ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi predicts that the Runnin' Utes will be a 3-seed in the NCAA Tournament. Lunardi's Twitter account (see below) has been busy with updates.
Updated seed list (thru 1/11): 01-UK, 02-UVA, 03-Duke, 04-NOVA, 05-ZAGA, 06-WISC, 07-Zona, 08-KU, 09-UTAH, 10-Maryland, 11-Lville, 12-Iowa St— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) January 12, 2015
FIRST 4 OUT: Washington, St. Johns, Georgia, BYU.
NEXT 4 OUT: Illinois, Davidson, UNLV, Miami (Fla).
4 MORE: Florida, Ole Miss, SoCaro, Bama.— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) January 12, 2015
Lunardi has Pac-12 teams listed as follows:
Arizona as a No. 2 seed
Utah as a No. 3 seed
Stanford as a No. 7 seed
Washington as one of the first teams out.
The No. 1 Seeds:
The top seed is Kentucky of the SEC. The Wildcats are undefeated, including wins over Kansas, Texas, North Carolina, Louisville, and UCLA. Most of Kentucky's tough games are behind them with Arkansas as the only ranked team left on their schedule.
The second No. 1 seed belongs to the undefeated Virginia Cavaliers of the ACC. Virginia has wins over Maryland and Notre Dame so far this season. The Cavaliers will get a chance to show how good they are with games against Duke, North Carolina, and Louisville all in a row starting Jan. 31.
Duke, another ACC team, is the third No. 1 seed. Duke was previously unbeaten until they fell on Sunday to conference foe NC State. Duke has wins over Wisconsin, Michigan State, and Stanford. Duke has two games against Notre Dame and North Carolina left, and one game against Louisville and Virginia still on their schedule.
The final No. 1 seed goes to Big East squad Villanova. Villanova has lost only once on the season to Seton Hall. They have wins over VCU, Michigan, and Saint John's. The Big East is a deep league this year with multiple teams that could challenge Villanova.
It is tough to argue with the four projected No. 1 seeds, especially with teams like Kentucky and Virginia both undefeated. Duke is a traditional power in college basketball and has several impressive wins on the season. Villanova is No. 4 in RPI (behind Kentucky, Kansas, and Virginia).
The No. 2 Seeds:
The top No. 2 seed is the Gonzaga Bulldogs of the West Coast Conference. The Bulldogs lone loss was at Arizona in overtime. Gonzaga has wins over SMU and BYU. Lunardi currently has Gonzaga as the only WCC team making the tournament, with BYU being one of the first four out.
Wisconsin of the Big Ten claims the next No. 2 seed. The Badgers have dropped two games on the season, first to Duke, then they just fell on Sunday to Rutgers. They have nonconference wins over Oklahoma and Georgetown. The Big Ten is a deep conference this year with tough teams like Maryland, Michigan State, Iowa, Ohio State, and Indiana all still left on the Badger's schedule.
Arizona from the Pac-12 is the third No. 2 seed. After starting strong with wins over San Diego State, Gonzaga, and Michigan, Arizona has struggled of late, falling at UNLV, then again on Sunday at Oregon State (Sunday was a bad day for highly ranked teams). Arizona still has to take on projected tournament teams Utah and Stanford twice each.
The final No. 3 seed goes to Kansas of the Big XII. Kansas has wins over Utah, Michigan State, Georgetown, UNLV, and Baylor. They got crushed by Kentucky and also fell at Temple. Lunardi predicts the Big XII will send seven teams to the tournament, so Kansas will have a tough road ahead to win the Big XII.
Kansas is a team that could end up higher. They are currently No. 2 in RPI and could possibly end up a No. 1 seed if they get through the tough Big XII unscathed. Arizona (No. 11 in RPI) is a team that could move down in the seeding. Their matchup with Utah on Jan. 17 could decide whether Arizona stays a No. 2 seed or if Utah moves up. Gonzaga and Wisconsin are No. 7 and 8 in RPI respectively.
The No. 3 Seeds:
The top No. 3 seed goes to the Runnin' Utes of the Pac-12. Utah has wins over Wichita State and UNLV in non-conference play and have won all three of their conference games by at least 25 points. Their lone losses were to Kansas and San Diego State, both on the road. A match up at Arizona on Jan. 17 is key for the Runnin' Utes. They also have to take on projected No. 7 seed Stanford later in the season (but only once, and at the Huntsman Center), as well as Arizona for their return trip to Salt Lake City.
Maryland of the Big Ten takes the second No. 3 seed. They have wins over Iowa State and Michigan State. They fell to Virginia and Illinois on the season. Maryland has a tough conference schedule left including Wisconsin. Lunardi predicts that the Big Ten will send six teams to the tournament.
ACC team Louisville is projected to get the next No. 3 seed. Louisville has wins over Ohio State and Indiana. They have fallen twice on the season to Kentucky and North Carolina. Louisville's ACC slate includes Virginia on the schedule twice, Notre Dame and Duke each appear once, and a rematch against North Carolina.
The final No. 3 seed goes to Iowa State. Iowa State has wins over Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia. The Cyclones fell to Maryland and South Carolina on the year. Iowa State is likely to drop with the following still remaining on their schedule: Kansas (twice), West Virginia, Oklahoma (twice), Texas (twice), Baylor (twice), and Oklahoma State all still left.
Utah has the strongest RPI of the 3 seeds at No. 9, and, therefore, deserves to be the top 3-seed. Maryland (No. 16), Iowa State (No. 20), and Louisville (No. 24) would not be 3 seeds based on RPI. I would not be surprised to see Utah move up. Winning at Arizona is a tough task, but it would catapult Utah to a No. 2 seed, replacing Arizona (although after the loss at Oregon State, losing at home could drop the Wildcats several slots). Maryland, Iowa State, and Louisville all play tougher schedules but play in arguably better and deeper conferences than the Pac-12, so they may get some benefit of the doubt because of that. The tougher schedules offer them more potential to move up but could also lead to them falling due to losses.
Next on the schedule for the Utes is a Thursday night (8 p.m.) clash with Arizona State on Fox Sports 1.
Utah also inched up one to No. 7 in ESPN.com's Power Rankings. Arizona is just below the Utes at No. 9, and Kansas (13-2), who beat Utah, rounds out the Top 10 in the final slot. Another Utes opponent, Wichita State (14-2), is ranked at No. 15.