Duke still to be among top seeds?
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
After weeks of uncertainty surrounding which teams would earn the four No. 1 seeds in next week’s NCAA tournament, the picture finally came into sharper focus in recent days.
And then came Maryland.
The Terrapins, erratic all season, scored their second victory of the season against Duke, this time beating the Blue Devils in the ACC tournament with forward Ryan Kelly in the lineup.
Entering Friday night’s game, the Blue Devils were not only seemingly destined for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, but they were well positioned to earn the top overall seed in the NCAAs. Had they won the ACC tournament, they would have entered the NCAAs with an undefeated record with Kelly in the lineup.
But before you are quick to drop Duke to a No. 2 seed, remember that the tournament selection committee is always careful not to fall into “impulse buying,” which means putting too much weight on any one victory or loss.
Another loss to Maryland, a team that has suddenly re-emerged in the conversation for one of the final at-large berths, does little to overshadow or offset what has been an outstanding résumé that Duke has pieced together through the course of the season.
The committee considers a team’s entire body of work. And Duke beat six — yes, six — top-50 RPI teams — Kentucky, Minnesota, VCU, Louisville, Ohio State and Temple — all before Dec. 9. It was probably one of the best non-conference résumés assembled by any team in recent years. The Blue Devils lost four of 13 games while Kelly was sidelined, but then ended the regular season with wins over Miami and North Carolina, two more NCAA tournament teams.
Should it win the Big Ten tournament, Indiana is likely the favorite (again) to earn the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Louisville is well positioned to earn another No. 1 seed if the Cardinals beat Syracuse in Saturday’s Big East championship. Gonzaga remains poised to earn a No. 1 seed despite a strength of schedule ranking that would be among the worst of any top seed since 2000.