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The 2017 Tournament’s Most Underseeded Teams

gregg marshall

Wichita St.’s Gregg Marshall [Getty]

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Yesterday, I took a look at the most overseeded teams in the NCAA Tournament – those who are worse than their Seed line. Here are the teams who got boned.

As a reminder, this is the methodology:

In order to sort out which teams are better or worse than where they’re seeded, I took the list of teams sorted by the committee 1-66, and I compared it to a composite computer ranking of tournament teams based on the average of Ken Pomeroy, Jeff Sagarin, and Bart Torvik’s metrics. I then calculated the difference between where a team should theoretically be ranked given their strength according to that composite ranking and where they actually wound up.

seed difference

The seven most underseeded teams are

  • South #10 Wichita St.
  • South #11 Kansas St.
  • Midwest #10 Oklahoma St.
  • West #4 West Virginia
  • East #10 Marquette
  • East #5 Virginia
  • East #8 Wisconsin

No, no Michigan. Or at least if Michigan got boned in our seeding by historic standards it wasn't as bad as some other schools got it. True we have to play one of the most underseeded teams in the tournament in the first round, but it's not like Michigan played an Elite 8 seed kind of season and got put in a double-digit slot. Who's got it worse than us? See after the jump.

[This JUMP]

Wichita State

Seed Rank: 38 (10-seed). Computer Rank: 10 (3-seed). Round of 64 vs. Dayton (7); Round of 32 vs. Kentucky (2) / Northern Kentucky (15).

Over the last half decade, Gregg Marshall has built Wichita St. into one of the best programs in college basketball. In each of the last two seasons, they won two tournament games: In 2013, they made a run to the Final 4; In 2014, they received a 1-seed after an undefeated regular season but were upset by a talented Kentucky squad in the Round of 32. Interestingly, WSU’s spot in this year’s tournament–as an underseeded 10-seed–helps set up a potential rematch against the Wildcats. Evidently recent success as a mid-major doesn’t necessarily endear a team to the committee, as the Shockers enter the tournament as a double digit seed despite being ranked as a fringe top ten team by various computer metrics.

Despite losing two senior stalwarts from last season’s team, Marshall has kept things humming in Wichita: The Shockers finished with 30 total wins and only have had one loss since the calendar flipped over to 2017. Wide-bodied big man Shaq Morris controls the paint; Markis McDuffie has ably stepped into a prominent role as an athletic wing; veteran point guard Connor Frankamp is one of the best shooters in the country. Wichita St. drew Dayton – an overseeded team – in the first round and their probable matchup against Kentucky (a legit title contender) will have the feel of an Elite 8, rather than a Round of 32, game.

Kansas State

Seed Rank: 46 (11-seed). Computer Rank: 29 (8-seed). Beat Wake Forest (11) in the play-in game. Round of 64 vs. Cincinnati (6); Round of 32 vs. UCLA (3) / Kent St. (14).

It’s rare that a team with a losing record in conference play makes the tournament, but because of how strong (and more importantly, deep) the Big 12 was this season, the Kansas St. Wildcats made it into the play-in game – and defeated Wake Forest (another underseeded but underachieving high-major team) in a high-scoring affair last night to make it to the Round of 64. The Big 12 has a handful of teams that are more well-regarded by the computers than by the committee, and KSU is a prime example.

Bruce Weber may have saved his job by upsetting Baylor in the Big 12 tournament and getting Kansas St. into the big dance, but they could be decently equipped to make a run now that they’re here. KSU had a weak non-conference schedule and lost their only tough matchup by one on the road to Maryland, but the Big 12 gave them plenty of experience playing against quality opponents. A well-balanced offensive attack led by Kamau Stokes and Barry Brown isn’t anything special; the defense is marginally better and reliant on forcing turnovers.

After playing an up-tempo and efficient game against Wake Forest, they’ll be in for a slog against Cincinnati in the Round of 64; if the computers are to be believed that the Big 12 is mostly underrated and the Pac-12 is mostly overrated, a potential matchup against UCLA in the next round could be very interesting.

Oklahoma State

Seed Rank: 37 (10-seed). Computer Rank: 24 (6-seed). Round of 64 vs. Michigan (7); Round of 32 vs. Louisville (2) / Jacksonville St. (15).

On Selection Sunday, it was a surprise to see Michigan and Oklahoma State in a 7 / 10 game; both teams are undervalued by the committee (though OSU much more so), both have firebreathing offenses, and both have recovered from a rough patch of games early on in conference play. Oklahoma State actually has the best offense in the country per Kenpom, making the Cowboys even more of an “all offense / no defense” anomaly than Michigan is. After losing six straight games to open Big 12 play, Oklahoma State won 10 of their next 11 before dropping three in a row ahead of the tournament.

Their new coach, Brad Underwood, was amazing at Stephen F. Austin and has overseen a quick one-year turnaround in Stillwater. Point guard Jawun Evans runs the show for the Cowboys; he has one of the best assist rates in the country, has an unfathomable usage rate of 33%, gets steals, and attacks the basket relentlessly. Evans sets up wing Jeffrey Carroll and guard Phil Forte, two of the most efficient players in the country. Oklahoma St. also loves attacking the offensive glass, particularly with starting big man Mitchell Solomon. Michigan – Oklahoma St. will likely be one of the best matchups of the Round of 64, as both teams have the statistical profile of about a 6-seed and run some of the most impressive offenses in all of college basketball.

West Virginia

Seed Rank: 15 (4-seed). Computer Rank: 4 (1-seed). Round of 64 vs. Bucknell (13); Round of 32 vs. Notre Dame (5) / Princeton (12).

Another Big 12 team! Bob Huggins has built the most unique high-level program in college basketball during his stint in Morgantown, running a variety of aggressive full-court defensive schemes with a deep rotation. “Press Virginia” is a darling of most computer ranking systems, which love their defensive efficiency (which is almost entirely due to their ability to force turnovers on 28% of opponent possessions), but the Mountaineers found themselves as a 4-seed after finishing tied for second in the Big 12 and losing in the conference tournament final to Iowa State.

While they are underseeded, West Virginia still has a pretty excellent draw: the 1-seed in their region is Gonzaga, a team that’s played few high-level opponents, especially over the latter half of the season; the 2- and 3-seeds are Arizona and Florida St., teams that are more like 5-seeds (per the computer rankings). Notre Dame, West Virginia’s probable Round of 32 opponent, could be tricky (as they’re literally the most turnover-averse team in college basketball), but outside of that, it’s about as favorable of a route to the Final 4 as a team like WVU could hope for. Jevon Carter, Nathan Adrian, and company are a solid choice for those looking outside the top three seed lines for some Final 4 picks.


Seed Rank: 39 (10-seed). Computer Rank: 28 (7-seed). Round of 64 vs. South Carolina (7); Round of 32 vs. Duke (2) / Troy (15).

Since losing big to Michigan on a neutral floor back in November, it’s been a good year for Marquette – they’re in the tournament for the first time under Steve Wojciechowski after missing out following a 20-win season a year ago. The Golden Eagles finished with a respectable 10-8 record in Big East play (good enough to tie for third in the league with three other NCAA Tournament teams) and had the second-best offense in the league behind #1 overall seed Villanova. Marquette has a very similar offensive profile to Michigan’s: they’re indifferent to the offensive glass, they don’t shoot many free throws, they rarely turn it over, and they’re the best three-point shooting team in the country.

They’re also an undervalued 10-seed, one of three in this tournament. Like most 7 / 10 games, their upcoming game against South Carolina is more or less a toss-up, but what’s interesting about that matchup is that it’s a strength vs. strength game: Marquette has one of the best offenses and South Carolina has one of the best defenses in the country. If the Golden Eagles win that game, they’ll set up a meeting with their coach’s alma mater in the Round of 32 – Duke is talented and rounding into form, but a potent offensive team with a host of sharpshooters is always an upset candidate.


Seed Rank: 17 (5-seed). Computer Rank: 7 (2-seed). Round of 64 vs. UNC Wilmington (12); Round of 32 vs. Florida (4) / East Tennessee St. (13).

Tony Bennett has taken the Bo Ryan model to its logical extreme in Charlottesville: the Cavaliers play at the slowest tempo in the country, have the best defensive efficiency in college basketball, and somehow are almost completely unable to draw fouls and score at the free throw line. In recent weeks, the UVA offense has ground to a halt, producing some truly horrible basketball (but some Virginia wins!) during that span. Computer metrics tend to like low-tempo, good defensive teams like Virginia – which is how they made this list – but they could be an undervalued team because of how thoroughly uninspiring their offense is.

Virginia may be a better team than their seed indicates, but it will be tough for them to make a run in the tournament. Their first round opponent – UNC Wilmington – almost upset Duke in the Round of 64 last season and the Seahawks have one of the hottest mid-major coaching prospects in the country in Kevin Keatts. Assuming UVA does go onto win that game, they’ll have to face either Florida – another team whose computer ranking is better than their spot on the S-Curve – or East Tennessee St., a dangerous 13-seed that will have needed to spring an upset over the Gators to get to that matchup. If The Cavaliers make it to the Sweet 16, they’d likely have to face Villanova, the reigning champs and top overall seed in the tournament.


Seed Rank: 29 (8-seed). Computer Rank: 20 (5-seed). Round of 64 vs. Virginia Tech (9); Round of 32 vs. Villanova (1) / Mount St. Mary’s (16).

Like Virginia, Wisconsin is a low-tempo team that’s more beloved by computer algorithms than their human counterparts. Wisconsin’s seed is baffling to anyone who watched the Big Ten this season; after finishing tied for second in the league along with Maryland, they have the fifth-best seed spot of any Big Ten team. They destroyed Minnesota in a relatively important regular season finale, only to see the Gophers wind up three seed lines higher with a similar resume. Wisconsin simply didn’t rack up enough good wins throughout the season, but it’s strange to see them in the 8 / 9 game as ostensible cannon fodder for Villanova.

The Badgers could pull the upset to make the Sweet 16, but it’s unlikely. Villanova has to be upset that the committee gave them a path of Wisconsin – Virginia – Duke to the Final 4, which may be the toughest draw for any 1-seed. If the Wildcats make it to the Final 4 again, they certainly will have earned it.

This post first appeared on Mgoblog, please read the originial post: here

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The 2017 Tournament’s Most Underseeded Teams


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