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If NET was a first step, Wins Above Bubble can be the next one for NCAA tournament selections

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NCAA Basketball: N.C. State at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Since I’m not one to pass on a good analytics discussion when it comes to college basketball and the NCAA tournament, I thought this piece from Jesse Newell at the Kansas City Star about replacing the selection committee with Wins Above Bubble (WAB) was an interesting read.

I haven’t used WAB too much as a reference point in the past, but the concept is simple enough: essentially wins over replacement on a team level, where replacement in this instance is an average bubble team. There’s a credit or debit associated with each game result. Newell:

A short example: For Kansas’ game Wednesday against Kansas State, a Bubble team would be expected to beat K-State 82% of the time.

WAB takes that number to credit or debit a team for every game it plays. So if KU loses, it will get negative-0.82 for performing that much worse than a Bubble team. If it wins, it gets 0.18 added to its total.

Then you just go and add those numbers together for each team. Here’s how that looks currently. (And no, it ain’t doing NC State any favors this year, since the Pack is 141st in WAB.)

It makes good objective sense and matches up well with what we’ve seen with our eyes, and installing a selection method that is objective rather than letting a committee of humans decide what arbitrary thing they’ll decide to emphasize in a given year sounds like an improvement to me.