This article is part of our RotoWire Bracketology series.
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It's been two weeks since my last article when I focused on the teams who had a chance for a 1-seed and maybe unsurprisingly, nothing has changed. There's a tier of 10 or so teams all still fighting for that chance. Gonzaga is almost guaranteed to get a 1-seed because of the conference it plays in, while everything else is up for grabs. Instead of talking about the same teams again, I want to get into the metrics, since that's what matters most, at least in terms of the bracket.
Personally, I've been using KenPom (KP) and Strength of Record (SOR) as the best metrics in terms of ranking teams. NET was created by the NCAA, and it's still unclear what it actually uses. I prefer to use metrics that are a little more straightforward.
KenPom looks to the future. It's a predictive metric that doesn't fully care about win-loss record, only if you're competitive. That's the main reason a team like Oklahoma State can be ranked 59th with a 12-11 record. Even Penn State is 83 at 9-11, one spot above conference foe Rutgers at 14-9. On a neutral site, it's possible neither team would be favored.
Strength of Record is maybe a little simpler, as it's about what you have done. It's a "measure of team accomplishment based on how difficult a team's win-loss record is to achieve."
For the most part, the committee doesn't go too far off the beaten path when selecting a bracket, as was maybe the case before metrics took over. There are still some odd choices here and there, like last season when they didn't select Louisville despite it being in 186 of 203 brackets at Bracket Matrix. Not only did that not make sense, but it also led to the eventual downfall of Chris Mack as the Cardinals head coach.
If you want a better rundown of metrics and how they relate to the bracket, Heat Check CBB did a deep dive into the numbers last month and concluded that quality metrics like KenPom are used more to decide teams seeded one through eight, while resume metrics like Strength of Record more often decide those on the bubble. The sample size is small, but it makes sense even if there are outliers. For my purposes, this only backs my reasoning of using a combination of KenPom and Strength of Record.
Last season, Wisconsin was maybe one of the biggest surprises in terms of seeding. It ranked No. 12 at KenPom entering the tournament and was given a 9-seed. This season, Providence could be the team that metrics hate but everyone else loves, almost opposite of 2021's Wisconsin.
The Friars are an interesting case. They rank No. 42 in KenPom, No. 35 in Strength of Record and No. 25 in NET. They are 20-2 entering the weekend. In this case, I think it's better to look at SOR than KenPom, at least in terms of seeding. The Friars have two losses, both blowouts against Virginia and Marquette, which skews everything. All of their best wins are close, by five points or fewer. One of those wins came at Wisconsin without Johnny Davis and for me, I'm removing that from their resume. Out of necessity, some kid named Carter Gilmore played 26 minutes in that game for Wisconsin. You can't call that a Quad 1 win.
Providence's resume is filled with a couple blowout losses and a bunch of close wins, and the losses are viewed as more relevant than the wins at KenPom. Going further, the Friars are considered the luckiest team in the country at KenPom, which explains a lot. That basically means that they can't continue winning close games at this rate, and a couple upcoming games against Villanova could show that.
Another case that could be talked about extensively over the next month is North Carolina (KP 43, SOR 31, NET 41). All the metrics point to the Tar Heels making the tournament, but there's never been a team without a Quad 1 win selected as an at-large team (per Eye on College Basketball). The Heels are 0-7 in Q1 games but those are all of their losses, and UNC's most recent win at Clemson is only six spots away from becoming Quad 1. On one end, the Heels have no really good wins. On the other, their rival, the Blue Devils, a consensus 2-seed, have three losses worse than anything the Heels have.
It's too early to talk about the bubble, but as usual, there will have to be some decisions made by the committee. As of Thursday, Miami (FL) ranked 72nd in NET and Creighton was 76th. According to the matrix, both teams are projected to make the tournament. Will the committee blindly use metrics and favor teams like that, or will it favor small-conference teams like Fresno State (NET 57) and Belmont (NET 45)?
For the most part, the committee has usually favored power-conference teams, but if the NET for teams like Miami and Creighton doesn't get any better, that may not be the case this season.
Then again, maybe none of this matters and the committee will do whatever it wants. Louisville, an ACC team, finished 58th in NET last season and couldn't get into the tournament over Wichita State, an AAC team that finished 70th.