Coach Cal and the Cats react to Kentucky’s NCAA Tournament draw
John Calipari — long a proponent of the S-curve over the NCAA’s current way of bracketing the tournament field — was back at it again this weekend, advocating for his preferred version of placing teams in March Madness.
The S-curve, it’s often argued, would be a more balanced way of setting up the bracket. Instead of the NCAA’s current — and complicated — process of trying to place the top teams in the best possible geographical location, the committee would instead rank the teams, 1-68, and then simply place them in a snake-like order throughout the field.
The No. 1 overall team — in this year’s case, Duke — would get the top spot, followed by Nos. 2, 3 and 4. Then, the No. 5 overall team would be placed in the same region as the No. 4 overall team, followed by the No. 6 team with the No. 3 team, the No. 7 team with the No. 2 team, and the No. 8 team — the “weakest” 2 seed — with the top-ranked No. 1 seed.
And then you snake through the regions again, matching the No. 9 team — “strongest” 3 seed — in the No. 1 overall seed’s region, and so on.
Pretty simple, right?
Calipari’s argument is that this would be a more fair version of the tournament, especially in an age where team travel isn’t that complicated. If a good team on the East Coast gets shipped west, so be it.
“Everybody charters. Doesn’t matter where you’re playing. I believe you should do this,” Calipari said after the Cats’ loss to Tennessee on Saturday. “... Just do the S-curve, it’s easy. But they have a reason why they don’t to do it. I don’t agree with it. But I’m not in the room doing it.”
In Calipari’s perfect world — one where the selection committee embraces the S-curve — his Wildcats would have actually ended up in the nearby Louisville regional, instead of getting sent to Kansas City.
UK was ranked as the No. 7 overall team this year. The S-curve would have matched them with the No. 2 overall team, which is Virginia — the top seed in the South Region in Louisville.
Using the S-curve and the NCAA Selection Committee’s own 1-68 rankings, the top four teams in that South Region would have been Virginia, Kentucky, Texas Tech and Kansas State.
If you go all the way through the 68-team field using the S-curve, the Cats’ first-round opponent would be Colgate, followed by a second-round matchup with either Nevada or Minnesota.
Instead, UK will play Abilene Christian in the first round, and — if the Cats win that one — Wofford or Seton Hall in the second round.
North Carolina, the No. 3 overall team in the tournament, is the No. 1 seed in UK’s region.
Here’s what the full field would look like using the S-curve: