SportsPulse: Selection Sunday is just days away. USA TODAY’s Scott Gleeson tells you the teams that still have work to do this championship weekend.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the latest NCAA tournament projections through games played on March 14.
Lost in Zion Williamson’s electrifying return on Thursday in Duke’s win over Syracuse is how the NCAA tournament selection committee will have to assess the Blue Devils (27-5) on Selection Sunday.
Williamson’s highlight reels and perfect 13-for-13 shooting from the floor reminded us why Duke was once the top overall No. 1 seed that beat a dominant Virginia team in its own right twice. But committee members aren’t necessarily selecting top-seeded teams based on April net-cutting potential so much as they are examining the full body of work.
So much has been put into the fact that the committee does, indeed, consider injuries when it’s seeding teams and that Duke’s seeding line will be based on the team that it’s looking at on Selection Sunday. And the Blue Devils are undoubtedly a national title contender with Williamson back in the mix. But Duke does not have a No. 1 seed locked up by any stretch thanks to a 3-3 record with Williamson out – outcomes that will be treated with some leniency but considered profile-damaging nonetheless. Otherwise, Williamson could’ve missed half the season, Duke could’ve lost every game without him and then they’d still get a top seed? Not a chance.
Duke’s seeding prospectus is fairly simple at this point: Beat North Carolina in the ACC tournament semifinals or you’re a No. 2 seed. Granted, this Duke team with two national player of the year candidates in Williamson and R.J. Barrett might be the best No. 2 seed in tournament history, but the fact of the matter is three losses to North Carolina – even if two of them were without Williamson – would be graded unfavorably for the Blue Devils when stacking their credentials up with UNC’s, Gonzaga’s, Kentucky’s or Tennessee’s – assuming one of those latter two current No. 2 seeds wins the SEC tournament.
BUBBLE WATCH: Winners and losers from conference tourneys
Should Duke lose to the Tar Heels, then UK would have the same amount of losses and more Quadrant 1 (top-30 home, top-75 road) wins, including a neutral court victory over North Carolina. Yes, Duke clobbered the Wildcats in the season-opener but the other profile considerations would come into play here.
Duke is surely in a precarious spot, considering it just got its best player back and looks the part of a No. 1 seed. But UNC is no easy out. The Blue Devils’ Selection Sunday fate likely will be determined here on Friday.
► No. 1 seeds: Virginia, North Carolina, Gonzaga, Duke
► Last four in: Temple, Alabama, Belmont, Florida
► First Four out: UNC-Greensboro, Xavier, Georgetown, Indiana
• Others considered for at-large bid (in no particular order): Creighton, North Carolina State, Clemson, Lipscomb, Texas, Furman
• On life support: South Carolina, Memphis, Dayton, Davidson
Multi-bid conferences: Big Ten (8), SEC (8), ACC (7), Big 12 (7), Big East (4), American (4), Mountain West (2), Ohio Valley (2), Pac-12 (2) West Coast (2).
Leaders or highest RPI from projected one-bid conferences — (22 total): VCU (Atlantic 10), Vermont (America East), Liberty (Atlantic Sun), Montana (Big Sky), Gardner-Webb (Big South) UC Irvine (Big West), Northeastern (CAA), Old Dominion (Conference USA), Northern Kentucky (Horizon), Yale (Ivy), Iona (MAAC), Buffalo (MAC), Norfolk State (MEAC), Bradley (MVC), Fairleigh Dickinson (Northeast), Colgate (Patriot), Wofford (Southern), Sam Houston State (Southland), Prairie View A&M (SWAC), Wofford (Southern), North Dakota State (Summit), Georgia State (Sun Belt), New Mexico State (WAC).
- Transition schools ineligible to participate: Cal Baptist, North Alabama.
Thank you! You’re almost signed up for
Keep an eye out for an email to confirm your newsletter registration.
Note: Mostly all statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com. The NCAA’s new NET rankings are also considered; that was rolled out at the beginning of 2018-19.
About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his sixth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past five March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.