ncaa-tournament

The “Ones” We Are Waiting For: The Race For No. 1 Seeds

It’s almost March.

You know what that means: Many seeds of intrigue are being planted, seeds that will sprout on Selection Sunday, now only 19 days away.

It’s true that seeds don’t guarantee a better bracket, but they certainly don’t hurt. For all the volatility of March Madness, this fact is hard to deny: Top seeds have won the NCAA tournament more often than not over the past 25 years, and not by a particularly narrow margin. The Cinderellas, Davids and bracket-busters have their day in the round of 64 and, occasionally, the round of 32. However, when the Final Four rolls around, teams with that “(1)” next to their place on the bracket sheet typically cut down the nets. Only one top seed can win the whole ball of wax — three will fall short — but in the past 25 editions of the Big Dance, 17 of them have been No. 1 seeds. That’s 68 percent of a quarter-century’s worth of champions. Do top seeds matter? Of course they do. At Skybook you can check the latest NCAA Basketball lines for these, and all other teams in this year’s tournament!

Here, then, is the chase for the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Keep in mind that at this point in time last year, the team that ultimately became the No. 1 overall seed for the tournament was not even on the top seed line. The landscape can and does change — abruptly and substantially. Always keep that point front and center when you assess these kinds of competitions.

There are three favorites for the top seeds, with the fourth “one seed” being completely up for grabs. It’s still a bit early to say that any single team is a “lock” for a top seed, however, because the very notion of a “lock” (this applies to the selection of teams as well as the seeding of them) means that no string of losses or negative developments can possibly alter a team’s situation. Without further ado, let’s look at the teams in the hunt for number one… in four regionals.

FLORIDA

Record vs. RPI Top 25: 2-1

vs. Top 50: 5-2

vs. Top 100: 12-2

Bad losses? None

Remaining Games: @ Vanderbilt, LSU, @ South Carolina, Kentucky, SEC Tournament

Florida might reside in a very weak conference, but the Gators played tough non-conference opponents — usually in road or neutral-court settings — and won as often as they lost. Winning at Kentucky enabled the Gators to turn the corner in the race for a top seed, but playing in the SEC means that if Florida loses just one game to a non-Kentucky opponent in the next 2.5 weeks, such a result could be enough to push Billy Donovan’s team to the two line if other teams take care of business. If Florida wins each of its next five games — the fifth game being the SEC Tournament quarterfinals on Friday, March 14 — it should be fine even with a loss in the SEC semifinals, unless the opponent in that game carries a low RPI. Given that there’s a seven-way tie for fourth place in the SEC, such a scenario is possible.

Odds of getting a No. 1 seed: 85 percent.

ARIZONA

Record vs. RPI Top 25: 4-0

vs. Top 50: 9-2

vs. Top 100: 13-2

Bad losses? None

Remaining Games: California, Stanford, @ Oregon State, @ Oregon, Pac-12 Tournament

The Wildcats needed to show the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee (aka, the selection committee or just “the committee”) that they were still a formidable team without injured forward Brandon Ashley. A road sweep of Utah and Colorado represented a big step in the right direction. In order to feel safe about a No. 1 seed in the West Region, Arizona needs to make sure it doesn’t lose more than one game before Selection Sunday. If the Cats lose twice, Wichita State remains unbeaten, Syracuse wins the ACC Tournament, and Kansas wins the Big 12 Tournament, you could see Wichita State or Kansas become the 1 seed in the West, with Arizona being the 2 seed in the West. With that being said, Arizona joins Florida as the biggest favorite for a top seed.

Odds of getting a No. 1 seed: 85 percent.

WICHITA STATE

Record vs. RPI Top 25: 1-0

vs. Top 50: 2-0

vs. Top 100: 6-0

Remaining Games: @ Bradley, Missouri State, Missouri Valley Conference Tournament

Yes, the computer numbers and strength of schedule aren’t overwhelming, to say the least. Yet, it seems hard to deny the contention that if Wichita State wins out, it will get a No. 1 seed. Keep in mind that Gonzaga received a top seed last season, even though Miami and (to a similar extent) Duke assembled resumes that stacked up favorably against the Zags. Would the committee really deny the Shockers a top seed despite an unblemished record? Probably not. The bigger question is if the Shockers will be kept in the Midwest or shipped West if in-state big brother Kansas wins the Big 12 Tournament.

Odds of getting a No. 1 seed: 75 percent

Here are a few other contenders:

SYRACUSE

40 (285)

KANSAS 

40 (325)

MICHIGAN

35 (360)

DUKE

25 (385)

MICHIGAN STATE

15 (400)

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