NCAA Tournament 2019: Predictions for Top Seeds Ahead of Bracket Reveal

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 16, 2019

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 15: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils during their game in the semifinals of the 2019 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Spectrum Center on March 15, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The competition for the four No. 1 seeds in the 2019 NCAA men's basketball tournament became a bit more interesting following the results at the ACC tournament. 

With Virginia falling in the semifinals to Florida State and Duke avenging a pair of regular-season losses to North Carolina, the door is open for the Blue Devils to land the No. 1 overall seed on Selection Sunday. 

Since Virginia and Gonzaga both failed to win their respective conference tournaments, they might be forced down on the No. 1 seed line by Duke or Kentucky, with the latter still alive in the SEC tournament. 

Duke can make another statement to the selection committee if it wins the ACC tournament, while Kentucky has a massive SEC tournament semifinal clash with Tennessee on Saturday that could determine which seed it lands. 


Predictions for Top Seeds


With Zion Williamson back in the lineup, Duke is making a compelling case to be the No. 1 overall seed. 

The Blue Devils were dominant in Thursday's win over Syracuse, and they beat North Carolina, who defeated them twice without Williamson, in Friday's ACC tournament semifinals. 

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 15: Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils waits for a rebound with Luke Maye #32 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game in the semifinals of the 2019 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Spectrum Center on M
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It might hurt Duke's cause that Florida State is its opponent in the ACC tournament final since a head-to-head showdown with Virginia might have meant more to the selection committee, which must now consider how it measures Mike Krzyzewski's team from the stretch without Williamson. 

If the committee essentially gives the Blue Devils a pass because they were without their best player for three of their losses, the No. 1 overall seed could land in their lap. 

Duke can help its case with an ACC tournament title, but the debate between the Blue Devils and Virginia for the No. 1 overall seed could go up until the final hour before the selection Sshow. 

If Duke and Virginia are being measured head-to-head, the Blue Devils have to have the advantage based on their two regular-season wins over the Cavaliers. 



Not only did Virginia stumble in the ACC tournament semifinals against Florida State, it also lost the chance to avenge both losses to Duke.

Without a win over Duke, it's hard to see the Cavaliers overtaking the Blue Devils for the No. 1 overall seed, especially if Duke wins the ACC tournament final. 

Nell Redmond/Associated Press

Tony Bennett's team is still one of the top four teams in the nation, and there's a good chance it lands the second spot on the top seed line, but it's hard to look past the losses to Duke.

Virginia should see the Blue Devils in some capacity during the opening weekend of the Big Dance, as both ACC teams should be sent to Columbia, South Carolina. 

The biggest question after the seeding is deciding which side of the bracket the Cavaliers and Blue Devils land on. 

If they are the No. 1 and No. 2 overall seeds, they shouldn't meet until the national championship game, but if Virginia is valued less by some on the selection committee, it could drop to the No. 3 overall seed and stare down a potential Final Four matchup with Duke. 



Gonzaga has been watching the power conference tournaments unfold since Tuesday, when it unexpectedly lost to Saint Mary's in the West Coast Conference final. 

The loss didn't drop Mark Few's team from the top seed line, but it most likely knocked its overall seed to No. 3 or No. 4.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 12:  Rui Hachimura #21 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs drives against Malik Fitts #24 of the Saint Mary's Gaels during the championship game of the West Coast Conference basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on March 12, 2019 in Las
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The good news for the Zags is that North Carolina fell to Duke in the ACC tournament semifinals and one of Kentucky and Tennessee has to lose Saturday in the SEC tournament semifinals. 

Because at least two more contenders for No. 1 seeds won't have conference tournament titles on their resumes, the Bulldogs shouldn't be outmatched. 

If Gonzaga remains on the No. 1 seed line, which it should barring the devaluation of its overall body of work, it would be headed to Salt Lake City for the first two rounds and should headline the West region.



Now comes the difficult decision. 

Kentucky is likely to be compared with North Carolina for the final No. 1 seed, but it can gain an advantage by winning the SEC tournament final. 

The Wildcats can eliminate Tennessee from the top seed discussion with a second win over the Volunteers in the SEC tournament semifinals as well.

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

In addition to having two wins over Tennessee, John Calipari's team could finish its resume with a tournament win and a head-to-head victory over North Carolina from nonconference play. 

All of those factors should be enough for the Wildcats, but there could be a compelling case for the Tar Heels to earn the final No. 1 seed based on their performance in the ACC and their two victories over Duke. 

But Kentucky's resume should be enough for it to eke onto the top seed line and spend the first weekend of the Big Dance in Columbus, Ohio. 


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