As each Tony Snell three-pointer splashed through the net down the stretch of Saturday’s New Mexico/UNLV matchup (Snell finished with a game-high 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting and 5-of-7 three-point shooting) and it became obvious that 15th-ranked New Mexico was closing in on a Mountain West tournament championship, the only question I found myself asking was, why does Reggie Miller keep harping on the fact that the Lobos have likely locked up a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament without anyone mentioning that they should be in contention for a No. 1 seed?
Forget the No. 15 ranking in the AP poll for now – it’s worthless – and look at the bigger picture. If you do that, you’ll see that New Mexico is as worthy of a No. 1 seed as anybody.
For starters, the Lobos currently boast the second best RPI ranking in college basketball, behind only Duke, and finished with a 29-5 record despite playing one of the toughest schedules in the NCAA. In addition, New Mexico went a perfect 4-0 against ranked teams this season and finished as the top team in what was easily one of the strongest conferences of the year. In fact, the Mountain West Conference, which will likely send five teams to the NCAA tournament, finished the season with the strongest RPI in the country. And all the Lobos did in that surprisingly stacked conference was take home both the regular season crown and the tournament championship.
So again I ask, when looking at that body of work, why is everyone talking about a No. 2 seed with New Mexico as if that should be some sort of ceiling for them?
If we assume that Indiana, Duke and Gonzaga will get three of the four available No. 1 seeds on Selection Sunday and that Georgetown is out of the running after their Big East semifinal loss to Syracuse, and if we also assume that the selection committee is going to overlook New Mexico for some unknown reason, then it would appear that three teams are left fighting for the last remaining No. 1 seed.
The teams are listed in order of their RPI ranking. Included is each team’s overall record, their record against teams that were ranked at the time of the matchup and how they fared in their conference tournament.
Louisville: 29-5 overall, 5-3 against ranked teams, won Big East championship
Louisville rallied from an early deficit to throttle Syracuse in the Big East championship game on Saturday night, which many thought was the only thing left standing between the Cardinals and a No. 1 seed.
Miami: 26-6 overall, 3-2 against ranked teams, will play UNC in ACC championship game on Sunday
The Hurricanes could earn their first ever No. 1 seed with a first ever ACC championship.
Kansas: 29-5 overall, 5-1 against ranked teams, won Big 12 Conference Championship
When looking at their overall record and their record against ranked teams, you can make the argument that Saturday’s Big 12 championship triumph over rival Kansas State was all the Jayhawks needed to lock down a No. 1 seed.