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Andy Katz | Correspondent | February 15, 2018

NCAA selection committee adjusts team sheets, emphasizing road/neutral games

Monmouth’s case for an at-large berth in the 2016 NCAA tournament just got even stronger, nearly two years after the decision was made to keep the Hawks out of the field.

Why? A new tweak in the way the NCAA tournament selection committee views road and neutral wins would have put Monmouth in a more favorable light.

The selection committee will no longer use top 50, top 100, 200 and 201 and above as dividing categories. Instead, the new terminology will be quadrants 1, 2, 3 and 4. The decision is to get away from treating every team the same if the game was on the road, neutral or at home based on their power rating. Now the road/neutral games will matter more.

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“I think that’s good,’’ Monmouth coach King Rice told “We should have gotten into the tournament that year. People still come up to me to this day and tell me that. We had one home game in our first 11 pre-conference games that year. We beat teams that we thought were going to be pretty good.’’

Monmouth had a win over USC (51) on a neutral court and wins over UCLA (102), Siena (104) and Georgetown (106) in true road games. In the old system, the USC win would have been in the second category on the team sheet the selection committee studies and the other three would have been in the third category of 100 and above. But now they all slide down on the team sheet, to make the resume look more attractive.

Losses would be lumped in this way, too, with the Hawks’ three “bad” losses that year on the road at Army, Canisius and Manhattan. Those three teams were ranked 213 and above in 2016, which would have put them in the worst category. But under the new format, they slide down to quadrant 3.

The breakdown will be as follows:
Quadrant 1: Home 1-30; Neutral 1-50; Away 1-75
Quadrant 2: Home 31-75; Neutral 51-100; Away 76-135
Quadrant 3: Home 76-160; Neutral 101-200; Away 136-240
Quadrant 4: Home 161-plus; Neutral 201-plus; Away 241-plus.

(Click image to enlarge)

“This is going to change things,’’ Rice said.

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“The committee’s decision to focus on, for example, Q1 or Q2 wins, or Quadrant 4 losses, is a direct result of its desire to place greater emphasis on winning away from home, and to demonstrate how difficult it is to earn those wins,” said Dan Gavitt, the NCAA’s senior vice president of basketball. “A wider net is cast when you play teams on a neutral court, and an even wider one is cast when you play in a true road environment, meaning teams leaving their home arenas to play competition ranked in the 50-75 range have the opportunity to earn a Q1 win. At the same time, if you go on the road to play a team ranked in the low 200s, you aren’t penalized for a loss as much because it will fall in the third quadrant rather than Quadrant 4. Beating elite competition, regardless of where the game is played, will always be important to the committee, but these new quadrants redefine its definition of a quality win.”

This recommendation shouldn't come as a shock to the coaches. It was their National Association of Basketball Coaches Ad Hoc Committee on Selections, Seeding and Bracketing that made the suggestion. They wanted to formally adjust the team sheets to emphasize games played away from home.

The tweak is being celebrated by coaches who have to or choose to schedule away from home.

Georgia coach Mark Fox, whose Bulldogs have been a perennial bubble team in three of the past four seasons, making the NCAAs in one of those seasons in 2015, told “in each of the last year two years we’ve been very close and this change may have had an impact in one or both of those years.’’ Georgia has already won two true road games (Fullerton and Marquette) and one neutral (Saint Mary’s). “I’m just hopeful this year we can keep winning and totally avoid the situation.’’

Power conference teams that are on the bubble, but scheduled neutral and true road games will benefit greatly from the change. But the most seismic shift could be felt in one or two-bid leagues, hoping to land at-large spots based on playing a strong road/neutral schedule.

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Nevada and Boise State have no choice but to play more games away from home, with few teams willing to commit to play them on their home court in the nonconference.

And they are already expecting this to make a potentially difference.

Boise State won at Oregon and has neutral site wins over UTEP and Illinois State.

“I love this new system,’’ said Boise State coach Leon Rice. “I think it should be weighed even more for road wins. I think power five schools will be more willing to go play a good opponent on the road, given the increased value. In theory, this should really help us get some great home games and that would be good for college basketball.’’

Nevada coach Eric Musselman agrees. The Wolf Pack already have four true road wins in advance of Tuesday night’s game at Texas Tech.

“This is going to help teams like Nevada because it puts a premium on scheduling and winning games outside of your building,’’ said Musselman. “A lot of mid-majors do not have the liberty of scheduling a non-conference slate of guarantee games. Therefore we have to play road games and we believe that with the new way the committee will look at a team’s resume that it helps even the playing field.’’

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