A lot of people over the next week will be talking about what seed a team should get in the NCAA Tournament and what seed a team should want. Does seed matter? Obviously, it is better to be a one seed than a fourteen seed, but we know the one seeds are better teams than the fourteen seeds. So the question is: once you get up into one of the better seeds, does seed really matter?
First, let’s look at where Arizona might wind up. The Bracket Matrix is a website that collects all of the major (and some not-so-major) bracketolgists’ predictions and seeds every team based on their average in every bracket. It is really one of the more wonderful sites on the Internet if only because it is scientific proof that Joe Lunardi doesn’t really know much (he ranks 36th out of 65 experienced bracketologists in The Bracket Matrix’s ranking system).
Arizona currently is a four seed, averaging a 4.13 over all the projections, and it would be 15th on the S-curve. That would put Arizona in the same bracket as the second-overall seed, which is Indiana (behind Duke with Ryan Kelly). Using the Bracket Matrix update from Tuesday night, Arizona would play, through the Sweet 16:
#5 Saint Louis
That’s not exactly the best road to the Elite 8 for any team, leaving alone any matchup issues. Though Bucknell is in the Patriot League, none of their five losses have been by more than double digits and the Bison have won eleven of their last twelve; Saint Louis went 12-1 in its last 13 games; and Indiana has two of the best players in the country while winning outright the regular season of the best conference.
Compare with Miami’s road, who is currently projected to be the top three seed:
Arizona would take that second, easier road over the first any day of the week (although VCU’s Havoc would destroy Arizona, but that gets into match ups, which you can’t control).
What if Arizona fell to Colorado and lost a seed, taking over Wisconsin’s spot as the worst five seed?
#12 Boise State
#1 Louisville or #2 Kansas
Ironically, the Sweet 16 game is much more winnable than playing Indiana, but the road just to get to the Sweet 16 is tougher. And this scenario comes with the dreaded 5-12 game.
Does this matter though? It sounds better on paper to be a three seed than a four seed, but does it matter historically? As you might expect, three seeds outperform four seeds, and five seeds outperform four seeds. The following chart shows what percentage of three, four, and five seeds have advanced out of each of the first two rounds:
|Three Seed||Four Seed||Five Seed|
This doesn’t answer the question of whether seed matters, because typically, three seeds will be filled with better teams than five seeds. But the first-weekend road can improve dramatically.
Arizona can’t go back and fix what happened in the Pac-12 season. But Arizona can improve its seed line. With a Pac-12 tourney championship, Arizona could climb to a three seed. But an early loss in the Pac-12 tournament could lead to a drop in seed and a very iffy first weekend.
Arizona can control the quality of its opponents in the NCAA tournament—it should take advantage.