The NCAA tournament selection committee has a mere eight hours to finish this year's bracket before CBS reveals it tonight at 6 p.m. EST. Here's a look at five most difficult decisions this year's committee must make:
1. Kentucky and Syracuse are two of the No. 1 seeds. Who gets the other two?
Although Duke's loss in the ACC semis to Florida State on Saturday reduces the number of contenders for the final two No. 1 seeds by one team, five others still remain squarely in the hunt. North Carolina can all but lock up one of the No. 1s if it defeats Florida State in Sunday's ACC championship game. In that scenario, the final No. 1 would go to Big 12 tournament champion Missouri, Big 12 regular season champion Kansas or the winner of Sunday's Big Ten title game between co-regular season champs Ohio State and Michigan State. The vote here would be for the Buckeyes-Spartans winner to be rewarded for being the champ of the nation's toughest league, though the margin is so razor-thin that giving the nod to Kansas by virtue of its slightly stronger wins certainly wouldn't be egregious.
2. Does Drexel get into the field?
By losing to VCU in the CAA title game last week, the Dragons may have earned the title of this year's most polarizing bubble team. Drexel (27-6, 16-2) has to hope its No. 71 RPI and meager non-league strength of schedule doesn't outweigh its outright CAA regular season title and 19-game win streak prior to Monday night. The Dragons suffered a bad loss to Norfolk State in November and its best non-league wins came against Princeton or Fairfield, hardly the type of resume-building victories teams typically need to make the field as an at-large. The problem with going off Drexel's computer profile, however, is the Dragons have looked plenty formidable enough to be an at-large team for two months now. The "no marquee wins" argument against including Drexel is perfectly rational and reasonable, but perhaps this is one time the selection committee should ignore it.
3. Where should Murray State be seeded?
Ohio Valley Conference champ Murray State may be the most difficult team in the field to seed because the Racers' credentials are unlike almost any other team. On the one hand, their 30-1 record is the envy of every team in the nation besides Kentucky. On the other hand, their conference is one of the nation's weakest and they only have four wins against potential NCAA tournament teams: Memphis, Saint Mary's, Southern Mississippi and Dayton. In the past, teams with gaudy records but modest strength of schedule have received a wide range of seeds, from 27-1 Saint Joseph's No. 1 seed in 2004, to 28-1 Princeton's No. 5 seed in 1998, to 26-1 George Washington's No. 8 seed in 2006. Murray State coach Steve Prohm has argued his team deserves as high as a No. 2 seed, but the more likely scenario for the Racers is somewhere between a No. 5 and 7 seed.
4. How many Pac-12 teams should make the field?
There's a chance the Pac-12 could become the first power conference since 1986 to get just one NCAA tournament bid after collectively beating just three RPI top 50 opponents in non-league play. Pac-12 tournament champ Colorado will be in the field as roughly a No. 13 seed, but the league's other top teams either will be sweating it out Sunday or have already declared there's no hope. Cal (24-9) likely has the best chance to earn an at-large bid as a result of its top 40 RPI and 3-0 head-to-head record against Washington and Oregon, but the Bears beat nobody noteworthy in non-league play and staggered to the finish with three losses in four games. The only other Pac-12 team with a case is Washington (21-10), which won the outright Pac-12 regular season title but has a bloated No. 69 RPI and a dearth of quality wins. It would not be a shock if neither Cal nor Washington gets in nor if both of them earned two of the final bids, but the most likely outcome is the Bears joining Colorado in the field and the Huskies being left out.
5. How many Big East teams should make the field?
Whereas the Big East earned its record 11 NCAA tournament bids last season by virtue of its dominance in non-conference play, it seems more surprising the league could still place 10 teams in the field this year despite a less auspicious season. Seven Big East teams are assured a spot in the field: Syracuse, Marquette, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville and UConn. West Virginia likely will be No. 8, though its eight losses in its final 12 games leave a glimmer of uncertainty. The remaining two contenders are South Florida and Seton Hall, both of whom have entirely different profiles. The Bulls (20-12) have to hope a 12-6 league record that includes wins over Louisville and Cincinnati outweighs a profile otherwise light on marquee wins. Seton Hall, on the other hand, has five or six solid wins but an 8-10 Big East record and bad losses to the likes of DePaul and Rutgers the final week of the regular season. The choice here would be South Florida earning one of the last at-large bids and Seton Hall heading to the NIT.
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