Bracketology Version 3.0: Battling for Top Seeds
Bracketology Version 3.0: Battling for Top Seeds

This article is part of our RotoWire Bracketology series.

It's tournament time, which means there's not much room to move for teams ahead of Selection Sunday. A team may move more than a seed, but that's in extreme cases like if they win four games in four days. Conference tournaments are usually when the bubble teams separate themselves, and not when a 3-seed moves up to a 1-seed.

That's seen in the Big 12 matchup between Texas Tech and Texas, because there's a feeling the loser of that game will be a 1-seed in the NIT. That was made possible because the Red Raiders lost their final four games of the regular season and the Longhorns lost by 22 points to a non-tourney team in their home finale. There will also be decisions made on the likes of Wichita State and Cincinnati in the AAC, Richmond and Rhode Island in the A-10, as well as plenty others sprinkled in around the 10- and 11-seed line. The hope for all of those teams is that someone doesn't get hot in a conference tournament like North Carolina or Washington.

But instead of writing about all of the bubble teams and saying they need to win at least one game to have a chance of making the tournament, I'll go through the top teams, the ones who have a chance of winning it all.

BATTLING FOR TOP SEEDS

I wrote a month ago on the teams who had a real shot of getting a 1-seed and nothing has changed, as that number appears to be down to five. If Dayton (NET 3, KP 6, SOR 5)* wins the A-10 tournament, it'd be surprising if they didn't get a 1-seed. While the Flyers have no elite wins, their 5-2 Q1 record should be good enough to surpass San Diego State (NET 4, KP 6, SOR 5), who suffered a Q3 loss in the regular season. That situation also makes it easier to place SDSU in the West division with Gonzaga (NET 2, KP 2, SOR 3) as the 1-seed.

Otherwise, I don't see how Kansas (NET 1, KP 1, SOR 1) or Baylor (NET 5, KP 3, SOR 2) drop from the top line, because both lead the country in terms of Q1 wins (KU 12-3, BU 11-2). Even if Florida State made a run in the ACC tournament, they'd still be a couple Q1 wins behind Baylor with the same number of losses. Duke has a better NET ranking than FSU, but there's no way they get a 1-seed if they win the ACC tournament. If that happens, there will be serious favoritism discussions regarding the committee. 

Outside of the top five teams (Kansas, Gonzaga, Baylor, Dayton, SDSU), there are 10 teams jockeying for position, namely the final three spots on the 2-line. Duke (NET 6, KP 5, SOR 11), Florida State (NET 10, KP 15, SOR 4) and Villanova (NET 13, KP 18, SOR 8) sit there in my bracket, but none are guaranteed to stay. The Blue Devils may be the least safe with five Q1 wins and a few bad losses. The Seminoles are in a slightly better situation with fewer losses. 

It's likely one of the 2-seeds goes to whoever makes it furthest in the Big East tournament between Creighton (NET 11, KP 12, SOR 9), Seton Hall (NET 16, KP 19, SOR 17) and Villanova. I think the Wildcats have the best resume due to a superior neutral/road record, and the Bluejays take a major hit if Marcus Zegarowski isn't playing in the Big East tournament. If any of those three win the Big East tourney, they'll be set for a 2-seed.

I don't think Maryland (NET 19, KP 11, SOR 7) will move from a 3-seed unless they win the Big Ten tournament. While the Terrapins don't have a bad loss, they are a few Q1 wins behind most of these teams. More specifically, Michigan State (NET 7, KP 7, SOR 12) has two more Q1a (high end Q1) wins and similar to the Big East, whoever goes further in the Big Ten tournament will be more likely to grab a 2-seed. However, if it came down to the Big East and Big Ten winner, the 2-seed will probably go to the Big East unless Seton Hall and MSU win their respective tournaments. I'd give the nod to the Spartans since they won at Seton Hall.

Louisville (NET 8, KP 9, SOR 15) and Kentucky (NET 20, KP 28, SOR 10) are also in the top tier, but they are both long shots to get a 2-seed. The Cardinals have a 4-6 Q1 mark before tournaments begin, while the Wildcats have two or three worse losses than any of the other top teams. It's not often you can lose at home to a team like Evansville, play in a weaker SEC and still get a 2-seed in March Madness.

Finally, Oregon (NET 12, KP 17, SOR 14) is somewhat in the conversation. It doesn't feel right to say a Pac-12 team is in the discussion, but the Ducks have an equal resume to a lot of these teams, including nice non-conference wins over Seton Hall and Michigan. Their issue for getting a 2-seed is a current 7-7 neutral/road mark, and that Chris Duarte is out for the conference tournament. He's not as important as Zegarowski, but his absence could hurt Oregon's chances of winning three games in three days.

*The metrics I'm using are NET, KenPom and Strength of Record. I believe the combination of KenPom and SOR is the best way to evaluate teams with one a predictive measure and the other showing how good a team has been according to its win-loss record.

Metrics prior to games on Monday, March 9.

For a live-updated bracket throughout the week as well as team previews, check out our RotoWire Bracketology page. And of course, my latest projected bracket is below.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adam Zdroik
Adam, a 2019, 2018 and 2017 Finalist for FSWA Soccer Writer of the Year, is RotoWire's assistant soccer editor. He also runs RotoWire's Bracketology, as well as writes on other various college basketball content. He has previously worked at ESPN and Sporting Kansas City, and he is a former Streak for the Cash winner and Michigan State graduate.
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