NCAAB

Which 1 Seed Has the Toughest Road to the Final Four?

Skyler Carlin
Skyler Carlin@skyler_carlin
Which 1 Seed Has the Toughest Road to the Final Four?

The stage is set for 68 teams to compete in the NCAA Tournament in what should be another action-packed event for college basketball fans. With teams now knowing their seeding for the tourney, everyone will be filling out an endless amount of brackets in hopes to pinpoint the eventual champion.

Many people are going to understandably side with the chalky pick of taking the Connecticut Huskies to repeat as national champions. Connecticut currently has the shortest odds to win the National Championship (+400) over on FanDuel Sportsbook.

Having the No. 1 seed in a region carries a ton of expectations, and it puts a target on your back throughout the tournament. The Huskies earned the top seed in the East region while the Houston Cougars (South), Purdue Boilermakers (Midwest), and North Carolina Tar Heels (West) are the other three 1 seeds.

Despite being the favorites to win it all, does Connecticut have an easy path -- on paper -- to reach the Final Four? Or will the Huskies have their work cut out for them to be in a position to defend their title as reigning champions?

Taking into account a combination of numberFire's nERD metrics -- along with numbers from KenPom and Bart Torvik -- let's take a look at which 1 seed has the most arduous path toward earning a spot in the Final Four in this year's NCAA Tournament.

Toughest Road to Final Four for 1 Seed in NCAA Tournament

4. North Carolina Tar Heels (West Region)

When diving into the numbers, North Carolina possesses the easiest path to be one of the last four teams remaining in the tournament. Despite being the lowest-ranked 1 seed on numberFire (7), KenPom (9), and Bart Torvik (9), the Tar Heels got a decent draw of teams within their region.

Led by RJ Davis (21.4 PPG) and Armando Bacot (14.1 PPG, 10.2 RPG), North Carolina has the 24th-best adjusted offensive efficiency (117.8) and the sixth-best adjusted defensive efficiency (93.2).

While the Arizona Wildcats have the highest nERD metric (19.16) among the 2 seeds, the Baylor Bears and the Alabama Crimson Tide have the second-worst nERD metrics for No. 3 and No. 4 seeds. KenPom and Bart Torvik feel similarly about Baylor and Alabama being the second-worst teams of their respective seeds.

North Carolina's early matchups could include facing teams like the Mississippi State Bulldogs, Michigan State Spartans, Saint Mary's Gaels, or Alabama. Before falling to the North Carolina State Wolfpack in the ACC Tournament Championship, the Tar Heels were on an eight-game winning streak.

Even with North Carolina securing the 1 seed in the West region, Arizona is the team with the shortest odds to win the National Championship (+1500) in the region. Given how the cards fell for the Tar Heels, they do have solid odds to advance to the Sweet 16 (-205).

3. Houston Cougars (South Region)

It was tough trying to decide whether Houston or Purdue had the easier path toward a Final Four appearance, but what makes me lean in favor of the Cougars having a slightly less difficult journey is the fact the South region is lacking firepower in the top seeds.

According to numberFire's nERD metric, the Marquette Golden Eagles are considered the worst 2 seed and the Kentucky Wildcats are the worst 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky also has the 108th-best adjusted defensive efficiency (102.7) in KenPom's ratings, making John Calipari's squad a longshot to make a deep push in the big dance.

The Cougars themselves have the 17th-best adjusted offensive efficiency (118.9) and the second-best adjusted defensive efficiency (87.1) with their guard trio of LJ Cryer (15.3 PPG), Jamal Shead (13.1 PPG), and Emanuel Sharp (12.2 PPG) leading the charge.

Upon looking at each region, the South is the only one that doesn't have two teams with +2500 odds or better to be crowned national champions. Houston has the second-shortest odds to win the National Championship (+600), putting them only behind UConn (+370)

While the South region does have a few bottom-eight seeds that could make noise in this year's tournament, it isn't a top-heavy region for the Cougars to maneuver. With that being the case, Houston is being given -134 odds to reach the Elite Eight.

2. Purdue Boilermakers (Midwest Region)

Purdue would love to do nothing but put their March woes behind them and make everyone forget they lost as a No. 1 seed in last year's NCAA Tournament. The Boilermakers are a 1 seed once again in the Midwest region, which is shaping up to have a formidable group of teams competing.

While the Kansas Jayhawks have the worst nERD metric among 4 seeds (13.19), the Tennessee Volunteers and the Creighton Bluejays are the second-best No. 2 and No. 3 seeds. The Gonzaga Bulldogs -- who are the 5 seed in the Midwest region -- have gone 14-2 in their last 16 games, earning the highest-ranking for a 5 seed on numberFire (16), KenPom (15), and Bart Torvik (14).

All eyes will be on Zach Edey (24.4 PPG, 11.7 RPG) when Purdue takes the court as many teams lack the size to slow him down. That being said, the Boilermakers could be tracking toward facing teams like the Utah State Aggies, TCU Horned Frogs, Gonzaga, or Kansas -- who all have size they can throw at Edey -- early in the tournament.

Due to the competition they'll be facing -- combined with their recent struggles in the tourney -- Purdue has the second-longest odds (+170) to win their respective region among the 1 seeds. Only UConn and Houston have shorter odds to win the National Championship than the Boilermakers at +700.

Even though Purdue fans would love to see their team avoid any shortcomings in the NCAA Tournament again, the Boilermakers won't have an easy path to the Final Four.

1. UConn Huskies (East Region)

Cutting down the nets in back-to-back years is going to be easier said than done for UConn. The Huskies secured the No. 1 seed in the East region, putting them in the side of the bracket as the likes of the Iowa State Cyclones, Illinois Fighting Illini, and Auburn Tigers.

Of the four regions, the East is the only one that has all top-four seeds inside the top 12 rankings on numberFire, KenPom, and Bart Torvik. One of the most egregious seedings of the NCAA Tournament was Auburn being named a 4 seed despite having the fifth-best nERD metric (19.01), the fourth-best rating on KenPom, and the fifth-best ranking on Bart Torvik.

After winning the Big East Championship, the Huskies climbed to No. 1 in KenPom's ratings with the best adjusted offensive efficiency (126.6) and the 11th-best adjusted defensive efficiency (94.4). It should be noted that Iowa State, Illinois, and Auburn all won their respective conference tournaments, as well.

With their guard duo of Tristen Newton (15.2 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 6.0 APG) and Cam Spencer (14.5 PPG), Connecticut has the shortest odds to win the National Championship (+370). While the results from previous years don't have a direct impact on the outcome this year, three of the Final Four teams from the 2023 NCAA Tournament (UConn, San Diego Aztecs, and Florida Atlantic Owls) are in the East region.

Despite having -1050 odds to advance to the Sweet Sixteen and the shortest odds to win the East Region (+110), Dan Hurley's group will have their work cut out for them in this year's NCAA Tournament.


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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.