The Kansas Jayhawks are Not #1 Seed Worthy
By Jason Lisk
The Kansas Jayhawks just got whipped at Oklahoma State on Saturday by 18 points. It’s not the first time that the team, now at 24-7, has lost a game by more than a few points. They lost at Baylor by 16. They lost at home to Texas Tech by 12. They lost to Washington by 9 in Kansas City, and a few days later lost in Lawrence to Arizona State by 10.
This, folks, is the team that is being touted by many as the final #1 seed as we head into the tournament. Yes, they have played a tough schedule and have big wins that include the big comeback at West Virginia, rebounding to beat Texas Tech on the road to win the Big 12, and winning at TCU. Those results should have them comfortably in as a #2 or #3 seed. But a #1? They aren’t sponge-worthy, let alone #1-seed-worthy.
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They have more losses by 9 or more points than most #1 seeds have, period. They have more losses to teams that are either out of the tournament or right on the bubble than most #1 seeds have, period. Teams that are among the best four in the country don’t lose that many home games, that many games to bubble teams, and that many games that don’t come down to a final possession.
Going back to 1985, no team has been given a #1 seed with 8 losses, which is where Kansas will be if they lose in the Big 12 tournament. Only five teams (out of 132) have gotten a #1 seed with 7 losses. Here they are:
- North Carolina 2017, 27-7 (1st in RPI, 3rd in Ken Pom)
- Virginia 2016, 26-7 (3rd in RPI, 2nd in Ken Pom)
- Michigan State 2012, 27-7 (2nd in RPI, 2nd in Ken Pom)
- Illinois 2001, 24-7 (5th in RPI, no Ken Pom)
- Michigan State 2000, 26-7 (2nd in RPI, no Ken Pom)
I know the committee is discussing Quadrants this year, but here’s the Top 50 record for those teams for comparison, compared to Kansas’ Quadrant 1 record with losses outside Top 50/Quadrant 1 in parentheses:
Illinois 2001: 9-7 (0)
Michigan State 2000: 10-6 (1)
North Carolina 2017: 11-5 (2)
Virginia 2016: 9-3 (4)
Michigan State 2012: 11-5 (2)
Kansas 2018: 10-3 (4)
Those other teams had the same number of top wins, but half the losses outside the Top 50/Quadrant 1 (and in checking, most of the additional losses would now be classified as Quad 1).
Virginia, the closest comparison with those 4 losses outside the Top 50, did lose an early game at George Washington. They also beat #1 seed North Carolina, #2 seed Villanova, #3 seed Miami twice, #3 seed West Virginia, and #4 seed California. By my estimate, Kansas’ best wins are at projected #4 seed Texas Tech, and then a sweep of West Virginia (I’ve got them as a #5), and beating Kentucky (also a #5). Their top wins aren’t even in line with the prior #1 seeds to get in with 7 losses.
This is very similar to the Ohio State decision in last year’s College Football Playoff. Yes, they won the Big Ten, had quality wins, and had a case. They also had two losses, and one of them was in a blowout at Iowa. The committee kept them out. Half of Kansas’ losses are like getting blown out at Iowa in football.
Here’s a list of the most similar resumés to Kansas according to Bart Torvik, using RPI, Resume, Power Ranking.
None of the 10 were given a #1 seed. Like Kansas, they averaged 7 losses, and had top resumes in terms of Top 50 wins. The RPI was in almost every case in the Top 8. Yet, they got 2 seeds.
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This Kansas team, if you go by Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency measures, is one of the four worst in Bill Self’s tenure in Lawrence. Now, that’s praising with some faint damnation, because Self has dominated for well near 15 years and Kansas is power rated as the 12th-best team in the country. But the only Kansas teams to rank lower were his first team in 2004, and the 2009 team that was very young and featured Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, along the Morris twins and Tyshawn Taylor as freshmen. The 2015 team that went 27-9 and lost to Wichita State was also 12th, and the 2005 team that was shocked by Bucknell was 11th. Every other Self team has been inside the Top 10 in the Pomeroy efficiency rankings.
This is a #2 seed. But let’s not make them something they are not. Top seeds don’t look like this for as many games as Kansas has this year.