2016 NCAA Tournament Bracket: Latest Projection of the Field of 68

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystFebruary 17, 2016

2016 NCAA Tournament Bracket: Latest Projection of the Field of 68

0 of 9

    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    If we're going to get another edition of Kansas vs. Oklahoma in the NCAA tournament, Bleacher Report's latest projection of the field suggests it would come no sooner than the Final Four in an epic battle of No. 1 seeds.

    Joining the Jayhawks and Sooners on the top line this week are Virginia and Villanova, though Iowa and North Carolina were under consideration for that honor.

    And on the more bubbly side of things, we make Stanford's unpopular case as a tournament team and explain why Pittsburgh appears to be in danger regarding a second straight trip to the NIT.

    One important thing to note that's going to be different from most of the projections you'll find on other sites: The projected automatic bid for each conference does not automatically go to the team with the best conference record. (Sorry, Temple. That's just how we roll.)

    Other than that, it's business as usual.

    The three primary computer metrics considered in this projection are ESPN's Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), KenPom.com's pythagorean rankings (KP) and ESPN's strength of schedule (SOS). And, of course, the oft-mentioned, never-quantifiable eye test was a large part of the seeding process.

    As always, we'll take a look at the last five teams to make the field, the first five out and a few on the horizon.

    After that, we'll present each seeded region, including the subregional locations in which each pod would be played, and some commentary on which teams have moved the most in each region. Then we'll defend the No. 1 seeds' rankings, followed by a summary of the entire field broken up by conference.

Last 5 In

1 of 9

    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Last Team In: Stanford Cardinal (11-11, RPI: 73, KP: 111, SOS: 2)

    There's a lot to hate about this resume. An RPI rank outside the Top 70 and a KenPom.com rank outside the Top 100 is usually indicative of a team that isn't good. So is a .500 winning percentage and a conference record tied for ninth in a 12-team league.

    However, the Cardinal are one of just six teams in the country with at least three RPI Top 25 wins and zero losses to teams outside the RPI Top 100. The others on that list are Oklahoma, Iowa, Notre Dame, Michigan and Oregon State. And, sure they have 11 losses, but what do you expect from a team that has played 14 games against the RPI Top 35?

    Between the conference affiliation and the sheer number of losses, I can't help but get a whiff of 2007-08 Arizona from this resume. Those Wildcats earned a No. 10 seed, despite a 19-14 record, because they played what KenPom.com evaluated to be by far the toughest schedule that season.

    KenPom also has Stanford projected to lose each of its remaining six games, so maybe we won't need to worry about this resume for much longer. But if the Cardinal can put together a 4-2 record down the stretch, look for them to be that annual team that everyone is flabbergasted to see on Selection Sunday.

    Second-to-Last: VCU Rams (19-7, RPI: 56, KP: 39, SOS: 101)

    VCU was safely in the field a few weeks ago, but the Rams are 3-2 in February despite only facing one RPI Top 100 team.

    Thursday's loss to Massachusetts was their worst of the season by a significant margin, and it gives them a lot less wiggle room down the stretch. The Rams close the season at George Washington, vs. Davidson and at Dayton. And after the loss to the Minutemen, VCU will likely need to win at least two of those games to remain in the hunt.

    Third-to-Last: LSU Tigers (16-9, RPI: 70, KP: 56, SOS: 76)

    Despite a loss to South Carolina, it was a pretty great week for Ben Simmons and Co.

    The obvious positive impact was Saturday's home win over Texas A&M. It was the Tigers' second RPI Top 25 win of the season, and it pushed their SEC record to 9-3. Even if they drop upcoming games against Florida and Kentucky, a 13-5 conference record is still in play and would be tough to ignore.

    The less obvious boost came from Alabama, as the Crimson Tide won games over Texas A&M and Florida, elevating LSU's prior road win over Alabama to a quality victory and also making Wednesday's home game against Alabama more of an opportunity and less of a potential liability.

    The RPI and nonconference strength of schedule are still less than ideal, but LSU's chance of dancing is slowly but surely looking better.

    Fourth-to-Last: Cincinnati Bearcats (19-7, RPI: 59, KP: 27, SOS: 111)

    Not much change for the Bearcats, as all they've done in the past seven days is win a home game against East Carolina.

    As is the case for VCU, Cincinnati's recent bad loss (at Memphis) means we need to see more out of this team in the difficult waning weeks of its season. The Bearcats are just 5-6 versus RPI Top 100 teams, but four of their remaining five games are against that group.

    If they split with Tulsa and Connecticut in the next seven days, look for them to be right back in this spot next Tuesday. 

    Fifth-to-Last: Seton Hall Pirates (17-7, RPI: 49, KP: 35, SOS: 77)

    Whereas LSU's resume got some external help from another team's wins, Seton Hall's resume got a good deal worse because of losses by other teams.

    Seton Hall's four best wins of the season came against Providence, Wichita State, Georgia and Georgetown, and in addition to the Pirates losing their only game of the past week (vs. Butler), those four teams went a combined 3-4 over the last seven days.

    Wichita State's home loss to Northern Iowa was the worst of the bunch, as it bumped the Shockers out of the RPI Top 50, leaving the Pirates with just one victory against that club.

    Of their final six games, four will be played on the road and the other two (vs. Providence, vs. Xavier) are difficult home games. They probably need to win at least four of those games to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006.

First 5 Out

2 of 9

    Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

    First Team Out: Pittsburgh Panthers (17-7, RPI: 41, KP: 60, SOS: 42)

    Pittsburgh barely avoided a complete disaster Tuesday night, needing two overtimes to escape with a home win over Wake Forest. However, the win did nothing to change the fact the Panthers are 1-6 versus RPI Top 100 teams since early January—and five of those six losses came by a margin of at least 13 points.

    It's not like they were setting the world on fire early in the season against a nondescript nonconference schedule. In fact, their only nonconference games against the RPI Top 100 were the home loss to Purdue in the ACC/B1G Challenge and a neutral-court win over Davidson.

    Pittsburgh probably needs to win at least two of the next three—against Syracuse, Louisville and Duke—to feel good about its chances on Selection Sunday.

    Second Team Out: Butler Bulldogs (18-8, RPI: 63, KP: 47, SOS: 97)

    In getting blown out at home by Xavier on Saturday, Butler fell to 0-5 against the three best teams in the Big East. The road game against Villanova on Saturday will be the Bulldogs' final chance to pick up a big win in conference play, but we're less than optimistic that will happen.

    Fortunately, they do have nonconference wins over Purdue, Cincinnati and Temple, but a nonconference SOS rank of 228 isn't doing them any favors.

    Even if they lose to Villanova and follow it up with wins over Georgetown, Seton Hall and Marquette, Butler will be squarely on the bubble heading into the Big East tournament. 

    Third Team Out: Temple Owls (16-8, RPI: 67, KP: 87, SOS: 96)

    In case you skipped the intro slide, let this serve as a reminder that we don't necessarily award a conference's automatic bid to the team currently in first place in its standings. Call me crazy, but I think it allows for a better interpretation of where teams would land in the seeding process if and when they're unable to turn their No. 1 seed into a conference title.

    So, yes, Temple is 10-3 and alone in first place in the AAC, but Connecticut has the better overall resume and is projected for the conference's automatic bid. Yet, because the Owls have now swept their season series against both Connecticut and Cincinnati, they're really starting to put together a good number of quality wins.

    Unfortunately, they went 0-5 against nonconference opponents in the RPI Top 200 and have a grand total of just six RPI Top 150 wins, so Wednesday night's home game against Villanova is a borderline must-win affair.

    Fourth Team Out: St. Bonaventure Bonnies (17-6, RPI: 33, KP: 64, SOS: 72)

    A word of advice to all of the would-be bubble teams out there: A great way to get noticed at this point in the season is by winning five straight gamestwo of which are also your best wins yet.

    That's precisely what St. Bonaventure has done over the past three weeks, buoying a respectable record by finally picking up a pair of RPI Top 50 wins (at Saint Joseph's, vs. George Washington). All of a sudden, the Bonnies have a better RPI than Indiana and Providence with games remaining against Dayton and Saint Joseph's that could really propel them into the field.

    Fifth Team Out: Washington Huskies (15-10, RPI: 60, KP: 68, SOS: 26)

    The Huskies were our last team in the field one week ago. And though they played quite well on the road against Colorado and Utah since then, they ultimately lost both games and slid onto the wrong side of the bubble.

    With only one nonconference win against the RPI Top 145the season-opening foul bonanza in China against Texasfinishing .500 or even 10-8 in Pac-12 play won't cut it. Washington needs to win this week's home games against California and Stanford and probably at least one of the subsequent road games against Oregon or Oregon State to sneak back into the field.

On the Horizon

3 of 9

    David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    It's getting harder to even find teams worthy of consideration for the field, but here are six more schools that aren't too far removed from the cut line.

    Tulsa Golden Hurricane (16-9, RPI: 48, KP: 46, SOS: 36)

    Tulsa almost had one of the best weeks in the nation, winning at SMU before falling by just two points at Connecticut. Combined with a Top 50 ranking in both RPI and KP, it was enough to slide onto the radar in advance of home games against Cincinnati and Temple.

    We've been wondering where the final few bids to this year's tournament would come from, and the AAC is starting to emerge from the muck. Temple and Tulsa look a lot better than they did a few weeks ago.

    Clemson Tigers (15-10, RPI: 87, KP: 50, SOS: 82)

    With wins over Miami, Duke, Louisville, Syracuse, Florida State and Pittsburgh, Clemson isn't dropping off the bubble anytime soon, despite how miserably the Tigers played and scheduled for the first six weeks of the season.

    Remaining on the schedule are road games against NC State and Georgia Tech, a home game against Virginia and two games against Boston College. Anything short of a 4-1 finish against that slate and the Tigers will need to do a lot of work in the ACC tournament to have a realistic shot at dancing.

    George Washington Colonials (18-7, RPI: 50, KP: 91, SOS: 102)

    That November win over Virginia feels like a lifetime ago, as George Washington was blown out at home by Saint Joseph's this week before also losing to St. Bonaventure. Neither was a bad RPI loss, but they were blown opportunities for a team that has shot itself in the foot at least one too many times. At this point, even a 6-0 finish to the regular season might not be enough.

    UCLA Bruins (14-11, RPI: 63, KP: 55, SOS: 21)

    The Bruins kept the status quo this week with a road win over Arizona State and a close loss to Arizona, but simply avoiding putting any more holes in a life raft that has already been punctured several times isn't going to do the trick. However, they do have three RPI Top 50 wins and seven RPI Top 100 wins with home games against Utah, Colorado, Oregon and Oregon State still remaining.

    Kansas State Wildcats (15-11, RPI: 66, KP: 49, SOS: 14)

    These Wildcats were looking fine after knocking off Oklahoma, but they followed up that marquee win with a home loss to Baylor and a road loss to Oklahoma State. Now with just two quality wins and 11 total losses, it's going to take some magic in the next two weeks against Kansas, Texas and Iowa State for Kansas State to dance.

    Creighton Bluejays (17-10, RPI: 81, KP: 42, SOS: 107)

    Last week's win over Xavier put the Bluejays on our radar, and the subsequent road win over Marquette kept them there, but Tuesday's loss to Butler leaves Creighton with a 4-9 record versus RPI Top 100 and an ugly loss to Loyola-Chicago. Winning the final four games is almost non-negotiable, which includes difficult road games against Providence and Xavier.

East Region (Philadelphia)

4 of 9

    Heather Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Brooklyn, New York

    No. 1 Villanova (22-3, RPI: 3, KP: 1, SOS: 24)
    No. 16 Wagner/Hampton (First Four)

    No. 8 Florida State (16-9, RPI: 52, KP: 44, SOS: 60)
    No. 9 South Carolina (20-5, RPI: 26, KP: 53, SOS: 150)

    Denver, Colorado

    No. 4 Notre Dame (18-7, RPI: 19, KP: 25, SOS: 13)
    No. 13 Akron (MAC auto bid)

    No. 5 Texas (17-9, RPI: 21, KP: 24, SOS: 4)
    No. 12 San Diego State (Mountain West auto bid)

    Providence, Rhode Island

    No. 3 Maryland (21-4, RPI: 6, KP: 14, SOS: 22)
    No. 14 Yale (Ivy League auto bid)

    No. 6 USC (18-7, RPI: 22, KP: 26, SOS: 51)
    No. 11 Seton Hall (Last Five In)

    Des Moines, Iowa

    No. 2 Iowa (20-5, RPI: 11, KP: 5, SOS: 33)
    No. 15 New Mexico State (WAC auto bid)

    No. 7 Syracuse (18-8, RPI: 37, KP: 31, SOS: 50)
    No. 10 Monmouth (MAAC auto bid)

    Stock Up: Syracuse Orange (Climbed six spots)

    Mike Hopkins will eventually be a good head coach, but it's not looking great for his resume that Syracuse went 4-5 while he was at the helm and is now 14-3 this season with Jim Boeheim on the sideline.

    After beating Florida State and Boston College by double-digit margins this past week, the Orange have won five straight and eight of their last nine, completely turning around what was starting to look like a lost season.

    There's still work to be done, though. With road games remaining against Louisville, North Carolina and Florida State, the losses could pile up in a hurry. But who could have guessed in mid-January that this team would be sitting pretty as a No. 7 seed at this stage in the game?

    Stock Down: Florida State Seminoles (Dropped six spots)

    In addition to the aforementioned loss to Syracuse, the Seminoles squandered a golden opportunity Sunday by letting Miami escape with a two-point win. As a result, their resume is slip-sliding back toward the bubble.

    On the plus side, there are no bad losses; they have a marquee win over Virginia, and they have won four games away from home against the RPI Top 100.

    On the minus side, Florida State has a sub-.500 conference record, a nonconference strength of schedule that ranks 226th nationally and only three of those seven RPI Top 100 wins actually came against the RPI Top 75.

    The 'Noles are still somewhat safely in the field, but a loss to either Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech this week could change that in a hurry.

    Stock Steady: Texas Longhorns (No change)

    When they opened the season 2-3, including losses to Washington and Michigan, it was almost inconceivable that the Longhorns would be the team to figure out Press Virginia.

    Shaka Smart's soldiers finished off the season sweep of the Mountaineers on Tuesday night, committing a combined 15 turnovers between the two games against the team that leads the nation in defensive turnover percentage.

    Texas is 8-5 in Big 12 play, and with home games remaining against Baylor, Kansas and Oklahoma, a second-place finish in the nation's best conference is still in play. It sure would be something if Smart leads the Longhorns to a No. 3 seed (or better?) in his first season after Rick Barnes failed to do so in any of his final seven years there.

Midwest Region (Chicago)

5 of 9

    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Raleigh, North Carolina

    No. 1 Virginia (21-5, RPI: 5, KP: 2, SOS: 28)
    No. 16 UNC-Asheville (Big South auto bid)

    No. 8 Providence (19-7, RPI: 39, KP: 57, SOS: 59)
    No. 9 Saint Joseph's (21-4, RPI: 29, KP: 36, SOS: 108)

    Denver, Colorado

    No. 4 Iowa State (18-8, RPI: 15, KP: 16, SOS: 11)
    No. 13 Chattanooga (Southern auto bid)

    No. 5 Purdue (21-6, RPI: 20, KP: 18, SOS: 54)
    No. 12 Gonzaga (West Coast auto bid)

    Brooklyn, New York

    No. 3 West Virginia (20-6, RPI: 10, KP: 7, SOS: 41)
    No. 14 Stephen F. Austin (Southland auto bid)

    No. 6 Arizona (21-5, RPI: 25, KP: 15, SOS: 123)
    No. 11 LSU/VCU (Last Five In)

    St. Louis, Missouri

    No. 2 Xavier (22-3, RPI: 7, KP: 17, SOS: 63)
    No. 15 Weber State (Big Sky auto bid)

    No. 7 Baylor (18-7, RPI: 30, KP: 38, SOS: 39)
    No. 10 Wichita State (18-7, RPI: 53, KP: 13, SOS: 103)

    Stock Up: Saint Joseph's Hawks (New to the Field)

    Saint Joseph's was the first team out of last week's projected field, but Wednesday's 18-point road win over George Washington was a big statement for a team that was 0-4 versus RPI Top 50. The Hawks also got a bonus from their early-December win over Princeton, as the Tigers have won nine of their last 10 games to climb into the RPI Top 50.

    But neither Princeton nor George Washington is in our projected field, leaving Saint Joseph's with nary a win against a tournament team.

    This Wednesday's home game against Dayton can change that narrative in a big way, but if the Hawks are unable to pick up that marquee win, they won't get another chance until the A-10 tournament, if at all. That probably makes this a must-win game.

    Stock Down: Providence Friars (Dropped three spots)

    Can anyone make sense of this team?

    This week, Providence finished off a season sweep of Georgetown, but it also suffered its second loss to Marquette. Earlier, the Friars won at Villanova only to lose to DePaul 10 days later.

    The field is going to be loaded with teams that are just as likely to lose in the first round as they are to reach the Final Four, but Providence seems to be the poster child for that "Could win or lose against any team on any given night" club.

    That's assuming the Friars are able to make the tournament at all.

    With a poor computer resume, six losses in the last 11 games and key wins over Butler and Georgetown not looking nearly as strong as they once did, Providence is slipping into the danger zone. A road win over Xavier on Wednesday would be huge, but a loss would keep things interesting for the final few weeks.

    Stock Steady: Wichita State Shockers (Dropped one spot)

    The only thing more shocking than their home loss to Northern Iowa over the weekend is how little of an impact it had on their projected seed.

    Much of that is due to the fact that hardly anyone bothered trying to jump ahead of Wichita State. Bubble teams like Pittsburgh, Kansas State, George Washington, Butler and Washington, which were right behind the Shockers, did even less to help their own causes in the past seven days.

    That leaves Wichita State in a position to potentially still claim an at-large bid if it falters in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

South Region (Louisville)

6 of 9

    Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

    Des Moines, Iowa

    No. 1 Kansas (21-4, RPI: 1, KP: 4, SOS: 5)
    No. 16 Navy/Texas Southern (First Four)

    No. 8 Connecticut (18-7, RPI: 43, KP: 23, SOS: 52)
    No. 9 Wisconsin (16-9, RPI: 44, KP: 33, SOS: 6)

    Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

    No. 4 Kentucky (19-6, RPI: 13, KP: 9, SOS: 32)
    No. 13 Stony Brook (America East auto bid)

    No. 5 Dayton (21-3, RPI: 12, KP: 27, SOS: 64)
    No. 12 Valparaiso (Horizon auto bid)

    Providence, Rhode Island

    No. 3 Michigan State (21-5, RPI: 16, KP: 3, SOS: 56)
    No. 14 UNC-Wilmington (Colonial auto bid)

    No. 6 Texas A&M (19-7, RPI: 24, KP: 22, SOS: 49)
    No. 11 Cincinnati/Stanford (Last 5 In)

    St. Louis, Missouri

    No. 2 Miami (20-4, RPI: 9, KP: 12, SOS: 48)
    No. 15 Belmont (Ohio Valley auto bid)

    No. 7 California (17-8, RPI: 23, KP: 32, SOS: 20)
    No. 10 Texas Tech (15-9, RPI: 31, KP: 41, SOS: 3)

    Stock Up: Wisconsin Badgers (New to the Field)

    At 9-9, with home losses to Western Illinois, Milwaukee and Marquette, these guys were dead. They were competitive in losses to Purdue, Indiana, Maryland and Northwestern, but the end result was a 1-4 conference record and no quality wins in more than a month.

    But then they shocked the world with a win over Michigan State. And four weeks later, they were putting the finishing touches on a seven-game winning streak with a road win over Maryland.

    Quite the impressive turnaround for a team that abruptly lost its head coach in the middle of December. But this is no time to become complacent with that accomplishment. Wisconsin already has nine losses and still plays road games against Michigan State, Iowa and Purdue.

    The Badgers are the majority of the way up the mountain, but an uphill battle still awaits them.

    Stock Down: Texas A&M Aggies (Dropped nine spots)

    They finally put an end to the five-game SEC losing streak with a win over Ole Miss on Tuesday night, but the damage has been done. The Aggies aren't exactly in bubble danger just yet, but it barely took three weeks for them to drop from the fringe of the No. 1 seed conversation to outside the AP Top 25.

    Truth be told, the losing streak wasn't that awful. Four of the five losses came on the road, and four of the five losses came by a margin of five points or fewer. They even had a quality win over Iowa State mixed in with it. If you thought Texas A&M was an Elite Eight team in mid-January, you could still feel the same way in mid-February.

    But the starting point of that run will be much different than we once thought. Saturday's home game against Kentucky will likely be A&M's last chance to prove something (positive) until the tournament begins. 

    Stock Steady: California Golden Bears (Climbed one spot)

    Despite impressive wins over Oregon and Oregon State, California just barely moved from the second-strongest No. 7 seed to the strongest No. 7 seed.

    That's because we're still waiting for this team to take its show on the road.

    In what has to be the country's most drastic home/road split, the Golden Bears are 16-0 at home and winning by an average margin of 15.8 points. But in road and neutral games, they're 1-8, and that one win required overtime against a Wyoming team that ranks outside the RPI Top 150.

    That split won't necessarily keep the Golden Bears out of the tournament, but it does make it difficult to consider this one of the country's 20 best resumes.

West Region (Anaheim)

7 of 9

    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

    No. 1 Oklahoma (20-4, RPI: 2, KP: 6, SOS: 8)
    No. 16 North Florida (Atlantic Sun auto bid)

    No. 8 Colorado (18-7, RPI: 27, KP: 63, SOS: 65)
    No. 9 Florida (17-9, RPI: 32, KP: 34, SOS: 7)

    Spokane, Washington

    No. 4 Duke (19-6, RPI: 18, KP: 11, SOS: 16)
    No. 13 South Dakota State (Summit League auto bid)

    No. 5 Utah (18-7, RPI: 17, KP: 40, SOS: 25)
    No. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock (Sun Belt auto bid)

    Spokane, Washington

    No. 3 Oregon (19-6, RPI: 4, KP: 20, SOS: 1)
    No. 14 Hawaii (Big West auto bid)

    No. 6 Indiana (20-6, RPI: 36, KP: 21, SOS: 120)
    No. 11 Alabama (15-9, RPI: 34, KP: 74, SOS: 12)

    Raleigh, North Carolina

    No. 2 North Carolina (20-4, RPI: 9, KP: 5, SOS: 56)
    No. 15 UAB (Conference USA auto bid)

    No. 7 Oregon State (14-9, RPI: 35, KP: 70, SOS: 9)
    No. 10 Michigan (18-7, RPI: 51, KP: 48, SOS: 92)

    Stock Up: Alabama Crimson Tide (New to the Field)

    Losing to Auburn might have been the best thing that happened to Kentucky this year, as the Wildcats are 6-2 since that game and looking like a team that can win it all.

    It seems it was also the medicine Alabama needed, as the Crimson Tide have rebounded from a 1-5 start in SEC play to win five of their last six, including marquee victories over Texas A&M and Florida this week.

    As was the case with Wisconsin on the previous slide, though, the journey isn't over. The Crimson Tide already have nine losses and difficult road games remaining against LSU, Kentucky and Georgia, but at least they're now in a position where winning even one of those three games could be enough for a tournament berth.

    Stock Down: Florida Gators (Dropped nine spots)

    A narrow road win over Georgia kept them from falling too far, but a home loss to Alabama over the weekend really hurt the Gators' tournament resume.

    Because of their strength of schedule, Florida has had a strangely strong computer resume for the past couple of months. However, the Gators have gotten just one win in their last nine tries against the RPI Top 55.

    Most of those losses were close affairs, but this isn't horseshoes or hand grenades. They'll need at least two wins in remaining games against South Carolina, Vanderbilt, LSU and Kentucky.

    Stock Steady: Tobacco Road Rivalry (Climbed two combined spots)

    Both Duke and North Carolina will enter Wednesday night's rivalry game with a chance to make a major statement.

    For the Blue Devils, a win would really prove they have turned things around after a rough January, and they need to be taken seriously as a title contender. It would likely bump them up to a projected No. 3 seed with plenty of time remaining to ascend even higher.

    For the Tar Heels, a win would undoubtedly enhance their case for a No. 1 seed.

    Their overall resume is strong, but as things currently stand, the Tar Heels are 1-3 versus RPI Top 30 teams and just 3-3 versus RPI Top 50 teamsand they are forever being weighed down by the November loss to Northern Iowa.

    But a win over Duke would be a big step in the right direction with opportunities/challenges still remaining in the form of games remaining vs. Miami, at Virginia and at Duke.

Ranking the No. 1 Seeds

8 of 9

    Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners (20-4, RPI: 2, KP: 6, SOS: 8)

    The Sooners lost their grip on first place in the Big 12, but they still have a decent grasp on a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. December's 23-point neutral-court win over Villanova is the gift that keeps on giving, and all of a sudden that November win over Wisconsin is showing up as an RPI Top 50 victory.

    Oklahoma is now 4-3 versus RPI Top 25 and 7-3 versus RPI Top 50. Though those numbers aren't staggeringly great, they are enough to keep the vultures at bay. Iowa and North Carolina are the closest suitors for this final No. 1 seed, but the Hawkeyes and Tar Heels only have seven RPI Top 50 wins between them.

    With four RPI Top 50 opponents remaining on the Sooners' regular-season schedule, a spot on the top line is theirs to lose.

    No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers (21-5, RPI: 5, KP: 2, SOS: 28)

    Despite Saturday's heartbreaking (and controversial) loss to Duke, the Cavaliers are still in great shape for a No. 1 seed. Virginia is tied with Kansas and Oregon for the most RPI Top 25 wins (five), and only Kansas (nine) has more RPI Top 50 wins than the Cavaliers (eight).

    There is the minor issue of the quality of losses, though.

    Losing at Duke was no big deal, but the November loss to George Washington has taken a turn for the worse. And the losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech are just as ugly now as they ever were.

    In total, Virginia now has four losses to teams ranked 50 or lower in RPI, which is twice as many as the other three No. 1 seeds combined. But picking up wins over Miami and North Carolina in the next two weeks would give the Cavaliers far too many quality wins to ignore.

    No. 2 Villanova Wildcats (22-3, RPI: 3, KP: 1, SOS: 24)

    One week ago, the Wildcats were behind both Virginia and Oklahoma, partially because two of their three losses came against those two teams. However, that doesn't permanently restrict Villanova from moving ahead of themespecially after a week in which they both suffered losses.

    Consider this: Villanova only has one loss this season to a team that isn't a projected No. 1 seed. Compared to the aforementioned Virginia losses, that sure is impressive.

    But it would be nice to see the Wildcats beat some better teams.

    The 12 RPI Top 100 wins look nice. The six RPI Top 50 wins are OK. But the 1-2 record versus RPI Top 25 teams isn't much of a ringing endorsement for the No. 1 overall seed. The Feb. 24 rematch at Xavier may well be the game that decides whether Villanova lands on the top line.

    No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks (21-4, RPI: 1, KP: 4, SOS: 5)

    Not long ago, Oklahoma was the No. 1 overall seed without a close runner-up.

    Now that they've swept the Sooners, it's the Jayhawks' turn to hold that distinction.

    Kansas leads the nation in RPI Top 25 and RPI Top 50 wins. The Jayhawks also have 13 RPI Top 75 wins, for good measure. During their current six-game winning streak, they have beaten Oklahoma, Kentucky and West Virginiathree extremely good teams that play extremely different styles of basketball.

    But when a team is this hot, it doesn't matter who the opponent is.

    After Monday's 94-67 win over Oklahoma State, Cowboys head coach Travis Ford told reporters: "When I look at the makeup of their team, I don't know there's much missing. They got great guards...great big men. They've got a great bench...experience. I don't really know what they don't have."

Seeding by Conference

9 of 9

    Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    In case seeded regions aren't for you and you want to know where the "top" 68 teams stand in relation to one another, here is a list of each team's overall seed, broken down by conference. ("First Five Out" in italics.)

    American: 32. Connecticut; 44. Cincinnati; 71. Temple

    Atlantic 10: 17. Dayton; 33. Saint Joseph's; 45. VCU; 72. Saint Bonaventure

    ACC: 3. Virginia; 6. North Carolina; 7. Miami; 14. Notre Dame; 15. Duke; 26. Syracuse; 30. Florida State; 69. Pittsburgh

    Big 12: 1. Kansas; 4. Oklahoma; 10. West Virginia; 16. Iowa State; 18. Texas; 27. Baylor; 39. Texas Tech

    Big East: 2. Villanova; 8. Xavier; 31. Providence; 42. Seton Hall; 70. Butler

    Big Ten: 5. Iowa; 11. Michigan State; 12. Maryland; 19. Purdue; 24. Indiana; 35. Wisconsin; 40. Michigan

    Pac-12: 9. Oregon; 20. Utah; 21. Arizona; 23. USC; 25. California; 28. Oregon State; 29. Colorado; 46. Stanford; 73. Washington

    SEC: 13. Kentucky; 22. Texas A&M; 34. Florida; 36. South Carolina; 41. Alabama; 43. LSU

    Other: 37. Wichita State; 38. Monmouth; 47. Valparaiso; 48. Gonzaga; 49. Arkansas-Little Rock; 50. San Diego State; 51. Stony Brook; 52. Chattanooga; 53. Akron; 54. South Dakota State; 55. Yale; 56. Hawaii; 57. UNC-Wilmington; 58. Stephen F. Austin; 59. Belmont; 60. UAB; 61. New Mexico State; 62. Weber State; 63. UNC-Asheville; 64. North Florida; 65. Navy; 66. Texas Southern; 67. Wagner; 68. Hampton

    Statistics courtesy of ESPN.comSports-Reference.com and KenPom.com. RPI, KP and SOS numbers are current through the start of play on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Win-loss records include only games against D-I opponents and are current through the start of play on Wednesday, Feb. 17.

    Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter at @kerrancejames.