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How This Year’s NCAA Tournament Would Look If Computers Picked And Seeded The Field

As soon as the NCAA Tournament brackets are announced each year, out come the talking heads, coaches, and fans to complain about the process and its results.  Even with three extra teams in this year’s field, the barking continues.  (As would be the case with a 128-team field, too.)

There’s an easy way to do away with the debate and disputes.  A clear-cut, proven way to end all the seed-whining, bid-complaining and conspiracy-theorizing.

Just BCS it.

BCS the whole NCAA Tournament. 

Now, personally, I think this would be a pretty crummy way of doing business because I rather like the human element playing a role in tournament selection.  Add a couple more basketball folks to the committee and I’d be quite happy with the current system.  It’s not perfect — and it’s never going to be — but for the most part it’s fair. 

Besides, if you’re Team #69 you really don’t have much to complain about because chances are you’re not going to cut down the nets anyway.  And if your team is good enough to actually compete for the title then the difference between a #3 and a #4 or a #4 and a #5 shouldn’t be that big of an obstacle to overcome.

But again, all the arguing can be KO’d by applying a BCS-style formula to the process:

Step 1: The conference tourney winners get automatic bids as they do now.

Step 2: The new formula is used to determine the remaining teams in the field.

Step 3: The field is seeded according to the formula using a standard S-curve (1-8, 2-8, 3-6, 4-5, etc).  Just to keep things neat, the play-in games would go to the eight lowest RPIs in the field with each winner moving on to play a #1 seed.

No fuss.  No muss.  And if a squad sees a conference mate in Round One or has to travel half way around the world to play, they can take it up with the computer that spits out the seedings.

Using the RPI numbers from as our “formula,” here’s the 2011 field and how it would have been seeded.  Realize that human error and bias has — aside from a few computer programmers — been removed from the process.  So no complaining about what you see below.  It’s all math without partiality. 

Each team’s RPI is listed in parentheses. 

Automatic bids from conference tourneys are underlined

Teams not in this year’s actual tournament are in bold

(And for the record, we’ve been working on this since Monday afternoon, but pushed up the posting time when ESPN — dang them — briefly discussed a BCS idea on “SportsCenter.”)

1 Kansas (1)
  1 Ohio State (2)
16 Ala. State (263) / Tx-SA (193)
  16 Ark-LR (188) / UCSB (157)
8 Washington (32)
  8 UAB (31)
9 Tennessee (33)
  9 Butler (34)
5 Louisville (17)
  5 Syracuse (18)
12 Illinois (48)
  12 Georgia (47)
4 Wisconsin (16)
  4 Utah State (15)
13 VCU (49)
  13 Colorado State (50)
6 George Mason (24)
  6 Kansas State (23)
11 Richmond (41)
  11 Cleveland State (42)
3 Notre Dame (9)
   3 Pittsburgh (10)
14 Bucknell (79)
  14 Morehead State (77)
7 UNLV (25)
  7 St. John’s (26)
10 Princeton (40)
  10 Penn State (39)
2 Florida (8)
  2 Kentucky (7)
15 Indiana State (84)
  15 St. Peter’s (93)

1 Duke (4)
  1 San Diego State (3)
16 Boston U (216) / Wofford (109)
  16 Hampton (153) / NC-Asheville (147)
8 Temple (29)
  8 Texas A&M (30)
9 Cincinnati (36)
  9 Harvard (35)
5 Old Dominion (20)
  5 Arizona (19)
12 Michigan State (45)
  12 St. Mary’s (46)
4 Georgetown (13)
  4 Connecticut (14)
13 Oakland (53)
  13 Belmont (51)
6 West Virginia (21)
  6 Xavier (22)
11 UCLA (44)
  11 Missouri State (43)
3 Purdue (12)
  3 Texas (11)
14 Gonzaga (56)
  14 Long Island (75)
7 Memphis (28)
  7 Vanderbilt (27)
10 Missouri (37)
  10 Villanova (38)
2 BYU (5)
  2 North Carolina (6)
15 Akron (107)
  15 N. Colorado (99)

So there you have it.  Using an RPI formula, the field is selected and seeded without the aid of human beings.  Harvard, Cleveland State, Missouri State, St. Mary’s and Colorado State would be in while Michigan, Florida State, Clemson, Marquette and Southern Cal would be out.

As you eyeball the results, remember that the Southeast champ would face the Southwest winner and the East titlist would play West champion at the Final Four in Houston.

Like what you see?  Think folks would quietly, happily accept these results?



Missouri State fans would like this bracket. _ Missouri State fan.


In my opinion the RPI and the computer are still influeneced by human interpretation, computers do not program themselves.



We referenced that fact in the piece.

Thanks for reading,


John --

I'd be very happy with some kind of formula, as long as teams had to actually beat some of the teams that they schedule to increase their RPI. Scheduling a bunch of good teams that you lose to should not be rewarded.

Re: Would UK fans be happy with such a scheme in a year when UK finished with a great record and a so-so RPI? The answer is that UK's RPI will never be low in a year when they have a good record because UK schedules pretty well. If UK has a good record, they'll have a good RPI, unless they change their scheduling philosophy or the SEC is so bad that nothing UK does out of conference can compensate. I don't see that happening.



My point was this: Fans will like the formula when it aids their team and they'll curse it when it doesn't. Same with the selection committed. I hear a lot of folks complaining about the computers during football season, after all.



See, I told you Kentucky got shafted as well as Texas!



Just remember, that in a year when UK finished with a great record and a so-so RPI, the Cats would be seeded lower in the field. Would you be good with that?

Thanks for reading,


I love it.

1) People would know what to do to get into the tournament.
2) The NCAA are idiots and can't be trusted to put together a tournament.


I think it would be much better using an RPI or equivalent. The seeding alone would be VASTLY improved. The "human element" is overrated.

Rex Greene
Rex Greene

I still think it relies too much on the early season when teams are building, not complete. Also some of the teams that look weak during their conference were good in the preseason when it was isolated games instead of the rigors of conference competition.


  1. [...] over to the computer and used a simple S-curve to divy up the teams and create the matchups.You can eye the silicon-chip-friendly bracket right here.  Personally, we like the human touch — and yes, we enjoyed the music of Rick Springfield in [...]

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