2015 NCAA Tournament Bracket: Latest Projection of the Field of 68

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystFebruary 24, 2015

2015 NCAA Tournament Bracket: Latest Projection of the Field of 68

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    Selection Sunday and the 2015 NCAA tournament are still three weeks and nearly 800 games away, but if the season ended right now, the four No. 1 seeds should go to Kentucky, Virginia, Duke and Villanova.

    Wait, Villanova?!

    Isn't the debate for the final No. 1 seed between Gonzaga and Wisconsin?

    Don't worry, we'll get there. We'll also address Davidson as a painfully underrated team, Michigan State as a potentially overrated team and everything in between in this week's projection of the tournament field.

    The three primary computer metrics considered in this projection are RPI, KenPom.com (KP) and strength of schedule (SOS), though Sagarin and BPI ratings are also taken into consideration for a more holistic view of each team's resume. And, of course, the oft-mentioned, never-quantifiable eye test was 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 each region. Then we'll defend the rankings of the No. 1 seeds, followed by a summary of the entire field broken up by conference.

    Statistics on the following slides courtesy of ESPN.com and KenPom.com. RPI, KP and SOS numbers current through the start of play on Feb. 23. Win-loss records include only games against D-I opponents and are current through the start of play on Feb. 24.

Last 5 In

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    Last Team In: Temple Owls (19-9, RPI: 31, KP: 58, SOS: 45)

    After back-to-back losses in which the offense didn't bother to show up, we're quickly falling out of love with Temple. Just like that, the Owls went from "Haven't been beaten at full strength" to "Might not even finish top four in the AAC."

    Explicitly speaking, conference standings have nothing to do with the selection committee's decision-making process. However, five losses in the AACa conference that isn't even a lock to send multiple teams to the tournamentisn't a good thing.

    In Sunday's loss to Tulsa, Temple had an unthinkably awful shooting performance: 24.6 percent from the field, 7.1 percent from three-point range and 41.7 percent from the free-throw line. For a team that had been banking heavily on eye-test points, that loss was about as bad as it gets.

    Second-to-Last: Illinois Fighting Illini (17-10, RPI: 57, KP: 60, SOS: 58)

    The Illini had an entire week to prepare for their home game against Michigan State, but to no avail. They fell to the Spartans to drop to 5-9 vs. RPI Top 100 teams.

    Five RPI Top 100 wins is better than some bubble teams can boast (What's up, BYU?), but that's still a lot of losses to stomach without much in terms of marquee wins.

    The Illini still have home games against Northwestern and Nebraska as well as road games against Iowa and Purdue. Lose any of those games and they might have some work to do in the Big Ten tournament.

    Third-to-Last: Cincinnati Bearcats (18-9, RPI: 50, KP: 44, SOS: 53)

    Close games have not been kind to the Bearcats. They have played four games this season decided by four or fewer points. They lost all of those gamesthree of which were to teams outside the RPI Top 100.

    Most recently, they let a home game against Xavier slip away. They took the lead multiple times in the final 70 seconds, but a bad foul and a missed three-pointer from Cincinnati allowed the Musketeers to escape with a road win in one of the more underrated rivalries in the country.

    Rivalry or not, it was a blown opportunity for Cincinnati. Five RPI Top 50 wins including a season sweep of SMU certainly help this team's cause, but with those middling computer numbers, the Bearcats might not be able to afford another regular-season loss.

    Fourth-to-Last: Oregon Ducks (19-8, RPI: 45, KP: 54, SOS: 67)

    Let's take a break from the naysaying to welcome the Ducks into the field. They picked up a huge win over Utah on Sunday, finally giving them an RPI Top 25 win to sort of cancel out their sole bad loss to Washington State.

    However, they don't have much room to play with, and they certainly don't get to coast to the finish line. Oregon's final three games of the season are on the road against California, Stanford and Oregon State. The Ducks need those road wins just as much as they need to avoid adding more losses to their resume.

    Fifth-to-Last: Purdue Boilermakers (18-9, RPI: 59, KP: 49, SOS: 80)

    Purdue has been one of the hottest teams in the country, winning seven of its last eight games, including a sweep of Indiana and home wins over Iowa and Ohio State. The Boilermakers were dead in the water one month ago, but now they're on the verge of cementing their spot in the field.

    Unfortunately, those losses to North Florida and Gardner-Webb still exist, and depending on where Kansas State, Minnesota and Vanderbilt end up in the national hierarchy, Purdue's resume could have as many as five losses to teams outside the RPI Top 100.

    Winning the home game against Rutgers on Thursday is an absolute must, and the Boilermakers might even need to win two of the other three (at Ohio State, at Michigan State, vs. Illinois) to feel safe heading into the Big Ten tournament.

    Hard to believe a 12-6 Big Ten record could miss the tournament, especially in a year with a bubble this weak, but going 2-4 against the RPI Top 175 during the nonconference portion of the season makes things a bit complicated.

First 5 Out

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    First Team Out: Stanford Cardinal (17-9, RPI: 51, KP: 36, SOS: 78)

    Stanford's best wins and worst losses just keep getting uglier as the season progresses. That road win over Texas doesn't look so hot right now, and that's the only RPI Top 50 win the Cardinal have, as Wofford has now dropped out of that club.

    Meanwhile, DePaul has lost seven of its last eight, and Washington State has lost eight of its last 10, causing those bad losses for Stanford to look even more awful than they already were.

    The Cardinal can absolutely still get back into the fieldhome games against the Oregon schools and road games against the Arizona schools ensure that opportunitybut they probably need to go 3-1 in those games, because two RPI Top 75 wins and three losses to teams outside the RPI Top 120 is not a tournament resume.

    Second Team Out: UCLA Bruins (16-12, RPI: 47, KP: 47, SOS: 13)

    UCLA has better wins than Stanfordincluding a season sweep of the Cardinalbut, man, 12 losses is a lot with two weeks remaining until the conference tournament.

    To be sure, the Bruins played a brutal schedule17 RPI Top 100 games and seven games against the RPI Top 15. But a 1-11 record away from home against the RPI Top 150 is hard to ignore or forgive.

    They should win their remaining games (all at home) against Washington, Washington State and USC, but that won't help move the needle. They'll likely need either one marquee win (Arizona or Utah) or two pretty good wins (Oregon, Stanford or Arizona State) in the Pac-12 tournament to make the real tournament.

    Third Team Out: Tulsa Golden Hurricane (19-6, RPI: 42, KP: 73, SOS: 122)

    This dilemma again?

    Tulsa has had Temple's number this season, but the two wins over the Owls are the Golden Hurricane's only RPI Top 75 wins.

    Technically, they're 19-6 with only one bad loss, but let's not forget Tulsa's home loss to D-II SE Oklahoma State that doesn't count against its RPI or record.

    If the computer numbers were better, we might be willing to overlook that blunder. On a resume that's already pretty bubbly, though, that ugly blemish in the eye test is enough to leave Tulsa with plenty of work to do.

    The Golden Hurricane still host Cincinnati and play at Memphis and SMU. They probably need to win at least two of those three, plus do some damage in the AAC tournament.

    Fourth Team Out: Pittsburgh Panthers (17-10, RPI: 36, KP: 74, SOS: 23)

    Pittsburgh has two nice wins (vs. North Carolina and vs. Notre Dame) and two really bad losses (at Hawaii and at Virginia Tech) serving as outliers on an otherwise unremarkable resume.

    The big problem, though, is that the Panthers only have four RPI Top 100 wins; they all came during conference play, and the only one that came away from home was against Syracuse. If they either had three fewer losses or no terrible losses, that might be OK. On a 10-loss resume, though, it still leaves a lot of work to do.

    Fifth Team Out: Rhode Island Rams (18-6, RPI: 64, KP: 48, SOS: 199)

    Similar to Pittsburgh, Rhode Island has two bad losses only moderately supported by four RPI Top 100 wins, all in conference and only one on the road.

    Unlike Pittsburgh, Rhode Island's strength of schedule is absolutely atrocious.

    The Rams have a string of key games coming up against Davidson, La Salle and Dayton, but anything short of 3-0 would leave them in dire straits.

On the Horizon

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    We're changing the title of this slide from "Next X Out" to "On the Horizon" because we really stop ranking teams after those first five. Rather, these are simply teams that were either seriously considered or could make a spirited push toward the field in the matter of one or two games.

    They are listed in alphabetical order by school.

    Boise State Broncos (18-7, RPI: 43, KP: 46, SOS: 113)

    Boise State has played well, but three RPI Top 95 wins and five RPI Top 150 wins in conjunction with three losses to teams outside the RPI Top 100 isn't going to cut it. The Broncos need to win their final four regular-season gamesincluding the road game against San Diego State this weekendif they want to make a serious run at a bid.

    BYU Cougars (19-8, RPI: 60, KP: 31, SOS: 101)

    Three RPI Top 100 wins and no wins away from home against the RPI Top 150 is not a very good combination. BYU still has the ultimate chance to fix those problems, though, when it travels to face Gonzaga this weekend.

    Florida Gators (13-14, RPI: 71, KP: 35, SOS: 6)

    The Jason Voorhees of the 2014-15 NCAA tournament bubble, Florida simply refuses to die despite seeming to get killed over and over again.

    The key for the Gators is they only played one team outside the RPI Top 200. They have only lost three games by a margin of more than seven points, so despite a sub-.500 record, they still have strong computer numbers.

    It won't matter if they don't stop losing games, but if they finish the regular season 17-14 with a home win over Texas A&M and a road win over Kentucky, those computer numbers would only get harder to ignore.

    Green Bay Phoenix (19-7, RPI: 62, KP: 68, SOS: 143)

    Green Bay doesn't have a tournament resume, but we're inevitably going to find a way to argue for some mid-major team to make the tournament. If Murray State or Stephen F. Austin slips up in its respective conference tournament, it will be that team. But for now, with Valparaiso projected to earn the Horizon auto bid, Green Bay serves mostly as a placeholder.

    Massachusetts Minutemen (16-11, RPI: 38, KP: 105, SOS: 17)

    Was the RPI formula calculated by a Massachusetts grad? This is the second straight season in which the Minutemen have a fairly high RPI despite not looking like one of the 50 best teams in the country. They blew two big chances at Rhode Island and VCU this week and will likely need a deep run in the A-10 tournament to dance.

    Miami Hurricanes (17-10, RPI: 66, KP: 56, SOS: 76)

    In the past four weeks, Miami is 3-5 and has suffered three of its four worst losses of the season. This computer resume probably deserves a little more consideration, but the recency bias of the eye test keeps the Hurricanes slightly off our radar until we see what happens this week against Florida State and North Carolina.

    TCU Horned Frogs (16-11, RPI: 119, KP: 53, SOS: 131)

    I got a lot of flak for putting TCU under consideration last week, but this is a team with two RPI Top 35 wins and only one loss to a team outside the RPI Top 40. The Horned Frogs have an atrocious Big 12 record, but if conference record truly doesn't matter, how would they not get onto the bubble with a home win over Texas Tech and a road win over Oklahoma this week?

    Vanderbilt Commodores (14-12, RPI: 112, KP: 47, SOS: 102)

    If Vanderbilt wasn't also ranked in the Top 50 in ESPN's BPI, this would make us think that Ken Pomeroy's metrics are broken. Vanderbilt has no RPI Top 50 wins, three sub-100 losses and 12 total losses. However, the Commodores are getting a lot of love from the sites that factor in scoring margin because none of their losses were by more than 12 points and eight were by five points or less.

    Wyoming Cowboys (19-6, RPI: 77, KP: 119, SOS: 252)

    With so many resumes with bad losses under consideration, we have to at least throw a bone Wyoming's way. The Cowboys have three RPI Top 50 wins and two losses to teams outside the RPI Top 100both on the road in conference play. The 323rd-ranked nonconference schedule likely dooms them, but if they get to 23-6 before making a decent run in the MWC tournament...it's not impossible.

East Region (Syracuse)

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    Charlotte, North Carolina

    No. 1 Virginia (25-1, RPI: 3, KP: 2, SOS: 12)
    No. 16 Lafayette/St. Francis (NY) (First Four)

    No. 8 Ole Miss (19-8, RPI: 33, KP: 32, SOS: 50)
    No. 9 Iowa (17-10, RPI: 55, KP: 27, SOS: 26)

    Seattle, Washington

    No. 4 Oklahoma (19-8, RPI: 15, KP: 10, SOS: 20)
    No. 13 Wofford (Southern auto bid)

    No. 5 VCU (21-6, RPI: 12, KP: 28, SOS: 9)
    No. 12 Murray State (Ohio Valley auto bid)

    Portland, Oregon

    No. 3 Utah (20-5, RPI: 11, KP: 7, SOS: 38)
    No. 14 Eastern Washington (Big Sky auto bid)

    No. 6 West Virginia (21-6, RPI: 23, KP: 24, SOS: 66)
    No. 11 Georgia (17-9, RPI: 34, KP: 43, SOS: 33)

    Omaha, Nebraska

    No. 2 Wisconsin (25-2, RPI: 6, KP: 4, SOS: 32)
    No. 15 High Point (Big South auto bid)

    No. 7 Ohio State (19-8, RPI: 41, KP: 18, SOS: 91)
    No. 10 St. John's (18-9, RPI: 39, KP: 38, SOS: 39)

    Stock Up: Iowa Hawkeyes (Up Three Lines)

    Iowa suffered one of the biggest drops in last week's bracket after a home loss to Minnesota and a road loss to Northwestern, but the Hawkeyes delivered extremely convincing wins over Rutgers and Nebraska this week to jump back into comfortable position.

    The big thing going forward will be avoiding bad losses. We would love to see the Hawkeyes solidify their bid with a home win over Illinois or a road win over Indiana, but even if they lose both of those games, they might be able to dance as long as they avoid losing to Penn State, Northwestern or their first opponent in the Big Ten tournament.

    Stock Down: Ohio State Buckeyes (Down One Line)

    After road losses to Michigan State and Michigan, Ohio State has dropped to 0-7 away from home against RPI Top 95 teams.


    Home wins over shorthanded Indiana and slumping Maryland look nice in the computers, but even with those victories, the Buckeyes are only ranked 41st in RPI.

    They aren't particularly close to slipping onto the bubble, but they had better take care of business at home against Nebraska on Thursday night if they want to avoid any further scrutiny of their resume.

    Holding Steady: Utah Utes (No Change)

    Two things about Utah we wanted to note here.

    First off, the Utes were sent to the East Region despite being the second-highest No. 3 seed. This is because of the bracketing rule that requires the top four teams from the same conference be placed in different regions if they are all seeded in the top 16.

    With Virginia in the East and Duke in the South, Notre Dame and North Carolina needed to go to the Midwest and the West, and Iowa State as the highest No. 3 seed would get dibs on the South Region. It's harsh, especially considering the dearth of highly ranked teams that actually would prefer to play in the West, but our hands were tied on that one.

    But perhaps the more interesting note is that Utah is still ranked No. 10 overall despite Sunday's loss to Oregon. If you were expecting the Utes to plummet as a result of that loss, please note they have 10 RPI Top 100 wins and no losses to teams outside the RPI Top 50.

    It's going to take more than one road loss to a bubble team to dismantle what Utah has built.

Midwest Region (Cleveland)

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    Louisville, Kentucky

    No. 1 Kentucky (27-0, RPI: 2, KP: 1, SOS: 35)
    No. 16 New Mexico State (WAC auto bid)

    No. 8 Oklahoma State (16-10, RPI: 29, KP: 30, SOS: 11)
    No. 9 North Carolina State (16-11, RPI: 48, KP: 42, SOS: 3)

    Jacksonville, Florida

    No. 4 Wichita State (24-3, RPI: 16, KP: 13, SOS: 120)
    No. 13 Stephen F. Austin (Southland auto bid)

    No. 5 SMU (21-5, RPI: 17, KP: 22, SOS: 56)
    No. 12 Buffalo (MAC auto bid)

    Jacksonville, Florida

    No. 3 North Carolina (19-8, RPI: 13, KP: 15, SOS: 2)
    No. 14 Georgia State (Sun Belt auto bid)

    No. 6 Arkansas (22-5, RPI: 19, KP: 29, SOS: 89)
    No. 11 Oregon/Cincinnati (Last Five In)


    Omaha, Nebraska

    No. 2 Kansas (22-6, RPI: 1, KP: 9, SOS: 1)
    No. 15 William & Mary (Colonial auto bid)

    No. 7 Butler (19-8, RPI: 24, KP: 23, SOS: 21)
    No. 10 Davidson (18-6, RPI: 54, KP: 37, SOS: 164)

    Stock Up: Davidson Wildcats (Up One Line)

    I might be higher on Davidson than any other bracketologist in the countryironic, considering its fans will never let me forget that 0-18 prediction.

    But why aren't more people buying the Wildcats? They're 18-6 with two RPI Top 40 wins, five RPI Top 100 winsthree of which came on the roadand only two bad losses, both of which were suffered while their star player, Jack Gibbs, recovered from a torn meniscus.

    Their nonconference strength of schedule (ranked 237) isn't pretty, but how can you possibly compare Dayton and Davidson head-to-head and come to the conclusion that the Flyers are a No. 9 seed and the Wildcats are a NIT team?

    Dayton is 20-6 with two RPI Top 40 wins, four RPI Top 100 winszero of which came in true road gamesand one terrible loss to Duquesne. And, oh yeah, Davidson beat Dayton by 17 without Gibbs.

    In his Monday morning Hoop Thoughts for Sports Illustrated, Seth Davis wrote, "If (Davidson) can win its last four regular-season games, it will be back in the bubble conversation."

    Back in the bubble conversation? Really? If Davidson wins its next four games (at Rhode Island, vs. George Washington, vs. VCU, at Duquesne), it deserves a No. 6 seed and a Congressional Medal of Honor.

    Stock Down: Arkansas Razorbacks (Down One Line)

    Arkansas, 9-1 in its last 10 games, didn't do anything to merit dropping a line this week.

    Rather, while the Razorbacks were playing RPI land mines in Missouri and Mississippi State, a handful of other teams picked up impressive-enough wins to bypass them.

    Things will be just a little bit different this week. The Razorbacks host Texas A&M on Tuesday before playing a massive road game against Kentucky on Saturday.

    They don't even necessarily need to beat Kentucky to improve their standing. If they beat A&M and even show up against the Wildcats, it'll be a big step back toward a No. 5 seed or better.

    Holding Steady: Oklahoma State Cowboys (No Change)

    This one really surprised me, but Oklahoma State didn't slip an inch this week despite home losses to Iowa State and West Virginia.

    Most of that is due to the fact that no one near the Cowboys did much of anything to deserve a boost. The other No. 8 seeds in last week's field (Dayton, Indiana and Texas) went a combined 2-4 this week with wins over Saint Joseph's and Rutgers. And the No. 9 seeds weren't much more impressive with St. John's and Georgia each suffering a loss and Colorado State playing two teams outside the RPI Top 200.

    Throw in the fact that neither of Oklahoma State's losses was even remotely bad in the eyes of the RPI, and the Cowboys got a mulligan in advance of games against Texas Tech and TCU that should propel their conference record back over .500.

South Region (Houston)

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    Charlotte, North Carolina

    No. 1 Duke (24-3, RPI: 4, KP: 8, SOS: 7)
    No. 16 Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun auto bid)

    No. 8 Texas (17-10, RPI: 40, KP: 21, SOS: 18)
    No. 9 Xavier (18-11, RPI: 30, KP: 26, SOS: 24)

    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    No. 4 Maryland (21-5, RPI: 10, KP: 41, SOS: 28)
    No. 13 Old Dominion (C-USA auto bid)

    No. 5 Baylor (19-7, RPI: 14, KP: 12, SOS: 8)
    No. 12 Harvard (Ivy League auto bid)

    Louisville, Kentucky

    No. 3 Iowa State (20-6, RPI: 9, KP: 14, SOS: 16)
    No. 14 Valparaiso (Horizon auto bid)

    No. 6 Providence (19-8, RPI: 21, KP: 33, SOS: 14)
    No. 11 LSU (19-8, RPI: 53, KP: 34, SOS: 100)


    Portland, Oregon

    No. 2 Arizona (24-3, RPI: 7, KP: 3, SOS: 43)
    No. 15 Texas Southern (SWAC auto bid)

    No. 7 Michigan State (19-8, RPI: 28, KP: 17, SOS: 36)
    No. 10 Colorado State (22-5, RPI: 27, KP: 69, SOS: 97)

    Stock Up: Michigan State Spartans (Up Two Lines)

    Michigan State's resume is so bizarre. The Spartans only played three nonconference games against the RPI Top 125losses to Kansas, Duke and Notre Dameand lost a home game against Texas Southern (RPI: 155).

    And yet, they just keep climbing more comfortably into the field without winning a game against any of the other three Big Ten teams with at least 10 conference wins and without a road win against the RPI Top 50.

    Tom Izzo is working some kind of dark magic in East Lansing.

    If and when we run a blind resumes piece, get ready to be surprised by the caliber of teams that can be compared favorably to the Spartans.

    Stock Down: LSU Tigers (Down One Line)

    Would the real Tigers please stand up?

    Are they the team that lost back-to-back games to Mississippi State and Auburn or the team that nearly ended Kentucky's perfect season? Are they the team that swept Florida or the team that was swept by Texas A&M?

    Heck, is the real LSU the one that needed overtime to win a home game against Texas Tech or the one that won at West Virginia?

    Perhaps we'll get a little of Column A and Column B this week when the Tigers travel to Auburn before hosting Ole Miss. Based on how their season has gone, they'll probably lose by a bucket to Auburn before beating the Rebels by double digits.

    Holding Steady: Providence Friars (No Change)

    Providence is one of just eight teams in the country with at least 10 wins against the RPI Top 70. The others are Kentucky, Virginia, Duke, Villanova, Wisconsin, Kansas and Oklahomaall of which are No. 4 seeds or better in this projection.

    Holding Providence back from climbing higher than a No. 6 seed are the losses to Brown, Boston College and Marquette.

    However, if the Friars can pick up an 11th RPI Top 70 win at Villanova on Tuesday night, it could finally be the one that bumps them up at least a line.

West Region (Los Angeles)

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    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    No. 1 Villanova (25-2, RPI: 5, KP: 6, SOS: 42)
    No. 16 Stony Brook/North Carolina Central (First Four)

    No. 8 Indiana (19-9, RPI: 32, KP: 39, SOS: 29)
    No. 9 Texas A&M (19-7, RPI: 37, KP: 40, SOS: 90)

    Columbus, Ohio

    No. 4 Northern Iowa (26-2, RPI: 20, KP: 11, SOS: 178)
    No. 13 Iona (MAAC auto bid)

    No. 5 Louisville (22-6, RPI: 18, KP: 19, SOS: 40)
    No. 12 Illinois/Temple (Last Five In)

    Columbus, Ohio

    No. 3 Notre Dame (24-4, RPI: 26, KP: 16, SOS: 134)
    No. 14 UC Davis (Big West auto bid)

    No. 6 Georgetown (18-8, RPI: 21, KP: 20, SOS: 5)
    No. 11 Purdue (Last Five In)


    Seattle, Washington

    No. 2 Gonzaga (27-1, RPI: 8, KP: 5, SOS: 92)
    No. 15 South Dakota State (Summit auto bid)

    No. 7 San Diego State (21-6, RPI: 25, KP: 25, SOS: 84)
    No. 10 Dayton (20-6, RPI: 35, KP: 51, SOS: 145)

    Stock Up: Georgetown Hoyas (Up One Line)

    The Hoyas held serve at home against St. John's and DePaul while Xavier improved its own stock enough that Georgetown has not been beaten by a team that currently ranks outside the RPI Top 30.

    The Hoyas do have eight losses to teams in the RPI Top 30, but key wins over Villanova, Butler and Indiana make it so that's just a testament to how tough of a schedule Georgetown has played and nothing more.

    There are still two big road games against St. John's and Butler coming up for John Thompson III's squad. A 3-0 finish might propel Georgetown to a No. 4 seedprime territory for its near-annual tradition of being knocked out of the tournament way too early.

    Stock Down: Louisville Cardinals (Down Two Lines)

    We won't belabor the details of Chris Jones' dismissal from the roster, but we will note that Louisville was already struggling to put the ball in the hoop before losing its third-leading scorer for the season. The Cardinals scored 55 points in their last game with Jones and scored just 52 against Georgia Tech in their first game since losing him.

    However, they won both games. Because of great defense, they have now won seven games without reaching 65 points scored. There's a chance they'll be OK without him, but they were already the lowest No. 3 seed before losing at Syracuse last week.

    As a result, Louisville drops to a No. 5 seed this week, and the jury is still out on whether it will continue to fall in subsequent projections.

    Holding Steady: Gonzaga Bulldogs (No Change)

    It's the hottest debate in the country. Even ESPN's Joe Lunardi weighed in with his "detailed" explanation for why Gonzaga is ahead of Wisconsin for the final No. 1 seed "by the thinnest hair of your head."

    Without a doubt, what Gonzaga has done this season in getting to 27-1 is very impressive. Whether the Zags are ultimately a No. 1 or a No. 2 seed, they'll be one of the most dangerous teams in the tournament with a three-headed monster in the frontcourt and an outstanding point guard.

    However, I refuse to accept that this resume is better than the ones submitted by 25-2 Villanova and 25-2 Wisconsin.

    The crux of the argument for Gonzaga as the fourth No. 1 seed seems to be that Gonzaga scheduled aggressively before beating the teams it was required to face. It's a fair point, except it makes it sound like Villanova and Wisconsin didn't also schedule aggressively.

    Gonzaga went 4-1 against nonconference opponents in the RPI Top 50 and 1-0 against teams ranked 51-100. In those same, respective categories, Wisconsin went 4-1 and 2-0 while Villanova went 2-0 and 4-0. And let's not forget that Gonzaga's best win of the season came at home against an SMU team still trying to figure out how to play without the academically ineligible Markus Kennedy.

    Once you accept that those three teams had similar nonconference challenges, I'm not sure how you come to the conclusion that the team with no RPI Top 50 and three RPI Top 100 wins in WCC play is more deserving than the ones with seven RPI Top 100 wins in major conferences.

Ranking the No. 1 Seeds

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    No. 4 Villanova Wildcats (25-2, RPI: 5, KP: 6, SOS: 42)

    If you missed the case against Gonzaga for a No. 1 seed, go back a slide and scroll down to the bottom. Because of that explanation, we're really only debating between Wisconsin and Villanova for this final spot on the top line.

    This could change drastically Tuesday night when Villanova hosts Providence and Wisconsin travels to Maryland, but at this point in time, Villanova is 5-1 vs. RPI Top 25 and 8-1 vs. RPI Top 50, which trumps Wisconsin's respective records of 2-1 and 5-1.

    The Badgers also have a much worse loss on their resume than the Wildcats do. Even though Wisconsin didn't have Frank Kaminsky and lost Traevon Jackson to an ankle injury in the second half of that loss to Rutgers, the Scarlet Knights haven't done their overlords any favors by losing 11 consecutive games since that massive upset.

    Sorry, Wisconsin, but if Penn State can beat Rutgers by 28 points, you should have been able to survive with Sam Dekker, Nigel Hayes, Duje Dukan, Josh Gasser, half of Jackson and half of Bronson Koenig at your disposal.

    No. 3 Duke Blue Devils (24-3, RPI: 4, KP: 8, SOS: 7)

    Duke has losses to North Carolina State and Miami on its resume, but, more importantly, the Blue Devils have 15 RPI Top 100 winstied with Kentucky and Kansas for the most in the country. Nine of those 15 wins came away from home, including true road wins over Virginia and Wisconsin. Aside from Duke's home loss to Miami, those are the only two home losses suffered by teams in the RPI Top 9.

    If who you beat is truly more important than who beat you, Duke would really need to mess up down the stretch to lose this No. 1 seed.

    No. 2 Virginia Cavaliers (25-1, RPI: 3, KP: 2, SOS: 12)

    Virginia's remaining games are against Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Syracuse and a Louisville team that is falling apart at the seams. If Justin Anderson returns in time for the ACC tournamentno definitive word yet on whether he willwe may never find out how Virginia would have fared against a quality team without him.

    However, Wednesday's road game against the Demon Deacons is far from a guaranteed win. London Perrantes is day-to-day with a broken nose and mild concussion suffered Sunday night, and the Cavaliers just barely won their home game against Wake Forest 10 days ago. If he is either ineffective or unable to go, we could have a massive upset on our hands.

    No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats (27-0, RPI: 2, KP: 1, SOS: 35)

    What's left to be said about Kentucky's case for a No. 1 seed?

    The Wildcats are the only undefeated team in the country and have held onto that honor while facing 10 RPI Top 50 and 15 RPI Top 100 opponents.

    Not only could they lose a game and remain a No. 1 seed, but they could lose a game and still remain the No. 1 overall seed.

Seeding by Conference

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    USA TODAY Sports

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

    American: 19. SMU; 45. Cincinnati; 47. Temple; 71. Tulsa

    Atlantic 10: 20. VCU; 39. Davidson; 40. Dayton; 73. Rhode Island

    ACC: 2. Virginia; 3. Duke; 11. North Carolina; 12. Notre Dame; 18. Louisville; 35. North Carolina State; 72. Pittsburgh

    Big 12: 8. Kansas; 9. Iowa State; 16. Oklahoma; 17. Baylor; 23. West Virginia; 29. Oklahoma State; 32. Texas

    Big East: 4. Villanova; 21. Georgetown; 24. Providence; 25. Butler; 33. Xavier; 37. St. John's

    Big Ten: 5. Wisconsin; 14. Maryland; 26. Michigan State; 28. Ohio State; 30. Indiana; 34. Iowa; 43. Purdue; 46. Illinois

    Missouri Valley: 13. Northern Iowa; 15. Wichita State

    Mountain West: 27. San Diego State; 38. Colorado State

    Pac-12: 7. Arizona; 10. Utah; 44. Oregon; 69. Stanford; 70. UCLA

    SEC: 1. Kentucky; 22. Arkansas; 31. Ole Miss; 36. Texas A&M; 41. LSU; 42. Georgia

    Other: 6. Gonzaga; 48. Buffalo; 49. Murray State; 50. Harvard; 51. Stephen F. Austin; 52. Old Dominion; 53. Iona; 54. Wofford; 55. Valparaiso; 56. Georgia State; 57. Eastern Washington; 58. UC Davis; 59. William & Mary; 60. High Point; 61. South Dakota State; 62. Texas Southern; 63. Florida Gulf Coast; 64. New Mexico State; 65. Stony Brook; 66. North Carolina Central; 67. Lafayette; 68. St. Francis (NY)

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


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