou/Kan St.

11 Davidson

11 S Diego State

12 Buffalo

12 Murray State

12 N Mex State

12 Loyola

13 S Dakota St

13 UNCG

13 Bucknell

13 Montana

14 Penn

14 Charleston

14 SFA

14 Georgia State

15 Marshall

15 Iona

15 Wright St

15 CS-Fullerton

16 LIUBrook/NCC

16 UMBC/TexSo

16 Radford

16 Lipscomb

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