NCAA Tournament 2014: North Carolina, Michigan State among most difficult teams to seed

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The ebb and flow of the college basketball season will make the selection committee's job almost impossible when it comes to seeding teams such as North Carolina, Michigan State and Kansas.

With just a few conference tournaments to be finished, the announcement of the field of 68 looms. And while most of the field has probably been determined by now, there's just no way getting to that near-finished product has been easy.

Five name brand college basketball programs produced inconsistent results this season, and it's given way to bracketologists speculating far more than in previous seasons, with arguments focused specifically on five teams.

Consider this grouping of teams the 2014 NCAA Tournament wildcards: underseed them and you risk setting up a second weekend quality match-up on the first weekend. Overseed them and it could invite an upset.

What will the committee do?

Michigan State

Current Projection: 4

Since January, the narrative on the Spartans has been simple: despite injuries, when they're at full strength, they're probably a Final Four contender.

They're healthy now, and everyone still seems confused.

The Spartans ended the regular season losing three of their last four, but have rolled through the first two games of the Big 10 Tournament, suggesting that the injuries of Keith Appling, Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne are behind them.

Should the committee look solely at the team's information on paper, or should it emphasize Michigan State's early season schedule and conference tournament performance?


Current Projection: 2

Based on the body of work, the Jayhawks are an obvious choice for a two-seed. But with Joel Embiid injured, and his status for the remainder of the season unknown, there is likely no real consensus among the committee members as to which seed line this team deserves.

Many have ruled Kansas out of Final Four contention with the loss of its star freshman center, and the team may be just a top-15 squad without him.

It seems unfair to give Kansas special treatment by assuming that Embiid would be available for the Sweet 16 if the Jayhawks advanced that far. Will the committee look at the body of work or point directly to the team's 2-3 record without its frontcourt pillar?


Current Projection: 4

This may be less about uncertainty and more about a revelation.

After starting the season 25-0, the Orange suddenly look average and are trending in the wrong direction. Who would have thought that Trevor Cooney's shooting numbers would correlate to whether this team won or lost?

Similar to Michigan State, the committee will be tasked with determining if it values Syracuse's results from earlier in the season or the team from the last few weeks. Regardless of where the team may end up, this is arguably the most fascinating team in the field.

Oklahoma State

Current Projection: 8

In the last week of January, the Cowboys were 16-3, ranked in the top 10 of both polls, and Marcus Smart hadn't totally ceded control of all national Player of the Year awards to Creighton's Doug McDermott.

Then Shovegate happened in the middle of a three-game losing streak, Travis Ford's team went 2-6 in the month of February and suddenly they were sitting squarely on the bubble.

This is a team that is clearly more talented and capable than their 21-12 record indicates, but the Cowboys fell from the nation's elite when Smart served a three-game suspension, even though they have righted the ship since he's been back.

If OSU does indeed end up with an eight or nine seed, there will be talk of them being the most dreaded potential second-round opponent for a No 1 seed in the history of the tournament. Therefore, there's a strong case to be made to push them higher, but who knows what the prevailing sentiment is in Indianapolis.

North Carolina

Current Projection: 5

Consider the Tar Heels' "good wins" -- Louisville, Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke -- juxtaposed against their "bad losses" -- Belmont, UAB, Wake Forest, Miami -- and it is pretty much impossible to know what you're going to get out of Roy Williams' kids when the ball is tipped.

We don't always get the as advertised North Carolina but at their best the Heels are a top-15 talent, so seeding them will be an exercise of determining if the pros are more important than the cons.

It is very possible we see this team positioned for a possible second-round matchup against the Spartans or Orange. That's a lot of talent on the floor for a pre-Sweet 16 game.

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