Early Sunday afternoon, the NCAA Tournament Committee released their current Top 16 (Seeds 1-4). Here’s a quick breakdown of where each of these teams stand entering the final weeks of the regular season.
#1 Virginia – Despite suffering an upset at the hands of Virginia Tech on Saturday, the committee clearly felt that Virginia’s full body of work merited the #1 overall seed, and I couldn’t agree more. KenPom’s top team in the nation, and arguably the best defensive team I’ve ever seen, deserves to be on top.
#1 Villanova – The Wildcats suffered a heartbreaking loss on the road to St. John’s, who had previously been winless in Big East play. Despite this setback, the Wildcats are still the most efficient scoring offense in the nation according to Ken Pomeroy, and are looking at a #1 seed for the second straight season.
#1 Xavier – Following a 3-2 start to conference play, Xavier has been as hot as any team in the nation, winning eight straight. They’ve still got a tough road ahead, with three of their last five games coming against Seton Hall, Villanova, and Providence, but home court advantage for all three should help the Musketeers secure a #1 seed.
#1 Purdue – Despite going 0-2 this week (Ohio State, Michigan State), the committee felt that the Boilermakers were deserving of the final top line. Purdue, benefitting from an easy schedule to finish the year, should be able to hold onto this spot, at least until the Big 10 tournament.
#2 Auburn – The Tigers have been one of the biggest surprises of this season. So far, they’ve shown themselves to be the clear cut top team in the SEC. Their only real test of the season remaining is a road trip to take on Florida, so as the top #2 seed, they should be sitting pretty come March.
#2 Kansas – This was one of the more surprising seedings from this release in my opinion. Kansas has struggled as of late, dropping two of their last three, and have dropped three games in Allen Fieldhouse this season, failing to defend their home court. Their saving grace is that they play in the toughest conference in all of basketball, the Big 12.
#2 Duke – This is another relative surprise, considering Duke has lost 3 of their last 5 games, including a loss to St. John’s. The Blue Devils make up for it, however, with a solid full body of work, including quality wins over Michigan State, Florida, Florida State, Miami, and Notre Dame. KenPom also projects that they’ll win their last seven regular season matchups, including Clemson and North Carolina.
#2 Cincinnati – Cincinnati may just be the hottest team in the nation right now. They’re on a ridiculously impressive 16-game win streak. Their main issue? Only four semi-quality wins (Houston, SMU x2, UCLA) thanks to a lack of depth in the American Athletic Conference. The Bearcats can help their cause with a road trip to Houston, and two games against Wichita State left on the schedule.
#3 Clemson – The Tigers have been another pleasant surprise this season. They’ve struggled a bit on the road in conference play (3-3), but have been lights out at home, including a win over North Carolina. Clemson will have to finish strong to keep their #3 seed, with matchups against Florida State (x2), Duke, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, and Syracuse left on the schedule.
#3 Texas Tech – This is something I didn’t think I’d be writing just a few months ago – we have essentially three weeks left in the regular season, and Texas Tech is in control of the Big 12. Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, there’s no conference with more parity than the Big 12, and anything can happen. They’ve still got Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Kansas, TCU, and West Virginia on the docket. It’s going to be a tough finish.
#3 Michigan State – This team is likely to become the AP #1 team come Monday thanks to several Top 3 losses and a huge win against #3 Purdue, but the Spartans’ full body of work doesn’t quite merit a #1 seed. They’ve lost most of their chances to make a real impression (Duke, Michigan, Ohio State), with Purdue and North Carolina as their only quality wins. With a cupcake schedule to end the year, there seems to be little room for movement in seeding left besides the Big 10 tournament.
#3 North Carolina – Talk about a team who’s had their fair share of highs and lows. The Tarheels quality wins include Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio State, Duke, Clemson, and Notre Dame, while their tough losses to NC State and Wofford (both at home) will continue to haunt them. However, they’ve got some tough teams to end the year (Duke, Miami, Louisville, Notre Dame, Syracuse), so they could see some improvement in this seed.
#4 Tennessee – The Volunteers have been another great surprise out of the SEC this season. Beginning with a strong showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis with a win over Purdue, the Vols have added Kentucky (x2) and Texas A&M to their list of quality wins. This is another team that has an easy path to the conference tournament, where they should have room to add a few more quality wins before the Madness.
#4 Ohio State – The Buckeyes have continued to find ways to shock the nation, with wins over Purdue, Michigan State, and Michigan, and they’ve gone an impressive 13-1 overall in conference play. They’ll have a few more shots at quality wins on the road at Michigan and in the Big 10 tournament, where they should enter as the #1 seed.
#4 Arizona – Following an extremely disappointing 0-3 showing in the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Wildcats have gotten back on track, catapulting to the top of an insanely lackluster Pac-12 conference. The main issue with the Wildcats is a lack of quality wins. KenPom only has them with three ‘A-rated’ wins, against Texas A&M, Utah, and UNLV. It’s certainly not a resume that will put them any higher than a #4 seed.
#4 Oklahoma – For me, this was the most shocking seed of all. The Sooners have gone 2-6 in their last eight games. Were they all quality losses? Yes. However, a 6-6 record in conference play, even with the best player in college basketball at your disposal (see Trae Young), shouldn’t merit a #4 seed. The committee will likely be taking a deeper look at their full body of work come Selection Sunday.
Speaking of Selection Sunday, we’re only four weeks away! Get ready for the most exciting time of the year: Bracket-Filling Season!