What WVU fans should look for in tourney early reveal

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Selection Committee will release its early tournament reveal Saturday. This is the fourth year the committee has released a sneak peek into its selection process.

In the early reveal, the committee announces its top 16 teams by seed as the season currently stands. Obviously a lot can change in that time, but the reveal gives fans a glimpse of how the actual selection committee sees the college basketball landscape. Up until Saturday, the only hint into how the tournament may line up comes from various bracketologist forecasts, none of which are officially connected with the tournament.

West Virginia expects to be one of the 16 teams listed in Saturday’s reveal. If the Mountaineers are listed, it would be the second time in the four-year history they make an appearance. WVU was a four seed in the inaugural reveal in 2017 and the Mountaineers were also a four seed in the actual tournament that season. In 2018, WVU made the Sweet 16 as a five seed and was not one of the 16 teams listed in the reveal. Last season the Mountaineers had a losing season and didn’t make the tournament.

A lot can change with a month left of regular-season basketball and the conference tournaments still to play. However, the short history of the reveal shows the committee’s early ranking closely reflects its final selections. Of the 48 teams listed in early reveal history, 39 ended up as one of the top 16 teams in that season’s actual tournament.

Here’s a look at what Mountaineer Nation should look for in Saturday’s announcement.

Where to expect WVU to land: No. 3 seed

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has WVU as a No. 2 seed in his latest bracketology forecast. But most of the other forecasts have the Mountaineers on the 3-seed line. WVU is ranked ninth in the latest NET rankings, which is the rankings the selection committee uses in its evaluation. Going with the “wisdom of the crowd” theorem, a three seed is a reasonable expectation.

Good news would be: No. 2 seed

Landing a spot as a two seed would mean the selection committee is impressed with the Mountaineers resume strengths and not put off by their weaknesses. WVU has a very impressive sixth-best strength of schedule, which is an important criteria to the selection committee. If the Mountaineers land a two seed in the reveal, that means the committee is enamored with WVU’s schedule strength. That’s going to look even better at the end of the season when the Mountaineers add two games against No. 1 Baylor and another against No. 3 Kansas, plus whomever they play in the Big 12 Tournament.

Bad news would be: No. 4 seed

Obviously the worst news would be WVU being left out of the reveal entirely, but that’s highly unlikely. However, if the committee puts the Mountaineers as a four seed, that’s not good news for their eventual tournament landing spot. If the committee puts West Virginia on the 4-seed line, it means the Mountaineers weaknesses are a serious albatross. While West Virginia has an impressive strength of schedule ranking, the Mountaineers lack a “signature” victory thus far. The best WVU win is a neutral site win over Ohio State (16th in Friday’s NET rankings). Even more damaging to the Mountaineers tournament resume is a 1-4 road record. The selection committee looks very favorably on a team’s ability to win on the road. If WVU lands a four seed, it will reflect the Mountaineers inability to do that.

Whom else to watch: Dayton, Michigan State, Butler, Maryland

These four teams are in the Mountaineers neighborhood in the rankings and most bracketoloty forecasts. Why are they important? Because of the NCAA’s pod system, higher seeded teams get to play first- and second-round games in the closest hosting venue. For WVU, that venue is Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. Two teams are going to be the podded teams in Cleveland. Four teams – WVU, Dayton, Michigan State and Butler – figure to be fighting for those two spots. This is important because playing in Cleveland means a lot of West Virginia fans will be in the arena. That won’t be the case if WVU plays in, say, Tampa, Fla., or Sacramento, Calif.

Maryland factors in here because the only other available venue within driving distance is Greensboro, N.C. If West Virginia loses out on a trip to Cleveland, it could get a spot in Greensboro. But only if the Mountaineers are seeded better than Maryland. Duke is a virtual guarantee to get the other Greensboro podded slot.

The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee early reveal will be broadcast Saturday at 12:30 p.m. on CBS.