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Daniel Wilco | NCAA.com | February 9, 2019

March Madness rankings: What the Top 16 reveal can tell us about Selection Sunday

The NCAA selection committee revealed its third-ever in-season bracket preview Saturday.

Here are the current top 16 teams:

CURRENT SEED LINE SCHOOL
1 Duke
1 Tennessee
1 Virginia
1 Gonzaga
2 Kentucky
2 Michigan
2 North Carolina
2 Michigan State
3 Purdue
3 Kansas
3 Houston
3 Marquette
4 Iowa State
4 Nevada
4 Louisville
4 Wisconsin

So, how good of a predictor is that list for Selection Sunday?

Lucky for us, we’ve got two years of data to pull from.

ANDY KATZ PREDICTION: The complete March Madness field of 68 predicted after the Top 16 reveal

First takeaway: they’re pretty accurate as a whole.

In 2017, 15 of the 16 teams ranked in the in-season Top 16 were ranked in the actual Top 16 on Selection Sunday. The lone outlier was Virginia, which fell to No. 17, replaced by Purdue.

In 2018, that number dropped to 13 out of 16 — still fairly good — as Clemson, Ohio State, and Oklahoma suffered rough stretches to end the season and dropped by Selection Sunday.

Still, the predictions have proved to be very close through two years. Aside from that Oklahoma team in 2018, no team has moved more than two seeds in either direction from their Top 16 reveal placement.

MARCH MADNESS GUIDE: What is the selection committee, and who's on it?

The top four have also been impressive. Six of the eight teams projected as 1 seeds in the mid-season reveal have ended up as 1 seeds in the tournament. The two that didn't were Baylor in 2017 (which went 4-4 after the Top 16), and Purdue in 2018 (5-2 after the Top 16). All eight actual 1 seeds in the past two tournaments came from teams ranked in the top six of the midseason reveal.

Here's where all 32 teams that were ranked in the past two years, and where they ended up on Selection Sunday:

Year TEAM EARLY-REVEAL SEED (OVERALL) NCAAT SEED (OVERALL) Change
2017 Villanova 1 (1) 1 (1) 0
2017 Kansas 1 (2) 1 (2) 0
2017 Baylor 1 (3) 3 (12) -2
2017 Gonzaga 1 (4) 1 (4) 0
2017 North Carolina 2 (5) 1 (3) +1
2017 Florida State 2 (6) 3 (10) -1
2017 Louisville 2 (7) 2 (8) 0
2017 Oregon 2 (8) 3 (9) -1
2017 Arizona 3 (9) 2 (6) +1
2017 Virginia 3 (10) 5 (17) -2
2017 Florida 3 (11) 4 (14) -1
2017 Kentucky 3 (12) 2 (5) +1
2017 Butler 4 (13) 4 (13) 0
2017 West Virginia 4 (14) 4 (15) 0
2017 UCLA 4 (15) 3 (11) +1
2017 Duke 4 (16) 2 (7) +2
2018 Virginia 1 (1) 1 (1) 0
2018 Villanova 1 (2) 1 (2) 0
2018 Xavier 1 (3) 1 (4) 0
2018 Purdue 1 (4) 2 (7) -1
2018 Auburn 2 (5) 4 (13) -2
2018 Kansas 2 (6) 1 (3) +1
2018 Duke 2 (7) 2 (6) 0
2018 Cincinnati 2 (8) 2 (8) 0
2018 Clemson 3 (9) 5 (19) -2
2018 Texas Tech 3 (10) 3 (12) 0
2018 Michigan State 3 (11) 3 (9) 0
2018 North Carolina 3 (12) 2 (5) +1
2018 Tennessee 4 (13) 3 (10) +1
2018 Ohio State 4 (14) 5 (20) -1
2018 Arizona 4 (15) 4 (16) 0
2018 Oklahoma 4 (16) 10 (40) -6

Let’s take a look at some of the key risers and fallers and see how they performed between the in-season rankings and Selection Sunday:

Oklahoma

Early reveal: 4-seed (16 overall)
Tournament: (10-seed) (40 overall)
Performance: Even after three straight losses heading into the Top 16 reveal, Oklahoma still got a a 4 seed in 2018, thanks to wins over No. 5 Kansas, No. 8 Texas Tech, No. 10 TCU, and No. 3 Wichita State. But that was just the start of a skid, unfortunately. After the Top 16 reveal, Oklahoma lost three more in a row, then lost its first game of the Big 12 tournament. That gave the Sooners a 2-8 record over their final 10 games of the year, dropping them to 18-13 overall and a 10 seed on Selection Sunday.

Purdue

Early reveal: 1-seed (4 overall)
Tournament: 2-seed (7 overall)
Performance: Purdue was 23-4, but was coming off of back-to-back losses to No. 14 Ohio State and No. 4 Michigan State, both by one possession. But instead of rebounding like the committee had expected, the Boilermakers dropped their third game in a row, to unranked Wisconsin. They then lost in the Big Ten championship to Michigan, dropping them to 28-6 on Selection Sunday. That resume earned them a 2 seed in the tournament. 

Baylor

Early reveal: 1-seed (3 overall)
Tournament: 3-seed (12 overall)
Performance: Went 4-4 after the rankings, losing to three unranked teams and being bumped from its first game of the Big 12 tournament, though the Bears did pick up a win against No. 10 West Virginia in the penultimate game of the season.

North Carolina

Early reveal: 2-seed (5 overall)
Tournament: 1-seed (3 overall)
Performance: Went 6-2 after the rankings, beating No. 14 Virginia, No. 7 Louisville, and No. 17 Duke. Its two losses came on the road against No. 23 Virginia and in the ACC tournament semifinal against No. 14 Duke.

Virginia

Early reveal: 3-seed (10 overall)
Tournament: 5-seed (17 overall)
Performance: Went 4-5 after the rankings, losing to two unranked teams (and three ranked ACC foes), but beating No. 5 UNC at home.

Kentucky

Early reveal: 3-seed (12 overall)
Tournament: 2-seed (5 overall)
Performance: Went undefeated after the rankings, winning 10 in a row (including one over No. 13 Florida) and capturing the SEC tournament title.

Duke

Early reveal: 4-seed (16 overall)
Tournament: 2-seed (7 overall)
Performance: Went 8-3 after the rankings. Signature wins came against on the road against No. 14 Virginia and at home vs. No. 15 Florida State. Three losses (including two to unranked teams) had the Blue Devils reeling towards the end of the regular season, but running the table in the ACC tournament (with three straight ranked wins) certainly helped their case on Selection Sunday.

The implications for this year’s Top 16 are pretty obvious: Nothing is guaranteed at this point. There’s a month until Selection Sunday, which is plenty of time for hot teams to go ice cold, and sinking teams to right the ship.