Thursday, July 25, 2024

NCAA Tournament to include two new metrics beginning in 2025; committee delays decision on expansion

The news on NCAA Tournament expansion is … there is no news.

The NCAA men’s basketball committee wrapped its annual summer meetings on Wednesday and didn’t move closer to a decision on whether to expand the NCAA Tournament, sources told CBS Sports. The topic was discussed at length Tuesday and remains up for debate for many reasons, arguably the biggest being the significant financial commitment (with millions more in expenses) that would come with expanding — not just the men’s tournament but the women’s as well. The NCAA is deliberating whether to stay at 68 teams or increase to 72 or 76. There’s no timeline on a decision, sources told CBS Sports. 

Committee members also discussed the consequence that would come with expanding the field, sources said, namely that going to 72 or 76 teams would require teams that would be in a 68-team field to be pulled out of the Thursday/Friday matchups to play on Tuesday/Wednesday in the First Four-type of event. Some of those teams would likely be No. 10 seeds, which does have impacts of competitive balance of the bracket. 

Two new metrics coming to selection process

On Thursday morning, the NCAA announced the changes that were approved during the committee’s meetings in Park City, Utah. Most notably, the ever-valuable team sheets (which committee members constantly reference as they deliberate how to select and seed teams for March Madness) are getting a facelift. Two metrics — one résumé-based, one predictive — will be implemented starting next year. This will bring six metrics to team sheets, rounding out a process that will have more data — three predictive metrics, three résumé-based — than ever before. 

BartTorvik.com, a predictive metric similar to KenPom.com, was approved as an official team sheet metric, per the NCAA’s release. Torvik’s T-Rank system has ascended in popularity in college basketball circles over the past half-decade. The other big add is a metric referred to as “Wins Above Bubble,” which is résumé-based and in essence shows how many more (or fewer) wins a team has earned against its schedule vs. what an average bubble team would do against that same schedule. For the hardcore analytic community in basketball, Wins Above Bubble (WAB) has been regarded as the most objective of all metrics when it comes to evaluating résumé performance. 

The fact the NCAA has progressed enough to officially adopt it in 2024 is a significant sign of evolution in how the 12-person selection committee evaluates teams. WAB will derive from the NCAA’s NET formula.

The committee approved, as expected, another formal change in the selection process. The death of the Pac-12 means there are now 31 automatic bids for 31 conferences in addition to 37 at-large selections for the 2024-25 season.

Indy will be HQ for all men’s championships in ’26

Lucas Oil Stadium was approved to host the men’s Final Four in 2018, but this week signaled the second time the NCAA has arranged to have the D-I, D-II and D-III men’s basketball championships in the same city. Indianapolis will serve as the host site in 2026 for all three men’s hoops tournaments in addition to Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse hosting the NIT semifinals.

It’s the first time in history all four events have been held in the same city. In 2013, Atlanta hosted the D-I, D-II and D-III men’s championships, but not the NIT.

“This will be a tremendous celebration of men’s college basketball across all three divisions in Indy,” NCAA senior vice predient of basketball Dan Gavitt said in the release. “When we did this in 2013, we had nearly 8,000 fans watching the Division II and III championship games, and the final two nights of this year’s NIT at Hinkle Fieldhouse featured sold-out crowds of more than 9,000 fans. It will be an awesome opportunity for student-athletes at the participating schools, as well as a showcase for the legendary college basketball fans in Indiana.” 

Indianapolis, home to NCAA headquarters, has fallen into a rotation of hosting every five years; it last hosted in 2021, which was the COVID bubble tournament. 

And as always at its summer meetings, the NCAA determined its chairperson for the season after the upcoming one. Sun Belt commissioner Keith Gill will chair the committee for the 2025-26 season. 

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