Selection Sunday 2014: Predicting Most Shocking Seeds in NCAA Tournament

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2014

Kentucky head coach John Calipari speaks to players Aaron Harrison (2) and Andrew Harrison (5) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against LSU in the quarterfinal round of the Southeastern Conference men's tournament, Friday, March 14, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Steve Helber/Associated Press

When you think of Selection Sunday, the first thing that jumps out isn't the No. 1 seeds or a team like Duke being ranked higher than it should be just because of its name. It's the shocks and surprises where teams, either traditional powers or new upstarts, get slotted. 

Seeding isn't the be all and end all of the NCAA tournament. In fact, there are times when it gets overrated. Is it really the end of the world if Villanova is a No. 1 or 2 seed? It's still in the tournament and has one of the easiest paths, by seeding, to the Final Four. 

As the final conference championship tournaments end, a lot of seeds will change, for better or worse, in the next 24 hours. Here are our predictions for seeds that will cause more than a few jaws to drop. 


Syracuse Orange: Predicted No. 5 Seed 

Gerry Broome/Associated Press

This one won't be a surprise, though it is still shocking when you think of how quickly Syracuse has fallen. After a 25-0 start, Jim Boeheim's crew ended the season with five losses in seven games. 

More alarming is the way Syracuse has been losing. The offense, which was never very good to being with, has fallen off a cliff averaging just 60 points per game. 

After losing to North Carolina State in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament, Syracuse's projected seed jumped all over the place. ESPN's Joe Lunardi has the Orange as a No. 3 seed in the South Region. 

That's an optimistic projection.

CBS Sports' Jerry Palm has Syracuse ranked as a No. 4 seed in the West. That seems more in line with where the Orange belong based on how they've played lately, though there are still enough seeds moving around based on remaining conference title games that should push them down one more line. 

It's amazing to see a team go from the likely No. 1 overall seed to playing in one of the dreaded 5-12 matchups on the first weekend. But what on Syracuse's resume suggests it belongs anywhere else right now?


Kentucky Wildcats: Predicted No. 4 Seed 

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 14:  Aaron Harrison #2 of the Kentucky Wildcats reacts after hitting a three-point basket against the LSU Tigers during the quarterfinals of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at Georgia Dome on March 14, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (P
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Normally Kentucky being a No. 4 seed would be surprising in a negative way, because the Wildcats are one of the most storied programs in college basketball history. 

In fact, John Calipari's freshman class was basically anointed champions before the season began. Eric Prisbell of USA Today was one of many to proclaim a group that included Julius Randle, Andrew and Aaron Harrison the greatest class in modern history. 

With Randle, Kentucky’s recruiting class, which also includes touted twin brothers Andrew and Aaron Harrison of the Houston area, is widely regarded as the best in the modern era of college basketball, eclipsing the famed “Fab Five” from Michigan more than two decades ago.

Of course, that "Fab Five" group stayed together for two years. There's no way Kentucky's class will last beyond this season, so the odds of winning a championship rest on an accelerated development curve. 

The reason a No. 4 seed this particular year qualifies as a good surprise is where the Wildcats were last year, when another stellar recruiting class never came together and wound up playing in the NIT, and how impressive they have looked at times this year, like against LSU in the SEC quarterfinals. 

One more win would likely lock up a top-five seed, with a potential matchup against Florida in the SEC championship final looming as the only major stumbling block between the Wildcats and the four line. 


Michigan State Spartans: Predicted No. 4 Seed

EAST LANSING, MI - FEBRUARY 06:  Adreian Payne #5 of the Michigan State Spartans walks on the floor for Senior night with Lacey Holsworth, a 8-year-old from St. Johns Michigan who is battling cancer, after defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes 86-76 at the Jack T.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

We all know what Tom Izzo is capable of when the calendar turns to March, but, based on the resume from the regular season, can anyone explain why Michigan State warrants anything higher than a No. 5 seed?

The Spartans finished behind Michigan and Wisconsin, two very-good-not-great teams, in the Big Ten. They are 27th in RPI, behind teams looking at a lower seed like Gonzaga, Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Michigan State's strength of schedule, usually a strong point in its favor, ranks 46th this season and its best wins are against teams like Ohio State, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Texas.

Izzo's crew was a mediocre 5-6 in the last 11 regular season games before defeating a 14-19 Northwestern team in the Big Ten tournament. They have battled injuries all year long, most notably to star guard Keith Appling, but that doesn't change the resume they built.

With Appling and Branden Dawson back, the Spartans can put together a deep run. Yet their presence hasn't changed the mediocre defense this group has been playing virtually all year.


Note: All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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