77% of automatic bids went to first- and second-place finishers in regular-season conference standings for 2013Conference tournaments are now upon us, and Selection Sunday will be here before we know it. This year there will be 32 automatic qualifiers and 36 at-large teams in the NCAA tournament, which means there is one less team for the bracketologists get wrong in the hectic madness leading up to 6 p.m. on March 16.
How might the 2014 automatic and at-large tournament selections relate to the positions they finished in regular-season conference play? Nobody can say for sure, but we can get an idea from the 2013 tournament. A total of 24 out of the 31 automatic qualifiers (77%) for the 2013 NCAA tournament finished in first or second place in their conference standings. Of the remaining automatic qualifiers, 1 finished in 3rd place, 3 finished in 4th place, 2 in 5th, and 1 in 6th place in their conference standings.
30 out of the 37 teams that were selected at-large in the 2013 tournament finished in the top 4 positions in their conferences. The other 7 at-large teams finished in 5th place (3 teams), 6th (1 team), 7th (2 teams), and 8th and 9th places (1 team each), as shown in the table below.
Every team in the country has a chance at winning their conference tournament (except for the Ivy League and the lone independent this season), although it is not an equal chance. While conference tournaments are wide open for any team to win, historical data shows that the champion usually is a very good, solid team finishing within the top 2 or 3 in its conference, as in 2013. Also, 85% of the at-large teams in 2013 finished in the top four places in their conferences, which is on par with seasons prior to 2013.
Has any team finished in last place in its conference and won its conference tournament for an automatic bid? Florida International (4-12, 11-18) finished tied for last place in 1995 in the Trans America and won the automatic bid, while Fairfield (2-12, 11-18) finished alone and dead last in the MAAC in 1997 and won its tournament. In 2008, Georgia finished last (4-12, 17-16) in the SEC East, which tied them with Auburn (SEC West, 4-12) for the worst conference record in the SEC that year. That year is also notable because Georgia won 2 conference tournament games on the same day when a tornado struck the Georgia Dome during tournament play and complicated the SEC tournament schedule, sending the remaining games to Georgia Tech's arena.
Conf. Automatic At-large Total
Finish Bids Bids Teams
1st 16 7 23
2nd 8 8 16
3rd 1 8 9
4th 3 7 10
5th 2 3 5
6th 1 0 1
7th 0 2 2
8th 0 1 1
9th 0 1 1
Totals 31 37 68
Note: Conference finish includes ties, and finish in conference division, if applicable
Bracket Bits from The RPI Report and The Women's RPI Report
Tidbits from recent issues of The RPI Report and The Women's RPI Report
From The RPI Report: There are a couple
of things to remember regarding the ranking bracket categories in the
following chart. First, half of the automatic bids, from 1991 through
2013, ranked below (worse than) No. 60 in the RPI. The second is that 2
teams per year have been at-large selections in the 51-60 ranking bracket
in the 2000's, but the average for the last 3 years is three per year.
Since there are now three additional at-large teams in the tournament with
the expansion to 68 teams in 2011, the percentage of all teams of making
the tournament will likely incrementally increase the average number of
teams in the 51-60 ranking bracket in the future. Here is the simplified
version of the chances of teams making the tournament at-large from
1991-2012: Ranked 1-30, Near Lock (99+%); 31-40, Excellent (84%); 41-50,
Decent (58%), 51-60, Not-So Good to Fair (27%); >60, Poor (13 @-large
since 1991). Note: 351 of the 700 automatic bids (50.1%) since 1991 were
ranked below No. 60 in the RPI
From The Women's RPI Report: There are two things to keep in mind regarding the ranking bracket categories in the following chart. First, almost half of the automatic bids, from 1997 through 2012, ranked below (worse than) No. 60 in the RPI. The second is that an average of less than 1 team per year has been an at-large selections in the 51-60 ranking bracket since 2006. The average for the last 4 years is just over 0.5 teams per year. Here is the simplified version for the chances of teams within the ranking brackets of making the tournament at-large from 1997-2013: RPI Rank 1-30, Near Lock (99+%); 31-40, Excellent (84%); 41-50, Decent (54%); 51-60, Not-So-Good to Fair (23%); >60, Poor (13 @-large since 1997). Note: 242 of the 523 automatic bids (46.3%) since 1997 were ranked below No. 60 in the RPI
Teams with No. 1 schedule strength rankings can usually look forward to NCAA tournament invitation
Duke captured No. 1 overall and non-conference schedule strength rank at end of regular season, went 3-1 in NCAA tournament
Duke finished in second place in the ACC standings in 2013, lost in its first conference tournament game, but still captured the No. 1 overall and non-conference regular-season schedule strength titles. The Blue Devils also had the best opponents' won-lost record of 641-394 (.6193) in the regular season, and the sixth-best RPI rank of opponents played, which is an alternate way of determining schedule strength. Duke received a No. 2 seed and eventually lost to eventual NCAA champion Louisville in the Midwest Regional Final by a score of 85-63. Since 1991, 18 of the 23 teams holding the No. 1 regular season schedule strength rank were in the NCAA tournament, and 19 of those 23 teams were in post-season play. However, having the No. 1 schedule strength does not guarantee success in the NCAA tournament. In six of the last thirteen seasons, the team holding top schedule strength honors has lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. In the ten years prior to that, no teams with the No. 1 schedule strength that made the NCAA tournament lost in the first round. The best that a team has done in the NCAA tournament that had the best regular-season schedule strength was North Carolina in 1997, losing in the national semifinals to eventual national champion Arizona. Notre Dame had the best regular-season schedule strength in 1992 with a 14-14 record and finished second in the NIT. List
Several conferences use CBN's RPI data to break tournament seeding ties
Administrators have complete confidence in CBN's RPI
Nearly all conference offices subscribe to both The RPI Report and The Women's RPI Report because they know they can count on the most accurate weighted RPI for the men and the women anywhere this side of the NCAA tournament selection committees. CBN first made the Adjusted RPI ratings (which are no longer used for either the men nor the women) available to The RPI Report and The Women's RPI Report subscribers during the 1998-99 season. The NCAA used the Adjusted RPI ratings from the 1993-94 through the 2003-04 season for the men and have used the weighted RPI since the 2004-05 season, while the women used the Adjusted RPI through the 2010-11 season and began using the weighted RPI during the 2011-12 season. The weighted RPI gives more credit to teams that schedule tough opponents and that beat good teams at home and on the road. Story
AP carried the Men's RPI Ratings for 16th consecutive year during the 2009-10 season
2009-10 was the 13th season that AP distributed the Women's RPI Ratings
During the 2009-10 season, the Associated Press (AP) carried the CBN's RPI for both men's and women's college basketball, for the 16th consecutive year, for at least part of the season. In addition, 2009-10 was the 13th consecutive season that the AP distributed the women's RPI for at least part of the season. Story