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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Moments ‘til Madness: The top dog in March

The teams in the race for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.

"Moments 'Til Madness " Column Graphic
Graphic by Gretta Goorno

Monday afternoon graced us with a new No. 1 team, the University of Houston Cougars. This is the first time Houston has been at the top of the rankings all season, with the University of Kansas being the only other Big 12 Conference team to do so this year. Following them are No. 2 Purdue University and No. 3 University of Connecticut. These three seem to be the most likely contenders for the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA Tournament, come Selection Sunday. Still, there are about two weeks left of games and anything could happen.

As one of the Big 12 newcomers, not many expected to see Houston immediately come into their own in what is thought of as the best conference in the sport. Head coach Kelvin Sampson has led this group to an 113 conference record so far. If the Big 12 tournament started today, they would be the No. 1 seed. A year ago, this team was playing in a two-bid conference and now they are dominating against some of the best in college hoops. Not to mention Houston’s computer numbers are by far the strongest in the country. They’re ranked No. 1 by the NET and KenPom, which are major factors in how the Selection Committee determines seeding. But the Cougars aren’t done with their schedule yet, with a couple of tough games ahead. One of these is an away game at the University of Oklahoma, which has bounced in and out of the AP Poll all season. Following this, their regular season finale is against a dangerous Kansas Jayhawks team that has the potential to beat anyone in college basketball. The Cougars are only one game ahead for the top spot in the Big 12 rankings, so dropping any of these games could mix up the conference tournament seeding quite a bit. Furthermore, Houston needs to win at least a couple of games in the Big 12 tournament if they want a chance at the best seed for March. As the Big 12 is an extremely competitive conference, if they don’t win the tournament, they will likely be given some leeway if everything else falls into place. Things are looking great for the Cougars.

However, the two other teams making up the top three of the AP Poll have a chance at stripping Houston of their top spot. Both Purdue and UConn are two and a half games ahead for the No. 1 spots in their respective conferences. Similarly, the two are tied for the most Quad 1 wins and are undefeated in Quad 2 and 3. Furthermore, in the widely respected advanced metrics rankings listed earlier, the Boilermakers sit at No. 2 and the Huskies fall right behind them at No. 3, both right behind Houston. But with Houston having such a strong resume, these two squads will almost certainly have to come close to winning out if they hope to best them for the top overall seed in March Madness, barring an unlikely collapse by Houston. This won’t be easy for either of these teams, as UConn still has to play No. 5 Marquette University, and Purdue will have to travel to No. 13 University of Illinois before the end of conference play. However, if either of these teams manages to keep winning and secure their conference tournament titles, they could definitely hear their names first on the biggest Sunday in college basketball.