For the first time ever, we know the selection committee’s top 16 seeds heading into the home stretch of the season. The first thing that jumps out: no Big Ten school resides in the rankings.
It’s been a down season for the Big Ten, but to see Purdue outside of the top 16 is somewhat surprising. To see Wisconsin outside of the top 16, though, is borderline shocking; the Badgers are the No. 7 team in the AP Poll and carry a 21-3 record into the final month of the season.
But resumes matter more to the committee than name brands and AP rankings, and though Wisconsin’s record may dazzle, its wins have been unspectacular. The three best teams the Badgers have played are Creighton, North Carolina and Purdue. They lost all three games by double digits, and the rest of the Big Ten hasn’t given Wisconsin a chance to pad its resume.
On the flip side, the ACC passes both the eye test and the metric test. The league has five teams in the top 16 – three of which are on the two-line.
North Carolina, Florida State and Louisville were expected to be seeded as such, but Virginia coming in as a No. 3 seed is higher than many anticipated.
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The metrics love Virginia. The Hoos are currently ranked second overall in KenPom – while the Cavaliers have a label as a defensive juggernaut that struggles to score, the pace-adjusted numbers say otherwise; Virginia boasts the No. 14 offense in the country. We’ve been hearing this season that advanced analytics will have more and more influence on how the final NCAA tournament bracket looks. Based on this release, that notion holds up – Florida is another statistical darling, and the Gators are solidly on the three-line in today’s top 16.
The final key takeaway from Saturday afternoon’s rankings pertains to Gonzaga’s placement. The Bulldogs are the No. 1 team in the AP Poll, and they earned a No. 1 seed in the top 16 reveal. But the Zags are the fourth overall seed, flirting with dropping to the two-line.
The silver lining: Gonzaga was placed in the West region, and it will take that geographic advantage over a No. 2 or 3 overall seed any day. But if the Bulldogs want to clinch a top spot come March, they have little to no room for error; if Gonzaga falls on Saturday night against St. Mary’s, it feels as though the committee will have no issue dropping it to the two-line. The Bulldogs are undefeated, and they played a difficult nonconference schedule. Still – compared to ACC and Big 12 teams, you can only notch so many quality wins when playing in the WCC. If any team is equipped to go undefeated, it’s Gonzaga. But it will likely have to do just that in order to earn a top seed come Selection Sunday.