With one game left and the Big 12 Tournament starting on Wednesday, let’s take stock of Baylor’s NCAA Tournament seeding and likely location.
With Kentucky, Maryland and Seton Hall dropping recently, there are five teams competing for four No. 1 seeds: Kansas, Baylor, Gonzaga, San Diego State and Dayton.
Kansas and Baylor are No. 1 seeds on all 86 brackets that have been updated on Bracketmatrix.com. That site aggregates predictions from a host of bracketologists, including ESPN, SB Nation, NBC and CBS.
The selection committee looks at team sheets when evaluating squads. They don’t consider recent play more than old games. The team sheets include the NET ranking, which is a formula that factors wins and losses and adjusted efficiency in those games. The NET caps margin of victory at 10 points to discourage teams from running up the score.
On the team sheet, victories are divided into quadrants. Quadrant 1 games are home wins over teams ranked 1-30, neutral wins over 1-50 and away wins over 1-75. Quadrant 2 games are home wins over teams ranked 31-75, neutral wins over 51-100 and away games against teams 76-135. Quadrant 3 games are home wins over 76-160, neutral wins over 101-200 and away games against teams 136-240. Quadrant 4 are all the remaining opponents.
Baylor is 11-1 in Q1 games. Kansas is 11-3. Gonzaga is 6-2. San Diego State is 4-0. And Dayton is 5-2. Baylor will have another quadrant 1 opportunity on Saturday against West Virginia. Even if Oklahoma State—currently ranked No. 75, making the road game a Q1 game—drops to 76 or lower, Baylor would still have their 11th quadrant 1 victory if they beat West Virginia.
The Bears have two Q2 losses—at TCU and the neutral game against Washington. Washington is currently 69, so there’s a chance they drop out of the top 75 and become a Q3 loss.
Baylor’s Dayton and West Coast competition will struggle to overcome Baylor’s quadrant 1 victories. Joe Lunardi said earlier this week that he thought Baylor had a 98% chance to be a No. 1 seed. I’d agree with that. I think Baylor guarantees a No. 1 seed with any of the following: a win on Saturday, a win in the Big 12 tournament, a loss by Gonzaga, a loss by San Diego State or a loss by Dayton. Even if none of those things happen, Baylor still has so many Q1 victories that they might stay above Dayton as the final No. 1 seed. The Flyers played Kansas and Colorado close, but they just don’t have the wins to be a No. 1 seed over Baylor without a really bad next two games by the Bears.
The Bears’ location is an open question. The No. 1 overall team gets to pick their location. While most bracketologists assume Kansas will pick Indianapolis, Jesse Newell—the Kansas City Star’s beat writer for KU—thinks Kansas might pick Houston. The Houston regional is at the Rockets arena. The Indianapolis games are at an NFL arena. Houston isn’t that much of a different drive/plane ride from Lawrence/Kansas City and KU might fear playing Michigan State, Creighton or Dayton closer to their respective campuses.
If Baylor does not get the Houston regional, they could be placed in Indianapolis, Los Angles or New York. None of the other three regions are great for Baylor. Each of those spots could have the opponent much closer than Baylor is to the regional site.
There aren’t opening round spots close to Waco. Most folks think Baylor will open in Omaha or St. Louis. Even if the Bears collapse, they’ll probably open in one of those places. The other six opening spots: Albany, Spokane, Tampa, Greensboro, Sacramento and Cleveland.
The NCAA Tournament is still planning to go ahead as scheduled. Coronavirus could impact the games, per an NCAA release, but with the amount of money at play, it seems like things would need to get a lot worse before they’d play in different locations or even think about cancelling games.
My guess; Baylor wins on Saturday and ends up the No. 2 overall seed. Baylor will either be the No. 1 seed in Houston or Indianapolis. The Bears open in Omaha or St. Louis. When forced to guess—and I have low confidence in this prediction—I’ll say Baylor starts in St. Louis and is in the Houston regional. I think Kansas will pick Indianapolis.