With some significant changes to the tournament selection process over the last couple of years, I thought it would be helpful to have a place to get answers to some of the questions I get most frequently. To accomplish this, I will use the tried-and-true Q&A format, wherein I pose a question as if it came from someone else, and then answer it. I will update this page as needed.
Q: What is the NET?
A: The NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) is the new ratings system that the NCAA created to replace the RPI, which many had felt had outlived its usefulness. The change came about in part due to a request from the National Association of Basketball Coaches, which wanted something more sophisticated than the RPI. The NET debuted with the 2018-19 season. Here's the most recent NET rankings from he NCAA.
Q: What is the formula for the NET?
A: Good question. I do not know. It's a secret. Apparently, the committee is afraid to release it at this time.
Here is what we do know. The NET has five components (in order of weighting within the formula): Team Value Index, Net Efficiency, Division I Record, Weighted Division I Record, Margin of Victory.
The Team Value Index is results oriented and only uses opponent, game location and win or loss as inputs. The formula for this part is a secret.
Net Efficiency for a game is defined as Offensive Efficiency-Defensive Efficiency. Each team's offensive efficiency is calculated as points per possession. The number of possessions each team has in a game is estimated by this formula:
- Field goal attempts – offensive rebounds + turnovers + (0.475 x free-throw attempts)
Defensive efficiency is simply the opponent's offensive efficiency. But this is essentially an uncapped margin of victory.
The weighted Division I record is a piece of the old RPI. Teams are given 1.4 wins for winning on the road, 1 win for a neutral court win, and 0.6 wins for one at home. Vice versa for losses.
The least weighted component is Margin of Victory capped at 10 points per game.
How each component is weighted within the overall NET formula and the actual raw net rating are also a secret. The NCAA is only releasing each team's ranking.
Q: Wait…I thought the NCAA said margin of victory is capped at 10?
A: They did. That is both true and false. The margin of victory component is capped at 10, however net efficiency, the second most important factor, is as close as you can get to an uncapped margin of victory without explicitly using uncapped Margin of Victory.
Q: How important is the NET?
A: We have been told it will be used exactly the same way the RPI was, which is as an aggregator to define the quadrants. It is never a decisive factor on its own. If you are arguing the case for your team, and all you have is a NET ranking, you have nothing.
Q: What are quadrants?
The committee has defined the quality of each team's opponents based on the NET ranking of the opponent and the site of the game.
There are four quadrants.
- Quadrant 1: Home games vs NET top 30, neutral vs top 50, road vs top 75.
- Quadrant 2: Home vs teams ranked 31-75, neutral vs 51-100, road vs 76-135.
- Quadrant 3: Home vs teams ranked 76-160, neutral vs 101-200, road vs 136-240.
- Quadrant 4: Home vs teams ranked 161+, neutral vs 201+, road vs 241+.
Q: How are those other metrics used by the committee?
Q: Why don't you look at any of these other metrics?
A: The consideration other metrics receive varies from committee member to committee member. Some like to look at them, some don't. Those that do are not blindly using them to make decisions, and almost always look at more than one. In the meeting, there is no significant discussion of them. They are no more decisive than the NET, and if all you have is a good NET ranking, you have nothing. If all you have is a good KenPom or Sagarin rating (or both...or more than those two), you also have nothing.
And that is why I don't look at them. They do not inform my process. The selection process is still driven by NET, and as such, the NET is the most important metric. Regardless, metrics do not make decisions for the committee.
Q: Is your bracket what you think it will look like at the end of the season?
A: No. My bracket is always based on what I think it would look like if the season ended today.
Bracketology top seeds
[Check out Palm's full bracket with all 68 seeds and the first four four teams out on our Bracketology page]
Q: Is your bracket what you think the bracket should look like?
A: No. My bracket is always an attempt to predict the bracket the selection committee would produce. My own ranking of teams, if I were on the committee, would likely be different.
Q: How do you determine the automatic qualifiers in your bracket?
A: Since my bracket is always based on as if the season ended today, I use the current conference leader. Note that does not mean I am predicting that team will eventually win the bid.
I determine the conference leader as the team with the fewest conference losses and break ties by NET. Once a top seed for a conference tournament is decided, I use that team. During the conference tournament, I use the highest seeded team remaining until a champion is determined.
Q: Why do you have my team so much higher (or lower) than everyone else?
A: I do not know. I have no idea what anyone else might be thinking. I never look at any other brackets, but even if I did, I still could not answer this question. However, if I have your team lower than everyone else, it is because I hate them. (see below)
Q: Why did my team drop even though it didn't lose?
A: Seeding is relative, which means it is not always about what your team did. It is possible that one or more of your team's opponents do not look as good as they did before because they lost. It is possible some team that was behind yours picked up a big win and jumped ahead. This is not a poll, where you keep your spot until you lose. Your team's profile can be affected by more than the game or two they played since the last bracket.
Q: How many more wins will it take for my team to get into the tournament? How many conference wins will it take for my team to get into the tournament? If my team wins some number of our final games, will they get in/what seed will they be?
A: I get asked one of these questions or some other version of them more than any other and they are both the easiest and the toughest to answer. The easy answer for bubble teams is one - the one that wins the conference championship. Other than that, it depends on how other teams that are fighting for the same spot in the tournament perform.
Teams on the bubble do not really control their own fates. That is why I am typically vague when I do attempt to answer this question. And if your team is not on the bubble, you should not even be asking this question. Also, there is no bubble until at least the beginning of February, so it is pointless to ask this question before then.
The same is true with seeds. Seeding is relative. It is not simply about what your team does. It is about what other teams in that part of the bracket do as well.
Also, these questions always act on the assumption that the season ends when those games are played, which is incorrect. That brings me to…
Q: If my team wins some number of games in the conference tournament, are we in/what seed will we get?
A: How far a team gets into its conference tournament is irrelevant unless it wins the tournament. Conference tournament games are just like any other game on your schedule – a small portion of the 30+ that were played. It matters who you beat, who ultimately beats you, and where the games were played, but not how many games were played. It is possible to make the finals in some tournaments without playing a team that helps your cause. You might think your team has done enough, and then a bid gets stolen somewhere, and then it is no longer enough.
The same concepts apply to seeding. It is all relative, and it is not just about your team.
Q: How does the committee decide where teams play in the tournament?
A: That decision process is very much driven by geography. The committee wants teams to play as close to home as possible, and the higher the seed, the higher the priority when it comes to that. However, there are rules that come before that.
1. A team cannot play on its home floor in the tournament or at a site where it is the host school. Obviously, the First Four (Dayton) and Final Four are exceptions to this rule.
2. The committee looks for relative balance among the top four seeds in each region, but no effort is made to "snake" the bracket. However, they will not put the top No. 1 and No. 2 seeds together.
3. The top four teams from a conference will be in separate regions as long as all four are seeded fourth or better in a region. Beyond that, teams from the same conference can be bracketed to meet in the second round if they only played each other once during the regular season. They can be scheduled to meet as early as the Sweet 16 if they played each other twice and not until the elite eight if they played each other three times.
4. The committee tries to avoid non-conference rematches as well as rematches from the previous two tournaments in the first round and First Four, but this is not a hard-and-fast rule.
5. BYU cannot be scheduled to play on a Sunday.
6. The Tuesday First Four winners (one game from the 65-68 group, and one game from the at-large group) are usually played at Thursday-Saturday sites and the Wednesday winners at Friday-Sunday sites.
A "home floor" is defined as any place a team has played more than three regular season home games, excluding conference tournaments. A home game is any game where the team serves as game management, or if the game is part of a season ticket package. The determination of home or neutral isn't always obvious. The NCAA has the final say. Some teams have more than one home floor.
The committee checks for balance by adding the true ranking (1-16) of the top four teams in each region, and comparing the totals. Ideally, the difference between the highest sum and the lowest will be five or less, however we have seen brackets with greater imbalance than that.
Q: What does the committee consider when selecting and seeding teams?
A: It is easier to answer what they do not consider…
1. Having a great coach.
2. What a team has done in the past.
3. The name on the front of the jersey. Or the back.
4. Fan support/potential ticket sales/potential TV ratings. This isn't the bowls.
5. "Friends" on the committee.
6. Number of teams from a conference. If every team from a conference is deserving of selection, they will all get in.
7. Conference standings. Teams are judged on their entire seasons, not just the conference part. Conference standings are pretty meaningless anyway because of imbalanced schedules in almost every league.
8. Number of wins. It is much more about quality than quantity.
9. How a team finishes. Teams can help or hurt themselves as much in November as they can in March. The games count the same.
10. Sagarin, KenPom, and other ratings. They are not important on their own. See above.
Q: OK, wise guy, answer the original question. What does get considered?
A: It comes down to three questions: Who did you beat? Who beat you? Where did you play them? With that in mind, the things that do matter are:
1. Quality wins. These are typically quadrant 1 wins, but also wins over anyone selected as at-large quality or under consideration for an at-large spot.
2. Record against better teams. What is the team's record against Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2?
3. Bad losses. Usually, this is a loss to a team in Quadrant 3 or 4. Obviously, this is a negative. Losses to teams in quadrant 4 are especially bad. Teams rarely get at-large bids with more than four bad losses.
4. Strength of schedule, especially non-conference strength of schedule. At least one team gets left out of the tournament almost every year primarily because of a very poor non-conference schedule. The NET does not have a strength of schedule output, so the committee is still using the RPI version.
5. Good record away from home. The tournament is not played on home courts, so the committee wants to see teams perform well away from home.
6. Injuries and other roster issues. In general, this seems to matter less than it used to. Even then, the impact has been on seeding, not selection. The roster a team will be taking into the tournament gets weighed a little more heavily. To be clear -- the committee will not disregard or discount a loss that occurred with a key player missing, or because of a bad call at the end of a game, or whatever other circumstance may arise. Losses are losses.
Q: What about head-to-head?
A: Head-to-head results are not nothing, but they are not as decisive as they are in football. One team can lose two or three times to another team and still be selected or seeded ahead of it. Even if both teams on the bubble, it is not necessarily decisive. Teams are judged on their entire body of work, not two or three games.
Q: Does the committee consider "good losses"?
A: A good loss is a close loss to a high quality team. Yes, that is better than getting creamed, but if all you have is good losses, you have nothing.
Q: You have my team ranked too low! You must hate them, you biased SOB!!
A: That is not really a question, but yes, I hate your team. I am not really biased though because I hate all teams, including my own. I am an equal opportunity hater.