ACC Basketball

Duke, Virginia and the One Seeds

Duke Blue Devils

With both Virginia and Duke falling in the ACC Tournament Semifinal, while other top teams in other conferences continue to advance, a fair question to ask is, did the Cavaliers and Blue Devils just play themselves out of a 1-seed?

Obviously, the best way to look at it is to look at the resumes. I believe the NCAA Committee cares more for great wins over bad loses, so a bad loss can be forgiven if the solid victories are there. Let’s also go ahead and assume the other teams win their conference tournament titles.

VIRGINIA

The Cavaliers have an impressive resume, 5-3 against the top-25 and 8-3 in the top-50 (with five of those wins coming on the road). They have no bad loses, as all three defeats came against top-20 competition. If Harvard beat Yale today, that gives Virginia nine wins over teams in the NCAA Tournament. They also have the ACC regular season title, but more on that below.

DUKE

No team has a better collection of wins. The Blue Devils are 7-2 against the RPI’s top-25, 11-3 against the top-50 and they have 10 wins against teams that will play in the NCAA Tournament. They won at Virginia, Wisconsin (two potential one seeds), plus North Carolina and Louisville.

Of the three teams they lost two, they also beat those teams in the rematch. The only knock on Duke is that they didn’t win either the regular season or tournament championship and they have one loss to a team most likely not getting jiggy with it at the Big Dance (Miami, #63).

VILLANOVA

The Wildcats are third in the RPI and have a solid 12-1 record against the top-50, 5-1 against the top-25. They have just one bad loss, a road defeat to Seton Hall (#90). My only issue with Villanova is that although they have lots of top-50 wins, none of those victories were over an elite team. Only one (VCU) is ranked currently in the top-20 in the RPI and their best win based on ranking was over Butler, who was 18th at the time.

WISCONSIN

The Badgers will need to win their conference tournament championship to even be in this discussion, but like I said before, let’s go ahead and assume. Wisconsin has just three wins against the top-25 (3-2) and an 8-2 record against the top-50. They have just one bad lose, although it’s officially the worst loss on this list (#175 Rutgers), but to be fair they were without their best player.

However, like Villanova above, the Badgers lack the great win, as they have just two victories over teams that were ranked at the time they played them. Oklahoma wasn’t ranked when the Badgers beat them, but that would be consider their best win to date. However, they have beaten just six teams headed to the tournament (seven if Buffalo wins their tournament).

ARIZONA

The Wildcats have only three loses on the year and have solid wins over Gonzaga and Utah (twice), but that’s it. They have just three wins over the top-25, going 8-0 against the top-50. They also have three bad loses to UNLV, Oregon State and Arizona State.

KANSAS

The Jayhawks have the most loses of this group (seven), but they will probably win both the regular season and tournament championship in the country’s toughest division. They have the nation’s toughest SOS, going 9-4 against the RPI’s top-25, 12-6 against the top-50. They managed to split against the four teams in their conference that they lost to, which always impresses me.

MY DEEP THOUGHTS…

First, we have to decide how important conference titles are. Not all conference titles are equal. The ACC has five teams in the top-20 in the RPI, while the PAC-12 will most likely only get three teams into the whole NCAA Tournament.

Should Virginia stay ahead of Duke? They have one less loss and they won the regular season title. Both true points, but the argument for the Blue Devils is, much better great wins, tougher SOS and beat Virginia head-to-head. Also, winning the conference title doesn’t tell the whole story. In the regular season, the Cavaliers only played the top-five teams (five times), while the Blue Devils faced the top-five (six times).

If the job to seed the teams were given to me (and only me), I would have to go…

1-seed: Kentucky, Duke, Virginia, Kansas

2-seed: Villanova, Wisconsin, Arizona, Gonzaga

Obviously I’m not impressed by regular season titles and meaningless tournament titles. If I’m on the committee, I’m looking at the whole resume, so strength of schedule matters, as does good and great wins. Duke didn’t win either tournament, but their SOS is 8th and they have the most wins over tournament teams and two against two of the top-eight (both on the road).

Virginia’s SOS isn’t the best (#24), but they have solid wins, including wins away from home. Kansas has seven loses and that’s hard to stomach, but they’ve played twice as many top-25 teams than Villanova, nearly three times as much as Wisconsin and they have a handful of really good wins.

If Kansas falters in their tournament, I’d move Villanova up thanks to 12 wins against the top-50.

Wisconsin is right there, but again, just two wins against teams ranked when they played them. I think Arizona’s lack of great wins and three bad loses cancel them out completely.

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