Stats can often lead us to the wrong conclusions.
- The murder rate increases by 10% in the month of July.
- Ice cream sales increase by 10% in the month of July as well.
- That means, people kill more when they eat more ice cream.
A fourth grader could look at the previous statements and point out the obvious fallacies in reasoning.
But sometimes, it’s not so easy. Sometimes, the stats actually seem to tell a story until you examine the entire story.
Duke Doesn’t Deserve A #1 Seed…But Who Does?
My good friend and colleague, Ari Kaufman, wrote an interesting article yesterday about the problems in college basketball. In the article, he used Duke as an example to showcase some of these problems. Ari cited several indisputable facts that point to the conclusion that, in 2012, Duke is seemingly overrated, and from a general perspective they should not receive the #1 seed that many bracketologists are projecting them to receive.
It didn’t matter that he noted Syracuse and Kentucky share some of the same problems. Duke apologists jumped at the opportunity to criticize what they perceived as Duke hatred.
Interestingly enough, I took what he said at face value and thought that it sounded pretty reasonable.
First of all, take his basic premise: the ACC is overrated.
This is 100% true. Sagarin has the conference ranked behind the Big Ten, Big 12, Big East, and SEC while barely edging out the Mountain West. If the ACC is not good, and Duke has struggled in conference play, they don’t seem to look like a #1 seed.
Secondly, look at the additional facts:
- They have only two good wins since November 7 (road wins over sloppy Florida State and a thrilling comeback against their big rival, UNC).
- They have zero non-conference road wins.
- They were absolutely blown out by Ohio State in Columbus.
Be honest. Just looking at those facts, it does appear that Duke would be incredibly undeserving a #1 seed this year if they are indeed given it.
However, upon further examination of all the facts, the above statements can be incredibly misleading. I believe that they point to a bigger problem, not just a problem at Duke but a problem in College Basketball.
If Duke is not deserving of a #1 seed, than who is?
To me, I thought this answer was easy. While I don’t follow college basketball as much as Ari, I do enjoy watching it, and generally I grade teams on the eye test.
To me, I think the four best teams are Kentucky, Kansas, Missouri, and Michigan State. But when I tried to base my decision on facts, I was left wanting. Again, I discovered that there was a huge problem across the board in NCAA Hoops.
(Of course here, you are thinking, “No way! An institution that ALLOWS kids to leave school early, and then turns around and punishes schools when it’s kids leave early could have problems? No way….”)
You see, if you want to criticize Duke for not scheduling any tough “true road games,” that’s fine. Just make sure you criticize nearly every other top team in the country.
Let’s take a quick look at the nation’s top teams, and see if they are really any different from Duke:
- Kentucky: Played ONE non-conference road game. Lost to Indiana.
- Syracuse: Played ONE non-conference road game. Beat North Carolina State.
- Kansas: Played ONE non-conference road game. Beat USC.
- Missouri: Played ONE non-conference road game. Beat Old Dominion.
- Michigan State: Played TWO non-conference road games. Beat Gonzaga and Eastern Michigan.
- Marquette: Played ONE non-conference road game. Lost to LSU.
- North Carolina: Played TWO non-conference road games. Beat UNC-Ashville and lost to Kentucky.
- Ohio State: Played TWO non-conference road games. Beat South Carolina and lost to Kansas.
- Georgetown: Played ONE non-conference road game. Beat Alabama.
- Baylor: Played TWO non-conference road games. Beat BYU and Northwestern.
- Duke: Played TWO non-conference road games. Lost to Ohio State and Temple.
Wow. Not exactly “murderer’s row” is it?
The Problem With College Basketball
In the current state of College Hoops, if you start the season ranked in the top 15, you would be absolutely stupid to schedule yourself a lot of non-conference road games. You don’t need to. As long as you keep on winning, you will stay around the top of the polls for the entire season and end up getting a high seed.
I think the biggest problem is that we are trying to evaluate #1 seeds like we have the same teams that we had ten years ago. But look around. The landscape of college basketball has changed.
There aren’t any teams in college basketball that have three upper-classmen first round draft picks like Duke had with Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy, and Carlos Boozer.
Gone are the days when a Carmelo Anthony-led team would only get a #3 seed in the tournament.
With the one-and-done rule, conference re-alignment, and the rise of mid-majors, we just don’t have that many super teams anymore.
And even if a team does pass the eye test, like Kentucky this year, you can’t point to their resume and say they are anything ultra-special. The SEC is down this year, and they lost their only true road game out of conference.
Personally, I don’t think Duke deserves a #1 seed. I think they are too small. I don’t think they have front-court depth. They only have one guy who can truly create his own shot – and it’s unclear whether or not Coach K even knows how to use him.
Duke fails the eye test for all of those reasons. And those are the reasons they aren’t a #1 to me, independent of everything Ari outlined in his article.
But we can’t keep hating on Duke for doing something that every other big time school in college basketball does. Sure, teams like Creighton and Butler have to go on the road in order to prove themselves. A close look at them does seem to indicate that their schedule has been more difficult than Duke’s; but not just Duke’s…EVERYBODY’S.
Wow. I just defended Duke and their schedule. Come back again tomorrow as I aimlessly wander out into traffic.