Since the NCAA Tournament brackets were released on Sunday evening, there has been endless speculating by pundits, analysts, and fans on which teams got favorable seedings and which got robbed by the Selection Committee. Most fans seem to think their favorite team got robbed, and in some cases this is true: seedings can be unfavorable or favorable based on a team’s talent level, competition, and geography. Good teams will win more games, but good teams that are put in a favorable position to win games will do even better.
This is exactly the argument statistician Nate Silver is making with his yearly NCAA selections, claiming that certain teams got misplaced by the Selection Committee and therefore, have either favorable or unfavorable potential match-ups. And despite local articles that suggest otherwise, by his rankings the Florida Gators received one of the, “luckiest draws in the history of the tournament: a combination of weak opponents, favorable geography and overseeding.”
In other words, not only did Florida get overseeded – ranked as a #2 team when their true talent suggests they’re more like a #4 or #5 – but they also play a large portion of their games close to home and face a potentially weak batch of opponents. Even with this advantage, though, Silver’s work suggests that Florida will only go so far: at the moment they’re predicted to possibly advance to the Southeast Region Final but no further. They’re certainly a good team – and a lucky team at the moment – but that still doesn’t make them one of the strongest teams in the tournament.
At the moment, Florida has a 3.3% chance of winning the national championship. While that’s certainly not zero – anything can happen once The Dance begins – it’s going to take a lot more skill and luck for the Gators to get that far.