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Bracketology: Blind Resumes and Iowa’s Early Season Black Eye

It’s been an up and down year for the Hawkeyes. And everyone else in America outside the top-10.

Syndication: HawkCentral
Iowa’s tussle with EIU will certainly be costing them a seed line come March.
Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Despite a dominant showing at home on Thursday night against Ohio State, the Iowa Hawkeyes dropped what would have been the marquee win of the season a week ago when they fell on the road to #1 Purdue. But that loss did little to impact Iowa’s NCAA Tournament resume. If anything, it may have helped the Hawkeyes as just playing (and losing to) the top-ranked Boilermakers pushed Iowa’s RPI up two spots.

Granted, the RPI is an antiquated, nearly useless metric that has diminishing impact on a team’s NCAA Tournament chances, but it does remain something the selection committee looks at on Selection Sunday. That is, it’s one of many factors considered not only in who makes the tournament, but what seed they receive.

Those factors collectively, of course, make up a team’s resume. Perhaps nothing better encapsulates the resume than the NET team sheets the selection committee receives. Embedded in the team sheet is a slew of information, including the team’s rankings in various metrics, including the RPI, KenPom, Sagarin, Basketball Power Index, Kevin Pauga Index and Strength of Record, plus of course the NET.

More important than any of those metrics and rankings, however, is the breakdown of results shown on the team sheet. The team sheet breaks games into four quadrants based on opponent rank in the NET. Home games against teams ranked in the top-30, neutral site games against top-50 opponents and road trips to top-75 teams are all classified as quad one. Quadrant two encompasses home games against teams ranked 31-75, neutral site games against teams in the 51-100 range and road games against teams in the 76-135 range. Quadrant three is 76-160/101-200/136-240 for home/neutral site/road games while quad four is 161-363/201-363/241-363.

Beyond the raw wins and losses, the team sheet breaks things down for the viewer with each game listed in order of opponent rank under each of the respective quadrants. Losses are highlighted in red, along with the final score and the date of the game. It’s nearly all-encompassing and should give a pretty clear picture of a team’s strength when viewed.

However, when you take the names off the team sheets and just look at the raw numbers, sometimes the brackets, projections and prognostications start to break down. For example, your Iowa Hawkeyes are currently a consensus 7-seed according to Bracket Matrix. While ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has them as a six, which is tied for the highest of anyone nationally, right now Iowa is likely to find themselves a lower seed than teams they’ve beaten and are sitting below them in the Big Ten standings.

Does it make sense when looking at the resumes? Lets’ take a look!

2023 NCAA Tournament Blind Resumes

Category Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4 Team 5 Team 6 Team 7 Team 8
Category Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4 Team 5 Team 6 Team 7 Team 8
NET 18 19 6 39 29 43 27 15
KenPom 20 19 8 32 27 45 24 15
Sagarin 14 31 13 21 24 36 15 22
BPI 12 28 15 31 16 45 23 19
RPI 28 4 13 60 81 48 50 31
Quad 1 5-7 2-4 2-1 7-6 4-6 7-4 3-7 8-7
Quad 2 3-1 6-1 6-2 4-1 3-2 2-3 4-1 2-1
Quad 3 3-0 11-0 10-2 0-1 2-2 2-0 3-0 1-0
Quad 4 7-0 1-0 4-0 6-1 7-0 8-0 7-0 6-0
Best Win H 4 A 36 H 12 H 15 A 4 H 4 N 5 H 7
Worst Loss H 43 H 55 H 122 H 341 N 115 H 72 H 61 H 33

Which team has the best resume? It’s genuinely debatable. All have something that stands out, but just objectively trying to rank these teams (which is admittedly tough given I know who is who) I would likely put them in the following order. Feel free to disagree in the comments.

Team 8
Team 6
Team 1
Team 4
Team 5
Team 7
Team 2
Team 3

Why? For me, playing and beating top competition is important. Perhaps the most important. The top four teams in JPinIC’s blind resume rankings all have 5+ wins against Q1 opponents. But Team 4 clearly needs to be punished for that gross loss, which is far and away the worst of any team listed.

And that, of course, is the rub for your Iowa Hawkeyes. If not for that loss, which you should have spotted right away as being to Eastern Illinois, Iowa would likely be second in my personal rankings (and while we’re playing the “ifs and buts” game, if they had just managed to squeak out those close losses to Wisconsin and at MSU, the Hawkeyes would be staring at a 4 seed and be a game out of first in the Big Ten with a 2 seed virtually locked up come BTT). They have the second-most Q1 wins of any team listed in the “blind” resumes and what’s more, there are only five teams in the entire country with more Q1 wins than your Hawkeyes. Three other teams nationally have seven Q1 wins, which means if the only criteria were beating high quality opponents, Iowa would be a two or three seed come March.

While that certainly isn’t going to happen, it should be an indication this team is capable of making a run. Of those eight teams with seven or more Q1 wins, three are earmarked as 1-seeds per Bracket Matrix (Purdue, Alabama and Kansas). Two more are currently two seeds (Texas and Baylor) and two of the other three are in our little blind resume game. Team 8, who I have ranked tops in our game, is currently a consensus 4-seed. Team 6, by contrast, is a consensus 8-seed. The third is Michigan State, currently a 7-seed right beside the Hawkeyes.

Why? How?

Because the advanced analytics and the eye test fill in what can’t be told with the NET rankings and quadrant records. Team 6 has no truly bad losses, but they’ve played a pretty up and down season that has been filled with close wins and loads of skepticism from onlookers.

What’s interesting about the advanced analytics and their handling of Team 6 is how they seem to love Teams 2 and 3. While Team 6 has clearly played a more rigorous schedule, has the best win and a loss that’s not much worse than that of Team 2 and is meaningfully better than Team 3’s, the latter two are meaningfully higher in the advanced analytics, NET rankings and are seeded much better.

There’s not a lot of consistency to the weightings of anything outside of those advanced metrics. In that regard, the recipe is simple: higher predictive ranking, higher seed. Unfortunately, those advanced metrics seem to really like teams who don’t play a lot of stiff competition.

So who is who? Let’s reveal the curtain and see if that changes any views on how you would rank these teams come tournament time.

Team 1: Indiana - 5 seed
Team 2: San Diego State - 6 seed
Team 3: St. Mary’s - 5 seed
Team 4: Iowa - 7 seed
Team 5: Rutgers - 6 seed
Team 6: Northwestern - 8 seed
Team 7: Illinois - 6 seed
Team 8: Iowa State - 4 seed

Notably, five of those teams are in the Big Ten. Iowa has beaten all four of the conference foes listed and is seeded lower than all except Northwestern, which I had ranked ahead of the Hawkeyes when comparing resumes thanks to the Eastern Illinois loss.

Of those non-Big Ten teams listed, only Iowa State is from a major conference and seems to get the necessary seed respect because of the rigorous Big 12 schedule. St. Mary’s and SDSU both have great advanced metrics, but their resumes are lacking in big wins. Despite coming in at 6th in the NET, St. Mary’s only has a pair of Q1 wins (Gonzaga and SDSU) while boasting two of the three worst losses of the eight teams shown (home vs #121 Colorado State and a neutral site loss to #122 Washington).

San Diego State is in a bit of a different situation. They don’t have any really bad losses, but they’re just 2-4 against Q1 and those two wins are far and away the lowest quality of any of the eight teams shown (at #36 Utah State and home vs #23 Boise State).

Perhaps just as interesting as where the bracketology “experts” have these teams slotted at the moment is what Vegas is predicting. Here’s a rundown of the chances each of the eight teams we’ve reviewed has to make the Final Four according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

Iowa State: +700
Indiana: +700
St. Mary’s: +700
Illinois: +1200
SDSU: +1500
Rutgers: +1800
Iowa: +2500
Northwestern: +3000

That’s largely in order with current projections for seeding, but lumps teams on the 4/5 lines together. It also puts a pretty big discount on the teams on the 7+ line. Oh, and not shown here is MSU, who we mentioned previously as being the other team in the mix with seven Q1 wins on the year. They’re projected as a 7-seed and are at +1800 to make the Final Four. Perhaps some line setting to keep the books even, perhaps the sharps saying Izzo always finds a way. Certainly some variation to what we’re seeing from the bracketologists.

All this to say, the seeding process is an art rather than a science. While the Big Ten losses at home to Wisconsin and on the road to Michigan State might come back to haunt Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament, the Hawkeyes clearly cost themselves at least one seed line in the NCAA Tournament with that early season stinker against Eastern Illinois.

Now Iowa needs to hit the gas pedal down the home stretch with three more quad one opportunities and absolutely no margin for error on the downside. The first test comes Sunday when the Hawkeyes travel to take on Northwestern in a battle not just for an NCAA Tournament seed, but also for the second spot in the Big Ten standings. Tip time is set for 5:30pm CT. The game will be televised on BTN.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See for details.