Can The Aztecs Become The NCAA Tourney’s Overall #1 Seed?
There’s a strong possibility the Aztecs will close out the season undefeated. Can they overcome the remaining top seeded teams?
The NCAA has projected the Aztecs to be #1 seed in the East bracket, but can they become top seed in the West- and overall?
San Diego, CA- The Aztecs are having a special season, well into February as the only still undefeated Division I team. There is a case to be made that an undefeated San Diego State team could be worthy of an overall #1 seed.
Currently, they are #1 in the Net rankings, and for three consistent weeks they’ve been ranked #4 in both the AP and the Coaches Poll, and they are a clear consensus #1 seed.
But if teams were selected for the NCAA tournament today as they currently stand, the Aztecs will travel all the way to New York City to play in Madison Square Garden, with Duke (20-3) as a #2 seed.
The NCAA presented their projected brackets on Saturday, February 8th, well before the 68 teams making the NCAA tournament are finalized. Final Tournament seeding is revealed on Selection Sunday on March 15, and the Final Four is slated for March 27-29 in Atlanta.
Here are Andy Katz’s current projections.
Nobody disputes that #1 Baylor was the clear choice for the No. 1 overall seed. The Bears have spent the past three weeks at No. 1 in the AP Top 25. Baylor is listed as the top seed in the South Region in Houston with Louisville, Seton Hall and Auburn.
#3 Kansas was the second overall seed and is currently top seed in the Midwest Region in Indianapolis with Dayton, Florida State and Michigan State.
#2 Gonzaga was the third overall seed and is currently top seed in the West Region in Los Angeles with West Virginia, Villanova and Oregon.
Gonzaga so far has edged San Diego State out of the West, and because of it, the Aztecs are top seed in the East Region in New York with Duke, Maryland and Butler.
The Aztecs have never been a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. Their highest rank came nearly a decade ago, when the Kawhi Leonard– led team earned a No. 2 spot in the West Region in the 2011 NCAA Tourney.
With Gonzaga rated third overall, they head to the West Regional at Staples Center in Los Angeles for the tournament’s second weekend while the Aztecs would travel 2,400 miles east.
#2 seed in the East, Duke, has a long history and following at MSG.
The big question for 24-0 SDSU is this: can it get ahead of 25-1 Gonzaga to secure the West Region’s top seed- and can it possibly get ahead of all remaining teams to become overall top seed?
The NCAA committee ranks teams in each of top four seed lines and then goes down the list, sending them to the closest geographic region. Unless things shift dramatically only the Zags and Aztecs will seek the West Region.
Right now, right or wrong, the Zags have the high ground.
In the meantime, the Aztecs will need to keep winning.
The Aztecs also need a Zags loss to surpass them. It can happen- although Gonzaga just routed St. Mary’s by 30 points- who most consider the second best team in the West Coast Conference. They face St. Mary’s again, as well as a scrappy BYU team.
As for the overall top two seeds: both Baylor and Kansas face challenging Big 12 opponents ahead including #13 West Virginia. The two also face off against each other– so one team between the two will register one more loss
Duke Athletic Director Kevin White is the chair of the selection committee. When he was asked why they put Gonzaga above SDSU, he replied, “It’s such a fine line. I think at the end of the day across the 10-member committee, it was the fact that the Zags had two really good wins, we thought, maybe better wins over Arizona and Oregon. At the end of the day, that’s kind of the way things fell.”
Duke was the committee’s fifth overall team. White confirmed that the top seeds were “Unanimous” and mentioned there was a bit of a separation between four (Aztecs) and five (Duke). “We clearly delineated those four as the top four.”
Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart, the committee’s vice chair, noted: “There was no question that San Diego State was a No. 1 seed. They’ve had a remarkable year. A couple of us had an opportunity to watch San Diego State in person when we were on the West Coast for the NCAA Convention and they were incredibly impressive. They have obviously had a wonderful, wonderful start to their season. It was razor close between Gonzaga and San Diego State.”
There is more conference basketball yet to play. It’s an increasing sentiment that San Diego State has a good opportunity to end the season undefeated. If this holds true, then Baylor, Kansas and Gonzaga will have to conclude the season without any upsets or key losses to remain in the top three.
Becoming the overall #1 is a real possibility. Time will tell.