By Jose Feliciano
Selection Sunday was full of excitement and surprises. Gonzaga held on to a No. 1 seed despite being upset by Saint Mary’s in their conference final. Mid-major teams like No. 7 Wofford and No. 7 Nevada were under-seeded, and Villanova got a lower seed than Marquette despite winning the regular season and the Big East Tournament. Other teams like St. John’s just slipped in while UNCG barely missed the cut thanks to bid stealers like Oregon. However, at the end of the day the power conferences sent plenty of teams into the big dance. Here’s how they rank in terms of overall talent and not solely on the number of teams they are sending to the tournament.
1.The ACC (7 Teams)
The Big Ten is sending one more team in the tournament than the ACC’s seven, but when you have three No. 1 seeds you are clearly the superior conference in the tournament. Not only are Duke, Virginia and North Carolina the No. 1 seeds, but they are the top overall teams as well. The lowest seed of the ACC teams is Syracuse, who is an eight. I think there is a pretty good chance we have at least one ACC team face-off against each other in the tournament. I filled my bracket and I have Duke winning as most people and Vegas do which just goes to show Duke and the ACC’s dominance. They will run the tournament.
2. The Big Ten (8 Teams)
With the most teams in the field, there is a high possibility we see a Big Ten match-up in the tournament. The conference is led by Michigan and Michigan State, who are each two seeds while regular-season champion Purdue is a three seed. All three of those teams can pull off a big run, while Maryland, a team with a lot of depth and size, can also go deep. Wisconsin could make some noise while the rest of the teams, Minnesota, Iowa and Ohio State round out the bunch as 10 and 11 seeds. You will see a lot of the Big Ten, and it is not just because they have the most teams in the dance.
3. The SEC (7 Teams)
Like the Big Ten, the SEC has two teams with two seeds (Kentucky and Tennessee) and a three seed in LSU. LSU is in limbo due to the status of their Head Coach Will Wade with his suspension, but that talent is clearly there. Auburn is another team that is worth keeping an eye on as they not only won the SEC tournament, but they dominated Tennessee in a game that was never close. Mississippi State, like Auburn, is a five seed while Ole Miss is a sneaky good eight seed.
4. The Big 12 (6 Teams)
Kansas has had a down year so that hurts the conference as a whole, but Texas Tech continues to impress, and they lead the conference with a three seed this year. Kansas State can go on a good run but only if Dean Wade is good to go. They really could have used him against Iowa State, who ended up winning the Big 12 Tournament. They slide in as a six seed and face an Ohio State team that really had to work to get in. I expect Texas Tech and Kansas to play well in the Dance and make it to the second weekend.
5. American (4 Teams)
This one was tough. It’s a razor-thin difference between the American and Big East Conferences but with such a down year from the Big East, I am going with the American. For me, it comes down to the fact that St. John’s was the last team in and that Seton Hall (unrightfully so) is only a 10 seed. The American Conference is led by Houston, a three seed, and the conference champion and seven seed Cincinnati Bearcats. Both teams have the potential to do damage while UCF and Temple round out the bunch. UCF I think can make it to the round of 32, but have the unfortunate issue of being in Duke’s pool. Regardless, the American Conference has made significant strides towards improving itself this year and it could show in the dance.
6. Big East (4 Teams)
You know it is a down year for the Big East when the reigning National Champions are not only a six seed but are not even the highest seed in the conference. I definitely disagree with that fact as Marquette is a five seed, despite losing five of their last six. Those two teams and the 10th seeded Seton Hall Pirates each have a conference championship and they are all tough draws. Ja Morant versus Markus Howard will be exciting, but Murray State is a team that may be poised to go on a Cinderella run while the Pirates face a Wofford team that has won their last 20 games. St. John’s rounds out the bunch as the last team in and face-off against Arizona State, which is not an easy task. The Big East has a very tall task ahead of them and their seeding did them no favors.