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Wisconsin basketball: NCAA considered 16-team mini-tournament before cancellation

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So...would the Badgers have made the cut?

NCAA Basketball: Wisconsin at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday, the Associated Press reported that the NCAA considered having a 16-team mini-tournament, instead of the usual 68-team one, over one long weekend to try and still crown a national champion for the 2019-20 season.

NCAA vice president of men’s basketball Dan Gavitt told the AP that he started thinking about this after the NBA suspended their season and while the NCAA was still considering what they would do with the rest of their season. “We did spend a significant amount of time very late Wednesday night trying to figure out alternative models,” Gavitt said.

CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander outlined how everything would’ve worked:

Reducing the field from 68 to 16 had to mean the elimination of automatic-qualifier bids. All 16 teams would have been selected on the strength of their overall profiles for at-large consideration. Had a school or two or three or more opted not to travel and play in the event, Gavitt said the committee would have made a length overall seed list and continued down to Nos. 17, 18, 19 and so on if necessary to ask teams that would’ve been willing to participate.

The format would have given a slight advantage to the top four seeds, which would have opened up play against seeds Nos. 13-16 on Thursday, then not had to play again until Saturday. So it would have been No. 1 vs. No. 16, No. 2 vs. No. 15 and so forth. Teams seeded Nos. 5-8 would have played seeded Nos. 9-12 on Friday, and the winners of those games would have played Saturday, with the Elite Eight taking place on Saturday, the Final Four on Sunday and the national title game on Monday.

“Far from ideal. Far from perfect. Imperfect as it may be, that was one of the only reasonable options we thought we could at least maintain some level of our tournaments. There was a real concern about not being inclusive enough, with only 16 teams,” Gavitt said.

So this begs the question...would the No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers have made the cut and been included in this tournament? LET’S BREAK IT DOWN!

Here are the teams that I think would make this tournament with no questions asked:

Kansas Jayhawks (Big 12)
Baylor Bears (Big 12)
Dayton Flyers (A-10)
Gonzaga Bulldogs (WCC)

These four teams are in the top-five of every ranking system you can find: the AP and Coaches polls, KenPom, NET, T-Rank...you name it, they’re in there.

Now we have 12 teams left and there are definitely a few more no-brainers before we get into the debate section of this post.

San Diego State Aztecs (MWC)
Florida State Seminoles (ACC)
Duke Blue Devils (ACC)
Creighton Bluejays (Big East)
Michigan State Spartans (B1G)
Louisville Cardinals (ACC)

10 teams in the Mini-Madness Tournament, which is what I’ve decided we’re going to call it moving forward, and only one from the undisputed best conference in the land! Is the B1G even any good???? Now there are just six spots left in Mini-Madness and we have to be judicious with them.

Oregon Ducks (Pac-12)
Villanova Wildcats (Big East)
Maryland Terrapins (B1G)

We only have three more spots left in our Mini-Madness Tournament and I think we’re going to need a chart to figure out who gets it. The seven teams we are going to analyze for the final spot are the Arizona Wildcats, the BYU Cougars, the Kentucky Wildcats, the Ohio State Buckeyes the Seton Hall Pirates, the West Virginia Mountaineers and...your Wisconsin Badgers.

This is getting difficult. The Buckeyes, for instance, are ranked outside of the top-16 in both the AP and Coaches polls, but KenPom and T-Rank have them at No. 8 and NET has them right at No. 16. But then you have to consider the fact that they didn’t win their conference nor did they finish in second...yeesh, the selection committee has a tough gig!

Strength of schedule numbers from WarrenNolan.com. Team quadrant wins from BracketSearch.com.

Mini-Madness Final Entrants

Team Conference W-L Conf. W-L AP Coaches NET KenPom T-Rank Conference finish
Team Conference W-L Conf. W-L AP Coaches NET KenPom T-Rank Conference finish
Arizona Pac-12 21-11 10-8 RV RV 14 19 13 T-4th
BYU WCC 24-8 13-3 14 16 9 13 17 2nd
Kentucky SEC 25-6 15-3 8 7 21 29 28 1st
Ohio State B1G 21-10 11-9 19 20 16 8 8 T-3rd
Seton Hall Big East 21-9 13-5 16 15 15 20 21 T-1st
West Virginia Big 12 21-10 9-9 22 23 17 10 16 T-3rd
Wisconsin B1G 21-10 14-6 18 19 23 22 19 T-1st
https://bracketresearch.com/team-quadrant-wins-and-losses-tracker/

Mini-Madness Final Entrants SOS

Team SOS Quad 1 record Quad 3/4 losses Quad 3/4 played Road/neutral record
Team SOS Quad 1 record Quad 3/4 losses Quad 3/4 played Road/neutral record
Arizona 78 3-7 1 13 8-7
BYU 69 3-5 0 15 10-7
Kentucky 5 9-3 1 12 9-4
Ohio State 34 6-9 0 9 5-8
Seton Hall 30 10-7 0 6 10-5
West Virginia 11 6-7 0 9 7-8
Wisconsin 28 10-8 1 9 6-9

Alright, there is a lot to chew on here.

Arizona is an analytics darling, ranking in the top-20 of both KenPom and T-Rank while finishing No. 14 in NET, but they are only receiving votes in the two major polls and have a poor strength of schedule featuring only a 3-7 record in Quad 1 games. They also have the worst record of any team remaining that we are looking at. I think we can safely rule these Wildcats out of contention.

BYU has the second best record of these six teams and would be in if we were just choosing based on the top-16 teams from the two major polls. Their NET rankings is the highest, by far, but they also have the second worst strength of schedule. They have only three Quad 1 wins and played the most Quad 3/4 games of any of these teams because the WCC isn’t a great conference. I truly have no idea what to do with this team.

Kentucky has the best record and is the outright champion of the SEC. They also have the best strength of schedule and are ranked the highest in the traditional polls. However, KenPom and T-Rank do NOT like the Cats and NET only likes them better than the Badgers. Kentucky also has the worst loss of the bunch, at home to Evansville.

The Buckeyes and the Badgers are probably fighting for one of these remaining spots so let’s look at them side by side. Wisconsin is ahead of Ohio State in the two major polls by one spot in each. They have the same overall record, but the Badgers had a better conference record and also, you know, won the conference. The Badgers ALSO beat Ohio State twice this year. Ohio State has a better NET, KenPom and T-Rank rating than the Badgers, but Wisconsin has a better SOS and has four more Quad 1 wins and has one more road/neutral site win. I feel safe eliminating the Buckeyes.

Seton Hall had 10 Quad 1 wins this year, the same as Wisconsin and the most of any of these teams. They were also 10-5 in road/neutral site games, which is really impressive. They won a share of the Big East regular season title and were in the top-16 of the two major polls and the NET ratings. I didn’t think I’d be as impressed with the Pirates as I am.

West Virginia had the No. 11 strength of schedule and finished the regular season at No. 10 in KenPom, but they were tied for third in the Big 12 with a 9-9 record and were ranked No. 22/23 in the major polls. This is another team, like BYU, I’m struggling with where to place.

So, after looking at all of this I think we can safely add:

Seton Hall Pirates (Big East)
Kentucky Wildcats (SEC)

Now there is just one spot left for either BYU, West Virginia or Wisconsin. Despite BYU’s record being impressive, playing in the WCC hurts them here and they’re disqualified.

Despite their superior SOS and NET ranking, I don’t buy West Virginia getting in over Wisconsin. The Badgers won five more conference games, in a tougher conference, and won the regular season title while having four more Quad 1 wins as well.

Our 16th and final entrant into Mini-Madness:

Wisconsin Badgers (B1G)

What do y’all think?