Not a great Sunday for the NCAA selection committee or anyone associated with the selection show. Both found a way to take simple things and make them complicated instead.
Where to start?
How about the fact that a a 20-13 Syracuse team was given a play-in game as a #11 seed, but not the 20-14 Notre Dame team that won in the Carrier Dome minus two key players?
Or you could look at the 23-11 USC team that finished second to Arizona in the PAC-12 this year and lost in the conference tournament final. They didn’t get in, but UCLA (20-11) and Arizona State (21-11) are going dancing despite finishing multiple spots below the Trojans in the conference.
Think about Oklahoma, who lost 8 of 10 to finish the year. The 18-13 Sooners were 9th in the Big 12 but got in over Oklahoma State, who finished 19-14 with wins against Kansas (2x), WVU, Texas Tech, Florida State, and split with their Bedlam rivals.
Sure, Davidson’s A-10 tournament upset kept a more deserving team out of the tournament, but this year’s bracket is rife with questionable selections and seedings.
That includes your Penn Quakers, a 24-8 team that won its (brief) conference tournament and finished 12-2 in the Ivy League to split the regular season title with Harvard.
They were rewarded with a 16 seed and a trip to Wichita to face Kansas, a team that gets yet another post-season home game. Kansas shoots the three-pointer as good as anyone in the country, while Penn has the second best three-point defense in college basketball, so I think we’re actually looking at an intriguing matchup here. My gut tells me that Penn doesn’t stand a chance, especially with repulsive and entitled Jawhawk fans filling the arena, but maybe they make it interesting.
My gut also says that Penn got screwed in the seeding, so let’s take a look at their resume and compare it to the 15 seeds. I used schedule strength and RPI data from CBS Sports.
#16 Penn: 24-8, 12-2 Ivy League (co-champions)
- Strength of schedule: 290
- OOC Strength of schedule: 264
- RPI: 121
Penn went 12-2 in the Ivy League and 12-6 out of conference with a pair of wins against the Atlantic 10 (Saint Joe’s and Dayton). Their worst loss was either Fairfield, Towson, or Yale, though they only lost one game against a team that finished with a losing record, and that was La Salle.
Problem with Penn is that while you don’t find many “bad” losses, there aren’t really any key wins, either. Harvard twice? Navy? The A10 wins were good, but Saint Joe’s and Dayton were both down this season. Lafayette? Monmouth? Ehh..
The resume isn’t amazing, but the Ivy League has put in some respective tournament appearances in recent years. Yale beat Baylor. Harvard lost by 2 to North Carolina and Princeton took Notre Dame to the wire. Those teams got 12 and 13 seeds on the strength of slightly better overall records and I thought Penn would be somewhere in that 13-14 range based on recent history.
#15 Lipscomb: 23-9, 10-4 in Atlantic Sun, (2nd place)
- Strength of schedule: 231
- OOC Strength of schedule: 30
- RPI: 101
Lipscomb was rewarded for an incredibly tough out of conference schedule that included road games at Alabama, Texas, Purdue, and Tennessee. They lost at home to a 14-16 NJIT team and dropped three in a row to FGCU, Jacksonville, and North Florida.
I’m struggling to find a quality win on their schedule. They also beat Navy.
#15 Cal State Fullerton: 20-11, 10-6 in Big Sky (4th place)
- Strength of schedule: 211
- OOC Strength of schedule: 150
- RPI: 131
CS Fullerton finished 4th in their conference but won the Big West tournament.
They’ve got better SOS numbers but a lesser RPI, though they beat Harvard in the non-conference schedule and played Georgia, USC, and Saint Mary’s.
Same thing as Lipscomb, though. I don’t see any great wins on the schedule. This is a 4th place Big Sky team that went on a run to win their conference tournament and got a 15 seed.
#15 Georgia State: 24-10, 12-6 in Sun Belt (2nd place)
- Strength of schedule: 275
- OOC Strength of schedule: 319
- RPI: 132
Probably the easiest case to make for Penn deserving at least a 15.
GSU had abysmal SOS numbers, 10 losses, and finished 2nd in their conference.
They did beat a Conference-USA team in Rice, and an AAC team in Tulane, though both finished below .500. I don’t know if those wins are any better than what Penn did against Saint Joe’s and Dayton. They did beat regular season Sunbelt champion Louisiana-Lafayette at home, but didn’t have to play them on the road and avoided them in the conference tournament.
#15 Iona: 20-13, 11-7 MAAC (4th place)
- Strength of schedule: 161
- OOC Strength of schedule: 109
- RPI: 108
A 4th place MAAC team with 13 losses but a decent SOS.
Iona beat Ohio and Yale in the non-conference but lost to Rider, Niagara, Siena, Fairfield, Canisius (2x), Albany, and Coastal Carolina.
They beat the 5th, 6th, and 9th seeds to win their conference tournament. They get Duke in round one:
Grayson Allen losing to Iona to end his annoying college career is all I’m rooting for this March.
— Jacob Westendorf (@JacobWestendorf) March 11, 2018
So there you have it. Those are just the 15 seeds, and I’m pretty sure you can make a good argument that Penn had a better season than Iona, GSU, and CS-Fullerton. Lipscomb played a courageous OOC schedule and did well enough in their regular season.
I give Penn credit for not only finishing on top of their conference, but also compiling the best overall record of those five squads. 24 wins and 8 losses is respectable at any level of basketball. If Harvard is a 13 Princeton is a 12 at 22-8 and and 23-6, respectively, then a 24-8 Penn team falls 3 or 4 seeds? All the way down? That doesn’t make any sense to me.
I know people are down on the Ivy League but you can’t tell me that Penn didn’t deserve a better seed than at least three of the four teams I listed above.