As promised in last night’s update, we’re going to take a closer look today at how the 1 line should shake out. First, Virginia is a lock to get a 1 seed. They rank #1 in RPI, #1 in KenPom, and have a 9-1 record vs. Quadrant 1 teams. Villanova or Xavier will almost certainly get a 1 seed as well. In fact, both could potentially get one, though this is less likely. Finally, Kansas is likely to be on the 1 line. They have one of the best collections of wins in the country, the best being at West Virginia and Texas Tech. Altogether, they have 10 Q1 wins, which trails only North Carolina.
So I think at this point, there is probably one more top seed up for grabs. Who else is in the running?
Duke – the Blue Devils have very strong metrics, including a #3 ranking in KenPom and #4 in the RPI. Right now, their best win is at home vs. North Carolina, while their worst loss is at St. John’s. They have 6 Quadrant 1 wins and their path to an ACC tournament championship potentially includes Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Virginia. Chances are that if the Blue Devils win the ACC, they grab a 1 seed.
North Carolina – since we were already talking about the ACC, let’s look at the Tar Heels next. They are 7th in KenPom and 6th in the RPI. They have the nation’s top strength of schedule and an 11-7 Q1 record to show for it. Their path to the ACC championship could include Syracuse, Miami, Duke, and Virginia. A team with 9 losses has never gotten a 1 seed, but would Carolina be left off the top line if they ran through the ACC tournament and beat the teams just mentioned? It seems unlikely.
Cincinnati – The Bearcats are rated 4th in KenPom and 7th in the RPI. They have no bad losses. However, outside of wins at Wichita State and at home vs. Houston, they are lacking Q1 wins (five total) and won’t have the opportunity to pick up more than one in the AAC tournament, which would come if they face Wichita State in the title game. Cinci has been making teams look bad all year, winning by an average margin of 18 points, but I’m not sure they’ll have the needed good wins to earn a top seed. Still, they’re in the discussion.
Auburn – The Tigers rank 11th in KenPom and 8th in RPI. At one time, many had them on the 1 line, but losing 3 of their last 5 – including their worst loss of the season, at South Carolina – pushed them down. They do have a strong resume, with their best win being at Tennessee and a total of 7 Quadrant 1 wins. They could potentially pick up 3 more in the SEC tournament. Like Cincinnati, I think Auburn is a long shot to earn a 1 seed at this point, but I can’t count them out.
Tennessee – If we’re talking about Auburn, we may as well talk about Tennessee too. The Volunteers would need to win the SEC tournament and have many other factors break their way, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they end up on the top line. Right now they’re 14th in KenPom, 10th in the RPI, and own a win over Purdue at a neutral site. Their only loss outside of Q1 came at Georgia. Again, the Vols have the longest odds of hitting the top line of all the teams I’ve just talked about, but crazier things have happened on Selection Sunday.
So, that’s my take on the top line. Now, here’s today’s projection. Moves up or down are in parentheses after the team’s name. Teams who have clinched a bid are underlined.
In since last time: Baylor
Out since last time: Louisville
1s – Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, Kansas
2s – Duke, Cincinnati, Purdue, North Carolina
3s – Auburn, Tennessee, Michigan, Michigan State
4s – Wichita State, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Clemson (+1)
5s – Gonzaga (-1), Arizona, Kentucky, Houston
6s – TCU, Ohio State, Florida (+1), Seton Hall
7s – Miami (-1), Rhode Island, Texas A & M, Nevada
8s – Arkansas, Florida State, Missouri, Creighton (+1)
9s – Saint Mary’s (-1), Oklahoma (+1), North Carolina State, Virginia Tech
10s – Butler (-1), Arizona State, Saint Bonaventure, Kansas State (+1)
11s – Providence (-1), Texas, USC, Syracuse, Marquette, Baylor (new)
12s – Middle Tennessee, Loyola-Chicago, New Mexico State, South Dakota State
13s – Louisiana, Vermont, Buffalo, Murray State
14s – UNC-Greensboro, Northeastern, Montana, Bucknell
15s – Wright State, UC Davis, Penn, Lipscomb
16s – Wagner, Iona, Radford, Nicholls State, Bethune-Cookman, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
LAST FOUR IN – USC, Syracuse, Marquette, Baylor
FIRST FOUR OUT – Louisville, UCLA, Alabama, Utah
NEXT FOUR OUT – Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Washington, LSU
As always, if you want to rip me because I have your team too low or want to discuss anything else related to bracketology, feel free to do so in the comments. Look for my next update tomorrow, and check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime.