Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
No. 1 Florida (20-2, RPI: 4) vs. No. 16 North Carolina Central (MEAC auto bid, RPI: 140)
No. 8 North Carolina (15-7, RPI: 35) vs. No. 9 George Washington (18-4, RPI: 30)
No. 4 Michigan (17-5, RPI: 14) vs. No. 13 Canisius (MAAC auto bid, RPI: 85)
No. 5 Louisville (19-4, RPI: 33) vs. No. 12 Kansas State (Last five in)
No. 3 Cincinnati (22-2, RPI: 17) vs. No. 14 UC Santa Barbara (Big West auto bid, RPI: 102)
No. 6 Iowa (17-6, RPI: 36) vs. No. 11 Tennessee / Baylor (Last five in)
St. Louis, Mo.
No. 2 Kansas (17-5, RPI: 1) vs. No. 15 Georgia State (Sun Belt auto bid, RPI: 88)
No. 7 UCLA (17-5, RPI: 19) vs. No. 10 Minnesota (14-8, RPI: 40)
Kansas has the highest RPI and has faced the most difficult schedule in the country, but five losses is just one too many to earn a spot on the top line. Certainly anything could still happen. The Jayhawks do have an 8-5 record against the RPI Top 40, while no other team in the country can boast more than six such victories.
Louisville is extremely frustrating. The Cardinals have played 16 games against teams outside the RPI Top 50, going 16-0 with an average margin of victory of 27 points per game. Only one of the games—an 83-76 win at Rutgers—was decided by fewer than 14 points.
But they are just 3-4 vs. RPI Top 50, including two losses at home. Of their final five games of the regular season, four are against RPI Top 50 teams, so perhaps early March will finally provide us with a good feel for this team.
Though Rick Pitino's team is tough to figure out, at least we can all agree that Louisville is safely in the tournament. Richard Pitino's team, however, is trying like mad to play its way out of the field.
Wednesday night's triple-overtime game against Purdue was Minnesota's third straight rough loss. The Golden Gophers lost their previous two games against Nebraska and Northwestern and now sit at 4-6 in Big Ten play. Dating back to last season, they have lost 12 of their last 13 road games in conference.
The other Big Ten teams in this region are in much better shape. Iowa has six losses, but all six have come against the RPI Top 16. The Hawkeyes have dropped a bit after losing three out of five, but they would need to start suffering some bad losses (vs. Purdue or at Penn State) to slip any further.
And Michigan took a step back after Sunday's loss to Indiana, but the Wolverines could go 0-4 in their upcoming stretch of horror against Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin and Michigan State and still maintain a comfortable grip on a single-digit seed.
Sean Kilpatrick isn't the most consistent shooter in the world, but he has scored at least 26 points in three of Cincinnati's last four games. The Bearcats defense has been great all season, but they had been lacking in scoring until now.
After the five-point win over Connecticut on Thursday night, Cincinnati head coach Mick Cronin told reporters, "The mark of great players is that they rise to the occasion. (Kilpatrick) has the ability to rise to the occasion."
Last, but not least, George Washington's schedule-maker deserves a gold medal. Provided Miami (Fla.) stays in the RPI Top 100, the Colonials play a total of 15 games against RPI Top 100 teams this season, with only four of the games being played at home.
How their strength of schedule ranks 109th in the country is a head-scratcher, but they have four quality wins away from home with three more opportunities upcoming.