Bracketology: Michigan State Back on Track for a #1 Seed, and Should North Carolina Even Be in that Discussion?

By Jason Lisk
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Here’s the latest Bracketology update as of games played through February 28th. As always, I am projecting what I think the committee will do on Selection Sunday, which means I am also accounting for future games remaining this week and in the conference tournaments.

Who are the #1 seeds? I actually have Michigan State projected in the final slot now, after all the smoke cleared from this week, though it is still wide open. Kansas has almost certainly claimed one of the spots after winning the Big 12 title. Villanova or Xavier should lock up at least one of them, though I think ultimately it will prove hard to get two. One of the ACC teams should garner a spot as well, and right now Virginia has the best overall outlook.

That leaves a final spot between Oklahoma, the runner-up in the Big East, Michigan State (the only Big 10 team that can claim it still, in my opinion), and another ACC team, either Miami or North Carolina.

And I’m now projecting the Spartans to grab it. They aren’t far off anyway. They were the presumptive best team in December, after beating Kansas on a neutral court and getting off to an impressive start. Then, Denzel Valentine was hurt and they struggled briefly in January. They are a lot of folks pick to reach the Final Four and win it as we start heading into March. They’ve climbed back to #1 in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings. They are close enough as it is and look to be the best team right now. Yeah, yeah, the RPI is lower than other top teams, but that’s because of those dumb games where they have four wins over sub-300 type teams dragging it down. They look like a top seed.

Meanwhile, I was shocked to see that Joe Lunardi had North Carolina as a #1 seed before the loss at Virginia Saturday. It’s getting late now, and while the Tar Heels were the #1 team preseason and have had a solid season, it’s not a #1 seed resumé. After I scrubbed all the teams, I went back to look at records against potential at-large teams, taking all the teams I had seeded 12th or better, plus my last 8 out.

North Carolina is 6-5 against teams that are in consideration for an at-large spot. That includes 4 wins against teams that are very much “on the bubble” and may not make it: Temple, Florida State, Syracuse, Pittsburgh. Here’s how that stacks up agains the other teams I am projecting as top 4 seeds at the moment.

They are a lot closer to a 3 or 4 seed right now by RPI and wins against tourney teams. I’m not saying they can’t get a #1 seed, but I think it would require winning every game from here out, and needing other things to break. I have them projected as the last 2 seed right now, but based on only what has happened so far, I think a 3 is more reasonable. If they don’t add some top wins in the ACC Tourney that wouldn’t surprise me.

[photo via USA Today Sports Images]

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