TOP 25 THIS WEEK: League tourneys set to impact NCAA seeding
By AARON BEARD, AP Basketball Writer
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Selection Sunday is now days away, making this week the last chance for teams to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, stay close to home — or simply earn a bid.
The Big Ten has already wrapped up its early tournament , with seventh-ranked Michigan playing its way into similar position as 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.
Now college basketball’s other top conferences are heading into their tournaments. The Atlantic Coast Conference opens Tuesday. The Big East, Big 12, Pac-12, Southeastern Conference open play Wednesday, while the American Athletic Conference Tournament starts Thursday.
Here are storylines to watch:
Top-ranked Virginia, which became the unanimous No. 1 in the AP Top 25 on Monday, begins in Thursday’s quarterfinals and looks solid for a No. 1 NCAA seed regardless of what happens in Brooklyn . The Cavaliers are No. 1 in the RPI and in KenPom, won the ACC regular-season race by four games and own a 9-1 record against Quadrant 1 opponents through Sunday’s games — Quadrant 1 contests are home games vs. teams ranked 1-30 in RPI, neutral games vs. 1-50 and away games vs. 1-75.
The other question is what happens with rivals Duke and North Carolina.
The fifth-ranked Blue Devils open play in Thursday’s quarterfinals while sitting at No. 3 in KenPom and No. 4 in the RPI. A run to a second straight ACC Tournament title could help them snag a No. 1 seed.
As for the No. 12 Tar Heels, they finished tied for third in the standings but ended up as the No. 6 seed due to 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.
Villanova hopped over Xavier to reach No. 2 in Monday’s poll, though the third-ranked 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.
Ninth-ranked Kansas enters the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City, Missouri, as the top seed and in the running for a No. 1 NCAA seed. The Jayhawks 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. 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. 23 Florida is the other ranked team in the SEC field.
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 a No. 3 seed at least 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.
More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap