NCAA March Madness Bracket Preview: Early reveal of top 16 shows how selection committee is evaluating teams
Here's what Kevin White, the chair of the selection committee, expects to happen Saturday when the early bracket is revealed
College basketball's annual in-season bracket reveal returns Saturday at 12:30 p.m. on CBS. A refresher: "The NCAA March Madness Bracket Preview" will show teams seeded No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 in each region of the would-be NCAA Tournament bracket, as selected by the Division I Men's Basketball Committee.
While the bracket is built as though it's real, it's a mockup of what the top of the Big Dance would look like if the tournament started in the coming days and the regular season over. The purpose is to drive interest, discussion and provide a quick primer to the general sports public on where college hoops stands with a little more than a month until Selection Sunday.
How to watch
The 10-person committee spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in Indianapolis, loosening their seeding muscles after more than 10 months away from the process.
What we'll see on Saturday is how the NCAA Tournament field would shake out in the top 24% of the bracket (16 out of 68 teams) if the season ended Friday night.
The committee has picked apart the résumés of nearly 24 schools in order to get the top 16 aligned. If you'd like a sneak peek at what to expect, Jerry Palm has kept his bracket forecasts updated.
Committee chair Kevin White, who's the athletic director at Duke and in his final season on the committee, spoke with CBS Sports about diving back into this for a few days before the real stuff starts in less than five weeks.
"I think there's a real sense of purpose in going through the exercise," White said. "As I find myself in year five, I'm amazed at the number of constituents that are involved in the process, formally or informally, and I attribute a lot of that to Dan Gavitt's leadership. He's the czar of men's college basketball. He's in touch with each and every stakeholder group, so to speak, and so their involvement is never-ending. You ask about five or 10 years from now, what would I like to see? I would like to see continued communication with all those stakeholders and continue to find ways to [improve] this thing and buoy upon this great tradition that's existed here for a heck of a long time.
"It's hard to say where things morph. Games change, they evolve. Players change, coaches certainly change and as things continue to morph in what I would like to think is a pretty positive direction, the NCAA Tournament needs to morph as well, and I'm sure it will."
While that last line there could cause some eyebrow raising for those concerned with the NCAA Tournament expanding again (it went from 65 to 68 in 2011), that's not what White was specifically alluding to.
"My term will be complete here in July," he said. "I don't have a great crystal ball beyond that. I don't think anyone is going to find themselves in a place that could be characterized as complacent. They're always going to try a find a way to inch this thing forward and make it better -- whatever that looks like to their leadership."
White was referring to the NCAA Tournament selection process evolving more in the past half decade or so than it had ever before. But the selection committee (which changes membership annually, anywhere from one to five new members depending on circumstances and the year) still faces challenges yet to be met or exceeded. The NCAA at large is still the subject of criticism in this realm because the NET rankings (now in year two) are not a transparent sorting system. Few people know exactly how the NET concludes to rank teams from first to 353rd, though a general template has been made public.
The term "Quad 1 win" or "Quad 2 loss" and so forth will become more and more common in the sports lexicon over the next six weeks. As a reminder, these are how the quadrants are sorted out, with the rankings referred to explicitly tied to the NET.
- Quad 1: home 1-30, neutral 1-50, away 1-75
- Quad 2: home 31-75, neutral 51-100, away 76-135
- Quad 3: home 76-160, neutral 101-200, away 135-240
- Quad 4: home 161-353, neutral 201-353, away 241-353
Multiple NCAA representatives told CBS Sports earlier this season that the NCAA, after conferring in a summer conference and meeting with analytics consultants at Google, opted to make no changes to how the NET is calculated. There was satisfaction in one season in. We wait to see how this season will go, but for the most part the NET is a reasonable analytic.
"At this point it will always be under evaluation and at the appropriate time, if there's a tweak that should be exercised or at least seriously considered, it will come back to the committee with the support of the leadership," White said. "As we speak here today, there's no immediate plans to do that."
As for this season's reputation of being a down or underwhelming one, White made a good point about the near-annual discussion of college basketball's unpredictability, which is part of its appeal. Pundits seem to have a collective short-term memory in this regard.
"I suspect most years we might characterize the season as a bit different," White said. "It's a journey that all these past committees have endured well, and if I might use my favorite expression, they've all done God's work and tried to get to the right spot. But it reminds me what we're doing here ... and the purpose of this week's meeting is to refresh the eight returning members and perhaps introduce the two new members to the voting software and the process of selection, seeding and bracketing teams. Every year I think there's an opportunity that presents itself wherein the tournament can be the biggest best ever and I think that's certainly is in store for us."
If you're curious, here's what the previous three seasons' No. 1 seeds in February were, and where those teams ultimate got seeded on Selection Sunday.
2017: Villanova, Kansas, Baylor and Gonzaga were No. 1 seeds in February. In March, they were Villanova, Kansas, Gonzaga and UNC. The Tar Heels won the national title.
2018: Virginia, Villanova, Xavier and Purdue were No. 1 seeds in February. In March, they were Virginia, Villanova, Xavier and Kansas. Villanova won the national title.
2019: Duke, Virginia, Tennessee and Gonzaga were No. 1 seeds in February. In March, they were Duke, Virginia, Gonzaga and North Carolina. Virginia won the title.
So for three years running this has been true: three of the four No. 1 seeds in February stayed as No. 1 seeds in March.
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