Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/17/2008 03:30:00 PM
Bracket Math, Part One
NEW YORK -- We all know the real work in college basketball is done on the road. If that weren't so, the RPI wouldn't assign 2.3 times the weight to road wins as it does to victories at home. So it shouldn't be shocking to learn that teams that only look like contenders within their own arenas tend to under-perform expectations in the dance. According to a study on data from 1999-2006 that the Blog's statistical collaborator, Jacob Wheatley-Schaller, did over at Vegas Watch, 1-6 seeds with the biggest negative gaps between home and road performance won, on average, a half a game less than expected in the tournament. The poster children for this phenomenon were the third-seeded, 2006 Iowa Hawkeyes, who were No. 2 in teamrankings.com's home power index but just No. 53 on the road ... and were upset by Northwestern State in the opening round.
In his post last week, Jacob applied some of the data to projected NCAA tournament teams; here, we'll assess the entire Field of 65's regular-season home-road splits, in hopes of pinpointing a few potential upset victims -- or lower seeds to avoid -- for your pool picks. His analysis only addressed 1-6 seeds, but it's reasonable to suggest that road struggles are a sign of weakness in more than just elite squads.
Here are the teams with more than 40-spot drops in their home-to-road rankings on teamrankings.com:
• Mason '08 is not Mason '06, in case you were considering picking the Patriots to upset Notre Dame. I wouldn't expect GMU to fare well all the way out in Denver.
• Once again, statistical analysis doesn't make Vandy look like a particularly great pick to go deep in the dance. The 'Dores and Michigan State -- another questionable Sweet 16 team -- have almost the same profile: killers at home, mediocre on the road.
On the flip side, here are the teams with more than 40-spot jumps in their home-to-road rankings on teamrankings.com:
Team Seed HomeRk. RoadRk. Diff. Mt. St. Mary's 16 235 115 -120 Boise State 14 169 63 -106 American 15 183 92 -91 CS-Fullerton 14 144 70 -74 Siena 13 132 65 -67 St. Joseph's 11 98 36 -62 Arizona 10 69 14 -55 Baylor 11 70 15 -55 Ms. Valley St. 16 318 263 -55 Washington St. 4 58 6 -52 USC 6 52 10 -42
• I'm not inclined to reach much into the road prowess of 14-16 seeds -- none of the four squads at the top here have favorable first-round matchups -- but Siena, at No. 13, is looking like a solid Cinderella pick. Especially since their opponent, Vandy, was prominently featured on the first chart.
• This table has the potential to yield some underseeded sleepers, namely Washington State and USC, who both ranked in the top 10 nationally on the road but didn't take care of business at home in the Pac-10. Could both of those squads be making surprise runs to the Elite Eight?