The Shockers and the Bearcats will meet on March 4th in Wichita in a matchup that will likely decide the regular season title in the AAC. The result of this game will play an integral role in NCAA tournament seeding, as will each team’s performance in the conference tournament. For now the Bearcats have a narrow edge in terms of prospective seeding but I wouldn’t necessarily expect that to hold. Cincinnati has been ranked in the AP top 10 for much of the season and ha projected by many as a potential 3 seed. However, the bearcats are 1-3 vs RPI top 25 teams. In other words, they’ve lost to almost every other top tier team they’ve played. Wichita State on the other hand already holds a win on the road at Cincinnati. Consensus seems to place both of these squads in the 3-5 seed range, but a 4 seed seems the most reasonable to me
This week the Cougars found themselves included in the AP Top 25 for the first time this season. Unfortunately they followed up a resume building win against Cincinnati with a disappointing loss against Memphis. Nevertheless the Cougars are almost a lock for the tournament 21-6 record (2-2 against RPI Top 25). Still many remain reluctant to give this team credit due to the lack of depth in their conference. The cougars may fit in anywhere from a 7-10 seed depending upon how the finish out the regular season and perform in the AAC tournament. Right now an 8 seed seems very fair, although Houston may feel the deserve something more along the lines of a 6 seed.
If the season ended today, Virginia would likely be the number 1 overall seed in the entire NCAA tournament. Tony Bennett’s men are a perfect 4-0 against RPI top 25 teams and an impressive 9-1 against RPI top 50 teams. Unfortunately for them the ACC is stacked and the conference tournament could prove a roadblock for the Cavaliers. Duke is still hot on their tail and a conference championship might be enough to propel the Blue Devils to a number one seed. Coach K’s team is still undoubtedly the most talented offensive team in the country and will enter the NCAA tournament basically solidified as a 2 seed at worst. The only way the Blue Devil’s could possibly even fall to the 3 line is if arch rivals North Carolina rise up to take their place. The Tar Heels are currently projected for a 3 seed and already hold a win over Duke this season. Duke and UNC will meet up again in the last game of the regular season in a matchup that will likely influence their tournament standing. Even more important to seeding will obviously be each team’s performance in the conference tournament, which will be a gauntlet. Part of that Gauntlet will be the Clemson Tigers. The Tigers have acquitted themselves incredibly well after losing Donte Graham to injury. Their resume includes wins over Ohio State, North Carolina, and Florida among others. As such they have stated their case for a 4-5 seed.
On the Bubble:Florida State and Miami will be in similar standing heading into Selection Sunday. The U has put together a better record while the Seminoles boast higher quality wins. The Seminoles have a great case for a 6 seed with wins over North Carolina, Clemson, and Miami. Miami’s case is a bit more tenuous. Despite going 20-8 and dealing with the rigors of an ACC schedule, Miami doesn’t necessarily have a marquee win. But it is important to note that the Hurricanes have been playing the past month without star guar Bruce Brown. Brown should be back for March Madness so that should give the team a boost. In reality, Miami may fall anywhere from 6-9 seed but I’d lean toward the former (Probably more likely a 7-8 but I love the U so 7 seed it is). This team boasts one of the most talented starting fives in the country despite the fact that they have yet to really show it.
On the bubble:
All of these teams are difficult to place and would likely fall in between the 9-12 range in terms of seeding. Virginia Tech would sit atop the list of ACC tournament hopefuls. The Hokies have amassed a 20-9 record with notable wins over Virginia, North Carolina, and Clemson. Currently they are in the tournament field at either a 9 or a 10 seed. Not far behind are NC State. The Wolfpack have gone 19-9 with marquee victories over Duke, North Carolina, Arizona, and Clemson. This should find the Wolfpack at a 10 seed for the time being. With their win over Virginia Tech thus Saturday Louisville is also tentatively penciled into the tournament field. However a 19-10 record and no real marquee victory means nothing is guaranteed. An 11 seed is probably what the Cardinals would be looking at. Syracuse on the other hand is firmly on the bubble. A loss at Duke yesterday likely has the Orange on the outside looking in. As things stand ‘Cuse is 0-6 vs RPI top 25 teams and will probably need a tournament run to make the field. If not a 12 seed is still in play depending on how other bubble teams perform.
If not for an upset this weekend at Creighton, Villanova might currently be the number one overall seed. The Wildcats have undoubtedly been one of the best teams in the country and dismantled Xavier both times the two met this season. In spite of these victories, it is Xavier not Villanova that sit in pole position for the regular season Big East title. For that reason many are touting Xavier as number one seed. I’ve personally do not see it. The only team of note the musketeers have beaten is Cincinnati, who I wouldn’t necessarily say are “for “real”. Xavier certainly are a top team. If you need evidence of that, look no further than last year’s tournament run. However, they seem much more suited for a 2 seed, without a truly impressive win. If Michigan State wins the Big Ten tournament then it may be the Spartans, rather than the musketeers, in line for a 1 seed.
It’s hard to differentiate between the resumes of this group. Seton Hall holds the best record of the group but also face a clash against Villanova before conference tournament play. Whereas both Creighton and Butler have already upset the Wildcats. Although the Pirates have a number of quality wins, including a victory over Texas Tech, consensus seems to be that the Bluejays and Bulldogs are in position for a higher seed. Despite having the worst record of the bunch, Butler has the most impressive wins over both Ohio State and Villanova. Currently that should position them as a number 7 seed. Creighton’s win over Villanova yesterday was a resume booster and as such they may also be looking 7 or 8 seed. Seton Hall, on the other hand will likely find themselves in the 8-9 range. That being said there could very easily be a lot of turnover in these rankings. This group in particular is very evenly matched and conference tournament play will be crucial to NCAA tournament seeding.
On the Bubble:
Providence is only team in the conference to beat both Villanova and Xavier. Without those victories their case for the tournament would be rather tenuous. Many have surmised that the the Friars are currently looking looking at 10-11 seed. With a second meeting against the Xavier on the horizon before the Big East tournament, that standing is far from certain. A loss or two might place them firmly on the bubble.
Michigan State has looked the part of a top 5 team for the duration of the 2017-18 season. Despite being ranked the number 2 team in the country in the AP Poll, many still believe the spartans will not be a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. The have perhaps the most talented roster in the country, and a 27-3 record, a Big Ten regular season championship. Somehow that still may not be enough. But a Big Ten tournament championship might change that. Purdue is another one of the premier teams in nation. Until a rough stretch late in the season, the Boilermakers looked like a 1 seed themselves. Despite the late three game losing streak, this team is still entrenched as 2 seed heading into conference tournament play. One of the teams to beat the Boilermakers during that stretch was Ohio State. The Buckeyes have registered wins over Michigan State, Purdue, and Michigan. Victories over all of the best teams in the conference should be enough to secure a 4 seed. At worst the Buckeyes would be looking at 5 side. Arch rivals Michigan have also put together a solid season, including wins over the Buckeyes and Spartans. A 5 seed is likely where they currently stand. A 6 seed is the floor for thus squad.
On the Bubble:
Penn State surely has the look of a tournament team. Tony Carr has been a star for the Nittany Lions who have shown an ability to hang with many of the best teams in the conference and the country. A season sweep of the Buckeyes proves that. Unfortunately those are their only notable wins. Currently they’re probably sitting just outside of the field, but with an opportunity to make up ground in the Big Ten Tournament. The Huskers are in a very similar spot. However, as I write this they’ve just managed to beat Penn State, which should see them leapfrog the Nittany Lions. Still the Cornhusker only real win to speak of is one over Michigan. But they have put together a solid 22-9 record. Right now Nebraska still likely has to prove themselves in the Big Ten tournament in order to earn a tournament berth.
The Big 12 regular season title was up for grabs more than it has been years past. However, the result is the same as it has been for the last 14 seasons: Kansas are your Big 12 champions. Winning a conference that many hail as the toughest in college basketball should be enough to secure them a 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. This accomplishment, along with a 23-6 record consisting of victories over Texas Tech, West Virginia, and Kentucky, should get the job done. Its hard to see them falling the 2 line even if they were to be upset in conference tournament play. Texas Tech will be the next highest seed coming out of the Big 12. The Red Raiders hold victories over both Kansas and West Virginia, and have amassed a 22-7 record. All signs seem to point to point to a 3 seed for this team. West Virginia is the only other lock from this conference, but will certainly be seeded lower than both Kansas and Texas Tech. The Mountaineers have had an up and down season, bud they did manage a big win over Virginia. A 21-8 record plants them firmly in the 4-6 range. Right now a 5 seed seems most appropriate since they’ve only really managed one marquee win. Thats not the say they haven’t beaten many solids squads throughout conference play.
On the Bubble:Oklahoma might be the hardest team to seed in this entire tournament. When Trae Young is hitting on all cylinders this team is capable of beating almost anyone in the country. The Sooners proved as much with wins over Kansas, Wichita State, and Texas Tech. At one point this team was 15-4 and ranked number 4 in the country. However, an improbable skid has left some wondering whether the Sooners may not even be a tournament team. Oklahoma has lost 7 of the last 9 and is certainly on thin ice. But at this point they are still in the tournament field. Finishing up the season strong against Baylor and Iowa state will be vital to their tournament hopes, as will the conference tournament. For now the Sooners are likely a 8-9 seed. But that could change in the coming weeks, for better or for worse. TCU is another team thats pretty likely in at this point. They may even be seeded ahead of the Sooners when all is said and done. But for now Oklahoma has more impressive victories. TCU does boast an impressive 20-9 record, but their only upper echelon win came against West Virginia. For they have the look of a 8-9 seed, but could rise as high as 7.
On the Bubble:
A number of team from the Big 12 find themselves on the bubble. For now they all seem to be on the right side of it. At the top of that group is Kansas State with far an away the best record of 20-9. They lack a true marquee win but have beat tournament teams like Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and TCU. At this point they fall somewhere between a 9 and 11 seed. I would lean toward a 10 or 11 seed. Baylor and Texas are square on the bubble and could find themselves on either side of it. Baylor is 16-12 with wins over Kansas, Texas Tech, and Creighton. Texas is 17-12 with wins over Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Butler among others. For now the bears would probably be positioned slightly ahead of the Longhorns because of that all important win over the Jayhawks. Furthermore, Texas still has to play Kansas and West Virginia to finish out the regular season. These will be make or break games for the Longhorns, who for now are one of the last four in. Needless to say conference tournament play will be crucial for both teams.
The Wildcats are the only true lock for the NCAA Tournament in the PAC 12. But even they will confront their fair share of skepticism in March. Allonzo Trier was received another suspension for alleged PED use, although that is under appeal. More importantly, Deandre Ayton’s eligibility is now in question after his name surfaced in the recently emerged NCAA impermissible benefits controversy. Coach Sean Miller will also likely not coach another game for Arizona after reports claimed he’d allegedly been caught orchestrating payment to Ayton during the recruiting process. In spite of all this the Wildcats are clearly the best team in the conference. A 22-7 record with wins over Arizona State, Texas A&M, and Alabama illustrate that. How the committee deals with them will be interesting given the uncertainty around the program. Arizona is probably a 3 seed at full strength, but could find themselves sliding down to the 5 slot if their star players are ineligible in March.
Arizona State is also basically a lock at this point. The Sun Devils started the year surprising many with a 12-0 start. At this point they looked like one of the best teams in the country after notching wins over both Kansas and Xavier. The second half of the season has been more tumultuous. But a 19-9 record with wins over two potential 1 seeds should be enough for solid seeding at minimum. As it stands they’re likely in the 6-8 range. I’d lean toward the former given the quality of their marquee wins.
On the Bubble:
Its quite possible the Pac 12 might only have two teams in the tournament. Many of the better teams in the conference find themselves in the bubble conversation. Consensus seems to be that USC is at the top of the list with a 21-9 record. Although that is somewhat perplexing given the fact that trojans don’t have a marquee win. Still many surmise that they are amongst the field as it stands. UCLA’s case for a tournament berth would seem to make far sense, as would Washington’s. The Bruins hold wins over Kentucky, Arizona USC and 19-10 record. The Huskies also sport a 19-10 record but with big wins over Kansas, Arizona, and Arizona State. Either team would likely deserve a spot more than the Trojans, but projections don’t seem to agree. Other Pac 12 teams that are still alive include Utah and Oregon. Both seem to be on the outside looking in at this point. Utah is 18-10 with wins over Arizona State, Missouri, and Washington. Meanwhile Oregon is 19-10 with wins over Arizona and Arizona State. For some reason the ducks are getting absolutely no love from Bracketologists. Not that they deserve to be in the current field, but a recognition of their resume seems warranted. The closing games of the regular season and conference tournament will be integral in deciding who’s in and who’s out from the Pac 12.
Auburn and Tennessee both began the season as unlikely candidates to finish atop the SEC, but here they stand. In a deep and much improved year for the conference that is no small feat. Auburn looks the favorite to take the SEC regular season title, which would likely put them in line for a 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. A 24-5 record with wins over Tennessee and Kentucky should cement their status as such. At this point anything less than a 3 seed is impossible. Tennessee will find themselves at a 4 or 5 slot in this field. A 21-7 record with 2 victories over Kentucky and a win over Purdue should see them to the 5 line at minimum. For that’s where I have the Volunteers, but they are surely capable of a 4 seed, especially with a run in the SEC Tournament.
As of now the SEC is slated to have at least 7, and more likely 8 teams in tournament. The conference has been uncharacteristically deep and for that reason many SEC teams have beaten up on each other throughout conference play. Although their records wont necessarily jump off of the page, their strength of schedule will. While it might not be the number one conference in college basketball (likely ranked ACC, Big 12, SEC, Big East, Big Ten, Pac 12, AAC etc.), it may very well be the most competitive. Right now Kentucky is right on the edge of a 5 and 6 seed. On their day Calipari’s band of Freshmen are capable of beating anyone of the country. Typical of freshmen though, this team has been plagued by inconsistency. The Wildcats are 20-9 with wins over West Virginia, Texas A&M, Louisville and Alabama. Given their recent domination of Missouri I have them in the last 5 spot. Surely that could change with the conference tournament still to come. Next out of the SEC is Florida at the 7 line. The Gators are another team that started out the year in the top 10 and struggled to find consistency. But I certainly wouldn’t want to be the 10 seed that has play them. Florida boasts quality wins over Auburn, Gonzaga, Cincinnati and Kentucky,. That itself should be enough to propel them to the 7 line despite a relatively lackluster 18-11 record. Texas A&M might just be the wonkiest team in the nation. The way the Aggies started the season they looked like a final four team. However, a number suspensions and seemed lack of focus saw this team hit a rough patch midway through the season. It is incredibly tough to predict where they’ll land as far as tournament seeding, but their resume includes wins over Auburn, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Very much like Oklahoma it is still possible Texas A&M could play themselves out of a tournament berth despite stellar play earlier in the year. For the strength of victory should be enough to an 8 seed in the current landscape. Another incredibly talented yet inconsistent team out of the SEC is Alabama. The tide are only 17-12 to this point, but boast wins over Auburn, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Florida, and Oklahoma. To me that spells 9 seed. Lastly we have Missouri. Without Michael Porter Jr. the tigers have managed an 18-11 record with wins over Tennessee, Kentucky, and Texas A&M. With Porter reportedly healthy, they may get a boost in seeding if he decides to play. For now they are likely somewhere around a 9-10 seed.
On the Bubble:
Arkansas are on the bubble right now but are very likely in the field. The razorbacks are 20-9 right now which is actually one of the better records in the conference. Additionally they’ve posted wins over Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Texas A&M. Certainly that resume would look like that of a team firmly in the tournament field. However, many of the SEC teams in front of them have amassed even more quality wins. Right now I’d say their looking at somewhere between an 9 and 11 seed, possibly even higher than Missouri. As such I’m reluctant to even say they’re on the bubble as the Tigers may be in even more danger than the razorbacks. But its tough to call where they’ll land. My money would currently be on a 10 seed. Georgia seems to be the next SEC team that people are considering, despite a 16-12 record. The Bulldogs’ resume sports wins over Tennessee, Saint Mary’s, and Florida twice. Yet right now they’re regarded as one of the teams just outside of the tournament picture with work to do. The Bulldogs of Mississippi State would also fall into that category. They are an impressive 20-8 but without the upper echelon victories of teams mentioned above. It still is worthy of note that they knocked off Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas A&M. But they are 0-3 against RPI top 25 teams. As such they would seem to need a big run in the SEC tournament if they hope to make the field. They have a big opportunity against Tennessee on the 27th as well.
Gonzaga is only true mid major lock. They currently have the look of a 3 or 4 seed after notching wins against Ohio State, Saint Mary’s, and Creighton, on their way to a 27-4 record. They’re the only mid major Multiple potential NBA talents including Rui Hachimura, Killian Tillie, and Jonathan Williams, and have also been the most consistent. It may be name/program recognition but you’d simply trust Gonzaga far more in a big game than any of the teams listed below.
Rhode Island is essentially a lock at this point as well with a 23-4 record, including wins over Seton Hall, Providence, and St. Bonaventure. Of the rest of the mid majors, Rhode Island boasts the most wins over tournament caliber teams. They are lead by stars Jarred Terrell and E.C. Matthews who have guided this team to what looks like a 6 seed. I wouldn’t be surprised though if a 5 seed was awarded. Nevada is next up on the list of mid majors. Despite a 25-5 record, their only real claims to fame are victories over Rhode Island and Boise State. They’re looking at a 6-7 seed but wherever they end up will likely be an over-seeding. A team who probably should be seeded ahead of the Wolfpack but likely won’t be is St. Mary’s. The Gaels, led by Jock Landale, have put together a 27-4 record, but with a better win over Gonzaga on the road. A slip up against San Francisco placed them in the bubble conversation, but they should be in somewhere between an 8-10 seed range even if they fall in the conference championship.
On the Bubble:
|New Mexico State||24-5|
St. Bonaventure is the only one of this group who is likely on the right side of the bubble without a conference championship. A 22-6 record with wins over Rhode Island, Syracuse, and Maryland prove that this mid major belongs with the rest of the field. However, this team led by star point guard Jaylen Adams, may have to play their way into the tournament as one of the first four (which would likely mean an 11-12 seed). Middle Tennessee is expected to win their conference with a 22-5 overall record, and despite losing acquitted themselves well this season against power conference teams like Auburn, USC, and Miami. They would also “belong” in the field and would be the only other team with a shot at March Madness should they fall in their conference tournament. Western Kentucky is another team out of Conference USA that still might make the tournament. A 22-7 record with a huge win over Purdue make their case. But they are a long shot for an at large bid as of now. Boise State is is currently on the outside looking in for tournament proceedings but a 21-6 record with wins over Oregon and Loyola Chicago mean they do have some semblance of a case a mid major. Still a conference tournament championship is probably their best hope for a ticket to the dance. New Mexico State is a name that always comes up around the tournament times. The perennial favorites in the WAC, the Aggies will likely return to the field as conference champions. If not their hopes would rest on the credibility of a solid win against Miami.
Mid Major Automatic Bids
The following is a list of probable mid major conference champions who have not already been discussed.
|Florida Gulf Coast||Atlantic Sun|
|UNC Asheville||Big South|
|UC Irvine||Big West|
|Murray State||Ohio Valley|
|South Dakota State||Summit League|
Tournament Power Rankings
The Following is a list of seed projections based on current power rankings. Seeds 11-16 will look completely different and be virtually entirely filled with mid major conference champions come March. However the list should provide insight as where a team on the outside looking in stands. Seeds 1-12 will be in bold to illustrate teams actually in the Tournament field.
|15||New Mexico State|
|16||South Dakota State|