When I convene the Selection Committee of One, I’ll have plenty to argue with myself about.
Who gets in? Who’s left out? But the most difficult task is how to seed this mess.
And the mess starts at the top, where as many as eight teams remain in the mix for No. 1 seeds. But if you made me pick four top seeds today, this would be the group: Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Kansas and Duke.
Let’s take it one at a time:
Ohio State: The Buckeyes have lost two of their last four games, but they’re still my No. 1 overall seed at this point. The body of work demands it.
Their two losses were competitive games on the road against top-15 opponents that are undefeated in their home gyms. No shame in either defeat.
And Ohio State has plenty of quality wins. It beat Florida, the best team in the SEC, in Gainesville. It beat Florida State in Tallahassee -- something Duke certainly cannot say. It obliterated Purdue in Columbus, swept Minnesota and Illinois, and subdued Michigan State, Michigan and Penn State.
I have concerns about Ohio State’s depth, but not the quality of the six or seven guys Thad Matta plays. They’re talented, skilled, tough, experienced, athletic and versatile. They can go big or go small. They can pound it inside or shoot from deep.
Give the Buckeyes the Cleveland-Newark route to Houston and get out of their way. Unless they spit the bit late and relinquish the No. 1 overall seed.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers are two games clear in by far the toughest conference in America, and if that can’t earn you a top seed, then we might as well draw names out of a hat.
They handed fellow No. 1 seed aspirant Texas its first loss of the season on a neutral court. They beat Connecticut when it was undefeated and ranked in the top five, Syracuse when it was undefeated and in the top five, and Villanova on the road when the Wildcats were in the top 10.
The losses aren’t damaging either: surging St. John’s by one in Madison Square Garden, a very tough Notre Dame team by five and likely NCAA tournament team Tennessee by seven. There are three tough games remaining just to get to the Big East tourney, but for now Pitt has excelled against a rugged schedule.
Send the Panthers to Cleveland and New Orleans, and see if they can reach their first Final Four since World War II.
Kansas: The Jayhawks are 26-2 and probably have had more dominant games than anyone else in America. When they’re on, they look like national champions.
And even when they’re off, they’re pretty good.
Kansas has beaten Pac-10 leader Arizona and likely NCAA tourney teams Missouri, Kansas State and UCLA. There are two more chances for quality wins to come, against Texas A&M and at Mizzou.
The losses are understandable: home against Texas, a day after the Jayhawks spent half the night consoling forward Thomas Robinson following the death of his mother; and at Kansas State in a game their hated rivals absolutely, positively had to have to remain in NCAA tournament contention. Being blown out by the Wildcats is less understandable, as is losing a 15-point lead against the Longhorns, but that’s not enough to get kicked off the top line.
Ticket Kansas for Tulsa and San Antonio, the latter a building where they’ve had a few happy memories in recent years.
Duke: The Blue Devils get the narrow nod over Texas and the potential Mountain West Conference champion -- be it San Diego State or BYU. It’s close but currently conclusive.
Duke beat Kansas State and Michigan State before they were disappointments, which is better than beating them in January or February. It beat Butler in a rematch of the 2010 national championship game that brought out the best in the Bulldogs. It beat Marquette on a neutral floor, same as K-State and Butler. And it beat North Carolina after spotting the Tar Heels a 14-point halftime lead.
The Blue Devils’ two losses are to likely NCAA tourney teams Florida State and St. John’s. Texas has lost twice as many games, and two of them are against teams either on the wrong side of the bubble (Nebraska) or out of the tournament entirely (USC, which walloped the Longhorns by 17 points).
So Duke gets the fourth No. 1, but will have to travel to defend its title. Send the Devils to Washington, D.C., for openers, then west to Anaheim.
The Selection Committee of One does reserve the right to keep an open mind toward Texas, BYU and San Diego State -- and, heck, even Purdue if the Boilermakers win out and others stumble. Even in late February, this thing is nowhere near over.