For the second year in a row, the NCAA has announced the top 16 teams in the bracket one month ahead of Selection Sunday.
If the NCAA tournament started today, this is what the top of the bracket would look like:
- Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Purdue
- Auburn, Kansas, Duke, Cincinnati
- Clemson, Texas Tech, Michigan State, North Carolina
- Tennessee, Ohio State, Arizona, Oklahoma
Some of those choices are no-brainers, and others look pretty questionable! Here are seven takeaways from the selection committee’s top 16.
1. This is a hilarious week for the exercise
It turns out the committee picked the worst week possible to announce the top of the bracket. Villanova, No. 1 in the AP Poll, just got stunned by a St. John’s team that was 0-11 in the Big East prior to the game. No. 2 Virginia is coming off its first conference loss of the season, at home to rival Virginia Tech. No. 3 Purdue entered the week undefeated in the Big Ten, then lost to Ohio State and Michigan State.
In a sense, it’s fitting: this year feels wide open with a month to go before the NCAA tournament. There are good teams, but no truly dominant ones.
2. Road success was the biggest determining factor in the rankings
Our Chris Dobbertean explained the selection committee’s renewed focus on quality wins with an emphasis on road success this year. As a reminder:
Quadrant 1: games at home vs teams ranked 1-30 in the RPI, neutral vs 1-50, road vs 1-75
Quadrant 2: home vs 31-75, neutral vs 51-100, road vs 76-135
Quadrant 3: home vs 76-160, neutral vs 101-200, road vs 136-240
Quadrant 4: home vs 161-plus, neutral vs 201-plus, Road vs 241-plus
That has played out on the top seed line.
The four No. 1 seeds are 39-8 away from home. If teams currently on the two or three line want to make a climb to No. 1, they better start racking up quality road wins.
3. Virginia vs. Villanova was a toss up.
The committee couldn’t go wrong at No. 1. Villanova was tied for the most quadrant one wins. Virginia just started 12-0 in arguably the country’s toughest conference and already has wins over Duke, UNC, and Clemson.
Also, there’s this:
Here’s a fun addition to the Villanova vs. Virginia debate. They’re currently exact opposites in AdjOE and AdjDE ranking. pic.twitter.com/k1fosEQOQW— Chris Stone (@cstonehoops) February 11, 2018
Virginia gets the top seed because of its road success, but it could have gone either way.
4. Michigan State is the most dangerous team outside the top-two seeds
I had Michigan State at 12 before this week — beating Purdue evidently doesn't save them from the fact they only have three Quadrant 1 wins and eight 1 + 2 wins, plus their awful non-conference SOS.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) February 11, 2018
Michigan State is 24-3, on an eight-game winning streak, and is coming off a victory over Purdue. The Spartans are the only team in the country ranked in the top 10 in offensive and defensive efficiency, per KenPom. They have two players that are projected to be taken in the lottery of the next NBA draft.
The Spartans might lack of the ideal resume the committee is looking for, but they’re as dangerous as any team in the bracket.
5. There are no mid-majors
Gonzaga had a great case for a projected top-four seed. The Bulldogs are 23-4 with their only losses coming to top-ranked Villanova, a Florida team that was ranked No. 7 at the time in double OT, San Diego State — an admittedly bad loss — and Saint Mary’s. The Bulldogs got their revenge on Saint Mary’s Saturday night. Gonzaga is also one of three teams in the country — with Purdue and MSU — that currently has a top-20 offense and top-20 defense.
Rhode Island could have been a top-four seed, as well. The Rams are 12-0 in conference play and 20-3 on the season. Head coach Dan Hurley has done an amazing job so far.
6. Kansas and Oklahoma are the teams everyone will get mad about
Kansas’ streak of winning the Big 12 is in serious jeopardy. Right now, Texas Tech leads the conference by a game with six to play. Kansas has home losses to Arizona State, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma State, a loss to Washington in Kansas City, and just got walloped on the road by a Baylor team that was 4-7 in the Big 12 entering the day.
Essentially: Kansas has a bunch of weird losses, but a ton of quadrant one wins. That’s how they became a two seed.
Oklahoma has a similar case. The Sooners have lost six of their last eight games but have racked up six quadrant one wins:
Oklahoma's inclusion shows this committee is valuing quadrant 1 wins above anything else. Sooners have six of those, more than Gonzaga's five or West Virginia's five. Of course Oklahoma also has only one Q2 win and a total of eight losses.— Jeff Eisenberg (@JeffEisenberg) February 11, 2018
7. The RPI still has way too much influence
Tell ‘em, Jay Bilas:
The Committee’s quadrant system is just more shaky data to organize information for less discerning minds. All of the quad data is based upon RPI. Garbage in, garbage out.— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) February 11, 2018
For example, a road win over Rider is valued the same as a home win over Villanova. Both are Quadrant 1 wins. That makes no sense. Based upon RPI.— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) February 11, 2018
That about covers it.