TOP 25 THIS WEEK: League tourneys set to impact NCAA seeding
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Big East has No. 2 Villanova and No. 3 Xavier aiming for No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. The Big 12 has No. 9 Kansas on its seemingly permanent perch as the Big 12′s regular-season champion.
And the southern-roots Atlantic Coast Conference returned to Brooklyn with Virginia the unanimous No. 1 in the AP Top 25, freshman Marvin Bagley III and No. 5 Duke rounding into postseason form — and just in time for a winter storm threatening to blanket the Northeast in heavy snow.
Yes, it promises to be an eventful week with most of college basketball’s top conferences hitting tournament time and Selection Sunday just days away.
The Big Ten has already wrapped up its early tournament , with No. 7 Michigan playing its way into similar position as it did last year when the Wolverines got hot late, won the league tournament and went on to the NCAA Sweet 16. And the West Coast Conference concludes with Tuesday’s final between No. 6 Gonzaga and BYU in Las Vegas.
The remaining power conferences hold tournaments this week. The ACC opened play Tuesday with Boston College’s win against Georgia Tech. The Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference open play Wednesday along with the Big East; the American Athletic Conference Tournament starts Thursday.
Some storylines to watch:
Top-ranked Virginia, which became the unanimous No. 1 in the AP Top 25 on Monday, made the past month little more than a coronation. Led by Associated Press league coach of the year Tony Bennett along with AP all-ACC picks Devon Hall and Kyle Guy, the Cavaliers ran out to a 12-0 start to take all the drama out of a regular-season race they would ultimately win by four games.
They begin ACC play in Thursday’s quarterfinals looking solid for a No. 1 NCAA seed — maybe the overall top seed — regardless of what happens in Brooklyn . They’re No. 1 in the RPI and in KenPom and own a 9-1 record against Quadrant 1 opponents (home games vs. teams ranked 1-30 in RPI, neutral games vs. 1-50 and away games vs. 1-75).
The more interesting question could be what happens with rivals Duke and North Carolina.
The Blue Devils open play in Thursday’s quarterfinals with Bagley standing as the AP league player and rookie of the year, and they could be a No. 1 NCAA seed by winning a second straight title.
As for the No. 12 Tar Heels, they finished tied for third but ended up as the No. 6 seed because of tiebreakers. Yet they enter Wednesday’s second-round game against the Wake Forest-Syracuse winner with 10 Quadrant 1 wins, second only to Kansas (11) — and that could have them in contention for a 2-seed despite their low ACC Tournament seeding.
The ACC has a national-best five teams in the AP Top 25.
Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Villanova hopped over Xavier to reach No. 2 in Monday’s poll, though Trevon Bluiett and the No. 3 Musketeers are the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament. And Villanova swept the regular-season series.
Both teams open play in Thursday’s quarterfinals in New York’s Madison Square Garden, with Xavier facing the St. John’s-Georgetown winner and Villanova facing the DePaul-Marquette winner. And one — maybe both? — could end up earning No. 1 NCAA seeds.
Kansas enters the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri, as the top seed for the 10th straight year and in the running for a No. 1 NCAA seed. The Jayhawks and AP Big 12 player of the year Devonte’ Graham face the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State winner in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
No. 14 Texas Tech, the second seed, opens play against the Iowa State-Texas winner, while No. 18 West Virginia faces bubble team Baylor to wrap up the quarterfinals.
No. 15 Arizona enters the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas as the top seed behind AP league player and rookie of the year Deandre Ayton . The Wildcats will face the Arizona State-Colorado winner in Thursday’s quarterfinals as the only AP Top 25 team in the field.
The Southeastern Conference Tournament begins Wednesday in St. Louis and ends Sunday a few hours before the field of 68 is announced. No. 13 Tennessee and No. 16 Auburn shared the regular-season title, though the Tigers claimed the No. 1 seed.
Both teams open play in Friday’s quarterfinals, with Auburn facing the Alabama-Texas A&M winner and Tennessee facing the LSU-Mississippi State winner.
No. 8 Cincinnati and No. 11 Wichita State met over the weekend to determine the American Athletic Conference regular-season title. Could they do it again in the AAC Tournament?
Both look like candidates to be at least a No. 3 seed depending on how things go in Orlando when the tournament begins Thursday. The top-seeded Bearcats open in Friday’s quarterfinals against the SMU-Connecticut winner, while the second-seeded Shockers face the Tulane-Temple winner.
Also lurking in Wichita State’s half of the bracket is No. 21 Houston, which is closing in on its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2010 and only its second in 26 years. The Cougars face the East Carolina-UCF winner.
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