March Madness 2020: Predicting NCAA Tournament risers and fallers among top 16 seeds in bracket preview

Sporting News

The NCAA has taken grand steps toward transparency with its NCAA Tournament seeding process over the past several years, starting with the mock selection committee exercise for media members over a decade ago. That has been a welcome development.

And on Saturday, for the fourth year in a row, the selection committee convened and hammered out a look at the NCAA Tournament's top 16 seeds if the season had ended that day. The seeds aren’t binding, of course, but the reveal does give us a look at how the committee members view teams with their current resumes.

MORE: No safe bet to win NCAA Tournament thanks to this crazy season

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So what we’re going to do today is take those 16 teams — the top four seed lines — and project out a bit. Based on what they’ve already accomplished and how their remaining schedule looks, we’re trying to answer this question: Are those teams more likely to stay where they are now, to fall a seed line or two, or even jump up a seed line?

Let’s get started.

No. 1 seeds

1. Baylor (21-1)

Numbers of note: KenPom: 5 | NET: 3 | Quadrant 1 record: 8-0

Stay, rise or fall? Stay. At this point, how can you doubt Baylor, the top overall seed from Saturday's reveal? The Bears have exceeded all expectations, and they haven’t just been piling up empty wins. They won at Kansas and knocked off top-30 NET teams Butler, Arizona, Villanova and Texas Tech. There is margin for error here.

2. Kansas (20-3)

Numbers of note: KenPom: 1 | NET: 4 | Quadrant 1 record: 10-3

Stay, rise or fall? Fall. Look at the schedule. There are three other Big 12 teams in the NET top 20, and the Jayhawks still have to play two on the road. If they lose those two — no shame in that — that pushes them to five losses. And with the Selection Committee’s obvious enjoyment of sparkling records outside the Power 5 (with Gonzaga, San Diego State and Dayton among the top two seed lines), that might be a bit much to overcome.

3. Gonzaga (25-1)

Numbers of note: KenPom: 2 | NET: 2 | Quadrant 1 record: 5-1

Stay, rise or fall? Stay. They’re on the No. 1 seed line now, and they’re not likely to lose again before Selection Sunday.

4. San Diego State (24-0)

Numbers of note: KenPom: 4 | NET: 1 | Quadrant 1 record: 4-0

Stay, rise or fall? Stay. The Aztecs are favored by at least eight points in their final five regular-season games on KenPom.com, and if they make it through the regular season undefeated, it’s hard to imagine the committee bumping them off the top seed line regardless of what happens in the Mountain West Tournament (think Saint Joseph’s in 2004).

MORE: Evansville upset of Kentucky sends clear message to nation's top programs

No. 2 seeds

5. Duke (20-3)

Numbers of note: KenPom: 3 | NET: 6 | Quadrant 1 record: 3-1

Stay, rise or fall? Stay. The ACC this season just doesn’t offer the type of elite victories the Blue Devils would need to climb above teams such as Gonzaga and San Diego State. You see the three Quadrant 1 wins, right? That’s not the typical strength of resume we’re used to seeing from the Blue Devils.

6. Dayton (21-2)

Numbers of note: KenPom: 6 | NET: 5 | Quadrant 1 record: 3-2

Stay, rise or fall? Rise. I know, it sounds crazy to imagine a scenario, in 2020, where three of the four teams on the No. 1 seed line come from teams outside the traditional power conferences (with Baylor, of all teams, as the lone power representative). But we are close to a scenario where that happens. It’s very possible (likely?) that Dayton wins out. If Kansas loses a couple times and Duke and Louisville slip up in ACC play this could happen.

7. Louisville (21-3)

Numbers of note: KenPom: 9, NET: 7, Quadrant 1 record: 3-3

Stay, rise or fall? Stay. The Cardinals don’t have anything resembling a bad or even mediocre loss, and they have solid wins against Duke and Michigan. But, like we mentioned with Duke, the ACC doesn’t really offer opportunities for elite wins. Of Louisville’s remaining seven games, only one — at Florida State — would move the needle at all.

8. West Virginia (18-5)

Numbers of note: KenPom: 7 | NET: 9 | Quadrant 1 record: 5-3

Stay, rise or fall? Fall. This was true even before the Mountaineers lost at Oklahoma by 10 this weekend, as explained by SN’s college hoops guru, Mike DeCourcy.

MORE: Kansas loss to Nova shows 'there just isn't one team that's dominant'

No. 3 seeds

9. Maryland (19-4)

Numbers of note: KenPom: 8, NET: 8 | Quadrant 1 record: 6-4

Stay, rise or fall? Stay. When the Terps were in the midst of losing four times in seven games, a spot on the No. 3 seed line seemed, well, unlikely. But they’ve won six in a row, including three on the road, and are playing like a team intending to move up. But they still have a tough road ahead: Six of their final eight games are against top-35 teams according to the KenPom top 35, a slate that includes four road contests.

10. Florida State (20-3)

Numbers of note: KenPom: 19 | NET: 13 | Quadrant 1 record: 3-2

Stay, rise or fall? Rise. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, the Seminoles follow the KenPom predictions and go 7-1 the rest of the way, with a loss at Duke and a home win against Louisville. That would put them at 27-4 on the year and 14-4 in Quad 1/2 games (depending on how a couple of those fall on the split line). That really feels like a solid No. 2 seed, doesn’t it?

11. Seton Hall (18-5)

Numbers of note: KenPom: 12 | NET: 12 | Quadrant 1 record: 8-4

Stay, rise or fall? Rise. Look at that 8-4 record vs. Quad 1 teams. Only one team — Kansas — has more than eight Quadrant 1 victories.

12. Villanova (17-6)

Numbers of note: KenPom: 28 | NET: 18 | Quadrant 1 record: 5-6

Stay, rise or fall? Fall. It was a little surprising to see Villanova on the No. 3 seed line, what with the under-.500 Quadrant 1 record and computer rankings that lagged lower than the No. 12 overall seed the Wildcats held in this reveal.

No. 4 seeds

13. Auburn (21-2)

Numbers of note: KenPom: 30 | NET: 15 | Quadrant 1 record: 4-2

Stay, rise or fall? Stay. Of their past five wins, three have been in overtime and a fourth was by a scant four points. Auburn is thriving in close games, but that feels like a shaky path to extended success. Also, their best nonconference wins are against bubble-at-best A-10 teams Richmond and Saint Louis. That’s not the type of thing that persuades the committee to give a team a top 2 or 3 seed. The Tigers aren't going to bully their way up a seed line or two with that thin of a resume. If they keep winning and the teams ahead of them stumble? Then it's possible.

14. Oregon (18-6)

Numbers of note: KenPom: 25 | NET: 25 | Quadrant 1 record: 6-4

Stay, rise or fall? Fall. The Ducks have quacked up back-to-back 10-point road losses to teams outside of even the bubble conversation, Stanford and Oregon State. They do have nice wins against Seton Hall, Houston, Arizona, Michigan and Memphis (when the Tigers had James Wiseman) but this feels like a team that’ll settle nicely into the 5-6 seed range.

15. Butler (18-6)

Numbers of note: KenPom: 23 | NET: 14 | Quadrant 1 record: 7-5

Stay, rise or fall? Stay. The seven Quadrant 1 wins are a nice little nugget to have in your pocket when the selection committee gets to scrubbing the resumes. The Big East is tough, though, and it’s easy to drop a couple of quick games.

16. Michigan State (16-8)

Numbers of note: KenPom: 10 | NET: 11 | Quadrant 1 record: 2-7

Stay, rise or fall? Fall. This reveal happened Saturday morning, before the Spartans lost at Michigan, their third loss in a row and fifth in their past eight games. That 2-7 mark in Quadrant 1 games isn’t going to help their case, either.

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