As we take our weekly look at the top 10 NCAA tournament resumes with conference play in full swing, we are almost 40 percent through the regular season. That’s a good chunk, but also leaves plenty of time for change between now and Selection Sunday.
When the NCAA selection committee evaluates teams, they are looking to answer the following about each team:
Who did they play?
Where did they play them?
Who did they beat?
And who beat them?
It’s a subjective process guided by objective data (RPI). There are five other computer ranking systems averaged together to help inform the committee, but no team gets in or seeded based on any individual or collective computer ranking alone.
This early in the season, there will be a lot of disagreement between various computer rankings because there aren’t enough games played. The rankings will tend to converge later in the season, though some disagreements and anomalies will persist.
For those of you who follow the football selection committee, note that head-to-head is not necessarily a decisive criterion in basketball. It is not unusual to see a team selected or seeded ahead of a team it lost to during the season.
Here is how things stand through Jan. 10:
10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last week: NR
Best win: Louisville
Losses: vs. Villanova, vs. Purdue
The Irish have won five straight, including victories over Louisville and Clemson, since consecutive losses to Villanova and Purdue. They start a three-game trip that includes games at Virginia Tech and Florida State.
9. Oregon Ducks
Last week: NR
Best win: UCLA
Losses: at Baylor, vs Georgetown
The Ducks are the only team to knock off UCLA and lead the Pac-12 because of it. Star Dillon Brooks missed some early games, including the loss to Baylor, not that it likely mattered much. His first game back was the loss to Georgetown. His relative readiness that game is a consideration for the committee, but losses are losses.
8. Kentucky Wildcats
Last week: 8
Best win: vs. North Carolina
Losses: vs. UCLA, at Louisville
The Wildcats are on their march through the SEC, which is a no-win situation. Every loss will hurt more than any win will help, with the possible exception of games against Florida.
7. Creighton Bluejays
Last week: 6
Best win: Wisconsin
The Bluejays will find that wins over Big Ten teams won’t help as much as usual, but luckily for them, they play in the Big East, so there are plenty of chances for high quality wins.
6. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Last week: 5
Best wins: vs. Florida, vs. Arizona
The Zags have played a decent schedule, haven’t lost and may be favored every game the rest of the way. Now that they are into conference play, their strength of schedule will slowly slide down the rankings. St. Mary’s is the only top 100 team left on their slate.
5. UCLA Bruins
Last week: 4
Best win: at Kentucky
Loss: at Oregon
The Bruins are like Kansas because they have only one win over a sure tournament team. Their loss at Oregon is better than the Jayhawks’ loss to Indiana, but Kansas has played a better schedule.
4. Kansas Jayhawks
Last week: 3
Best win: vs. Duke
Loss: vs. Indiana
Indiana beat KU 103-99 in overtime on a neutral floor in the opener, and that loss looks worse every week as the Hoosiers continue to play below their talent level. The Jayhawks have played a good schedule, but lack wins over sure tournament teams.
3. Florida State Seminoles
Last week: 10
Best wins: vs. Duke, vs. Florida, vs. Minnesota, at Virginia
Loss: vs. Temple
The Seminoles have rocketed up this list. They have five wins against teams in the RPI top 25 and seven against the top 50. No other team can match that. FSU will get more chances to add to those totals quickly because their next three games are at North Carolina and at home vs. Notre Dame and Louisville.
2. Baylor Bears
Last week: 2
Best wins: vs. Louisville, vs. Xavier, vs. Oregon
Loss: at West Virginia
Baylor is the No. 1 team in the AP poll for the first time, but lost 89-68 at West Virginia in its first game at the top. Despite the margin, there’s no shame in losing to the Mountaineers at their place. The number of quality wins allows the Bears to hold on to their spot.
1. Villanova Wildcats
Last week: 1
Best wins: at Creighton, at Purdue, vs. Notre Dame, vs. Xavier
Loss: at Butler
The Wildcats’ win at Creighton last weekend has pushed them past Baylor to the top of the bracket. They are the No. 1 team in the polls and no worse than fourth in any of the computer rankings. The Big East will continue to test Villanova, starting with a game at Butler on Wednesday.
Source: General Sports