Our Valentine's Day edition of college basketball picks roundtable starts with a discussion of the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. Are any of the projected paragraphs 1 particularly vulnerable in the next month? The ESPN.com faculty panel of rim experts also spoke about the top 16 on the selection committee and the best freshmen in the country that no one is talking about.
In a season widely considered to be devoid of great teams, it is worth noting that Baylor, Kansas, Gonzaga and San Diego State have enjoyed an extended race in the past two weeks as your presumed number 1 seeds. Which team are you most concerned about not being first on Sunday and why?
Myron Medcalf, senior college basketball writer: It has to be the state of San Diego. I think the men's basketball selection committee sent a message to Brian Dutcher's team on Saturday, when it revealed the top four seeds for each region. Gonzaga took first place in the west and, if he keeps that spot, the Bulldogs will play in Los Angeles to try the Final Four. The Aztecs? The undefeated program was "rewarded" with first place in the east, where, at the current level, it would have to pass Duke, seed number 2, in Madison Square Garden – often called "Cameron Indoor North" "- to reach the final four.
Dutcher's team has a record 4-0 against opponents in quadrant I. Still, selection committee chairman Kevin White, Duke's athletic director, said the committee thinks Gonzaga (5-1 against Quad opponents) I) is the best team and deserves first place close to home. With the state of San Diego finishing as the fourth seed No. 1 and failing to convince the committee that its undefeated record justified first place in the West, I think a defeat in the game in Mountain West (all four of its future opponents are in 86th or worse) in the NET ranking) could cost the Aztecs a place in the top row.
Jeff Borzello, college basketball insider: In fact, I think that all four teams can meet on the front row in a month, but I think I will go with Gonzaga. I think an undefeated state of San Diego is on the top row, regardless, and I don't think this Aztec team is losing a game until the NCAA tournament. Kansas has a very bulletproof curriculum, with all its wins in Quad 1 and superior metrics, and Baylor is the best team in the country.
Gonzaga, it's true, although the Zags have a better track record than the state of San Diego at the moment. I just think they’re more likely to lose a game the rest of the way, since they need to follow BYU’s path, play at Saint Mary’s in Spokane, Washington, and probably play one of them again at the West Coast Conference game of the title. The state of San Diego should be strongly favored in all remaining games, including the Mountain West tournament.
John Gasawaycollege basketball writer: All four of these teams look pretty solid for the front line, considering it's only mid-February. But if I have to find some clouds under that sun, I will go with Gonzaga as the most likely to fall from a number 1 seed. Bulldogs are still at BYU, where Mark Few's team will find the most accurate offense the WCC has ever seen in years, angry fans and 4,551 feet of altitude.
Even a loss in Provo, Utah, probably wouldn't be enough on its own to get the Zags out of the front line, but that, in addition to a loss at the WCC tournament, could do the trick. Gonzaga won six incredible consecutive automatic bids before finally losing 60-47 to Saint Mary & # 39; s in the WCC title game last season. Looking at the 2020 conference tournament, the Gaels are as good as they were a year ago, while the Cougars are improving a lot. (In addition, Todd Golden always creates smart training tricks in San Francisco.) It won't be a walk for Bulldogs.
Jordan Schultz, insider / analyst: I don't foresee a scenario where San Diego State and Baylor are not 1s. Gonzaga is also there. Kansas, however, can be a different story. It's not that I don't like the Jayhawks, because, frankly, there's not much to discuss. The Big 12 proved to be a gantlet throughout the season, but what makes things potentially risky is the lack of punctuation. No college basketball conference has a lower average score (64.3 points per game per team, until Wednesday's matches) in league matches, according to KenPom.
Bill Self has a tremendous defensive team – tops in the country, to be exact – but we saw KU fight when Devon Dotson it's not on the floor. The candidate Cousy and Wooden Award is the engine of everything in Lawrence. With such an offensive and profound league, assisting is a concern to move forward. Remember that Kansas failed to register 70 points in three consecutive games, including victories over modest Texas and TCU.
The NCAA unveiled its top 16 seeds last Saturday, and there were not many surprises. Give us a team in the top 16 that you don’t expect to be on the top four lines when it’s all over and on selection Sunday and give us a team not mentioned in the first 16 revelations that will end in this selected group.
Borzello: A sneaky team that could potentially fall is West Virginia. The climbers are fighting now, losing two in a row, to Oklahoma and Kansas, and going only 4-4 in the last eight games. They are finding life really difficult on the offensive side, scoring less than 0.85 points for possession in both defeats and now going to Baylor this weekend. What could increase the chance of a potential downfall is the lack of truly marked wins. They defeated Texas Tech in Morgantown and had solid victories in neutral courts over Ohio, northern Iowa and Wichita. None of them actually move the needle, however. If West Virginia loses the remaining two games against Baylor, suffers a road loss to a team from the Big 12 in the bottom half and then is hit in the conference tournament, I would not be surprised to see them outside the top four lines.
I'm not sure what else Penn State could have done to make it into the top 16. The Nittany Lions have a list of the top 20 NETs, seven wins in quadrant 1 and a record of 12-5 against quadrants 1 and 2. They have zero quad 3 or 4 losses. Of course, the non-conference schedule was atrocious, but the positives outnumber that number in my opinion. They are the second in the Big Ten, a game behind Maryland. What will cement them as one of the top four seeds a month from now is the remaining schedule. Four of the seven finals are at home, and the road games are in Indiana, Iowa and the Northwest. A 6-1 finish is possible; combine that with the rest of the profile and it is certainly one of the top four.
Gasaway: Second, my esteemed colleague, Mr. Borzello, in the first half of the question: West Virginia seems to be leaking oil, relatively speaking. Climbers have not beaten a team that (we think) will be in the NCAA tournament since Bob Huggins' men beat Texas Tech in Morgantown five weeks ago. This team's pitch has been substandard in the last five games, and the WVU recorded a point below one point for possession during that period. None of this will matter, of course, if West Virginia wins at Baylor. Unless you get bored in Waco, Texas, trends are not encouraging for climbers.
If a place appears in the top 16, Creighton may be in the best position to take advantage of that opportunity. Newly won at Seton Hall, the Bluejays are looking like a group that can beat everyone who arrives. Put it this way: if Greg McDermott's people manage to score 87 points out of 76 possessions against the Pirates in Newark, New Jersey, I like their chances against most, if not all of the defenses not named "Kansas". Creighton plays four of his six finals at home, with road games arriving in Marquette and St. John & # 39; s.
Schultz: Butler has been on a downward trend for about a month, abandoning games for DePaul and Providence unrated and, more recently, being hit by 19 in Marquette before defeating Xavier on Wednesday. Bulldogs are a difficult team to discover. When dialed offensively, the senior guard Kamar Baldwin presents a variety of problems. At the rate of eclipsing 2,000 points in his career, he is a dangerous player who can control a game. But Baldwin does not have much offensive aid and this team is vulnerable to high-octane offenses. Butler still has a series of difficult games ahead of him, including inclinations on the roads with Seton Hall, Creighton and Xavier. I am also willing to bet that Bulldogs have some flaws along the way against smaller opponents and would therefore be surprised if they ended up with 4 seeds or better.
I like defensive Colorado a lot, but I'll take a look at Fran McCaffery's film Iowa Hawkeyes. An elite offensive team with a truly dominant big man in junior Luka Garza (23 points, 10 rebounds per game), Iowa's winning streak includes wins over Texas Tech, Cincinnati, Illinois, Maryland and Wisconsin. Simply put, you become very dangerous when you manage to score the ball in college basketball. Only Gonzaga and Dayton have better offensive efficiency figures set (by KenPom), and with lots of Quad 1 opportunities still on the table, there's no reason to think that Garza & Co. can't rise to the third row.
Medcalf: I'm going with the state of Michigan, which was seed number 4 in the Midwest on Saturday. The Spartans lost three of the last four and only ended the losing streak with a breathtaking victory in Illinois on Tuesday. Tom Izzo has a great record of stability for his teams at the end of the season, but the Big Ten has been a puddle for his top teams. And the Spartans still have two clashes against Maryland, a road game against a good Penn State team and a home game against Iowa. Lots of potential to stumble over the stretch and end the season as a Big Ten team with eight or nine losses and lose a spot in the top four.
White, chairman of the committee, said Iowa, LSU and Kentucky were the three teams out of the top four seeds that generated the most chatter in the committee's discussions. Of these three teams, I think Will Wade's team has the best chance of securing a place in the top four on Sunday. The Tigers nearly defeated Auburn last week in overtime. And the toughest remaining game is next week's home game against Kentucky. If LSU ends up strong, dominoes could work to your advantage and push it into a seed row.
It was not a sensational season for freshmen in college basketball, with only Vernon Carey Jr. and Anthony Edwards being nominated for the top 20 wooden watch last week. Give readers a freshman not named Carey or Edwards whom they are supposed to attend.
Gasaway: After thorough research and hours of diligent film study, I'm here to shed a long-awaited light, a 2019 McDonald's All American of 2019 that will be the first round of 2020 NBA draft to choose. Isaiah Stewart it happens to play for a team from Washington that is not the last word in an unstoppable moment at the moment (the Huskies will always have Baylor's victory), but in a way, that makes what he is doing even more impressive. The six-foot freshman has been a beacon of hope and effectiveness in a dark night of the soul of the offended U-Dub. Stewart is a 2-point scoring machine that also (note NBA general managers) fires 75% at a high volume on the line and therefore suggests untapped perimeter potential. Best of all, it's fun to watch.
Borzello: I'll give two – one for the NBA's potential and one for the impact at the end of the season. The first is Auburn Isaac Okoro. Okoro was one of the top 50 recruits who left high school, but he was not seen as an unmissable candidate. He threw himself into a possible choice in the top five in the June NBA draft. Okoro is a two-way player with great physical tools that improved his chance of 3 points in conference play. He left Auburn's victory over Alabama on Thursday, holding the sinew, so we'll have to see if that is a problem in the future.
I also think that we could be talking about Louisville David Johnson as someone who makes a big impact in March. He lost the first four games of the season and was replaced in most of the next 10 to 12 games. But in the past month, Johnson has made a difference in the cardinals offensively. He's not putting crazy numbers, but he's late in the game when it matters, and coach Chris Mack trusts him enough to put the ball in his hands to make plays. Johnson has size, strength and confidence, and has the ability to constantly get on the track and make plays. If Louisville runs a Final Four race, I think a lot of that will be due to Johnson’s appearance in the second half of the season.
Medcalf: West Virginia & # 39; s Oscar Tshiebwe ended with 14 points, nine rebounds, a block and a theft on Wednesday against a Kansas team that is playing the best defense in the United States at the moment. Compared to the Wooden Award candidate Udoka Azubuike, Tshiebwe made 56% of its attempts. The 1.80m big is a handful for any opposing team. In the Big 12, he is first in defensive rebound rate and second in offensive rebound rate.
Last season, West Virginia finished in the top 100 in adjusted defensive efficiency after Jevon Carter. This station? Climbers occupy second place behind Kansas. Tshiebwe's effort to this day is a crucial part of that reality. He is not as flashy as some of the other young college basketball players, but he is effective and contributes significantly to the cast of Bob Huggins.
Schultz: I am partial to the Pac-12 and, specifically, with great high quality talents who play the right way. Isaiah Stewart of Washington and USC Onyeka Okongwu fit the mold and have been a delight to watch throughout the season. We have already discussed Stewart, but Okongwu converts 61% of the field and tracks rebounds, just like anyone else, while giving a smooth touch with both hands. The blue chipper is a six-foot jump jack whose tireless approach has earned him a growing pile of praise for Trojans – hoping to make his first appearance at the NCAA tournament in three years. Okongwu's dexterity and shear strength allow it to protect the perimeter while hunting for weak blocks in the paint. Both strikers will be tall in June if they decide to become professionals.
ESPN.com expert chooses this weekend's best games
(The lines, when available, in the Caesars Sportsbook. Predictors do not have access to the lines when making score predictions.)