Sunday, March 11, 2007

Talking #1 & #2 Seeds

There's so much to discuss today, but it seems clear that there are two issues that are most pervasive. First, obviously, the bubble teams. Who are the last teams in or out. We'll get to those later in the day. Secondly, the top seeds. Who will get the #1 seeds. Discussing whether Notre Dame is getting a 6 or an 8 seed just doesn't have as much draw. So, we'll get to the bubble teams later today. But for this thread, let's discuss the #1 seeds:

Entering Championship Week, you could make the argument that nine different teams had a shot at a #1 seed. Georgetown and Pitt both only had a shot if they won the Big East Tourney and got a ton of help. Georgetown held up their end of the deal, but haven't gotten nearly enough help. You could make a great argument that they've been playing like one of the top four teams in the nation for the past few weeks, but overall their resume just doesn't match up with the other top schools. Losing to Old Dominion at home was only part of a disastrous out-of-conference schedule that had them dropping out of a lot of analyst's brackets altogether. The out-of-conference RPI wasn't even in the Top 60 in the country. So, they're out. Pitt, obviously, is out after losing the Big East. I'm also throwing Texas A&M out, another school that needed to win its conference and get some help. By all measurements they have an inferior resume than Kansas, a team that might not get a #1 themselves. The RPI is outside the Top 15. They should be happy if they get a #2 seed, honestly.

So, that leaves us with six teams left, that probably any casual viewer of college ball could name: UCLA, Florida, UNC, Kansas, Ohio State, Wisconsin. Entering the week, Kansas had to be considered the weakest resume of the six. Like Bill Self's entire tenure at the school, they have had the occasional hiccup. The losses to Oral Roberts and Depaul sent their RPI careening, and they are the only of the aforementioned six teams with an RPI outside the Top 10. Of course, they have been red hot of late, possibly playing better than any other team in the nation. They will be selected as the National Champion in a lot of brackets this coming week. But, their overall resume means that Kansas is only getting a #1 if they win the Big 12 and atleast two of the other five don't.

You also have UCLA, a team that probably entered the week #1 overall. They suffered the worst loss of any of the remaining potential #1 seeds, but right now they've still got to be a #1. Which brings us to Ohio State, the team that is probably the new #1 overall with UCLA down. With the run to the Big 10 Title game, obviously far more impressive than UCLA's hiccup against Cal, you have to ask if they're getting a top seed no matter what happens. In my opinion, this isn't true. Right now they have a pretty identical RPI to UCLA, and would probably drop back below them with a loss. And UCLA has an outstanding 10-1 record against the RPI Top 50, a resume stat that no other team in the country can match. Ohio State is only 9-3, and a loss today would obviously drop them to 9-4. So, a loss by Ohio State would probably drop them in the pecking order behind UCLA.

The next team worth discussing is Wisconsin, one of three teams (along with UCLA and Ohio State) to have played like a top seed all season long. They haven't had the poor stretches that have plagued Kansas, UNC and Florida at times. So, a win today would mean that they deserve a #1 seed. But you don't always get what you deserve. The Selection Committee has strongly hinted that the brackets could be finished before the Big 10 title game ends. So, could Wisconsin be the team with the biggest gripe about missing a #1 seed? I'm going to say that they won't, simply because they represent a very simple contingency. The Selection Committee, throughout this afternoon, will draw up contingency plans based on what happens in the late conference tourney games. They can draw it up such that the winner of the game gets the #1 seed in the midwest, and the loser (assuming all the favorites win earlier in the afternoon) gets one of the top two #2 seeds. If Florida or UNC go down in the first set of games, it will be an even easier contingency to put together, since both OSU & Wisconsin would probably get a #1 seed with a Badgers win.

So the simplest thing to talk about is if all the favorites win today: Kansas, UNC, Ohio State, Florida. In that case, I think those four teams will get the #1 seeds. You can make a good argument for UCLA getting in over Florida or UNC, but I don't think it will happen. You can't ignore momentum, and UCLA's loss in their final two games is a major problem. What happens if Kansas, UNC or Florida loses? UCLA will be the first to get in. A defeated Wisconsin team would not have the resume of UCLA, even with the superior performance this week. A victorious Wisconsin team would jump ahead of both Ohio State and UCLA, and would move into the #1 seed in the Midwest.

So, for now, I'm predicing Kansas, UNC, Ohio State and Florida as the #1 seeds. We'll obviously revisit this as the games go down today. Whichever potential top seeds miss out, obviously, will get a #2. Georgetown, as well, is a near lock for a second seed. That leaves one spot for Pitt, Texas A&M, Texas and Memphis. I'd say that Memphis will miss out. They've won 22 games in a row, but they've just had such a weak schedule all year. They only went 1-2 against the RPI Top 50 this year. That's not a typo. They should be happy just to get a solid #3. If Texas can win their game today, they have a great shot to grab that seed. If they don't, it's almost a tossup between Pitt and A&M. A&M has played better against elite teams, but Pitt has been far more consistent against good opponents. They have a significantly higher RPI, due to a 13-6 record against the RPI Top 100 versus the 8-6 for A&M. Combine that with the fact that Pitt made their conference tourney and A&M got upset early, I'd have to go with Pitt for the final #2 seed. Of course, if Texas wins the Big 12 it becomes another tossup between Texas and Pitt. I know that a lot of people would like to give it to Texas for their strong finish. But their overall resume is really lacking, including an RPI that is still outside the Top 25. Sagarin, too, has them at 16th (and only 2-7 against the Sagarin Top 50) after yesterday's win. They are actually only 7-8 against the RPI Top 100. That stat alone will probably doom them to a #3 seed. A loss to Kansas could even drop them to a #4.

As always, this should be a discussion rather than a lecture. Let's see what everyone else has to say.

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