March Madness 2015: Updated Predictions for Top Projected Seeds

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2015

Kentuck's Willie Cauley-Stein, fourth from left, celebrates with teammates during a ceremony marking the teams undefeated regular season after an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, March 7, 2015, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 67-50. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
James Crisp/Associated Press

Even though it's been proved many times in the past that being a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament doesn't guarantee anything, there's still a large sense of pride teams take in being regarded as one of the top four teams in the country on Selection Sunday. 

As we enter the full madness of March with all of the major conference tournaments now underway, there's still time to convince the selection committee that you deserve to be on the top line. 

Before diving into the meat of which teams will be on the No. 1 line, it's imperative to mention that there really are only three spots available. Kentucky, regardless of what happens in the SEC tournament, is going to be the No. 1 overall seed and placed in the Midwest region. 

With Kentucky's position firmly set, here's a look at the teams in the mix for the other No. 1 seeds and predictions for where the wind will be blowing after all the conference tournaments are over. 

2015 NCAA Tournament Potential No. 1 Seeds
TeamRecordAP RankRPI RankStrength of ScheduleRecord vs. RPI Top 50
Virginia28-236248-2
Duke28-323129-2
Villanova29-2444711-1
Arizona28-357467-0
Gonzaga31-278826-2
Wisconsin28-365118-2
Kansas24-792111-6
via ESPN.com

 

Process of Elimination

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - JANUARY 31: Jahlil Okafor #15, Justise Winslow #12 and Tyus Jones #5 of the Duke Blue Devils celebrate following a late-three pointer by Jones against the Virginia Cavaliers at John Paul Jones Arena on January 31, 2015 in Charlottesv
Lance King/Getty Images

When you start to think about the No. 1 seeds, the arguments usually revolve around what teams haven't done instead of what they did. So let's break it down that way. 

For instance, despite ranking second in RPI and playing the most difficult schedule in the nation, Kansas feels like one of the longest shots to get a No. 1 seed simply because it has four more losses than any of the other teams in the mix. 

That's not to say there isn't a way the Jayhawks can't get to the No. 1 line. Winning the Big 12 tournament is essential, as it would pad some already impressive numbers pointed out by Michael DeCourcy of the Sporting News:

But even DeCourcy doesn't pretend to make an argument for the Jayhawks as a No. 1 seed in his response to the fan's question. 

The other long-shot No. 1 seed is Gonzaga. Mark Few's team is fighting a losing battle against recency bias, as the Bulldogs' last game was a win over BYU in the West Coast Conference title game on Tuesday. Their competitors hadn't even started their conference tournaments yet, so the selection committee will have more recent evidence of what teams such as Kansas, Arizona, Duke and Virginia can do. 

Whether it's fair or not, Gonzaga also has to battle the recent stigma of being a No. 1 seed in 2013 and nearly losing to Southern in the round of 64 before falling to Wichita State in its second game.

Plus, as Brendan Prunty of Sports Illustrated wrote on March 1, Gonzaga's regular-season loss to BYU likely ruined its shot for a No. 1 seed because the resume wasn't strong enough to support the lofty ranking:

Its best wins? At home against SMU in the second game of the season and against St. John's on a neutral court to win the Preseason NIT on Thanksgiving weekend. That's about it. The Bulldogs had already won the West Coast Conference regular-season title, clinched the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament next week, so for them getting a No. 1 seed was a fairly easy path: Just don't lose.

That leaves us with Virginia, Duke, Arizona, Wisconsin and Villanova fighting for three No. 1 spots. Now, instead of the negative, let's pay attention to what these teams have done. 

Virginia is in an interesting spot, simply because of injuries leaving the team in a vulnerable situation heading into the most important part of the year. Justin Anderson, who ranks second on the Cavaliers with 13.4 points per game and shoots 48 percent from the floor, is recovering from an appendectomy. 

If Tony Bennett's team loses early in the ACC tournament and Anderson's recovery takes long enough that he may miss the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, the selection committee could elevate another team playing well. 

It seems unlikely that all those things will happen, especially since the Cavaliers are ranked third in the AP Top 25 and fourth in the USA Today Top 25, so Virginia stays on the No. 1 line. 

As far as Duke, a team that Virginia knows very well, Michael Beller of Sports Illustrated noted on March 9 the Blue Devils' overall body of work may be more impressive than their ACC rival:

Duke went 10-2 against the top 50. Virginia went 8-2. Duke won four games against top-20 teams and seven against the top 30. Virginia won three and five, respectively, against those groups. Virginia is two slots ahead of Duke in RPI, and three in kenpom.com rankings, but the Blue Devils played a harder schedule. The one place where the Cavaliers really have an edge is in the loss department. Virginia’s only losses were to Duke and Louisville. 

There's also the matter of Duke's head-to-head win on January 31 over Virginia on the Cavaliers' home floor that should keep the Blue Devils as a No. 1 as long as they don't fall on their face early in the ACC tournament. 

This gives us Kentucky, Duke and Virginia as three of the four No. 1 seeds. Arizona, Wisconsin and Villanova suddenly become three teams fighting for one spot, though it's hard to argue for Arizona or Wisconsin in this scenario. 

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 7: Josh Hart #3, JayVaughn Pinkston #22, Darrun Hilliard #4, Ryan Arcidiacono #15 and Phil Booth #5 of the Villanova Wildcats celebrate with the Big East Regular Season Championship Trophy after defeating the St. John's Red Storm
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Jay Wright's group is ranked higher than Arizona and Wisconsin in both major polls with more wins against the RPI top 50 (11) than either of the main competitors. The Wildcats are only behind Kentucky, Kansas and Duke in the RPI rankings

Even though the Big East has lost a lot of marquee teams in recent years, the conference is still holding strong, trailing only the Big 12 in conference RPI rankings, via CBS Sports. By comparison, the Big Ten and Pac-12 rank fourth and sixth, so even if all things turn out equal this weekend, Villanova will still hold the edge. 

The best-case scenario for Wisconsin and Arizona to move up is if Villanova loses before the finals of the Big East tournament and those teams win their respective conference tournaments. It's not impossible but seems unlikely at this point with the Wildcats having won their first Big East tournament game against Marquette on Thursday. 

Final No. 1 seeds prediction: Kentucky (Midwest), Duke (East), Virginia (South), Villanova (West)

RPI Rankings via ESPN.com