In NCAA tournament history, No. 1 seed has never lost a game to a No. 16 seed.
Part of the reason for that is the No. 1 seeds are going to be the best teams in the country, and the best teams in the country aren’t generally challenged by mid-major programs. The other part of it is that the No. 16 seeds are the worst automatic bids, the teams that got hot for one weekend in early March after finishing in the middle of the pack in their league. Manhattan went 13-7 in the MAAC. Hampton was the No. 6 seed in the MEAC tournament. These are the teams that will be trying to make history against the Kentuckys of the world.
Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that getting a No. 1 seed is essentially a bye into the Round of 32, making it one of the most valuable decisions the committee can make.
And this season, the committee went 4-for-4.
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Kentucky has been a lock for the No. 1 seed in the Midwest since October, so we can just go ahead and skip right on by that. Villanova may not be one of the four-best teams in the country on the court, but they certainly are on after winning dual-Big East titles and going 32-2 with just a pair of road losses to then-top 25 teams; it’s not their fault Seton Hall imploded.
The other two No. 1 seeds are where the arguments can begin. Duke was given the No. 1 in the South while Wisconsin will get the No. 1 out West. Virginia, the ACC regular seas champ, is the No. 2 in the East while Arizona, the Pac-12’s dual-champions, is the No. 1 out west.
The Blue Devils didn’t win the ACC regular season or tournament title, but they did put together one of the strongest road performances I can ever remember. They won at Wisconsin, at Virginia, at Louisville, at North Carolina, at St. John’s and at Syracuse. That’s insane, and it was enough to make the committee overlook the lack of an ACC title and a loss at home to Miami.
Wisconsin getting the No. 1 over Virginia is the most interesting decision here. The Cavs have four wins better than Wisconsin’s best win, and all four of them came on the road. Virginia’s worst loss is … Duke at home? At Louisville? North Carolina in the ACC tournament? You tell me, that’s all three of them. Wisconsin lost at Rutgers, and while it was without Frank Kaminsky, Rutgers lost to a lot of other teams that didn’t have Frank Kaminsky.
Did the committee value the fact that the Badgers won dual-Big Ten titles? Did they take into account Justin Anderson’s health? Was this just an effort to get the Badgers out of Kentucky’s region?
And here’s the kicker: As it currently stands, Arizona is probably one of the top four teams in the country. But thanks to three losses to sub-100 competition, the Wildcats were never really considered a contender for that No. 1 seed line. It’s not all bad, though: While they do have to play Wisconsin in the Elite 8 if chalk holds, they’ll do so in Los Angeles, which will be flooded with Arizona fans.