March Madness Selection Sunday Preview

With Selection Sunday and March Madness just a month away, one sports writer makes his top picks as to which teams will receive No. 1 seed rankings.

Zion Williamson and the Blue Devils have exceeded expectations this season, setting the stage for a strong March Madness run. (via WikiMedia)

Selection Sunday is only one month away. March Madness is almost here. So now seems like the perfect time to try to get into the heads of the selection committee and predict who they will choose as the No. 1 seeds in this year’s tournament. As anyone who has ever filled out a March Madness bracket will tell you, trying to predict the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament is a fool’s errand. Nevertheless, I present my best bets as to who the committee will select as the top seeds this year. 

Duke University All eyes were on Duke coming into this season. The Blue Devils had extremely high expectations after bringing in one of the best recruiting classes ever and they have not disappointed. Zion Williamson is a phenom, one of the best college basketball prospects in recent memory, and RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish both look like top five NBA picks come the draft in June. This team oozes with talent, skill and athleticism. They currently hold a 23-2 record, boasting impressive wins against Kentucky, Virginia (twice) and an all-time comeback against Louisville. This is easy. Fully expect to see Duke revealed as a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday on March 17.

University of Virginia The Cavaliers seem poised to lock up their fourth No. 1 seed in six years come March. All of their previous tournament blunders aside — they were the first top seed to ever lose to a No. 16 seed and never made the final four despite consistent high expectations — Virginia is once again one of the best regular season teams in college basketball this year. Virginia is 23-2, with both losses coming at the hands of the aforementioned Blue Devils. The Cavaliers have plowed through the rest of the ACC with great wins against North Carolina, Florida State and Virginia Tech. Skepticism is sure to come once the tournament starts, but nevertheless they should grab a No. 1 seed.

Gonzaga University The Bulldogs currently hold a 25-2 record and are one of only two teams this year to knock off Duke and both of their own two losses came at the hands of Tennessee and North Carolina, ranked fourth and ninth in net rankings respectively. Gonzaga hit record-breaking levels of elite this year as they currently hold the highest average margin-of-victory for any team against their Division I conference this century. The Bulldogs ace all the metrics, they pass the eye-test and they will surely lock up a No. 1 seed come Selection Sunday.

University of Kentucky This is probably the first surprise pick of the bunch. The story of the Wildcats’ season is perhaps best told through the two blow-out games that define their season so far. The Wildcats were blown off their home court by Duke in what was the worst loss for Kentucky of the Calipari era. Fast-forward three months to this past weekend, when Kentucky blew out Tennessee in one of their best performances of the season. The team has won 11 of their last 12 and it really seems like Kentucky has found their identity. This team is legit — don’t be surprised to see them at the top of their region come Selection Sunday.

Teams that could realistically crash the No. 1 seed party:

University of Tennessee Tennessee is probably still a great bet for one of the four No. 1 seeds. Coming into their matchup with Kentucky last weekend they seemed like a lock. After getting blown out, I think the separation between Kentucky and Tennessee is now razor thin. I am giving it to Kentucky for now because of the head-to-head win and a better net ranking, and projecting forward I can see Kentucky handing it to Tennessee in Lexington on March 2nd when the teams meet again. But don’t be mistaken, Tennessee is an extremely legitimate threat here, and if Selection Sunday were today it would be anybody’s guess.

University of Houston Houston currently holds the best record in men’s Division I college basketball. They have some statement wins including one against LSU. If Tennessee and Kentucky stay as close as they are now, maybe they cancel each other out and the committee looks another way. It is possible, but unlikely. Houston feels like a two-seed this year.

Michigan State University The Spartans delivered some solid wins, but also five losses. Sophomore guard Joshua Langford is out for the season and junior forward Nick Ward is now out indefinitely with a fractured hand, two huge blows to the team. However, some more advanced metrics, like Kenpom, suggest they are one of the four best teams in the country. Similar to Houston, if the SEC teams cancel each other out in the committee’s eyes, an MSU one-seed it is not outside the realm of possibility.

Email Matt Stingone at [email protected]

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