The NCAA Tournament selection committee has released its Bracket Preview Top 16. What were some of the bracketology-related takeaways?
The NCAA Tournament selection committee met this week to put together the fourth annual Bracket Preview. This event allows the committee to get together and release its current top 16 teams (four seed lines) to the public with only a few weeks remaining until the actual Selection Show. The Bracket Preview helps to get an idea of how the committee views the best teams in the country and can lend some credence to what might be prioritized this year.
Might the committee be favoring resume metrics? Or perhaps quality metrics? Maybe the quadrant records are the most important thing? Possibly a conference or two received a bigger boost than bracketologists had been projecting. It is impossible to know exactly what the committee is thinking at any point in the year, but the Bracket Preview does help teams know where they might stand a few weeks out from Selection Sunday, particularly among those contending for a protected seed (top four lines).
Bracketologists, like myself, can also glean some takeaways that might impact potential selections and seedings down the road. The Top 16 has now been released for the 2022 season and looks as follows:
Without any further introduction, here were some of the biggest takeaways from the 2022 Bracket Preview.
Gonzaga receives great news
Gonzaga earning the No. 1 overall seed at the Bracket Preview might not be a surprise, but it is a fairly big – and underrated – development. There is a decent argument to be made that other No. 1 seeds, such as Arizona and Auburn, might have better pure resumes than the Bulldogs right now. However, the Bulldogs’ incredible stranglehold on the top of quality metrics appeared to clearly be on the mind of the committee.
Gonzaga is not just the No. 1 team in BPI, KenPom, and Sagarin but has opened up a ridiculous gap. The difference between the Bulldogs and the next-best team on KenPom is larger than the gap between No. 2 and No. 11. The committee does appear to have taken into account just how dominant Gonzaga has been this season and the simple No. 1 rankings in quality metrics do not tell the fullsstory on how strongly they have performed.
Gonzaga still has road games against San Francisco and Saint Mary’s that will qualify as Quad-1 opportunities before the end of the regular season. With that in mind, it will be difficult for another team to pile up enough quality wins to pass them. As long as the Bulldogs win the rest of their games, their quality metric domination will continue and they will be destined to snag the No. 1 overall seed again in three weeks.
Duke earned a favorable seed
Duke earned the last No. 2 seed at the Bracket Preview. While some bracketologists saw this as a possibility, most still leaned with the Blue Devils on the No. 3 line before the reveal. NET precedent played a role in that, as Duke became the first team in Bracket Preview history to land on the No. 2 seed line or better while ranking outside of the NET Top 10 – the Blue Devils are currently No. 12.
Duke landing ahead of Texas Tech and Villanova – both of which have more quality wins and fewer bad losses (Nova also has better metrics) – is a huge win. The Blue Devils were the lone ACC team to make the Bracket Preview, which was widely expected but still might mean that the committee is giving the ACC a bit more credit than bracketologists.
If the committee is on-board with the ACC, that will be good news for the league’s bubble teams. Perhaps most notably, squads like Wake Forest, Miami (FL), and Notre Dame could be in safer positions as potential single-digit seeds. All were on our No. 9 seed line or worse earlier this week. North Carolina, who recently fell out of our projected field, might also be in a better spot than some might think even without a Quad-1 win to their name.
Duke’s placement might be just a one-off in favor of a very good team with one of the highest ceilings in the country. If the Blue Devils’ seeding means anything for the ACC at large, though, it can only be good things for the league.
Houston, Providence show the value of resume metrics
Houston became the first team in Bracket Preview history to hold a NET top 4 ranking at the time of the release and not be announced among the Top 16. Even more specific than that, the Cougars are the first NET top 4 team to not land on the top 2 seed lines! Why, you might ask? Houston’s quality metrics are incredible but its resume is lacking in a big way. The Cougars do not own a single Quad-1 victory and have an average ranking outside of the top 20 in the two resume metrics (KPI and SOR) on team sheets.
Providence, on the flip side, did land on the No. 4 seed line (15th overall) with the opposite situation. The Friars have collected five Quad-1 wins and rate in the top 10 in those resume metrics while ranking sub-35 in quality marks. These two teams featured the biggest gaps between their quality and resume metrics among those under consideration for the Top 16 and might be able to tell us more about how the committee is assessing the season.
If this takeaway holds true, then teams with extremes leaning towards resume metrics might be in a better position than those with extremes leaning towards quality metrics. Some of the teams that should be pleased by this news would be Miami (FL), Wyoming, North Texas, TCU, Notre Dame, VCU, Davidson and Rutgers. Some of the teams that might be dismayed could be Iowa, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, UAB, Washington State and Mississippi State.
The committee is taking absences into account
Illinois landed on the No. 3 line during the Bracket Preview, one seed higher than my projection. Upon announcing this placement, the committee chairman mentioned player availability as part of the reason for their current seeding. This likely means that the Fighting Illini were given a bit of a boost relative to their on-paper resume due to key players missing several games. For reference, Andre Curbelo has missed 14 of 25 games this season while star big man Kofi Cockburn missed five. It is important to note that Illinois went 3-2 without Cockburn and is 15-5 with him in the lineup.
Houston is another team that has dealt with injuries a ton this season, yet did not find itself among the Top 16. That is a reasonable counterargument to this takeaway, however, the Cougars’ injuries have mainly been season-ending.
This takeaway will potentially have an impact on other teams that have dealt with injuries as well. VCU is flirting with the projected cutline right now but might get a bit of a boost with its player availability. The Rams went 4-4 without Ace Baldwin due to injury to begin the year and are 14-3 with him in the lineup. They are a potential team to watch that could benefit from the committee taking a closer look at player availability.
The Big 12 was well-respected
Four Big 12 teams cracked the Bracket Preview’s top 16. While that was not too surprising overall, the actual placements of the teams on the seed lines were a touch higher than many had been anticipating. Let’s dive into each one of their respective situations to analyze a bit further.
Kansas landed on the No. 1 line as many expected. However, the Jayhawks were the least safe of the No. 1 seeds by most bracketologists coming into the day. While they were still the No. 4 overall team like most expected, the fact that they did land on the top line was a very good start for the Big 12.
Baylor, as expected, landed on the No. 2 seed line. However, instead of being the second or third team to land on the line, the Bears are the top No. 2, just trailing Kansas. The fact that the two highest-rated teams in the Big 12 are both ahead of Kentucky and Purdue is a fairly substantial takeaway.
Moving further down the line, Texas Tech was fit solidly on the No. 3 line and not far from anyone’s projections. The Red Raiders made perfect sense where they were; their bracketology predictions should have ranged from the last No. 2 to the third No. 3, and they landed smack-dab in the middle.
Lastly, Texas made the cut as the last No. 4 seed. Some were banking on this projection while others – myself included – leaned towards Houston based on historical precedent. The Longhorns certainly have the resume and metrics to back up being rated this highly, but it is a plus for the Big 12 that they did so.
The Big 12 is top-heavy, so most fans might not realize just how bubblicious this conference is as well. Every Big 12 team that is eligible for the postseason (so excluding Oklahoma State) is currently in the conversation for an at-large bid. While the top of the league all sits in safe positioning, the same cannot be said about others. Iowa State and TCU are holding onto No. 9 seeds or worse right now in our most recent projected field. Oklahoma, Kansas State and West Virginia are all among our first ten teams out.
The fact that the Big 12 was so well-respected by the Bracket Preview is a good sign for those bubblicious teams in the nation’s best league.