How does the new quadrant system impact Michigan basketball's NCAA Tournament seeding?
Wolverines have work to do in final weeks of regular season
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has a new system for categorizing college basketball games, and it will change the way teams are seeded in the bracket.
In the old format, games were broken down into categories based on the opponent's RPI. No matter where the game was played, each game was categorized by a game against a top 50 team, top 100 team, top 200 team, etc.
Now there's a quadrant system that takes into account where the games are played. Games against lesser teams at a neutral site or on the road can be rewarded as much as games against higher-ranked teams at home because of the huge home-court advantage in college basketball.
Here's a brief look at the four quadrants:
- Quadrant 1: Home games vs. RPI top 30, neutral games vs. RPI top 50, road games vs. RPI top 75
- Quadrant 2: Home games vs. RPI 31-75, neutral games vs. RPI 51-100, road games vs. RPI 76-135
- Quadrant 3: Home games vs. RPI 76-160, neutral games vs. RPI 101-200, road games vs. RPI 136-240
- Quadrant 4: Home games vs. RPI 161-351, neutral games vs. RPI 201-351, road games vs. RPI 241-351
It's the first year with the new system, so nobody knows exactly how it will impact the final bracket.
Michigan's best wins
Michigan's resume has been boosted by the quadrant system. The Wolverines only have one victory over a top-50 RPI team -- the win over Michigan State in East Lansing -- but their win at No. 57 Texas also counts as a Quadrant 1 win since it came on the road.
For now, those are Michigan's only Quadrant 1 wins, but they could have a few more by the end of the season.
Each of Michigan's remaining three matchups could end up being Quadrant 1 games. Ohio State is ranked No. 20 in the RPI, so Sunday's final home game is a chance for the Wolverines to pick up their second-best win of the year.
The regular season will close with road games against No. 72 Penn State and No. 63 Maryland, both of which will be Quadrant 1 games if those teams stay in the top 75.
Michigan's two best home wins -- over No. 52 UCLA and Maryland -- won't end up in Quadrant 1 but should both remain in Quadrant 2. The Wolverines have a Quadrant 2 win at No. 133 Wisconsin and a near-Quadrant 2 win at No. 139 Iowa.
It's been a down season for the Big Ten, and that has left Michigan without many good wins. As a result, many experts have John Beilein's team stuck in the eight or nine seed range.
Michigan's worst losses
While Michigan's resume is short on great wins, it also lacks terrible losses.
Michigan has lost seven games this season, and five were Quadrant 1 losses. In fact, four of those games came against top-20 teams -- at North Carolina, at Ohio State, at Purdue and vs. Purdue.
The fifth Quadrant 1 loss came at Nebraska, which is undefeated at home except for a 73-72 loss to Kansas.
Michigan does have a pair of Quadrant 2 losses -- a Maui Invitational letdown against No. 80 LSU and a road loss to No. 103 Northwestern. They are crippling losses, but combined with the shortage of great wins, they leave Michigan's resume looking pretty average.
LSU and Northwestern aren't close to making the tournament, so those will end up being Michigan's worst losses.
Some experts have Michigan as high as a No. 6 seed, in part because it doesn't have any Quadrant 3 or Quadrant 4 losses.
Even though the formula is inherently flawed, strength of schedule is likely to work against Michigan when Selection Sunday rolls around.
Michigan's 103rd-ranked strength of schedule is bad, but the 280th-ranked nonconference strength of schedule is even worse.
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, they played four games against some of the absolute worst teams in the country, and that crushed the strength of schedule numbers. Michigan played nine games against teams ranked outside the RPI top 175, but these are the games that really hurt:
- No. 292 Jacksonville
- No. 297 Detroit Mercy
- No. 302 UC Riverside
- No. 350 Alabama A&M
The obvious problem with strength of schedule is that it ranks all 351 college basketball teams equally, which certainly doesn't mirror reality.
In the strength of schedule formula, the difference between Detroit Mercy and Alabama A&M (RPI difference of 53) is equal to the difference between playing the No. 1 team in the country and the No. 54 team in the country.
Despite that flaw in the formula, strength of schedule is still used, and it certainly won't help Michigan. Every school plays nonconference games against weak teams, but Michigan played against really bad weak teams.
The final three games will play a major role in where Michigan lands in the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines will either add more Quadrant 1 wins or go into Selection Sunday with a few major holes in their resume.
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