In an effort to try and illustrate the relative quality of the combatants in this knife fight, I thought it would be interesting to look at the NCAA Tournament field as if it were a big ol' league of apex predators, playing in a round robin format on a neutral field. This, of course, deviates from the format of a single elimination tournament where strength and paths to the gold medal are primary considerations in assigning win probabilities -- or, in other words, the likelihood of not dying -- to a specific team. It does, however, provide something useful for the melons in our skulls: Which teams, as they relate to the field in its entirety, are expected to do the most damage?
This hypothetical 18-team league featuring a 17-game schedule for each real team playing at the very fake College Crosse Lacrosse Stadium and Cocktail Lounge was simulated using the Massey Ratings' matchup tool. Probabilities for each totally fake meeting were assigned to each game and the cumulative sum of those probabilities yielded expected cumulative win totals for each team. Unsurprisingly, no super team emerged from the imaginary league with Brown -- the league's pretend champion -- earning a 13-4 record (76.47%).
That, in isolation, isn't particularly mind-blowing: Many ratings models like Brown as Division I's strongest team. What should make your face do that thing that indicates that you are something other than unimpressed is this: Five other teams would be expected to finish no more than two games back from Bruno with a sixth registering double-digits victories.
To the awfully formatted table!
So, what can we pull from this that would make you look like a real smart ass? Some thoughts:
- No first round NCAA Tournament matchup is featuring two teams expected to breach 10 wins in this fake league. Regardless of your particular opinion of the Selection Committee's work, the bracket wasn't totally composed on a napkin doused in bourbon. However, the quarterfinals could pit two teams -- Syracuse and Maryland -- against each other that would be expected to finish among the fop four in this imaginary league. That's less than ideal as a true contender -- if both advance to the quarterfinals -- will bow out before Championship Weekend.
- Denver, the NCAA Tournament's second-seeded team, may draw Towson in the first round, an opponent expected to win two more games than Notre Dame's, the Big Barbeque's third-seeded team, opening round foe -- Air Force. Oops! Increasing the Pioneer's degree of difficulty is that Denver may face Duke in the quarterfinal round, a team expected to win 10 games in the bogus league, instead of a North Carolina team -- Notre Dame's potential quarterfinal opponent -- that would bag only 8 triumphs in the imaginary world of round robin championship efforts. The top two seeds in the bracket seem to have been dealt a hand less conducive to success than what was provided to the Irish.
- Continuing the theme of the last bullet point: A Yale-Brown quarterfinal seems to equally punish the Bears and Elis, a meeting of two top-five teams on the imaginary table. Of the top four seeds in the NCAA Tournament, only Maryland has a bigger gripe about potentially unbalanced quarterfinals throwdowns. The focus: It is possible that at least two of the top five teams in the imaginary league could disappear before tossing lacrosse balls in Philadelphia becomes an actual thing that exists. The Providence side of the bracket was disproportionately heavy compared to the Columbus region, even considering Denver's icky situation compared to that of Notre Dame.
- In terms of underseeded teams relative to the fake league, Syracuse easily takes the crown. With respect to overseeded teams, Denver has the biggest delta between its seed and its rank in cumulative victories (although, it should be noted that the Pioneers are in a pool of four teams with 11 pretend wins). Take that information and scream about it in whatever fashion you see fit.