Gonzaga, for now, edged out San Diego State for the No. 1 seed in the West Region.
The selection committee revealed its top 16 seeds Saturday morning on CBS with the biggest question centering on the West’s No. 1 seed, with two viable contenders in Gonzaga and San Diego State.
The committee put the Bulldogs in the West as the third overall seed and the Aztecs in the East as the fourth overall seed.
Why is that important? Both teams are likely to stay close to home – Gonzaga at the Spokane Arena and San Diego State in Sacramento – for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
The major difference, if both teams advance, is the second weekend. The West will determine its Final Four representative at Staples Center in Los Angeles. San Diego State would travel across the country to play at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“It’s such a fine line,” said Duke athletic director and selection committee chair Kevin White, when asked to differentiate between Gonzaga and San Diego State. “I think at the end of the day across the 10-member committee it was the fact that the Zags have two really good wins, we thought maybe better wins, over Arizona and Oregon. With (roughly) 1,500 games left, that’s kind of the way this thing fell.”
That’s the committee’s opinion on Feb. 8, but a whole lot could change before Selection Sunday on March 15.
Baylor, the No. 1 overall seed, is in the South with Houston as the regional site. Kansas is second overall and in the Midwest (Indianapolis). The No. 2s – from the fifth overall seed to eighth – are Duke (East), Dayton (Midwest), Louisville (South) and West Virginia (West).
“There was a bit of a separation between four (San Diego State) and five (Duke), quite frankly, clearly delineated those four as the top four,” White said.
Second-ranked Gonzaga is 25-1, its lone loss to Michigan in the Bahamas. The Zags are No. 3 in the NET, used by the NCAA to select, sort and seed prospective tournament teams. The Zags are 8-1 in Quad 1 and 2 contests.
No. 4 San Diego State (24-0) is the nation’s last unbeaten team. The Aztecs are No. 1 in the NET and 8-0 vs. Quad 1/2 foes.
If both teams continue their winning ways, Gonzaga has a better opportunity than San Diego State to cement its résumé prior to Selection Sunday. The Zags routed Saint Mary’s 90-60 in Moraga, California, on Saturday and host SMC on Feb. 29. GU also has a road date with BYU on Feb. 22. The Gaels are No. 33 and the Cougars are No. 22 in the NET.
San Diego State has three games remaining against top 100 NET foes: No. 91 Boise State, No. 97 Colorado State and No. 89 Nevada. The Aztecs, who have nonconference wins over BYU, Creighton and Iowa, swept No. 53 Utah State.
Both teams probably would prefer dropping to a second seed if it kept them in the West Region rather than be a one seed in the East, South or Midwest.
This is the fourth year of the bracket reveal. In the previous three years, nine of the 12 projected No. 1 seeds stayed on the top line on Selection Sunday. That was the case for Gonzaga in 2017 and 2019. The three No. 1s that dropped eventually became second seeds.
Villanova was projected as the three seed in the West with Oregon at No. 4. The Zags edged the Ducks 73-72 in overtime in the Bahamas.