San Diego State is a 1 seed. Can they stay there?
Recently, Jerry Palm of CBS Sports released a new bracket projection and in it, San Diego State was the No. 1 seed in the South region. Aztec fans are not shy about telling you how good their team is, and the national media is starting to jump on the band wagon.
The first question that must be asked is, has SDSU earned a No. 1 seed at this point. I’d say they have.
They are 15-0, which isn’t easy regardless of who you play. They are ranked No. 1 in the NET, the system the committee uses to help seed teams. On top of that, SDSU is 6-0 in Quad 1 and Quad 2 games. The other No. 1 seeds are Duke, Butler, and Gonzaga, at 5-1, 8-1, and 3-1 in quad 1 and 2 games, respectively. The Aztec’s schedule isn’t the strongest at 103, but it is way ahead of Gonzaga’s at 213, so if you don’t complain about Gonzaga not beating anyone than you can’t complain about SDSU not beating anyone.
Could an argument be made for two other teams to jump up and take the spots of San Diego State and Gonzaga? Sure. However, that is not the same thing as saying San Diego State isn’t deserving.
Having established that San Diego State has earned a 1 seed to thins point, what do they need to do to stay there? It can be a little bit tricky. If they enter the tournament undefeated they will likely be a 1 seed.
Their record in quad 1 and quad 2 games at that point would likely be around 12-0 to 14-0 (counting the conference tournament) depending on how the rest of the conference does. That being said, KenPom has the odds of the Aztecs finishing undefeated at 6.4%. With travel and altitude being such big factors in the Mountain West, it’s tough to win on the road. In addition, this San Diego State team almost lost at home to San Jose State a few weeks ago. Anything can happen.
What if they only lose one game?
Matt Norlander said in the Eye on College Basketball podcast that he thinks if SDSU loses only one game, including the conference tournament, they will be a No. 1 seed, regardless of who the loss is to. I’m no bracketology expert, but I could see that happening. I think it would also somewhat depend on how the other teams that are high in the bracket perform. Teams like Kansas and Ohio State have more opportunities for wins against Quality opponents, so if they go on a tear and the Aztecs drop one to a Wyoming or Air Force team, I could see them falling out of that top spot.
What if they lose two games?
This is where things get interesting. Will the committee, who likely doesn’t watch much Aztec basketball due to late tip off times, put SDSU as a No. 1 seed if they’ve lost two games? Some of it would depend on who they lose to. If one of those losses is to Utah State in the conference tournament final, maybe the committee lets them keep the 1 seed. If they lose to Colorado State and UNLV at home in the same week (end of February), then it wouldn’t be hard for me to believe that the east coast bias would kick in and the committee would drop the Aztecs down the bracket.
As a point of discussion, I also wonder if SDSU should want the No. 1 seed. I know, but let me explain. Receiving a 1 seed would be an awesome accomplishment. That being said, making the first Elite 8 or even the first Final Four in school history would be a better accomplishment. As a one seed in the South region, which is where this bracket has them, SDSU would play the first two rounds in Sacramento, where some fans could travel but many wouldn’t, and then play the next weekend in Houston (assuming they make it that far). As a No. 2 seed in the West region (assuming Gonzaga remains the 1 seed) the first games would be played in St. Louis, and then the second-weekend games would be played in L.A. at the Staples Center.
The chance to play a sweet 16 game in front of a home crowd is very appealing. The argument could be made that a 1 seed would be more valuable than a home crowd, but it is something worth thinking about.