Alabama, Houston, Purdue, Kansas ranked No. 1 seeds in men’s top 16; any surprises?

Alabama, Houston, Kansas and Purdue were ranked No. 1 seeds on Saturday by the NCAA’s Division I men’s basketball committee in its top 16, three weeks before the draft on Sunday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Alabama (22-4), which took over as the No. 1 team in the latest AP Top 25 poll for the first time in 20 years, has never been seeded 1 for the tournament. NCAA.
  • Since the first preview of the men’s bracket in 2017, 65 of the 80 teams retained the four seeds when the final brackets were revealed, by the NCAA. Each year, three of the four No. 1 seeds from the February preview have retained the top pick Sunday spots; others all fell to No. 2.
  • Selection Sunday is March 12. The 68-team men’s field and field for the NCAA Tournament will be announced at 6 p.m. ET on CBS.

NCAA top 16 preview (with overall standings)

South Region

  1. Alabama (1)
  2. Baylor (7)
  3. Virginia (10)
  4. Indiana (13)

Midwest region

  1. Houston (2)
  2. Texas (5)
  3. Tennessee (9)
  4. Javier (16)

West Region

  1. Kansas (4)
  2. Arizona (6)
  3. Kansas State (12)
  4. Gonzaga (15)

Eastern Region

  1. Purdue (3)
  2. UCLA (8)
  3. Iowa State (11)
  4. Marquette (14)

AthleticismInstant analysis of:

Four biggest reveal takeaways

1. Alabama has the inside path to retain the No. 1 seed overall. Committee chairman Chris Reynolds cited Crimson Tide’s Dec. 10 victory in Houston as the reason “Bama was ahead of the Cougars, and that fact won’t change.” Reynolds noted that there “are no superior teams at the top” this season. But if Alabama continues to win, there’s a good chance they’ll be the No. 1 seed in the South Region, playing their first two rounds in nearby Birmingham.

2. Arizona has the West Region advantage. The Wildcats trail UCLA in most computer rankings, but have better wins and beat the Bruins at home in the teams’ only meeting so far. The committee rewarded Arizona with the No. 6 seed, while UCLA is eighth. This means Arizona would get geographic priority for the West Las Vegas area. UCLA is currently located in the East Region, which runs through New York City. Although geography is not a fate in the NCAA Tournament, teams would much rather not have to play in three time zones. UCLA hosts Arizona in the regular season finale on March 4 and may need to win that game to change the situation.

3. NET rankings and other IT metrics are always important, but they’re not everything.

Thirteen of the NET’s top 16 teams entering Saturday were among the top 16 seeds. The two big outliers were Kansas State (20th) and Xavier (26th).

Three teams with big computer numbers – Saint Mary’s (seventh), UConn (eighth) and Creighton (13th) were not included. (They were among the four teams Reynolds mentioned were in consideration, along with Miami, so we can consider them the No. 5 seeds). Saint Mary’s even beat fellow WCC compatriot Gonzaga, who is the fourth seed. As has been the case for the past few years, the committee didn’t stray too far from the NET numbers when ranking teams. But high-quality wins are a differentiator.

4. The committee loves the Big 12. Five teams in this league are among the top 12 seeds. That includes Iowa State and Kansas State on the No. 3 line, though both teams have a combined 15 losses. Texas, at No. 5, is in a position to join Kansas on the No. 1 line if one of the other seeds falters, while Baylor has also been going strong lately.

The Big 12 has clearly been the best league in the country this season, and the committee seems to agree. Don’t be surprised to see eight of the Big 12’s 10 teams – and possibly more – in the field of 68. – Bennet

What was the biggest surprise?

For me, it was Indiana in 13th place overall. While the Hoosiers have had some big wins (at Xavier, against Purdue), they also went through a period earlier this year when they lost six of nine games and suffered injuries. Ranked 17th in NET, 20th in KenPom and 20th in Strength of Record heading into Saturday, Indiana looked just on the edge of a No. 4 seed. Instead, the committee made the Hoosiers the best team on the line No. 4, ahead of Marquette, who has the same number of Quad 1 wins (five), two fewer losses and a better NET ranking (15th).

But the committee clearly believes in Indiana’s potential when the Hoosiers are healthy. And by its placement in the southern region, which runs through Louisville, IU could potentially have a more advantageous path than current Big Ten leader and rival Purdue. It’s probably not going too well in West Lafayette right now (not to mention Tuscaloosa, as Alabama would potentially face a very pro-IU crowd in a Sweet 16 game at the KFC Yum! Center). The fact that Reynolds, the chairman of the committee, played for Bob Knight in Indiana will give fuel to any conspiratorial fans. But the committee simply follows its own complicated geographical rules. — Bennet

Required reading

(Photo: Marvin Gentry/USA Today)

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