Call it a pre-emptive strike. Call it craziness. Call it whatever you like.
It doesn’t really matter, because here it comes regardless – an alternative take to what is sure to be conventional-wisdom seeding on Selection Sunday.
Specifically, the focus here will be on the No. 1s that will be announced for this season’s NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.
All of us know what they’ll be before a single tip-off takes place in the ACC, A-10, Big Ten and SEC postseason finales. We’re looking at top-ranked Gonzaga, Duke, Indiana and Louisville. Bank on it.
No argument here on the first and last ones noted above. But the middle two – sorry, no way do either deserve such billing on the March Madness stage. If this is truly about “rewarding” the teams who proved themselves to be worthy of such distinction throughout the 2012-13 campaign, no way are Indiana and Duke No. 1s.
True, you can’t judge each squad’s entire season off a single weekend – but you don’t ignore it, either. That is part of the season, and, frankly, Indiana – long considered the best team in college hoops – hasn’t exactly been lights out the last couple months. The Hoosiers are 7-4 in their last 11, including a blowout loss to Wisconsin on Saturday.
Heck, while the media has spent so much time pushing for athletic IU junior Victor Oladipo for national player of the year honors the past few weeks, it seems to have failed to notice the 27-6 Hoosiers are stumbling onto the Big Dance floor on a 3-3 run.
If that doesn’t trump their rep and regular-season conference title, then dropping a 12th straight to the Badgers – a day before the Big Ten title is even played – does.
Duke has even less “legs” to stand on. The 27-5 Blue Devils got bounced in the ACC quarters by Maryland and can’t even claim a regular-season conference crown. They’re 5-3 in their last eight, including a pair of losses to a Terrapins team that, at best, has the dreaded “bubble” label attached to it for today’s proceedings.
Who should be joining Gonzaga and Louisville as top seeds? It seems quite obvious that Kansas, which shared the Big 12 regular-season title with Kansas State and then walloped the Wildcats for conference tournament honors on Saturday, is worthy.
After that, look to the Sunshine State. Right now, it’s really a toss-up between Miami and Florida, teams that play in the ACC and SEC finals, respectively, on Sunday afternoon.
The 26-6 Hurricanes – not Duke – already won the ACC regular season, and in head-to-head matchups with the Devils they split, winning by 23 and losing by 3. If they win today against North Carolina, only pretzel logic works in rationalizing how Duke is more deserving of anything more than Miami.
The 26-6 Gators topped the SEC in the regular season and are expected to handle Ole Miss today in the tourney title game. Take note, it drilled Wisconsin this season by 18 – the same Wisconsin that just handled IU by 12.
Thing is, even if Miami and Florida fall today, the selection committee still has a better choice for that final No. 1 than either Duke or IU – New Mexico.
The 29-5 Lobos just completed the double in the Mountain West – adding the tourney title to a regular-season one in its NCAA portfolio. No big deal, you say? Considering the conference is the top-rated one in the country, going off the RPI, yeah, it is a big deal – and the Lobos’ No. 2 standing in the RPI for teams is looking more and more legit all the time.
But, there is no need to worry. Conventional-wisdom seeding ultimately will rule the day, and IU and Duke will get their No. 1s. They just don’t deserve ’em.