Betting on Wrongly Seeded Teams
by Trevor Whenham - 03/14/2007
I respect the difficulty of the job that the selection committee for the NCAA tournament has to do. They really can't win - no matter what they do some teams are going to be upset, and some analysts are going to think that they are insane. This year it is Syracuse and Drexel that have been at the center of the criticism directed towards the committee, but it's always some team or another.
Mostly, though, the committee does a pretty decent job. That being said, this year, as in every year, there are a few seedings that make me scratch my head. In some cases, teams have been given seeds that seem higher than they deserve, while in other cases the committee has served up a healthy dose of disrespect with an unexpected low seed. To fans, these problematic seedings can be a source of great frustration and endless discussion. To bettors, though, these odd placements can be a source of profit - the public could make betting decisions based on the seeds of the teams instead of their real merit. That can lead to overestimated poor teams and underestimated good teams. Here's a look at six teams that don't necessarily deserve the seed they have been given:
Duke - Even the most blindly loyal Blue Devil has to admit that a No. 6 seed is ridiculous for this team. They lost seven of their last 11 games. The defense that got them any of the success they had early in the season completely disappeared down the stretch. They only received a No. 7 seed in the ACC tournament, and the justified that lack of respect by losing in the first round to a N.C. State team that didn't even come close to earning a tournament bid. If a team with this record came from any school other than Duke then there is no question that they would have a much lower seed.
Oregon - This is a classic case of a team getting hot at just the right time. The Ducks won their conference tournament in impressive fashion, though to be fair they only had to play teams ranked below them in the conference because other teams knocked UCLA and Washington State off for them. They also won their last three games of the year, all on their home court. Before that, though, this team was looking nothing like a No. 3 seed. They lost six of eight games, and only covered once during that stretch. Oregon is a solid team, but a No. 3 seed seems to be just a bit higher than it should be - a No. 5 would make more sense.
Nevada - The Wolf Pack knew that they were going to be punished for losing to Utah State in the WAC tournament, but they likely didn't expect to fall as far as the No. 7 seed. Only Ohio State could match Nevada's regular season loss total of just three. They only lost once at home - to MWC champs UNLV - and they had solid non-conference wins over Cal and Gonzaga. With the deadly one-two punch of Nick Fazekas and Marcelus Kemp leading the team, Nevada is much more dangerous than your typical No. 7 seed.
Marquette - Marquette didn't end the season as well as they could have, but they still don't look like a No. 8 seed. They finished 24-9, including a 10-6 record in the tough Big East. They won at Pitt and Louisville, they beat Duke and Texas Tech on neutral ground, and they ended the season with two solid home wins. It seems a bit too convenient that Marquette and coach Tom Crean have a first round match-up with Michigan State and Crean's close friend Tom Izzo. If it weren't for that made-for-TV game, then Marquette may have received a higher seed, and they would have deserved it. Duke and Marquette, for example, could easily trade places.
Winthrop - It's clear that the committee isn't crazy about mid-majors - the fact that they only gave six of them at-large bids is proof of that. Their love of the major conferences doesn't excuse the ridiculous seeding that Winthrop received, though. They are a dangerous No. 11 seed because they should no more be an 11 seed than, well, Drexel should be in the NIT. The Eagles were 28-4, and they were undefeated in both conference play and the conference tournament. They scheduled as tough a non-conference schedule as any team out there - North Carolina, Mississippi State, Maryland, Wisconsin, Old Dominion and Texas A&M. They shouldn't have been a No. 2 seed, obviously, but they clearly deserved to be in the top half of the bracket.
Indiana - The prospect of a rematch of last year's game between Gonzaga and Indiana is enticing, but that doesn't mean that Indiana deserves their No. 7 seed. They were a very impressive 15-0 at home, including wins over Wisconsin and Michigan State. When they left their own cozy confines, though, things got ugly. They were just 5-10 on the road, and they didn't have a single defining win away from home. The best they could hope for should have been a No. 9 seed, so a No. 7 is quite a bit too high.