Alabama got the best of Houston in a nonconference matchup. That has Crimson Tide holding an early lead on the Cougars for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, too.
The committee that will select the field of 68 revealed its preliminary list of top teams Saturday, with the Crimson Tide taking the top spot over the Cougars due to a head-to-head road win in December — which committee chairman Chris Reynolds said “put them over the top.”
Otherwise, there isn’t much difference when it comes to the teams’ resumes. They’re 1-2 in some order in the AP Top 25, NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool) and KenPom rankings. Alabama entered the weekend with seven wins in Quadrant 1 compared to four for Houston, while both teams were unbeaten against Quadrant 2 opponents.
If the order holds, it would mark the first No. 1 regional seed for Nate Oats’ Crimson Tide in program history. Alabama climbed to No. 1 in the AP Top 25 poll earlier this week for the first time since 2003, though the Tide lost to Tennessee on Wednesday in its first game with that ranking.
Houston hasn’t held a No. 1 seed since 1983, during the “Phi Slama Jama” era of the early 1980s.
Purdue and reigning national champion Kansas were the other No. 1 seeds, with the Boilermakers spending a national-best seven weeks at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 this season. The Jayhawks are trying to become the first repeat champion since Florida in 2006-07 and entered the weekend with a national-best 12 Quadrant 1 wins, while no other team had reached 10.
The nationally televised reveal of the top 16 seeds offers a snapshot of where things stand with a little more than three weeks remaining until the field is set.
Since the first reveal in 2017, the NCAA said 65 of 80 teams have remained in the top 16, while three of the four No. 1 regional seeds each year have stayed there.
Texas, Arizona, Baylor and UCLA were the preliminary No. 2 seeds, followed by Tennessee, Virginia, Iowa State and Kansas State as 3-seeds. Indiana, Marquette, Gonzaga and Xavier rounded out the list as No. 4 seeds.
Reynolds said Creighton, Miami, Saint Mary’s and Connecticut were the top teams to miss the cut.
The selection committee also sorted the top 16 seeds into four regional groupings, starting with Alabama headlining the South bracket that goes through Louisville, Kentucky. Baylor, Virginia and Indiana joined the Tide in the South.
Houston topped the Midwest bracket running through Kansas City, Missouri, followed by Texas, Tennessee and Xavier.
Purdue was the No. 1 seed in the East bracket running through New York, joined by UCLA, Iowa State and Marquette.
Kansas was the top seed in the West bracket running through Las Vegas, followed by Arizona, Kansas State and Gonzaga.
The Big 12 finished with a national-best five teams in the top 16. The Southeastern, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big East conferences each had two as the only other leagues with multiple teams.
Selection Sunday is March 12, with First Four games beginning two days later. The Final Four will be held in Houston, with the semifinals set for April 1 and the championship game two days later.
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