How does BYU stack up in the East Region?

BYU is slotted as the sixth seed in the East Region. Is that where they belong?

Jaxson Robinson floats a shot above Texas Tech's Robert Jennings
Jaxson Robinson floats a shot above Texas Tech's Robert Jennings / Jay Biggerstaff/GettyImages
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It's tournament time! Tonight, the first tournament games begin in the form of the "First Four". Fortunately, BYU is not a play-in level team this year, but instead they're finally favored to win their first-round matchup. Voices across the college hoops world have called foul with BYU's under-seeded position, though their 6-seed is likely more due to BYU's policy against playing on Sunday than any biases against the overperforming Cougars.

Teams are overseeded and underseeded every year and in every region--it's not a perfect science. So, I'd like to take a deep dive into each of BYU's neighbors in their region to see who might be dangerous matchups and who could surprise the country by making a run. The best way to prepare to face a team is to truly understand them. Beyond simply becoming more knowledgeable, knowing your foe can be transformational to your opinion of them, and your outlook on the entire tournament. As Ender stated in Orson Scott Card's masterpiece:

"In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him. I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves."

Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game

So let's get to know the teams that BYU is sharing a region with, and see if we can find any other underdogs who deserve our support (when they're not facing BYU, of course).

Jaxson Robinson, Richie Saunders
Jaxson Robinson hauls in a rebound against the UCF Knights in the Big 12 Tournament / William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

I'd like to begin by comparing the team's rankings in the region. I'll be sure to keep the teams' order according to their tournament seeding but try to notice any patterns or outliers among the field of the East region.

UConn Huskies | Seed: 1 | NET: 2 | KenPom: 2 | AP: 1
Iowa State Cyclones | Seed: 2 | NET: 6 | KenPom: 5 | AP: 4
Illinois Illini | Seed: 3 | NET: 13 | KenPom: 10 | AP: 10
Auburn Tigers | Seed: 4 | NET: 5 | KenPom: 4 | AP: 7
San Diego State Aztecs | Seed: 5 | NET: 21 | KenPom: 21 | AP: 24
BYU Cougars | Seed: 6 | NET: 12 | KenPom: 16 | AP: 21
Washington State Cougars | Seed: 7 | NET: 44 | KenPom: 42 | AP: 25
Florida Atlantic Owls | Seed: 8 | NET: 39 | KenPom: 41 | AP: N/A
Northwestern Wildcats | Seed: 9 | NET: 53 | KenPom: 46 | AP: N/A
Drake Bulldogs | Seed: 10 | NET: 47 | KenPom: 51 | AP: N/A
Duquesne Dukes | Seed: 11 | NET: 80 | KenPom: 86 | AP: N/A
UAB Blazers | Seed: 12 | NET: 104 | KenPom: 106 | AP: N/A
Yale Bulldogs | Seed: 13 | NET: 83 | KenPom: 84 | AP: N/A
Morehead State Eagles | Seed: 14 | NET: 106 | KenPom: 111 | AP: N/A
South Dakota State | Seed: 15 | NET: 135 | KenPom: 134 | AP: N/A
Stetson Hatters | Seed: 16 | NET: 209 | KenPom: 218 | AP: N/A

I get it, that was a lot of information all at once, so let me make a few observations so you don't have to go through the trouble of digging through all those numbers. Numbers are boring. First of all, the AP Poll is pretty useless. Several teams are very poorly seeded when taking the AP Poll into account, but since the poll is so saturated with bias, I'm going to mostly disregard the AP rankings.

By taking the average of each team's NET and KenPom rankings, I've created a new metric that I'm calling NETPom. By looking at the intersection of these two metric-based rankings, I am able to determine which teams are over-seeded, and which are under-seeded. Teams that aren't as good as the selection committee determined may be in greater danger of being upset, and some underrecognized teams could be bracket-busters. Using NETPom, the real seeds of these East region squads show themselves, and we can properly evaluate BYU's potential foes.

East Region NETPom Rankings

  1. UConn (+0)
  2. Auburn (-2)
  3. Iowa State (+1)
  4. Illinois (+1)
  5. BYU (-1)
  6. San Diego State (+1)
  7. FAU (-1)
  8. WSU (+1)
  9. Drake (-1)
  10. Northwestern (+1)
  11. Duquesne (+0)
  12. Yale (-1)
  13. UAB (+1)
  14. Morehead State (+0)
  15. South Dakota State (+0)
  16. Stetson (+0)

Most notably, BYU is slightly under-seeded, but Auburn is surprisingly very underrated in the tournament. The top four teams in this bracket are all conference champions, so respecting that each of them are capable of reaching the Final Four is vital when evaluating them. While BYU still seems like a dark horse to take down any of the four teams ahead of them, knowing that they are underrated should give BYU fans a bit more hope when it comes to matching up with these elite squads.

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