The battle for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament appears to be a battle between three teams. But when you break down the respective resumes of each team, it is clear that one stands out above the rest.
The Indiana Hoosiers came into the season as the best team in the country. They made it through the best conference in the country with a 26-5 overall record (14-4 in the Big Ten) and won the regular season conference title.
Just looking at what the other two candidates (Gonzaga and Duke) have to offer, neither team can match that. When you dig even deeper into the numbers, it becomes clear that Indiana has already done enough to be the top team in the NCAA Tournament.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.com
|STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE|
|1. Duke (No. 1 overall)|
|2. Indiana (No. 11 overall)|
|3. Gonzaga (No. 95 overall)|
Gonzaga has gotten by playing one of the easiest schedules of any team in the Top 25. The reputation the program has built over the last 15 years has gotten the Bulldogs to the top of the rankings this season, but it is clear, based on the schedule played, that Duke and Indiana are far superior.
It may surprise some people to see that Duke played the toughest schedule in the country, just because our perception of the ACC now really isn't that high. You have to remember that the Blue Devils played Louisville, Ohio State, VCU and Minnesota in non-conference games this season.
The top of Indiana's schedule is better than Duke's, with Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin making up seven of the team's 18 Big Ten games. Victories over Georgetown and North Carolina out of conference also strengthen the resume.
|RECORD VS. RPI TOP 50|
|1. Duke (10-2)|
|2. Gonzaga (6-2)|
|3. Indiana (8-5)|
You can look at this argument in two different ways. On the one hand, Indiana did have the worst record among the top three candidates for the No. 1 overall seed this season. But it is also important to note that all five of Indiana's losses this season came against teams in the RPI Top 50.
Duke lost four games this season, two of them against teams outside the top 50 (Maryland and Virginia). Both Maryland and Virginia are in the RPI Top 100, but Maryland is in the lower quarter of that group (No. 77 overall).
Gonzaga had the fewest games against the RPI Top 50 among this trio, losing both of its games this season against teams in that group (Illinois and Butler).
Both those losses looked good at the time for Gonzaga, as Illinois started the season 14-1 before going into Big Ten play and finishing the season 8-10. Butler has gone just 8-4 in its last 12 games and fallen out of the Top 25.
The selection committee is going to wait until after the conference tournaments have been settled to determine where teams stand. Duke certainly looks a lot more formidable thanks to the return of Ryan Kelly.
But when you factor in the schedule that Indiana played during the regular season, both in and out of conference, and the fact that the Big Ten was far superior, top to bottom, to both the ACC and West Coast Conference, there really is no contest for the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.