Monday, February 29, 2016

February 29 Update: Why Doesn't Connecticut Ever Leap (Day) to the Front In These Rankings?

For the entire month of February, Connecticut's ranking in the S-Factor has been between 5 and 7, good enough for a seed of 2. But everyone who follows women's basketball knows that Geno Auriemma's UConn Huskies are the best team in the nation unquestionably. The always-dominant Huskies are perhaps as good as they've ever been, helmed by possibly the best player in UConn history (citation: MC Barrett's espnW article entitled "Is Breanna Stewart the Best UConn Player in History?"). 

If the S-Factor has the dominant Huskies down as a 2-seed, how can any of these other rankings be trusted?

The answer lies in the way that the S-Factor treats conference rankings. Strength of conference is a big part of the S-Factor, and it became even bigger in 2014 when I reexamined my rankings to account for the NCAA Selection Committee's persistent tendency to favor teams from strong conferences and to punish teams from weaker conferences. 

Connecticut is far and away the best team in the American Athletic Conference. Despite containing the best team in all of women's college basketball, the American Athletic Conference is ranked 9th in RPI, behind the Big East, Atlantic 10 and West Coast Conference.   The top six teams in the AAC are ranked 3, 30, 58, 82, 102 and 161 in the RPI. For comparison, in the Atlantic 10, a very competitive league this year, the top six teams have RPI rankings of 23, 29, 39, 54, 72, and 84.  

The mathematical forces that keep Connecticut from being ranked #1 in the S-Factor are the same mathematical forces that keep Santa Clara, San Diego and Western Kentucky out of the (predicted) tournament. I'd rather the S-Factor make an error in seeding, prominent though it may be, than an error in tournament inclusion. I feel that this is about as good as one can do without using a score-based method like the Sagarin Ratings, which have their own strengths and weaknesses. 

Now in:
St. Bonaventure
Saint Louis

Now out:

Conferences with multiple bids:
SEC: 9
(1) South Carolina
(3) Florida
(3) Kentucky
(4) Mississippi State
(4) Georgia
(5) Texas A&M
(7) Missouri
(8) Tennessee
(10) Auburn

Pac 12: 5
(2) Arizona State
(2) Oregon State
(2) UCLA
(3) Stanford
(6) Washington

Big 12: 6
(1) Baylor
(1) Texas
(5) West Virginia
(5) Oklahoma State
(6) Oklahoma
(9) Kansas State

Big Ten: 5
(4) Maryland
(4) Ohio State
(6) Michigan State
(8) Indiana
(11) Minnesota

ACC: 5
(1) Notre Dame
(3) Louisville
(5) Syracuse
(6) Florida State
(9) Miami (FL)

Big East: 3
(7) DePaul
(7) Seton Hall
(11) Villanova

Atlantic 10: 4
(8) Duquesne
(8) St. Bonaventure
(9) George Washington
(10) Saint Louis

Ivy League: 2
(9) Princeton
(10) Pennsylvania

American: 2
(2) Connecticut
(10) South Florida

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