For the first time in its history, the NCAA Tournament committee released an in-season bracket Saturday to give fans a sense of where teams stood as of Feb. 11.
That was no easy task.
“I think for the most part, (it was) a bigger challenge because of fewer games that we had the opportunity to see, especially when making some of those decisions on head-to-head and common opponents,” NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Chair Mark Hollis said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “That got a little cumbersome in the third, fourth and then as you project down to the fifth line. Many teams are so close that the difficulty in separating (them) became very apparent.”
The No. 1 seeds, in order, were Villanova, Kansas, Baylor and Gonzaga. Interestingly, not a single Big Ten team appeared on the bracket. Not Wisconsin, not Purdue, not Maryland – no one.
Does that mean the committee doesn’t think too highly of the Big Ten?
“No, not at all,” Hollis said. “I think it’s a situation where there’s a lot of parity around the country. There’s a lot of parity within the Big Ten. And like I said, many of those teams were so close that you could split them with the finest distance. I don’t view it too negatively on the big picture. I think there’s some obvious frustration (for) the fan base of the Big Ten in looking at (it). But as the AD at Michigan State, (I’m) not too concerned for the Big Ten going forward. . . . There’s many games to play and I think there will be some movement and variation there. You’ll see quite a bit of moving around.”
Gonzaga was the fourth No. 1 seed despite being undefeated. The Zags responded by beating then-No. 20 Saint Mary’s, 74-64, on the road Saturday night.
“I think it all comes down to the vote, and I think at that point in time, their best road victory was at BYU,” Hollis said of the Zags. “If you look at the opportunities and you look at the results based upon those opportunities, that was the difference maker, I believe. I think it’s also important to note that the tightness of all of the 1s was extremely tight and Gonzaga was bunched up with that group, much more significantly than you would interpret them being closer to a 2. So you had a very tight range. I think the fact that BYU was their toughest opportunity for us to evaluate probably came into play at that point in time. But as you said, great road win at St. Mary’s. That probably changes the equation a little bit.”
Hollis said the evaluation process, for the most part, is fairly straightforward.
“What has the team done with the opportunities that they’ve had?” he asked. “It’s a pretty black-and-white process. Here are the numbers, here are the wins, here are the losses, and then here are all the other factors that come into play that every committee member has to take into consideration.”
Was the win or loss at home or on the road? What was the flow of the game? Were there key injuries?
Still, one question matters above all else: Did you win?
“You’re still looking at the results,” Hollis said. You’re looking at the outcome of games. In the end, did you win (or) did you lose?”