The BYU Cougars to this point have built a nice resume that, if they continue to play well the rest of the regular season, should get them a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015.
After the Cougars’ 76-73 road loss to the Pepperdine Waves on Wednesday, however, many pointed out that the defeat could drop BYU in the NET rankings and that it was the program’s first Quad 3 loss since Mark Pope became head coach prior to last season.
NET rankings? Quad 3 loss? What do those terms mean, and what do they have to do with the Cougars’ NCAA Tournament resume? Here’s a breakdown, along with some other things to keep in mind as March Madness gets closer.
For a long time, RPI (ratings percentage Index) was a huge tool used to determine which teams would receive at-large (more on that term in a bit) bids in the NCAA Tournament. Prior to the 2018-19 season, however, a new key metric was introduced called NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool).
The NET rankings are determined by using a formula that takes into account who teams beat and lose to, where those games take place (home, away, neutral location) and how well teams play against given opponents.
Before Wednesday’s loss, BYU was No. 28 in the country in the updated daily NET rankings with a 12-3 record (its win over Westminster College did not count because Westminster is not a Division I program). The Cougars were 4-1 on the road, 2-1 on neutral floors and 6-1 at home.
On Thursday, BYU dropped all the way down to No. 38 in the NET rankings. CBS Sports’ David Cobb observed earlier this week that “being 50th or below in the NET is incredibly treacherous territory in terms of candidacy for an at-large (NCAA Tournament) bid.”
How does the NCAA Tournament selection committee distinguish between how teams perform when no team’s schedule is exactly alike? A big way is through the quadrant system.
- In this system, a home win over a team in the top 30 of the NET rankings, a neutral win over a team in the top 50 and a road win over a team in the top 75 are considered Quadrant 1 victories.
The rest are broken down as follows, according to the NCAA:
- 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.
The final tally of quadrant wins and losses, of course, isn’t tabulated until the end of the season, as teams can move up and down the quadrants based on their performances throughout the year. A prime illustration of that is that on Thursday, BYU’s loss to Pepperdine moved up from a Quad 3 loss to a Quad 2 defeat as the Waves went from 152 to 135 in the NET rankings.
As of Thursday, here’s how the teams in the Cougars’ league, the West Coast Conference, ranked among the 347 teams in the country in NET:
64. Saint Mary’s
83. San Francisco
116. Loyola Marymount
132. Santa Clara
255. San Diego
More to know
- At-large bids: Thirty-two of the 68 NCAA Tournament bids are given to teams that win their conference tournaments in March (called “automatic bids”). The remaining 36 are given to whom the selection committee deems the best teams in the country. Given that top-ranked Gonzaga is a juggernaut in the WCC, the Cougars are aiming for an at-large bid, unless they somehow can win the conference tournament.
- Bracketology: The unofficial science of trying to determine which teams will end up in the NCAA Tournament. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi is widely seen as the chief bracketologist in the country. As of Monday, he had BYU No. 33 on his seed list, the last team he said had better than 80 percent odds of making the tournament. He has yet to unveil an updated list following the Cougars’ loss Wednesday.
- A note about polls: Each Monday, the Associated Press releases a poll of the top 25 teams in the country, as voted on by media throughout the country. Being in that top 25 has long been seen as a sign of prestige. This week, BYU was among teams that got some votes (11) but not enough to be in the top 25. The thing is, as far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned, the AP poll doesn’t matter at all, even if it has far more prestige at this point than the NET rankings.