Selection Sunday is today. All but a few conferences have finished their tournaments, and the bubble teams are on edge. Who gets number one? Who’ll play in the always entertaining five and twelve seed games? Who will be this year’s Butler (hint: Wichita State)?
While bracketology isn’t an exact science, the number one seeds are all but confirmed. My predictions for the number one seeds tournament finish, in order of RPI, below:
Syracuse — Say what you will- they lost the Big East tournament (not even to the conference champions), their SOS is lower than several top RPI teams, Syracuse deserves a number one seed. Conversely, I would put money on the fact Syracuse will not make the elite eight. They’re winning by approximately four points over the last five games against opponents with a far lower ranking, and are on a downward trend.
This seems to be the Syracuse way, taking notes from the past three tournaments. You’d have to go all the way back to 2003, a better team than 2012′s, to find an elite eight appearance – and that was the year Syracuse won it all. Syracuse has a tradition of being overrated and, while anything can happen, my money is on Syracuse falling to someone like Memphis in round two.
Kentucky — The Wildcats are 32-1, 16-0 in conference. All year they’ve been unstoppable, beating North Carolina, Kansas, and Florida and Vanderbilt twice. Granted, some games have been sloppy. The SEC championship, for example, featured a Florida Gator team that nearly toppled Kentucky. There’s no real explanation for the Kentucky slump – opponents have been progressively closing the gap, same as Syracuse.
Consider, victories over Miss. State 73-64, Vanderbilt 83-74, Georgia 79-49, Florida 74-59, LSU 60-51, Florida 74-71. Not counting the Georgia game, Kentucky has been winning by an average of eight points. Now, while we can’t rely exclusively on numbers, the next time Kentucky plays a viable team (second round of the tournament, an eight or nine seed), they’ll lose by four points.
If Kentucky gets a favorable pairing in the second round, against Purdue perhaps, they’ll make it to the sweet 16 no problem. However, if Kentucky gets Florida State in the sweet 16, I predict a loss. Should Kentucky face Colorado State, New Mexico State, or nearly any team other than FSU – expect a victory. Then it’s on to, say, Memphis or Missouri, both of which should be manageable for the Wildcats.
Bottom line: A Final Four appearance unless they meet someone like Florida State (Wichita State, Baylor works too) in round two.
North Carolina — One of the most reliable teams in college basketball, you can almost always count on the Tar Heels going far. When ranked the number one or two seed in the past decade, they also got to the elite eight and won two championships (2005, 2009) as well.
In one of the biggest blowouts of the entire year, however, Florida State beat North Carolina 90-57. That’s to say, the team is far from perfect this year. Another notable loss was to UNLV by ten, 90-80. The Tar Heels five game trend is winning by ten points, and two of the last three have been by at least 16, as well as against top 50 RPI teams.
Should North Carolina beat Florida State – which is not a guarantee – they’ll look good heading into the big dance. Playing Alabama, Notre Dame, or even Saint Louis will be a win in the second round. I’d be nervous about playing Gonzaga or Creighton though, which is a real possibility.
I predict a Final Four appearance in 2012 for the Tar Heels, and then a loss to either Ohio State or Kentucky, depending on the seeding.
Ohio State (I would put Missouri as a number one, but predict the selection to be OSU) — The Buckeyes have been quite flip-floppy over the past decade. Although making six appearances in the past ten years – four of those being a top two seed – Ohio State has managed to win three games but once. 2007 was the year Ohio State lost the national championship to Florida, both ranked number one.
Last year the Buckeyes had a much better team and only made it to the sweet sixteen. I predict a similar outcome this year. The five stretch for Ohio State has left them 4-1, two of those victories being more than ten points. They’re hitting their stride at the perfect time. Either one of their predicted matchups come round two (most likely Notre Dame), the Buckeyes should handle no problem.
Should they get Murray State in the sweet sixteen, Ohio State will most likely fall. Murray State has an impressive record, and has beaten a few worthwhile teams including Memphis, Southern Miss, and Saint Mary’s. OSU could easily overlook the Riders, and lose once again in the Sweet 16.
The bottom line – Kentucky is the most impressive number one seed. They have quite a few holes, and obviously depending on how it plays out, North Carolina will be the one that goes the farthest.