NCAA Tournament bracket preview: Villanova, Gonzaga, Baylor, Kansas No. 1 seeds

Published 1:02 pm Saturday, February 11, 2017

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament selection committee on Saturday gave its in-season glimpse at the top 16 overall seeds with few surprises.

Defending champion Villanova would be the No. 1 overall seed over unbeaten Gonzaga if the tournament started today. The Wildcats (22-2) would be the top seed in the East Region while Gonzaga (24-0), the top-ranked team in the Associated Press Top 25, would be the No. 1 seed in the West Region. Kansas (20-3) and Baylor (20-3) would be the top seeds in the Midwest and South regions, respectively.

Gonzaga was the lowest-ranked No. 1 seed with a strength of schedule of 127th nationally, according to ESPN, a point of contention seemingly every season with the Bulldogs playing in a non-power conference.

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“Villanova played a challenging non-conference schedule and has achieved considerable success against several quality opponents on the road and on neutral courts,” committee chairman Mark Hollis said in a release. “Their consistency throughout the season gave them slight separation from other candidates for the overall top seed.”

The committee decided earlier this year to release the top 16 teams in the field as of now for the first time ever during the season in an attempt to generate more interest leading up to Selection Sunday, when the field of 68 will be officially announced March 12. The tournament will start March 14 with the First Four in Dayton, Ohio.

North Carolina (South) is the highest-ranked No. 2 seed while Florida State (Midwest), Louisville (East) and Oregon (West) would also be 2 seeds. Arizona (Midwest) leads the group on the 3 line followed by Virginia (West), Florida (South) and Kentucky (East). The No. 4 seeds would be Butler (South), West Virginia (West), UCLA (East) and Duke (Midwest), the 16th overall seed.

With plenty of basketball left to play over the next month, including conference tournaments, things are far from being settled. Hollis said Cincinnati, Creighton, Purdue and Wisconsin are other teams pushing to be among the tournament’s top 16 seeds depending on what happens the rest of the way.

“There are more than 1,300 games left before Selection Sunday, so how these teams are seeded and where they will ultimately be sent to play in the tournament remains a mystery,” Hollis said.