AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the calendar turns to February, college basketball teams are preparing for the home stretch in their conference schedules and trying to position themselves for a magical run through March Madness.
The next three weeks will tell not just fans, but the NCAA tournament selection committee, a lot about the Texas Longhorns. Starting on Saturday, the Longhorns enter a bruising portion of their schedule with road games against Kansas State and Kansas, getting just Sunday off between them and four of their final nine games at Moody Center. In a conference like the Big 12 this season, there are no “easy” games, either. Every time the Longhorns take the floor, it’s a rock fight — figuratively speaking, of course.
With a month-and-a-half left until Selection Sunday, Texas is in good shape to snag a great seed. A lot can happen between now and then, but the strength of the conference will help them when the committee looks at their resume. The committee can consult a variety of metrics to evaluate teams for selection and seeding, but it mainly uses the team’s spot in the NET rankings.
The NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) rankings combine a team’s performance against its schedule by venue (home, neutral or away), scoring margin, net efficiency derived from kenpom.com and quality of wins and losses. To determine the quality of wins and losses, records are split into four “quadrants.” The more wins against first-quadrant teams, the better the committee thinks the team is. Losses to third and fourth-quadrant teams do considerable damage to a team’s reputation in the eyes of the committee and enough of them can have a team in the NIT instead of the Big Dance.
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The quadrants are based on the result of the game, where it was played and the opponents’ NET ranking. Here’s the breakdown:
- 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 135-240
- Quadrant 4: Home 161-353, Neutral 201-353, Away 241-353
For example, Texas’ recent win over Baylor at Moody Center was a first-quadrant win, the victories teams really want. The Longhorns won at Moody Center and Baylor’s NET ranking is No. 15, firmly within the 1-30 range. Of Texas’ remaining opponents, all of them with the exception of a home game against Oklahoma can be a first-quadrant win. The Sooners have a current NET ranking of No. 65, meaning a Texas win at Moody would qualify as a second-quadrant win. Those are nice, and Texas is 2-0 against second-quadrant teams.
Texas Tech checks in at No. 65, but since the game is in Lubbock, a win there would be a first-quadrant win. When the Longhorns beat the Red Raiders 72-70 at Moody, it was a second-quadrant win.
According to the NET rankings, the Red Raiders are the “worst” team the Longhorns will play the rest of the year, meaning things are lining up for an advantageous seed in the NCAA tournament. However, fans surely remember what happened in 2021 when the 14th-seeded Abilene Christian Wildcats upset third-seeded Texas in the opening round. That’s tournament play in a nutshell — everything a team has worked for to get a good seed can be completely erased with one bad night.
All of Texas’ losses this season have come against first-quadrant teams — Tennessee, Iowa State, Illinois and Kansas State. While losing isn’t good, those losses hurt the least in the eyes of the committee. Kansas, currently No. 7 in the rankings, is the only team Texas has yet to play in conference play, so they’ll get two shots at them for first-quadrant wins.
In the end, as long as the wins keep coming, Texas should get a high seed. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi projects the Longhorns as a No. 2 seed in the East Region, taking on 15th-seeded Eastern Washington in the first round. Lunardi thinks the Eagles will win the Big Sky Conference to earn an automatic bid into the tournament.