Saturday was a big day for Auburn basketball in more ways than one. In addition to a thrilling overtime victory over LSU, Auburn also found themselves ranked No. 13 as the NCAA Tournament selection committee released their top-16 teams if the NCAA Tournament began today.
While a lot changed by the end of the day, like Auburn’s statement win over LSU, and a lot more will change before CBS reveals the bracket in March, Saturday’s rankings give a glimpse of what the committee values going into the final month of the season.
Baylor was named as the top overall seed while Kansas was second, and Gonzaga and San Diego State rounded out the No. 1 seeds. Duke was fifth overall and the top second seed in the New York region opposite San Diego State.
Dayton checked in at No. 6 and was the two seed in Kansas’ Indianapolis region. A potential Kansas and Dayton matchup would be a rematch of the Maui Invitational final.
Louisville was seventh overall and the No. 2 seed with Baylor in the Houston region. West Virginia was eighth and the No. 2 seed in Gonzaga’s Los Angeles region.
The three seeds were No. 9 Maryland (New York), No. 10 Florida State (Indianapolis), No. 11 Seton Hall (Houston) and No. 12 Villanova (Los Angeles).
That is where Auburn checked in at No. 13. The first of the No. 4 seeds was hypothetically sent to the Houston region where Baylor would potentially be waiting in the Sweet 16.
No. 14 Oregon (Los Angeles), No. 15 Butler (New York) and No. 16 Michigan State (Indianapolis) rounded out the rest of the four seeds.
While there is plenty of time for shake ups before the actual bracket comes up, getting a glimpse at the committee’s early opinions is more interesting than the usually weekly coaches or AP rankings.
The committee is certainly signally to Auburn that they have work to do if they want to climb to where their record indicates they should be.
The Tigers may have already climbed to a three seed with their win over LSU paired with Villanova’s home loss to Seton Hall, but Auburn will have to outcome the committee’s lack of respect for SEC basketball.
Auburn was the only SEC team among the top 16 with co-SEC leaders LSU and Kentucky on the outside looking in. While being the top-ranked SEC team is a positive, it means that the Tigers have limited opportunities to get attention-grabbing victories.
The Tigers’ next five games are against unranked teams and despite road trips to Missouri and Georgia, the goal over the next couple weeks has to be to avoid any stumbles before a road trip to Lexington to face the Wildcats in the Tigers’ final ranked matchup before the SEC Tournament.
The bottom line is that the only way to improve its seeding is for Auburn to keep winning. The bright side is that once March rolls around, the seeding doesn’t matter. Winning is all that does, as the Tigers proved last season.