Early Predictions for the No. 1 Seeds in 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament

C.J. Moore@@CJMooreHoopsCollege Basketball National Lead WriterMarch 5, 2014

Early Predictions for the No. 1 Seeds in 2014 NCAA Basketball Tournament

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    Peter Aiken/Getty Images

    It doesn't make a lot of sense that whether Wichita State deserves a No. 1 seed is even a debate—in another year, maybe, but not this year.

    The Shockers, in my estimation, are one of the easy choices for the selection committee. What will be hard is figuring out the fourth team to get a top seed over the next two weeks. 

    As many as nine teams are still in the running for a No. 1 seed, and the teams currently in consideration this week for the final spot could conceivably end up as No. 3 seeds. (Syracuse fans sadly nod.)

    Let's look at the possible scenarios and who needs to do what to get on the top line.

    All RPI numbers are as of Tuesday, March 4, and come from CBSSports.com

    *An asterisk next to an opponent indicates the game was played on a neutral court.


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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Record: 27-2

    RPI: 1

    Best Wins (Opponents' RPI Rank in Parentheses): *Duke (9), at Michigan (12), at UCLA (20), at San Diego State (22)

    Worst Losses: at California (50), at Arizona State (28)

    The Case for Arizona

    No matter the metric—RPI, BPI, KenPom.com or Sagarin—Arizona is No. 1.

    It has a built-in excuse for at least one of its losses—starter Brandon Ashley got hurt in the opening minutes at Cal—and Sean Miller's team was still trying to figure out how to play without Ashley in the loss at Arizona State.

    It appears the Wildcats have figured it out. They've been extremely impressive in their last three wins, beating three teams that could end up in the NCAA tournament (Colorado, California and Stanford) by a combined 68 points. 

    And in addition to looking like the best team, they should be rewarded for being willing to go on the road against quality teams in the nonconference (at San Diego State and at Michigan) and winning those games. 

    What Needs to Happen

    Arizona could still lose once or twice and probably still end up as a No. 1 seed. To get the top overall seed, the Wildcats control their own destiny and could still get there with a loss if Florida also loses one more game.


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    Phil Sandln/Associated Press

    Record: 28-2

    RPI: 3

    Best Wins: Kansas (2), at Kentucky (18), Memphis (31)

    Worst Loss: at Connecticut (26)

    The Case for Florida

    Unless the Gators totally flop in the next two weeks, they're a lock at a No. 1 seed.

    Not only are the Gators the lone team to go undefeated in a major conference, neither of their two nonconference losses were bad losses, and both came with at least one rotation guy out of the lineup.

    What Needs to Happen

    The Gators could get a No. 1 seed even if they lose to Kentucky and lose in the SEC tourney. To get the No. 1 overall seed, there's still work to be done. Their two losses are against better opponents than Arizona's two losses, but Arizona has more quality wins. Florida may need to win out and have Arizona lose at least one more game to get that No. 1 spot.

Wichita State

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    Peter Aiken/Getty Images

    Record: 31-0

    RPI: 6

    Best Wins: at Saint Louis (17), *BYU, Tennessee (47)

    Worst Losses: None

    The Case for Wichita State

    A year ago, Gonzaga was also ranked sixth in the RPI and got a No. 1 seed with two losses.

    The Shockers do not have as many quality wins as the other teams in consideration, but their win at Saint Louis is one of the most impressive road wins by any team in the country all year. Their nonconference schedule also stands up against the others in consideration. At 34th, Wichita State played a tougher nonconference than Arizona (37), Villanova (48) and Syracuse (96).

    If the Shockers played nobodies in the nonconference and were nowhere near the Top 10 in RPI, I could understand there being a debate here. But, right now, there's no arguing perfection.

    What Needs to Happen

    Win the Missouri Valley Conference tourney. If the Shockers do that, a No. 1 seed is a given. If they lose, they would still be in the conversation, but then, and only then, does it become a debate.


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    Record: 22-7

    RPI: 2

    Best Wins: Duke (9), at Iowa State (11), Iowa State, *New Mexico (14), at Oklahoma (21), Oklahoma, Texas (24)

    Worst Losses: at Oklahoma State (42), at Kansas State (37), at Colorado (30)

    The Case for Kansas

    The Jayhawks played the toughest nonconference schedule, the Big 12 is the top-rated league according to the RPI, and they could end up winning the league by three or four games.

    That schedule has given the Jayhawks plenty of opportunities for quality wins, and they lead the country in that department with an NCAA-best seven wins against the RPI Top 25 and 12 against the Top 50.

    The knock against KU is the seven losses, but the committee will consider this: Could any other team in the country play that schedule and fare any better?

    What Needs to Happen

    History says the Jayhawks need to win out. Three teams have had seven losses and gotten a No. 1 seed—Michigan State in 2000, Illinois in 2001 (coached by Bill Self) and Michigan State in 2012—but an eight-loss team has never been on the top line.

    It is conceivable, however, for the Jayhawks to pull it off. If they were to lose at West Virginia on Saturday, a game they will play without starting center Joel Embiid, and then go on to win the Big 12 tournament, they will have swept the titles for the toughest league in the country and could have as many as nine wins over RPI Top 25 teams without a bad loss on the resume.


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    Record: 25-5

    RPI: 10

    Best Wins: Syracuse (7), North Carolina (19), *SMU (40)

    Worst Losses: at Green Bay (49), at Tennessee (47)

    The Case for Virginia

    Out of the conferences in the Top five of the RPI (Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12, Big East and ACC), Virginia has the best conference record. So that's something.

    The committee, however, looks at the entire resume, and Virginia's doesn't exactly stack up with the other contenders in that regard. The Cavaliers are only 3-5 against the RPI Top 50, and none of those three wins was on the road. They have avoided bad losses; they're just lacking in the quality-win department.

    But don't count the 'Hoos out just yet.

    What Needs to Happen

    Virginia could get two more chances at Top 50 wins in the ACC tournament with possible matchups in the semis and championship with Duke, UNC or Syracuse.

    Let's say Virginia ends up playing Syracuse in that championship game and wins. Which team would the committee favor?

    Under this scenario (assuming a Duke, UNC, Syracuse and Virginia final four in the ACC tourney), the resumes would look like this:

    • Virginia: 5-5 versus RPI Top 50; no bad losses
    • Syracuse: 6-3 versus RPI Top 50; two bad losses (BC and Georgia Tech)

    Considering Virginia would have swept Syracuse and lost one game since the calendar changed to 2014, Tony Bennett's team could make the best case of the ACC teams to grab that last No. 1 seed.


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    Rich Barnes/Getty Images

    Record: 24-5

    RPI: 5

    Best Wins: Florida (3), at Virginia (10), at Michigan (12), *Saint Louis (17), Michigan State (23)

    Worst Losses: Northwestern (130), at Indiana (79), at Minnesota (46)

    The Case for Wisconsin

    Much like Kansas, Wisconsin has had a chance to load up on quality wins because of its schedule.

    The difference between the Jayhawks and the Badgers is the Jayhawks have been able to avoid a bad loss, while Wisconsin lost to three teams that likely will miss the tourney.

    What Needs to Happen

    If you're just comparing KU and Wisconsin at this point, KU gets the nod. That's why the Badgers need some help from the Big 12 to get considered. But if KU loses an eighth game and the Badgers win out and win the Big Ten tourney, their number of quality wins could get them the final No. 1 seed.


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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Record: 23-6

    RPI: 9

    Best Wins: Syracuse (7), Virginia (10), Michigan (12), *UCLA (20)

    Worst Losses: at Clemson (72), Notre Dame (116)

    The Case for Duke

    Duke has a similar resume to Virginia, except a majority of its losses took place early in the conference season instead of in the nonconference.

    Out of all the ACC teams in consideration, the Blue Devils already have the best wins—four against the RPI Top 20—and the most to gain...

    What Needs to Happen

    The reason the Blue Devils have the most to gain is they get a second shot against North Carolina on Saturday. If they win that and then go on to win the ACC tournament, they could end up with as many as seven wins against Top 20 teams in the RPI. Not even Kansas would be able to make that claim.


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    Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 26-3

    RPI: 4

    Best Wins: *Kansas (2), Saint Joseph's (34), Iowa (38)

    Worst Losses: None

    The Case for Villanova

    In terms of quality losses, no one can top the Wildcats. They've lost at Syracuse and twice to Creighton.

    Unfortunately for the Wildcats, outside of their win against Kansas, they're lacking in quality wins. They beat Iowa in the Battle 4 Atlantis, but Iowa has fallen off lately. They've beat up on the Big East, but some of the teams that were expected to be tourney-caliber (Marquette, St. John's and Georgetown) have not lived up to expectations.

    What Needs to Happen

    Villanova needs to win out and for one of those wins to come over Creighton in the Big East title game. The Wildcats may also need Kansas, Virginia, Duke and Wisconsin to lose in their conference tournaments.


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    Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    Record: 26-4

    RPI: 7

    Best Wins: Villanova (4), Duke (9), North Carolina (19)

    Worst Losses: Boston College (175), Georgia Tech (173)

    The Case for Syracuse

    On win No. 25 after a come-from-behind, one-point victory over NC State, Jim Boeheim acknowledged that the record said 25-0 but his team was more like a 20-5 club. 

    Oh Boeheim, you fortuneteller you.

    The Orange have now lost four of five, and all those close wins (five by five points or less) really were a sign that Boeheim's team wasn't as good as the record showed.

    If a metric were used that measured not just if you won but by how much, like Ken Pomeroy's ratings, the Orange would be on the No. 3-line right now. (Pomeroy had Syracuse ranked No. 11 entering Tuesday.)

    Heck, the Orange could be headed in that direction.

    But to the benefit of Syracuse, all of those close wins that made the record look better than the actual product will be viewed by the committee just like comfy 10-point wins, and there's still time to get back in the hunt.

    What Needs to Happen

    A win on the road on Sunday at Florida State is a must. The Seminoles are ranked 57th by the RPI, so it's not going to be a huge resume-builder, but this team needs something good to happen.

    Win that, Boeheim can do what he did best last year: start with a clean slate in the postseason. The Orange also have the benefit of the committee considering that the loss to Georgia Tech and a majority of the Duke and Virginia games were played without Jerami Grant.

    Go out and win the ACC tournament, and Syracuse would have a 30-4 record (assuming an FSU win), an excuse for three of its losses and the possibility of getting two more wins against UNC, Duke or Virginia.

    If other candidates lose in their conference tournaments, it's still within reason for the Orange to get back to the top line. It's just hard to fathom right now. 

    C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @CJMooreBR.