Monday brought us one step closer to the NCAA tournament when the men's basketball NET rankings made their debut for the 2020-21 season. As you'll remember, the NET serves as the primary sorting tool for the selection and seeding process for the NCAA tournament.
The NET is in its third season for men's basketball and was modified in the offseason when it was simplified to a two-component system. The two components are the Team Value Index, which rewards teams for beating quality opponents, especially away from home, and a team's efficiency rating, which is adjusted for the strength of an opponent and the location of a game.
You can view the NET rankings here, where they will be updated daily. You can read more about how the NET rankings will work in the 2020-21 season here.
Gonzaga is No. 1
It's fitting that in the first season in which Gonzaga was the preseason No. 1 team in the AP Top 25 poll, the Zags also debuted at No. 1 in the NET rankings. Ohio State debuted at No. 1 in the NET rankings in both the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
The Zags are ranked No. 1 in almost any rankings system you'll find. The NET rankings. The AP poll. On kenpom.com.
And the Bulldogs are a worthy No. 1, having already beaten the teams ranked No. 7 (Iowa), No. 27 (Kansas), No. 29 (West Virginia), No. 45 (Virginia), No. 76 (Auburn) and No. 94 (San Francisco) in the initial NET rankings.
You can argue that the only thing Gonzaga hasn't done as a program is win a national championship — and the Zags came very close in 2017 — but this year's team might have the best chance of any team in the country and of any team in Gonzaga's history.
The Big Ten has a big opportunity
The Big Ten has three of the top seven teams in the initial NET rankings — No. 4 Illinois, No. 6 Michigan and No. 7 Iowa — five in the top 20 (No. 11 Wisconsin and No. 17 Rutgers), and 11 teams in the top 50. A 12th team, Indiana, sits at No. 51.
Given that the NET rankings are used for the quadrant system, where wins and losses are categorized into quadrants, this means that as of Jan. 4, 11 of the conference's 14 teams represent an opportunity for a Quadrant 1 win at home and 12 of the 14 teams mark a potential Quadrant 1 win on the road (the top 75 teams in the NET).
There are almost exclusively only Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 games available for Big Ten teams, which means that the teams in the conference have the opportunity to compile really impressive resumes and the Big Ten could contend to put nine, 10 or 11 teams in the NCAA tournament.
There's diversity in the top 20
For as strong as the Big Ten is positioned this season, the teams ranked near the top of the NET rankings don't exclusively come from just a handful of conferences. No. 12 Saint Louis (Atlantic 10), No. 13 Boise State (Mountain West), No. 16 Colgate (Patriot League) and No. 20 Drake (Missouri Valley) diversified the conferences with teams among the top echelon of the sport, in terms of the NET rankings.
Who has the most Quadrant 1 wins?
Quadrant 1 wins are those that are at home against opponents ranked between No. 1 and No. 30 in the NET, neutral-court wins against opponents ranked No. 1 through No. 50 in the NET, and road wins against top-75 opponents in the NET.
Through Jan. 3, there are three schools with four Quadrant 1 wins. Can you name them?
They're Gonzaga (No. 1 in the NET), Houston (No. 8) and Missouri (No. 10). The Zags have a perfect record in Quadrant 1 games, while the Illini and Tigers are both 4-1.
The teams with three Quadrant 1 wins are No. 17 Rutgers (3-2), No. 27 Kansas (3-2), No. 35 Oklahoma State (3-1), No. 43 Minnesota (3-2) and No. 44 Seton Hall (3-2).
Remember where the NET has been and where it's going
In the first-ever NET rankings that debuted in the 2018-19 season, Virginia was ranked No. 2 in the NET and Texas Tech was No. 3. Those two teams played for the national championship the following April.
That's not to say that the NET rankings are guaranteed to evaluate a future national finalist to that degree every year, but it shouldn't be a surprise if some combination of No. 1 Gonzaga, No. 2 Baylor, No. 3 Tennessee and No. 4 Illinois makes a deep run in the NCAA tournament. But the season is also in the part of the calendar where most schools are just getting started with conference play and several Patriot League teams played their first game of the season on Jan. 2.
The NET rankings will continue to factor in new results and evolve as the season progresses, so it would be wise to not overreact to the initial rankings, but to also keep in mind that the schools ranked at the top of the NET are there for a reason.