The University of Houston men’s basketball team controls its fate for a No. 1 seed. 1 in the NCAA Tournament.
Exactly where the road to Houston’s NRG Stadium begins, site of the Final Four on April 1 and 3, could change in the next two weeks before the 68-team field is announced on March 12.
As the no. 2 in the NCAA selection committee starting bracket, the Cougars were assigned to the Midwest region. Top seeds Alabama (South), Purdue (East), and Kansas (West) were the other three No.
Depending on how Kansas finishes the season, the Cougars and Jayhawks could swap regionals on draft Sunday.
“If Kansas wins the Big 12, stays in the hot streak they’re on, and wins the Big 12 championship, then it’s a good bet they finish No. 1 in the Midwest region,” said Bill Bender of The Sporting News.
While Alabama and UH remain candidates as a potential 1 seed, Purdue has struggled in recent weeks and Kansas is in late-season discussions. The defending national champion Jayhawks have the No. 1 strength in the program playing in college basketball’s strongest conference (Big 12), and their 14 Quadrant 1 wins are the most (of four) in the nation.
UH is No. 1 in the NCAA Grading Tool (NET) and KenPom, two metrics used by the selection committee, and 4-1 in Quad 1 games, the fewest among current contenders for a No. 1 seed.
Why is the overall first suit important?
In 2016, the NCAA selection committee created a new incentive to be the No. 1 seed. 1 of the tournament, allowing that school to select the regional site where it plays its first and second round games.
Based on regional sites, Kansas is likely to select Birmingham, Alabama, which is expected to host the #1 matchup. 1 against no. 16 and no. 8 against no. 9 for the Midwest and South regions. And considering Kansas City, home to the Midwest region, is less than an hour’s drive from the Jayhawks’ Lawrence campus, it’s a good bet that the Jayhawks would like to stay close to home.
A move to the West Regional for UH would mean first and second round games in Des Moines, Iowa, and the regional semifinal and final in Las Vegas.
UH’s Closing Trait offers more chance of harm than good. Only two possible Quad 1 opportunities remain: in Memphis (#40 NET) in the regular season finale and a potential rematch with the Tigers at the AAC tournament in Fort Worth. While the Cougars lost to Alabama in early December, their other loss was to Temple (#125 in NET), 56-55, in January.
“Houston is on track to make a No. 1 seed, but they need to avoid Quad 3 and Quad 4 losses the rest of the way,” Bender added. “Purdue, Alabama and Kansas — the other presumptive No. 1 seeds — have so far been able to avoid those nasty losses. The only other scenario that could knock the Cougars off that line is if they lose a few down the stretch and the Big 12 get two No. 1 seeds.
That second No. 1 seed would likely have gone to Texas, which was the No. 5 seed in the bracket reveal. The Longhorns enter this weekend tied with Kansas for first place in the Big 12. UT has 10 Quad 1 wins, second-most behind the Jayhawks, and has a chance to add to the total with games remaining against Baylor (Saturday ) and TCU (March 1) and Kansas (March 4). All major bracket projections have UT as the 2 seed, although that could change with a win over Kansas.
Baylor, the 2021 national champions, has lost back-to-back games to Kansas and Kansas State. With the strength of the Big 12 unrivaled this season, the Bears are still projected as the No. 2 seed. TCU, which has a 5.92 seed average, according to BracketMatrix.com, could get a late-season boost with the returning guard Mike Miles Jr., the preseason Big 12 player of the year who missed five games with a knee injury.
Texas A&M continues to climb in parenthetical projections, with the Aggies a No. 1 seed. 8, according to ESPN. A year after being in the “bottom four home runs,” Buzz Williams’ team has gone 15-2 since Christmas, had six Quad 1 wins, and moved up in the Associated Press poll to No. 25 this season. week. A&M beat Tennessee on Tuesday and still has SEC leader Alabama — which owns a half-game lead over the Aggies — to wrap up the regular season.