Wake Forest is back in the NCAA Tournament. When I saw the name pop up on the screen I had several emotions, the first of which was “whewwwww, we did it”. That thought was shortly followed by a thought of “man that’s the worst possible matchup that we could have received as an 11 seed.”
Not only did the Deacs get sent to Dayton for the play-in game as the 43rd ranked team in the S-Curve, but they got a Kansas State team, who is also better than an 11 seed would indicate.
Make no mistake, I am very happy to be in the field, and quite pleased with the way the season has gone, but this is a tough draw.
While there are a lot of Syracuse fans out there who believe Wake should not have made it at the Tournament, the Demon Deacons were not the final team in.
Kansas State was the team last team in, while USC was the second-to-last team in the field.
Syracuse fans can argue their point elsewhere, especially if they are going to utilize the “WE BEAT THEM HEAD TO HEAD” argument.
Wake somewhat got a raw deal with the matchup because of how the First Four teams had to be assigned in their pods. According to the S-Curve the four teams were ranked (KenPom ranking in parentheses):
42. Providence (56)
43. Wake Forest (30)
45. Southern California (61)
46. Kansas State (29)
This should have meant that Providence matches up with Kansas State in Dayton, while Wake plays Southern California. Wake would have been a 3-4 point favorite over USC, but could not play them, because USC would have wound up in the pod with UCLA, who they could not meet before the Sweet Sixteen due to their 3 matchups already this year.
Providence also could not be an 11 seed in the bracket that featured Creighton (they are in the same conference and playted twice this year), so the only way it worked was for Wake to play Kansas State, with the winner going out west.
As we noted before the brackets were released, Wake Forest’s resume probably mirrored Oklahoma State’s the closest. The Pokes got a 10 seed, and were the 37th ranked team in the S-Curve (one spot ahead of Wichita State, which is absolutely comical), while Wake fell behind a handful of other teams to get the 43rd spot.
One game that really impacted the First Four teams/seeding was Rhode Island defeating VCU in the A-10 title game. Rhode Island was the 44th team in the S-Curve and would have been sent to Dayton, or perhaps left out completely if they had lost yesterday afternoon.
Assuming that Rhode Island was in even with a loss, that would have made the First Four: Wake Forest, USC, Rhode Island, and Kansas State. In this example Wake likely would have still played Kansas State as the best team in the First Four vs. the worst team in the First Four.
If Rhode Island was out with a loss, then Providence would have been out of Dayton, and Wake would have likely played the first team out (Illinois State, Syracuse, etc.).
Rhode Island was the real winner in this because they drew an overseeded No. 6 seed in Creighton team, and a vulnerable No. 3 seed in Baylor. That would have been the ideal draw for Wake.
To give you some math behind that, Wake has a roughly 50% chance to beat Kansas State, a 40% chance to beat Cincinnati, and a 35% chance to beat UCLA. That works out to about a 6% chance to make the Sweet Sixteen.
If Wake had gotten out of the First Four where Rhode Island is, they would have had a 100% chance to win the game they didn’t play in (thus advancing without having to play in the First Four), a 45% chance to beat Creighton, and a 30% chance to beat Baylor. That’s a 15% chance to make the Sweet Sixteen.
While 6% to 15% may not sound like a huge difference, its substantially less of a chance than it appears.
Given how Wake was ranked in the S-Curve, it appears that they Deacs would have been in Dayton no matter what Rhode Island did, so the biggest gripe would be with the matchup of Kansas State and the way the committee seeded both teams.
Did Wake get somewhat of a bad draw because of how this all had to be organized? I think so, but to be clear, when you are 19-13 and make the Tournament it’s somewhat hard to argue your seeding.
I believe that Wake was a little closer to being out then they should have been, but those are the cards we were dealt, and now we have to deal with them.
My list of expectations for last night went like this:
- Make the Tournament
- Avoid the First Four
- If we are in the First Four, avoid Kansas State
- Get a somewhat vulnerable 6 or 3 seed to get a chance at making the Sweet Sixteen
Obviously we fulfilled the highest priority on the list by making the Tournament, but the other three were not met. Well, UCLA is likely overseeded according to advanced metrics, but Cincy is a middle-of-the-road 6 seed.
Overall, Wake should be happy to be in the NCAAT for the first time since 2010, but the path to getting to the second weekend was lowered substantially with the draw they received. I don’t think Wake was “screwed” at all, but it is unfortunate that two teams of Wake Forest and Kansas State’s caliber were matched up in the First Four instead of drawing Providence and USC as their opponents.