The men’s basketball selection committee intended to hold a 90-minute conference call late Saturday night before unveiling its top 16 teams Sunday afternoon.
They may be debating which teams belong and in what order until the wee hours of the morning given college basketball’s dizzying week of upsets.
Teams in this week’s AP Top 25 have suffered a combined 18 losses since Monday, 12 at the hands of unranked opponents. The nation’s top teams were hardly immune to the upset bug as No. 1 Villanova, No. 2 Virginia and No. 3 Purdue dropped a total of four games.
Villanova dropped a home game Wednesday night against a St. John’s team that had lost its first 11 Big East contests. Virginia squandered a five-point lead in the final 35 seconds of overtime on Saturday night against rival Virginia Tech. Purdue tumbled out of first place in the Big Ten, dropping back-to-back tight games against fellow contenders Ohio State and Michigan State.
This week’s rash of upsets have lent an air of mystery to Sunday’s midseason bracket unveiling show at 12:30 p.m. on CBS. There’s no longer a consensus on what the top seed line will look like, nor is the order any clearer thereafter.
The strongest contenders for No. 1 seeds at this point are Villanova (23-2), Virginia (23-2) and Xavier (23-3). Each have gaudy records, seven or more quadrant one victories and at least one apiece against a fellow elite team.
• Villanova (23-2, 10-2) (RPI: 3, KenPom 2) (Record vs. Q1: 9-1) (Record vs. Q2: 4-1) (Marquee wins: Xavier, Tennessee, Gonzaga) (Losses: at Butler, St. John’s)
• Virginia (23-2, 12-1) (RPI: 1, KenPom: 1) (Record vs. Q1: 7-1) (Record vs. Q2: 5-1) (Marquee wins: at Duke, North Carolina, Clemson) (Losses: at West Virginia, Virginia Tech)
• Xavier (23-3, 11-2) (RPI: 2, KenPom: 13) (Record vs. Q1: 7-3) (Record vs. Q2: 7-0) (Marquee wins: Cincinnati, Butler x2, at Creighton) (Losses: at Villanova, Arizona State, Providence)
The teams in contention for the fourth No. 1 seed have more losses, fewer quality wins or in some cases both. Purdue would be my choice in spite of its back-to-back losses because it has the strongest set of quality wins among teams with four or fewer losses, but you can make a legitimate case for a few different teams.
Michigan State has a better record than Purdue, a head-to-head win on Saturday and no bad losses, but the vast majority of the Spartans’ victories have come against bad teams. Cincinnati has only two losses, but even best wins have come against teams on the bubble. Texas Tech and Auburn have very similar resumes to Purdue’s, but perhaps slightly less impressive quality wins. Kansas has as many Quadrant 1 victories as any team in the country, but the Jayhawks have also lost six games, including three at home.
• Purdue (23-4, 12-2) (RPI: 12, KenPom: 3) (Record vs. Q1: 5-3) (Record vs. Q2: 6-1) (Marquee wins: Arizona, Butler, Louisville) (Losses: Tennessee, Western Kentucky, Ohio State, at Michigan State)
• Michigan State (24-3, 12-2) (RPI: 22, KenPom: 6) (Record vs. Q1: 3-2) (Record vs. Q2: 2-1) (Marquee wins: Purdue, North Carolina, Nebraska) (Losses: Duke, at Ohio State, Michigan)
• Cincinnati (22-2, 11-0) (RPI: 10, KenPom: 4) (Record vs. Q1: 4-2) (Record vs. Q2: 8-0) (Marquee wins: at UCLA, Houston, Temple x2) (Losses: at Xavier, Florida)
• Auburn (22-3, 10-3) (RPI: 7, KenPom: 8) (Record vs. Q1: 5-3) (Record vs. Q2: 6-0) (Marquee wins: at Tennessee, at Missouri, Middle Tennessee) (Losses: Temple, at Alabama, Texas A&M)
• Texas Tech (21-4, 9-3) (RPI: 13, KenPom: 7) (Record vs. Q1: 6-3) (Record vs. Q2: 5-1) (Marquee wins: at Kansas, at TCU, West Virginia) (Losses: Seton Hall, at Oklahoma, at Texas, at Iowa State)
• Kansas (19-6, 8-4) (RPI: 6, KenPom: 15) (Record vs. Q1: 9-3) (Record vs. Q2: 5-3) (Marquee wins: at West Virginia, Texas A&M, TCU x2) (Losses: Arizona State, Washington, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma, at Baylor)
Among the toughest decisions for the committee after the top seed line will be figuring out where to place Ohio State and Gonzaga. The Buckeyes have head-to-head wins against Michigan State and Purdue and are in first place in the Big Ten standings, but they accomplished less out of conference than either of their two league rivals. The Zags have a huge discrepancy in their RPI and KenPom numbers, entering Saturday 50th and 9th in the latter.
Here’s my best guess at how the top four seed lines will look on Sunday. Expect the absence of Pac-12 teams to be a big story if Arizona doesn’t sneak onto the fourth line.
1 seeds: Villanova, Virginia, Xavier, Purdue
2 seeds: Texas Tech, Auburn, Michigan State, Kansas
3 seeds: Cincinnati, North Carolina, Clemson, Duke
4 seeds: Ohio State, Tennessee, Gonzaga, Arizona
Ultimately, while Sunday’s reveal is largely unimportant since Selection Sunday is still a month away, it will generate discussion and reveal what the committee is thinking at this juncture.
For awhile, it seemed like the committee would have it pretty easy. Now with this week’s chaos, it will be a whole lot tougher.
– – – – – – –