Who has the inside track to a NCAA tournament #1 seed, the Duke Blue Devils or Miami Hurricanes?

When was the last time an ACC team not named Duke or North Carolina had shot at an NCAA tournament number 1 seed? I’m guessing Wake Forest in the 2004-05 year when they played the whole season ranked in the top 10 and even spent two weeks at number 1. They went into the ACC tourney ranked in the top 5, before losing by double digits to NC State. Since then? Pretty much it’s a blank.

North Carolina and Duke have done a great job carrying the banner of ACC basketball the last few years winning titles in 2009 and 2010, but let’s face it ACC basketball is better when the conference goes beyond those two. As I’ve said in earlier posts UNC is a little bit down, but they should make the tourney. They sit 15-6 and 5-3 in the ACC. Most teams would love a down year like that.

Who would challenge Duke if not UNC? NC State looked to be that early, but they can’t close out games. Welcome Miami… The Hurricanes are as good an ACC basketball team not named Duke or North Carolina since either that Wake Forest team or maybe the 03-04 Final 4 Georgia Tech team.

They could be better than either by season’s end. Now each week I do an ACC Bubble Analysis where I look at the ACC and place the teams where they would be in NCAA tournament. I have Duke a 1 seed and have recently moved Miami to a 2 seed this past Monday.

I want to go more depth with something in light of Miami’s recent win at NC State to send them to 17-3 and 8-0 in the ACC and some other results around the country. Who has inside the track to a NCAA tournament number 1 seed the Duke Blue Devils or Miami Hurricanes?

Let’s compare resumes.


Duke Blue Devils Miami Hurricanes
Overall Record 19-2 17-3
ACC Record 6-2 (2nd) 8-0 (1st)
AP Poll 5 14
Coaches Poll 5 15
RPI Ranking 1 2
Top 50 Wins 6 5
Top 100 Wins 8 10
Losses outside top 100 0 1
Head to Head 0-1 Lost 63-90 1-0 Won 90-63


One thing jumps out to me right away. Duke and Miami are the number 1 and 2 RPI teams in the country, but of course that’s doesn’t mean both or even one ends up with a number 1 seed. Let’s go with some givens.

The winner of the Big 10 – Michigan or Indiana will get one of the number 1 seeds. There’s is a chance both could end up with number 1 seeds, but I doubt it, there are just too many land mines in a deep and talented Big 10.

Michigan St. and Ohio State are in the picture but the Spartans lost to Miami and Ohio State lost to Duke and they both still have to go around Michigan and Indiana to win the conference.

#4 Florida will end up with a 1 seed due to playing in an atrocious SEC. If Florida weren’t so good, this year’s SEC could give last year’s Pac 12 a run as the worst major conference basketball league in recent memory. The Gators avoid playing Missouri on the road and only the road game at Kentucky looks like it could end up in single digits much less a loss. That’s two top seeds sewn up.

Your other contenders for a number one seed are #3 Kansas, #8 Arizona, and #7 Gonzaga. Kansas lost today at home to Oklahoma St. but is the only ranked team in the Big 12 so I don’t see them losing more than 1 or 2 games in the Big 12.

Gonzaga’s computer numbers have their RPI at 8, but playing in the 10th rated RPI conference will hurts it’s chances. Arizona is an interesting case because they already have a win over Miami. I like Kansas to emerge as the third number 1 seed.

There the possibility of the Big East Champion, but that conference is too much of a meat grinder to go unscathed a couple of more times for even it’s top teams. Syracuse was the highest ranked team at 6, but lost today. The 4th number one seed will come from Arizona, Duke, or now Miami.

So how do we separate Duke and Miami? Well we have their resumes up. Duke should move back into the top 4 with the Kansas loss, and probably top 3 with the loser of the Michigan and Indiana game falling behind them.

As we can see, the resumes compare quite evenly between the Duke and Miami with the exception of two cases, the human polls and the head to head game. Miami has yet to reach the top 10, and while polls shouldn’t matter, people will see this. No team ranked outside the top 10 is going to get a look at a number 1 seed (fair or not).

This gives the clear advantage to Duke, despite trailing Miami by 2 games in the conference and losing to them by 27.

It doesn’t seem fair, but the committee is big on the body of work, and won’t penalize Duke that much for the one ugly loss at Miami, especially if Duke can win the return game in Durham on March 2. Duke controls it’s own destiny for a number 1 seed, but Miami needs help to get that ranking into the top 10. They’ll probably be 10-12 this week, but I think they have to get into the top 6 or 7 to have a legitimate chance.

Crazy right? Duke has the clearer path to the number 1 seed, but Miami might actually be the ACC’s best team. At the moment there’s no question the Canes are the conference’s best team.

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