The 2017 NCAA Tournament has arrived, and for the next four days, the first and second rounds of the Men’s Division I NCAA Tournament will dominate the sports world, bringing many together to see which brackets will be busted on the first weekend.
Within the brackets, there are four No. 1 seeds, and the Villanova Wildcats are the No. 1 overall seed in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, but are the reigning national champions really the best team in the NCAA Tournament this season?
Besides the Wildcats (East Region), the other No. 1 seeds are the North Carolina Tar Heels (South Region), Kansas Jayhawks (Midwest Region) and Gonzaga Bulldogs (West Region). Now the question remaining before the No. 1 seeds play their first games of the NCAA Tournament is this: Who is the best No. 1 seed in the tournament? Which No. 1 seed has the best chance to win the national championship?
As for the latter question of which No. 1 seed has the best chance to win the NCAA national championship, it has been tough for a No. 1 overall seed to become the champion. Matt Norlander of CBS Sports wrote this interesting stat on overall No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament:
“Only three times has the No. 1 overall seed won the NCAA Tournament since the selection committee began ranking the No. 1s in 2004: Florida (2007), Kentucky (’12) and Louisville (’13).”
Those odds aren’t the best for Villanova to repeat as NCAA national champions, but according to Bovada, the odds for the Wildcats to win the entire NCAA Tournament are 10/1, while North Carolina is 6/1, Kansas is 6/2 and Gonzaga is 9/1.
It isn’t a lock by any means that any of the No. 1 seeds will even make it out of the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, but they are still favored by most brackets to do so. Looking at the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, one player to watch on each team are:
• Villanova: Josh Hart — 18.9 points per game, 6.5 rebounds per game, 3.1 assists per game.
• North Carolina: Justin Jackson — 18.1 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game, 2.7 assists per game.
• Kansas: Frank Mason III — 20.8 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, 5.1 assists per game.
• Gonzaga: Nigel Williams-Goss — 16.9 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game, 4.8 assists per game.
Since this is an elimination tournament, let’s take away two of the No. 1 seeds in Kansas and Gonzaga, as history shows they usually don’t live up to expectations when it comes to winning the NCAA national championship.
That leaves Villanova and North Carolina remaining as the top two No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova is trying to become the first team since Florida to repeat as NCAA national champions when they achieved that feat in 2006 and 2007. The Tar Heels last won a national championship in 2009, but this could be their year to get back to the mountaintop of the NCAA Tournament.
Villanova has an excellent shot to repeat as national champions as their East Region might not see them have a real challenge until the Elite 8 when they could possibly face the Duke Blue Devils. North Carolina has a much tougher road ahead of them with possible games against Arkansas, Seton Hall, Butler, Minnesota, UCLA and Kentucky, and that is to just play in the Elite 8 in the South Region.
If the Tar Heels can battle through that gauntlet of a region, they have a very solid chance to win the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009. Even if they don’t win it all, are they still a better No. 1 seed than Villanova?
Both of these teams have excellent players at the top of their rosters, but when picking the best, my choice is Villanova, as they have the best chance to be the champions of the NCAA Tournament yet again this year.
[Featured Image by Mike Stobe/Getty Images]