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NCAA tournament bracketology: One-bid leagues will be a chore


And there’s American and Loyola, a pair of Patriot League teams that had the first two weekends of their conference-only schedule postponed this month and won’t debut any earlier than Saturday.

That’s a 15-game difference among teams that intend to compete this season. Good luck fully comparing teams with a gap of such size.

Granted, comparisons involving those schools won’t be necessary for anything other than possibly seeding. But the issues exist in more high-profile leagues, too.

Seton Hall (9-5) has played nearly twice as many games as Connecticut (7-1) and almost three times as many games as DePaul (1-4). Several SEC teams, including Arkansas (10-2) and Alabama (9-3), have seen twice as much action as South Carolina (3-2). In the ACC, Virginia Tech (9-2) has played nearly twice as many games as Wake Forest (3-3).

Some of those involve rebuilding teams and aren’t the best comparisons, but there’s a larger point. There will be more scheduled games wiped out between now and March 14, and the selection committee’s task of sifting through and sizing up the accomplishments will be challenging.

Even right now, it wouldn’t be an easy assignment. Take Villanova, a No. 1 seed in this week’s projected bracket and a team that hasn’t played since before Christmas. The combination of getting in nine games over 29 days to open the season and a nonconference victory at Texas makes it plausible to argue for Jay Wright’s team on the top line, but just how sharp will Villanova be when its season resumes Jan. 19?

And what’s the best way to deal with teams with wider-than-usual gaps between analytic measures and the NCAA’s NET ranking, which isn’t a particularly great metric for this early in the season? Here’s looking at you, Duke (No. 22 KenPom, No. 98 NET) and Michigan State (No. 44 KenPom, No. 84 NET)

The selection process was always going to be an unusual one in a season played in the middle of a pandemic. The last seven weeks have simply brought the potential trouble spots into a little more focus.

Field notes

Last four included: N.C. State, Richmond, Seton Hall, North Carolina

First four on the outside: Wichita State, Tulsa, Syracuse, Florida

Conference call: Big Ten (10), Atlantic Coast (7), Big 12 (6), Southeastern (6), Big East (5), Pac-12 (5), Atlantic 10 (3), Mountain West (2), West Coast (2)

Bracket projection

West vs. East, South vs. Midwest

(1) WEST COAST/Gonzaga vs. (16) MID-EASTERN/Florida A&M-AMERICA EAST/Stony Brook

(8) MISSOURI VALLEY/Drake vs. (9) San Diego State

(5) Illinois vs. (12) N.C. State/Seton Hall

(4) Southern California vs. (13) OHIO VALLEY/Belmont

(3) Creighton vs. (14) NORTHEAST/Bryant

(6) Missouri vs. (11) ATLANTIC 10/Virginia Commonwealth

(7) Ohio State vs. (10) Stanford

(2) Kansas vs. (15) PATRIOT/Navy

Drake has won a school-record 13 in a row to open the season, including a 4-0 start in Missouri Valley play, but has had consecutive two-game series postponed. … San Diego State’s opening night defeat of UCLA looks better and better for the Aztecs. … N.C. State sitting at the edge of the field? Impossible, except for seemingly every year. … Southern California is coming off its first road sweep of Arizona and Arizona State since 1984-85. …

The NEC champion is usually play-in game fodder, but Bryant (9-2) has defeated Massachusetts and America East leader Stony Brook and nearly won at Syracuse. … As shaky as it is to lean heavily on the NET at this point, just for fun here are the three teams with four Quadrant 1 victories: Gonzaga, Houston and Missouri. … Navy is 4-0 in the Patriot League for the first time since 1997-98, which also happens to be the last time the Midshipmen reached the NCAA tournament.

(1) BIG EAST/Villanova vs. (16) BIG SKY/Southern Utah

(8) Minnesota vs. (9) Oklahoma State

(5) Oregon vs. (12) BIG SOUTH/Winthrop

(4) Clemson vs. (13) SUMMIT/South Dakota State

(3) Wisconsin vs. (14) SOUTHLAND/Abilene Christian

(6) SOUTHEASTERN/Alabama vs. (11) MOUNTAIN WEST/Boise State

(7) Duke vs. (10) Indiana

(2) Texas vs. (15) METRO ATLANTIC/Siena

Oklahoma State is eligible for the NCAA tournament until its appeal for a postseason ban is heard. The Cowboys (8-3) have won at Marquette, Texas Tech and Wichita State, which is a reasonable foundation for an NCAA nod at this stage. … Winthrop is 11-0, the best start ever for a Big South team. … Only two of Clemson’s nine victories have come against nonpower conference competition. The Tigers are due to return from a pause Saturday against Virginia. …

Wisconsin joins Baylor as the only teams in the top 10 in both adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom.com. … Duke is one of the teams whose small sample size makes it hard to accurately assess. Strictly by the numbers, there’s a case for the Blue Devils to be seeded even lower than they are here. … Texas is the No. 2 seed here because of its head-to-head loss to Villanova, but the Longhorns’ overall profile is strong and could land them on the top line before long.

(1) BIG 12/Baylor vs. (16) COLONIAL/Northeastern-SOUTHWESTERN/Southern

(8) Florida State vs. (9) Rutgers

(5) PAC-12/UCLA vs. (12) North Carolina/Richmond

(4) Connecticut vs. (13) MID-AMERICAN/Toledo

(3) AMERICAN ATHLETIC/Houston vs. (14) HORIZON/Cleveland State

(6) Virginia vs. (11) Purdue

(7) Louisiana State vs. (10) Xavier

(2) Iowa vs. (15) WESTERN ATHLETIC/Grand Canyon

It’s time to learn a little more about Baylor; facing Texas Tech (Saturday) and Kansas (Monday) in a three-day span should permit exactly that. … Richmond could really use a good couple months from Kentucky. The Spiders also need to avoid missteps at home even against solid teams (like Hofstra and St. Bonaventure). … Connecticut is back in the Big East and safely back in the field of 68. Funny how things work out. …

Cleveland State is 8-0 in the Horizon League, its best start to league play since going 14-0 in the Mid-Continent in 1992-93. … VirginiaPurdue in the postseason? That sounds familiar. … Yes, Iowa picked up a couple December losses, but it is 11-2 and has picked up all but one of its victories by a double-figure margin.

(1) BIG TEN/Michigan vs. (16) BIG WEST/UC Irvine

(8) Virginia Tech vs. (9) Arkansas

(5) West Virginia vs. (12) ATLANTIC SUN/Liberty

(4) Colorado vs. (13) SOUTHERN/Furman

(3) Texas Tech vs. (14) CONFERENCE USA/UAB

(6) ATLANTIC COAST/Louisville vs. (11) Brigham Young

(7) Saint Louis vs. (10) Michigan State

(2) Tennessee vs. (15) SUN BELT/Coastal Carolina

Not to diminish what Michigan has done, but its league opponents to date are a combined 8-20 in Big Ten play. Of course, the Wolverines have delivered a quarter of those losses. … Colorado is a bit hard to get a read on, though it has some fine victories (Oregon, at Southern Cal) and has done nothing foolish. The Buffaloes seem like a top-half of the bracket team. …

Brigham Young doesn’t have much margin for error. It only has one more regular season shot at Gonzaga, and its notable nonconference victories (at San Diego State, Utah, at Utah State) are far from sure things to hold up. … Saint Louis (7-1) was one of the sport’s better stories in December, but the Billikens haven’t played since Dec. 23. … Coastal Carolina finds itself atop the Sun Belt, tied with Appalachian State and Little Rock. A two-game swing to Georgia State this week will say a lot for Cliff Ellis’ Chanticleers.

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