If the NCAA 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,” said NCAA committee chair Bernard Muir 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 face Virginia on the road Saturday, beat the Cavaliers on Jan. 19 in the first meeting between the two ACC 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.
Here’s a look at the top 16 teams:
- Duke (top overall No. 1 seed)
- Tennessee (second No. 1 seed)
- Virginia (third No. 1 seed)
- Gonzaga (fourth No. 1 seed)
- Kentucky (first No. 2 seed)
- Michigan (second No. 2 seed)
- North Carolina (third No. 2 seed)
- Michigan State (fourth No. 2 seed)
- Purdue (first No. 3 seed)
- Kansas (second No. 3 seed)
- Houston (third No. 3 seed)
- Marquette (fourth No. 3 seed)
- Iowa State (first No. 4 seed)
- Nevada (second No. 4 seed)
- Louisville (third No. 4 seed)
- Wisconsin (fourth No. 4 seed)
Some of the notable snubs include: Villanova, 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 only has three entering Saturday.
The three biggest issues with Saturday’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 tourney-caliber team in Temple and also were No. 7 in the NET rankings. They’ve got 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 only lost 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.