Power 16: NCAA Tournament Edition
With Selection Sunday just around the corner, the Power 16 has decided to do something a little different. Instead of ranking the nation’s sixteen strongest teams, this selection committee of one has chosen the 64 strongest teams (seeded #1 through #16) to give you insight as to what to expect tomorrow.
#1 seeds: North Carolina, Louisville, Connecticut, Pittsburgh
Oklahoma was here until Thursday night, and Memphis could grab a spot although they shouldn’t get much credit for another C-USA title. Louisville’s win over Villanova and subsequent birth in the Big East Final cements their spot here.
Despite a loss to Baylor, Kansas still gets a #2 seed thanks to an impressive resume. With that said, the committee could look at that game and drop them down to a #3. There is an outside chance that Michigan State gets consideration at #1 if they win the Big Ten.
#3 seeds: Duke, Wake Forest, Washington, Villanova
The team to watch out for here is Wake Forest. The enigmatic Demon Deacons have Final Four talent and, at times, have looked like the best team in the country. On the other hand, they are very young and have lost games this year that they had no business losing. It’ll be interesting to see which team shows up next week.
#4 seeds: Gonzaga, Clemson, Syracuse, Arizona State
People can knock Gonzaga all they want for the schedule they play, but this team is talented and tournament-tested. They’re not a Cinderella anymore, but they aren’t getting nearly enough credit. Arizona State gets the nod here after beating Washington and could swap places with the Huskies if they beat USC on Saturday.
#5 seeds: Missouri, Purdue, LSU, UCLA
This is where it gets hard. Missouri could get a #4 seed, even though they looked terrible at Kansas and suffered a bad loss at A&M to close the season. Meanwhile, LSU and UCLA could find themselves lower, although LSU shouldn’t fall too much after winning the SEC regular season title.
#6 seeds: West Virginia, Florida State, Tennessee, Texas
Texas and Tennessee are #4 seeds or better based on talent alone. The Longhorns squandered a chance to move up by losing to Baylor. West Virginia moves up after a great win over Pitt. Florida State has a chance to confuse the committee if they beat UNC today.
#7 seeds: Illinois, Marquette, Xavier, Oklahoma State
Illinois and Marquette suffer because of ending their seasons poorly. Marquette let a great opportunity to move up slip away against Villanova Thursday. Oklahoma State let nothing slip away, stripping OK of their potential #1 seed and bumping themselves up to a #7 seed. Finally, there are many bubble teams angry with Xavier (and Dayton) for allowing the A-10 to get a 3rd team in.
#8 seeds: Butler, Boston College, California, BYU
Butler falls after losing to Cleveland State. BYU could move up by winning their tourney, which will be difficult with the presence of four bubble teams looking to cement their status as tournament-worthy.
#9 seeds: Texas A&M, Ohio State, Utah, Michigan
I had A&M as an eight-seed, but the loss to Texas Tech in the first round puts them here. They could conceivably fall even further than this despite ending the season with a six-game winning streak. Utah’s presence in the Mountain West Final should prevent them from falling lower than this.
#10 seeds: San Diego State, Wisconsin, Siena, Creighton
Siena, the MAAC’s automatic bid, is a team that probably could have gotten an at-large bid. They beat Vanderbilt last year before falling to Villanova, so they are dangerous. Creighton is thought to be a bubble-team, but their resume is simply too strong to ignore. 8-4 on the road, and 9-5 against the RPI-100 should be more than enough to get the Bluejays in.
#11 seeds: VCU, New Mexico, Minnesota, Dayton
Would anyone be shocked if VCU wins a first-round game? They knocked Duke out two years ago, and they showed in the CAA Final against George Mason that they have the talent to take on a top team. Eric Maynor is a lottery pick, and Larry Sanders showed that he could be an intimidating presence inside. Dayton was a #9 seed before losing to Duquesne and enabling the A-10 to steal a bid from a power conference.
#12 seeds: Utah State, Penn State, Northern Iowa, Temple
Utah State needs to win the WAC tourney. If they don’t, they’ll have to sweat on Sunday, with 25 of their wins coming against team outside the RPI top 100. The question here is whether or not Temple will need to win the A-10 championship to get in. Their at-large resume looks pretty strong with wins over Penn State, Tennessee, and Xavier.
#13 seeds: Cleveland State, American, North Dakota State, Western Kentucky
After knocking off Syracuse earlier in the year, Cleveland State gets in by defeating Butler to win the Horizon League title. They are very athletic and can give any #4 seed a run for their money in the first round. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see them match up with Syracuse again on a neutral court after stealing a win at the Carrier Dome?
#14 seeds: Robert Morris, Stephen F. Austin, Binghamton, East Tennessee State
The best win of any of these four teams was Binghamton’s victory at Rutgers. None of the other teams beat anything close to a quality opponent. According to my crystal ball, no 14 seed will make it past the first round.
#15 seeds: Radford, Portland State, Cornell, Morgan State
Portland State is a dangerous team that could get a higher seed. They beat Gonzaga earlier in the season and lost to Washington by 1, which shows they can play with the big boys. They still have to win the Big Sky and cannot overlook a Montana State team that just knocked out Weber State, who was 15-1 in conference.
#16 seeds: Cal-State Northridge, Morehead State, Buffalo
The play-in game will feature Southern Conference champ Chattanooga (who beat College of Charleston, the team that knocked out Stephen Curry’s Davidson squad) against the SWAC champion, which should be Alabama State. Buffalo gave Connecticut a tough battle early on and won’t just lay down in the first round.
Just Missing Out (in order): UNLV, Arizona, New Mexico, Saint Mary’s
There is a solid chance that the Field of 65 could look eerily similar to this come Sunday. Or, a team (like USC, Baylor or Duquesne) could win their respective tournaments and mess everything up. That’s the beauty of college basketball. Anything can happen.
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