UVA basketball spent the last 11 weeks ranked second or third in the Associated Press Top 25, won the ACC regular season for the second straight year, and yet when the NCAA Tournament seeds are released this evening, you can bet on Virginia being on the two seed line.
And worse, the friendly rivals down in Durham, who didn’t spend the last 11 weeks ranked second or third, who didn’t win the ACC, who lost in the same ACC Tournament semifinals, look to be the team that will supplant Virginia as a top seed.
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi has it as a done deal that Duke (29-4) will be the top seed in the South Region, pushing UVA (29-3) to the two seed in the East, behind Big East champ Villanova (31-2). Which might not be the worst thing for UVA, to be honest. The East Regional is where Virginia had looked to be heading for the past several weeks, and would have the Cavs playing within easy driving distance of the bulk of the fan base, with the first two rounds in Charlotte and the regional rounds in Syracuse.
The South Regional would also begin in Charlotte, with the regional rounds in Houston.
CBS Sports bracketologist Jerry Palm has Duke and UVA flipped – with UVA as the top seed in the South, and Duke as the #2 in the East, his reasoning being that the Selection Committee doesn’t tend to award top seeds to teams that didn’t win either a regular-season or conference tournament title ahead of teams from their conference that won one or the other.
Duke’s case, then, would present an interesting case to make for a one seed. Three ACC teams stand with 29 wins, with Notre Dame getting its 29th Saturday night in its 90-82 win over Notre Dame to win the ACC Tournament. Notre Dame (29-5) doesn’t have the overall profile of a one seed (#15 RPI, 7-3 vs. RPI Top 50, 11-5 vs. RPI Top 100), but they do own some hardware, and two wins over Duke.
The resumes of Duke and Virginia are so close as to justify the debate between Lunardi and Palm over where they’re going to end up.
Arguments at a semantic level can be made for and against both. Duke won at Virginia, 69-63, on Jan. 31, and also won at Wisconsin, a likely #1 seed, in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. But that game at Wisconsin was the only true road game the Blue Devils played before the start of conference play, while UVA played back-to-back road games in nonconference play at Maryland (RPI 12) and VCU (RPI 17), winning both by double digits.
Duke had won 12 straight before losing to Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament, while Virginia has lost two of its last three. But Virginia beat Notre Dame in their only matchup this year, in South Bend, while Duke lost two of the three it played against the Irish. And Duke was a combined 1-2 against Miami and NC State, losing at home to Miami, who Virginia beat on the road, and the Cavs swept NC State.
But then Virginia lost in the ACC Tournament to North Carolina, which was swept by Duke. (Virginia did win at Chapel Hill on Feb. 2.)
Honestly, if you ask me, Arizona (31-3, #5 RPI, 9-0 vs. RPI Top 50, 17-0 vs. RPI Top 100) has a better resume than both, with regular-season and tournament titles in the Pac-12, the holdback being the three sub-RPI Top 100 losses.
I’m tending to side with Lunardi in this one, that Duke will get the one, and UVA and Arizona will fall to the two line. Not because Duke has the better resume, but … it’s Duke we’re talking about here. If a special case has to be made to give a team that finished second in its conference regular season and didn’t get out of its conference tournament semifinals to be seeded ahead of teams that do have banners to hang, it would be made for Duke.
– Column by Chris Graham