West Virginia’s lofty seeding in NCAA bracket preview suggests March Madness selections still need a tweak
South: No. 1 Baylor, No. 2 Louisville, No. 3 Seton Hall, No. 4 AuburnMidwest: No. 1 Kansas, No. 2 Dayton, No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 Michigan StateWest: No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 2 West Virginia, No. 3 Villanova, No. 4 Oregon And this matters, even though Saturday’s annual NCAA selection committee bracket reveal is neither official nor binding, because it does demonstrate how the committee is thinking and suggests at least part of the NCAA selection process is still amiss.What got West Virginia a No. 2 seed?MORE: Big Ten facing unprecedented parity this seasonCumulative high-level victories? WVU has a 4-3 record against Quad-1 opposition. Seton Hall is 7-4, Maryland is 6-4 and Florida State is 4-2. Extend that to Quad 2, and the Mountaineers are 10-4, same as Maryland, whereas Seton Hall is 12-5 and FSU is 9-3.Specific great performances? West Virginia’s best win was on a neutral court against NET No. 16 Ohio State. There are five Big Ten teams that can say they beat the Buckeyes. Minnesota did it twice. Wisconsin did it on OSU’s homecourt.By comparison, Seton Hall beat No. 9 Maryland at home and No. 11 Butler on the road. Florida State beat No. 7 Louisville in a true road game.Record? West Virginia’s 18-4 is better than Seton Hall’s 17-5, identical to Maryland’s and not as good as FSU’s 19-3.So what happened here? There are two explanations for West Virginia’s position, and neither is sufficient.One is straight computer rankings. West Virginia is No. 9 in the NET and No. 7 according to KenPom. That’s ahead of Seton Hall (No. 13 in both) and FSU (No. 14 in NET, No. 19 in KenPom), though only one spot ahead of No. 10 Maryland.If that’s to be a factor, though, why is NET No. 8 Arizona not even on the list as one of the top 16?NBA MOCK DRAFT: Edwards, Ball, Anthony battle for top spotIt’s more likely this: West Virginia has the No. 4 schedule and No. 5 non-conference schedule in Division I. This has been achieved in part because the Mountaineers played against NET No. 4 Kansas on the road. They lost. But a bigger component of that schedule rating is that they faced only two games in Quad 4.How can I put this diplomatically … So what?Does whether a team played three or five low majors say anything to you about its merit as an NCAA Tournament candidate? Three words you should never hear again in discussion of the selection process are “strength of schedule.” SOS is baked into every metric the NCAA acknowledges using (NET, KenPom, Kevin Pauga’s KPI) and every one it might employ.It’s apparent in the Quad system and each team’s performance against those levels of opponents. Strength of schedule should be banished to tournament history along with the RPI and the “last 10 games” factor.West Virginia might yet demonstrate it is worthy of a No. 2 seed — or better. It has games remaining against Baylor and Kansas and could meet either or both in the Big 12 Tournament.This is an excellent team, and West Virginia has earned significant recognition by the committee. And it doesn’t have great consequence that the Mountaineers are a No. 2 seed in a bracket projection the committee could trash on Monday if it wished, or that could be entirely usurped by the results of the next five weeks.The committee still binds itself to some obsolete or redundant tools, however, even as the RPI fades into the rear-view mirror. There’s no reason to avoid even greater progress.Key takeaways from NCAA bracket preview— The No. 1 seeds were no-brainers. No. 1 overall Baylor in the South, Kansas in the Midwest, Gonzaga in the West and San Diego State in the East. Duke athletic director Kevin White, the chair of the selection committee, said those four were unanimous top seeds and that there “was a bit of a separation between four and five.” The fifth team, according to White, was Duke, placed as the No. 2 seed in the East.— Gonzaga’s edge over San Diego State for the West Region No. 1 was surprising. The Zags are ranked behind the Aztecs in the NET and KenPom. The committee put weight on the Zags’ wins over Arizona and NET No. 19 Oregon, whereas SDSU’s top win is over No. 22 Creighton.— Maryland could continue to climb. Currently leading the Big Ten Conference, the Terps defeated Illinois on the road Friday night to claim first place in the league alone. Had they lost that game, they might have slipped, but NCAA vice president Dan Gavitt said, “They’re actually much closer to the 2 line.”— The Big Ten’s depth is hurting the league, as SN suggested. Only two teams were included among the top 16 seeds, Maryland as a No. 3 seed and Michigan State as a No. 4. Maryland has more Quad-1 wins than every team on the 2 line; so do Penn State, Iowa and Illinois. But they also have more defeats.NCAA bracket preview seeding by regionThe potential #MarchMadness Sweet 16? 👀#BracketPreview pic.twitter.com/yD1vXUoJ7o— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) February 8, 2020East: No. 1 San Diego State, No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Maryland, No. 4 Butler If you’re looking for a number, fact or occasion that justifies West Virginia being placed on the No. 2 seed line in the NCAA’s projected bracket for the 2020 edition of March Madness, you’re going to need to hydrate in advance. This is work.Because all the usual stuff that would justify that degree of respect — elevating the Mountaineers above such accomplished teams as Florida State, Seton Hall and Maryland — does not apply.