Wichita State is in the rarest of airspace – the only undefeated team on track for the NCAA Men’s Tournament. They just finished the regular season 31-0. That is a first since Saint Joseph did that a decade ago. These Shockers are living up to their nickname and well beyond Kansas and Toto. Yet like so many other teams without historical bias in their favor, their success should not be so shocking. They made it to the Final Four last year, so they did not sneak up on anyone this year.
If the Shockers are bedeviled within the Missouri Valley Conference and lose a single solitary game, I suspect they would lose the coveted Number 1 seed in the Big Dance.
The stated reason will likely be the lack of schedule strength. And indeed, they started the season beating Emporia State. And they beat the likes of North Carolina Central, Oral Roberts, William & Mary, and Tennessee State. But they also beat Tennessee, Brigham Young, Alabama, and Saint Louis, all of which will stake their claim as NCAA Tournament teams.
Yet Shocker supporters would have a hard time defeating those who state quite accurately, “You’ve only played 1 team in the top 25”, and you are 103rd in Strength of Schedule.”
But no matter how many metrics and analytics we generate, one commonality exists for them all – statistical relativity. There is no absolute threshold that a team must cross before the Number 1 seed is allocated. So no matter what theory of negativity the naysayers generate for Wichita State, the analysis is incomplete until you compare them to other potential Number 1 seeds.
Analysts generally, including the ESPN think tank project those top seeds (other than the Shockers) to be Arizona, Kansas, Florida and Syracuse. All of those teams are from major conferences. That is not a coincidence. If any of them lost a game in conference, I suspect they would not fall from that seed as quickly as Wichita State because of the perceived last of schedule and conference strength.
But look at the bottom three teams of the conferences of which those teams beat to reach such a lofty position. When you compare those records with Wichita State’s Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), there is little to distinguish one conference from another. Not surprisingly, they all lost more than they won, both within the conference and overall. Overall, the MVC’s bottom three had more victories than the comparable cohort of all but the Big 12. The chart below graphically illustrates the point.
|Projected No. 1 Seed Team (other than Wichita State)||Conference||Conference Bottom Dwellers||Combined Season Records In Conference||Combined Season Records Overall|
|Arizona||PAC 12||Oregon State, Washington State, USC||10-36||34 -49|
|Kansas||Big 12||Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, TCU||11-36||40-45|
|Florida||SEC||Auburn, South Carolina, Mississippi State||11-36||36-48|
|Syracuse||ACC||Georgia Tech, Boston College, Virginia Tech||9-36||29-55|
|Wichita State||Missouri Valley||Drake, Evansville, Loyola (IL)||16-38||37-54|
So though the most analyzed topic in US sports over the next few weeks will be NCAA Men’s D-1 Tournament, I predict arguments about the Number 1 seed will ignore the predictor’s implicit bias that the major conferences have colder ice than Wichita State. It will only be exposed if both Shockers and any of the other candidates for that slot lose in their own tournament.
Source: Forbes Business