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Bracketology: Nevada is a puzzling piece in NCAA tournament bracket projection

Nevada's Caleb Martin leads the break against Fresno State's during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Fresno, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)
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What to do about Nevada?

The Wolf Pack did pretty much everything it was supposed to do as it came off a Sweet 16 appearance last season and returned the majority of its rotation.

It scheduled ambitiously, with games against three power conference teams, all away from Reno. It opened the season against Brigham Young. It brought Summit League power South Dakota State to town. It drew Loyola Chicago in a Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge game.

And what happened? All three of those power conference teams hailed from the struggling Pac-12. BYU isn’t as good as usual. Loyola Chicago has scuffled the year after a Final Four appearance.

And the NCAA’s new NET metric has the Wolf Pack sitting at No. 27 with only one Quadrant 1 victory included in its 16-1 overall record.

Other formulas are kinder to Nevada. It is No. 13 in the rankings, No. 19 according to the Sagarin ratings. A listless Jan. 5 loss at New Mexico aside, Caleb Martin and the Wolf Pack have impressed as a team that runs slick offense, takes care of the ball and has no discernible defensive weaknesses. But when it comes to seeding there might be a ceiling already baked into the committee’s evaluation.

That’s hardly astonishing. But in a year when the committee has a new mathematical tool at its disposal (and no track record on how it will use it), there’s a variety of ways Nevada could ultimately be treated. And as is often the case with Gonzaga, another well-regarded western team outside the power conference structure, there’s not a lot the Wolf Pack can do to significantly enhance its profile during league play.

Nevada is pegged as a No. 4 seed in this week’s Washington Post projection. The Wolf Pack’s seeding figures to be one of the great uncertainties of the next two months, especially if it keeps rolling up victories as it navigates its Mountain West schedule.

Field notes

Last four in: Texas, Temple, Arizona State, Arizona

First four on the outside: Butler, Florida, VCU, Alabama

Next four on the outside: Baylor, Fresno State, Clemson, Lipscomb

Moving in: Boise State, Marshall, Missouri-Kansas City, Northern Kentucky, Prairie View A&M, Saint Louis, Sam Houston State, South Dakota State, Temple, Valparaiso, Wagner, Washington, Weber State

Moving out: Alabama, Butler, Fresno State, Grand Canyon, Loyola Chicago, North Texas, Northern Colorado, Purdue Fort Wayne, Sacred Heart, Stephen F. Austin, Texas Southern, VCU, Wisconsin-Green Bay

Conference call: Big Ten (10), ACC (8), Big 12 (7), SEC (6), Big East (4), American Athletic (4), Pac-12 (3), Mountain West (2)

Bracket projection

East Region vs. West, South vs. Midwest

East Region

Columbia, S.C.

(1) ACC/Virginia vs. (16) winner of MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC/North Carolina A&T vs. SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC/Prairie View A&M

(8) Mississippi State vs. (9) AMERICAN ATHLETIC/Central Florida

San Jose

(5) Oklahoma vs. (12) OHIO VALLEY/Murray State

(4) Nevada vs. (13) HORIZON/Northern Kentucky


(3) Kentucky vs. (14) BIG WEST/UC Irvine

(6) BIG EAST/Villanova vs. (11) winner of Arizona State vs. Texas

Columbus, Ohio

(7) Florida State vs. (10) PAC-12/Washington

(2) Michigan State vs. (15) MISSOURI VALLEY/Valparaiso

With Duke’s loss to Syracuse on Monday, Virginia assumes the top overall seed in the projected bracket. … Before last season, the selection committee hadn’t sent the winners of both the MEAC and the SWAC in Dayton. With that precedent broken, it’s reasonable to think it could happen again. … Whether it’s the NET or KenPom, it looks like Oklahoma will be something of a metrics favorite again this year. …

Barry Svrluga: Cavs-Hokies as a top-10 matchup is a tribute to Tony Bennett and Buzz Williams

Why Arizona State? The four Quadrant 1 victories. Pretty much all the other numbers are starting to work against the Sun Devils. … Washington got shifted out of the West bracket so as to avoid a Florida State-Saint Louis rematch from the regular season.

South Region

Columbus, Ohio

(1) BIG TEN/Michigan vs. (16) BIG SKY/Weber State

(8) LSU vs. (9) TCU

Hartford, Conn.

(5) Houston vs. (12) SOUTHERN/Wofford

(4) N.C. State vs. (13) AMERICA EAST/Vermont

Jacksonville, Fla.

(3) Virginia Tech vs. (14) BIG SOUTH/Radford

(6) Mississippi vs. (11) Minnesota

Des Moines

(7) St. John’s vs. (10) Ohio State

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

LSU vs. TCU in the Trent Johnson Bowl. Sadly, no sign of Nevada or Stanford in this regional. … Starting to think a couple ACC teams could easily end up anchoring the Hartford subregional, though one of the old-school Big East schools (most likely Villanova, but possibly St. John’s or Seton Hall) could end up there, too.

Mississippi made a big jump from last week, going from one of the last four teams in the field to a No. 6 seed. A really good week can lead to that sort of fluctuation at this point. The Rebels, who beat Auburn and Mississippi State, had an exceptional week. … Tough to say how much the home loss to DePaul hurts St. John’s in the long run. The Red Storm was without Shamorie Ponds, and the Blue Demons are improved, too.

Midwest Region

Columbia, S.C.

(1) SEC/Tennessee vs. (16) NORTHEAST/Wagner

(8) Wisconsin vs. (9) Cincinnati

San Jose

(5) Louisville vs. (12) COLONIAL/Hofstra

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

Hartford, Conn.

(3) North Carolina vs. (14) SUN BELT/Georgia State

(6) MID-AMERICAN/Buffalo vs. (11) winner of Arizona vs. Temple


(7) Seton Hall vs. (10) Iowa

(2) BIG 12/Texas Tech vs. (15) METRO ATLANTIC/Rider

Wisconsin (No. 340 nationally in pace of play, per against Cincinnati (No. 349) would have all the makings of a 49-48 grinder. … A round-of-64 doubleheader featuring Hofstra’s Justin Wright-Foreman (26.9 points per game entering Tuesday) and South Dakota State’s Mike Daum (23.7 ppg) would be worth the price of admission. …

Gave a lot of thought to Butler in the last spot in the field rather than Arizona. … If Texas Tech can land a No. 4 seed or better, there’s an excellent chance the Red Raiders end up in Tulsa.

West Region

Jacksonville, Fla.

(1) Duke vs. (16) winner of WESTERN ATHLETIC/Missouri-Kansas City vs. SOUTHLAND/Sam Houston State

(8) Indiana vs. (9) Kansas State

Salt Lake City

(5) Nebraska vs. (12) ATLANTIC SUN/Liberty

(4) Auburn vs. (13) IVY/Yale

Des Moines

(3) Marquette vs. (14) MOUNTAIN WEST/Boise State

(6) Iowa State vs. (11) Syracuse

Salt Lake City

(7) Purdue vs. (10) ATLANTIC 10/Saint Louis

(2) WEST COAST/Gonzaga vs. (15) CONFERENCE USA/Marshall

Tre Jones’s injury is a wrench in Duke’s plans. It also creates a headache for the committee in evaluating the Blue Devils, assuming he misses a healthy chunk of time. … The metrics say Nebraska warrants a healthy bump from last week. …

Think of Iowa State playing in Des Moines as a bit like South Carolina getting sent to Greenville for a subregional in 2017. Not ideal, but plausible. … Yes, Syracuse helped itself a lot with its victory at Duke. … Gonzaga (which owns the most efficient offense in the country, per KenPom) could put up some wild numbers on Marshall, which has yielded 100 points three times this season (vs. Maryland, Ohio and Virginia).

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