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Villanova Basketball’s NCAA Tournament Team Sheet Update: The Race Is On!

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With just three weeks left until Selection Sunday, the race for #1 seeds is heating up.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Xavier Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

After Saturday’s Xavier game, I got on the phone with my good friend who is a die hard Villanova Wildcat fan like myself, and many of you. The two of us already bought our tickets to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight in Boston, so we’re especially hoping that Nova ends up as the #1 Seed in the Eastern Region. Needless to say, the past two weeks have been nerve racking.

When he asked me where I thought Villanova would be ranked today, my immediate response was, “I think we jump Michigan State and will be locked into #2 until/if Virginia loses.” It seemed logical to me. MSU had made an impressive comeback, but they should never have put themselves in that position in the first place. Villanova had just gone on the road and beaten a team that people are still pegging as a #1 seed, and that should justify a jump in the rankings. He paused for a second, then asked, “Even with the loss?”.

I had completely forgotten about the Providence game. The win at Xavier was so dominant, so indicative of how we’ve seen this team play for most of the season, I had subconsciously made the assumption that the past two weeks must have simply been a bad dream.

This week may have seemed more like a living nightmare for a lot of teams that are in contention for the Top 16 “protected” seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Very few teams came out of this week unscathed in some way, but those that did are seeing a huge boost up the seeding ladder.

For Villanova, they now control their own destiny. Four more wins would guarantee a 5th consecutive Big East Title. Seven more wins would guarantee a #1 Seed in the East. It won’t be easy, but their resume now ensures that they only have to worry about themselves and no one else.

Quad News

Before jumping into the sheets, I thought it important to run through the Quad system one more time as more and more people are turning their eyes to the NCAA Tournament. Basically, it takes the old RPI system and weights wins and losses based on where the game was played: home, neutral, or away:

New NCAA Quad Metric Using NET Rank

Quadrant Home Neutral Away
Quadrant Home Neutral Away
Quad 1 1-30 1-50 1-75
Quad 2 31-75 51-100 76-135
Quad 3 76-160 101-200 136-240
Quad 4 161+ 201+ 241+

While everyone agrees this is a step in the right direction, there are two big flaws with the system that will likely be addressed for next season. First, the whole thing is still based on the RPI. Not only is this widely considered to be a poor grouping system for seeding, it only takes into consideration what teams have accomplished so far. The sport as a whole seems to be gravitating toward some type of combination of reactionary analytics (like RPI, KPI, or SOR) and predictive analytics (like KenPom, BPI, or Sagarin).

In fairness, the NCAA is doing everything right in their search to replace the RPI. They’ve met with some of top names in college analytics, as well as bringing in experts from Google and MIT. They want to find the best way to seed teams both for what they have (or haven’t) accomplished during the season, but also for what the data predicts they can do in the tournament. This may be the one and only thing I’m optimistic about the NCAA getting right.

The second issue is the quads themselves. While the system is a good idea, it still needs to be tweaked a bit. For example, a home win against Virginia (RPI: 1) should absolutely be worth more than an away win at LSU (RPI: 75), but in this system those are both Quad 1 wins. I can’t blame them too much for missing on that one, at least they took a swing at it instead of just keeping everything as is. Again, everything I’m hearing makes me think that the NCAA is actually doing things to improve the tournament and the seeding process. I know, I’m shocked too.

Villanova’s NCAA Tournament Sheet

As I said before, Villanova is in great shape for a #1 Seed. Nothing is set in stone yet, but the Wildcats control their own destiny at this point. A few things that stood out to me in on the updated sheet:

  • Despite picking up the win at Xavier, Villanova still only has 8 Quad 1 wins. Creighton’s loss to Marquette over the weekend dropped the Wildcat’s home win over the Bluejays down to Quad 2.
  • For anyone concerned that Villanova was scheduling too many cupcakes, the Quads say otherwise. Nicholls State jumped up to a Quad 3 victory, and Villanova is now tied for the fewest Quad 4 opponents in the country.
  • Games within 10 spots of jumping up a Quad: Q2 home win vs Creighton (35), Q2 home win vs Providence (36), Q2 home win vs Butler (39), Q2 neutral win vs Western Kentucky (58).
  • Games within 10 spots of dropping down a Quad: Q1 home win vs Seton Hall (26), Q1 away win at St. John’s (70), Q2 home loss vs St. John’s (70), Q2 away win at Georgetown (127).

Team Sheets For Top Seed Contenders

It was a rough week as 15 of the AP Poll’s Top 25 teams lost this week, including 7 of the Top 10. It’s caused a lot of change in the protected seed lines, and actually made me rethink how to do this section of the weekly write-up. Instead of just pulling the Top 16 teams, I’m going to evaluate all 25 teams in the AP poll for the 1-4 seeds. In addition to their Quad Records, I’ve included RPI Rank, Predictive Ranks, and NCSOS Rank. (Note, these were the AP Rankings from Week 15).

NCAA Team Sheets For Top Seed Contenders

AP Poll Top 25 RPI Rank Quad 1 Quad 2 Quad 3 Quad 4 Pred. Rank Non-Con SOS
AP Poll Top 25 RPI Rank Quad 1 Quad 2 Quad 3 Quad 4 Pred. Rank Non-Con SOS
Virginia 1 8-1 4-1 7-0 5-0 2 56
Michigan St. 14 3-3 5-0 10-0 8-0 5.33 234
Villanova 2 8-2 7-1 6-0 3-0 1.33 46
Xavier 3 7-4 8-0 5-0 4-0 12.67 36
Cincinnati 11 5-3 7-1 3-0 8-0 4.67 172
Purdue 12 6-3 4-2 7-0 7-0 4.33 95
Texas Tech 13 4-4 7-1 4-0 7-0 9.33 211
Ohio State 20 3-5 6-1 7-1 6-0 17.33 52
Gonzaga 43 3-1 2-3 6-0 14-0 10 156
Auburn 8 8-3 4-1 6-0 5-0 16.33 84
Clemson 10 2-6 8-0 4-0 6-0 13.83 68
Duke 4 3-4 7-1 8-0 4-0 3.67 13
Kansas 6 9-4 7-1 2-1 3-0 8.33 18
North Carolina 5 9-5 3-1 3-1 6-0 7.33 11
Saint Mary's 32 1-0 2-2 12-2 10-0 24.33 201
Rhode Island 7 2-4 4-0 7-0 8-0 28 4
Arizona 17 4-2 5-4 7-0 5-0 19 87
Tennessee 15 4-7 6-0 6-0 3-0 21 31
Wichita State 16 3-2 9-2 4-1 5-0 14 78
West Virginia 31 5-6 6-1 1-1 7-0 10.67 237
Texas A&M 21 7-8 1-2 5-0 4-0 30.33 20
Michigan 28 3-5 3-2 6-0 9-0 22 267
Oklahoma 34 6-6 2-4 3-0 5-0 39.33 108
Nevada 9 2-2 3-1 15-2 3-0 24.67 15
Arizona State 29 3-3 4-3 8-1 4-0 40 142

#1 Seeds: Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas

Let’s face it, Virginia is not going to drop out of the top spot unless they lose another game. Even then, it would probably take Villanova winning out the regular season and the Big East Tournament, and that still may not be enough.

Villanova sits comfortably as the second overall seed, and Xavier is right there with them. If the only loss either of these teams have for the next three weeks is to each other in the BET, then they’ll both likely find themselves on the top line of the bracket.

Kansas has the fourth one seed for now, but it’s by no means a lock. There are at least four teams that could build a better case for a one seed in the remaining weeks if Kansas trips up. That said, the Jayhawks have been winning the Big 12 for over a decade. Now that they’re back in a tie for first place, it’s going to take a lot to knock them off that perch.

#2 Seeds: Auburn, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Duke

This group has two sets of teams heading in opposite directions. Falling down the seed lines are Auburn and Cincinnati. The Tigers not only lost at South Carolina, but more importantly they lost Anfernee McLemore to a dislocated ankle, and don’t know when or if he’ll be able to return. Cincinnati lost back to back games, including at home to Wichita State. The two losses may have knocked them off the top line for good.

Michigan State narrowly avoided disaster over the weekend, needing the largest comeback in Big Ten history to get by unranked North Western. While the comeback was impressive, it’s almost a wash because of the level of opponent it had to come against. But at this point, a win is a win, and right now Sparty needs every win it can get its hands on as they’re still just 3-3 in Quad 1.

Duke came up with a huge win against a Clemson team that many were arguing had the better resume. Not only was it a road win, but it came without star big man and NPOY candidate Marvin Bagley. Duke still has a shot at the top line, but with Auburn, Kansas, and Michigan State all still in the mix they’ll likely have to win out and beat Virginia in the ACC Tournament to get it.

#3 Seeds: Purdue, Texas Tech, North Carolina, Wichita State

Purdue was barely able to catch itself mid free fall with a three point win at home over Penn State. It wouldn’t be impossible for the Boilermakers to make it back to a one seed, but they would need to win out and have the rest of the competition blow it. Purdue will likely end up a low two or high three seed.

Texas Tech has the best shot at climbing back up to the top line. Between what could amount to a Championship game against Kansas this weekend and the Big 12 tournament, there’s enough still on the table for the Red Raiders to make a final push. This is as close to controlling their own destiny as any team not currently holding a one seed has.

Despite all their losses, UNC is now tied with Kansas for the most Quad 1 victories. Those losses will still keep them off the top line even if they won out, but I begrudgingly have to admit that they’ve earned their way into a three seed at this point. Wichita State also got themselves back into relevancy by racking up some quality wins against Temple and at Cincinnati. They’re going to have to keep winning to hold this position, but for now they’re among the protected seeds.

#4 Seeds: Tennessee, Clemson, Rhode Island, Gonzaga

Fun fact about my four seeds, they all have losing records in Quad 1. But in this season, what matters more is that other than Gonzaga, the other three don’t have any losses outside of Quad 1.

Tennessee got a lot of consideration for the three line over Wichita State, but at the end of the day I went with the hot hand and gave it to the Shockers, who also have the better predictive rankings. That said, Tennessee is a good team that could climb another seed line or two with a late season push.

Clemson is another team that has a good overall record, but their 2-6 Quad 1 record isn’t nearly convincing enough. This team has overcome a lot so far, but they’re going to need quality wins down the stretch to hold on to their seed.

Rhode Island is in a similar spot with a Quad 1 record of 2-4. The lack of quality wins is a concern. Gonzaga’s Quad 1 record of 3-1 looks good, but the RPI hates them. They’re 2-3 in Quad 2, and their overall record is propped up with fourteen Quad 4 games. It’s tough to be a mid major with losses and get a high seed, and these teams are finding out why.

Next Four Up: Arizona, West Virginia, Nevada, Ohio State