Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
No. 1 Kansas (26-4, RPI: 5) vs. No. 16 Southern (SWAC auto bid) / Delaware (CAA auto bid)
Please see the final slide for analysis of the No. 1 seeds.
No. 8 NC State (21-8, RPI: 24) vs. No. 9 California (20-9, RPI: 43)
When the Wolfpack lost at Duke, they were 5-5 in ACC play with seven easy games and a road trip to UNC remaining. Thus far, they’ve won five of the easy games and lost the one at Carolina. Provided they win the final two games—vs. Wake, at FSU—they could still salvage a fairly high seed from a relatively disappointing season.
After picking up wins over Utah and Colorado, the Golden Bears are a home win over Stanford away from a 13-5 conference record and wins in 10 of the final 11 games of the regular season. Their lack of nonconference wins is a bit concerning, but you can’t realistically argue against Cal as one of the 37 best at-large teams.
No. 5 Wisconsin (20-9, RPI: 41) vs. No. 12 Bucknell (24-5, RPI: 52)
A month ago, I postulated a scenario in which the Badgers would be 2-9 against the RPI Top 50 and in serious danger of falling out of the tournament field. Instead, they’re 7-6 against the RPI Top 50 and 100 percent bound for the tournament. The loss to Purdue was discouraging, but hardly season-altering.
The Bison have won nine of their last 10 games and enter the Patriot tournament as the overwhelming favorite to obtain the conference’s auto bid. Their chances of making the NCAA tournament as an at-large are doubtful, at best.
No. 4 Marquette (21-7, RPI: 12) vs. No. 13 Virginia / La Salle (Last Five In)
Road games against Rutgers and St. John’s are the only things standing between Marquette and a 14-4 record in the Big East, which could be good enough for the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament. Should they also win that tournament, a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament is within the realm of possibility.
No. 6 VCU (23-6, RPI: 31) vs. No. 11 Boise State (18-8, RPI: 44)
Courtesy of the complete and utter destruction of Butler over the weekend, VCU returns to a No. 6 seed for the first time in over a month. The Rams have earned it by winning seven of their past eight games.
With Arizona State essentially out of the tournament picture, Boise State is the new West Coast team to root for, provided it doesn’t create a conflict of interest. In most sports, fan polygamy is frowned upon, but with 347 teams in college basketball you need to find a non-powerhouse team to bandwagon-follow every March.
The Broncos are just one win away from clinching their bid, but neither the trip to UNLV nor the home game against San Diego State will come easily. 8-8 in the Mountain West won’t cut it without at least one win in the conference tournament.
No. 3 Miami (23-5, RPI: 3) vs. No. 14 Stephen F. Austin (Southland auto bid)
It’s tough to fault a team for losing at Cameron, but the Hurricanes remain a No. 3 seed because of the loss to Wake Forest two weeks ago. With just home games against Georgia Tech and Clemson remaining, they should finish the season 16-2 and climb at least back to a No. 2 seed before the ACC tournament begins.
No. 7 Colorado State (20-7, RPI: 17) vs. No. 10 Saint Mary’s (25-5, RPI: 37)
The Rams ran into Boise State at the wrong time and picked up a 13-point loss to a bubble team this past weekend. They’re still in great shape, but having now lost three of their last four games, it’s becoming easier to justify seeding them by their record instead of by their inflated computer numbers.
Unless all hell breaks loose in the WCC tournament and Saint Mary’s loses in the semis to Pepperdine, there’s no chance of the Gaels missing the tournament at this point. They finished the season winning 18 of their final 20 games, only suffering losses to Gonzaga along the way.
No. 2 Michigan (23-5, RPI: 10) vs. No. 15 Loyola (MD) (MAAC auto bid)
The Wolverines got a crucial home win over Michigan State on Sunday after inexplicably losing at Penn State earlier in the week. They’ve now lost four straight games away from home with a trip to Purdue on the schedule this week.
That game might be more indicative of their potential bracket success than Sunday’s home game against Indiana.