Hello, college basketball fans!
I posted last week an article about the race for No. 1 seeds. This is an updated version based on all the results up to Friday afternoon.
Before I begin, I'm starting to wonder about this format where almost every conference tournament has the No. 1 seed playing first on quarterfinal day.
Pittsburgh, Conference USA regular season champion UAB and Atlantic 10 regular season champion Xavier all lost. Meanwhile, Ohio State, North Carolina, Kansas, Mountain West regular season champion BYU and Missouri Valley regular season champion Missouri State survived huge scares.
Is it a disadvantage for top seeds to be the first to play in the day? Sure seems like it this season.
This is my personal opinion as to who is in the race for the No. 1 seeds and what has to happen.
Teams that don't need to win their tournaments to get a No. 1 seed
The Buckeyes didn't play like a No. 1 seed today for sure, but their body of work looks like they have done enough now to warrant a place on the top line even with a loss tomorrow. For sure, the Buckeyes will either win the crown or lose to a team that is going to the NCAAs (if Michigan or Illinois beats them, for sure it will make the field, and Michigan State or Penn State can only meet Ohio State in the final).
Since there is no Midwest Regional this year, Ohio State is shooting for the East Regional in Newark and should get priority at this point over potential challengers from the ACC (Duke or North Carolina) or the Big East (Notre Dame).
I think Kansas could be the most overrated team in college basketball. Consider that the only top-level team in the Big 12 Conference is Texas, and Kansas couldn't even beat Texas in Lawrence this year. What is Kansas' best conference win, a Kansas State team that lost to Colorado three times or a Texas A&M team that couldn't even beat Baylor?
If Kansas blows it tonight against Colorado, I think it could lose its No. 1 seed, and I would probably move Pittsburgh ahead of it. Kansas would probably lose about seven games in the Big East this year.
If Kansas doesn't win the Big 12 championship (in Kansas City, by the way), I would put Notre Dame, the ACC champion and even BYU over the Jayhawks (all of them would have to win though). Consider this: The best team that Kansas could lose to is Texas. Texas lost at home to Connecticut, the team that beat Pittsburgh in the Big East.
Teams that control their destinies for No. 1 seeds
The Fighting Irish finished second in the Big East (a conference that is projected to send 11 teams to the NCAA tournament and is unarguably the best and most competitive conference in college basketball), are the highest seed remaining and have a win at regular season champ Pittsburgh. I think they are a slam-dunk No. 1 if they win out (they will have to beat Louisville and either Connecticut or Syracuse to do so).
Duke or North Carolina
I think either team is in line for a No. 1 seed if it wins the ACC tournament. It will be hard for either to beat out Ohio State for the top seed in the East, and if Notre Dame wins the Big East, I think the winner (if it's one of the two) will likely have to go out West.
Teams that can get a No. 1 seed with help
I think their home loss to New Mexico hurt the Cougars' chances for a No. 1 seed. Assuming BYU wins tonight (if it doesn't win, BYU isn't getting a No. 1 seed anyway), it will have lost a home game to a team that won't even make the NCAA tournament. No other No. 1 seed candidate has done so. I would rank Pittsburgh over BYU even if BYU wins the MWC tournament.
I think they would need Notre Dame to lose and an upset winner (not Duke or North Carolina) in the ACC to have a chance. If the Cougars play like they did vs. TCU, they won't have to worry about contending for a No. 1 seed.
Pittsburgh clearly deserves a No. 1 seed, and if the selection committee decides to reward regular season champions over tournament champions (Notre Dame and/or Duke), it may still be able to get a top seed. It most likely can kiss the East Regional No. 1 goodbye, though, and it has to go out West to be a No. 1 seed.
Purdue, Syracuse, Texas and San Diego State
These teams need a lot of help. Purdue shot itself in the foot with a loss at Iowa to end the regular season, and I don't think any of the others did enough before their tournaments to warrant a No. 1 seed even if they win their conference tournaments.
East: Ohio State (most likely overall No. 1 seed)
Historically Duke has done better in the ACC tournament (four championships in six years), and today's performance has me thinking Roy Williams is indifferent towards winning the tournament even though it likely will get them a No. 1 seed. Remember that the last two North Carolina teams that won the national championship lost in the ACC semifinals.
Notre Dame is a great team, but the Big East is too competitive, and favorites have a tough time at Madison Square Garden (the favorite this year already lost). Also keep in mind the Fighting Irish have never even played in the Big East final, let alone won it.
I think Ohio State will be hard to move from the East. No one else wants to go to the Southwest, so assuming Kansas is a No. 1, you have to like its chances to be there. I think Notre Dame has priority over either Duke or North Carolina for the race for the Southeast Regional (to avoid going out West).