Bracketology: NCAA Tournament Bubbles And Seeds

    Selection Sunday is upon us. Who will get the bracket's final No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament? And which teams will have to settle for the NIT?

    March 12, 2017

    Selection Sunday is upon us. Who will get the bracket’s final No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament? And which teams will have to settle for the NIT?


    The long wait is over. Selection Sunday is here.

    Six more automatic bids will be handed out on Sunday before we find out the entire field of 68 for the 2017 NCAA Tournament.

    This year’s bracket will feature 32 automatic bids for conference champions, while the remaining 36 are at-large selections.

    Here are some thoughts as we get ready for a final day of hoops ahead of another edition of March Madness.

    *Villanova (31-3) and Kansas (28-4) are the likely first two No. 1 seeds. It’d be hard to see Gonzaga (32-1) get dropped by the committee after it had the ‘Zags as a No. 1 in mid-February. Because of Duke’s four-day grind through the ACC Tournament, the 27-8 Blue Devils have a chance to grab the final one. That’s where most of the drama should unfold on Sunday.

    Arizona could ultimately get the final No. 1 seed in the South Region over Duke, which may end up a No. 2 in the East. The Wildcats have the better overall record and have the advantage with their non-conference strength of schedule. But the performance of the Blue Devils in the ACC Tournament may have swayed the committee. Plus, Mike Krzyzewski’s team has five road/neutral site wins against the RPI Top 25.

    There has never been a No. 1 seed with eight losses, but this has been a wild college basketball season. Things change, and the Blue Devils definitely impressed the committee because it cares more about who you beat, and Coach K’s team has eight victories against RPI top 25 opponents. Add in the injuries that the team dealt with all season as well as Krzyzewski’s absence, and things seem to be tilting toward a No. 1 for Duke.

    If Duke nabs that final No. 1, Pac-12 tourney champ Arizona at 30-4 could then be the No. 2 seed in the West. Then there is Kentucky, which could get a No. 2 seed in the Midwest or the final No. 1 if it beats Arkansas in the SEC tourney title game. It just feels like the momentum is shifting too much toward Duke for that final No. 1.

    Did Syracuse and head coach Jim Boeheim do enough to get into The Dance? (Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports)

    *Teams potentially in the mix for the last four tournament spots include Syracuse, Kansas State, Rhode Island, Providence, USC and Illinois State. It would be criminal if the Redbirds were left out, but the way they played in the two losses to Wichita State may have been the nails in their coffin. Meanwhile, the Rams have a chance to get an auto bid by winning the Atlantic 10 championship against VCU. If the Rams grab the auto bid, a team such as Syracuse could be left out of the field. I didn’t think the Orange deserved a bid last year, and they ended up waltzing their way into the Final Four. Did Jim Boeheim’s team do enough this time around? I’m not so sure, especially because the Orange didn’t do much damage away from the Carrier Dome this season.

    Kansas State (20-13) beat No. 9 Baylor on Thursday but failed to upset No. 11 West Virginia, dropping a 51-50 decision to the Mountaineers. The Wildcats had regular-season wins against Baylor and West Virginia, but they don’t have the strongest RPI.

    Looking at the best teams on the bubble, Kansas State, Rhode Island, Providence and USC may have the best arguments, while Illinois State and Syracuse may have to worry the most.

    Note: Despite having 15 losses, 19-win Vanderbilt has a very solid résumé, so I think the Commodores are in. They have six RPI top-50 wins and beat Florida three times this season. Vanderbilt won eight of its final 11 games, with six of its final 11 victories against projected NCAA Tournament teams.

    *Too much work was left undone for Indiana, TCU, Georgia and Cal. The Horned Frogs were coming off of an upset of top-ranked Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament, but they lost by 21 points to No. 23 Iowa State in the semifinals. At 19-15, Jamie Dixon’s squad likely needed the win over the Cyclones. Cal, meanwhile, lost to No. 5 Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals. At 21-12, the Bears don’t have a great RPI and fell to 1-8 against RPI top-50 teams.

    *New teams to The Dance this year include North Dakota (Big Sky champ), UC Davis (Big West champ), Northern Kentucky (Horizon champ), Jacksonville State (Ohio Valley) and Northwestern (Big Ten at-large). These programs will be making their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearances. Wait, did I just jinx Chris Collins and the Wildcats?

    MORE: Oregon’s Chris Boucher Tears ACL, Out For Season

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