March Madness: Number 1 Doesn't Matter. Yet.

by Suzie Raven

Pitt might lose its No. 1 spot in the Associated Press' college basketball poll this week, because of the team's loss to unranked Providence. But it doesn’t matter. Just like it doesn’t matter that the University of North Carolina (UNC) held the No. 1 spot from November until January. Or that since the beginning of January, the No. 1 spot has changed hands almost every week, with Wake Forrest, Duke, Pitt (the University of Pittsburgh), and the University of Connecticut (UConn) each holding the spot at some point in the last two months. No. 1 doesn’t matter in January, and only matters a little in February.

Pitt’s loss will help Providence more than it will hurt Pitt. The end of the regular season matters the most for so-called bubble teams, like Providence, Maryland and the University of Michigan, that are fighting for a Selection Sunday invitation. Michigan hasn’t made the March tournament since 1998.

A top ranking will matter more this month in March when the regular season ends than at any other time. It sill doesn’t play as big a part in determining a team’s seed in the NCAA tournament as the conference tournaments. If Pitt wins the Big East tournament, the difference of a couple of spots in the AP Poll will mean nothing.

A number one seed means a first-round bye, giving teams a couple of days to rest and watch the other schools. Even the importance of a No. 1 seed in the tournament is debatable. By March, they have had four months to watch their competitors. The extra couple of days won’t make a big difference.

Last season was the first time that all four No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four, so it’s clear that being the top seed only means so much. It’s the same with being ranked No. 1 during the regular season. Just look at Kansas, the defending national champions, a team that was not ranked number 1 at all last season.

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