Only 5 weeks remain until Selection Sunday 2015, which means that it is time for the ESPN talking heads to begin ranking teams based on overall resume for the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Joe Lunardi, ESPN Bracketologist, currently has his S-Curve through the games of Sunday, 2/8/15, listed as follows:
These 8 teams represent the “Elite 8” of college basketball, 2015, in my opinion. All of the major conferences are represented at least once.
SEC – Kentucky (23-0)
ACC – Virginia (21-1), Duke (20-3)
B1G – Wisconsin (21-2)
Big 12 – Kansas (19-4)
Pac 12 – Arizona (20-3)
Big East – Villanova (21-2)
WCC – Gonzaga (24-1)
When March 15th arrives these teams will be best positioned to claim 4 of the top seeds in the Midwest, East, South, and West regions respectively.
I will be looking at each of the 8 teams individually to analyze each teams’ chances of capturing a 1 seed come March.
Kentucky is in the best position to land one of the four one seeds as they continue to be the lone unbeaten team in all of college basketball. The Cats’ schedule still ranks in the top 30 nationally which will allow them to maintain their spot as the number 1 team until they lose, and even if they do, there is a good chance that they will remain as the #1 overall seed in most bracket projections.
Chances of landing a 1 seed: 95%
Virginia is in great position to capture one of the four one seeds as long as they keep winning. That sounds very straight forward but the Cavs are now being forced to play without Forward Justin Anderson for the next 4-6 weeks, as he is injured with a broken finger. Let’s assume that Anderson will miss the remainder of the ACC regular season. That means that the Cavs will be playing @NC State, @Syracuse, and @Louisville without him. Virginia will need to avoid a complete collapse down the stretch (defined by losing two or more games) as well as getting themselves healthy for the ACC tournament. At this point, the eventual ACC tournament champion is in best position to grab a 1 seed as long as they don’t have more than 5 losses.
The ACC is the toughest conference in terms of having the most highly rated teams overall which will bode very well for the eventual tournament champion. Historically, the ACC tourney champ has been given very favorable seeding from the selection committee. I don’t expect that to change this year either. Lots of unknown variables here, it will be an interesting upcoming 5 weeks for Virginia fans.
Chances of landing a 1 seed: 45%
Gonzaga has no chance to secure a 1 seed if they do not win the WCC tournament championship as well as regular season championship. Due to the weak nature of the WCC conference, Gonzaga will need to not only win all of their games down the stretch, but do it convincingly.
Even 1 loss could be fatal to the Zags’ 1 seed hopes at this point. It would be in the Zags’ best interest to win out and do it with style.
If the Zags do what is expected (which is win out) Selection Sunday will become a very fun ordeal for the team from Spokane as they will have a 1-seed all but locked up. They will be sitting on 30+ wins with a lone road loss to Arizona in overtime. That will be tough for the committee to ignore.
Chances of landing a 1 seed: 85%
The Blue Devils possess the most impressive trio of wins in the nation thus far. They have already won road games at Wisconsin, at Louisville, and at Virginia. Similarly to Virginia, the Blue Devils’ path to a possible 1 seed rests completely on whether or not they win the ACC tournament championship.
Since Duke and Virginia cannot both win the ACC tournament, the opportunity for another team to jump up to the 1 seed line from 5-8 on the S-Curve is likely.
Chances of landing a 1 seed: 50%
Wisconsin is the most likely team to jump up to the 1 seed line after either Virginia or Duke lose in Greensboro, North Carolina for the ACC tournament.
The Badgers have the nations most prolific offense as well as a stranglehold on the usually extremely competitive B1G conference. Wisconsin still has upcoming games against Nebraska in Lincoln, Minnesota twice, Michigan St, Maryland, and Ohio St. They could theoretically go 6-2 down the stretch against a tough slate and still capture a 1 seed as long as they go on to win the B1G tournament championship in Chicago.
How likely is that to happen? At this point it seems decently likely. Remember, Traevon Jackson is due to return eventually which will only bolster the Badgers’ bench production.
Chances of landing a 1 seed: 50%
Villanova is in a similar situation as Wisconsin with identical 21-2 records. The biggest difference in resume’s is that the Badgers challenged themselves in the non-conference slate more than the Wildcats did.
Villanova still has some challenging games left on the schedule with games against Providence twice, Butler, St Johns, Marquette, Xavier, and Seton Hall.
The Wildcats will need to lose no more than one of those games as well as winning the Big East tournament (a challenging task). It seems that the Wildcats most likely landing spot is on the 2 seed line but they have done enough to warrant serious consideration.
Chances of landing a 1 seed: 20%
Arizona needs a strong finish to the Pac-12 season, a Pac-12 tournament championship, as well as help from outside sources (some of the above teams losing).
How likely is this to happen? Not particularly. All of Arizona’s losses are questionable and they haven’t played a schedule tough even to warrant serious consideration to jump teams without them losing first.
Chances of landing a 1 seed: 20%
The Jayhawks have played the nation’s most challenging schedule to date. That can only help them come Selection Sunday. Most bracket projections have Kansas as a comfortable 2 seed, but they are not by any means destined to fall on the 2 line, especially if they continue to pile up good wins in the Big 12 (the deepest conference in the nation). Kansas has a lot of things going for them on their resume but one thing that will probable ultimately work against them is the strength of their own conference. Kansas still has 4 regular season games remaining against ranked opponents as well as the Big 12 tournament (2 additional games against top 25 competition). If they can manage to get through that gauntlet they will be in surprising good shape for a one seed. The problem? It just doesn’t seem very likely that KU will go 6-0 against ranked competition the rest of the way.
Chances of landing a 1 seed: 15%
Projected top seeds of the NCAA Tournament:
In my projections I am going to give Duke the benefit of the doubt as they already have a road win at UVA and Virginia will be without one of their best players down the stretch.
Projected final S-Curve on 3/15/15:
01 – Kentucky
02 – Gonzaga
03 – Duke
04 – Wisconsin
05 – Virginia
06 – Arizona
07 – Villanova
08 – Kansas
The final 5 weeks of the 2015 regular season should hold plenty of drama for these fan-bases (besides Kentucky’s).