March is here. Selection Sunday is near. And that means it’s time for an annual Yahoo Sports tradition: A breakdown of the NCAA tournament teams that your team should be hoping to face next week.
The headline, of course, is euphemistic. This, plain and simple, is a list of overrated teams. Not necessarily overrated by the general public, but by bracketologists and the selection committee and the criteria they all use. This is about teams whose body of work obscures worrying recent form. It’s about teams whose underlying numbers reveal weakness despite strong results. It is, occasionally, about perfectly fine basketball teams who the committee will see is more than “perfectly fine,” and will therefore overseed.
And in some cases, that isn’t even the committee’s fault. Sometimes – as we’ll see with the first team(s) on our 2020 list – it’s an organic product of college basketball’s landscape.
Whoever gets the final two No. 1 seeds
Look, nobody ever wants to meet a No. 1 seed. But not all 1 seeds are created equal. And especially not this year. The gap between Kansas and Dayton, in adjusted efficiency terms, is roughly equal to the gap between Dayton and Oregon or Michigan. Which is not to say Dayton, Baylor and San Diego State don’t belong on or near the top line. It’s to show where the separation is – not between 1 seeds and the rest, but rather among the 1 seeds.
Two of Dayton, Baylor and San Diego State will be the seed equivalents of Kansas and Gonzaga on Selection Sunday, despite very much not being equivalents on a basketball court. Each of those teams is thoroughly beatable, if not by a 16 seed then certainly by an 8 or 9. The Flyers’ best and only win over an NCAA tournament team came vs. St. Mary’s. The Bears have lost three (and nearly four) of their last five. The Aztecs wield nowhere near the firepower of a traditional No. 1 seed.
So if an 8, 9 or 16 appears next to your school’s name on Sunday – or if you have Final Four dreams – let your eyes wander to the top of your region. And if you see Kansas or Gonzaga, cower in fear. But if you see one of those other names? Allow your imagination to run wild.
The Bulldogs have actually won three straight. They’re not overrated by the masses or overachieving and bound to crash back down to earth. They’re just ... not a No. 5 seed. And that’s what they’d likely be if the selection committee made final decisions tomorrow.
Butler accumulated a nice stable of non-conference wins, and topped Creighton at home long before the Bluejays became what they are today. So its résumé is legitimately strong. But its play has been less so as of late. It’s 7-8 over the past two months. Which would be perfectly reasonable for a No. 8 seed. But any pesky mid-major would love to face an 8 seed instead of a 5 – which is precisely why Butler lands on this list.
Arizona is a name brand with a proven coach and a hyped freshman class. It makes all the sense in the world, then, that the Wildcats spent a good chunk of the 2019-20 season in the AP top 25, especially after starting 9-0. In mid-February, they even looked like a Pac-12 contender. But here’s where we are entering the postseason:
Arizona has lost four of five. It’s scored 0.95 points per possession over that stretch. And the last of the four defeats came at home to last-place Washington.
Its best win of the past four months is ... at home over Colorado, who, uh, well, see below.
The star frosh – Nico Mannion, Josh Green and Zeke Nnaji – have been promising but inconsistent.
The two senior starters, Dylan Smith and Stone Gettings, have combined for three times as many personal fouls (39) as made two-point field goals (13) over the past six games.
The NET Rankings still adore Arizona. But any human with two eyes and a brain recognizes their love is unfounded. The Wildcats will be overseeded, and their first-round opponent will be licking its chops.
This is very likely the best team Tad Boyle has ever had in Boulder. It’s experienced and balanced and together. And a few short weeks ago, it was 21-6, with a Pac-12 title in its sights, a win over Dayton in its back pocket, and a top-20 KenPom ranking in its grasp.
Then Colorado blew a second-half lead to UCLA, and the free fall began. The Buffs got pounded by hapless Cal, then lost at Stanford, then lost a heartbreaker to struggling Utah. Perhaps they’ll rebound this week in Las Vegas. Or perhaps this is their true level. (We’d bet on the latter.)
It’s been pretty infuriating to watch Marquette squander the final two seasons of Markus Howard’s career with dreadful stretch runs. Howard is the nation’s best pure scorer. But he has even less around him this year than last. The Golden Eagles closed 2018-19 by losing six of seven. They’ve reached identical depths this year before the Big East tournament could even begin. They should still make the Big Dance, but they’ll be the most fragile at-large qualifier.
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