The NET is the official tournament selection tool of the NCAA. It is the primary metric the selection committee uses when deciding which teams will make the field and what seed they will get.
Starting in early December, the NCAA releases rankings every day until Selection Sunday. The NET rankings tend to be volatile early in the season. Unlike metrics such as KenPom, no preseason expectations or biases are built into the metric. So, one or two good games can result in a large swing early on. Later in the season, the rankings become more stable.
Monday morning, the very first rankings were released, and SDSU looks to be in great shape. The Aztecs come in at No. 24. Their only loss is to BYU, who is ranked No. 2 . Washington is the best win so far as they are ranked 64th, which is good enough to count as a Quad 2 victory on a neutral floor.
Saint Mary’s has been a disappointment, they come in at 155. There is still plenty of time to improve that ranking. If they can get into the top 100, it will really help the Aztecs as it will bump Saint Mary’s from a Quad 3 victory to a Quad 2 victory.
There is cause for optimism looking to the schedule ahead. The Aztecs currently have 14 games left against Quad 1 and Quad 2 opponents. That’s more than every team in the Mountain West except UNLV. Having more high-level opponents means more opportunities to build a resume and less potential land mines to stumble over.
Both of the upcoming road games against Grand Canyon and Gonzaga are currently listed as Quad 1 opponents, and there is reason to believe they can stay that way. UC Irvine is currently a Quad 2, but they’re right on the edge of dropping to Quad 3. They may need to dominate the Big West Conference; otherwise, they’ll fall, and that game will not look as good on the resume.
Most of the high level games are happening in conference play, which is a testament to how well the MWC has done as a whole. Eleven of the eighteen conference games would be considered resume building games as of today. While there is potential for a team such as Utah State to fall down the rankings and take away one of those chances, there is also the possibility that a team like Boise St can improve its ranking and give the Aztecs (and the rest of the conference) an extra opportunity.
Colorado State has been the darling of the season thus far. They are ranked seventh after beating Creighton, Colorado, and Washington en route to an eight game winning streak.
Nevada is the other Mountain West team currently ranked above the Aztecs. The Wolfpack comes in at 21st after dominating all their opponents so far. It will be hard for them to stay that high, as five of their six opponents have been very low teams.
Rounding out the top five in the conference is Utah State (34th) and New Mexico (36th). Neither team has truly tested themselves yet, and either one could drop because of it. New Mexico started in the 20s in the NET last season and peaked at 12 before falling to 64 to end the season, so it’s possible to bump up the numbers by playing lesser competition.
While there is still plenty of time for rankings to change, it’s worth noting that the highest-ranked team in the NET to ever miss the tournament was North Carolina State, who ranked 33rd in 2019.
Last season, North Texas, ranked 38th in the NET, settled for winning the NIT as a 2 seed. This would suggest a team in the low 30s or better is almost guaranteed a spot in the tournament.
The Aztecs will benefit from competing with many possible tournament teams in conference. Iron sharpens iron. As long as the Aztecs are at the top of the MW and don’t take any catastrophic losses, especially against Fresno State (299) at home on January 3rd, then they should be in the mix come Selection Sunday.
Native San Diegan living in Montana. Big time Aztec Basketball fan. Creator of Aztec Breakdown. Hoping to help people enjoy basketball more by increasing their understanding of it.