Heading into the start of the American Athletic Conference tournament, the consensus is Wichita State will be a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Shockers, which will play either Temple or Tulane in the AAC quarterfinals in Orlando on Friday night, finished the regular season with a 24-6 overall record and 14-4 mark in conference play. WSU has a combined 14 Quadrant 1 and 2 victories, tied for third-most in the country.
The top 16 teams in the NCAA Tournament receive regional protection, meaning WSU would likely be sent to Dallas or Boise if it is a No. 4 seed or better. The Shockers could secure that with a tournament title this week, as their road map could include three top-tier teams in Temple (RPI of 50), Houston (19), and Cincinnati (7).
But as the Shockers compete for a title in Orlando, their future seed will also be determined by other teams competing for a top-4 seed and how they do in their conference tournaments. Here are five teams for WSU fans to monitor this week:
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Texas Tech (23-8, 11-7 Big 12)
The Red Raiders are lower in the RPI (23) than WSU (11), but their second-place finish in the No. 1 conference in the country has several bracketologists slotting Texas Tech as either the last No. 3 seed or the first No. 4 seed. Texas Tech is 6-6 against Tier 1 opponents and 6-1 against Tier 2, while taking one loss to a Tier 3 team. A loss to Texas (Thursday at 6 p.m.) in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament could vault WSU ahead as the teams jockey for that No. 3 seed. Texas Tech has lost four of its last five games.
Tennessee (23-7, 13-5 SEC)
Tennessee is one spot ahead of WSU in the RPI at No. 10 and owns two more Tier 1 victories (6-6) than WSU. Right now every bracketologist has the Volunteers as a No. 3 seed, so WSU would likely have to at least reach the AAC finals to jump past UT after its second-place finish in the SEC. The Shockers would also need an early exit from the Vols in the SEC tournament to snap their 4-game winning streak. No. 2 seed Tennessee will either play Mississippi State or LSU in the SEC quarterfinals on Friday at 5 p.m.
West Virginia (22-9, 11-7 Big 12)
Much like WSU earlier in the season, West Virginia attained a top-5 ranking before the Mountaineers lost five of six in January to plummet down the rankings. WSU (No. 11) is well ahead of West Virginia (No. 31) in the RPI because of a stronger non-conference schedule. West Virginia does have two more Tier 1 wins (7-7) and is unbeaten against Tier 2 teams (6-0), but has lost twice against in Tier 3 games. A loss to Baylor in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament Thursday at 8 p.m. would likely be enough to knock WVU down a peg and move WSU up if the Shockers can win at least two in Orlando.
Arizona (24-7, 14-4 Pac 12)
While Arizona won the Pac 12 regular-season championship over the field by two games, it hasn't translated to much respect in the projected brackets since the Pac 12 is rated just above the American at No. 6 in the conference power rankings. Arizona (No. 18) is behind WSU in the RPI and has one less Tier 1 win than the Shockers and a slightly worse record in Tier 2 games (WSU is 10-2, Arizona is 9-3). Wichita State could maintain its position above the Wildcats with a deep run in Orlando or a loss by Arizona before the conference championship game in the Pac 12 tournament. Arizona plays Colorado in the quarterfinals Thursday at 2 p.m.
Clemson (22-8, 11-7 ACC)
Clemson lost four of its last six games to end the regular season, but remain a danger to WSU because of its strong non-conference performance. The Tigers started the season 14-1 with wins over Ohio State, Florida, and Louisville. Also helping Clemson's case is that all eight of its losses are in Tier 1 games and it is 18-0 in Tiers 2-4. That means if the Tigers can add a few more Tier 1 wins, then they would be a danger to passing WSU on the seed line. Clemson plays in the ACC quarterfinals on Thursday against Boston College at 1 p.m., then would likely play Virginia in the semifinals on Friday at 6 p.m.