Every year at the NCAA tournament some teams overachieve while others simply don’t live up to their potential. All season and especially when the brackets come out, fans love to extrapolate team scores based on what the seeds look like. However, as we've discussed many times, some teams do a better job out-performing their seed than others. Even knowing that history, there is an element of chance each March as no team is perfectly consistent in this regard. In that spirit, we can now look at which teams came up big and which ones left Cleveland feeling like they missed an opportunity to do more.
As a refresher, for our purposes here we use the average performance of each seed at the NCAA tournament since 1999, the first full season after the weight changes, to establish an expected value for each wrestler. A top seed, for example, becomes an All-American 96.5% of the time, with an average placement of 2.0207. That means that a school that enters the tournament with a number one projects to have .965 All-Americans and those that place second or better outperform their peers. When we run those numbers across all the entrants for each team, we get a good idea of how they performed overall. We also total the placement differentials of each All-American and then divide it by eight, because there are eight All-American spots. Outperform the average placement by eight spots and you’ve overachieved by the equivalent of one All-American. Adding the All-American differential and placement differential together gives us a final number to compare across teams. Positive is good, negative is bad.
Today we’re going to count down the five best and five worst performances, when compared to seeds, at the 2018 Division I NCAA tournament. Before we do, we should note that this tournament featured no performances that were close to the all-time best performances or the all-time worst performances, though the extremes were further from zero than last year when few teams strayed much outside the plus or minus one range. Every team was still between +1.875 and -1.976 All-Americans. Considering we’ve seen scores as high as +3.984 and as low as -2.900 in the past, we didn't see any truly heroic or abysmal performances this time around. Now let's get started with the five best performances at this year’s championship.
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