A week ago the number one seeds in the NCAA Tournament seemed pretty much set. UNC, Pittsburgh, UConn, and Oklahoma were on their way to leading the regions, but then a little funny thing happen called Championship Week. First Oklahoma lost in the Big 12 quarterfinals to Oklahoma State, then Pittsburgh lost in the Big East quarterfinals to West Virginia, and most recently UConn lost a ridiculously fantastic six-overtime game to Syracuse a few hours later. Meanwhile UNC is set to take on Virginia Tech with out star guard Ty Lawson. So, what is the seeding committee thinking?
Andy Katz over at ESPN found former committee member Craig Littlepage (the Viginia athletic director) and he said that this year the tournaments will play a bigger role in placement than in years past.
So, with the all of the top four potentially down, who is going to move in to fill the void? The new contenders are Memphis, Louisville, Michigan State, and Wake Forest or Duke.
The fact that the Memphis Tigers, a year after losing Derrick Rose, Joey Dorsey, and Chris Douglas-Roberts could repeat as a number one is amazing. The reality that Michigan State could live down a 35-point loss to North Carolina and make the committee ignore the fact that they play in the Big Ten is almost revolting. The realization that the Big East has a shot for a third team, Louisville, as a number one is profound. The mere thought that I might have to see Duke as a number one seed again is terrifying.
For any of those scenarios to happen the new contenders still have a long way to go. Memphis is the most likely to get in. They are already ranked in the top four in both the AP and the ESPN/USA Today Poll. They only have to finish off the rest of Conference USA (the only major conference consistently worse than the Big Ten). They only need a few more wins to relegate Oklahoma to the second seed.
The Michigan State Spartans have to get through the brutal Big Ten tournament that started yesterday. This league play is vicious. This is real “two man enter, one man leave” territory at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Michigan State has to get through Minnesota in order to play the winner of Wisconsin and Ohio State. Pretty much the entire middle of the conference believes they are a bubble team so the semifinals will be a bloodbath.
Duke always has some March Magic left no matter how bad they are supposed to be. Remember, this team was not supposed to be a top-10 team, yet they are…again. Right now they have to leap frog UNC and Wake Forest to defy expectations again, but never doubt Coach K.
Louisville is another long shot. Despite Pittsburgh and UConn’s losses, they have been battling for the number one ranking all year long, and UConn’s six overtime loss is compelling enough of a case for them to keep a number seed regional seed, just probably not in the East.
Thankfully I have the rest of the weekend to catch up on a season of college basketball and search desperately for March Madness tickets to watch my Illini bow out ungracefully in the first round.