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February 11, 2017

Selection committee says 'Nova would be No. 1 overall seed if NCAA tourney started today

The college basketball regular season schedule doesn't end for three weeks. Then there's another week of conference tournament games before the 68 teams lucky enough to continue into the sport's second season, the NCAA Tournament, will be selected and carefully placed in a bracket by the NCAA selection committee. 

But ... if the season ended right now, the No. 1 overall seed would be the reigning champion Villanova Wildcats, currently ranked No. 2 in the nation in both the AP and coaches polls.

This isn't based on Joe Lunardi's bracketology or Ken Pomeroy's ratings. No. This comes directly from the committee itself.

Nothing against Joey Brackets and KenPomDotCom -- they're predictive rankings are usually pretty spot on -- but for the first time ever, the NCAA has has revealed how they see the teams stacking up before Selection Sunday. 

“While the committee has conducted this orientation meeting for several years, the new element of publicly releasing our top 16 teams significantly added to the discussions this week,” said committee chairman Mark Hollis. “If nothing else, this week’s meeting will help us prepare for the next month, perhaps more so than before. We had terrific conversations about these 16 teams, plus others such as Cincinnati, Creighton, Purdue and Wisconsin, who were on the verge of being a first quadrant team. This was a productive and useful exercise, but now the committee can get back to the work we started November 11 and continue evaluating all possible tournament teams.”

There's an extra incentive for Jay Wright and his team to land the top-overall seed, and not just one of the other three No. 1 spots. The top seed gets first pick of the region in which they'll be playing. Last year, that would've meant playing their Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in front of a home crowd at the Wells Fargo Center. 

This year, the closest is the East Regional in New York, and for 'Nova, who won last year as the No. 2 seed in the South Region, that's exactly where they'd decide to play, according to the committee.

“Villanova played a challenging non-conference schedule and has achieved considerable success against several quality opponents on the road and on neutral-courts. Their consistency throughout the season gave them slight separation from other candidates for the overall top seed,” said Hollis.

Using a new policy adopted last summer, the committee asked Villanova for their preferred regional location, and the Wildcats selected the East regional in New York City. The other No. 1 seeds were assigned to regional sites using geographic proximity from their campuses. Kansas, the second-ranked team on the overall seed list, was sent to the Midwest regional in Kansas City, while fellow Big 12 Conference member Baylor is the top seed in the South regional in Memphis. The fourth No. 1 seed, unbeaten Gonzaga, was assigned to the West regional in San Jose.

“Those four teams are having tremendous seasons but as we know in college basketball, things can change quickly,” said Hollis. “There are more than 1,300 games left before Selection Sunday so how these teams are seeded and where they will ultimately be sent to play in the tournament remains a mystery.”  []

Don't order your ticks for Madison Square Garden just yet. Villanova (23-2) faces No. 24 Xavier on Saturday afternoon, but even if they win, there's a good chance they remain No. 2 in the AP poll on Monday. No. 1 Gonzaga, who remains undefeated, will visit No. 20 St. Mary's Saturday night, so there's a chance for the upset.

But as we learned from the selection committee, those rankings don't necessarily reflect how March Madness brackets will look when they come out one month from Sunday.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin