This weekend the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Selection Committee released their annual February early preview of the top-four seeds in each region for March Madness. The timing is perfect, as it comes on the heels of the Super Bowl, and now that football is officially over, many eyes are going to turn to college basketball for the first time this year.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) February 8, 2020
It is a great time to start a national conversation about college hoops, and few events draw more criticism that the selection and seeding of the NCAA tournament. In this article, we are going to take a look at what the committee got right, what they got wrong, and which teams are going to move up or down this board before the official selections in March. Let’s get started!
First things first, let’s take a quick look at the seeding by region.
1. Baylor Bears (22-1)
2. Louisville Cardinals (21-3)
3. Seton Hall Pirates (18-5)
4. Auburn Tigers (21-2)
1. Gonzaga Bulldogs (25-1)
2. West Virginia Mountaineers (18-5)
3. Villanova Wildcats (17-6)
4. Oregon Ducks (18-6)
1. Kansas Jayhawks (20-3)
2. Dayton Flyers (22-2)
3. Florida State Seminoles (20-4)
4. Michigan State Spartans (17-8)
1. San Diego State Aztecs (25-0)
2. Duke Blue Devils (21-3)
3. Maryland Terrapins (20-4)
4. Butler Bulldogs (18-6)
The committee did a pretty good job here overall. The top three seeds being Baylor, Kansas, and Gonzaga were all easy selections, and each team is well deserving to be on the top line. Where I see an issue, is with San Diego State getting on the top line over Duke. I love this Aztecs team. They have won all of their games, and they are a lot better than many people are giving them credit for right now.
But they should not be ranked above the Blue Devils. The Aztecs SOS is sitting at 118th in the nation. They do have eight wins over the top-100 on kenpom, but they only have two wins over teams currently in the top-20. And one of those wins came over BYU, when the Cougars were playing without their best player, Yoeli Childs.
GOAT MOOD ?????? pic.twitter.com/sNmmy5dVaa
— Duke Men’s Basketball (@DukeMBB) February 11, 2020
When you look at the full resume for Duke, it is significantly better, despite the three losses. The Blue Devils have a top-50 SOS, and they have ten wins over the top-100, including signature wins over Kansas, Florida State, and Michigan State.
While I do like that small schools are finally getting some love, I am elated to see teams from two mid-major leagues getting top seeds, the Blue Devils should slide up and swap seeds with the Aztecs. Don’t agree with me? How about this. I’ll give you Duke versus San Diego State right now on a neutral floor at even money. Who are you taking? That’s what I thought. Blue Devils move up here.
We already talked about swapping out the Aztecs and the Blue Devils on the one and two lines, so we will lock San Diego State in here at a two seed. That leaves us with Dayton, West Virginia, and Louisville. The question you have to ask yourself with this group is, what do you value more, a strong resume of accomplishments, or which team you think is actually the better team?
After Seth, our boy @notthefakeSVP led off the show with this great clip ?
We have a very comfortable seat waiting for you at UD Arena… maybe do a live show after our game on Friday, Feb 28th?
— Dayton Basketball (@DaytonMBB) February 12, 2020
While Dayton doesn’t have the stack of signature wins that both West Virginia and Louisville have, I think they are the best team of this group. This Flyers team scores at an elite level, they defend well as a group and individually, and I think they are absolute locks to be playing on the second weekend of the tournament.
As far as the other two seeds go, Louisville and West Virginia, I think the committee got them just right. Both teams are accomplished and dangerous, and I think both deserve to be on the two line.
One of these teams is not like the other. While Jay Wright is a fantastic coach, and he has had a ton of success in the tournament, the Wildcats are not a three seed right now. Kenpom has them ranked at number twenty-eight, which is by far the lowest of any of these tier of teams and is the second lowest of any of the teams in the top-16, ahead of only Auburn.
The Wildcats have lost three straight games, and you don’t want to hit March playing poorly like Villanova is currently. None of their losses are bad ones, and they do have a nice collection of wins, but I can think of several teams that I would like to see above them, including a Butler team that just beat them a week ago. Villanova will be a team I will likely look to fade in March, as I just don’t think this team is the real deal this season.
All three of these other teams are solidly three seeds and could move up by the end of the year. Seton Hall currently leads the Big East, by a fairly wide margin, and the champion of that very talented league is going to get a hard look at a one or a two seed, and that looks like it is going to be Seton Hall.
We forced Duke into 21 turnovers Monday night.
— FSU Hoops (@FSUHoops) February 12, 2020
Florida State won’t win the ACC, but they can beat any team in the country. Leonard Hamilton plays the deepest rotation in the country, and they can get after it on the defensive side of the basketball. They very nearly knocked off both Duke and Virginia on the road, in the last two weeks, and had they managed to pull out those victories they would be in consideration for a one seed.
I think the Big 10 is underrepresented in these rankings. Top to bottom, it is the best league in the land, and to see their highest seeded team at a three is somewhat shocking. Maryland ranks out as the best of the bunch with teams like Iowa, Penn State, Michigan State, and Ohio State not far behind. I am ok with Maryland coming in at a three, but if they finish off the regular-season league title, I would look to move them up a line.
This is where the fun really starts. To me, Oregon and Arizona are basically the same team. They both have a bunch of talent and struggle to stay consistent. The analytics favor the Wildcats over the Ducks, but the eye test leans towards Oregon, with Payton Pritchard and Chris Duarte leading the way. It is actually Colorado, though, not Oregon or Arizona, that is in first place in the Pac-12, and whichever teams emerges as the winner of the league will get my spot on the four line.
We already talked about how great the Big 10 is this year. So, I am not mad that Michigan State made the top-sixteen, as I think the league deserves the recognition. The Big 10 has six teams ranked in the top-20 on kenpom right now, and they got just two of the top sixteen spots.
But I would swap out the Spartans with another team from the Big 10, the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Hawkeyes have an SOS of ninth in the country, and they have top-50 wins over teams like Illinois, Wisconsin, Rutgers, Michigan, Maryland, Cincinnati, and Texas Tech. Luka Garza is my pick for the national player of the year, and this Iowa team is going to beat a very tough out in March.
— Iowa Basketball (@IowaHoops) February 11, 2020
I would also drop Auburn out of these rankings. The Tigers are ranked 31st on kenpom, the lowest of any team on this list, and they just haven’t done enough in my book to be considered a top seed. The Tigers are in third place in the SEC, behind both LSU and Kentucky, and I think a case could be made for both of those teams jumping Auburn into this spot.
Kenpom has the SEC as the lowest rated of the major conferences, and I would tend to agree, but I do think they deserve at least one top-four seed. When you look forward a bit on the schedule, I see the LSU Tigers emerging as the regular-season league champs, and so they will get my highest ranking out of the SEC.
Teams That Could Move Up
We already talked about some teams that could move up into these rankings like LSU, Kentucky, Iowa, Penn State, Arizona, and Colorado. But most of those moves are going to be contingent on league play finishes. The last couple of teams I want to mention are teams that aren’t readily on the radar, that I think could finish strong and play themselves into a top seed on Selection Sunday.
Houston Cougars (19-5)
The AAC isn’t getting a lot of love this year, but they should be. The American is rated just below the SEC, as the highest-rated conference outside of the power six. And I think the Houston Cougars are the best the league has to offer, but it is close. Memphis, Cincinnati, Tulsa, SMU, and Wichita State should all be dancing, and whichever team finishes the year as the league champions, deserve to get a high seed.
Texas Tech Red Raiders (16-8)
Chris Beard can flat out coach basketball. The Red Raiders have gotten a little lost in the mix behind Baylor, Kansas, and West Virginia in the Big 12, but this team can compete with the best the league has to offer. They have wins over Louisville and West Virginia, and while they have struggled with consistency, if this team gets hot, they could win the Big 12 conference tournament and catapult themselves to a top seed.
Marquette Golden Eagles (17-6)
There aren’t many teams as fun to watch as this Marquette team is this year. Markus Howard leads the nation in scoring, and this team has recent wins over Villanova, Butler, and Xavier. Two of their six losses have come in overtime, and while they won’t catch Seton Hall for the Big East regular-season title, they are going to be scary in the Big East tournament. Nobody wants to play this team right now.
The selection committee has a really tough job to do. There are a million different metrics and rankings to consider, and overall, they do a fantastic job of getting things right. I think you could argue to move a couple of teams up or down a line or two, but by and large, I would tend to agree with the committee’s early-season selections. Thanks for reading and make sure you are on the lookout for my daily college basketball betting picks where I give you all the sharp betting advice you need to bet basketball profitably!