B/R CBB Community: Which Currently Ranked Team Will Immediately Lose in Tourney?January 27, 2022
In theory, every AP Top 25 team should win in the first round of the men's NCAA tournament.
In reality, it never works out that way.
Last March, seven of the teams that finished the year in the AP Top 25 immediately got knocked out of the Big Dance: No. 7 Ohio State, No. 9 Texas, No. 15 Virginia, No. 16 San Diego State, No. 20 Purdue, No. 23 BYU and No. 25 Virginia Tech. In the tourney before that, six ranked teams went down in the first round. And 2018 was the (in)famous year when No. 1 Virginia lost to UMBC.
Even in 2000 and 2007—the only years in which all 20 teams seeded Nos. 1-5 advanced to the second round—there was still at least one loss by a ranked team each year.
So it's not a question of whether there will be a ranked squad that loses in the first round, but rather a question of how many and which ones.
With that in mind, we asked B/R app users to let us know which currently ranked team they think is most likely to lose its first game this March.
Obviously, this week's ranked teams won't necessarily be ranked on Selection Sunday. And, obviously, not knowing the first-round matchups for these squads is a critical missing variable. But these are the AP Top 25 teams with some of the biggest question marks.
Down in the Bayou
@nced_3: "LSU. Overhyped. Only significant wins are against Tennessee (later lost to them) and half a Kentucky team. ... Average nonconference schedule the only reason for their record."
It's not at all surprising that No. 19 LSU was the most liked response. (Aside from the one from the person who just wrote "One of them.") The Tigers entered Wednesday's game against Texas A&M having lost consecutively to Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee—the latter of which wasn't even close.
Despite the recent skid, LSU leads the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency with an 81.5 rating that would be the best in KenPom history if the season ended today. (That record belongs to 2018-19 Texas Tech at 84.1.) No opponent has scored more than 70 points against LSU this season.
Of course, that was also true of Virginia in 2017-18 right up until that historic blowout loss to UMBC. And last year's leader in adjusted defensive efficiency (Memphis) didn't even make the NCAA tournament.
Moreover, with the exception of sixth-man extraordinaire Tari Eason, LSU leaves a lot to be desired on the offensive end. The Tigers are well outside the top 100 in adjusted offensive efficiency, liable to lose a 55-53 type of game in the NCAA tournament.
To LSU's credit, though, it has comfortably handled the caliber of opponent it would face in the first round if seeded in the Nos. 2-4 range. The Tigers beat each of Belmont, Liberty, Ohio and Texas State by a double-digit margin.
But if they continue to struggle and slip down to a No. 5 or No. 6 seed, yeah, that's going to be a popular spot for picking a first-round upset.
Boiler Up or Down?
@JuicyJuice69: Purdue. Can't get it done in conference, can't get it done in the tourney.
@biggs17: Pur-who? Ranked in the top 10 and still just as irrelevant as ever.
That's a harsh synopsis of a team that recently won a road game against the closest thing to a full-strength Illinois that we've seen all season.
But I, too, am starting to wonder if AP No. 6 Purdue can be trusted in March.
If the Boilermakers did lose right away, it certainly wouldn't be the first time they busted brackets by doing so. They lost as a No. 4 seed to North Texas just last year and lost as a No. 5 seed to Arkansas-Little Rock in 2016.
In both of those years, Purdue had a pretty dominant frontcourt, but the lack of a true point guard and the inability to force turnovers allowed what should have been an overmatched opponent to hang around just long enough to pull off an upset in overtime.
That sounds a lot like this year's Boilermakers, no?
They're more efficient on offense than usual, and their wide variety of three-point options will ultimately keep me from believing that they could lose to a No. 15 seed. But this is one of the worst defenses coach Matt Painter has ever had in West Lafayette—which makes no sense with Zach Edey's imposing 7'4" presence in the paint.
An off night from the perimeter against a turnover-averse team such as Vermont, Princeton or Oral Roberts could be a major problem.
Obligatory Duke Hate
Dozens of commenters: Duke
By an absolute landslide, No. 9 Duke was the most common answer.
But are the Blue Devils actually ripe for an upset, or are there just a bunch of haters hoping to watch Mike Krzyzewski ride off into retirement fresh off one of the most embarrassing losses of his career?
Why not both?
A month ago, the idea of this Duke roster—replete with five potential first-round draft picks and one of the best players in the country (Paolo Banchero)—losing in the first round seemed impossible.
Then the Blue Devils lost at home to Miami, lost at Florida State and darn near lost at home to Clemson.
Now this team feels much more beatable.
In all three of those games, Duke didn't seem as interested as its opponent. In the two losses, it had a combined turnover margin of minus-22. Miami converted on a bunch of backdoor cuts. Banchero was a non-factor until the final eight minutes of regulation against Florida State. And in the close call against Clemson, Duke allowed 14 offensive rebounds (to an opponent that does not thrive in that department) and gave up a handful of transition dunks.
That's a lot of undisciplined/unmotivated stuff from a team that seemed to think it was going to out-talent its foes, only to get out-hustled by them.
Could that happen in the tournament, resulting in another 2012 Lehigh or 2014 Mercer?
I wouldn't pick it, but anything's possible.
Trojan Horse; Paper Tiger?
Incredibly, I didn't see a single response for No. 25 Davidson, No. 24 Illinois, No. 23 Iowa State or No. 22 Marquette. You would think those lowest-ranked teams would be the most popular answers among people actually trying to be correct.
But if I had to pick the one team from the AP Top 20 most likely to get bounced right away, No. 15 USC is the obvious choice.
For starters, USC's tournament resume is severely lacking. The Trojans' best win of the season was either the neutral-site game against San Diego State or the road game against Washington State, neither of which is anything impressive for a Top 20 team. Factor in the losses to Oregon and Stanford, and USC is staring down, at best, a No. 6 seed right now.
It could be one questionable loss away from plummeting to the bubble.
The bigger concern than the lack of quality wins, though, is that the Trojans rank among the worst in the nation at both free-throw shooting and forcing turnovers, in spite of that weak schedule. And that can be a recipe for disaster in March. Case in point: Ohio State forced just six turnovers and shot 9-of-18 from the charity stripe in its loss to No. 15 seed Oral Roberts last year.
To be fair, USC also struggled in both of those areas last year—not quite to this degree—and it absolutely destroyed its first three opponents to reach the Elite Eight. However, that team had the draft's No. 3 pick (Evan Mobley) in the paint and had him flanked by some senior guards. This year's team simply isn't as imposing or experienced.
Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames. Statistics via KenPom.com and Sports Reference unless otherwise noted.