The NCAA tournament selection committee says it will jump into the world of prognostication by doing a College Football Playoff-like early release of the top 16 seeds on February 11th. I guess we should have seen this coming, by all of the attention devoted to the College Football Playoff rankings that begin in Week 9 of the season. To gin up interest in the “race to the tournament” the selection committee will show its cards when it comes to the teams considered for seeds 1-4.
I like the idea, however this could hamstring the committee if it is warranted that a new team should bust into the top 16 with a late season run. Say, Notre Dame makes a surprising run through the ACC tournament after these ranking come out. Will it take more effort to convince the fans after making them a #2 seed in the final bracket, when they weren’t even a top four seed in the earlier release? Or is that the goal? It would make sense to create more discussion, more buzz about the selection show.
Not wanting to wait until February 11th, here are my top 16 seeds – as of January 31st:
1. Villanova – Even with the loss to Marquette last week, they are the best team in the nation. They have tallied now five wins vs top 25 teams, after the last-second thriller against Virginia.
2. Kentucky – The Wildcats failed in their final attempt for another signature win against Kansas, but they'll likely stroll through the remainder of the SEC schedule -barring a possible slip-up at Florida, or against South Carolina in the conference tournament.
3. FSU – The Seminoles are in a bit of a slump, losing to Georgia Tech and Syracuse back-to-back, on the road. They are 6-1 vs top 25 teams, though. If the road woes continue, they'll get eaten up at Notre Dame and Duke.
4. UCLA – They are in a free-fall right now, having lost back-to-back vs Arizona and @ USC. They need to correct their course and tally some big wins. They still have vs Oregon, USC, and @ Arizona to do so.
1. Kansas – The Jayhawks bounced back from a loss to West Virginia, beating Kentucky on the road. There is a lot of opportunity left to prove you should be at the top, with still at least three games against top 25 teams. (2 vs Baylor, and vs West Virginia)
2. Virginia – They nearly beat Villanova over the weekend, and that actually helped their resume, in my eyes. In just over a month, they tallied wins over Louisville and Notre Dame, and lost to Florida State and Villanova by 4 points combined. They still have at least four games vs top 25 to go, and they are all winnable.
3. West Virginia – Beating Kansas was a big notch on the musket for the Mountaineers. They have beaten a Baylor team who was #1 at the time, and now #2 Kansas. Unfortunately they lose too many games they are supposed to win. Chances to move up: @ Kansas and @ Baylor.
4. Oregon – A road loss at Colorado is not a confidence builder. The Ducks have already taken down UCLA and USC, but both wins came at home. 5 of the last 7 for the Ducks are on the road.
1. Louisville – This is the place where I part from all other prognosticators. It would be a crime to NOT give a #1 seed to the winner of the ACC. Therefore, I can't put anyone but the leader in the league here. I know UNC, Virginia are ahead in the current standings, but currently the Cardinals are winning the “eye test.”
2. Baylor – Yes, Baylor deserves a #1 seed. Yes, they have beaten Louisville. Baylor is not being crapped on by Louisville, at the moment, as much as they are by the cruel reality of an undefeated Gonzaga team... I'll get to that in a second. They are a really good team, but we'll find out this week if they are #1-seed material when they play Kansas.
3. Wisconsin – UW has not lost a“bad” game all year. They are doing what you expect the Badgers to do. Win a ton of games in conference play, use good defense to wear down opponents, and be a threat to everyone in March.
4. Cincinnati – The Bearcats need to run the table to remain in the top 16, because the AAC just isn't that tough this year. They could give Gonzaga a run for their money in the category of highly-ranked teams that have won the most games against RPI SUB 150 teams.
1. Gonzaga – Damn the basketball world for making me give any credence to the fact that Gonzaga is, once again, undefeated and steamrolling through the West Coast Conference. You can't ignore a 22-0 team, even if the bulk of its game come against RPI SUB 150 teams. I am not, never will be, high on the Zags. Have they proven me wrong? Never. Gonzaga hardly ever plays anyone of note, they go undefeated (or close), and are generally bounced from the tournament in the first three rounds. It'll be the same this year.
2. Arizona – The Wildcats have not lost since a December 5 matchup with Gonzaga (69-62). Their excellent defense most recently shined, shutting down UCLA. Biggest test: they only have one game against Oregon, and it's on the road, this weekend.
3. UNC – The Tar Heels were on a seven-game streak before not showing up at Miami this past weekend. The Heels have not played well on the road and with games @Virginia,@ Duke, and even @ NC State, it could be a rough ride to the finish. They also play Virginia, Duke, Louisville, and Notre Dame at home down the stretch.
4. Maryland – The Terps are finally starting to live up to the expectations of two years ago, but can't afford more losses to the likes of Nebraska. Melo Trimble is the star, but the rest of the turtles can ball as well. Justin Jackson and Kevin Huerter are coming on as impact freshmen.