- The 2019 NCAA Men’s Tournament tips off Thursday, March 21
- There were few complaints about which teams got the top seeds in this year’s tournament
- But which of the top seeds are most in danger of exiting the tournament before the Final Four?
Many college basketball observers have claimed this to be one of the most top-heavy brackets ever. According to many, there’s a huge separation between the top 8 seeds and the rest of the field.
Hardly anyone had a problem with the programs that earned a 1-seed: Duke, Virginia, Gonzaga, and North Carolina. Some have predicted that quartet will get to the Final Four.
This is a rare commodity in the modern sports world. Consensus is like a far away land, filled with dragons and pixies, which is why I’m here to prevent you from submitting your March Madness bracket before hearing why it won’t be that simple.
I think three of the four 1-seeds could find themselves exiting before Minneapolis.
Gonzaga is Untested
The most vulnerable 1-seed is clearly Gonzaga, because of their road and their team.
For as great as Mark Few’s tenure in Spokane has been, he’s only made one Final Four. It took him nearly 20 years at the helm to finally break through, and that is often because their regular season path leaves them untested.
— Saint Mary’s Hoops (@saintmaryshoops) March 15, 2019
It’s not the Zags fault the WCC provides so little resistance. But Gonzaga has become an entity to itself: a power team in a low-major conference. This season was no different.
Yes, the Zags have been more successful in getting deeper into March recently. There has been a national championship game, an Elite 8, and two Sweet 16’s in the last four years.
But Few has also had 1, 2, and 3-seeded teams before that, since ’04, which failed to get out of the first weekend.
Syracuse could provide a difficult matchup in the Round of 32 with its 2-3 zone, and a group of players that advanced to the Sweet 16 last year after winning three games in the tourney.
Chukwu block party last night
— Syracuse Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) March 14, 2019
Frank Howard’s suspension could spell doom for SU, but Gonzaga could be knocked off by a very athletic Florida State or well-coached Michigan team in the second weekend as well.
Virginia Faces Pressure of Avenging 2018 Disappointment
Virginia is also a 1-seed that gives me pause.
Let’s start with last year, where as the overall top seed in the entire tourney, the Cavs were the first ever squad to lose to a 16-seed in history.
#1 Virginia OUT in 1st Game to #16 UMBC!
— Jeff Skversky 6abc (@JeffSkversky) March 17, 2018
The reason wasn’t only because UMBC played a wonderful game that night. It’s also because UVA’s pack-line defense and methodical attack can fall victim to a hot underdog. The Virginia offense isn’t built to score in bunches, so an opponent that takes a lead has the ability to play keep-away.
Virginia hasn’t been to the Final Four since the Ralph Sampson days 35 years ago. Many say this is Tony Bennett’s best offense since he took over the program.
But history doesn’t lie. He’s had a 1 or 2-seed four times in the past five years and made only one Elite 8. Twice he failed to get out of the first weekend. Will this year be different? I don’t think so.
— Purdue On BTN (@PurdueOnBTN) March 15, 2019
Tennessee, Purdue, K-State or Villanova could provide problems before Minneapolis. Luckily for the Wahoos, every other high seed in the region has its own issues. But UVA has a history of early exits that’s impossible to ignore.
North Carolina Faces Toughest Path to Minneapolis
UNC has one of the best teams in the country, but its road is the toughest for any 1-seed.
Kentucky is once again stacked with NBA talent, and would provide an enormous test in the Elite 8 for the Heels.
One game down, two to go to capture the #SECTourney championship.
Highlights ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/IDumbRkllz
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 16, 2019
The 3-seed is just as dangerous in many ways. Kelvin Sampson has Houston back to a power program, and would meet UNC in the Sweet 16.
And what about the 4-seed Kansas? For all the problems the Jayhawks have had this season between injuries and missing star players, KU would be playing in Kansas City on the second weekend.
If the Jayhawks make it out of the Round of 32, the Tar Heels could essentially be playing a road game in the Sweet 16 against one of the best coaches in the country in Bill Self.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.