You’re going to be hearing a lot about those quadrants this week in the run-up to Selection Sunday. Here’s what they mean.
Quadrant 1: Home games vs. RPI top 30 teams; neutral vs. 1-50; road vs. 1-75.
Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75; neutral vs. 51-100; road vs. 76-135.
Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160; neutral vs. 101-200; road vs. 136-240.
Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161-plus; neutral vs. 201-plus; road vs. 241-plus.
“The tournament is played on neutral sites, so obviously for the committee I think it has been important for us to look at how a team has performed either on a neutral site or away from home,” Creighton Athletic Director Bruce Rasmussen, the selection committee chairman, said in February.
For the most part, the teams currently sitting on the NCAA tournament bubble all have few losses in their Quadrant 3 and 4 games; they’ve beaten the teams they’re supposed to have beaten. Decisions about their tournament-worthiness primarily will be made based on their records in the top two groupings, which is what I’ve included here in this bubble-team scorecard.
All of the following is taken from the NCAA’s official team sheets as of the end of the regular season, which you can find here. It’s the same information the selection committee members have at their disposal. The team sheets also include a team’s RPI standing along with five other metrics utilized by the selection committee: ESPN’s strength of record and BPI rankings, KPI, Ken Pomeroy and Sagarin. The “average ranking” for each team is the average of each team’s standing in the six statistical measurements.
The Seminoles are in a pretty good spot. A loss to Louisville in their ACC tournament opener would be suboptimal but probably not a dealbreaker, depending on how things shake out elsewhere.
That 4-12 record against the top two quadrants is a big reason many bracketologists have the Cardinals on the outside looking in. Louisville almost certainly has to beat Florida State in its ACC tournament opener to set up a shot at No. 1 Virginia.
The Wolfpack closed the season on a 5-1 run, with wins over fellow bubble-ish teams Syracuse, Florida State and Louisville solidifying its resume. N.C. State opens ACC tournament play with a game against the Boston College-Georgia Tech winner and then would get Clemson with a victory.
The Fighting Irish have more Quadrant 3 losses — to Ball State (at home), Indiana (neutral site) and Georgia Tech (on the road) — than Quadrant 1 wins, which is why just about everyone has them on the bubble’s outskirts. A win Tuesday over awful Pittsburgh in their ACC tournament opener won’t do anything to help. Notre Dame will need victories over Virginia Tech and then Duke to have a shot.
The Orange boosted its resume Saturday with a home win over Clemson but almost certainly needs to make some noise in Brooklyn this week. Syracuse opens with Wake Forest on Tuesday evening. A victory over the Demon Deacons wouldn’t do much to improve its standing, but a win over North Carolina in the next round certainly would.
BIG 12 (Wednesday-Saturday)
The Sooners have cratered to end the season, losing 10 of their last 14 games, and they haven’t won on the road since Dec. 30. But Oklahoma also has a home win over Kansas and a road victory at Wichita State and thus is on the good side of the bubble right now. A win over Oklahoma State in its Big 12 tournament opener would perhaps seal the deal.
The Longhorns also struggled down the stretch but scored a huge overtime win over West Virginia in their season finale, giving them to room to breathe. They open Big 12 tournament play against Iowa State, a team Texas beat twice this season.
Baylor reeled off consecutive victories over Oklahoma State, Kansas, Texas and Texas Tech — two of them on the road — in early February before promptly dropping three of its last four games, each defeat coming by double digits. The Bears lost twice to West Virginia this season and get them again Thursday in their Big 12 tournament opener.
The Wildcats don’t have a hugely great win or a truly bad loss, but their nonconference slate was not challenging and thus they’ve made this list. They open the Big 12 tournament Thursday against TCU, which is probably the best team Kansas State beat this season (it split the season series).
Among Power 5 teams, the Cowboys played one of the softest nonconference schedules in the land this season, with 25 percent of their total games coming against teams ranked 168th or worse in the RPI. The committee hates that. A couple of Big 12 tournament wins will help change its tune.
That the second-seeded team in the Pac-12 tournament is teetering on the bubble says a whole lot about the Pac-12. A Trojans loss to either Stanford or Cal in their tournament opener would not be good.
The Bruins closed the season by beating USC for the second time this season. The two rivals have remarkably similar resumes.
The Sun Devils are pretty solidly in the field according to most experts, but a second loss to Colorado this season on Wednesday in their Pac-12 tournament opener wouldn’t be a great look.
The Utes won six of their past seven games but can often be found in the “first four out” of many bracketologists’ predictions, mainly because there simply isn’t much to get excited about on their resume. They open Pac-12 tournament play Thursday night against either Oregon or Washington State and obviously can’t afford to lose.
Would the Huskies even be on this list if they hadn’t won at Kansas in December? Considering how unloved Washington is by the various analytical measurements: probably not. It opens Pac-12 tournament play against Oregon State, a team it lost to as part of its 3-5 finish.
The Crimson Tide has some of the better wins among this crew, beating Auburn, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Rhode Island (all at home). It also has lost five straight by an average of 11 points. The room for error is gone, starting in the SEC tournament Thursday against Texas A&M, a team it lost to to close the regular season Saturday.
We’re including the Bulldogs here because stranger things have happened, but Mississippi State might have moved from the bubble to the fringe after Saturday’s 21-point road drubbing at LSU (another team of dubious NCAA tournament merit it will see again on Thursday). Mississippi State played a pretty bad nonconference schedule and is one of the worst three-point-shooting teams in the country.
What a weird resume: The Tigers beat Michigan on a neutral court, defeated tournament-bound Houston at home, and swept both Texas A&M and Arkansas. They also got swept by Georgia and lost to Stephen F. Austin at home. Their SEC tournament opener against Mississippi State is more or less an NCAA tournament eliminator for both teams.
BIG EAST (Wednesday-Saturday)
Butler was in much better shape before a 2-5 skid to end the season, but wins over Villanova and Ohio State and a 9-9 record in Big East play probably are enough for now (such things also help hide the fact that the Bulldogs lost to Georgetown at home). Another loss to Seton Hall in the Big East tournament Thursday — the Pirates swept them in the regular season — would be cause for concern, however.
The Golden Eagles went 5-2 down the stretch, but the losses were to St. John’s and DePaul, the latter being Marquette’s first-round opponent in the Big East tournament Wednesday. There’s not much wiggle room here, as the Golden Eagles are oft-mentioned under the “Last Four In” heading.
The Friars would be shoo-ins were it not for their three Quadrant 4 losses: Minnesota and DePaul at home and U-Mass. on the road. Providence’s Quadrant 2 record is better than its Quadrant 4 record, which certainly is weird. A Big East tournament victory, starting Thursday with Creighton, would perhaps seal the deal.
ATLANTIC 10 (Wednesday-Sunday)
The Bonnies have won 12 straight and should be in no matter the result of the Atlantic 10 tournament, but bad memories linger. In 2016, Saint Bonaventure became the first team to win a share of its conference regular season crown and post a top 30 RPI rank yet not receive an NCAA tournament bid. The Bonnies lost their A-10 tournament opener that year; one win this year almost certainly will seal the deal.
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (Thursday-Sunday)
The Owls are 16-14, lost four of five to end of the regular season and have four Quadrant 3 and 4 losses, but they also played one of the toughest schedules in the country. Hence their tenuous inclusion on this list. Even a run to the AAC tournament final might not be enough.
CONFERENCE USA (Wednesday-Saturday)
The Blue Raiders scheduled well, playing the 10th-toughest nonconference schedule in the country, but they still can’t really afford to lose in the Conference USA tournament. Middle Tennessee didn’t help its case with a loss to Marshall in its regular season finale, its second loss to the Herd this season (the two teams could meet in the semifinals of the conference tournament, too).
MOUNTAIN WEST (Wednesday-Saturday)
The other teams listed here really, really do not want to see the second-seeded Broncos win the Mountain West tournament, because that would mean top-seeded Nevada would be taking away an at-large bid. Should the Wolf Pack win, Boise State has good-but-not-great at-large resume that’s weighed down by Quadrant 3 losses to Iowa State and Utah State.
WEST COAST CONFERENCE (tournament already completed)
The Gaels lost to BYU in the WCC semifinals and thus have to hope that the committee looks more at their fairly strong analytical standing — BPI and Pomeroy both rank them 28th at the moment — instead of their rather light resume (only seven games against Quadrant 1-2 teams, one win over Gonzaga, bad-looking losses to San Francisco and Washington State). The Zags actually did Saint Mary’s a favor on Tuesday night, beating BYU in the tournament final to prevent the Cougars from stealing a bid. Many bracketologists have the Gaels barely in the tournament right now, but there’s lots of basketball — and possible bid-stealing — until Sunday.