Duke, Tennessee both worthy of top spot
the men’s basketball tournament started today, Duke, Tennessee, Virginia and Gonzaga would be No. 1 seeds, the NCAA selection committee unveiled Saturday as part of its annual Top 16 seed announcement previewing 2019’s March Madness.
The NCAA revealed the top four seeds in each tournament region for the third consecutive year.
“Duke and Tennessee were essentially No. 1 and No. 1a; it was that close,” NCAA committee chairman Bernard Muir said in a statement. “A slight edge in some of the metrics was the difference in Duke getting the overall top seed. Virginia was a solid No. 3 team on the top line, and Gonzaga got the fourth No. 1 seed based largely on the teams they’ve beaten and the quality of the opponents they’ve lost to.”
Muir added on CBS that “strength of schedule won it for this Duke team.”
The Blue Devils, who faced Virginia on the road Saturday, beat the Cavaliers on Jan. 19 in the first meeting between the Atlantic Coast Conference powers.
Virginia, however, leads the NET, the NCAA’s new metric replacing the RPI this season. Fourteen of the 16 teams announced Saturday were in the Top 16 of the NET rankings.
At the No. 2 line, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina and Michigan State edged No. 3 seeds Purdue, Kansas, Houston and Marquette. The final four teams revealed Saturday were No. 4 seeds Iowa State, Nevada, Louisville and Wisconsin.
Virginia Tech, Texas Tech and LSU. Muir said, “We went with Wisconsin, primarily because of their quadrant 1 wins.” The Badgers have five Q1 wins, which are top-30 home/top-50 neutral/ top-75 road victory. Villanova had only three entering Saturday.
The three biggest issues with SaturIf day’s unveiling:
❚ 1. Houston (No. 3) was under-seeded. The Cougars have the best record in the country with only one loss to an NCAA tournament-caliber team in Temple and also were No. 7 in the NET rankings. They have four Q1 wins, three of which were on the road. They should’ve been the top No. 3 seed, at worst.
❚ 2. Purdue (No. 3) was over-seeded. The Boilermakers have too many losses (six) to be the top No. 3 seed, even if that seeding line is correct.
❚ 3. Nevada (No. 4) was over-seeded. The Wolf Pack have lost only one game but have zero Q1 wins. They also have a strength-of-schedule in the 100s. It’s questionable that they made the cut here even with just one loss.
History shows the February unveiling is typically a fairly accurate forecast. In 2017, 15 of the 16 teams ranked in the in-season top 16 were ranked in the actual top 16. Last year that number dropped to 13 out of 16.
On Jan. 19 at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, Duke and forward Cam Reddish handed Virginia and guard Kyle Guy its first loss, 72-70. ROB KINNAN, USA TODAY SPORTS