Bracket Watch: Are the top four seeds already locked into place?
Rarely is there a consensus about the four top seeds in the NCAA tournament heading into Championship Week, but there is this season. Kentucky could decide to just sit out the SEC tournament, and the Wildcats would still be the top overall seed. Behind them, Virginia and Duke have been the two best teams in the ACC all season, and have topped regions ever since we began this year’s Bracket Watch. Finally, Villanova ascended to the top spot in the West, and will unquestionably hold it if it wins the Big East tournament.
Indeed, without a Villanova loss, there may not be a ton of intrigue with the top seeds in the final week before the NCAA tournament. However, within the Wildcat bookends, Virginia and Duke could jockey for the No. 2 overall seed.
The Cavaliers have been ahead of the Blue Devils all season, and won the ACC regular season title for the second straight season, but they left the door open after losing to Louisville over the weekend. They finished the regular season just a half game better than Duke, and one of their losses was at home to the Blue Devils, the only time the two teams met all season. Duke also owns a road victory over Wisconsin, which is better than any single victory the Cavaliers can boast.
[daily_cut.college basketball]Virginia may have been ahead in the rankings all season, but a clear-eyed evaluation of their résumés just may favor Duke, even beyond the head-to-head win and the victory in Madison. Duke went 10-2 against the top 50. Virginia went 8-2. Duke won four games against top-20 teams and seven against the top 30. Virginia won three and five, respectively, against those groups. Virginia is two slots ahead of Duke in RPI, and three in kenpom.com rankings, but the Blue Devils played a harder schedule. The one place where the Cavaliers really have an edge is in the loss department. Virginia’s only losses were to Duke and Louisville. The Blue Devils, meanwhile, lost to Miami and North Carolina State, in addition to a tough loss at Notre Dame.
Why is it important which team is the No. 2 overall seed? Well, if the result of the ACC tournament does indeed determine which team slots behind Kentucky on the s-curve, the loser could very well match up with the Wildcats in the national semifinals. If Villanova wins the Big East tournament, it would have a great argument to vault ahead of whichever ACC powerhouse fell in the conference tourney. That team would then be on a path to meet Kentucky before the national championship. The eventual champion, if it isn’t Kentucky, will likely have to upset the Wildcats, but the later that matchup happens, the better.
1. Kentucky (31-0, Last week: Midwest 1): The Wildcats completed their perfect regular season, and now head into the SEC tournament with a chance to do something that hasn’t been done in almost 40 years.
2. Wisconsin (28-3, LW: MW2): The Badgers had already won the Big Ten outright by the weekend, but that didn’t stop them from dominating the Buckeyes in Columbus. Now they’ll have to do what they can to get out of Kentucky’s region during the Big Ten tourney.
4. Louisville (24-7, LW: East 4): The Cardinals picked up their best win of the year in their final regular season game, knocking off a Justin Anderson-less Virginia squad. A win or two in the ACC tournament could improve their seeding.
1. Duke (28-3, LW: South 1): With wins over Virginia, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, Louisville and a sweep of North Carolina, the Blue Devils should secure a top seed, regardless of what they do in the ACC tournament.
2. Gonzaga (30-2, LW: E2): The Bulldogs were pressed by San Francisco in the West Coast Conference tournament quarterfinals, but pulled away late in the second half. Even if they win the conference tourney, this is the best they can do from a seed perspective.
4. Georgetown (20-9, LW: S6): They Hoyas finished the regular season with a bang, beating Butler in Indianapolis and taking care of Seton Hall at home. Combine their sweep of Butler with a win over mighty Villanova, and they become worthy of a spot in the top 16.
1. Virginia (28-2, LW: E1): Despite losing to Louisville over the weekend, the Cavaliers won the ACC regular season championship for the second straight year. They should be all but locked into a 1-seed.
2. Kansas (24-7, LW: S2): The Jayhawks still have an outside shot to move up to the top line. They’ll have to win the Big 12 tournament, and need help from not only Villanova, but likely Wisconsin and Arizona, as well.
3. Maryland (26-5, LW: S3): The Terrapins won at Rutgers and Nebraska last week and head into the Big Ten tournament as the conference’s 2-seed. If they meet, and beat, Wisconsin in the conference championship, they could elevate to a 2-seed.
4. Oklahoma (21-9, LW: West 3): The Sooners are essentially neck and neck with Notre Dame for seeding purposes, and part of the reason they fell to a 4-seed was due to bracketing principles. They’ll meet Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tourney quarters.
1. Villanova (29-2, LW: W1): The Wildcats put an exclamation point on their regular season, scoring 105 points in a decimation of St. John’s over the weekend. If they win the Big East tournament, they’ll be the top seed out west.
2. Arizona (28-3, LW: W2): The Wildcats could end up on top of this region if they win the Pac-12 tournament. However, they probably need both Villanova and Wisconsin to lose in their respective conference tourneys to get there.
3. Notre Dame (26-5, LW: W4): The Irish beat Duke, Louisville and North Carolina on their way to a third-place finish in the ACC. They have a 2-seed ceiling, though that requires them to win the conference tournament.
4. West Virginia (23-8, LW: S5): A sweep of Kansas could have guaranteed the Mountaineers a top-16 seed, but the fact that they took the Jayhawks down to the wire on the road without Juwan Staten shows how dangerous this team can be. They’ll meet Baylor in the Big 12 quarterfinals on Thursday.
First Four Out, Next Four Out
First four out: Illinois stumbled down the stretch, most recently blowing a big first-half lead in a loss to Purdue. Now the Illini likely have to do some damage in the Big Ten Tournament to earn a berth. That almost certainly means upsetting Wisconsin in a potential quarterfinal matchup. BYU is still on the outside, and will more likely go to the dance as the West Coast Conference tourney champ rather than as an at-large team. UCLA is the 4-seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, which sets them up to meet Arizona in the semis. They likely need to win that game to get in. Texas A&M's two best wins are over LSU. If they can beat them a third time in what would be an SEC quarterfinal game, they may bully their way into the field.
Next four out: Tulsa's losses to Cincinnati and SMU last week mean the Golden Hurricane are a long-shot for an at-large bid. They're only wins over potential tournament teams are both against Temple. Richmond swept VCU and split their games with Davidson, but they still need a couple good wins to have a realistic chance to get in the tourney. Old Dominion is still hanging around the fringes of the at-large picture, but they can't really build their resume in the C-USA tournament. Finally, the only way Stanford has any chance of even being in consideration for an invite is by beating Arizona in what would be a Pac-12 semifinal.