If there is any evidence of how difficult it is to select and seed a projected NCAA Tournament bracket on a regular basis, it came last weekend.
The NCAA preliminary bracket reveal was announced shortly after noon on Saturday with the top 16 seeds divided into four regions of four teams each. Over the course of the next 26 or so hours, five of those teams had been defeated, including Villanova’s home loss to Seton Hall.
“That kind of proves, if you will, the very temporary nature of these projections,” ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi said Tuesday. “They know they’re rolling the dice and, in a way, so do I whenever I speak.”
The bracket reveal, with selections and seedings of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, gave Lunardi and everyone else an idea of how the panel was thinking. Lunardi said he had all 16 teams, with two teams that were one rung up or down from where he had projected them.
One of those teams was Villanova, picked by the committee as the last No. 3 seed and 12th-ranked overall. Lunardi had the Wildcats at No. 13 and the best of the No. 4 seeds.
However, Saturday’s loss to Seton Hall has dropped the Cats to No. 15 on Lunardi’s list in his latest bracket Tuesday, still a No. 4 seed. Villanova takes a three-game losing streak into Wednesday night’s game against Marquette at Finneran Pavilion.
“You can get away with losing to good teams for a while,” he said. “It’s as much what the others are doing as what you’re doing. If they lose to Marquette and all other teams win their next game, they’re going to drop more than likely.
“Marquette is a 5 now, so this is a big game for seeding. It could be that they simply flip positions if Marquette were to win, because that would be a road win.”
Villanova’s other two defeats in its losing streak came against Creighton (a projected 6 seed) and at Butler (a 4).
Penn State, which was not among the committee’s top 16 seeds in Saturday’s reveal, is the top No. 4 seed in Lunardi’s bracket thanks in large part to its win last week at Michigan State.
Lunardi said Saturday’s bracket showed how much the committee weighs the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) and wins in Quad 1 games, defined as home games against opponents in the top 30 of the NET, neutral games versus the top 50, and away games versus the top 75.
“There was every sense from the reveal that the committee was valuing it as well,” he said. “When I talk to coaches and leagues in the offseason about scheduling, I always say that they have to bulk up in the top quads, particularly in Quad 1, whenever they can.
“You have to give yourself as many chances there as you can, even at the expense of winning. In a lot of respects now, this whole bracketing thing comes down to counting Quad 1 wins and it’s a tiebreaker a lot of times, for seeding or selection.”