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Purdue, reigning NCAA champion UConn headline the early list of top seeds for March Madness

Purdue and reigning national champion Connecticut have certainly appeared to separate themselves from the rest of the top teams in college basketball with only a month left until Selection Sunday.

For the committee that will select the NCAA Tournament field, the Boilermakers have the edge on the Huskies for now.

The Boilermakers claimed the top overall seed over the Huskies in Saturday’s first look at the selection committee’s potential top 16 seeds. Those two teams have topped The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll for five straight weeks, although with the Huskies at No. 1 in the Top 25.

Houston — ranked No. 1 in KenPom’s efficiency rankings — and Arizona claimed the remaining top regional seeds, with North Carolina sitting at fifth overall as the top No. 2 seed.

On the nationally televised reveal show, committee chairman Charles McClelland pointed to Purdue holding a 7-0 record against the top tier of the Quadrant 1 games that headline a postseason resume. That list includes wins against fellow No. 1 seed Arizona and two of the No. 2 seeds in Tennessee and Marquette.

The Huskies are 8-2 in Quadrant 1 games entering Saturday’s matchup against Marquette, while its best nonconference win came against UNC in early December. They’re trying to become the first repeat champion since Florida in 2006-07.

Kansas joined the Tar Heels, Volunteers and Golden Eagles on the 2-line, while Alabama, Baylor, Iowa State and Duke were No. 3 region seeds. Auburn, San Diego State, Illinois and Wisconsin were the No. 4 seeds to round out the list.

McClelland mentioned Dayton, Creighton and Clemson as the top teams to miss the top-16 cut.

The committee also grouped the seeds in four-team pods for each region, offering a snapshot of where things stand with exactly one month before the full field is set.

Purdue headlined a Midwest bracket that would run through Detroit, followed by Tennessee, Baylor and San Diego State. UConn topped the East bracket running through Boston ahead of UNC, Iowa State and Wisconsin.

Houston led the South bracket, which has its regional rounds set for Dallas. The Cougars were joined by Marquette, Alabama and Illinois. And in the West, Arizona topped a bracket running through Los Angeles and including Kansas, Duke and Auburn.

McClelland said the committee swapped Auburn and Wisconsin within those groupings to follow protocols ensuring competitive balance between the brackets.

Additionally, the seed reveal reiterated that the NCAA’s use of its NET rankings is more of a sorting tool when evaluating the quality of wins on resumes than a list of the best teams.

For example, Houston sits at No. 1 in the NET as of Saturday morning, with Alabama (No. 5) and regional 4-seed Auburn (No. 6) came in with seeds well below their NET rankings. Compare that to Kansas, which earned a 2-seed despite sitting at No. 16.

And BYU (No. 9), Saint Mary’s (No. 14) Creighton (No. 18) and Dayton (No. 19) all sat higher than Wisconsin (No. 20).

In all, the Big 12 led all conferences with four teams in the top 16, followed by the Big Ten and Southeastern conferences with three each. The Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East each had two, while the Pac-12 and Mountain West each had one.

Selection Sunday is March 17, with First Four games beginning two days later. The Final Four will be held in Glendale, Arizona, with the semifinals set for April 6 and the championship game two days later.

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