From time to time you'll see an assertion that the NCAA basketball tournament is a bad way to determine a champion, because it's single elimination, not particularly fair, and doesn't really prove who the best team is. The Ken Pomeroy:
I feel like the best argument would be, "makes bracket contests more difficult", which isn't a case the NCAA can make. I feel like the second-best argument is, "this is an insane way to determine a champion anyway, so why bother making it more fair?"
— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) March 22, 2018
He's in the middle of arguing for a re-seed after the first weekend, FWIW.
I bring it up because I think the tournament actually does a good job. The point of playoffs is to spit out a worthy champion, and college basketball almost always does. My favorite method to judge championship-worthy teams is a score-blind strength of record ranking. SOR is an attempt to calculate which team accomplished the most over the course of the season, and that seems like the best way to pick a champion. ESPN's version of that stat goes back to 2008. Final Fours since:
|2017||#1 UNC||#3 Gonzaga||#24 South Carolina||#9 Oregon|
|2016||#3 Nova||#2 UNC||#5 Oklahoma||#30 Syracuse|
|2015||#3 Duke||#2 Wisconsin||#1 Kentucky||#13 MSU|
|2014||#8 UConn||#10 Kentucky||#1 Florida||#3 Wisconsin|
|2013||#1 Louisville||#2 Michigan||#9 Syracuse||#17 Wichita State|
|2012||#1 Kentucky||#3 Kansas||#9 Louisville||#4 OSU|
|2011||#3 UConn||#30 Butler||#7 Kentucky||#46 VCU|
|2010||#1 Duke||#7 Butler||#4 WVU||#12 MSU|
|2009||#1 UNC||#4 MSU||#2 UConn||#7 Nova|
|2008||#2 Kansas||#3 Memphis||#1 UNC||#4 UCLA|
Only one champion in ten years finished the season ranked worse than #3, and surely there's enough wobble in any stat to declare that good enough. Only four times has a team ranked outside the top 4 even reached the title game, and the lone winner from the depths still finished 8th.
Unless Loyola pulls an upset on Saturday, this will continue: Villanova, Kansas, and Michigan are 2, 3, and 4, respectively. Loyola is 21st.
This situation does not hold for college hockey, by the way. Despite having far fewer competitive programs—about 40—KRACH ranked 2015 champion Providence 16th, 2013 champion Yale 13th, 2011 champ Minnesota-Duluth 7th, 2008 champ BC 10th, and 2007 champ MSU 12th. It's little better than a coin flip between a team that can claim to legitimately have had the best season and some rando that just squeezed in. That's why this space rails against that single-elimination tourney while being sanguine about basketball's.