With only eight days to go until Selection Sunday, speculation ranges from who will make the NCAA Tournament field all the way to who will be the No. 1 regional seeds.
Seeding the teams and placing them in the four regions could be just as difficult as selecting the 64-team field. Teams will jockey for position during the next week.
Arkansas, Duke, Michigan and Connecticut appear to be the top four seeds. But where will the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee put them? And what about Missouri, which has lost only two games?
Arkansas' region of the country is technically the Southeast, but the Razorbacks would love to be put in the Midwest, where they could play first-round games in Oklahoma City and then _ if they make it to the Sweet 16 _ play at Dallas' Reunion Arena. Both locations would be more accessible for Arkansas fans than would, say, St. Petersburg.
Then there is Duke. The Blue Devils should get the No.
1 seeding in the East unless they lose today to North Carolina and get knocked off early in the ACC Tournament. But what about Connecticut? The Huskies also deserve a No.
1, probably in the East. One of those teams likely will be shipped out West to be a No.
That leaves the Southeast and Michigan or Missouri. The Wolverines, despite losing to Wisconsin this week, should be a No. 1 seed if they are the undisputed Big Ten champions. But don't expect the Wolverines to come to St. Petersburg's ThunderDome. They likely will go to Rupp Arena, in Lexington, Ky., because it is closer to home. If that scenario holds true, the Dome will get a No. 2 seed (North Carolina? Missouri? Kentucky? Arizona?).
If any of those top-seed candidates slips in the next week, Missouri could become a No. 1 _ if the Tigers are not one already. They are about to win the Big Eight without a conference loss.
Although being a No. 1 seed is important, it in no way guarantees an easy path to a national title. Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, no No. 1 regional seed has lost a first-round game and 27 of 36 have made it to the quarterfinals. But only four of the 36 No. 1 seeds have won the national title.
The East: When Boston College defeated St. John's 95-76 last week, it gave the Eagles their first 20-win season since 1984-85. That also was the last time they went to the NCAA Tournament. This year's senior class went 1-15 in the Big East as freshmen. "We've got 20 wins, but we're not taking anything for granted," center Bill Curley said. "We want to beat Providence today, and we want to win the Big East so they have to take us."
The Midwest: Ohio State is on its way to its first losing season in 17 years. And for the first time in 13 years, it appears the Buckeyes will not be involved in post-season play. Two years ago, they won their second straight Big Ten title and No. 1 seeding. Before losing to Wisconsin on Wednesday night, Michigan had won nine in a row, its longest winning streak since 1985 _ the last time the Wolverines won the Big Ten.
The Southeast: The coaching rumors are flying. The Providence Journal-Bulletin reported that Providence coach Rick Barnes is a candidate for the job at Clemson, where Cliff Ellis is stepping down after the season. The new coach might not have 6-10 center Sharone Wright, who is frustrated by the double- and triple-teaming he gets. "One minute I think that's it, I can't take it anymore," the junior said. "Then I think I want to get my degree."
The West: The Pac-10 has had a team reach the Sweet 16 in each of the past six seasons. Only the ACC, Big Ten and Big East have longer streaks. It didn't get as much attention as Indiana's 50-point loss to Minnesota, but Colorado lost 106-62 to Kansas. "It's really embarrassing," Colorado's Sande Golgart said. "It's like sitting in a boring class you want to get out of and the clock doesn't move." Colorado has lost 78 of its past 79 Big Eight road games.