Assess the S-Curve: Could No. 4 Florida still be a No. 2 NCAA Tournament seed?

USA TODAY Sports

A week of carnage near the top of the college basketball rankings has gotten Florida into the top four of both the AP and USA TODAY polls. The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee doesn't care.

Florida's men's basketball team is on an eight-game winning streak, and the closest game in that span was either a 17-point win over Air Force or a 17-point win over Georgia. The Gators are up to No. 4 in this week's AP Top 25 and USA TODAY Coaches' Poll, their highest regular season perch since 2007 — when Florida was in the middle of the first successful title defense in Division I college basketball in more than a decade.

That's all good news. Here's some bad news: Even the carnage of college basketball over the past week and two lopsided Florida wins might not get the Gators a No. 1 seed if Selection Sunday were today.

CBS Sports' Jerry Palm has the Gators as a No. 2 seed in the West. ESPN's Joe Lunardi has Florida as his fourth No. 1. SB Nation's Chris Dobbertean might elevate Florida to his fourth No. 1 after Louisville (his fourth No. 1 last week) and Syracuse (his first No. 2) both suffered losses. Andy Glockner is high on Florida as a team, but I doubt highly that he'll have Florida anywhere higher than his fourth No. 1.

And herein lies Florida's problem: The Gators are going to climb up the polls as long as they keep thrashing the SEC, but their position on the almighty S-curve depends largely on other teams.

Here's a quick breakdown of the six best No. 1 seed contenders right now:

Kansas

  • Record: 18-1, 6-0 Big 12
  • RPI (via Real Time RPI): No. 2
  • Big Wins: at Ohio State, vs. Baylor, vs. Belmont (currently No. 14 in RPI), at Kansas State, vs. Iowa State
  • Bad Losses: none
  • Important Games Remaining: vs. Oklahoma State, at Baylor, vs. Kansas State, at Iowa State
  • Case: Kansas has lost just once, and that was to Michigan State at a neutral site; the road win at Ohio State, and a record with a bunch of other good wins, well outweighs it.
  • Michigan

  • Record: 19-1, 6-1 Big Ten
  • RPI (via Real Time RPI): No. 6
  • Big Wins: at Minnesota, vs. N.C. State, vs. Kansas State (neutral), at Illinois, vs. Pittsburgh (neutral)
  • Bad Losses: none
  • Important Games Remaining: vs./at Indiana, vs./at Michigan State, vs. Ohio State, at Wisconsin, vs. Illinois
  • Case: Michigan has compiled one heck of a résumé despite seeing just one of other four teams in the Big Ten's top six (Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, for the record), and is only going to get more chances to add to it.
  • Indiana

  • Record: 18-2, 6-1 Big Ten
  • RPI (via Real Time RPI): No. 16
  • Big Wins: vs. Minnesota, vs. Michigan State, vs. Georgetown (neutral),
  • Bad Losses: vs. Wisconsin
  • Important Games Remaining: vs./at Michigan, vs./at Ohio State, at Minnesota, at Michigan State at Illinois
  • Case: Indiana's not as accomplished as Michigan, but the Hoosiers might be better, and getting two shots at Ohio State is better than getting two shots at Michigan State.
  • Duke

  • Record: 17-2
  • RPI (via Real Time RPI): No. 1
  • Big Wins: vs. Louisville (neutral), vs. Minnesota (neutral), vs. Ohio State, vs. VCU (neutral)
  • Bad Losses: at Miami
  • Important Games Remaining: vs. Miami, vs. N.C. State, vs./at North Carolina, at Virginia
  • Case: Duke had the nation's best non-conference résumé, and then it lost Ryan Kelly and much of its mojo. That big loss to Miami was definitely bad enough to be a bad loss, despite the 'Canes sitting comfortably in the top five in most RPI measures: Duke never looked competitive in it.
  • Florida

  • Record: 16-2, 6-0 SEC
  • RPI (via Real Time RPI): No. 5
  • Big Wins: vs. Marquette, vs. Missouri, vs. Middle Tennessee, vs. Wisconsin
  • Bad Losses: at Kansas State
  • Important Games Remaining: vs. Mississippi, at Missouri, vs./at Kentucky, vs. Alabama
  • Case: Florida's been absolutely sideswiping the teams it has beaten, and its road loss to another No. 1 seed contender isn't a bad one. But the Gators were never really in it against K-State, and their best win wouldn't be any of these other teams' second-best win, and that Wisconsin win was from a time when the Badgers were very different.
  • Arizona

  • Record: 17-2, 5-1 Pac-12
  • RPI (via Real Time RPI): No. 4
  • Big Wins: vs. Florida, vs. Miami (neutral), vs. San Diego State (neutral), vs. Colorado, at Arizona State
  • Bad Losses: vs. UCLA
  • Important Games Remaining: vs. Colorado, at UCLA, vs. Arizona State
  • Case: Arizona's wins over two Sunshine State teams that came to Tucson and Hawai'i to play those games are its best chips, but coming close to running the table in a Pac-12 that has a lot of decent teams and just one other very good one (Oregon, which already beat Arizona in the teams' only regular season meeting) would go a long way.
  • I think the clear No. 1 seeds in that group right now are Kansas and Michigan, with Duke, Florida, Arizona, and Indiana in a second tier. And I think it's unlikely Kansas falls a seed line, very unlikely the ACC doesn't get a No. 1 between Duke and hard-charging Miami, and find it unfathomable that the Big Ten won't have at least one No. 1.

    So that leaves Florida, with a head-to-head loss to Arizona, facing off with the Wildcats, the Big Ten runner-up, whatever team emerges in the Big East (Syracuse seems most likely), and possibly the ACC runner-up for the final No. 1 seed. The Gators have just two games left against the RPI top 60, and neither Missouri (No. 25) or Mississippi (No. 31) is in the top 20; they might get a third in the SEC Tournament, but that will rely on Missouri and Mississippi, both seemingly vulnerable, not succumbing to Kentucky (which RPI hates) or any other SEC squads but Florida.

    If Florida runs the table, I have a hard time seeing the Gators not eventually claiming a No. 1 seed. If Michigan and Indiana lose only to each other from here on in, that might be enough to send two Big Ten teams to the top line and edge a 31-2 Florida team that went undefeated in the SEC, though it's far more likely that Florida would claim the overall No. 1 seed than get left out of the top four if it wins out.

    But I suspect the selection committee would have a long debate about whether the list of wins Florida's compiled to date is worthy of a No. 1 seed if today were Selection Monday, and I think that the Gators and us Florida fans are going to have doubts about the top line on Selection Sunday if they drop a game — which, of course, would be a completely normal thing for a college basketball team to do — between now and then. The SEC really is that bad, and Florida's non-conference wins just aren't good enough to make up for it.

    Assessing the S-Curve, a new weekly feature on Florida's NCAA Tournament positioning, will run Mondays until the NCAA Tournament. Want a question about the S-curve or NCAA Tournament answered? Use #AssessTheS or tweet at @AlligatorArmy.

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