The last time I compared the Pythagorean values of the top 20 teams (heretofore the “KenPom Top 20”) to their historical counterparts, we saw that this year’s “elite” were markedly worse than any top 20 in the last decade. This is an important comparison because, as I explained in a December 30 post, there’s a correlation between the efficiency of the top teams and the madness of the dance. Essentially, when a tourney’s best teams are less efficient, there tend to be more upsets—and when the best teams are stronger, the dances are more chalky.
Periodically, I update my comparison of 2013’s elite teams to the best tourney field of the past decade (2007), the worst (2011) and the average. This year’s top 20 teams continue to be weaker than any tourney field since KenPom ratings came into being. But the dynamics have changed somewhat since my last update. Take a look:
If you were starting to feel like the Arizona Wildcats might be the only truly high-quality team this year, there’s a reason for that. Look at the steep drop from Arizona to second-place Wisconsin. That’s the biggest gap between succeeding teams except for the difference between Virginia to Florida State. That said, the top four teams—your presumptive one seeds—are markedly weaker than even the weakest top seeds of the last 10 years. Does anyone really think that Wisconsin, Syracuse and Villanova are comparable to dynamo one seeds of yore?
That’s one point to bear in mind. Now consider this: the presumptive two and three seeds, while still the weakest crop in a decade, are a lot closer to the previous weaklings than the one seeds were. From Iowa through Oklahoma State, the Pythag values of the squads are just a tick under those of 2011.
Then, things get even more interesting: look at Kentucky, Florida, Wichita State and Iowa State. They’re a comparatively strong set of four seeds. In fact, even stronger on balance than the 2011 weaklings. Same goes for the five seeds—Virginia, Florida State, San Diego State and Cincinnati.
Okay…so this could be our situation heading into the 2014 tourney: significantly weak one seeds, somewhat weak twos and threes, and relatively stronger fours and fives. Add to this the fact that you could have teams like Duke, North Carolina, Michigan, UConn, Gonzaga, VC and Oregon lurking among the lower seeds.
How would you fill out your bracket?