March Madness: Ranking Each NCAA Tournament Region in 2022
This year, the NCAA Tournament will be returning to its spacious scheduling around various regions in the country (last year, the tournament was centralized to Indiana).
With the return to history, the regions -- Midwest, South, East, and West -- actually mean a little something.
How does each region rank?
To find out, I'm using our nERD metric, which indicates a team's expected point differential over an average opponent on a neutral court.
The rankings are determined by a region's average nERD (with play-in teams receiving an average of their nERDs so as not to count an extra team for any region).
I'll also show some other rankings, such as the region's rank in average nERD when excluding the 1 seed or the lower seeds to see some more granular ranks to consider.
4. Midwest Region
Average nERD (Rank): 8.33 (4th)
1 Seed nERD (Rank): 17.73 (3rd)
Top 4 Seeds Average nERD (Rank): 13.87 (4th)
Bottom 8 Seeds Average nERD (Rank): 3.83 (4th)
Average nERD vs. Historical Seed Average: -0.69 (4th)
The only main area where the Midwest Region isn't ranking fourth of four is with their 1 seed nERD. That's thanks to the Kansas Jayhawks rating as the third-best 1 seed in the tournament, via our nERD metric.
Aside from that, this bracket region lags behind. That could give some extra weight to the Jayhawks as a team with an easy path to the Final Four.
Of the 17 teams in the region, just 6 of them have a higher nERD score than the historical seed average at which they were placed. That includes the Iowa Hawkeyes (5 seed), South Dakota State Jackrabbits (13 seed), LSU Tigers (6 seed), Texas Southern Tigers (16 seed), Auburn Tigers (2 seed), and San Diego State Aztecs (8 seed).
The Midwest has the weakest 3 seed (the Wisconsin Badgers) and 4 seed (the Providence Friars) in the bracket. In total, the Midwest averages -0.69 nERD points below expected based on historical seed strength.
3. South Region
Average nERD (Rank): 9.48 (3rd)
1 Seed nERD (Rank): 19.10 (2nd)
Top 4 Seeds Average nERD (Rank): 16.26 (3rd)
Bottom 8 Seeds Average nERD (Rank): 5.18 (3rd)
Average nERD vs. Historical Seed Average: 0.46 (1st)
The South Region is categorized with a good 1 seed, per nERD, with the Arizona Wildcats ranking second in our overall power rankings this season (19.10 nERD).
In total, the South has the best nERD-versus-history rating in the bracket this season. Of their 17 teams, 9 have a better nERD than their historical seed equivalent, and that is highlighted by a pretty criminally underrated (per nERD) Houston Cougars squad. Houston's nERD (17.22) is a full 4.01 points better than the usual 5 seed. Our numbers had them as a 2 seed.
Other regions have more depth, but the South has some dangerous teams.
2. West Region
Average nERD (Rank): 10.90 (2nd)
1 Seed nERD (Rank): 21.20 (1st)
Top 4 Seeds Average nERD (Rank): 16.38 (2nd)
Bottom 8 Seeds Average nERD (Rank): 8.05 (2nd)
Average nERD vs. Historical Seed Average: -0.22 (3rd)
Led by the Gonzaga Bulldogs, our top team by nERD, the West gets a pretty big boost. However, even without them, they're second in nERD ratings without each region's 1 seed factored in, so I don't want to paint the wrong picture.
Notably, the bottom-eight seeds in the West are pretty solid and represent a much bigger boost over the past two regions we discussed.
The Georgia State Panthers (16 seed), Gonzaga Bulldogs (1 seed), Vermont Catamounts (13 seed), Memphis Tigers (9 seed), and Texas Tech Red Raiders (3 seed) are a full point better in nERD than the usual squads at those seeds.
The West has the best 1 seed, as outline, as well as the best 9 seed (Memphis). The only seeds that rank last in the region are the 2 seed (Duke Blue Devils), 11 seed (Notre Dame Fighting Irish), and 12 seed (New Mexico State Aggies).
1. East Region
Average nERD (Rank): 11.19 (1st)
1 Seed nERD (Rank): 17.30 (4th)
Top 4 Seeds Average nERD (Rank): 16.82 (1st)
Bottom 8 Seeds Average nERD (Rank): 8.47 (1st)
Average nERD vs. Historical Seed Average: 0.28 (2nd)
Despite the weakest 1 seed in the tournament, the Baylor Bears, the East is the best region in the tournament. (This also applied to Baylor's region last year, and well, they won it all.)
The East is categorized by 11 at-large bids and a lot of depth from top to bottom. The East has the best top four and the best bottom eight. Of the 17 teams in the region, 7 of them are at least a full point better in nERD than their historical seed suggests, and another three are at least a half-point better.
The East comprises underrated teams, and it shows in the depth of the region.
The East features the best 2 seed (Kentucky Wildcats), 4 seed (UCLA Bruins), 10 seed (San Francisco Dons), 11 seed (Virginia Tech Hokies), 12 seed (Indiana Hoosiers), and 15 seed (Saint Peter's Peacocks).