Duke lost last night in Blacksburg, Virginia, making this the third straight week that the #1 ranked team has lost. The Hokies trailed by 6 late in a game they absolutely had to have to make the NCAA tournament, but tied the game on a Terrell Bell three pointer with just under 5 minutes left, then took the lead for good when he hit two free throws a few seconds later. The Hokies were abysmal from the free throw line (8 for 19), but were able to hold off Duke from hitting a tying three pointer late.
Meanwhile, Texas lost a game at Colorado in which they had a 22-point lead in the first half at one point. Colorado scored an incredible 58 points against a defense that up until recently has been one of the best in college basketball and still leads the nation in field goal percentage defense. The Longhorns, meanwhile, had a stretch where they went 1 for 17 from the field in the second half. Alec Burks led the Buffaloes with 33 points and 10 rebounds.
All of this opens up the door for BYU to gain a #1 seed after the win on the road at San Diego State. The Aztecs doubled and trapped Jimmer Fredette, and his teammates came through with the open looks that were generated. Before their impressive season sweep of San Diego State yesterday. I had them projected as a #1 seed last week, and they obliged me with yesterday’s big victory to make it that much more likely.
I based that projection in part on what I thought BYU could do, and in part on the high likelihood that many of the other teams in the running for a #1 seed would lose, perhaps multiple times, through the end of the conference tournaments. If BYU closes out the regular season with 2 home wins (New Mexico and Wyoming, extremely likely) and then wins the Mountain West Tournament (about a 50/50 chance) then I think they secure a #1 seed in the West at 32-2.
Let’s take a quick look at how they would stack up. Their performance at San Diego State moved them to #5 in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, and within the “margin of error” for teams ahead of them, as this year’s group of top teams are pretty tightly bunched. BYU’s rating by Ken Pomeroy with two weeks left puts them ahead of the final rating of 12 teams that were #1 seeds in the last eight years. They would not be the strongest #1 seed and in the lower half, but they also would be far from the weakest we have seen recently. The major conference’s top teams haven’t been as dominant in the last couple of years as they were in 2007 and 2008 (when Florida UNC, Ohio State, Kansas in 2007 and Kansas, Memphis, UCLA and UNC in 2008 all finished with higher ratings than this year’s current #1 Ohio State). The door is open, and BYU is not undeserving if these other teams lose again.
I think Ohio State is a #1 even with a loss in the Big Ten tourney, barring a complete collapse like losing to either Penn State or Indiana, then also losing to Wisconsin at home. I think Kansas is in as a #1 unless they lose to both Missouri and early in the Big XII tourney. With the Texas and Duke losses, though, the door is now wide open for BYU. Duke still has to go to Chapel Hill in the regular season, and the odds that Duke + Texas + Pitt all win their conference tournaments is less than 10%.