Preseason Seed List: North Carolina opens at No. 1
A year ago, Kentucky was a unanimous choice as the nation’s preseason No. 1 team. With the 2015-16 campaign upon us, the top spot isn’t quite as clear-cut. Some favor the Wildcats again, as John Calipari reloads for another run at the Final Four. Others tab Maryland, loaded with experience and talent. Both are projected No. 1 seeds on our preseason Seed List. Who’s No. 1 at Bracketville? North Carolina.
The Tar Heels are deep, talented, and experienced. Whether that meshes into an appearance in the national title game remains to be seen, but if point guard Marcus Paige stays healthy, it’s hard to bet against the crew from Chapel Hill. Note: Marcus Paige will miss some early games with a broken hand, but long term, he should be fine and come March, UNC should be at full strength. Roy Williams’ team is blessed with a tall, athletic front line and gifted play-makers. If this group decides to defend consistently, the ceiling is a national title.
The other top-line spot belongs to Kansas. Despite another strong batch of Big 12 teams – including Oklahoma and Iowa State – the Jayhawks are favored to win their 12th straight conference title, a truly amazing run. As you’ll note on the Seed List, and in the preseason bracket, the top four teams arrive in this order … North Carolina (East), Kentucky (South), Maryland (Midwest), Kansas (West).
Preseason Seed List | Updates begin once the season starts
Developing a Seed List – and bracket – before any games are played is an interesting exercise. It’s also one of the toughest tasks of the season. By the time Selection Sunday rolls around, we’ll most likely be debating the merits of two or three teams for the final couple of slots in the Field of 68. Results will answer most of our questions. Other than those few “bubble” teams, the real drama on Selection Sunday is seeding and pairings.
Right now, we have no results. We have no statistics, RPI ratings, or any other metric. Selecting 32 at-large teams, designating conference champions, and ranking those teams 1-68 is merely an educated guess, with the emphasis on guess. Do you know who will finish 5th or 6th in the ACC or Big Ten? Other than Kentucky and Vanderbilt, how strong is the SEC? Will Texas AM and LSU live up to expectations? And what about the Pac-12? The league might be deeper, but not as strong at the top. Will California or someone else overtake Arizona? Who makes it? Where should teams be seeded?
Beyond Wichita State and Gonzaga, I do expect strong non-power conference seasons from Valparaiso and Stephen F. Austin. Given each team’s non-conference schedules – a 10/11 seed isn’t out of reach. Valpo’s non-Horizon slate includes: Rhode Island, Oregon, and Oregon State. Winning two of those games could put the Crusaders in position to claim an at-large bid, assuming they roll through the Horizon League as expected.
Fortunately, games tip on Friday. And speculation will wane. Enjoy another season-long ride on the Road to the Final Four.