Monday, March 20, 2006

Major Statement by MVC

Unless you have been trapped under a rock for the past 48 hours or just don't like sports, you probably know that the Missouri Valley Conference has validated the selection of four of its teams for berths in the NCAA Tournament. You know that despite having only one higher seed, the MVC placed two teams in the Sweet 16, went 4-2 over the first two rounds of the tournament, and made CBS' bullying, badgering lead analyst Billy Packer eat his words.

Click on "Major Statement by MVC" link on the right side of the page for the rest of the article. You can also access this piece by viewing it on Blog Critic.


Adam Hoff said...

Simply noting that Wichita State and Bradley pulled off upset wins and "marched on" doesn't tell the whole story.

To understand the full effect of what the MVC has accomplished, you have to look at where its entrants started and where they are now. Other than the Colonial Athletic Association (9 seed UNC Wilmington and 11 seed George Mason), no other multi-bid conference started the tournament with more than half of its teams seeded as underdogs. No other multi-bid conference featured more than one double-digit seed. We'll get to the importance of these facts in just a moment, but first, consider the success of the Missouri Valley in simple terms.

Based on overall winning percentage, the MVC stacks up pretty well, as evidenced by the performance of multi-bid conferences during the first two rounds:

Atlantic Coast Conference 6-2 (.750)
Pacific 10 Conference 5-2 (.714)
Big East Conference 9-4 (.692)
Missouri Valley Conference 4-2 (.667)
Colonial Athletic Association 2-1 (.667)
Conference USA 2-1 (.667)
Southeastern Conference 7-4 (.636)
Big 12 Conference 3-3 (.500)
Atlantic 10 Conference 1-2 (.333)
Big 10 Conference 3-6 (.333)
Mountain West Conference 0-2 (.000)
Western Athletic Conference 0-2 (.000)

As you can see, based purely on winning percentage, the Missouri Valley trailed only powerhouse conferences like the Big East and ACC, and the underrated Pac-10. However, it really isn't fair to compare the wins of the MVC and a conference like the ACC in the same light. Yes, they both put four teams into the tourney, and yes, they both advanced two squads into the Sweet 16, but they did not achieve the same level of success.

Consider the fact that ACC teams in tourney play received seeds of 1, 3, 4, and 10 while the MVC teams were seeded 7, 10, 11, and 13. An MVC team has been the higher seeded team in a matchup exactly once, when (7) Wichita State drubbed (10) Seton Hall on Thursday. In the other five showdowns, the Missouri Valley teams were the lower seeded team, and often much lower. Compare that to the ACC, which saw its teams play as the higher seed in six of eight games (only NC State played as a lower seed, doing so twice). Pac 10 teams played as the higher seed five of seven times. Big East teams were "favored" based on seeding in a whopping 11 of 13 matchups.

It is obvious from numbers like these that the Missouri Valley teams overcame significantly greater odds to achieve a similar record. One way to better account for this disparity is to incorporate the seeding into the winner percentage calculation. Rather than look at a win as simply a win, it can became a win that is weighted by the seeding of the team that achieved it. For instance, a win by top seed UConn in the first round is wholly expected. By multiplying the win by the Huskies' seed, we are still left with one win. On the other hand, a shocking victory by George Mason seems to warrant something more. By multiplying the win by 11 (the Patriots' seed), the victory becomes worth 11. This is a method employed by office pools around the country in an effort to better reward upset victories. If we are going to reward people for filling out brackets correctly, why not the teams actually winning the games?

By this method of calculation, which incorporates the seeding of the team in the purest way possible, the MVC suddenly looks that much better. Here is the revised list of total "wins," based on the 1(seed) calculation:

Missouri Valley - 40
Big East - 35
SEC - 34
ACC - 23
Pac-10 - 22
CAA - 22
Big 12 - 16
Big 10 - 12
A-10 - 8
CUSA - 2
MWC - 0
WAC - 0

By incorporating the seeding of the teams, you can see that the Missouri Valley has actually had the most impressive opening weekend of any conference.

Obviously, this is an imperfect calculation, however, it brings us closer to understanding just how good MVC teams were during the first two rounds of play. Wichita State drilled a Seton Hall team that the guys on PTI were hailing as the biggest threat to UConn in the Washington region, then they went out and knocked off the 2 seed in Tennessee. Bradley beat popular Final Four pick Kansas and a tough Pitt team in a span of 40 hours. Northern Iowa nearly took out Georgetown before the Hoyas had the chance to crush Ohio State. Only Southern Illinois failed to perform extremely well, and that is only because they faced a matchup nightmare in West Virginia. Whether you create a statistic, watch the games again on your TiVo, or simply glance down at your tattered brackets, it is obvious that the Missouri Valley Conference did a lot of damage during the first 96 hours of March Madness. Which leaves only one question.

You think maybe Missouri State should have received an at large bid after all?

Craig said...

Don't sleep on Wichita State! Their run isn't over. They will handle Mason and they beat the Huskies ... the UW Huskies. (Hey, it is the only way to get the Shockers in the Final Four!)