The NCAA basketball tournament selection committee released its list of the top 16 seeds with a month left before the end of the regular season on Sunday. By this time next week — heck, maybe by Wednesday morning — those rankings will be well out of date.
Nonetheless, they are somewhat instructive at the moment and provide the foundation of this week’s bracket projection. It does make life easier when nearly a quarter of the teams are slotted and seeded without any guesswork.
One thing that stands out is how closely the committee stuck to the Rating Percentage Index. Of the 16 teams in the release, all but two (No. 18 Arizona and No. 21 Oklahoma, both pegged as No. 4 seeds) were in the top 16 of the RPI. The two top-16 teams left out? No. 5 Rhode Island and No. 15 Nevada. Can’t imagine what they have in common.
In any case, there wasn’t much that was too startling. Xavier as a No. 1 seed made sense given the turbulence of the last week. Cincinnati was a mild surprise as a No. 2 seed, but the Bearcats already had the makings of being one of the trickier programs to slot. There’s a case to be made for West Virginia over Oklahoma as a No. 4 seed, but even at that point it’s getting into the weeds.
One upshot of the last week — which saw six teams on the top two lines lose and another (Xavier) barely escape with victories in both of its games — is a reinforcement of the flux in the bracket this season. There are a lot of teams just a good week away from solidifying their postseason stock, and also a poor week away from more headaches than they would like.
Last four included: Houston, St. Bonaventure, Syracuse, Virginia Tech
First four on the outside: N.C. State, Kansas State, Nebraska, Marquette
Next four on the outside: Utah, Baylor, Temple, Mississippi State
Moving in: Harvard, Northern Kentucky, Savannah State, Syracuse, UC Santa Barbara, Virginia Tech
Moving out: Kansas State, North Carolina A&T, N.C. State, Penn, UC Davis, Wright State
Conference call: Atlantic Coast (9), Southeastern (8), Big East (6), Big 12 (6), Pac-12 (5), Big Ten (4), American Athletic (3), Atlantic 10 (2), West Coast (2)
Latest bracket projection
(1) ATLANTIC COAST/Virginia vs. (16) ATLANTIC SUN/Florida Gulf Coast — SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC/Arkansas-Pine Bluff winner
(8) Missouri vs. (9) Butler
(5) West Virginia vs. (12) MID-AMERICAN/Buffalo
(4) Tennessee vs. (13) MISSOURI VALLEY/Loyola Chicago
(3) Michigan State vs. (14) OHIO VALLEY/Belmont
(6) Florida vs. (11) Southern California
(7) Miami vs. (10) Providence
(2) AMERICAN ATHLETIC/Cincinnati vs. (15) HORIZON/Northern Kentucky
Virginia is the No. 1 overall seed despite its loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday. Still tend to think the difference between the Cavaliers and Villanova is negligible. … Florida Gulf Coast became the first team in the country to clinch a postseason berth when it sealed the Atlantic Sun’s regular season title. The Eagles are assured an NIT bid if they don’t win their league tournament. …
How important is a strong finish for Michigan State? It will get shipped out of Detroit if (a) two of Cincinnati, Purdue and Xavier remain ahead of it on the seed list and (b) the committee doesn’t fudge the mileage by sending the Cincinnati schools to Nashville. Pittsburgh and Wichita are Sparty’s most likely alternate destinations. …
Miami vs. Providence would pit Hurricanes Coach Jim Larranaga against his alma mater. … A Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky matchup would be a rare meeting of two teams that share the same home court. Cincinnati’s arena is undergoing renovations, so the Bearcats are playing this season across the Ohio River at Northern Kentucky.
(1) Villanova vs. (16) IVY/Harvard — SOUTHLAND/Nicholls State winner
(8) Florida State vs. (9) Texas Christian
(5) Gonzaga vs. (12) AMERICA EAST/Vermont
(4) BIG TEN/Ohio State vs. (13) SUMMIT/South Dakota State
(3) BIG 12/Texas Tech vs. (14) BIG WEST/UC Santa Barbara
(6) Kentucky vs. (11) CONFERENCE USA/Middle Tennessee
(7) Seton Hall vs. (10) UCLA
(2) Duke vs. (15) BIG SOUTH/UNC Asheville
It’s not quite locked in yet, but Villanova’s probably a few victories away from feeling certain it will play the opening weekend in Pittsburgh. … Texas Christian’s rout of Texas puts the Horned Frogs ever closer to their first NCAA bid since 1998. … That Boise subregional provides a rare instance where all four teams might be more dangerous than their respective seedings suggest. …
Kentucky has lost three in a row for the first time ever under John Calipari. It’s the Wildcats’ first three-game skid since 2009, and Calipari’s first since 2005. … Seton Hall had a crummy week, losing to Marquette and Georgetown, but its nonconference profile is going to protect it from nearly anything outside of a complete collapse. … UCLA helped itself a ton by winning at Arizona.
(1) BIG EAST/Xavier vs. (16) MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC/Savannah State
(8) Alabama vs. (9) Louisville
(5) ATLANTIC 10/Rhode Island vs. (12) WESTERN ATHLETIC/New Mexico State
(4) Oklahoma vs. (13) SOUTHERN/East Tennessee State
(3) Clemson vs. (14) METRO ATLANTIC/Rider
(6) Arizona State vs. (11) Houston-Syracuse winner
(7) Michigan vs. (10) MOUNTAIN WEST/Nevada
(2) SOUTHEASTERN/Auburn vs. (15) PATRIOT/Bucknell
Xavier’s been a No. 2 seed once (2016), a No. 3 seed twice (2003 and 2008) and a No. 4 seed once (2009), but never a No. 1 seed. … Oklahoma–East Tennessee State was nearly one of the pairings fans would have committed to memory. The top-seeded Sooners beat the 16th-seeded Buccaneers, 72-71, in the first round in 1989. …
Clemson no doubt would receive a warm welcome in the ACC’s traditional stomping grounds of Pittsburgh. … Arizona State is above .500 in Pac-12 play for the first time all season, and its recent spurt has solidified its postseason standing. It would be the second-highest seeded Pac-12 team in the tournament started today. … Nevada was shorthanded against UNLV last week, so that helps the loss. It won’t help the Wolf Pack with its seeding, however.
(1) Purdue vs. (16) NORTHEAST/Wagner
(8) Creighton vs. (9) Texas
(5) Texas A&M vs. (12) St. Bonaventure-Virginia Tech winner
(4) PAC-12/Arizona vs. (13) SUN BELT/UL Lafayette
(3) North Carolina vs. (14) COLONIAL/College of Charleston
(6) Wichita State vs. (11) Washington
(7) WEST COAST/Saint Mary’s vs. (10) Arkansas
(2) Kansas vs. (15) BIG SKY/Montana
Creighton’s profile lacks oomph at the top, but there’s nothing remotely bad about the Bluejays’ resume and they do well across the board in a variety of metrics. This may well be an underseed. … At this rate, somebody with a dreadful nonconference schedule is going to get in as the committee holds its collective noses. Virginia Tech gets a slight nod in this exercise after beating N.C. State and Virginia last week, but it can’t feel comfortable. …
Washington does horribly in predictive metrics like KenPom.com. That, even more than an ugly sweep at the hands of the Pac-12’s Oregon schools, could be the Huskies’ downfall. … Saint Mary’s missed out on a chance to climb a bit in the seeding when it lost to Gonzaga at home. Still, the Gaels are positioned to wear a home jersey in the first round. … Kansas has the most Quadrant 1 victories, defined as at home against a team in the RPI top 30, on a neutral court against a top-50 team or on the road against a top-75 team. Yes, the Jayhawks (9-4 against Quadrant 1) have been erratic, but they have some excellent results to their credit.