With 20 days left until Selection Sunday, online bracketology is slowly becoming more relevant. It’s also that time of year where announcers end their broadcast with a classic warning for future opponents of the winning team in said broadcast. “You don’t want to see your name near Team X in March.” Of course, the tournament is filled with good teams and you can’t avoid all of them.
Since the selection committee has yet to take up the idea of treating seeding different from selection, there are naturally teams that will be under-seeded relative to tempo-free rankings. It’s not very hard to pick these teams out. Generally, they have probably lost some very close games and/or blown out of bunch of bad teams. The committee doesn’t appreciate these teams as much as KenPom or Vegas.
To identify these teams, I took the bracketology data from bracketmatrix.com and compared that to KenPom’s rankings. I mixed in a little subjectivity (“eye-test” if you will), but it only changed the order (not the teams themselves) below. Based on current bracketology, here are the three teams you don’t want to see in March.
You would be hard-pressed to find a team who has made more improvements than St. John’s in February. The Red Storm started the month 6-0, including a home win vs. Creighton. Add in a three point loss at the Wells Fargo Center to Villanova and St. John’s has cracked the top 30 in adjusted efficiency for the first time all season.
Defense has been the main reason for SJU’s recent success. Most notably, they have held Creighton below 1 point per possession in both meetings this season. In other words, Jay Wright should probably put a call into Steve Lavin if Villanova gets a third shot at Creighton in the Big East tourney.
[Editor's note: Louisville is now a projected five seed in Bracket Matrix's newest update]
It’s pretty simple: Louisville would be the best six seed of all-time. They won’t actually wind up this under-seeded. In fact, many of the bracketology projections used on Bracket Matrix still aren’t accounting for Louisville’s win at Cincinnati on Saturday. But even at a three or four seed, the defending champs would potentially create a ridiculously difficult region.
Louisville didn’t get it done in big games in non-conference play, but Vegas still loves the Cardinals. They haven’t missed Behanan much of late and still have been historically good at crushing bad teams. Somehow, someway, Russ Smith continues to be absurdly (russdiculously?) under-appreciated around the country.
[Editor's note: Tennessee is now in the first four out in Bracket Matrix's newest update]
It’s not exactly easy to sell a 7-7 SEC team as a team you want to avoid in March. However, Tennessee currently ranks 343rd in the country in KenPom’s luck rating. The Volunteers have a bunch of blow-out wins and a bunch of close losses (with the exception of Florida) in SEC play. That’s why Tennessee has dropped just four spots in KenPom since losing three of four.
Jordan McRae is right up there with Russ Smith in terms of under-appreciated seniors. McRae and the Volunteers’ rebounding attack make them a very good offensive team. However, this weekend’s OT loss at A&M might even have Tennessee on the wrong side of the bubble. Tennessee does have a favorable schedule to end SEC play though, and I wouldn’t want to be the five seed to draw a team that beat Virginia by 35.