Like much of the college basketball stratosphere, we never imagined terms such as "quality win," "Quad 1" and "NET ranking" would remain part of the dialogue around USF men's basketball in late February.
The fact any dialogue exists at all about the Bulls at this stage is a testament to the astounding turnaround orchestrated by second-year coach Brian Gregory.
But exist it does. The Bulls (18-8, 7-6) seek their first victory against a top-10 opponent in nine years when they play Saturday evening at No. 9 Houston (25-1, 12-1). Naturally, an upset would re-kindle speculation about the Bulls’ postseason chances, eliciting that aforementioned terminology yet again.
Which calls for some clear defining of those terms, specifically “quality win.”
By virtually any definition, including the NCAA’s, the Bulls don’t have one yet.
Frequently during American Athletic Conference play (including this story), we’ve pointed out USF hasn’t defeated a team in the top 65 of the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings at the time the game was played. The NET has replaced RPI in the NCAA Tournament’s selection and seeding process.
So that elusive top-65 triumph has remained our loose definition of a “quality” win.
But with the NCAA’s new quad system, it’s more clearly defined ― or re-defined.
A thorough explanation is offered in this story straight off ncaa.com. Essentially, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball committee is placing greater emphasis on road victories, and lessening the emphasis on road defeats, when examining a team’s sheet (or tourney resume).
As a result, a road victory against a team ranked in the top 75 of the NET rankings is considered a Quad 1 victory. Also considered Quad 1 are home victories against teams ranked in the top 30, and neutral-site wins against teams ranked in the top 50.
A Quad 1 win is a quality win, the highest quality in the eyes of the committee.
At this point, USF still doesn’t have one.
But it can get one Saturday. An ensuing triumph Wednesday at home against UCF would be a solid Quad 2 victory. More Quad 1 opportunities could arise in the AAC Tournament.
Moreover, a victory can change quads. When USF defeated Memphis at home three weeks ago, it then qualified as a Quad 3 win. The Tigers now are 61st in the NET rankings, elevating the triumph to Quad 2 for the Bulls.
But Quad 1 wins are critical. If the Bulls can collect two or three down the stretch, their tournament chances ― NIT if not NCAA ― become fortified. Until then, USF’s postseason odds appear remote.
But consider the fact we’re still using “USF” and “postseason” in the same sentence as March looms.
That’s quality progress. The highest quality.
Based on the NET rankings (through games played Wednesday), here’s the breakdown of USF’s victories by quad (as defined by the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee).
Quad 1: None
Quad 2: Two (Memphis, at SMU)
Quad 3: Five (Austin Peay, Colgate, at FIU, UConn, Wichita State)
Quad 4: 10 (Alabama A&M, neutral site vs. Ohio, FAMU, Stetson, Appalachian State, Alcorn State, Fairleigh Dickinson, Tulane, East Carolina, at East Carolina)
* Florida College, whom the Bulls defeated at home Tuesday, is an NAIA program