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Predicting College Basketball's No. 1 Seeds for March Madness

Nick JuskewyczContributor IIIOctober 9, 2016

Predicting College Basketball's No. 1 Seeds for March Madness

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    Selection Sunday is only 11 days away, and yet, there are no teams that are locks for No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament.

    Indiana has lost two of its last three games, Gonzaga might need to win the West Coast Conference Tournament to earn a No. 1 seed.

    The gap is small between Miami and Duke in the ACC. Kansas and Georgetown are getting hot at the right time.

    The rest of the Big Ten keeps beating up on each other.

    It's a season with little separation between the good teams and the great teams, which is generally the formula for crazy upsets and phenomenal finishes in the NCAA tournament.

    Here is how the selection committee should sort this chaos out.

West: Gonzaga

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    Current Record: 29-2

    It's as simple as this. If the Gonzaga Bulldogs win the WCC Tournament, they are a lock for the overall No. 1 seed. 

    The biggest concern critics bring up with the Bulldogs is their 73rd ranked strength of schedule.

    Gonzaga has won six games inside the RPI Top 100 in conference play, which is one more than Duke and just as many as Michigan through March 5.

    Outside of the West Coast Conference, the Zags have won five games inside the RPI Top 100, with three of them ranked 26th or higher. Those three wins came against Big 12 opponents Oklahoma and Kansas State on a neutral court, with the last coming at Oklahoma State. 

    The two losses the Bulldogs suffered were at home against Illinois on December 8 and at Butler on January 19.

    The Illini were in the middle of a 12-0 start to the season and Brandon Paul had his best game of the year by dropping 35 points.

    Butler won on a contested, off-balance floater as time expired (per ESPN).

    It's also not like the Zags have been squeaking by opponents on a regular basis. The Bulldogs are third in the nation in scoring margin, winning by an average of 18.4 points per game. 

    Gonzaga has a resume an overall No. 1 seed should have, a 12-game winning streak, an RPI ranking inside the Top 10, 11 total wins inside the RPI Top 100 and no bad losses.

    The only thing missing is a WCC Tournament title. 

    The Bulldogs are on fire and no one is going to sneak up on the No. 1 team in the nation in the WCC Tournament. Gonzaga is the first team announced on Selection Sunday.

East: Duke

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    Current Record: 26-4

    It's only been two games since the return of Ryan Kelly, but the Duke Blue Devils look like a completely different team with him back in the lineup.

    Not only does Kelly provide an offensive spark inside and outside, but he helps on the glass for a Blue Devils team that ranks 227th in rebounding margin.

    The resume is impressive.

    Currently, Duke is No. 1 in the RPI, has the No. 1 strength of schedule and has six wins inside the RPI Top 25. The Blue Devils also have no bad losses and the only time they were blown out was at Miami in January.

    Duke has a tough test at North Carolina this weekend.

    While the Tar Heels have won their last five by an average of 13 points per game, UNC doesn't have enough to beat its instate rival.

    Kelly is on a roll, the balance of the Blue Devils will be too much for North Carolina's defense and an Austin Rivers buzzer beater won't be needed this time.   

    From there, Duke will win the ACC Tournament.

    The Blue Devils have dominated on the neutral court, going 6-0 with all of the opponents ranked 51st or better in the RPI. Duke also has experience with its three leading scorers all being seniors in Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee and Kelly.

    This will launch Duke all the way to the second No. 1 seed. 

    Also of note, the Blue Devils are especially dangerous in March Madness as a No. 1 seed.

    According to ESPN Stats and Information, Duke has won two national championships and made four Final Four appearances since 1995. Each time the Blue Devils were a No. 1 seed.

South: Kansas

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    Current Record: 26-4

    After an ugly stretch in early February, the Kansas Jayhawks have looked like a Final Four team.

    The only loss outside their three-game losing streak was on a neutral court against Michigan State in early November.

    Kansas has also won an impressive eight games against teams ranked 29th or higher in the RPI.

    Looking ahead, considering that Baylor has lost eight of its last 11, Kansas should have no problem against the Bears this weekend. 

    The one team Kansas wants to avoid the most in the Big 12 Tournament is Iowa State.

    The Cyclones had a late second-half lead in both contests earlier this season, but the Jayhawks found a miraculous way to win both affairs in overtime.

    Combining that with Iowa State as one of the prime teams on the bubble, the Jayhawks don't want any part of the Cyclones' motivation.

    Nonetheless, Elijah Johnson is stepping up his game and the Jayhawks are much better on both ends of the floor as a result. Kansas will take care of business in the Big 12 Tournament and earn the third No. 1 seed.

    Why wouldn't Kansas go to the Midwest region with that slot still available?

    Indianapolis is the host site for the Midwest while Arlington is the home for the South. According to Google Maps, the distance from Lawrence, KS to Indianapolis, IN is 521 miles while Lawrence, KS to Arlington, TX is 524 miles.

    Since the fourth No. 1 seed will be from the Midwest, the extra three miles is meaningless.

Midwest: Indiana

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    Current Record: 25-5

    Yes, the Indiana Hoosiers haven't been the sharpest recently. They have lost two of their last three and have to play at Michigan this weekend. 

    Even if Indiana loses to Michigan, the Hoosiers will snatch the fourth No. 1 seed.

    Regardless of its conference seed, Indiana will win the Big Ten Tournament. The Hoosiers still have the most diverse team in the conference and can attack teams multiple ways. 

    Indiana is going through a gauntlet to wrap up the regular season (at Michigan State, at Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio State, at Michigan) and a minor slump is perfectly reasonable with competition like that.

    The Hoosiers have seven wins against the RPI Top 25 (most in NCAA) and their five losses are against teams ranked 41st or better in the RPI. 

    What's also helping the Hoosiers is that they have beaten a lot of other teams who will be bidding for a No. 1 seed.

    They defeated Georgetown 82-72 in OT , are 2-0 against Michigan State and 1-0 against Michigan depending on their rematch, March 10.

    When Indiana wins the Big Ten Tournament just before the NCAA tournament bracket is announced, the Hoosiers will get the final No. 1 seed.

Why Not Us?

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    Midwest No. 2: Georgetown

    The Hoyas lose the argument to Indiana, thanks to the aforementioned loss to the Hoosiers.

    They have a bad loss to South Florida. They only have four wins in the RPI Top 25 through March 6.

    The No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament has only won the event twice in the last 10 years.  

    If Georgetown closes the regular season on a 13-game winning streak and wins the Big East Tournament, the Hoyas are clearly a No. 1 seed. But with games at Villanova and at home against Syracuse before the journey to Madison Square Garden, that's too much to ask. 

    Georgetown will lose one of its final two regular-season games and come up short in the Big East Tournament. 

    The Hoyas could get the opportunity to meet the Hoosiers again in the Elite Eight, in Indianapolis.

    South No. 2: Michigan

    Trey Burke has won some big games for the Wolverines at home in crunch time. However, Michigan has struggled against some of the bigger teams away from home.

    The Wolverines haven't won outside of Ann Arbor since January 27, with one of their losses coming against Penn State—their only conference win.

    Even if Michigan wins at Purdue and defeats Indiana at home to close the regular season, the Wolverines will exit early in the Big Ten Tournament.

    The lack of size will cost them on Friday or Saturday, and the Wolverines need to win the tournament if they want a No. 1 seed.

    East No. 2: Michigan State

    Michigan State is one of the four best teams in college basketball, but the Spartans don't deserve a No. 1 seed.

    Seven losses is just too many, even if the Big Ten is the best conference in the nation.

    If Michigan State wins out and takes home the Big Ten Tournament trophy, the Spartans will at least have a case for a No. 1 seed. Although, Indiana has beaten them twice this season and will make it a third time in the Big Ten Tournament finals. 

    West No. 2: New Mexico

    Florida, Louisville and Miami fans won't like this, but they should want to be closer to home anyways.

    New Mexico has arguably the most impressive resume in college basketball when it comes to consistency. The Lobos have knocked off 17 teams in the RPI Top 100 and will have a chance at an 18th when it travels to Air Force this weekend.

    New Mexico will win the Mountain West Tournament, finish on a 10-game win streak and have 20 total wins against the RPI Top 100.

    The selection committee will move the Lobos up to a No. 2 seed.

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