Submitted by Wayne Allyn Root on Monday, February 15, 2016 at 11:51 AM
Wayne Root: Softness at the Top Shows NCAA's Could be Wide Open
It's becoming very clear to me that there aren't really any "true" #1 seeds this year for the Big Dance. Somebody's going to earn those honors. But, whoever does won't be any better than the teams on the #2 line...or possibly the #3 line. Frankly, they may not be more than 2-3 points better than the teams on the #8 or #9 lines that they'll have to play in the second round!
Let's take a quick look at who last week's poll had positioned to get those top seeds. For now, #1 Villanova stayed safe because they haven't lost in awhile. Just below the Wildcats...
#2 MARYLAND looked pretty awful this past Saturday night vs. Wisconsin. Their home floor was supposed to be such an intimidating force that no visitor had a chance! Wisconsin jumped way ahead early...then held on strong in the second half when Maryland made a mini-run. Hey, Maryland has a nice team. But getting routed at home by Wisconsin means no March matchup will be a sure thing. Respect Maryland, but don't fear them. Now they've even been proven mortal at home.
#3 OKLAHOMA had all the revenge in the world, yet couldn't win at home Saturday afternoon vs. #6 Kansas. That rematch was a classic...and both teams are obviously very good. Yet, both have had enough issues elsewhere in the Big 12 that you can't be confident of a Final Four run. Remember, we're looking for #1 seeds who can dominate their class. That just isn't out there this season. Did Maryland and OU look like the second and third best teams in the nation to you? 0-2 straight up as home favorites.
#4 IOWA lost last week to Indiana. I talked about that over the weekend. The Big 10 was overrated in college football. Remember that "#4 vs. #5" travesty of Iowa vs. Michigan State to reach football's Final Four? Then Michigan State got obliterated by Alabama while Iowa was routed by Stanford. Should Maryland and Iowa have been in the top four of the AP basketball poll last week? The corporate partners of ESPN always get such friendly media coverage!
#5 XAVIER lost last week to Creighton by a surprisingly big margin. Creighton's nothing special this year. Xavier may not be either...but they're good enough to be second best in what might only be a mediocre Big East. I wrote about the Big East not too long ago. I have to say...the eye test isn't impressing me in terms of Villanova and Xavier justifying their poll rankings. They're among the many "names in the hat" that could get hot next month. It's kind of a crime that two-fifths of the AP top five were from the Big 10, and two-fifths were from the Big East. Would Xavier even be a top five team in the Big 12 right now?
#7 VIRGINIA lost at Duke at the buzzer. Not a horrible result because that's a tough place to play (and they covered the spread!). But, this program has been exposed in recent Dances after posting strong records in the fading ACC. This current version of the team sure has that look about them again. Good in the league...but nothing special in the Dance. Virginia might have been launched into the AP top four if Duke hadn't beaten that buzzer. But, the Cavs don't have a top four resume.
It's much easier right now to use a cut-off around 20 teams or so. It's tough to argue that Iowa or Maryland aren't top 20. Clearly Oklahoma and Kansas are. But, imagine the 20 best teams playing a neutral court challenge against each other. Everyone gets 19 games. Does anybody go 15-4? We may be looking at everyone falling in the 7-12 to 12-7 range (or tighter). Maybe somebody's good enough for 13-14 wins in that sampling. Or, maybe one conference is much better than everyone realizes...and that conference rises to the top even if you can't tell the top teams apart. Think Villanova and Xavier would finish in the top five of the challenge?
For now, there are no clear #1 seeds that will be heavy favorites over others near them in the rankings. You believe Villanova's legit? What would you make them over Oklahoma or Kansas on a neutral court? Which of last week's poll powers would you make a significant favorite over hard-charging Kentucky?
In the opinion of WAYNE ALLYN ROOT, this is going to set up a stretch run and postseason that heavily favors underdog bettors and Cinderella seekers. The media is trying to hype teams that don't really deserve the accolades. Oddsmakers pay too much attention to ESPN and not enough to their own eyes!
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