When the March Madness bracket came out last night, our first thought was, “Woah, Kentucky got screwed.”
So when the NCAA Selection Committee released their ranked list of all 68 tournament teams, we played with the numbers to see if UK — the supposed overall No. 1 seed — got a harder bracket than the rest of the No. 1 seeds.
As it turns out, they did!
Here’s the NCAA’s official rankings from 1 to 68.
If you average the rankings of the 2 through 8 seeds in each region, Kentucky drew the hardest bracket.
- In Kentucky’s region (Duke, Baylor, Indiana, Wichita State, UNLV, Notre Dame, Iowa State) the average rankings of teams 2-8 was 17.86.
- Syracuse’s region (Ohio State, Florida State, Wisconsin, Vanderbilt, Cincinnati, Gonzaga, Kansas State) averaged 18.71.
- North Carolina had the second-toughest bracket by this metric (Kansas, Georgetown, Michigan, Temple, San Diego State, St. Mary’s, Creighton) with an average of 18.00.
- And Michigan State — the worst of the four No. 1 seeds — got the easiest bracket (Missouri, Marquette, Louisville, New Mexico, Murray State, Florida, Memphis) with the 2-8 seeds averaging a ranking of 19.43.
Another way to assess the relative strength of a region is by looking at the top four seeds in that region. Since a vast majority of Final Four teams are 1-4 seeds, this is probably a better indicator of strength than averaging the top eight.
- Kentucky has the 2nd-best No. 2, the best No. 3 seed, and the 3rd-best No. 4 seed. If the top four seeds were placed in regions based on the rankings provided by the committee, Kentucky would have drawn the worst No. 2 seed, the best No. 3 seed, and the worst No. 4 seed. So based on the committee’s Top 68 ranking, Kentucky’s region is more difficult than it should have been.
- Syracuse has the 3rd-best No. 2 seed, the 3rd-best No. 3 seed, and the 2nd-best No. 4 seed. The rankings say they should have had the 3rd-best No. 2, the 2nd-best No. 3 seed, and the 3rd-best No. 4 seed. In translation: their bracket is just about as strong as expected.
- UNC has the best No. 2 seed, the worst No. 3 seed, and the best No. 4 seed. The rankings say they should have had the 2nd-best No. 2 seed, the 3rd-best No. 3 seed, and the 2nd-best No. 4 seed. So the rankings say their bracket, like Kentucky’s, is a bit tougher than expected.
- Michigan State has the worst No. 2 seed, the 2nd-best No. 3 seed, and the worst No. 4 seed. The rankings say they should have had the best No. 2 seed, the worst No. 3 seed, and the best No. 4 seed. So MSU’s bracket is much, much easier than expected, according to the rankings.
There are a few caveats here. First of all, Kentucky only has the toughest bracket according to the selection committee’s rankings. And seeing as how many people felt Missouri and other teams are severely mis-ranked, we shouldn’t take this 1 through 68 rankings as gospel.
More importantly, the committee doesn’t seed the top-16 team based solely on rank. They try give these teams advantages by keeping them as close to home as possible. As a result, teams are sometimes sent to the closest region rather than the region that makes the most sense according to the rankings.
But the point is still valid: the committee, by its own rankings, gave Kentucky the toughest road to New Orleans.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.