It’s never too early to start thinking about Selection Sunday, right? So much of how teams end up seeded on the second Sunday in March comes back to how they played in the nonconference slate, when league strength gets evaluated and résumés get built. That’s particularly true for teams hoping for No. 1 seeds, given how little room there is for error to end up on the No. 1 line.
Here’s a look at the early race for those four top spots in the 2023 men’s NCAA tournament.
Today’s four No. 1s
No. 1 overall: Purdue
The Boilermakers’ three neutral-court wins over top-20 NET opponents are doing a lot of work here, as the team’s win over West Virginia on Thanksgiving has joined its headliner victories over Duke and Gonzaga as significant needle-movers at this moment. Those three wins, plus a home victory over Marquette, gives Purdue the nation’s best résumé at this point and a real inside track for a No. 1 seed come March. The Big Ten provides very few opportunities for bad losses and plenty of chances to pad the Quadrant 1 and 2 win columns, so the Boilermakers can afford some slipups during league play and still wind up on the No. 1 line. I’d imagine 15–5 or better in the Big Ten would put Purdue in an extremely strong position for receiving its first No. 1 seed since 1996.
UConn has a strong case for being the nation’s best team qualitatively, sitting at No. 1 in the NET rankings and No. 2 in KenPom with nonconference play in the rearview mirror. That alone is enough to put the Huskies on the No. 1 line at this point, as it’s hard to argue about putting a team that has won every game it has played by double figures and has seven high-major wins.
Still, there is a bit of vulnerability in UConn’s résumé long term if the Huskies slip up a few times during Big East play. The team’s neutral-court win over Alabama is doing a lot of work here, as none of UConn’s other wins are ones to truly build a résumé around. And while there should be plenty of chances for good wins in Big East play, Creighton’s six-game slide earlier this month means there are likely no great wins out there in conference play for the Huskies. Others could pass the Huskies if they don’t post a gaudy win-loss record, jeopardizing UConn’s chances of staying in the East Regional and getting to play Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games at Madison Square Garden.
The Cougars are one of four teams in men’s college basketball with four Quad 1 wins and have done the necessary work in nonconference play to position themselves for a top seed. While its fourth Q1 victory over Kent State seems unlikely to stay in that bucket come March, the Cougars’ road win at Virginia is one of the better wins any team has on its résumé.
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Read More: Purdue, UConn lead race for March Madness bracket No. 1 seeds 2022-12-27 17:37:08