February 8, 2020 - by Jason Lisk
Baylor was the No. 1 overall team in the Early Bracket Reveal (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)
The NCAA Selection Committee released their early bracket reveal on Saturday, February 8th. This marks the fourth year that the NCAA has released an early bracket in February. In the previous three years, three of the top four teams in the early reveal were also No. 1 seeds when the real bracket came out on Selection Sunday.
Here were the ranking order of the top 16 teams, based on performance through Friday, February 7th.
Baylor got the No. 1 overall seed, and was assigned to the South, where the regional is played just a few hours away in Houston, Texas this year. Kansas was assigned to the Midwest, Gonzaga got the nod to stay in the West Region, while San Diego State received the last No. 1 seed and moved to the East. Here were the full assignments.
Baylor, Louisville, Seton Hall, Auburn
Kansas, Dayton, Florida State, Michigan State
Gonzaga, West Virginia, Villanova, Oregon
San Diego State, Duke, Maryland, Butler
You can see our most recent projected bracket for Selection Sunday. We’ll note that our projections are based on predictions for the rest of the season in addition to the existing results, whereas the committee is seeding based only on games completed. Here are some of the things that stand out about the early reveal order of teams.
It was not surprising to see San Diego State as a No. 1 seed as they are undefeated. Their positioning within the top seeds, though, shows that the hold on that is tenuous and may depend on remaining undefeated entering the tournament. The committee gave Gonzaga the nod ahead of them in the list, which could be a big factor in real life. If you are either of those teams, you would much rather play in Los Angeles than have to go East.
Our projections actually have Duke as a No. 1 seed. Based on results to date, it’s understandable why they are just outside. But they have far more quality opportunities than Gonzaga or San Diego State remaining. They are also power rated in the top two predictively. If they win the ACC title, they will have a top seed resumé.
The rest of the Top Ten were pretty safe calls to make. Maryland was close to the No. 2 seed line, and Florida State is also a clear choice as a No. 3 seed. Dayton, Louisville, and West Virginia are also a cut above other teams right now. The top ten teams all fell on the same seed line in our projections, with the exception of swapping Duke and San Diego State.
Michigan State held on to get the final nod as the No. 16 team. The committee chairman, Kevin White, said that Iowa, Kentucky, and LSU were also in consideration.
Michigan State came into the year ranked as the Preseason No. 1, but has seven losses. They lost their last two heading into the Early Bracket Reveal, including at home to Penn State. The Big Ten overall is going to make for some interesting decisions. For now, the committee still had the Spartans ahead of teams like Penn State and Iowa.
The Top Ten did not include any teams from the Big East, Pac-12, or SEC. That was not surprising. But all three conferences had a trio of teams that are in consideration in the next tier of candidates. In the Big East, it is Butler, Seton Hall, and Villanova. In the SEC, it is Auburn, Kentucky, and LSU. And in the Pac-12, it’s Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon.
So it was interesting to see how the committee sorted that out. It’s clear that the Big East is favored over the other two conferences right now. Both Seton Hall and Villanova got on the No. 3 seed line, and Butler also made the list. Meanwhile, only one team from the Pac-12 (Oregon) and SEC (Auburn) made the Top 16.
That could also have some implications “down ballot” for teams that are more in the bubble mix for those conferences as well.
There is only one team that did not make the Top 16 teams in the Early Reveal, but did in both the bracketology projections we posted on the blog and the automated computer projections on our site Bracketology page.
That team is Arizona.
So let’s break down why we have Arizona projected to reach or exceed the No. 4 seed line by Selection Sunday, even though the Committee doesn’t see them at that level currently.
As of right now, Arizona sits at No. 6 in our predictive ratings, nestled between Baylor and Louisville. Their NET ranking is 8th right now, so that’s not the issue. But the Selection Committee values (and often overvalues) top wins. Arizona lost to both Baylor and Gonzaga in close games, and they are currently only 2-4 in “Quadrant 1” Games. Michigan State is the only team to make the early reveal rankings (at No. 16) to have a losing record against Quad 1. Every team that made the Committee’s list has at least three Quad 1 wins.
But since we have Arizona projected as the top team in the Pac-12, their resumé should look better by Selection Sunday. We have them projected as the favorite in their three remaining Quad 1 games in the regular season (vs. Oregon, at Stanford, at USC). Add in also being our projected favorite in neutral court Pac-12 tourney games, and they are capable of more than doubling their current Quad 1 wins. That resumé would push them up the Committee’s seeding list in March.
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