Less than a week remains until Selection Sunday, and projecting the seeding in the NCAA Tournament isn’t only difficult for the final few at-large spots. Half of the No. 1 seeds have not identified themselves.
The selection show next Sunday has been doubled to two hours this year. The committee might need the extra time to sort it out.
Kansas, riding an 11-game winning streak, is a lock for a top seed and Villanova is almost there. The Jayhawks are the outright champion of the nation’s top RPI conference, one that for the third straight season should get seven teams in the NCAA Tournament.
The other top seeds will come from a group of Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Xavier, Miami, Fla., and Oregon. Probably more. The circle of excellent but not dominant teams is large this season, and seeding decisions, even on the top line, could ride on conference tournaments this week.
The overall No. 1 seed also is there for Kansas. Perhaps only an upset loss to Oklahoma State or Kansas State could prevent it. Then again maybe not.
More than half of the Jayhawks’ victories — 14 of 27 — have come against the RPI top 50. The next best record is Oregon’s at 10-3. The committee could conclude Kansas’ body of work is insurmountable no matter what happens this week at the Big 12 Tournament.
Kansas has been building a top seed resume for the past six weeks and it’s been becoming more apparent the Jayhawks will start their NCAA journey in Des Moines, Iowa, where KU hasn’t played since 1950.
Win two there and the next stop is probably Chicago. The distance between Lawrence to Chicago and Louisville, Ky., site of the Midwest and South regional finals is nearly identical. Look for Kansas to be the top seed in the Midwest.
The Big 12 has a chance to land two top seeds. Oklahoma remains in the mix despite a 6-4 record to close the regular season. A team’s finish used to be a measurement tool of the committee. No longer.
The most important information involving the Sooners is their 9-5 record against the RPI top 50. Oklahoma defeated Villanova on a neutral court and swept the regular-season series from West Virginia.
No matter where Oklahoma is seeded the Sooners will have one of the shortest trips for its early games with Oklahoma City a first and second round site.
It’s possible for the Big 12 to have six teams in the NCAA Tournament seeded sixth or better, with only Texas Tech below that standard. The Sooners, West Virginia, Texas, Baylor and Iowa State will be wearing home uniforms when the NCAA Tournament begins.
All of which removes one storyline from the Sprint Center this week. With tickets punched, NCAA drama would occur only if one of the bottom three seeds wins the Big 12 Tournament.
This is the 20th tourney and no team has gone 4-0. Only five teams that have played on the first day of the tournament have reached the final.
Yet, the first day of the tournament distinguishes the Big 12. The Wednesday night doubleheader involving the bottom four seeds has typically attracted large crowds. This year should be no different with Kansas State part of the group, along with likely NCAA Tournament-bound Texas Tech.
Watch other conference tournaments this week. If there’s not a marquee matchup, empty sections will be obvious. That’s rarely the case at Sprint Center.
Kansas enters as the favorite. The Jayhawks haven’t duplicated their regular season success — 12 straight championships or co-titles and 16 of the 20 — in the tournament. They’ve won nine tournaments, six under Bill Self, and have been knocked out of the last two by Iowa State.
But no matter what happens at the Sprint Center, the Jayhawks probably will hit the 68-team bracket next week as the overall top seed and the favorite.
Blair Kerkhoff’s NCAA Tournament projections
Top four seeds in each region
Midwest: 1. Kansas (Des Moines, Iowa), 2. Xavier (St. Louis), 3. Utah (Denver), 4. Duke (Denver)
East: 1. Villanova (Brooklyn, N.Y.), 2. North Carolina (Raleigh, N.C.), 3. West Virginia (Providence, R.I.), 4. Maryland (Providence)
South: 1. Virginia (Raleigh), 2. Oklahoma (Oklahoma City), 3. Kentucky (Oklahoma City), 4. Indiana (Des Moines)
West: 1. Michigan State (St. Louis), 2. Oregon (Spokane, Wash.), 3. Miami (Fla.) (Brooklyn), 4. Iowa State (Spokane)
Regional finals sites
Midwest: Chicago; East: Philadelphia; South: Louisville, Ky.; West: Anaheim, Calif.