2017 NCAA Tournament Projections: Duke Surging Again


The Duke Blue Devils have now won seven straight games, after a home loss in January to NC State. A road win at Virginia this last week also pushes them up to a #2 seed in my projections. Remember, these are projections based on future schedule and strength as well as current results, and incorporates the RPI forecast.

Can Duke still get a #1 seed? Absolutely. Here’s my assessment of who is still in play to get one of the top spots:

Villanova Wildcats

Villanova was the top overall seed by the committee in the early release, and winning at home vs Butler, then winning at least one of the last two against Creighton and Georgetown, likely secures a top spot even before the conference tourney.

Kansas Jayhawks

The Jayhawks have survived their way in close games through the tough part of their schedule. Unless they collapse, they should also seal up a #1 seed before the conference tourney by outright winning the Big 12 and finishing 27-4 (so they can absorb one loss) in the regular season.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

Gonzaga is a #1 seed if they win out. Lose to St. Mary’s in the conference tourney and it becomes questionable.

North Carolina Tar Heels, Louisville Cardinals, Duke Blue Devils

The ACC Champ is still very much alive for a top spot, and whoever emerges from this group–depending on the number of losses taken–is now the favorite for the final slot with Baylor losing to Kansas at home Saturday.

They all have tough games remaining, but I would say that the following are the record targets to still be in play going into the ACC Tourney: UNC 25-7, Louisville 25-6, Duke 24-7. And then win the conference tourney.

Arizona Wildcats, Oregon Ducks, UCLA Bruins

The Pac-12 is lurking behind the ACC for a final top spot. Oregon has to win out in my opinion. The winner of the UCLA at Arizona game on Saturday is alive heading into the conference tourney, while I think the loser of that game is eliminated from top seed consideration.

Baylor Bears

Baylor took a big hit the last week with the loss at Texas Tech and losing at home to Kansas. At this point, they have the Top 50 wins but likely need to win out to remain in consideration. Surging to the Big 12 conference tourney title and finishing at 29-5 would put them right back in it, but that’s a hard path.

Here are the rest of the top projections:

Meanwhile, the Big Ten still has two teams projected as 5-seeds, and Wisconsin solidified their spot ahead of Maryland yesterday. Here’s an example of where my projections differ, by including upcoming schedule. I’ve always had Wisconsin ahead of Maryland because of that home game (and better likelihood of winning Big Ten tourney).

There’s lots of movement within this group but I would be surprised if anyone here can move up higher than the 4-seed line.

The bubble is pretty soft. I know we say that every year but if any team remotely near the bubble can pull a Top 15 upset they will shoot up. Arkansas won at South Carolina last week and went from near the bubble to closer to the 8/9 line. There’s also the real possibility of shrinkage, because several mid-majors who are currently projected in the 11/12 range have at-large cases if they lose in the conference final, particularly when the big conference competition are teams that may only have 1 or 2 Top 50 wins themselves.

Finally, the teams in consideration who just missed the cut. Wake Forest has missed their opportunities so far, with a tough schedule but no top wins (Miami is the best). Houston missed their chance against SMU on Saturday.