The NCAA’s website has a “Selection 101” page that outlines selection criteria, seeding, and, among other things, members on the NCAA Tournament selection committee. Under the “Selections” tab, there’s a “Did You Know” section with three notes, including: “A late-season/conference tournament injury to a key player could impact a team's seed.”
Collin Gillespie’s season-ending knee injury “could” impact Villanova’s seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament, just as we knew Chris Boucher’s injury “could” impact Oregon’s seed in the 2017 tournament, Brandon Davies’ suspension “could” impact BYU’s seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, and Kenyon Martin’s injury “could” impact Cincinnati’s seed in the 2000 NCAA Tournament.
"If an injury or suspension occurs late in the season, the committee will evaluate that team based on whether or not that player will be on the floor using the factual information the committee knows to date," then-NCAA spokesman Jim Marchiony told ESPN after Martin’s injury in the early minutes of an eventual loss to Saint Louis in the First Round of the Conference USA Tournament. Similar ambiguity has been repeated by the NCAA and former committee members over the two decades. And while history suggests player absences can impact seeding, it’s unclear when or how that impact is measured.
In the case of Villanova, could they drop from a 3-seed, already a season-low in Bracketology projections, to a 4-seed or lower? History says yes, but what does their tournament résumé say?
The Wildcats debuted at No. 5 in the NET rankings in January and have floated in and out of the top 10 over the last seven weeks. After Wednesday’s win over Creighton, they returned to the top 10 (at No. 10) and remain there nine days before Selection Sunday. Of the eight teams seeded third or fourth in Bracketology, Villanova ranks first in NET, BPI, Sagarin, and KenPom AdjO, second in KenPom, and third in SOR.
Elsewhere, it’s not great news in comparison to fellow 3-seeds Kansas, West Virginia, and Florida State, and 4-seeds Arkansas, Purdue, Texas, and Virginia:
Quadrant 1 wins: 8th
KenPom AdjD: 8th
NET Non-Conf SOS: 8th
Road Wins: 7th (tied)
Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 wins: 7th
NET SOS: 7th
BPI SOS: 6th
Road Win Pct: 4th
Villanova can earn more Quadrant 1 wins and boost their metrics in the Big East Tournament; Creighton and UConn are within the NET top 50 for neutral-site wins, and Xavier and Seton Hall aren’t far behind. Or Villanova, without their senior point guard, could suffer another Quadrant 2 loss and tumble in several areas, including NET, if they’re sidelined while other 3-, and 4-seed contenders play deep into the conference tournaments.
“He is the heart and soul of our program,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said of Gillespie. “We know we can't replace him. We all just want to step up and play so that we honor him. Collin is as mentally tough and resilient as any player we have had here. I know he will get through this and make it a positive for his career."
Villanova can’t replace Collin Gillespie and it “could” hurt their NCAA Tournament seed come Selection Sunday.
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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM