Being a top seed in the tournament isn’t just prestigious; it’s also a competitive advantage once the tournament begins. In the first rounds, a top seed faces one of the four bottom teams in the field and a No. 1 seed has never lost its opening round game. A top seed has to get to the Sweet 16 before it has any chance of facing a top-25 team.
Each week in this space, we will take a look at the race for the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Unlike the top 10 resumes column, this will focus as much on what lies ahead as what these teams have already done. These are the teams with the best chance to finish with a top seed based on talent, schedule, what they have done so far and what they can likely do going forward.
The undefeated Zags will be heavy favorites every time they step on the floor the rest of this season, with the possible exception of the game at Saint. Mary’s, where they will still be solid favorites. If Gonzaga finishes without a loss, it will be hard to deny them a No. 1 seed, maybe even the overall No. 1, and they may still be worthy of a spot on the top line even with a loss.
The Wildcats already have seven RPI top-50 wins, a figure exceeded only by Florida State at the moment. Most of those wins have come against likely tournament teams, most recently at home against Virginia in a game that went down to the wire. Villanova still has three such games left on the regular season schedule and two of them will be at home. The Wildcats’ toughest road game left is at Xavier.
3. Baylor Bears
The Bears suffered just their second loss of the season at Kansas Wednesday night, a place where winning streaks go to die. Baylor still has a very good collection of wins and both the Bears and Kansas lost at West Virginia. Baylor is ahead of Kansas on this list in part because the Jayhawks lost to Indiana, while Baylor has only lost to very good teams so far. The Bears also have a favorable schedule ahead with chances to avenge both of their losses at home.
Kansas is the team to beat in the Big 12 until somebody proves different. Baylor came close to winning at the Phog, but fell short. The Jayhawks now have a win over Kentucky on the road to go with their earlier victory over Duke on a neutral. Baylor has the slightest edge over Kansas in the chase for a spot on the top line of the bracket because the Bears have better quality losses and Kansas has to make the return trip to Waco. This race may come down to the conference tournament.
The Wildcats lead the chase for a No. 1 seed from the Pac-12 due to their ability to beat quality teams away from home and the fact that they’ve only lost to Gonzaga and Butler. The problem for Arizona may simply be the number of quality wins it can acquire because the Pac-12 doesn’t have great depth . The Wildcats still have a game left with each of Oregon, UCLA and USC though.
6. The ACC Champion
There are too many teams in this category to list individually. Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina and Virginia have all done well outside the league and are at the top of the conference standings in the early going. Each has, in its own way, the basis of a resume that could eventually lead to being a No. 1 seed. The Seminoles are done playing the other three in the regular season, but UNC and Virginia have a home-and-home and Louisville has one game with each of those. There are also several dangerous games against teams not in this group. If any one of these teams can separate itself from the pack between now and March, it will certainly be a strong candidate for a No. 1 seed.
7. Oregon Ducks
The Ducks managed to win at Utah last week, but suffered their worst loss of the season at Colorado. Oregon can still get to the top line, but has a very small margin for error at this point. The next two weeks will tell us if the Ducks have a chance. In that time, they will host Arizona and make the road trip to UCLA and USC.
Dropped from the list this week: Kentucky, Notre Dame.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed power rankings: Kentucky falls out, Zags, Nova 1-2