Rick Snider: Top teams seem vulnerable heading into March Madness

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Earning a No. 1 seed instead of a No. 2 has never been more important for NCAA tournament kingpins.

Georgetown deserves a top seed. So do Gonzaga, Indiana and Louisville when the seedings are unveiled Sunday. There's some first-round safety in being a No. 1 because none has ever lost to a No. 16.

Duke, Michigan, Kansas and Miami know they're vulnerable as potential No. 2 seeds, especially this season when college basketball seems its most competitive in decades. One of those four will lose during the opening weekend. There are just too many good teams for the top eight teams all to advance like usual.

And that should really worry potential No. 2 seeds, especially the ACC's Miami and Duke. Miami has a seasoned tournament coach in Jim Larranaga, who coached George Mason during its 2006 Final Four run that was ripped straight from the script of "Hoosiers." But the Hurricanes are still getting used to the stratosphere of March Madness and could become an upset victim. Duke is always solid with a great coach, too, but the Blue Devils are often ranked and seeded a little higher than they deserve because of historical excellence.

The top four figure to move on to the Sweet 16. Some of the next four will suffer the Bittersweet 16 of going home early.

Georgetown should be among your Final Four picks unless the selection committee forces it through a gauntlet of high-scoring teams. The Hoyas again are the toughest defensive team opponents will face, and Otto Porter Jr. may be the best Georgetown player since Allen Iverson starred in 1996. Indeed, Porter seems to be forcing his way onto the list of the top five Hoyas ever.

Gonzaga (30-2) certainly could win the national title. A three-pronged scoring attack and solid defense make the Bulldogs a better version of Georgetown. My gut feeling says Indiana and Louisville won't make the Final Four, though. Someone in the second weekend will claim them.

Some teams to watch are Michigan State, UCLA, Virginia Commonwealth and Saint Mary's. Of the four, UCLA may have the best chance of reaching the Final Four. The Bruins blew a late-season game against unranked Washington State after a shaky January, but freshman Shabazz Muhammad led them to a Pac-12 regular season title. Now if only UCLA didn't wear the worst-looking uniforms west of Notre Dame.

What about Maryland? Some bracketologists say the Terrapins are among the first four out of tournament selections. Frankly, that's charitable. Maryland didn't collapse but also didn't claim any big wins outside of the two against Duke, one of which came at home, where the rivalry and crowd made the Terps 10 points better than usual. The NIT is likely, with next year bringing a return to the real March Madness.

For now, the bracket-watching is going on across town at Georgetown, where being a No. 1 should be a given.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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