The NCAA tournament selection committee always gets asked about the selection of No. 1 seeds after the bracket is unveiled.
Having a No. 1 seed is an important distinction because it historically guarantees entry into the Round of 32 while also validating a team as one of the four best in college basketball during the season. Although a No. 1 seed doesn’t guarantee a Final Four appearance or a title, it does enhance the chances of a team making a deep run into March. It’s also just fun for a fanbase to say that they are backing a No. 1 seed.
For the 2018 NCAA tournament, there wasn’t a lot of drama surrounding the No. 1 seeds. The committee shouldn’t face a lot of criticism for the top seeds because most of the choices were easily determined for them as the week played out.
With its unbelievable season in the ACC, Virginia was the easy choice as the No. 1 overall seed based on the entire body of work. After winning the ACC by four games in the regular season and also winning the conference tournament title, the Cavaliers were the easiest choice for the committee as they’ll be the No. 1 seed in the South Region. Virginia only has two losses on the season and both came to NCAA tournament teams in West Virginia and Virginia Tech. Now, the Cavaliers just have to shake those past early tournament exits as they try to make a first Final Four run under Tony Bennett.
After winning a 14th consecutive Big 12 regular season title and also winning the league’s conference tournament, Kansas was another easy choice for the committee as a No. 1 seed in the Midwest. The Jayhawks might have had an undersized and undermanned roster that suffered a few uncharacteristic early losses at Phog Allen Fieldhouse this season, but Bill Self’s team righted the ship and is looking very strong heading into the home stretch. Surprising home losses aside, Kansas didn’t have any awful losses as they amassed a large number of quality wins in arguably the toughest top-to-bottom league in the country.
Villanova became the logical selection as the No. 1 seed in the East Region after its strong run in winning the Big East Tournament title. The Wildcats were certainly aided by conference tournament semifinal losses by Xavier and Duke (more on them in a minute) during the week as their strong overall profile helped earn a No. 1 seed. While Villanova’s shaky defense helped contribute to a bad loss against St. John’s, the other three losses for them were all top-50 teams. Jay Wright’s ballclub also amassed an impressive 13 wins against the RPI top-50 during the season — more than Virginia and Kansas.
The fourth No. 1 seed was really the only debate for this year’s committee, and even then, Xavier seemed like the favorite among bracketologists leading up to the final bracket unveiling. Although the Musketeers dropped one to Providence in the Big East Tournament semifinals on Friday, it helped them that Duke also lost in the ACC semifinals and North Carolina lost in the ACC finals. The Musketeers worst loss this season came against Arizona State on a neutral court — who saw that coming at the start of 2018 when the Sun Devils were in the top 10? — as Xavier won the Big East regular season title for the first time. Since Xavier also owns a league title — something Duke or North Carolina is lacking — that also might have helped its case for a No. 1 spot.
As for Duke and North Carolina, you could certainly make a case for the Tobacco Road rivals for a potential No. 1 seed if either had won the ACC Tournament. Both of them ultimately fell short as they’ll have to settle for No. 2 seeds.
The Blue Devils had one fewer top-50 RPI victory and more bad losses than Xavier. Duke had some puzzling road defeats to Boston College and St. John’s that ultimately hurt them. The Tar Heels had a very intriguing case thanks to 11 RPI top-5o wins, but North Carolina couldn’t get over the hump against Virginia for an ACC title. A non-conference home loss to Wofford is the worst loss of any team on this list while the Tar Heels also had more bad losses, in general, than Xavier.
The committee might be criticized for its selection process of bubble teams this year, but they shouldn’t catch a lot of heat for these four No. 1 seeds. Most of the calls were already made for them and the committee didn’t make any outlandish or unexpected changes.