By Michael Donovan
If the NCAA tournament started today, West Virginia (2), Villanova (3) and Oregon (4) would join Gonzaga in the West Region in Los Angeles. Duke (2), Maryland (3) and Butler (4) would join San Diego State in the East, staged this year at Madison Square Garden in New York.
San Diego State, 23-0 entering Saturday’s game against Air Force, has four Quad 1 wins (Creighton, BYU, Iowa, Utah State). But SDSU landed in the East Region as the fourth top seed behind Gonzaga, which also has four Quad 1 wins but currently owns the top spot in the West.
What does that mean? If the current alignment remains, then San Diego State would have to travel 2,800 miles to New York to possibly face Duke for a trip to the Final Four, which takes place March 27-29 in Atlanta.
Since the in-season bracket reveal debuted in the 2016-17 season, nine of the No. 1 seeds listed over the first three years were No. 1 seeds on Selection Sunday in their respective seasons, and the other three were No. 2 seeds.
Kevin White, chair of the men’s basketball selection committee, said Iowa, Kentucky and LSU “generated the most conversation” among teams that failed to crack the top 16 on Saturday.
The NET ranking, which made its debut last season, is clearly a key evaluation tool for the committee. The top four teams in the NET rankings as of Saturday morning were also the top four projected seeds. Arizona is the only team ranked in the NET’s top 15 that wasn’t listed among the top four projected seeds on Saturday.
In a wild year for the sport, the top 16 projected seeds represented nine conferences.
“The NCAA’s evaluation tool is performing quite well,” said Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s vice president of men’s basketball.