On Saturday, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee released a preview of what the bracket would look like if the season ended that day. Though the idea is a silly one in terms of practicality, we figured it might provide hints around the committee’s thought process for seeding, selections.
To some extent, it did.
Your top four lines if the tournament started today: pic.twitter.com/Q37zdIyNdq— SB Nation CBB (@SBNationCBB) February 11, 2017
For the Syracuse Orange’s purposes, the most noticeable trend is the weight given to the strength of the ACC. Though they don’t have a one-seed (and likely won’t when the real selections roll out next month), five out of the top 16 is indicative of a high-quality league. Four of the top 10 even more so.
SU owns wins over two of those programs, Virginia and Florida State, already, and have the chance to rack up as many as three more. They host Louisville on Monday for the first of two meetings this season, and also play Duke at home as well. The committee having the five-loss (four going into yesterday) ‘Noles up so high is probably the best sign of all.
That strength of the conference gets to the second big takeaway for SU: the committee is (once again) valuing quality wins over losses.
We saw the effect of this last season, when the Orange road the strength of wins against UConn, Texas A&M and Duke (among others) to a tournament bid despite questionable losses.
A look down the entirety of the top 16 shows a similar emphasis in 2017. Butler’s in because it beat Villanova, and weren’t penalized for losing twice to a now-hobbled Creighton team, along with Georgetown. Kentucky isn’t dinged for a 22-point loss to fellow SEC contender Florida or also-ran Tennessee. They’re rewarded for wins over South Carolina and North Carolina.
Same goes for Duke. The Blue Devils, gutted by injuries and haunted by inconsistencies when Coach K was out, aren’t dinged for a loss to NC State at all.
The list could continue. But the point is that the committee is putting weight on wins, and that could spell some good things for Syracuse’s chances come March. Obviously the Orange have more work to do. And realistically, they probably need to go 3-2 down the stretch to lock up anything before the ACC Tournament. But if they can grab another win against a top-16 team, that seems like it would go a long way toward their inclusion in the field.