Does Virginia want a No. 1 seed? Well, yes, probably so, considering it wants to win the rest of its games. If it does that, the question will probably prove moot.
But assuming the Cavaliers don’t sail into Selection Sunday with a perfect four-week flourish, there is one variable on their resume that stands out as a minor eyesore and is decidedly not in line with how eventual top seeds performed over the years.
Virginia (21-5, 10-4 ACC) boasts largely impeccable credentials, from its 8-1 record against the top 50 in the RPI (including defeats of Villanova, Miami and West Virginia) to its stout schedule to its impressive play since some hiccups early in league play.
Yet what the Cavaliers haven’t done is post a winning road record. They’re a what-if Grayson Allen traveling call away from being 5-4 rather than 4-5, but that’s life. Yet going back to 1994 (which is how far back the CollegeRPI.com archive stretches), good luck finding an eventual No. 1 seed with a losing record on the road.
That’s because there aren’t any, at least not in that span.
Granted, some of this is a matter of common sense. Top seeds usually wind up with a limited number of losses, and it stands to reason they’ll win just about anywhere. And they do.
This brings the discussion back to Virginia. Malcolm Brogdon and the Cavaliers play only two more road games, Monday at Miami and March 1 at Clemson. Sweep the two, and Virginia earns a winning road record. Get a split or lose both and it is left with a sub-.500 mark in true road games.
Every season is different, of course, and the parity at the top of the field could permit Virginia to snag a No. 1 seed even with a loss in one of those games. Yet even this year, the No. 1 seed contenders are largely thriving on the road. Villanova (8-1) and Xavier (7-2) are especially prosperous, and Iowa (5-3), Oklahoma (5-3) and Kansas (4-3) all own winning records for now.
When the difference in profiles is as minute as they are (and could very well remain over the next month), the road mark could be the difference in seeding.
Two side notes: Only twice in the last 22 years has a team with a .500 road record earned a No. 1 seed: 2000 Michigan State and 2010 Duke, both of whom won the national title. And the last No. 1 seed to finish just a game over .500 (as Virginia aims to at this point) was 2007 Florida, which also snipped the nets on the final day of the season.
Elsewhere in the DMV …
As some caustically pointed out Saturday, Maryland (22-4, 10-3 Big Ten) won by losing. Wisconsin earned enough of a boost from beating the Terrapins in College Park to vault into the top 50 of the RPI. All of the sudden, Maryland has a top-50 road victory thanks to defeating the Badgers in Madison.
Ultimately, Saturday’s loss doesn’t do major damage to Maryland. Its victories over Connecticut and Princeton continue to gain value, and it hasn’t done anything remotely troublesome. Even without the suspended Diamond Stone, the Terps should tread water and defeat winless-in-the-Big-Ten-but-pesky Minnesota on Thursday. Maryland remains slotted as a No. 3 seed in this week’s projection.
Last week’s loss at Massachusetts was the first real black mark on the Rams’ profile. They responded by clobbering Saint Louis and upending Rhode Island at home and now sit at 19-7 entering a sequence of four repeat opponents in a row (Richmond, George Mason, George Washington and Davidson) before closing the regular season at Dayton.
Melvin Johnson and his teammates are not comfortably in the field, but they’ve done much of their best work away from home and the defeat of Saint Joseph’s last month looks better by the day. The next two games especially are contests VCU would be wise to handle, since losing to either Richmond or George Mason would invite further scrutiny to the Rams’ profile.
Well, that sure didn’t help. The Colonials (18-7, 7-5 Atlantic 10) always faced the requirement of being something of a quantity all-star, but they need some additional quality as well. A lousy showing vs. Saint Joseph’s coupled with a loss at St. Bonaventure sent Mike Lonergan’s team tumbling out of the projected bracket.
George Washington’s losses to DePaul and Saint Louis are albatrosses, and a variety of metrics (No. 227 nonconference schedule according to the RPI, No. 73 Sagarin rating, No. 91 KenPom.com ranking) do not bode well given the selection committee’s increased emphasis on measurements outside the RPI. For the Colonials, just winning the next game is the priority — Wednesday at Duquesne, then Sunday against La Salle).
It looks grim for the Hoyas (14-12, 7-6 Big East) heading into Wednesday’s home date with Seton Hall. At some point it’s about more than just numbers. Georgetown lost starting center Bradley Hayes to injury and have dropped four of their last five. There are no breathers left, just a rigorous stretch featuring Xavier and Butler after tonight before trips to Marquette and Villanova.
Georgetown isn’t close to the field of 68, but its combination of a great remaining schedule and decent enough peripherals (5-7 away from Verizon Center, quality triumphs at Xavier and against Wisconsin in New York) give it some hope of climbing back into the postseason picture. The major question, though, is whether this 14-12 team is capable of stringing together a bunch of impressive performances.
The Big South is jumbled, with five teams within a game of first place. One of them is Liberty (12-15, 9-5), which has won seven in a row (including two defeats of High Point and one of Winthrop) to stake a place in the conference race. At the very least, Ritchie McKay’s second stint in Lynchburg is off to a good start after he inherited an 8-24 team. …
Star guard Ron Curry missed James Madison’s loss at UNC Wilmington on Saturday with a knee injury, but Coach Matt Brady told reporters Tuesday that he expects the senior back before the Dukes (19-8, 9-5) begin Colonial Athletic Association tournament play. … William and Mary (17-8, 9-5) and Towson (18-9, 9-5) are also tied for third with James Madison in the CAA. …
Hampton (15-9, 10-2) and Norfolk State (13-13, 9-2) are the only Mid-Eastern Athletic teams with two league losses. The only game either team has left against an opponent with even a .500 MEAC record is March 3 when Hampton pays the Spartans a visit to close the regular season. … Mount St. Mary’s (12-15, 9-5) topped Sacred Heart and St. Francis (Pa.) last week to move into a four-way tie atop the Northeast Conference. …
Navy (18-9, 9-5) is just a game out of first place in the Patriot League and can earn its first 20-win season since 1999-2000 with defeats of Lehigh and Army at home this week. Senior point guard Tilman Dunbar and the Midshipmen beat both teams on the road earlier in league play.