For the first time ever, the D1 men’s basketball committee revealed their top 16 seeds in the nation. Selection Sunday is pretty damn awesome, so this mini-version was really cool. There were many picks I didn’t agree with, but we now have a glimpse of the top four teams in each region of the March Madness bracket and this at least helps with the seemingly endless wait for Selection Sunday. The final field will be decided on Sunday, March 12.
At this point in the season, we can start to make out who the contenders are and who the pretenders are, all heading into the big dance. All of this can change in about two seconds with the way this season has gone, but here’s a look at who you should be able to trust moving into March and who could be ready for an early exit.
Gonzaga Bulldogs (26-0)
#4 in the March Madness Bracket Preview
The Bulldogs seemed to get the short end of the stick after the selection committee deemed them the fourth best team overall. Despite a pretty sub-par conference, they’ve dominated everyone they’ve played. Gonzaga is the top team in the nation for a reason. Until they lose a game, this team is the real deal and has a chance to make a deep run in the tournament.
Nigel Williams-Goss is good enough to lead this veteran team with two seniors and two juniors in the starting lineup. Gonzaga defeated Arizona, Iowa State, and Florida, so this isn’t just some team that’s been lucky to get to this point. The Bulldogs earned their ranking here and they are poised to silence the haters.
Villanova Wildcats (24-2)
#1 in the March Madness Bracket Preview
Villanova looks like they will coast to their fourth straight Big East Title. When you’re the defending champs and have posted this impressive of a record, you have to be considered a contender. They’re probably the second most consistent team in college basketball and also the best team according to the selection committee.
Head coach Jay Wright just earned the 500th win of his career after upending #24 Xavier. Experience is key in the tournament and that is seen all over this roster with the coaching staff. Having forward Josh Hart as a candidate for player of the year doesn’t hurt either.
Kansas Jayhawks (22-3)
#2 in the March Madness Bracket Preview
Kansas has been battle tested all year and that bodes well in the tournament. They have beaten seven top-50 RPI teams and stand completely alone in the Big 12 standings. The Jayhawks have also taken down Baylor, Duke, and Kentucky so far. According to statistics, they play in the strongest conference in all of the division.
One criticism I’ve heard about the Jayhawks is that they’ve been in way too many close games. This may be true but they’ve still found ways to get the win. Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson should be reliable come tournament time. Bill Self knows a thing or two about March Madness as well.
Oregon Ducks (22-4)
#8 in the March Madness Bracket Preview
Oregon is a tough team to read but they possess a solid resume. They beat UCLA and Arizona, topping off their six wins against the RPI top 50. The Ducks captured the final two seed in the bracket, which I actually agreed with. They did split the season series with UCLA, but there’s something about this Oregon team that makes them dangerous, especially in the way that they handled Arizona en route to an 85-58 shellacking.
Mark Hollis, the head of the selection committee, said that head-to-head meetings played a huge role in Oregon’s seeding and that is why I like their chances. The Pac-12 has been insanely competitive with the likes of UCLA and Arizona all spending time in the top 10. If Oregon can win the conference, which I think they should, they have shot to be a real scary team next month.
Florida State Seminoles (21-5)
#6 in the March Madness Bracket Preview
The Seminoles somehow received the number six overall ranking from the selection committee and earned a two-seed. This was all before their loss to Notre Dame this weekend. Although they’ve shown the capability to beat some very good teams, they’ve also lost to three sub-50 RPI teams. Losing to Syracuse, Georgia Tech, and Temple already creates the perfect storm of a team to get upset early in March.
I thought the two-seed was ridiculous to begin with, and then the loss to Notre Dame pretty much backed me up. I wouldn’t expect them to be cutting down the nets in Phoenix.
Wisconsin Badgers (21-4)
Not Ranked in the March Madness Bracket Preview
From the outside, Wisconsin’s record makes them look like a stronger team on the list, but they’re not. The selection committee left them off of their top 16 for good reason.
The Badgers are still atop the Big Ten and each one of their losses fall against teams in the top-35 RPI. The Northwestern loss doesn’t help their case, and they’ll be sure to meet with plenty of top-35 rated teams in the tournament. For that reason, I find them to be more of a pretender than anything.
Virginia Cavaliers (18-6)
#10 in the March Madness Bracket Preview
In recent weeks, the Cavaliers have been struggling, to say the least. They are now 2-3 in their last five games, and they better buckle up because the road does not get easier. Virginia is set to meet with a surging Duke team on Wednesday.
They just lost to Virginia Tech in double OT and teams that are hurting in February make for short stints in March. It should be interesting to see if the Cavaliers can turn it around in time for the ACC Tournament, but I just don’t like the way they’re playing at all.
Kentucky Wildcats (20-5)
#12 in the March Madness Bracket Preview
The Wildcats could remove themselves quickly from this list strictly due to the unbelievable talent on their roster. They can easily become contenders, but with the way this season has gone so far I had to toss them in this category. Kentucky is in danger of losing the SEC to possibly Florida or South Carolina.
Inconsistency can kill you, and that’s been the story of the year for Kentucky. They have one of the most talented rosters in the nation, but they need to get it together before the tournament to have a shot at winning it all. The Wildcats have not lost to a team in the sub-50 RPI, but that only says so much. Kentucky is a young squad featuring one of the nation’s best all-around players, Malik Monk, but winning the SEC will be crucial.
Team to watch: Duke Blue Devils (20-5)
Duke is killing it as of late, winning their last five in a row. They just won a close one to Clemson in a week where they beat up their Tobacco Road rival UNC, too. Oh yeah, Coach K is back on the sidelines, which is just a bit of an advantage. If Duke keeps this up, watch out.