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MUST READ: The NCAA Tournament Field — As It Should Be

Early this morning I told you about my idea for making the NCAA Tournament’s selection process simpler — and less subjective.

I call it The Simpleton Rating.  And while mathematicians will probably sneer at its simplicity, I believe something LIKE my formula could make the selection process easier for the committee, less painful for the teams involved, and lot less controversial overall.

As you know, the selection committee uses a number of tools, rankings, and ratings to help them decide which teams get in and which teams stay out.  The same tools are used for seeding the field, as well.

Team A might make the tournament over Team B because of a better strength of schedule.  Team C might get in over Team D because of a better RPI.

Team A might get a better seed than Team C because of a better overall record.

That’s just too murky for my tastes.  There’s no cut-and-dried method for determining the field.  It’s too subjective even when it comes to deciding which data to use to compare teams.

So The Simpleton Rating takes the three most important numbers used by the selection committee and combines them into a single number. 

There would be no debating about which is more meaningful: RPI or strength of schedule.  The Simpleton Rating would incorporate both rankings… plus overall winning percentage.

I’ve already shown you how the SEC’s teams would stack up using The Simpleton Rating, but for further explanation, here’s how the formula would work for this year’s Pittsburgh team:

Winning percentage (.870) + RPI rating (.667) + Strength of Schedule rating (.592) = 2129.  (We simply drop the decimal points.)

So Pitt’s Simpleton Rating would be 2129… which would be the best rating in the country and would therefore result in the Panthers landing the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

I’ve gone ahead and applied this formula (Win Pct. + RPI Rating + SOS Rating) to every school in the country.

In doing so, I was able to create a Simpleton version of this year’s NCAA Tournament.

Raw data selected the teams.  Raw data led to the seeding.  I simply moved teams from region-to-region to create a balanced bracket.

What would the tournament look like if the names on the jerseys were taken out of the equation and only hard numbers decided the field?

Click below to see the results.

For starters, all the complaining about the non-BCS leagues getting the shaft would be quieted.

In a numbers-based world, big conference teams like Texas, Boston College, Michigan, Wisconsin, Maryland and Arizona would be out of this year’s tourney.

Instead, less talked about schools like Illinois State, San Diego State, Creighton, Niagara, Davidson and St. Mary’s would have made the field on the basis of their winning percentage, RPI and strength of schedule.

In other words, in a less subjective world, this year’s NCAA Tournament would feature more “Cinderella” type teams.  (Oh, and for the record, I kept the automatic qualifiers the same.)

Not only would you have some different teams in the field, but you’d really have some different seeding.

Here’s how the seeds would have broken down for this year’s tourney (with each team’s Simpleton Rating listed in parentheses):

Pittsburgh (2129)
Memphis (2113)
North Carolina (2103)
Duke (2098)

Connecticut (2087)
Louisville (2082)
Oklahoma (2065)
Michigan State (2050)

Missouri (2012)
Utah State (1996) — surprise, surprise
Kansas (1990)
Villanova (1984)


Butler (1972) — higher than the 9 seed they got in real life
Wake Forest (1971)
Gonzaga (1969)
Utah (1961)

Xavier (1956)
Syracuse (1953)
Washington (1951)
Siena (1945) — the numbers are a lot more fair for smaller schools, huh?

Florida State (1937)
Dayton (1922)
BYU (1922)
Purdue (1919)


LSU (1915)
Illinois (1912)
UCLA (1906)
Clemson (1904)


Creighton (1900) — the Bluejays didn’t even make the real field
Arizona State (1890)
Marquette (1881)
St. Mary’s (1881) — the Gaels didn’t make the real tourney, either


West Virginia (1874)
Oklahoma State (1872)
Ohio State (1865)
San Diego State (1858) — another team slighted in real life


Texas A&M (1858)
Tennessee (1849)
Niagara (1847) — not in the real tournament
Western Kentucky (1841)


California (1837)
Davidson (1835) — didn’t make the real field
Illinois State (1832) — they didn’t make it, either
Minnesota (1831)

(the remaining teams are all automatic qualifiers)
Temple (1828)
VCU (1824)
Southern Cal (1806)
American (1799)


Northern Iowa (1793)
Cleveland State (1784)
Mississippi State (1783)
Stephen F. Austin (1765)

Akron (1025)
Binghamton (1013)
CSU-Northridge (1005)
North Dakota State (996)


Morehead State (994)
Robert Morris (990)
Radford (990)
East Tennessee State (988)


Chattanooga (981)
Portland State (979)
Cornell (978)
Morgan State (965) and Alabama State (895) — the play-in game

Okay, so what have we found?

That by simply combining winning percentage with RPI rating and strength of schedule rating, we can make the NCAA Tournament selection process less controversial and much easier to understand.

We also find that small conference teams receive more bids and higher seeds than they do in the current subjective set-up, a set-up that allows the name on the jersey to play a role in determining the field and brackets.

And we can still have a darn entertaining tournament.

Just for kicks, here’s how our Simpleton Tournament would shake out this year. 

We simply moved teams around to create a balanced bracket and to avoid inter-conference matchups in the first few rounds.  Everything else is determined by the data.


1.  Pittsburgh
16.  Alabama State / Morgan State winner

8.  St. Mary’s
9.  Ohio State

5.  Siena
12.  Temple

4.  Utah
13.  Cleveland State

6.  Florida State
11.  Davidson

3.  Kansas
14.  Binghamton

7.  Clemson
10.  Tennessee

2.  Connecticut
15.  Morehead State


1.  Memphis
16.  Cornell

8.  Arizona State
9.  Oklahoma State

5.  Syracuse
12.  Southern Cal

4.  Wake Forest
13.  Northern Iowa

6.  Dayton
11.  Minnesota

3.  Missouri
14.  Akron

7.  LSU
10.  Niagara

2.  Louisville
15.  East Tennessee State


1.  North Carolina
16.  Portland State

8.  Creighton
9.  West Virginia

5.  Xavier
12.  VCU

4.  Butler
13.  Mississippi State

6.  Purdue
11.  California

3.  Villanova
14.  CSU-Northridge

7.  Illinois
10.  Western Kentucky

2.  Oklahoma
15.  Radford


1.  Duke
16.  Chattanooga

8.  Marquette
9.  San Diego State

5.  Washington
12.  American

4.  Gonzaga
13.  Stephen F. Austin

6.  BYU
11.  Illinois State

3.  Utah State
14.  North Dakota State

7.  UCLA
10.  Texas A&M

2.  Michigan State
15.  Robert Morris

And there you have it.  A fairer system.  A more transparent selection process.  And an entertaining tournament.

So will the selection committee ever go to a “one big number” system of grading teams?  Probably not.

Because with The Simpleton Rating, there would be very little need for a selection show.  Teams would have a darn good idea of whether they’re in or out long before Greg Gumbel welcomes folks into CBS’s bracket special.

So much for fairness.



  1. [...] left out.While I spend hours putting together a detailed plan that would make the NCAA Tournament selection process less controversial, other guys are simply throwing out list after list titled “the five biggest questions facing [...]

  2. nnyrjgesie says:


    Agree with your post. Hope you can keep update your post. I want back. bye!

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