Ignore the teams and where they are slotted and focus on the process. That’s what was important about the NCAA Tournament seeding committee’s 16-team projection, released one month before Selection Sunday.
There still is so much that can happen, so much that can change from what we saw Sunday, when the top-16 overall seeds were revealed in a made-for-ratings television show similar to the College Football Playoff rankings.
But this day was significant because the manner in which the selections were made has changed.
In previous years, the committee rated victories based on RPI, and they were separated into four tiers: 1-50, 51-100, 101-200 and 201-and-higher. RPI still is used, but now there is a game element added, with different values for home wins, neutral-site wins and road wins. Quadrant 1 wins are 1-30 at home, 1-50 for neutral sites and 1-75 on the road. Quadrant 2 are 31-75 at home, 51-100 for neutral sites and 76-135 for road games.
In principle, this makes sense. It’s obviously easier to win at home and more difficult on the road. It was supposed to give teams from non-power conferences better opportunities for quality wins, since few elite programs will play quality teams on the road in the non-conference portion of the schedule But this new system, based on the projections released Sunday, seems to place more value on quantity than quality. Beating the No. 75 team on the road shouldn’t be equal to defeating the No. 25 team at home. Quadrant 1 victories are being weighed more heavily than losses, which hasn’t always been the case.
Let’s start with the inclusion of Arizona, the No. 4 seed in the West region, and Oklahoma, the No. 4 seed in the Midwest, and the exclusion of undefeated Atlantic 10 power Rhode Island. Arizona has three Quadrant 1 wins and Oklahoma has six, while Rhode Island has just one. But the Rams’ best win, against Seton Hall (No. 28 RPI) at a neutral site, is similar to the Wildcats’ best win, over Texas A&M (No. 18). Rhode Island’s three losses are to No. 1 Virginia (neutral), No. 15 Nevada (road) and No. 33 Alabama (road). Arizona, by contrast, has three Quadrant 2 losses, while Rhode Island doesn’t have any. Oklahoma has three as well, and the Sooners also have eight losses and just one Quadrant 2 victory. Rhode Island, meanwhile, has five, and has an RPI of five, significantly better than Arizona (18) and Oklahoma (21).
Take a look at Kansas, a surprising choice as the No. 2 seed in the West. The Jayhawks are tied with the second-overall seed Villanova for the most Quadrant 1 victories with nine but also have six losses, four at home.
Bad losses seem to mean a whole lot less this year. It’s about whom you beat and where, as well as stockpiling Quadrant 1 wins, which will not favor mid-major teams like Rhode Island, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s and Nevada, teams with a combined 15 losses. Look at Cincinnati, the No. 2 in the East. The Bearcats’ best win is a road victory at Temple, the No. 39 team in the RPI that has a lot of work to do to reach the tournament. The Bearcats have 12 combined Quadrant 1 and 2 wins, but no statement victories. This year, that doesn’t matter nearly as much.
All of this is important because in a month, it won’t just determine seeding but which teams go dancing. So much can change between now and Selection Sunday, but the way the teams are picked won’t. Remember that when your team is on the wrong side of the bubble. There is a new method to the madness.
Game of the Week
No. 1 Villanova at No. 5 Xavier, Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
The Big East regular-season title may be on the line. So could the No. 1-overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Saturday afternoon in Cincinnati will have it all when Xavier hosts Villanova, seeking revenge for the 24-point beatdown Jan. 10 in Philadelphia. The rivals enter this showdown on different paths. The four-time defending league champion Wildcats, who lost last week to last-place St. John’s and struggled early Saturday against Butler, will be without guard Phil Booth (broken right hand), who scored 21 points in the first meeting. Rugged forward Eric Paschall (concussion) might be sidelined as well. Xavier, on the other hand, has won eight straight games and is soaring.
1: Villanova, Virginia, Xavier, Auburn
2: Michigan State, Purdue, Texas Tech, Cincinnati
3: Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, Clemson
4: Arizona, Tennessee, Gonzaga, Rhode Island
You can point to their 11 single-digit victories — and I have — but at this point, that’s a feature, not a flaw. Chris Mack’s fifth-ranked team finds ways to win. Sure, there has been some good fortune — Saturday’s win at Creighton was the result of a bailout call with 0.3 seconds left, sending Quentin Goodin to the free-throw line for the game-winning points — but there is such a thing as making your own luck. This veteran group has proven capable of rallying from big deficits, winning shootouts and prevailing in ugly defensive struggles. Name a style, and they can beat you at it.
Up: Mike Boynton
The Brooklyn native and Bishop Loughlin alumnus inherited an Oklahoma State team picked to finish last in the Big 12 that lost three of its top four scorers from last year. But Boynton, in his first year as a head coach, has created expectations where there were none, pulling off big upsets at Kansas and West Virginia, knocking off Oklahoma and beating Florida State at a neutral site. The Cowboys are just a game out of fourth place in the loaded Big 12, with a legitimate shot to reach the NCAA Tournament.
The Jayhawks’ run of 13 straight Big 12 regular-season titles is in real jeopardy. They have lost two of three games, are a game behind Texas Tech atop the league and face a grueling remaining schedule with contests left at the Red Raiders and Oklahoma State and at home against West Virginia and Oklahoma.
Down: Kevin Willard
I think Willard is a good coach. I think he’s done a good job, for the most part, at Seton Hall. But the league season, up to this point, has been a massive disappointment, and that falls on his shoulders as much as his four senior starters. There is no good reason, considering the team’s stellar health, for the Pirates to be 6-6 in the Big East. No reason this team should have lost at home to Marquette and at Georgetown as it did the past five days. Seton Hall likely still will reach the NCAA Tournament, but the expectations of a No. 4 or 5 seed are evaporating. A Sweet 16, the goal for this team, seems like a major long shot.
Published at Mon, 12 Feb 2018 05:57:14 +0000