Luke Winn has posed 10 burning questions for Selection Sunday. Over several posts today, I'll give a shot at answering a few.
1. West Virginia or Duke for the final No. 1?
For purposes of answering this question, I'm assuming that the first three #1 seeds and regional placements are:
Therefore, the final #1 seed would be sent to Salt Lake City. Winn notes that West Virginia has a strong argument for that final #1 slot. If Duke wins the ACC final, the committee could also justify placing them as the final #1 seed given an ACC regular season and tournament champion sweep. However, if the Devils lose, I don't think their profile justifies a #1 over West Virginia.
The committee could assume Duke will win Sunday pre-slot them as the last #1. The risk is that the Duke #1 seed argument is much weaker with a loss to Georgia Tech. The problem for the committee waiting until nearly 4:00 PM EDT to make this decision is that flipping Duke and West Virginia on the #1 line would have drastic bracket placement implications.
With the glut of Big East teams near the top of the S-Curve, moving a Big East team up or down a seed line at the last minute has drastic implications for the rest of the bracket. The committee likely will not want to do wait until after the ACC final to do this, so they probably will as in years past create a simple contingency bracket.
If the committee wants to keep open the possibilty of Duke as a #1, they could tentatively slot Duke as the last #1 seed (i.e., #4 on the S-Curve) - sending them to the Salt Lake City regional - and put West Virginia as the #2 in their region. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the committee does not necessarily match the best #2 seed with the last #1, and so on. The committee's bracket placement process (see section III) has them place each of the first for seed lines into regions "in or as close to their areas of natural interest as possible" and "in true seed list order." If West Virginia ends up #5 on the S-Curve, or the first #2 seed, these guidelines would give them the first shot at a region close to home which for the Mountaineers would be Syracuse. (The region placements can be adjusted after the first 4 seed lines are assigned to balance the relative strengths of the regions.)
If the committee does this, they can assign the other teams to their regions and work out the conference-related bracket conflicts early in the day. If Duke loses to Georgia Tech, the committee can simply swap West Virginia into the last #1 slot in Salt Lake City and move Duke to the #2 in the same region. The risk is that if Duke wins, the committee will "reward" West Virginia's Big East championship with a #2 seed in Salt Lake City.
The alternative is that the committee could decide, regardless of their current S-Curve order, to put West Virginia as the #1 in Salt Lake City and Duke as a #2 closer to home. This is probably the most logical and easily justifiable solution. Duke probably would avoid Kansas or Kentucky in their region because of the balancing rules I mentioned above. This is my best guess.