No. 1 seeds aren’t living up to expectations

Graham Watson
The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

It ain't easy being No. 1.

We learned that earlier this year when Kansas, Texas, Pitt, Ohio State and later Duke all dumped opportunities to be or stay No. 1 when the top spot was up for grabs. Now maybe we're seeing why.

No. 1 is cursed.

OK, maybe that's a bit too harsh, but not for several teams that have watched their NCAA Tournament hopes and dreams slip away despite being the No. 1 seed heading into their conference tournament.

Of the eight conference tournaments that have ended, Belmont was the only No. 1 seed to live up to its billing. Four other No. 1's lost in the finals and three lost in the semifinals.

In the America East, which plays its final Saturday, No. 5 seed Stony Brook knocked out No. 1 Vermont in the semifinals. The two No. 1s from the East and West divisions of the Sun Belt Conference -- Arkansas State and Florida Atlantic -- both lost in the quarterfinals to No. 5 Arkansas-Little Rock and No. 4 North Texas. Incidentally, those are the teams that played in the final Tuesday night.

With four more No. 1 seeds still to play in their finals in the Horizon, Summit, Northeast and Patriot leagues, this could be an unprecedented year for No. 1 conference tournament upsets.

At the very least, the results of the first week should put the remaining No. 1 seeds on notice and give a glimmer of hope to those teams that previously had no shot at going to the NCAA Tournament.

Parity has been infiltrating college basketball for years. It's seen on the upper and lower tiers of the sport and when the two facets cross over in March (Thanks Butler). {YSP:MORE}

Currently, St. Peters, as a No. 4 seed in the Metro Athletic, is the lowest conference seed to earn an automatic bid.  The Peacocks, who beat No. 1 Fairfield in the semifinals and No. 2 Iona in the championship, are going to their first NCAA Tournament since 1995 and just their third overall. Each time they've lost in the first round, but this year they'll have a belief that they can beat any team they face, even if it's a No. 1 seed.

"Nobody respects us," St. Peter's senior forward Jeron Belin told the New York Times. "Nobody in the MAAC respects us as a team, as a school. And now they've got to respect us. We just won the championship."

So what do all these lower conference upsets mean?

Could a potential benefit of having all of these lower-seeded teams earning automatic bids for the NCAA Tournament create fearlessness? Rarely does a No. 16 (never), 15, or 14 seed come up with the big upset, but after the parity we've seen throughout the lower conferences, and even after Butler's run last year, the possibility could become more of a reality.

Or do the conference upsets mean absolutely nothing except easier pickings for the top seeds come tournament time?

Guess, we'll know next week.

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