Midseason March Madness sneak peek – Gonzaga sprungs into first place

Gonzaga sprungs into first place

Gonzaga takes over the men’s basketball poll top spot from Kansas in what was the craziest week of the college basketball season.  For the second time in school history, 22-0 Gonzaga is the No. 1 team in the nation. The Zags last held the top spot during the 2013 season, for a period of three weeks.

A week ago, it was all about West Virginia’s two disappointing losses to Oklahoma and Kansas State. Fast-forward to today, and the Mountaineers are a solid top-10 team after knocking off Kansas and Texas A&M. The Jayhawks made West Virginia look even stronger by handling Kentucky in Lexington on Saturday; just when you think foes have solved the press, WVU reminds you that it’s one step ahead of the pack. The Aggies coughed the ball up 23 times in Morgantown two days ago.

Setting up the madness early

College basketball is a sport that too often gets relegated to one month’s worth of relevance. Outside of March, it’s hard to generate buzz that surpasses that of the NFL, NBA or even college football. The men’s basketball election committee announced Tuesday it will reveal its in-season top 16 seeds during a CBS broadcast on February 11 at 12:30 p.m ET (set up with seeds 1-4 in each assigned region). The actual, final bracket will be unveiled on Selection Sunday, March 12.

“We are excited about giving the fans a glimpse to what the men’s basketball committee is thinking at this point of the season, and creating a buzz as we look towards Selection Sunday,” committee chairman Mark Hollis said in a statement. “It’s important to recognize after this list has been released, there is still a significant portion of the regular season to be played and every league must stage its conference tournament.”

Following in the footsteps of big brother… kind of

This announcement follows three years of College Football Playoff in-season ranking shows, which drew a ton of attention and outrage on a weekly basis. College basketball’s power brokers did not replicate that, opting instead for a one-time preview of the four top seed lines.

“Some of the reaction the last couple of years of teams being surprised where they were seeded … that’s where the thought process started for me,” Gavitt said in 2014. “Are there things we can do that would better communicate what’s the likeliness? Frankly, I didn’t think there were a whole lot of very different seeds going in. There seemed to be consternation. If you were to do something along the way to be more transparent, maybe there would be a better understanding but an understanding that this didn’t come out of left field.”

Creating some buzz

And, even if data points shift as résumés change over the final month of the season, fans should get that. Unlike rankings put out on a weekly basis, like college football’s, it’s harder to get boxed into a team being in a certain position or one piece of a résumé being emphasized over another. College basketball has so many data points for each team and so many games that will be played over the final month that it lends itself well to a sneak preview. The understanding that seed lines could change depending on how teams (and their opponents) perform that final month.

Plus, it allows CBS and the selection committee to reap benefits from a cottage industry they have created… the bracketology. Almost every national sports outlet and some regional ones hire bracketologists to project the field throughout the season leading into Selection Sunday. Yet CBS and the people actually tasked with evaluating, seeding, scrubbing and bracketing the real field haven’t had any of those pre-March eyeballs. Until now.

The 2017 NCAA tournament tips off March 14. Join FanPicks for all March Madness DFS.

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