3 thoughts on men’s NCAA tournament selection committee’s top 16 reveal

Another mile-marker on the road to the NCAA tournament was hit on Saturday when the tournament selection committee revealed its current top-16 teams. This is the eighth consecutive year that the committee has given us some insight into its thought process with about a month to go until Selection Sunday.

If the tournament started tomorrow, here is how the top 16 seeds would look, with their assigned region in parentheses:

1. Purdue Boilermakers (Midwest)
2. UConn Huskies (East)
3. Houston Cougars (South)
4. Arizona Wildcats (West)
5. North Carolina Tar Heels (East)
6. Tennessee Volunteers (Midwest)
7. Marquette Golden Eagles (South)
8. Kansas Jayhawks (West)
9. Alabama Crimson Tide (South)
10. Baylor Bears (Midwest)
11. Iowa State Cyclones (East)
12. Duke Blue Devils (West)
13. Auburn Tigers (West)
14. San Diego State Aztecs (Midwest)
15. Illinois Fighting Illini (South)
16. Wisconsin Badgers (East)

And here’s how the field would look in bracket form:


Three thoughts on what we’re looking at here:

1. Purdue over UConn

Connecticut was historically dominant on its way to winning last year’s national championship. The Huskies have been the No. 1 team in both major top 25 polls for the last five weeks and is, according to most college hoops folks, the clearcut team to beat as we steamroll towards March.

Purdue also made history last March. The Boilermakers, of course, became just the second No. 1 seed to lose in the first round to a 16-seed, once again building on the narrative that Matt Painter’s teams can’t get it done when it matters the most.

Even with these things being true, there’s a reason that Purdue finds itself above UConn in the eyes of the Committee with a month to go until Selection Sunday.

Both teams have just two losses and both of those defeats were of the Quadrant I variety, but Purdue has more Quadrant I (9 to 8) and Quadrant II (6 to 5) victories that Connecticut does. The Boilermakers currently sit at No. 2 in the NET Rankings, two spots ahead of the Huskies.

This is, of course, a very fluid situation. UConn’s resume could get a big lift with a win over No. 4 Marquette on Saturday, in what might be the most highly anticipated game of the regular season to date.

2. The other No. 1

One of season’s predominant storylines as we head into the home stretch of the regular season is that two teams — Connecticut and Purdue — seemed to have at least momentarily separated themselves from the rest of the field.

While that’s the perception of the human world, the predictive metric world is still favoring the Houston Cougars, who sit at No. 1 in both the NET Rankings and Ken Pomeroy’s rankings. With this being the case, it was no surprise to see Kelvin Sampson’s club scoop up the Committee’s third No. 1 seed.

The real intrigue on Saturday came down to which team was going to claim the final spot on the top line.

While teams like Marquette, Tennessee and North Carolina could all make cases, the final No. 1 seed went to Tommy Lloyd’s Arizona Wildcats. It makes as much sense as any of the other choices.

While Arizona does have both a Quadrant II and Quadrant III loss, they also have more Quadrant I victories (7) than any team in the country besides UConn, Purdue and Houston. The issue for the Wildcats moving forward is that with the Pac-12 being as down as it is, they likely have very little margin for error if they want to still be holding onto this spot in four weeks.

3. Big 12 is best

The Big 12 has widely been considered to be the most complete conference in college basketball this season, so it wasn’t a significant surprise to see the league have more teams in the top 16 than any other on Saturday.

Newcomer Houston is the only Big 12 squad on the 1-line, but Kansas, Iowa State and Baylor all falling on the 2 or 3 lines. The main task for these teams for the next four months will be finding a way to not let the losses pile up in a league that could place double-digit teams into the field of 68.

In all, seven conferences were represented in the committee’s initial top 16:

Big 12 — 4
SEC — 3
Big 10 — 3
ACC — 2
Big East — 2
Pac-12 — 1
Mountain West — 1

The full field for the 2020 NCAA tournament will be revealed at 6 p.m. ET on Selection Sunday, which is March 17.

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