Prior to the season beginning, I wrote a lengthy piece on goals for Dennis Gates’s first season in Columbia. Having extensively sifted through the data, I believed there was a chance Mizzou would be playing meaningful basketball games during the month of March. That did not include, necessarily, that they’d be a part of the 68-team field taking part in the best event in sports. Rather, the goal was to play games leading up to the event where they had a realistic chance to be included: Basketball that matters.
Fast forward 4 months and Mizzou is guaranteed to play those games. In what can only be described as an impressive debut at 1 Champions Drive, Gates and his squad have assured us of that.
In the spirit of the season, we now take a look at where Mizzou’s NCAA tournament chances stand. We’ve released a weekly feature using historical data to predict this year’s field, but here we turn our attention to Mizzou alone. As always, I’ve included definitions of industry terms below.
Mizzou’s Current Resume
- Net: 50th
- Resume Metric Average: 21.5
- Predictive Metric Average: 59.3
- Quad 1a: 1-6
- Quad 1: 4-7
- Quad 2: 4-0
- Quad 3: 3-0
- Quad 4: 8-0
At the outset, Mizzou has a very unique resume. Typically, teams that have impressive resume metrics also have a NET rating and predictive metric average to match. Not the case for Mizzou. If you were pressed to choose, historical data suggests that it’s better to have an impressive resume than to be highly rated in predictive metrics.
No team in the three years since the NET has been introduced (2019, 2021, 2022) has finished with a resume average of 35 or better and failed to be included in the NCAA tournament. In fact, only one team in the top 40 has been excluded — Louisville in 2021 who finished 13-7 with multiple games cancelled due to COVID. History suggests that if you get in the top 35, you’re going to be in the field. Mizzou has a resume rating average of 21.5. They’re sitting very comfortably in that regard.
Moving on to the quad records, Mizzou is solid here as well. The quad 1a ratings are a subset of quad 1 — the best of the best games played. NET ratings are used to determine the quad designations. While Mizzou is 1-6, Illinois and Iowa State both sit one spot below the cutoff for recognition. Should those teams move up one paltry spot, the Tigers will boast an impressive 3-6 mark. Only eight teams have more than 3 quad 1a wins at this point. It would require a little bit of assistance, but Mizzou is well positioned in this regard.
In the quad 1 ratings, Mizzou has a solid four wins in 11 games. It’s not an eye-catching number, but it’s...solid. With added context, UCF has worked its way to within 6 spots of being a quad 1 victory. Texas A&M, who was already a quad 1 road game could become a quad 1 home game by moving up 5 spots. If UCF can move into this category, only 12 teams have more than five quad one wins.
The rest of the quad results are non-descript except for one thing: The Tigers have not lost a game outside of quad 1. Their quad 2 record is relatively uninspiring, largely as a function of scheduling eight “buy games,” early in the season. The staff took a hedged bet that winning games and building chemistry early on was more important than building a bullet-proof resume. It appears as if that’s been a savvy move. Mizzou did indeed build that chemistry and they took no lumps in the process, building a perfect 15-0 record in non-elite games. That’s important, and relatively rare. Only 9 teams are perfect in Quad 2, 3 and 4 games.
Moving on to areas that are less attractive on the resume, Mizzou’s predictive metric average and NET rating (incorporates predictive metric principles) lag behind the competition. They rank 50th in NET and 60th in predictive metric average. Neither are typically numbers that represent a likely tournament team. A year ago, just 4 teams rated 50 or below in NET made the field as at-large teams. Last year’s field included just 3 teams that were rated 60th or worse in predictive metric average. The good news: It does happen. The bad news: it’s definitely a factor.
In other weaknesses, some of which were briefly touched on earlier, Mizzou’s entire schedule strength rates pretty low for a high-major program. And the remaining schedule continues that them. As it stands right now, the last five games are categorized as:
- Quad 1a: None
- Quad 1: None
- Quad 2: Texas A&M; Mississippi State; @Georgia
- Quad 3: @LSU; Ole Miss
- Quad 4: None
The top end of Mizzou’s resume is set. Barring the moves of teams like Iowa State, Illinois and UCF, they will not be adding another quad 1 win prior to the league tournament —Unless Texas A&M moves up despite a loss to Mizzou. They also have two opportunities to pick up bad losses (Quad 3 or 4). There’s just not much meat left on the schedule to really move the needle in a positive direction. And that drives home how important the buzzer beater was in Knoxville!
There’s also the issue of HOW Mizzou performs in these remaining games as efficiency data drives the predictive metrics (and NET). If Mizzou goes 5-0 but wins every game by 1 point, they’re not going to improve these numbers much, if at all. Alternatively, if they run some of these teams off the floor, they will. Their performance this season is more suggestive of the former.
As of the writing of this piece, Mizzou is comfortably in the field. Where they would be seeded is the only point of debate. I would suggest somewhere in the low 30’s on the seed list (8 or 9 seed) is a fair and conservative estimation right now.
They are not, however, a lock. To me a lock is a team that can lose every remaining game and remain in the field. Mizzou is not that. Teams that are 19-12 overall and 7-11 in league play do not fare well historically, especially those with almost 30% of their games played being scheduled wins.
Having crunched the numbers, I believe that 22-9 and 10-8 in SEC play locks Mizzou in the field before taking the court in Nashville. That requires a 3-2 finish down the stretch. It doesn’t matter (much) where the wins come, just that three of them materialize. The seed may not be an overly desirable one, but they would almost assuredly hear their name called. Teams with solid resume metrics and a winning league record are almost always preferred over those who don’t meet those two qualifications.
As for the upside, the Tigers are not locked into the 8/9 game that so many fear. Should their victories over Iowa State, Illinois and UCF get bumped up into the next higher category — and Mizzou finish 5-0 — a better seed would be in order. That’s before any resume-boosting wins occur in the league tournament, though the returns there are often diminishing — just ask Buzz Williams. Should those things happen — and Mizzou to win the games by large margins — I think the Tigers could find themselves in the mid-20’s of the seed list (6 or 7 seed).
In closing, I’ll add the ever-important caveat: Mizzou doesn’t play in a vacuum. Even on an off night, Mizzou could move up or down based on the results of other games. When you’re talking bubble teams, teams as often play their way out of the field as they play their way in. When you look at teams in the 5-7 range on the seed lines, that doesn’t happen as much, which is intuitive. Movement is much easier — in both directions — as you near the cut line.
Furthermore, the NCAA Tournament Committee must adhere to a host of “bracketing rules,” which dictate who can play who and where. Teams towards the bottom of the at-large field are most affected and shuffled away from their “actual” spot to conform with these directives. Finally, you have to consider at-large bids evaporating when a multi-bid conference has an automatic bid snatched by a team not in at-large consideration. The famous “bubble popping,” scenario.
While the tournament itself is a tremendous event, the weeks leading up to it are just as fascinating. We’re going to be neck deep in these talks for the next three and a half weeks. The Tigers still have work to do and we’ll be analyzing their status along the way.
S-Curve — The ranking of teams 1-68 by the NCAA Selection Committee. They rate teams in this fashion before bracketing them. There are numerous bracket rules (e.g., proximity to home; avoiding conference rematches, etc.) that will affect a team’s final seed. But this is the holy grail of how the Committee has previously viewed a team and is the basis for my formula. It’s what I’m attempting to replicate.
At-Large — A team voted in by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee
Auto-Qualifier — A team that wins an automatic bid from their respective conference.
Team Sheet — A “resume” that includes a host of rankings and criteria used by the Tournament Selection Committee to bracket teams. Namely, the current team sheets include information such as: NET Rankings, Ken Pomeroy rankings, ESPN BPI Rankings, Sagarin Rankings, ESPN Strength of Record Rankings, KPI Rankings, team record, conference record, and quad results.
Predictive Metrics — The Ken Pomeroy, ESPN BPI and Sagarin rankings are considered “predictive metrics.” That is, they “predict,” how good a team will be based on past information. They measure a team’s strength, not their resume. They are based on “efficiency.” They are very similar to how Las Vegas sets game lines. Every possession matters. Margin of victory/defeat is a big consideration.
Resume Metrics — Comparatively ESPN Strength of Record and KPI are only measuring the quality of wins and losses a team has accumulated. They are retrospective. It doesn’t matter if you beat a team by 1 or 100, you get the same credit. Teams that rack up a ton of wins by close margins will have a better resume rating than a predictive rating. Teams that lose a bunch of close games? The opposite.
Blend Metric — The NET is a combination of both resume and predictive components. Margin of victory matters, but so do the results. No one in the public sphere really knows the formula for this, we just know it’s used as both a ranking device, but primarily as a sorting tool for wins and losses in the quad system.
Quad System — The NET “sorts” a team’s opponents into four groups to come up with “Quad Records.” The teams are sorted as follows:
- Quad 1a: Home vs. 1-15 in rankings; neutral vs. 1-25; road vs. 1-40
- Quad 1: Home vs. 1-30; neutral vs. 1-50; away vs. 1-75
- Quad 2: Home vs. 31-75; neutral vs. 51-100; away vs. 76-135
- Quad 3: Home vs. 76-160; neutral vs. 101-200; away vs. 135-240
- Quad 4: Home vs. 161-363; neutral vs. 201-363; away vs. 241-363