College basketball: Movement in
early Top 16 could mean shakeup come Selection Sunday
It’s been three weeks since the Division I men’s basketball committee offered up its first-ever in-season look at the top 16 seeds in the NCAA tournament.
We knew back then that the whole exercise was premature, that it was just a snapshot of college basketball's best teams at that time. With regular seasons wrapping up, conference tournaments in swing around the country and Selection Sunday a little more than a week away, NCAA.com examines how things have changed:
An eight-game winning streak, including victories against Oregon and Arizona, has shown UCLA’s ability to win in a variety of ways. Game-winning buckets, Check. Grind-it-out affairs, Check. Winning on the road, You betcha. Despite the fact that No. 3 UCLA trails both the No. 4 Ducks and No. 5 Wildcats by a game in the Pac-12 standings, the conference tournament may be another chance for UCLA to move into the picture for a top-two seed.
Outlook: A Pac-12 title could put UCLA in the driver’s seat.
The Jayhawks are the only team on this list that boasts five wins against teams in the top 10 of the AP Poll. And while Bill Self and company have already locked up their 13th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title, there’s still plenty more for this team to do — including making it through a loaded Big 12 tournament field replete with bubble teams looking to knock off a high-profile opponent. Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Texas Tech and TCU all could provide hurdles, but if the Jayhawks can get to the Big 12 semifinals — or beyond — they should keep one of the NCAA tournament’s top four seeds.
Outlook: A Big 12 title may be a prelude to a No. 1 overall seed for head coach Bill Self and company.
If college basketball pundits had this conversation six weeks ago, it’d be hard to keep Florida State away from the top line in whatever region it ended up in. Despite a 5-1 romp through arguably the toughest stretch in college basketball this year, the fire that fueled the Seminoles has petered out. What's left is a team smoldering and wearied by the stretch run in the ACC. Head coach Leonard Hamilton will have to rally the troops.
Outlook: The Seminoles will get a chance to prove what's left in the tank with each matchup it faces in the ACC tournament. A few extra wins might remind the committee what this team can do.
Virginia The Cavaliers will once again be able to lean on their defense, but a four-game losing streak in the ACC has some Virginia fans wondering if there’s enough scoring to carry this team for another run into the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. A late-season win over North Carolina may have righted the ship momentarily, but there's a lot standing between this Virginia team and another run to the Elite Eight.
Outlook: The onus will be on the offense to prove it can keep pace.
Four wins at the start of the season over teams in the AP Top 25 smacked of a team that deserved a No. 1 seed. But a 5-5 clip over the team's last 10 games, including losses to unranked Kansas State and Texas Tech, has some questioning Baylor's true identity. It's certainly a team with a good tournament makeup, but that could have been said about last year's Baylor squad as well, which fell to Yale in the Round of 64.
Outlook: Baylor is looking to avenge last year's early exit, but the team will need some more seasoning to regain its early season form.
|Who would have thought that a one-loss Gonzaga team might be on the outside looking in at a potential No. 1 seed? The West Coast Conference tournament is still the ‘Zags to lose, but another defeat before the WCC final could rattle the team’s hold on a top spot.|
|When the Tar Heels play their best, they can beat anyone in the country. When they don’t, they tend to play down to their competition. Five of the team’s six losses have come on the road. The only other blemish came in a three-point loss to UK. A deep ACC tournament run could spell trouble for any who stand in UNC’s path.|
|Perhaps the most dangerous team on this list, UK’s chances will hinge on the performance from a trio of freshmen — guard De’Aaron Fox, guard Malik Monk and forward Bam Adebayo. The club has managed to stay atop the SEC despite huge turnover from a year ago. And if things keep on humming, expect to see the ‘Cats causing some ruckus. The trio of freshman could be the talk of the tournament — for better or for worse.|
|A pair of eight-point losses to Butler and a two-point loss to Marquette are the only hiccups for Villanova. The title defense started early with a tough visit to Purdue in the second game of the season, a game that has set the tone for the Wildcats. It's hard to think the defending champs might be operating under the radar, but they're only too happy to see the attention focused elsewhere.|
|Another strong season for the Cardinals, with six of their seven losses coming against ranked opponents. That bodes well come tournament time: Quality losses can yield tangible benefits in the long run. For now, the Cardinals hope that their regular-season slip-ups will mean progress come the postseason.|
|It’s been a bittersweet season for Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers. Huggins notched his 800th career win earlier in the year, but his Mountaineers have also dropped five games to unranked opponents. A nice run in the Big 12 tournament would go a long way in soothing the qualms facing the Mountaineers faithful.|
|It’s been a long time since Oregon’s early-season loss to Georgetown, but the missteps for this Oregon squad have been hard to overlook. They’ll be in Field of 68 for sure, but the second straight No. 1 overall seed might be a bit tougher to come by. A dominating run through the Pac-12 tournament would position Oregon nicely on Selection Sunday, though.|
|Hard to believe a team with two long winning streaks — seven and 10 games — could be wondering about its fate on Selection Sunday. Like Oregon, Duke will definitely be in the field, but how highly seeded will the Blue Devils be? A win over UNC on Saturday and a good run in the ACC tournament wouldn't hurt.|
|A late-season swoon, which included three losses in four games, had the Bulldogs reaching for the refresh button. A four-game winning streak put that tough stretch behind them and gives Butler a nice jumpstart heading into the Big East tournament. Plus, Butler has a 2-0 record against defending NCAA champion Villanova.|
|An injury to starting center John Egbunu has left the Gators a bit thin up front, but this is an athletic, battle-tested team that should be a tough out wherever it finds itself come Selection Sunday. If not for the heroics of Kentucky freshman Malik Monk, Florida would have been 2-0 against the Wildcats.|
|After an up-and-down start to the year, Arizona has reeled off 20 wins in 22 games to earn a share of the Pac-12 Conference lead. Arizona's seeding fate will rely largely on what happens in the Pac-12 tournament.|