Ranking the Most Likely No. 1 Seeds in the 2013 NCAA Tournament
At this point in most college basketball seasons, the No. 1 seeds are already set.
Conference tournaments might influence how the No. 1 seeds are ranked or decide between the two teams for the final spot, but it's rare we enter the final weekend without a clear picture.
Well, this isn't most seasons.
As many as 10 teams could still end up as a No. 1 seed and only one team figures to be a lock, and that's because that one team (Gonzaga) is out of games.
Two things to consider as we try to predict the No. 1 seeds:
- In the last five seasons, all but one of the No. 1 seeds has either won its conference's regular season or won the conference tournament.
- No No. 1 seed in the past five seasons has finished below second place in its conference.
With those two criteria in mind, here is the order of the teams most likely to end up a No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday.
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Record: 25-6 (12-6 Big Ten)
The Case For Michigan: If any team on this list can claim luck has not been on its side, it's Michigan. The Wolverines lost by three at Ohio State, lost at Wisconsin in a game that went to overtime because of a runner three from about 30 feet at the buzzer and were a roll of the ball away from winning against Indiana last weekend and sharing the Big Ten title.
Michigan went undefeated in the nonconference with a trio of good wins against Pittsburgh, Kansas State and North Carolina State.
The Case Against Michigan: The Wolverines are a long shot for two reasons: the loss at Penn State (RPI: 182) and being tied for fourth in the Big Ten.
Prediction: Michigan will end up as the best overall No. 3 seed. Winning the Big Ten tournament would get the Wolverines up to the No. 2 line and in the conversation for a No. 1 only if a lot of teams in front of them lose early.
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Record: 24-6 (14-4 SEC)
The reason is that when the Gators do win, they win big. All 24 of their victories have come by double digits, including nonconference wins against Wisconsin, Marquette and Middle Tennessee.
The Case Against Florida: The Gators cannot win close games, and they did not finish strong in the SEC, losing three of their final six. They were without important reserve Will Yeguete in much of three of their losses (he played one minute at Arkansas). Since Yeguete comes off the bench, it will be tough to convince the committee he could have had a Ryan Kelly-like influence on those games.
Prediction: Florida has less to gain with a conference tournament title than the other teams involved because of how weak the SEC is this season—ranked eighth by the RPI.
The Gators would have to be dominant this weekend and also see a lot of teams in front of them lose and lose early. The most likely best-case scenario for Florida is a No. 2 seed.
8. Michigan State
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Record: 24-7 (13-5 Big Ten)
The Case For Michigan State: The Spartans beat every team in the Big Ten except Indiana. They also had solid nonconference wins against Kansas and Boise State, although their nonconference slate was not as difficult as some of coach Tom Izzo's past schedules.
They do have the fifth-best strength of schedule, and there are no bad losses on the resume.
The Case Against Michigan State: Michigan State is the only team in the mix with a losing record (4-6) against the RPI Top 25.
Prediction: Since Indiana swept Michigan State and won the Big Ten title outright, MSU is not passing IU even with a Big Ten tournament title. The Spartans would need to win the Big Ten tourney combined with Kansas, Louisville and Georgetown all losing in their conference tourneys.
Expect to see the Spartans as either a No. 2 or 3 seed regardless of what happens this weekend.
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Record: 24-5 (14-4 Big East)
The Case For Georgetown: Louisville will appear higher on this list, but really, there's not much separating the two teams. Both Big East champions went through a funk (Georgetown started 2-3 in the Big East). Both had one loss in the nonconference against one of the top teams in the nation on a neutral court (Georgetown lost to Indiana).
The reason the Cardinals are higher on this list is that they have a few more good wins in the nonconference. The Hoyas do have a two-point win at home against Louisville, but that's not enough to catapult them to the No. 1 line.
However, if the Hoyas win the Big East tournament, they should pass the Cardinals.
The Case Against Georgetown: Georgetown joins Kansas and Michigan as teams near the top with a real stinker on the resume. For the Hoyas, it was a loss at South Florida, which currently sits at 145 in the RPI.
Prediction: The Hoyas will get a No. 2 seed. If they win the Big East tournament, they could get to the No. 1 line so long as Kansas does not win the Big 12 tournament. Kansas, like Louisville, had a better nonconference resume.
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Record: 24-6 (15-3 ACC)
The Case For Miami: The Hurricanes won the ACC by a game, and their 27-point win against Duke in Coral Gables was one of the most impressive wins of the year. Miami also has one of the better records against the top teams in the RPI, going 4-2 against the top 25, 6-2 against the top 50 and 14-4 against the top 100.
Losing three of the last five to end the regular season did not help, but if Miami was able to win the ACC tournament, it would be difficult to justify slotting Duke on the No. 1 line instead of Miami.
The Case Against Miami: Out of all the teams vying for a No. 1 seed, the Hurricanes performed the worst in the nonconference season. Even with a win against Michigan State, it's hard to look past the three losses: at Florida Gulf Coast and against Arizona and Indiana State on a neutral court.
Prediction: Duke will win the ACC tournament, and Miami will end up as a No. 2 or 3 seed. If the 'Canes make the ACC final, they should end up as a No. 2.
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Record: 26-5 (14-4 Big 12)
The Case For Kansas: The Jayhawks have been really good against good teams. They are 11-3 against the RPI Top 50 and 5-2 against the RPI Top 25.
Kansas played a solid nonconference schedule and has good wins against Saint Louis, Colorado, Belmont, Temple and at Ohio State. The only other team to win in Columbus this year is Indiana.
The Jayhawks also finished tied for first in the Big 12 and have notable road wins at Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Iowa State.
The Case Against Kansas: The loss at TCU: It's the 10,000-pound elephant in the room. The Horned Frogs rank 230 in the RPI.
Kansas also finished the regular season with a stinker at Baylor, but that one was at least conceivable—the Bears are a talented team that has underachieved. The TCU loss makes you want to shower.
Prediction: The Jayhawks have the most to gain this weekend. With a Big 12 tourney win, they have a good shot at a No. 1 seed.
Unfortunately, that's not going to be so easy.
Assuming the Jayhawks get past Texas Tech, they'll play one of two teams they don't match up well against in Oklahoma or Iowa State—both teams have big men who can pull Jeff Withey away from the basket and out of his comfort zone.
A possible championship game against Oklahoma State, which beat KU in Lawrence, would also be a tough one to win.
Regardless of what happens, expect Kansas to be one of the top two seeds on the S curve and end up in the South region.
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Record: 26-5 (14-4 Big East)
The Case For Louisville: Louisville won 10 of its last 11 games in the Big East and picked a good time to be in a rut. The Cardinals lost three straight games from Jan. 19 through Jan. 26, but enough time has passed and they've done well enough since that they will not be penalized as much as if it happened recently.
Louisville also had the best nonconference resume of any of the three Big East champions. The Cardinals beat Missouri in the Bahamas, won at Memphis and also beat Kentucky at home.
The one loss in the nonconference was against Duke in the Battle 4 Atlantis finals, and Louisville played that game without starting center Gorgui Dieng.
The Case Against Louisville: At this point, this is the Cardinals' spot to lose, but they could lose it very easily. For instance, if Kansas wins the Big 12 tournament and Louisville does not win the Big East tournament, it's likely Rick Pitino's squad will drop a line. Louisville has the advantage of controlling its own destiny; there's just not a lot of wiggle room there.
Prediction: Louisville is the hottest team in the Big East, and Pitino's defense is good enough to survive and advance even when his team doesn't play its best game. Look for the Cardinals to win the Big East tournament for the second straight year and get the No. 1 seed in the South.
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Record: 27-4 (14-4 ACC)
The Case For Duke: Duke played the toughest schedule in the nonconference (according to the RPI) and went undefeated, including six wins over top-50 teams.
The Blue Devils also can play the Ryan Kelly card with their four losses. The committee will not completely throw those losses out or try to imagine what would have happened with Kelly, but it is taken into consideration that Kelly was injured.
Even if Kelly had played the entire season, Duke would still be here. That's probably the best argument at slotting Duke as a No. 1.
The Case Against Duke: In the last five seasons, only three teams have been No. 1 seeds that did not finish first or tied for first in their conference. Two of those teams tied for second in the Big East, and that season (2009), the Big East received three No. 1 seeds. The other was Duke in 2011.
Like that season, the Blue Devils simply have a better overall resume than their conference champ—it was UNC that year—because they had a much better nonconference season. Duke also won the ACC tournament in 2011, and winning the ACC tourney this year would lock up a No. 1 seed.
Prediction: Duke will be the No. 1 overall seed and be placed in the East region. The Blue Devils need to win the ACC tourney to make this happen, but at this point, their overall resume is the best. If Miami wins the ACC tourney and the other teams at the top win their conference tourneys, it is conceivable that the Devils fall to a No. 2 seed.
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Record: 26-5 (14-4 Big Ten)
The Case For Indiana: The Hoosiers won the best league in the country outright.
Nonconference wins against Georgetown and North Carolina both look better now than they did at the time and also bolster Indiana's resume. Plus, the Hoosiers do not have any bad losses, as all five teams that have beat them will likely make the bracket.
The Case Against Indiana: There's not a good one. Even if the Hoosiers lost their first game in the Big Ten tourney, winning the best league in the country outright should keep them a No. 1 seed.
Prediction: The Hoosiers will be the No. 1 seed in the Midwest. They are also still in play for the No. 1 overall seed. If they win the Big Ten tourney and Duke loses in the ACC tourney, expect the Hoosiers to get the top spot.
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Record: 31-2 (16-0 WCC)
The Case For Gonzaga: Don't mistake this appearance in the top spot as a prediction that the Zags will end up as the overall No. 1 seed. The reason the Zags are here is because they cannot hurt themselves anymore; their conference tourney has already ended. And don't fault them for their conference.
The Zags deserve to be a No. 1 no matter what anyone thinks of the WCC. They have the best overall record in the country and have done well against good teams. They have a solid 6-2 record against the RPI Top 25 and 12-2 record against the RPI Top 100.
If you want to play the "Gonzaga could not hang in a major conference" game, the Zags went 5-0 against the Big 12, and four of those wins were against likely NCAA tourney teams.
Both of Gonzaga's losses also came to likely NCAA tournament teams, and the loss at Butler could have easily gone Gonzaga's way. In fact, the Zags lost on a semi-controversial no-call when Roosevelt Jones pushed Kelly Olynyk to steal the ball and hit the game-winner at the buzzer.
The Case Against Gonzaga: The WCC is the 10th-best conference according to the RPI.
That's it. That's the case.
And in a year where no one else has really dominated, keeping the Zags from being a No. 1 would not make much sense. The human rankings are not supposed to matter, but that No. 1 ranking next to Gonzaga's name certainly doesn't hurt.
Prediction: Zags get the No. 1 seed out West.