WAC altering basketball tournament formats by introducing bold new seeding concept based on advanced analytics


The Western Athletic Convention is altering the way it seeds its postseason basketball tournaments by introducing an intrepid, evolutionary idea to the game. The 2022-23 season will see the WAC’s males’s and ladies’s basketball standings be decided not simply by convention wins and losses, but in addition an algorithm that rewards and/or punishes primarily based off efficiency towards all groups they face within the common season.

In what’s believed to be a primary within the historical past of school sports activities: a convention will seed its postseason event primarily based on superior analytics.

Because of this, within the WAC, it is potential a staff may end with the second-best league document however find yourself seeded, say, fourth or fifth. Conversely, a staff with the eighth-best document however with a extra spectacular résumé of wins might be rewarded for its diploma of problem and earn a better seed than its place within the conventional convention standings.

WAC commissioner Brian Thornton and affiliate commissioner Drew Speraw, each former basketball coaches, are the architects of the concept. They commissioned Ken Pomeroy — proprietor of KenPom.com — to concoct a dependable components that will precisely mirror the achievements of WAC groups from early November till proper earlier than the WAC basketball tournaments start in March. Thornton first went to Pomeroy with this idea when the convention was liable to video games being canceled resulting from COVID-19. That led to Thornton and Speraw mulling how such a technique might be used for aggressive steadiness and meritocratic illustration past mere wins and losses in league play. Faculty basketball has embraced superior analytics for over a decade at this level. That is an extension of that philosophy.

“The aim (is) finally to guard the best résumé with the best seeds,” Thornton advised CBS Sports activities. “As we had been arising with this strategic plan from a basketball standpoint — which was considered one of my large duties after I got here right here — nonconference scheduling all the time got here up. … And finally, it turns into very laborious to penalize individuals for what you are in a position to do from a nonconference scheduling standpoint.”

The league is referring to this sorting metric because the WAC Résumé Seeding System. If a WAC staff performs a tricky opponent and wins, it’ll obtain extra statistical credit score than if it performs a weaker opponent (and in addition wins). Conversely, if a WAC staff performs a tricky opponent and loses, it won’t be dinged as harshly as if it performs a considerably weaker opponent and loses.

Wins and losses is a zero-sum end result. However beating a top-50 staff is a a lot greater accomplishment than beating a staff that charges someplace within the 300s. The WAC’s seeding initiative will mirror that actuality. The algorithm will account for the place video games are performed (at dwelling, on the street, on a impartial courtroom) and will probably be primarily based on the NCAA’s NET rating, which is the choice committees’ major sorting device for seeding and deciding on the NCAA’s basketball tournaments.

“Primarily, what we got here up with was a technique to make the most of the NET as a way to present the reward/penalties for a selected sport,” Speraw advised CBS Sports activities. “It is weighted relying on the place the sport is at, simply because the committee would have a look at it, and so it is a system the place, basically, we’re making an attempt to advertise Quad 1, Quad 2 video games. And so while you have a look at it, not each sport is price the identical inside Quad 1, Quad 2, simply because the committee would have a look at that. Clearly, a top-10 win isn’t the identical as a top-30 win. Related, however not the identical.”

“The concept is to seed the convention event primarily based in your full season play, not simply your convention standings,” Pomeroy advised CBS Sports activities.

The WAC is coming off considered one of its strongest seasons in latest reminiscence. The league completed fifteenth out of 32 leagues in KenPom’s rankings, its highest end since 2013. Thornton famous that New Mexico State, which was pretty awarded a 12-seed within the 2022 NCAA tourney, received the WAC Event and set the convention up for its greatest likelihood at Massive Dance success. (New Mexico State completed eightieth at KenPom final season, the best within the convention.) The Aggies flew cross-country to Buffalo and upset fifth-seeded UConn 70-63 within the first spherical. Had Grand Canyon, Seattle or Sam Houston State received the WAC auto bid, a 12-seed wouldn’t have been on the desk, and thus the WAC would have been a lot much less more likely to win a sport and earn treasured NCAA Tournament “models” (which is business lingo for financial payouts).

“On the finish of the day, considered one of them will get a 12-seed. If the opposite one is a consultant, they in all probability get a 15-seed,” Thornton mentioned. “What are we making an attempt to create on this state of affairs?”

One more reason for introducing the idea is unbalanced league scheduling. There is no such thing as a WAC round-robin play as a result of the convention has 14 groups on an 18-game schedule. Thornton mentioned there was pushback from some contained in the league, as a result of unorthodox nature of the experiment, however finally far more individuals than not backed it. And in a nod to traditionalism, the WAC will nonetheless rely purely on convention information for entrance to its males’s and ladies’s basketball tournaments. The 12-best league information will qualify for the postseason. As soon as the 12 are in every bracket, then they are going to be seeded in response to the Résumé Seeding System.

This formula-based strategy may also be an assist for the choice committees as they decide tips on how to slot WAC groups for March Insanity.

“A win remains to be a win, it is nonetheless optimistic, it is a plus in your win column, and a loss remains to be a loss, and it is a unfavorable, simply should you lose to a greater staff, it would not damage you almost as unhealthy,” Speraw mentioned. “Whereas should you lose a Quad 3 or a Quad 4 sport, it may be detrimental to your résumé.”

As for a way the algorithm works, Pomeroy mentioned every sport is calibrated primarily based on the possibilities of the A hundred and fiftieth-best staff within the nation successful in that state of affairs. For instance, if the A hundred and fiftieth-best staff needed to face the top-ranked staff, Pomeroy’s algorithm, which is predicated on mountain ranges of historic information, means that Crew 150 would have roughly a 2% likelihood of successful that sport on the street, a 4% likelihood of successful on a impartial courtroom and a 7% likelihood of successful at dwelling. 

Why 150? 

“I needed it to be a little bit worse than their greatest groups could be so it could give some incentive to one of the best groups to schedule higher,” Pomeroy mentioned. 

Each sport has a valuation of 1.0, which means that each sport in a season will carry weight within the Résumé Seeding System and every end result will add (with a win) or deduct (with a loss) from a staff’s season-long complete.

The idea is rudimentary; it is merely introducing win/loss advantage to carry extra nuance to the WAC’s standings ledger. The idea rewards groups for scheduling nicely (and successful) and dings them for scheduling poorly (and shedding). Because it’s more durable to beat a top-50 on the street than it’s to beat a staff ranked two hundredth at dwelling, these achievements must be weighted extra appropriately.

“For those who play Gonzaga and also you beat them, that is going to be an enormous reward, low penalty. For those who play towards [a bottom-tier team], that is all the time going to be a really, very low reward. However should you lose that sport, there’s going to be an enormous penalty,” Thornton mentioned.

The NCAA has infamously not revealed the coding or components behind how the NET is constructed, however the WAC and Pomeroy are in a position to work round this through the use of Pomeroy’s personal algorithm, making use of it to his credible rankings system and logging these inputs in accordance with the NET rankings. Because the NCAA publicly updates the NET day by day from early December via Choice Sunday, WAC groups will know day-after-day the place they stand of their seeding situations for the convention tournaments.

Values of every sport will change as groups’ performances change and can lock on the conclusion of the common season.

“It may be clear as a result of we will see precisely what every level worth is price,” Speraw mentioned. “Whereas a win versus whoever — it’s possible you’ll acquire or lose factors within the NET primarily based upon a sport in February that you just play towards a foul opponent — it’s possible you’ll be successful, you go down two spots (within the NET). On this on this state of affairs, successful remains to be successful. It nonetheless offers you a optimistic momentum ahead, whatever the opponent.”

Primarily based on Pomeroy’s algorithm, a win over the top-ranked staff could be awarded thusly:

Street win: +.978 factors
Impartial win: +.960
House win: + 930

A loss towards the No. 1 staff would not carry almost as a lot unfavorable weight as a loss to a staff within the 200s or 300s. A loss to No. 1 by a WAC staff equates to:

Street loss: -.022 factors
Impartial loss: -.040
House loss: -070

However a house loss to a staff ranked 300? That may be -.862, a a lot heavier hit. All of those pluses and minuses will probably be tallied day-to-day and mirrored within the league’s official standings web page. The upper the quantity, the higher the seed. 

“You clearly need individuals to schedule good video games, you need individuals to play good video games and win good video games, however how do you incentivize them for doing so?” Thornton mentioned. “Our thought was, we will positively incentivize them, as a result of now we’re making an allowance for what your seeding is within the event primarily based on the standard of video games that you just play and the standard of video games that you just win throughout the board. To me, that is an enormous distinction.”

Had this been in place final season, the WAC standings would have been totally different, although not drastically. The WAC had a three-way tie for first place within the league standings, however retroactively making use of the components would have modified it to appear to be this:

Courtesy of the WAC

Thornton mentioned the WAC additionally up to date its convention event format; beforehand the highest seeds earned auto-byes into the semifinals. Now the highest 4 groups will earn byes into the quarterfinals solely.

This concept is the most recent daring push from Thornton and Speraw. The duo can be the driving power behind the to-be-determined February nonconference scheduling concept that could boost college basketball’s viability heading into the NCAA Event. (Thornton mentioned loads of leagues are nonetheless on board and able to go, however there may be nonetheless some dialogue being had with others earlier than this bold concept can take its subsequent important step.)

“The ‘wildcard week’ idea is one thing that was form of a part of our strategic plan, conversations, and would work nicely with this,” Thornton mentioned. “If that goes down, that will work nicely as a result of it provides groups two extra good video games should you’re good. So that will work hand-in-hand in that piece and form of reducing down on the quantity of video games that you just truly should bodily schedule your self.” 

This concept is bound to seize the eye of different conventional single-bid leagues in faculty basketball, and if it proves fruitful, the WAC may not be the one convention utilizing this strategy a couple of years from now.

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