A year ago, when the NCAA Tournament selection committee allowed us to take a look at what the 2020 March Madness might entail, few of us could have imagined that it was the closest we would ever get to an official draw.
There was no tournament last year because the COVID-19 pandemic hit in full force just as the season was starting to get really interesting. There will be one this year though, so Saturday’s drill, in which the top four current teams from each region were featured to give everyone involved an idea of what this particular committee values, the NCAA calls it. a “Preview of the group” will resonate on Selection Sunday March 14th.
These were the teams presented on Saturday:
- Region 1: 1. Gonzaga; 2. Alabama; 3. Oklahoma; 4. Iowa
- Region 2: 1. Baylor; 2. Illinois; 3. Tennessee; 4. Texas
- Region 3: 1. Michigan; 2. Houston; 3. West Virginia; 4. Missouri
- Region 4: 1. State of Ohio; 2. Villanova; 3. Virginia; 4. Texas Technology
What did we learn?
MORE: NCAA Top 16 Reveal Offers First Field Preview Of 2021 Tournament
1. This committee is everything on the NET
The NCAA Assessment Tool is a computerized ranking conceived three seasons ago by the NCAA with the help of Google and has become the standard metric for the team group committee. But it seems that this committee is also committed to the rankings themselves, something that always suggests that it is not important.
Additionally, NCAA vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt expressed concern before the season began that there could be problems with the RED because the universe of games would be smaller. Hours were limited to 27 games. Many games have been canceled due to COVID breaks.
But 12 of the 16 best teams on the committee are among the 16 best in the NETWORK. The only exceptions are number 17 from West Virginia, number 20 from Oklahoma, number 21 from Texas, and number 35 from Missouri.
The most obvious example of NET’s importance is the inclusion of Texas Tech as a No. 4 seed. The Red Raiders are ranked 15th on the RED, and that’s an element that would seem to qualify them as the top four favorites.
They are 4-5 in Quad 1 games, at home against teams ranked 1-30, on neutral courts against 1-50 and on the road against 1-75, and 1-1 against Quad 2. That puts them under .500 against the first two quadrants, the only team in the committee’s top 16 to have a losing record in that category. They also played five non-conference games against teams ranked outside of the top 275. Teams that fell out of the pool reveal, such as Florida State (10-3), Wisconsin (15-6), Southern California (16-3) and Purdue. (13-8) played two or less.
The committee also awarded a No. 4 seed to Iowa, which faced four teams of 275 or less, and whose best three wins are against No. 24 Purdue (home) and No. 28 Rutgers (home and away). But the Hawkeyes are eighth in the NET rankings.
2. Opt-out will be discouraged
Gavitt told CBS that the committee will allow conferences to adjust their policies for declaring the methodology for selecting their automatic grader until February 26. All conferences currently determine their “AQ” through the use of conference tournaments. But whether they would like to cancel their tournaments and declare a regular season champion as a designated participant is up to each league.
There has been debate about some teams wanting to “opt out” of conference tournaments for fear that one more competition could lead to a COVID hiatus that would ruin their march. It’s an understandable concern, but so is this: If elite teams were to withdraw from league tournaments, teams that might not otherwise be on the field could end up earning AQ spots. A place in a tournament is worth a significant amount of money to a league and its members, which means that technically there would be a financial incentive for the best teams to opt out.
That would be a terrible look for college basketball.
“But the committee encourages that if a tournament is played, all teams that have qualified for that tournament must participate to honor the game and the extraordinary event the players and coaches have gone to, to play a safe and responsible season.” Gavitt said. “And also to help with the sorting, planting and selection process.”
3. The first four seeds are obvious
Gonzaga was ranked the No. 1 seed, followed by Baylor, Michigan and Ohio State.
Candidates for that No. 1 room appear to be limited right now. Illinois was ranked the best of the No. 2 seeds by the committee, which presumably came as a surprise to the handful of analysts who continue to project Villanova as a No. 1 seed.
The problem for the Wildcats is that their 15 games to date only include four against Quad-1 opposition, and they split those games. And they’re only scheduled for two more at the end of the regular season.
4. Teams taking a break will not be penalized.
There was a move by some who follow college basketball to evict Michigan from the seeded line after the Wolverines began a three-week hiatus from their program.
But President Mitch Barnhart said on CBS that committee members don’t want to punish teams that take hiatus, and their work reflects that.
At 13-1, Michigan stayed on the top line. Like Baylor, who has won all 17 games but is in the midst of a five-game postponement streak. Villanova was not pressured for playing just 15 games and he held firmly as the second seed.
5. The depth of the Big Ten doesn’t hurt your best teams
Three of the top five teams in the committee’s rankings were from the Big Ten, although the analyst consensus, as compiled by the Bracket Matrix, projects nine league teams to form the field of 68 teams.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.