Saturday, January 5, 2013

Back Iron Tournament: The REAL 68 Best Teams in America

It used to be called the Bilas Invitational, but the Back Iron Tournament (BIT for short) has evolved to a point where even Bilas's epic swag cannot contain it.

Suffice it to say that this is a tournament that will never happen, but certainly should. It lacks the democratic appeal of the everyone-has-a-vote NCAA tournament, preferring a more résumé-based approach.

The only way to get into the BIT is to earn it by being one of America's 68 best teams.

For those who are unfamiliar, check the explanation after the jump. For those who are familiar, the parameters have changed, so they need to check after the jump, too.

If you hate the RPI, sorry. They're part of the formula. If you hate Pomeroy, Massey, Sagarin and the other advanced-metric computer honks, sorry to you, too. They're another part.

If you hate all of them, seek therapy.

The Back Iron Index (BII), the formula that assembles the BIT, is derived from 10 different sets of rankings: (standing in temporarily for the NCAA's official RPI)
ESPN's RPI rankings (Insider)
ESPN's BPI index
The Bilas Index (Insider again; because Jay's head will explode if he's not part of everything)
Jeff Sagarin's rankings
The LRMC rankings from Georgia Tech
Ken Pomeroy
Warren Nolan

The top 70 teams in each of these rankings are included in the pool, and they are ranked by their averages across all 10 metrics. The top 68 averages go into the bracket.

About the bracket: 68 teams, regardless of conference affiliation. The play-in games are for 16-seeds, meaning the extra game gets you a chance to be whacked by a #1.

The only rule of seeding is that two teams from the same conference can't play each other in the first round. The lower seed gets bumped down the S-curve until it finds a non-league opponent.

Got all that? Good. Here's the S-curve:

Midwest East South West
Duke Kansas Louisville Michigan
Minnesota Florida Arizona Indiana
Syracuse Gonzaga Creighton Cincinnati
Oklahoma St. VCU Wichita St. Ohio St.
Colorado UNLV NC State Wyoming
New Mexico Michigan St Miami (FL) Missouri
Illinois San Diego State Notre Dame Pittsburgh
Belmont Colorado St. Kentucky Butler
Baylor Boise St. N. Carolina Ole Miss
UCLA Georgetown Oregon Iowa St.
Bucknell Temple Maryland MTSU
Illinois St. ND State St. Louis Kansas St.
Marquette BYU Oklahoma Memphis
Wisconsin St. Joseph's LaSalle Iowa
Murray St. Stanford Southern Miss Seton Hall
Stephen F. Austin Indiana St. Dayton St. Mary's
Tennessee LSU California Santa Clara

Italicized teams are play-in opponents. Final Four opponents are Midwest-West and East-South.

Bracket is here.

A few impressions:
--If you're wondering "Why three different RPI sites?" consider teams like Indiana, Florida and Syracuse. RealTimeRPI had Indiana at #14, which cost it a top seed. RPI Forecast had the Hoosiers fifth and ESPN eighth. Forecast really dug the other two teams, putting them in the top 10, while RTRPI and ESPN had them just outside the top 15. So, not all RPIs are created equal.

--Three of the eight best teams in America are from the Big Ten. The other power conferences each have one. So, next time you hear someone claim the Big Ten is not America's top basketball league, show them this post. Then slap them.

--"Miami a 6-seed? WTF?" Yeah, they had a rough patch in Hawaii and lost to Florida Gulf Coast, of all teams. It appears that the Hurricanes could be this year's Colorado State, riding a sky-high RPI to, say, an 8 or 9 seed in March. And then getting blitzed. Still, this is a team that has beaten Michigan State and LaSalle, plus crushed UMass on the road. The Indiana State loss isn't all that terrible anymore, and the ACC schedule won't do any damage.

--Pitt, Notre Dame and Kentucky all have some RPI issues right now, with UK's 47 average among our three sites being the best of the group. The Big East conference slate will help Pitt and ND as long as they win games (of course, Pitt didn't help itself today), and the SEC is shaky enough that the Wildkittens can stomp out a lot of wins just on sheer talent. As long as these teams don't embarrass themselves in league play, all should still have positions waiting.

--I began crunching numbers last night, and Tennessee was a #14 seed while it played Memphis. After the result of last night's fun in Knoxville, UT was the LAST TEAM IN and Memphis rose from a play-in game to a #13. Quality opposition is great, but you need to be able to beat the quality opposition.

--Belmont probably won't have a chance at an at-large bid, not after losses to Northeastern and UCF. Still, the RPI sites are forgiving the Bruins right now, all ranking them in the top 25. Keep an eye on Belmont's OVC slate. If they run roughshod the way they did in the Atlantic Sun, including a win over Murray State, we could hear Jay Bilas piss and moan about them the way he did VCU in 2011. And that turned out all right, eh, Rams fans?

--For UConn fans, sorry. Since the Huskies are ineligible for the real tournament, they're not ranked here. However, if they were included, they'd be slotted in as the #13 seed in the South, knocking Oklahoma down a spot.

Which conferences are best-represented here? Glad you asked:

Big Ten 8
Big East 8
Atlantic 10 7
Big 12 6
Pac-12 6
Patriot 1
Summit 1
Sun Belt 1
Southland 1

--Mountain West going toe-to-toe with the Pac-12 shouldn't be a surprise by now. What might surprise some folks is if teams like Wyoming and Boise State are legit enough to contend with UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico. If the MTN. has five NCAA tournament teams and the Pac struggles to get a second pity bid like it did last season, it's really time to reassess the term "power conference."

--The ACC is lagging behind the other big conferences, but four of the league's five BIT teams are in the top nine seedlines, which makes them fairly legit at-large candidates. Maryland is the only one with big work to do. By contrast, the Big 12 only has three teams seeded ninth or better, and the Pac-12 has only two.

--Conference USA sucks. And the Big East keeps trying to absorb large chunks of it. This is like giving someone a solution of shark piss and Drano and claiming it'll keep their skin youthful.

We'll keep updating the field every two weeks, so check back frequently.

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