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NCAA Tournament 2014: Predicting Landing Spots for Nation's Top Teams

Florida coach Billy Donovan holds up a piece of the net after the Gators became the first team in Southeastern Conference history to go 18-0 in league pla, Saturday, March 8, 2014 in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Kentucky 84-65 Saturday in an NCAA college basketball game. (AP Photo/Phil Sandlin)
Phil Sandlin/Associated Press
Richard LangfordCorrespondent IMarch 11, 2014

At the end of college basketball's regular season, there is still a tightly bunched group of teams at the top of the rankings. 

This puts added emphasis and excitement in the conference tournaments, as the results will be the decisive factor in seeding for the NCAA tournament.  

That starts with the battle for one of the four No. 1 seeds.

CBS' college basketball insider Gary Parrish astutely points out that there are no less than 12 teams worth considering as possible No. 1 seeds. Parrish's 12 are: Florida, Wichita State, Arizona, Villanova, Kansas, Wisconsin, Virginia, Michigan, Syracuse, San Diego State, Cincinnati and Louisville.

Of these teams, one should be feeling great about their chances at a No. 1 seed. Florida, the nation's No. 1 team, is virtually locked in as No. 1. 

Florida is 29-2 on the season and hasn't lost since a one-point setback in the Dec. 2 game at Connecticut. 

The other loss for the Gators came on Nov. 12, and that was a six-point setback at Wisconsin. 

The Gators whooped up on Kentucky to close out the regular season to solidify their already elite standing.

After the game, in a quote captured by Mike Bianchi in the Orlando Sentinel, senior starter Patric Young pointed out the value of Florida's experience: 

Just having a highly rated recruiting class doesn't mean everything. I don't know what goes on inside Kentucky's program, but we're a bunch of guys who stuck around, grew up together and love each other. We're not just playing for ourselves.

Florida has nothing left to prove and is headed for a deep run in the SEC tournament anyway. So, we have our first prediction.

Predicted No. 1 Seed in South: Florida

 

Bill Boyce/Associated Press

Wichita State has to be feeling strong about its chances as well. 

The Shockers will be the first team since UNLV in 1991 to enter the NCAA tournament with an unblemished record. The Shockers wrapped up a 34-0 season with a dominant win over Indiana State in the championship of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. 

That was enough for College Basketball Talk's Rob Dauster to say of the win: "I’m not simply saying it should get Wichita State a No. 1 seed. I’m telling you that it will."

Sure, the Shockers have played a terribly weak schedule, but credibility is added by the fact that this team is second in the rankings and made an appearance in the Final Four a year ago. 

Let's mark down prediction No. 2:  

Predicted No. 1 Seed in Midwest: Wichita State

 

EUGENE, OR - MARCH 8: Nick Johnson #13 and Kaleb Tarczewski #35 of the Arizona Wildcats walk off the court during the second half of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Matthew Knight Arena on March 8, 2014 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won the game 64-57. (
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Out west, the Arizona Wildcats are in the clear driver's seat. 

Arizona lost the regular-season finale to Oregon. That was just Arizona's third loss of the season, and all three were on the road against conference opponents. 

In other words, I don't expect the loss to Oregon to do too much damage to Arizona's shot at a No. 1 seed. 

Along with their fantastic record, Arizona has 10 wins against teams in the top 50 Ratings Percentage Index. Kansas is the only team in the nation with more top-50 victories. 

The Wildcats will have to right the ship quickly and perform in the Pac-12 tournament, but that shouldn't be much of a problem. 

No. 4 seed in the Pac-12 tournament, California, figures to be Arizona's biggest obstacle in reaching the final, and Arizona destroyed Cal by 27 on Feb. 22. 

You can view the Pac-12 bracket here

At that point, Arizona's ticket for a No. 1 seed may already be punched, but the Wildcats will win the tournament for good measure. 

The second and third seeds in the conference are UCLA and Arizona State. Arizona went a combined 3-0 against those two, and two of those wins came on the road. 

Predicted No. 1 Seed in West: Arizona

 

LAWRENCE, KS - JANUARY 18:  Joel Embiid #21 of the Kansas Jayhawks reacts after scoring during the game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Allen Fieldhouse on January 18, 2014 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

I was leaning toward giving the East's No. 1 seed to Kansas. The Jayhawks have played a phenomenal schedule. The problem is, the Jayhawks would have to win their conference tournament, and in a stacked Big 12, that's a tough task. 

Kansas is talented enough to run the tournament, but there is a potential injury concern dimming their chances. Parrish helps explain.

Joel Embiid, the talented freshman center, provides a consistent inside presence on offense and defense. That kind of player in the interior is a key ingredient for consistency. 

If Embiid isn't able to contribute or is limited, Kansas won't be able to survive the tournament. Honestly, a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament is not worth putting Embiid in even slight risk of aggravating his back.  

This will leave Kansas as a No. 2 seed. 

Predicted No. 2 Seed in Midwest: Kansas 

 

CINCINNATI, OH - MARCH 6: Head coach Jay Wright of the Villanova Wildcats looks on during the game against the Xavier Musketeers at Cintas Center on March 6, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Villanova defeated Xavier 77-70. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The above opens the door for a No. 1 seed to go to Villanova.

The Wildcats are 29-3 on the season, but there's no doubt they benefited from playing in the weak Big East.

Villanova lost to Syracuse early in the year and then picked up two losses to Creighton. The fact that all three losses were by at least 16 points will hurt.

To balance this out, however, the Wildcats can boast of neutral-court wins over Kansas and Iowa. 

The biggest obstacle for Villanova is a possible matchup with Creighton in the conference championship game. Creighton is slumping, however, as they have lost two of their last three games. 

Villanova won't face Creighton in the championship game, and that will clear its path to a No. 1 seed. 

Predicted No. 1 Seed in East: Villanova 

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