Data says West is best, Midwest easiest among four NCAA regions

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

More NCAA hoops: Tournament bracket | Complete coverage of NCAAs | Latest news

No matter how the NCAA Tournament selection committee seeds the field, we're always going to nitpick it. Lovingly (most of the time). It's what we do.

But with the increased attention paid to metrics outside of the RPI -- which so clearly still, and to a fault, dominates both the selection and seeding process -- I thought it would be worthwhile to show how this year's field ranks with two other metrics.

One of them is the NCAA's seeding, in fact.

Which regions are toughest? We also love to talk about that in the days leading up to the Round of 64. Conventional conversation has stated the Midwest is the roughest of them all. The data below suggests that's not entirely the case. I've taken all four regions and averaged out the teams within each quadrant according the NCAA's 1-68 ranking of the field, which it released Sunday night, and according to KenPom.com.

The variances between the NCAA's rankings and KenPom's are stark, both in terms of 1-68 and the RPI overall. Michigan, a No. 2 seed, is ranked behind Tennessee in KenPom (14th vs. 13th). Iowa, which is ranked 27th in KenPom and plays Tennessee on Wednesday night in Dayton, is ranked ahead of five seeds Oklahoma and Sant Louis.

I've ranked the four regions below from toughest to easiest in terms of each region's average ranking of teams according to KenPom.com. I've also included where each region ranks -- first, second, third, fourth -- at the top of the bracket, with the top six teams, according to the NCAA's 1-68 seed list and so on.

The West is the toughest top to bottom, the Midwest is the easiest. But as you'll see, the Midwest's reputation as a tough region is based in some reality, as it rates out as the toughest in terms of top four seeds both according to the NCAA's ranking and KenPom. So it's a matter of perspective. If you're going to take into account the seven and eight seeds, the 13s and 14s as well, then it's clear the West is far tougher than any other region.

What's crazy about the Midwest is its massive drop-off after the fourth seed. When you rank the region's top six seeds, it's the weakest according to KenPom -- but still the strongest according to the 1-68 seed list. Which do you trust more?

Check the data below. I've also included regular-season conference winners, as I think it adds context to which teams have shown the greatest consistency over the past four months.

The rankings of each team are in order of NCAA. The number in parentheses next to each team is their current KenPom mark. Some of the orders are crazy. Taking everything into account, I would say the Midwest and West are neck and neck, depending on your view, followed by the East and then the South. Which is nuts when you think about it, because the South has Florida and Kansas.

WEST

Average KenPom ranking of every team in the region: 48.7 (1st)

Average KenPom ranking of top four seeds: 10.3 (2nd)

Average KenPom ranking of top six seeds: 16.8 (3rd)

Average ranking according to NCAA's 1-68 seed list: 33.6 (2nd)

Average ranking of top four seeds, per NCAA: 9.3 (4th)

Average ranking of top six seeds, per NCAA: 13.5 (4th)

Regular-season conference champions: 6 (tied for 1st)

2. Arizona (1)
8. Wisconsin (11)
11. Creighton (8)
16. San Diego State (21)
20. Oklahoma (29)
24. Baylor (31)
27. Oregon (30)
30. Gonzaga (20)
35. Oklahoma State (22)
39. BYU (50)
42. Nebraska (48)
48. North Dakota St. (55)
53. New Mexico St. (71)
57. UL Lafayette (115)
62. American (98)
64. Weber State (169)

EAST

Average KenPom ranking of every team in the region: 56.8 (2nd)

Average KenPom ranking of top four seeds: 10.8 (tied for 3rd)

Average KenPom ranking of top six seeds: 15.5 (2nd)

Average ranking according to NCAA's 1-68 seed list: 33.1 (1st)

Average ranking of top four seeds, per NCAA: 8.8 (3rd)

Average KenPom ranking of top six seeds, per NCAA: 12.1 (2nd)

Regular-season conference champions: 6 (tied for 1st)

4. Virginia (4)
5. Villanova (6)
12. Iowa State (23)
14. Michigan State (10)
17. Cincinnati (24)
21. North Carolina (26)
26. Connecticut (25)
31. Memphis (45)
34. George Washington (46)
38. Saint Joseph's (49)
43. Providence (40)
49. Harvard (33)
54. Delaware (105)
58. North Carolina Central (78)
60. Milwaukee (163)
63. Coastal Carolina (232)

SOUTH

Average KenPom ranking of every team in the region: 58.7 (3rd)

Average KenPom ranking of top four seeds: 10.8 (tied for 3rd)

Average KenPom ranking of top six seeds: 12.3 (1st)

Average ranking according to NCAA's 1-68 seed list: 35.0 (3rd)

Average ranking of top four seeds, per NCAA: 8.3 (2nd)

Average ranking of top six seeds: 12.3 (3rd)

Regular-season conference champions: 4 (4th)

1. Florida (3)
7. Kansas (9)
10. Syracuse (15)
15. UCLA (16)
19. VCU (12)
22. Ohio State (19)
28. New Mexico (28)
32. Colorado (64)
36. Pittsburgh (18)
37. Stanford (37)
41. Dayton (53)
50. Stephen F. Austin (59)
52. Tulsa (68)
55. Western Michigan (113)
59. Eastern Kentucky (129)
65. Mount St. Mary's (190)
66. Albany (177)

MIDWEST

Average KenPom ranking of every team in the region: 61.5 (4th)

Average KenPom ranking of top four seeds: 7.0 (1st)

Average KenPom ranking of top six seeds: 19.0 (4th)

Average ranking according to NCAA's 1-68 seed list: 36 (4th)

Average ranking of top four seeds, per NCAA: 7.8 (1st)

Average ranking of top six seeds, per NCAA: 12.0 (1st)

Regular-season conference champions: 5 (2nd)

3. Wichita St. (5)
6. Michigan (14)
9. Duke (7)
13. Louisville (2)
18. Saint Louis (34)
23. Massachusetts (52)
25. Texas (39)
29. Kentucky (17)
33. Kansas State (44)
40. Arizona State (47)
44. Tennessee (13)
45. Iowa (27)
46. Xavier (42)
47. North Carolina State (66)
51. Manhattan (67)
56. Mercer (99)
61. Wofford (184)
67. Texas Southern (237)
68. Cal Poly (173)

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