On reviewing the NCAA's just-released reports -- two days after the Committee made its decisions -- it turns out there was such an error.
The error itself may seem inconsequential, on first glance. A SWAC semi-final tournament game, between Howard and Arkansas Pine Bluff, got reported into the NCAA's system as a 3-1 win by Arkansas Pine Bluff. In fact, the game was a 0-0 tie, with Arkansas Pine Bluff advancing on Kicks From the Mark. As a result of the error, the NCAA's data show Arkansas Pine Bluff with a record of 9-7-1 (0.5588), rather than the correct 8-7-2 (0.5294). They show Howard with a record of 13-5-2 (0.7000), rather than the correct 13-4-3 (0.7250). What this means, in RPI terms, is that Arkansas Pine Bluff's opponents got more strength of schedule credit than they should have; and Howard's opponents got less. And this effect rippled through the two teams' opponents' opponents' ratings.
So, whom did these teams play, outside their SWAC games?
- Arkansas Pine Bluff played Oral Roberts, Central Arkansas, UALR, and, Oklahoma State.
- Howard played Cleveland State, Radford, Mt. St. Mary's , Longwood, George Mason, Princeton, Robert Morris, VMI, and Navy.
And what effect did the data error have on the ARPI ratings and rankings of key teams? What follows shows, in the middle, an ARPI rank. On the left is the team the NCAA, with its data error, gave that rank. On the right is the team the correct data would have given that rank.
Notre Dame 8 Connecticut
Connecticut 9 Notre Dame
The Committee gave Notre Dame a #2 seed and Connecticut no seed. Question: With the correct data, would the Committee have done the seeding differently? Specifically, would it have seeded Connecticut and/or given Notre Dame a lower seed.
Oklahoma 12 Virginia
Virginia 13 Oklahoma 12
The Committee gave Virginia a #3 seed and Oklahoma no seed. The correct rankings would not have changed this.
Florida State 15 Duke
Duke 16 Auburn
Auburn 17 Florida State
The Committee gave Florida State and Duke #3 seeds and Auburn a #4 seed. Question: With the correct data, would the Committee have done the seeding differently? Specifically, would it have seeded Auburn ahead of Florida State?
Marquette 24 Ohio State
Ohio State 25 Marquette
This ranking error is inconsequential. Both were at large selections.
Wisconsin 35 Kent State
Kent State 36 Wisconsin
This ranking error is inconsequential. Wisconsin got an at large selection and Kent State was an Automatic Qualifier.
Missouri 43 South Alabama
South Alabama 44 Missouri
This ranking error is inconsequential. Missouri got an at large selection and South Alabama was an Automatic Qualifier.
Loyola Marymount 51 Ball State
Ball State 52 Loyola Marymount
This ranking error is inconsequential. Neither team got an at large selection.
DePaul 53 UCF
Northeastern 54 DePaul
UCF 55 Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State 56 Northeastern
Northeastern was an Automatic Qualifier. DePaul and UCF did not get at large selections. Oklahoma got an at large selection. In my opinion, it's very unlikely that UCF's moving up two positions would have made a difference. Thus it's most likely that this ranking error was inconsequential.
Thus overall, the data error may have had an effect on seeds. We'll never know. It seems very unlikely it had an effect on at large selections. Nevertheless, sooner or later, an error like this will have an effect. The NCAA has had data errors in the past, at one of least might have been significant, affecting #1 seeds. It would be wise for the NCAA to develop a system for vetting its final data. Otherwise, sooner or later the NCAA is going to be in a very embarrassing position.