By Riley Saxon
Reacting to the Committee’s Top 16
As March Madness inches closer, the NCAA Tournament Committee released their top 16 seeds Saturday morning. The committee’s seeds (with overall rank in parenthesis):
1. Gonzaga (1)
2. Duke (8)
3. Illinois (12)
4. Texas (16)
1. Auburn (2)
2. Purdue (7)
3. Texas Tech (10)
4. UCLA (14)
1. Arizona (3)
2. Baylor (5)
3. Tennessee (11)
4. Providence (15)
1. Kansas (4)
2. Kentucky (6)
3. Villanova (9)
4. Wisconsin (13)
The immediate thoughts: Had Texas Tech been moved to the west, Goznaga would have had their rematches again (just like last year). As it is, they have the worst 2, 3 and 4 seeds, according to the committee. Who has the easiest path at this point? Probably Arizona, who does have the defending champs, but they’ve been hit hard by injuries. They also have Tennessee, who beat them earlier in the season but is potentially the weakest 3 seed, and Providence, whom everyone is still waiting to see if they are for real or not.
Of the 16 seeded teams, only Auburn, Tennessee and Texas lost over the weekend, with Auburn and Tennessee losing on the road, and Texas losing to Texas Tech at home. Auburn’s loss likely does not shake up much – if anything, they would probably prefer to be in the South and Arizona would prefer to be in the midwest.
Texas’ loss probably dropped them to the 5 line, and Tennessee’s defeat could have caused a shakeup between the 3 and 4 seeds, but not much.
Bracketoligists: Bracket Matrix, a site that compiles all strong bracketologists and creates seeds based on the averages had a few slight changes: They had Auburn as the overall 1 and the Zags at number 2, had Baylor behind Kentucky and Purdue, and had Wisconsin above Tennessee and Illinois. They also had Providence below UCLA and Houston as a 4 seed instead of Texas.
Snubs: Texas got in over Houston, Ohio State and Alabama. That final 4th spot will be interesting, as Houston probably has the better resume as of now, but lacks the potential big win opportunities that the Longhorns, Buckeyes and Crimson Tide will have moving forward.
National Champions: the last 3 national champions were a one seed during the early bracket reveal, and with Auburn, Arizona and Gonzaga locked in, there’s a strong bet to make it 4.
1 Dropped 1: In each of the last 4 bracket reveals (not including 2020), one of the early revealed one seeds dropped from the one line. The best bet to drop this year: Kansas, who still has some tests ahead. If one of Baylor, Kentucky, Purdue or Duke win their regular season and conference tournaments, there’s a good chance it’ll happen again.
Another 3 games in 5 days for the Bruins, another 3-0 home stand. The hope moving forward is to not follow this up with another 1-3 road trip, but the set-up is eerily similar. After the Bruins dominated Arizona, Cal and Stanford at home in early February, they went on the road and lost at Arizona, Arizona State and USC. The lone win on the road trip came in game 3, against the team they dominated on the Saturday of their homestand, Stanford. This upcoming week? They play at Oregon, Oregon State, then game 3 is at the team they dominated on the Saturday of their homestand (Washington), and then they end the regular season with USC.
Of course, they did the previous trip without Jaylen Clark, who has turned into a difference maker on both sides of the floor. UCLA’s defensive effort has been top notch since his return and with players getting rest and/or sitting out left and right, Jake Kyman, David Singleton and Clark have shined.
The rest is much needed and perhaps even more is needed: Jules Bernard has struggled a lot as of late, Cody Riley has not looked like himself, and Jaime Jaquez is still dealing with the lingering effects of Covid and his ankle injury. At this point, UCLA seems pretty locked in to a 4 seed, although winning out and a strong PAC 12 tournament could push them up a seed or two. It’s not ideal, but the team showed last year that the seed doesn’t matter in comparison to playing your best offense and defense. In order to play that best O and D, the Bruins will need everyone healthy and clicking. Is it worth potentially losing at Oregon and/or at Washington? Yes. Is it worth an earlier than expected exit in the conference tourney? Probably. Is it worth a six game losing streak against the Trojans? …. Okay, maybe not. Cronin needs to get that game!
College Hoops Breakdown appears weekly at JoeTorosian.com
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