Biggest takeaways from initial college basketball NET rankings

The NCAA on Monday unveiled its first NET college basketball rankings of the 2020-21 season, a metric that is used by the selection committee to sort and select teams for the 68-team March Madness bracket.

The rankings release means we are one step closer to the start of March Madness, with Selection Sunday under 10 weeks away.

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Here are the top takeaways from Monday’s initial NET rankings release.

The top teams are what you would expect

I’ll save you from the drama: Gonzaga sits at No. 1 in the first NET rankings of the season, and anything else would have been asinine. Mark Few’s team has remained at No. 1 in the AP poll throughout the season and also has the advanced metrics and quality wins over Kansas, West Virginia, Virginia and Iowa to back up its lofty status. Behind the Bulldogs are Baylor, Tennessee, Illinois and Villanova rounding out the top five. No surprises here.

Gonzaga, Houston and Missouri lead the way in quality wins

What is probably even more impactful than the NET ranking itself is total quality wins. Gonzaga, Houston and Missouri each have four Quad-I games already while also ranking in the NET top 10 in Monday’s release. Gonzaga has wins over Kansas, West Virginia, Virginia and Iowa, Houston has victories against Boise State, Texas Tech, UCF and SMU, and Missouri has taken down Illinois, Oregon, Arkansas and Wichita State.

Teams with high NET rankings and several Quad-I and Quad-2 victories are the ones that typically pick up favorable spots in the March Madness bracket release, so this trio has already put the work in towards gaining a strong seed in March.

The Big Ten is going to be a bloodbath

The Big Ten is the toughest league in America and the NCAA’s NET rankings are in complete agreement.

The chart on the right indicates how many teams each conference has where the game falls under a specific quadrant based on NET ranking.

A reminder: Quad-I games are against Top 30 NET opponents at home and Top 75 opponents on the road, while Quad-2 games are ones at home against teams ranked 31-75 or away against teams ranked 76-135.

As the chart displays, the Big Ten figures to dominate in these oh-so-important Quad-I and Quad-2 victories this season. Twelve of the 14 Big Ten teams are currently in the top 135 of the NET, which means an absolute boatload of quality victories will sprout from this league. Only one team in Nebraska currently sits outside the window of a quality win. Three Big Ten teams in total are outside the top 50 with Indiana at No. 51.

Mid-majors to watch

Getting a strong start in the NET rankings can only help moving forward, especially for mid-major teams eyeing an outside chance at March Madness.

Minus Gonzaga, the NET top 50 features eight teams outside the high-major ranks in No. 12 Saint Louis (A10), No. 13 Boise State (MWC), No. 16 Colgate (Patriot), No. 20 Drake (MVC), No. 31 VCU (A10), No. 39 Winthrop (Big South), No. 40 Colorado State (MWC), No. 41 San Diego State (MWC).

Though Colgate’s top 20 inclusion with a 1-1 start against Army is likely a sample-size error, Saint Louis, Boise State and Drake are mid-majors worth keeping tabs on the rest of the season. Saint Louis is 7-1 with wins over LSU and NC State, Boise State is 8-1 with a victory over BYU, and Drake is still undefeated at 12-0, the best record in college basketball.