I don’t necessarily agree with it, but the near unanimous prediction from analysts across the country is that Arizona, Wichita State and Florida are locks for No. 1 seeds in the upcoming NCAA tournament. That leaves just one top seed left. Based on their entire body of work, and way the selection committee has selected in the past, I believe Kansas will be awarded the final No. 1 spot.
With an eight-point loss to West Virginia on March 8, the Jayhawks significantly hurt their chances of being a No. 1 seed. However, an impressive win against Oklahoma State on Thursday afternoon, and an early exit from the Big East tournament by Villanova, has KU back on track. The 24-8 record doesn’t scream dominance, but Bill Self and company played, by far, the most difficult schedule in the country. The Jayhawks played Duke, Florida, New Mexico and San Diego State all before the conference schedule started. In addition, KU plays in the toughest conference in the country, and sealed a Big 12 championship with three games left to play.
Duke, Wisconsin and Syracuse have all put together impressive seasons. All three will finish in the Top 10 in RPI, and have played formidable competition the entire year. Had any of those three teams won their conference, I would feel more confident about handing them the final top spot. Instead, we probably have five or six legitimate two seeds, but no separation on who should be bumped up to the top slot.
Fans like to argue seeding leading up to Selection Sunday, but the truth of the matter is that being a No. 2 seed or being a No. 1 seed doesn’t matter that much. In fact, Bill Self has been quoted as saying he would rather play closer to Lawrence and be a No. 2 seed, than be awarded a top seed and be sent to the East or West coast. With the way KU travels, I can totally understand Self preferring to stay close to home; any home court advantage you can gain while in the tournament is huge.
In the end, it probably doesn’t matter that much. There is a sense of pride when you are awarded a top seed, but beyond that, there isn’t much benefit. Even still, the selection committee should reward the Jayhawks for challenging themselves in non-conference play. Send a statement to the rest of the country that playing cupcakes (cough-cough Wichita State) during the non-conference is not acceptable. In my mind, the Jayhawks have done enough to garner the top spot. There were certainly some bumps along the way, and their record isn’t amazing, but when you step back and look at their entire body of work, KU has done enough to earn the final No. 1 seed.