The Wichita State Shockers have had some success in the NCAA Tournament recently.
Photo: Chris Lee
Photo: Chris Lee

Beware of these 5 potential NCAA bracket busters

In today’s AJC, we spoke with Dr. Joel Sokol of Georgia Tech, whose LRMC ratings measure the worth of college basketball teams. Advanced analytics – such as LRMC, such as Ken Pomeroy’s KenPom rankings – often differ with RPI, which has long been the NCAA tournament committee’s go-to index. That in mind, we offer five teams the more newfangled numbers like more than their actual seeding.

Purdue: Seeded No. 5 in the Midwest; ranked No. 9 in the nation by LRMC and No. 10 by KenPom. Advanced analytics suggest the Boilermakers should have been a No. 3 seed. KenPom ranks their offense 21st in efficiency and their defense 18th, which is a more balanced profile than any of the No. 4s. (Kentucky is first in offense but 70th in defense; Duke is seventh in offense but 111th in defense.) LRMC has Purdue beating No. 4 Iowa State in the second round and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.

» Enter Mark Bradley's Bracket Fiasco for chance to win cash prizes

Arizona: Seeded No. 6 in the South; ranked No. 10 in the nation by LRMC and No. 16 by KenPom. Advanced analytics suggest the Wildcats should have been a No. 3 or 4 seed. KenPom rates their offense 17th in efficiency and their defense 40th; contrast that with Notre Dame, also a No. 6 seed – 10th in offense, 172nd in defense. LRMC has Arizona upsetting No. 3 Miami in the second round and advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.

Wichita State: Paired in a First Four game with Vanderbilt for the No. 11 seed in the South; ranked No. 20 in the nation by LRMC and No. 12 by KenPom. Advanced analytics suggest the Shockers should have been a No. 3-5 seed. KenPom ranks their offense 81st in efficiency – but their defense is No. 1. The two catch here: Vandy is also undervalued; it’s ranked No. 25 by LRMC and No. 27 by KenPom. Sokol wonders if the committee purposely made this play-in game a test of teams favored by advanced numbers. (Probably not, I’d wager.)

Gonzaga: Seeded No. 11 in the Midwest; ranked No. 21 in the nation by LRMC and No. 28 by KenPom. Advanced analytics suggest the Bulldogs should have been a No. 5-7 seed. KenPom rates their offense 24th in efficiency and their defense 55th. Compare that with Utah, which is 27th in offense and 51st in defense but is a No. 3 seed in the same region. LRMC has the Zags upsetting No. 6 Seton Hall and then Utah to reach the Sweet Sixteen.

VCU: Seeded No. 10 in the West; ranked No. 32 in the nation by LRMC and No. 35 by KenPom. Advanced analytics suggest the Rams should have been a No. 8 or 9 seed. KenPom rates their offense 82nd in efficiency and their defense 22nd. LRMC has them upsetting No. 7 Oregon State – which LRMC ranks 79th in the nation and KenPom has 60th; the Beavers are valued much higher by the committee that the numbers crowd – and reaching the Round of 32.

» Enter Mark Bradley's Bracket Fiasco for chance to win cash prizes

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