Duke, Ten­nessee both wor­thy of top spot

USA TODAY International Edition - - SPORTS - Scott Glee­son

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 differ­ence 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 first 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 final 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 five 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 first loss, 72-70. ROB KINNAN, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

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