We will start this update at the top of the support where there have been some changes in the first two seed lines since Saturday morning. That’s in large part thanks to the semifinal victory of the SEC Tennessee Volunteer Tournament 82-78 over the Kentucky Wildcats (and another round of numerical calculations on my part).
At this time, the two best teams in the field of 68 come from the ACC, with the 29-3 Virginia Cavaliers first (in the top of the East region) and the 28-5 Duke Blue Devils second (anchoring the South) . Tennessee jumps to third place (leading the Midwest), with Gonzaga Bulldogs fourth and anchoring the West. The No. 2 seeds are the North Carolina Tar Heels, the Kentucky Wildcats and a pair of teams that will meet in the final of the Big Ten Tournament tomorrow, the Michigan State Spartans and Michigan Wolverines.
The Selection Committee will not have an easy option to determine the last two seeds No. 1. Here is a breakdown of what I considered when making my current projection.
Virginia is at the top of the NET ranking and is tied with the state of Michigan for the highest number of victories in Quad 1 in the country, with 12. The Cavaliers go to the top as a result.
Duke only ranks third in the network, but has a record of 10-4 in the Quad 1 games with the second place in the national ranking. In addition, it seems that they return to their state of beating the world with Zion Williamson back in the fold, even if Marques Bolden is still out. The Blue Devils are in second place for now.
Third is where things start to get complicated. Tennessee receives the go-ahead despite the fact that the Volunteers are outside the top four of the NET (occupying sixth place until this morning). But a pair of victories over Kentucky and that December 9 head-to-head victory over Gonzaga gives them the edge right now. However, if Tennessee loses Auburn in the SEC Tournament finals tomorrow, it could fall again.
Finally, Gonzaga is fourth, even with a loss to North Carolina (a game in which Killian Tillie did not participate for the Bulldogs). The Bulldogs rank second in the NET, which probably feels good with the Selection Committee. However, a comment made by the chairman of the Committee, Bernard Muir, after a breakthrough in parentheses last month, may cause some concern for Gonzaga fans.
The Bulldogs’ impressive loss on Tuesday night against Saint Mary’s is currently ranked as their worst loss. But the Gaels entered today at 32 on the NETWORK. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s worst loss came in 38th place in Texas (although, oddly enough, in the same Orleans Arena stadium that is the site of the West Coast Conference Tournament), Kentucky he has two losses below 50 and Michigan State lost to 109th place in Illinois.
Therefore, I keep Gonzaga on the top line according to the orientation of the Committee.
Now, North Carolina could end up as No. 1 at Gonzaga’s expense or in the case of a Tennessee loss tomorrow. The Tar Heels do have those two victories over Duke, even if they came without Zion Williamson for the Blue Devils. Also, I can not help thinking that the Committee will not punish UNC too much for losing a single point to Duke with Williamson playing.
To complicate things further, if Duke defeats the Seminoles of the state of Florida in the final of the ACC Tournament tonight, the deliberations on whether to place the Blue Devils or Virginia No. 1 in general will be fascinating.