So this morning, I told you I would give you my analysis as to why I think Gonzaga is very likely to be a 1 seed. First, who are the other teams who could threaten the 1 line? The common belief is that those teams are the Pac 12 winner (assuming that’s Oregon, UCLA, or Arizona), Baylor, Louisville, or Kentucky.
Now, let’s look at why that’s unlikely for any of those teams. To do this, we’re going to use everyone’s favorite metric, the RPI. Well, we’ll combine that with one that everyone considers more meaningful, quality wins. And let’s throw in bad losses while we’re at it.
Gonzaga: We all know the West Coast Conference isn’t great, but the Zags have a respectable non-con strength of schedule (62) and are 5-0 vs Top 25 RPI teams (1-0 vs RPI 26-50). That, combined with a 32-1 record, and making opponents in the WCC look like middle school JV squads, all works in their favor.
Now, here’s a rundown of the top Pac-12 teams.
Oregon: The Ducks have only played six games against Top 50 RPI teams. They are 2-2 vs 1-25, those two wins being at home against Arizona and UCLA, and 2-0 vs RPI 26-50, both against Southern Cal, whose RPI far outpaces any of their other metrics (which is why they are a Last Four In team). They also have a borderline bad loss at Colorado and a clearly bad one on a neutral court vs. a sorry Georgetown team.
UCLA: The Bruins had the nation’s 251st hardest non-conference schedule. In other words, not too hard. It does help their case that they are 5-3 against Top 50 RPI teams, the best wins being home against Oregon and at Arizona and Kentucky, and have no bad losses.
Arizona: Their best win is at UCLA. That’s great. Their second best? Against Michigan State. I rest my case.
UCLA may actually have the best chance at a 1 seed of the Pac-12 contenders because they could beat both Arizona and Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament. Oregon would only get a shot at Arizona or UCLA. This is because the seeding for that tournament goes Oregon, Arizona, then UCLA, putting the Wildcats and the Bruins on track to meet in the semis. But either way, it’s a minute chance. And Arizona? No chance at all. Moving on to the other contenders.
Baylor: The Bears went 4-3 vs Top 25 RPI teams and 5-1 vs. RPI 26-50. Impressive. But they could have fortified their resume and made this debate a lot more interesting with a win against Kansas in February. They didn’t do that, and they also own a loss at Texas Tech (RPI 106). I suppose the winning the Big 12 tournament would give them an outside shot at a 1 seed, but that’s it.
Louisville: Very good team with some impressive wins – home against Kentucky, Duke, and Notre Dame, and neutral against Purdue. But only 4-6 vs RPI Top 25 teams, not too helpful (3-1 vs. 26-50). Like Baylor, I believe the Cardinals would have an outside shot at a 1 seed by winning the ACC tournament.
Kentucky: It won’t happen for the Wildcats. They went 2-4 vs RPI Top 25 teams. The SEC just doesn’t present that many quality win opportunities, either. The Wildcats did beat North Carolina on a natural court and beat Florida at home, to their credit. But they won’t have quite enough to get to the 1 line, even if they win the SEC tournament. South Carolina, who they could play in the semis, has faded lately. Beating Florida in the finals would be great but not enough to put them over the top.
So, that’s my case for Gonzaga, if you will. Now the question is, can they get to that elusive Final Four?
I don’t know, but I do know that you’ll find my next bracket projection Thursday evening, with several more to come leading up to the Selection Show. I’ll be in my own bracket bunker, Joe Lunardi style. Which really means the living room with a couple of TVs, a computer, and plenty of food. In the meantime, as always, check out the great work of other bracketologists on the Bracket Matrix.