Bracket Watch: Villanova replaces Gonzaga as No. 1 seed in the West
The other shoe finally fell in Spokane last weekend. Despite boasting just one loss heading into its final conference game, Gonzaga’s hold on the fourth No. 1 seed in Bracket Watch had been tenuous. After losing to BYU, the Bulldogs likely can’t hope for anything better than a 2-seed in the dance.
There is something to be said for beating every team in front of you, and that’s what Gonzaga had done this season—for the most part. Other than a three-point overtime loss at Arizona, the Bulldogs had taken care of all comers before falling in Provo. However, their best win remains a home victory over SMU about one week before And that has been the season-long issue with the Bulldogs as a 1-seed.
Gonzaga’s strength of schedule after the weekend is just 79th in the country, worse than teams such as Drake and Fordham. It took some spirited mental gymnastics to compare Gonzaga’s résumé to Villanova’s or Wisconsin’s, or even Arizona’s or Kansas’, and say that it was more deserving of a 1-seed than any of those four teams from power conferences.
Let’s put Gonzaga’s résumé side-by-side with Villanova’s, the team that is now on top of the West Region. After beating Providence and Xavier last week, the Wildcats now have 10 wins against the top 35. Gonzaga has three. Villanova beat a full-strength VCU, swept Butler, Providence, and Xavier, and beat St. John’s on the road. Gonzaga’s best true road win was over BYU, a team that is still unlikely to earn an at-large bid. There’s no doubt that Villanova has the better résumé, and now it has the seed to show for it.
The Bulldogs’ are now a longshot to be one of the tournament’s four No. 1 seeds. They, of course, would have to win the West Coast Conference tournament, but Villanova wasn’t the only team that passed them after their loss to BYU. They’re likely behind Wisconsin and Arizona, as well, meaning if any one of those three teams wins its conference tournament—and they’ll all be favored to do so—Gonzaga would have to content itself with a 2-seed.
1. Kentucky (29-0, Last week: Midwest 1): The Wildcats cruised to a 17-point win over Arkansas last weekend, and are just two wins away from an undefeated regular season. Kenpom.com gives the Wildcats an 80.1% chance of going 33-0.
2. Wisconsin (26-3, LW: West 2): Had the Badgers beat Maryland last week, they would be the 1-seed in the West, not Villanova. As it stands, they’ll need to win out and see the Wildcats to falter to get onto the top line.
3. Iowa State (20-8, LW: W3): The Cyclones lost twice last week, but still have nine top-50 wins and are ranked 12th in RPI. It’ll take a bit more to knock them off the 3-line.
4. North Carolina (20-9, LW: W4): The Tar Heels are one game behind Louisville in the ACC standings, meaning they’d have to play an extra game in the conference tournament. They’ll likely have to beat Duke on Saturday to avoid that fate.
1. Virginia (27-1, LW: East 1): The Cavaliers topped Wake Forest and Virginia Tech with ease last week, and are essentially locked into a top seed. They finish the regular season with road games against Syracuse and Louisville.
2. Gonzaga (29-2, LW: West 1): Not only is Gonzaga no longer slotted in the No. 1 spot, they’re also now behind Arizona in the pecking order at No. 2. That means they’ll likely have to leave the West Region.
3. Baylor (22-7, LW: E3): The Bears had a great week, toppling Iowa State in Ames and crushing West Virginia in Waco. They still have an outside shot to catch Kansas in the Big 12 standings, but the Jayhawks would have to lose out.
4. Louisville (23-6, LW: South 5): The Cardinals got back on track with wins over Georgia Tech and Florida State last week. They end their regular season with tough games against Notre Dame and Virginia to end the regular season.
1. Duke (26-3, LW: S1): The Blue Devils clinched a top-four seed in the ACC tournament, so they’ll have the benefit of a double bye. They’d have to suffer a few bad losses to end up as anything other than a No. 1 seed.
2. Kansas (23-6, LW: S2): The Jayhawks are likely out of the running for a top seed, but they should be able to stick as a No. 2. They do have a tough finish to the regular season, with games against West Virginia and Oklahoma this week.
3. Maryland (24-5, LW: MW4): The Terrapins got their best win of the season last week, beating Wisconsin and holding the most efficient offense in the country to 53 points. They wrap up the season with games at Rutgers and Nebraska.
4. Butler (21-8, LW: S4): The Bulldogs took care of business against Marquette and DePaul last week. With five wins over the top 50 and an RPI ranking of 24, the Bulldogs should end up as a 4- or 5-seed.
1. Villanova (27-2, LW: E2): The Wildcats’ wins over Providence and Xavier, coupled with Gonzaga’s loss to BYU, pushed Jay Wright’s team up to a 1-seed. They now have a ridiculous 10 wins against the top 35.
3. Oklahoma (20-8, LW: MW3): The Sooners still have an outside chance to move up even further in the bracket. They play Iowa State and Kansas this week, and already have nine top-50 wins.
4. Notre Dame (24-5, LW: MW2): The Irish went all of February without beating a team that will get an at-large bid to the tournament. They can end that streak at Louisville on Wednesday.
First Four Out, Next Four Out
First Four: UCLA is just 2-7 against the top 50 and 5-10 against the top 100. Combine that with an RPI ranking that won't move the committee, and it's likely the Bruins have more work to do. Pitt remains on the radar thanks to huge wins over Notre Dame and North Carolina, but Sunday's loss at Wake Forest is a bad look for a team that is fighting for one of the last at-large bids. Tulsa's season comes down to this week, when it takes on Cincinnati and SMU. One win locks up at least a share of the conference title. If they win both, or if that one win is over SMU, they win the AAC outright. It would be awfully hard to keep a regular season conference champion out of the tournament. Similarly, Davidson likely has to beat VCU this week to still have a chance to get an at-large invite to the dance.
Next Four: BYU put itself in contention for a bid by taking down Gonzaga over the weekend. The Cougars still need a little bit of help, and their most realistic path of getting to into the field is by winning the WCC tournament. Stanford's home loss against Oregon on Sunday put it in dire straits. If the Cardinal want to make it into the field without winning the Pac-12 tourney, they'll have to beat Arizona on Saturday. Miami hung with North Carolina late into the second half on Sunday, but couldn't quite get over the hump. Their matchup with Pittsburgh Wednesday could be an elimination game. Finally, Kansas State may be just 15-15, but they own wins over Kansas, Iowa State, Oklahoma (twice), Baylor and Oklahoma State. If the Wildcats beat Texas this week, and win a game or two in the conference tournament, it might be hard to keep them out.