I don't think anyone could be happier than me that the Wildcats made the tournament at all. This has been one seriously messed-up season by Kentucky standards, and even though this tough Kentucky team has stolen our hearts with their never-say-die attitude and relentless determination, nobody who has been around the Big Blue Nation for any length of time would call this a typical Kentucky basketball team. This year has been a totally different experience for all Kentucky fans, and not altogether in a bad way. Yes, we got beat by teams nobody outside their respective fan bases has ever heard of. Yes, Vanderbilt hung a 41-point beating on us in Nashville. Yes, our out of conference best win was Liberty (!).
But even after all that badness, we have to recognize that Kentucky went 12-4 in the SEC. That is a remarkable turnaround, and even as I acknowledge that this year's SEC isn't anything like the SEC of the last few years, it is still one of the best basketball conferences in the land. Billy Packer kicked up a fuss with Tim O'Connor, the Chairman of the NCAA Selection Committee over why the ACC didn't get more in, even after being the strongest RPI conference in the land. Obviously, Billy Packer's grasp of statistics is kind of limited, or otherwise he would understand that most of the ACC's strength lay with the very top. This chart illustrates that very well (Thanks to Statsheet.com ):
|RPI Rankings (Season Averages)|
|Conf RPI Rank||2.4||5.2||2.5|
|Avg Team RPI Rank||58.5||80.6||58.0|
|Median Team RPI Rank||53.1||67.2||51.4|
|Hi Team RPI Rank||2.4||4.5||5.1|
|Low Team RPI Rank||137.7||197.9||137.1|
When you look at the SEC RPI in this way, all the sudden, we don't seem so weak, do we? As is often said of stats, "There are lies, damn lies, and statistics." A clever calculator and you can arrange the stats to tell you anything you want to hear. Paccer Packer did just that -- he ignored the stats inconvenient to his argument and focused on the ones that supported it.
But moving on, I wanted to take a look at the tournament history of 11 seeds, and of Marquette and Kentucky. Here are just a few things, all courtesy of Basketball State:
How have #11 seeds fared against #6 seeds since 2000?
|03/16/2007||(11) Winthrop||(6) Notre Dame||Big South||Gregg Marshall||Round of 64||Spokane, WA||W, 74-64|
|03/15/2007||(11) Virginia Commonwealth||(6) Duke||Colonial||Anthony Grant||Round of 64||Buffalo, NY||W, 79-77|
|03/17/2006||(11) George Mason||(6) Michigan State||Colonial||Jim Larranaga||Round of 64||Dayton, OH||W, 75-65|
|03/16/2006||(11) Milwaukee||(6) Oklahoma||Horizon League||Rob Jeter||Round of 64||Jacksonville, FL||W, 82-74|
|03/17/2005||(11) UAB||(6) Louisiana State||Conference USA||Mike Anderson||Round of 64||Boise, ID||W, 82-68|
|03/20/2003||(11) Central Michigan||(6) Creighton||Mid-American||Jay Smith||Round of 64||Salt Lake City, UT||W, 79-73|
|03/15/2002||(11) Southern Illinois||(6) Texas Tech||Missouri Valley||Bruce Weber||Round of 64||Chicago, IL||W, 76-68|
|03/14/2002||(11) Wyoming||(6) Gonzaga||Mountain West||Steve McClain||Round of 64||Albuquerque, NM||W, 73-66|
|03/16/2001||(11) Temple||(6) Texas||Atlantic 10||John Chaney||Round of 64||New Orleans, LA||W, 79-65|
|03/15/2001||(11) Georgia State||(6) Wisconsin||Atlantic Sun||Lefty Driesell||Round of 64||Boise, ID||W, 50-49|
|03/17/2000||(11) Pepperdine||(6) Indiana||West Coast||Jan van Breda Kolff||Round of 64||Buffalo, NY||W, 77-57|
|03/19/2006||(11) George Mason||(3) North Carolina||Colonial||Jim Larranaga||Round of 32||Dayton, OH||W, 65-60|
|03/17/2002||(11) Southern Illinois||(3) Georgia||Missouri Valley||Bruce Weber||Round of 32||Chicago, IL||W, 77-75|
|03/18/2001||(11) Temple||(3) Florida||Atlantic 10||John Chaney||Round of 32||New Orleans, LA||W, 75-54|
Hmm. It happens, but not very often. Only 3 times since 2000, a total of 3 wins in 11 tries, or 27%. Not very good odds. But they do get worse.
How many times in all of history has an 11 seed reached the regional finals? In the case of an 11-2 matchup:
|03/20/1986||(11) Louisiana State||(2) Georgia Tech||Southeastern||Dale Brown||Sweet 16||Atlanta, GA||W, 70-64|
In the case of an 11-7 matchup:
|03/24/2006||(11) George Mason||(7) Wichita State||Colonial||Jim Larranaga||Sweet 16||Washington, DC||W, 63-55|
|03/23/2001||(11) Temple||(7) Penn State||Atlantic 10||John Chaney||Sweet 16||Atlanta, GA||W, 84-72|
|03/23/1990||(11) Loyola Marymount||(7) Alabama||West Coast||Paul Westhead||Sweet 16||Oakland, CA||W, 62-60|
How about an 11-10 or 11-15 matchup? Never happened.
They don't call this "March Madness" for nothing.