Kenpom Rankings – What They Are and How They Could be Used

Andrew Tunley, Staff Writer

As Selection Sunday nears in NCAA Basketball, many teams and fans are curious as to what the NCAA Tournament Bracket will look like this season. Aside from the 32 automatic bids, which are earned from winning a respective conference, the other 36 teams are chosen by the NCAA Selection Committee. This comes with controversy, since a mere twelve people can decide the entire NCAA Tournament. Many fans argue that the Kenpom Rankings – a ranking system that ranks all 358 Division 1 teams, should be used to help decide the rankings for March Madness.

 

The rankings were created by Ken Pomoroy in 2002 and are updated daily. The main factor used to rank each team is known as the adjusted efficiency margin. This number is found by calculating a teams’ average points per 100 possessions and subtracting it by the allowed points per 100 possessions. On top of that, each number is adjusted after taking the teams’ strength of schedule into account.  Other statistics that can be found on the Kenpom Rankings are teams’ adjusted tempo (amount of possessions per 40 minutes), and luck (deviation between a teams’ actual record and their projected record). 

 

Instead of allowing for twelve people to create the entire NCAA Basketball Bracket, the Kenpom Rankings take tangible statistics to rank the teams. It can be used to show some teams that aren’t ranked towards the top of national polls, but could possibly make a deep run during the tournament.  On the contrary, it shows some teams that are ranked higher than they should be, according to these metrics. The NCAA Basketball Selection Committee simply doesn’t represent all 32 Division 1 Conferences. Four members of the committee represent 20 conferences, including conferences with teams ranked in the top 50 of the Kenpom Rankings. Murray State, for example, is ranked 25th in the Kenpom Rankings, yet are projected to be a 9 seed by ESPN Analysts, barely breaking the top 40. A team like Oklahoma, who are ranked 37th in the Kenpom Rankings, are likely to miss the tournament despite the Kenpom Rankings having them above current AP Top 25 teams.

 

While it is impractical to use the Kenpom Rankings as the only factor in determining the NCAA Tournament Bracket, it could definitely be used in addition to the current rankings system.