All-time underachieving tourney teams

In my December 11 post, I listed the tourney’s top ten overachieving teams based on performance against seed expectations (PASE). If you’re not familiar with the concept of PASE, it’s a calculation that measures a team’s actual and expected wins based on seeding.

Take Butler, for instance—the top overachieving school of the modern tourney era. Based on seeding, the Bulldogs should’ve only won 6.5 games. Instead, they’ve recorded 16 wins, 9.5 above expectations in ten tourney appearances. That works out to an average of nearly one-game overachievement per dance. Their PASE is an eye-popping +.948. No team comes close to that performance. The team with the second best PASE is Florida. But their +.575 value is just a little over half-a-game overachievement per tourney trip.

Of course, not every team has a history of overachievement in the dance. In fact, of the 282 schools that have appeared in the 64-team bracket era, more than 60% of the teams (172) have negative PASE values. Even if you narrow down to schools with at least 10 tourney trips, more than half of those 67 teams are underachievers against seed projections.

So who’s the anti-Butler? How about the top seed that eighth-seeded Butler shocked in 2011? That’s right. It’s Pittsburgh. They don’t underachieve at quite the same rate that the Bulldogs overachieve…but their record of disappointment is pretty dismal. The Panthers have won 18 tourney games in 16 appearances. But based on their 4.6 average seed, they should’ve won 27 games. The shortfall works out to a -.565 PASE, more like Florida in reverse. You might be tempted to lay the blame at Jamie Dixon’s feet. But that’s not fair. Before he got to Pitt, the school was a -.562 PASE underachiever. During his tenure, Dixon has posted a -.678 PASE, about the same as the school’s historical performance.

Pitt ranks dead last among the 67 teams with at least 10 trips since 1985. Here’s the rest of the bottom ten:


A few observations:

  • Georgia and Clemson have been stuck down near the PASE basement for years. The Bulldogs haven’t won a tourney game since 2002, and it’s been 16 years since Clemson got a win.
  • New Mexico wasn’t ranked in the bottom ten last year…but only because they didn’t have the requisite ten trips. In their last two trips, the Lobos have been set up with high seeds—three in 2010 and five in 2012—but haven’t done much with them, losing in the second round. In fact, the school has never reached the Sweet 16. Keep that in mind when you assess Alford’s bunch this year.
  • Notre Dame has never been a very good tourney team…but things have gotten worse under Mike Brey. Before he took the helm, the Fighting Irish had a -.286 PASE. Not great, but outside the 20th percentile of underachievement. Add Brey’s -.472 PASE and the Irish have fallen into the bottom ten.
  • I always like when a team escapes the PASE basement. Purdue’s -.304 is nothing to write home about. But all that underperformance happened under Gene Keady. The Boilermakers had a -.499 PASE when he coached. Since Painter took over, Purdue is actually a +.185 PASE overachiever.
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2 Responses to All-time underachieving tourney teams

  1. Eric Timm says:

    Pete, I’m curious…what is Wisconsin’s PASE rating under Bo Ryan? Among the Badger faithful, some have the belief that Bo underachieves in the tourney, seeming to always lose to the hot, mid-major flavor of the year.

    • ptiernan says:

      Eric – The Bracketmaster says that Ryan is a slight +.179 PASE overachiever. I hear Badger fans complain all the time that Ryan teams never beat a team they shouldn’t–at least in the tourney. I don’t know about that…but his PASE isn’t exactly great.

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