The two teams leading our March Madness Gala … Florida and Arizona. The Gators and Wildcats both have the opportunity to enter the NCAA Tournament dance as the overall No. 1 seed. Should both win their remaining games – including conference tournament titles – the edge will likely to go Arizona. Not that it’s that critical this year because the two teams are geographically separated. Florida will lead the South Region; Arizona the West. A year ago, when Louisville and Indiana were battling for the top spot in the Midwest, and a route through Indianapolis, that top position meant more.
Wichita State begins Missouri Valley Tournament play today in St. Louis. The Shockers ended the regular season without a blemish. If they win three more under the Arch, expect WSU to be a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday. Kansas continues to hold the final No. 1 slot. Four other teams are chasing the top line: Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia, and Villanova. Recent struggles make it difficult for Syracuse to regain a No. 1 seed. Read more…
Florida has not lost a college basketball game in almost three months. Only undefeated Wichita State owns a longer streak. So it’s no surprise that both the Gators and Shockers remain No. 1 seeds in today’s bracket. Given back-to-back losses by Syracuse, it’s also not surprising to find Florida as the top overall seed with Arizona, Wichita State, and Syracuse next in line.
If Kansas wins its remaining regular season games or wins the Big 12 Tournament next month (or both), the Selection Committee will have some difficult decisions to make about the four No. 1 seeds – assuming all finish strong. The Jayhawks have played an incredible 21 games against the RPI Top 100. That’s impressive, even if you’re not a fan of the formula. Kansas has won 15 of those games – with more Top 100 games on tap. At some point, we may also have to factor in Wisconsin or Michigan. Few teams had a better non-conference season than the Badgers. In other words, the race for No. 1 seeding is far from over.
Today’s seeding curve hit a proverbial snag at about No. 27 – which is right in the middle of the seven-seed line. From that point, until the final few teams IN, we find a glob of teams with more interesting profiles – positives, negatives, and a bunch of stuff in-between. Which basically means those spots, along with the those along the cutline, are very much in a state of flux. Unless we have a few conference tournament upsets, we could be in for a very interesting Selection Sunday.
Enjoy your week of hoops!
The bubble is much like a recent weather forecast for the Midwest or East Coast: unpredictable and generally less than welcoming. So instead of debating the final few teams IN our OUT in today’s bracket, let’s look at the No. 1 seed contenders. We have just over a month until Selection Sunday.
Syracuse, Arizona, Kansas, and Florida retain No. 1 seeds (same as Monday). Syracuse is in the strongest position to hold its post – although road trips through Pittsburgh, Duke, and Virginia remain. Arizona’s biggest question isn’t RPI numbers or quality wins, it’s a notable injury: how will the Wildcats play without Brandon Ashley? He’s out for the season with a foot injury. The Selection Committee will be watching how Arizona responds. Kansas owns the top spot in the RPI and has played the nation’s top-rated schedule. Will that offset five (or more) losses? If the Jayhawks claim an outright Big 12 title and win the Big 12 tournament, history would suggest that, yes, KU would be a top seed given its profile. Florida’s biggest advantage – and disadvantage – is its schedule. Once again, the SEC isn’t particularly deep. With Missouri and Tennessee hovering around the bubble, Kentucky is the Gators’ top resume-builder. That said, Florida is among the most talented teams in the nation when healthy. It’s conceivable the Gators could enter the SEC Tournament with a record of 29-3. That would be hard to ignore.
Here are some other contenders:
- Michigan State - if the Spartans heal up and win the Big Ten, they will push for the top line. Keep in mind, MSU has not lost a game when playing at full strength.
- Wichita State - after winning at Indiana State, the Shockers will be favored to enter the Missouri Valley Tournament with a perfect record. Although the MVC isn’t as strong as it’s been in recent years, one could easily argue that WSU has earned a No. 1 seed. Read more…
If you need any other evidence, check out the teams listed around the bubble in today’s bracket. They’re moving around faster than the Seahawks’ defense at MetLife Stadium. We have some very interesting resumes. Like recent weather forecasts, they change quickly, and often.
After 12 straight wins – and a loss by an injured Michigan State squad – the Florida Gators move to the top line. Wichita State is another team pushing for region supremacy. The aforementioned Spartans, along with Villanova and San Diego State round out the two-seed line today. Following its thrilling overtime victory over Duke on Saturday, and Arizona’s loss at California, the Orange now sit atop the bracket as the No. 1 overall seed. Arizona and Kansas remain as the other projected No. 1 seeds based on games played through Sunday, February 2. Yes, the Jayhawks lost at Texas, but their resume is filled with 12 Top 100 wins, a No. 1 strength of schedule, and the top spot in the RPI. Kansas also leads arguably one of the best two conferences (Big 12) in the nation.
Memphis absorbed the biggest seeding drop. It’s not so much the loss at SMU as much as the behind-the-scenes resume numbers. The Tigers are a concerning 2-5 against the RPI Top 50 and they have just three Top 100 RPI victories. Fortunately, opportunities for seed-building wins remain: Gonzaga, Connecticut, Louisville, Cincinnati, and SMU are still on the schedule.
As you look through the bracket, you may notice a few things that seem askew. Remember, several new bracketing principles were put into play this year to help keep more teams on their true seed line. Most notably, teams from the same conference can meet before regional finals – if they play each other less than three times (including conference tournaments) during the season. Several such situations developed when creating the bracket today. We may see these scenarios; we may not.
Enjoy a fun week of hoops. We’re on the final push toward Selection Sunday.
Since losing to San Diego State, the Kansas Jayhawks have put together a five-game surge that includes victories over its biggest competitors in the Big 12 conference – Oklahoma, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Baylor. Two of those (Oklahoma, Iowa State) were on the road. Add in victories over Duke and New Mexico in non-conference play, and KU has notched eight Top 50 RPI victories. That’s two more than Syracuse, four more than Arizona, and three more than Michigan State – the other members of today’s No. 1 seed club. It’s also worth noting that Kansas has played the nation’s toughest schedule and currently sits atop the RPI. That’s a pretty strong profile (despite four losses – all to Top 25 RPI Teams), and the primary reason why the Jayhawks received the No. 4 slot on this week’s seed list (s-curve). When evaluating KU’s overall body of work, it’s pretty strong.
We still have two months to go and several other teams could reach the No. 1 seed line by March. Teams like Florida and Wichita State are building strong resumes, as is San Diego State. And it’s too early to count out Iowa, Michigan, or Wisconsin from the Big Ten title chase. The final contenders will be much more clear by mid-February.
On the flip side, January hasn’t been a good month for teams like Ohio State, Baylor, and North Carolina – or Georgetown for that matter; as the Hoyas are among the First Five OUT today. Through the first third of conference play, the Buckeyes, Bears, and Tar Heels own a combined 4-12 record (in league play). Some of that is due to scheduling and some of it has been inconsistent play. Either way, it would be a good time for those squads to reverse course. By the time we reach mid-February, a seriously sub-par conference record will not be endearing to the Selection Committee.
One of the best things about college basketball is that we never know what will happen. Enjoy the hoops.