A University of Illinois professor who runs an analytics website thinks the transfer portal has hurt some power conference schools in the NCAA Tournament.
Changes brought on by an increasingly active portal have diminished the cohesiveness within some marquee programs, said Sheldon Jacobson, who operates the site BracketOdds. Lower-seeded teams from mid-major conferences are more likely to have a core group of players who have been together three or four years.
Seven No. 15 seeds have won at least one game over the past 11 years, including each of the last three NCAA Tournaments for the first time. The latest one was Princeton’s 59-55 victory over Arizona on Thursday.
No. 13 Furman topped No. 4 Virginia 68-67 in another big upset on the first day of this year’s tourney.
“So although it looks like, ”Wow, we have these big upsets,′ statistically speaking, it is not that unusual,” Jacobson said. “There’s not much difference between a five, six or seven and a 10, 11 or 12. Surely, the five, six and seven are going to win more often, but not that much more often statistically speaking.”
Jacobson said a day of upsets often leads to a predictable set of results the following day. Friday’s action largely played out that way, though No. 11 Pittsburgh beat No. 6 Iowa State 59-41.
Much of that, he said, could be human instinct. The favorites see some of the top teams knocked off one day, and they are on high alert when they take the floor.
“There’s always the psychology, and coaches are a master at motivating young players,” Jacobson said. “We can’t look at the why. We just look at the data from our website, BracketOdds, that basically shows that the analytics ultimately will express themselves in the scores, but the games are still played on the court. They’re not played on a computer.”
Looking ahead to the Final Four, Jacobson said the averages indicate at least one of the teams usually comes from outside the top five seeds in each region. Four No. 8s have reached the Final Four, and five No. 11s have made it.
“This data says that yeah, you want one or two No. 1s,” Jacobson said “You probably want a No. 2 also — sorry, Arizona — but after that, you want anything between a three and 11, and it’s pretty much of a crapshoot.
“All the sports pundits say, ‘I can’t imagine any of the ones losing.’ I guarantee they’re going to lose. In fact, I guarantee two of them are going to lose and maybe three before we get to the Final Four.”
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