The first NCAA Bracket Preview was released last week with Villanova being posted at the pole position of the Top 16 seeds. We used that news as an opportunity to have a Q&A with Chris Dobbertean of Blogging the Bracket.
Sit back and enjoy his perspective on ‘Nova and the rest of the Field...
CHRIS LANE: Villanova was the #1 overall seed for the committee during the bracket preview -- do you agree with that analysis at this stage?
Chris Dobbertean: Indeed I do, the only team that really has a shot at displacing Villanova at this point is Kansas. But with a better "worst loss" (Marquette vs. Indiana) and one fewer loss overall, the Wildcats deserved the nod over the Jayhawks.
C.L.: Villanova has games at Seton Hall, vs. Creighton, vs. Butler and at Georgetown (plus the BET) remaining. What would Villanova have to do to fall off the 1-line at this point?
C.D.: Lose two or three of those games. In that case, the door would open up for an ACC squad to jump in.
C.L.: Outside of the obvious locks, who from the Big East will go dancing this year?
C.D.: I have six teams in at the moment, and given what's going on elsewhere (mediocre power conferences, few mid-major at-large threats), that seems like a solid bet. The composition of that half dozen might differ from what I have now, however. Marquette could fade away to be replaced by Georgetown or Providence
C.L.: Can you explain why the RPI is such a flawed system?
C.D.: Basically, RPI is a simple metric that as this article from FiveThirtyEight states was designed to create a simple way to get records to better reflect a team's schedule. It's a "dumb" metric in that it's not basketball specific. Most NCAA-sponsored sports use a variant of it to rank teams. Scheduling is the most important factor in the RPI, which is why you often see mid-majors that play a tough schedule high in the rankings in November and December, with power conference schools replacing them as league play unfolds.
C.L.: Can you stack-rank (as best you can) the metrics the committee uses when seeding the top teams? How will this change moving forward in the new few years?
C.D.: Ranking the rankings is a difficult thing to do for one reason: the metrics on offer are aimed at meeting two different goals.
RPI arguably does a better job of evaluating a team for selection purposes than KenPom or Sagarin do, since it's an evaluative metric that looks at what's already happened. On the other hand, KenPom and Sagarin are predictive metrics that attempt to forecast what will happen.
In my opinion, there's room for both, and in fact, Wichita State and Vanderbilt would have been left out of last year's field had predictive metrics been left out of the Committee's discussions. However, if the NCAA wants a be-all, end-all metric to make things simple, they're going to have a hard time squaring the two different goals of the current rankings. (And as that FiveThirtyEight article states, they don't want to start from scratch.)
C.L.: What's the right balance for scheduling aggressively (you crazy, Sparty) and stacking up wins in the non-conference (looking at you West Virginia)?
C.D.: As a Florida alum and fan, I've grown to appreciate the approach Billy Donovan took in his final few seasons at the helm, one that Mike White seems to have adopted so far. Set yourself up with some nice power conference home-and-home series, schedule yourself in a quality exempt event (which is going to become a necessity to get to 31 regular season games if conferences go to 20-game league schedules), and schedule decent mid-majors that are consistently contending in their conferences. Stay away from those teams typically in the RPI's bottom 100, though a game or two against that group may be unavoidable, particularly if it's part of a tournament. And as much as fans may dislike them, playing a neutral-site game or two helps too, especially with the NCAA Tournament taking place in those environments.
Challenging yourself in November and December is key to success from January through April.
C.L.: Settle the debate for us: If UConn finds a home for football, should the Big East bring them "back?"
C.D.: That's a big IF, but if UConn resolves that question, the Big East should. If the rumors of keeping the double round-robin intact is true, then everyone's enthusiasm should grow, since that's two more potential quality games on everyone's schedule that require no extra work to set up. Reuniting the Huskies with the Wildcats, Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, and St. John's would be great for the conference and I can see UConn building new rivalries with Butler and Xavier.
C.L.: Give us your Final Four and National Champion prediction.
C.D.: Going on my Friday projection, let's go with Villanova over Oregon in one semifinal with UNC taking out Arizona in the other. And why not go with a Nova repeat in that case?
Thanks to Chris D. for joining us. Make sure to follow him on twitter at @ChrisDobbertean.