2017 NCAA Tournament Bracket: Latest Projection of the Field of 68

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystJanuary 24, 2017

2017 NCAA Tournament Bracket: Latest Projection of the Field of 68

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    Kris Jenkins (2) and Villanova are still the projected No. 1 overall seed.
    Kris Jenkins (2) and Villanova are still the projected No. 1 overall seed.Corey Perrine/Getty Images

    The Villanova Wildcats remain the projected No. 1 overall seed with less than seven weeks remaining until Selection Sunday. Just behind the reigning national champions on the top line are Baylor, Kansas and Kentucky.

    There's no time like the present to start watching college hoops with Final Four potential on your mind, as Kansas plays Kentucky this Saturday. Not long thereafter, Kansas and Baylor will be waging war on Wednesday. Head-to-head results might not make much of a difference when trying to determine who the No. 1 seeds deserve to be, but they will be noteworthy data points when it comes time to actually fill out our brackets.

    Since our last NCAA tournament projection, Arizona and Marquette were two of the biggest upward-movers, as each looked unstoppable on offense on the road against AP Top 10 opponents this past Saturday. At the other end of the spectrum, Illinois, Pittsburgh and Texas Tech have each fallen from projected No. 8 or No. 9 seeds onto the heart of the bubble.

    Hate on RPI all you want, but it's still the primary metric the NCAA selection committee uses in selecting and seeding the field. KenPom.com rankings and strength of schedule were also crucial pieces of this projection, but prepare yourself for many mentions of how teams have fared against the teams in varying ranges of RPI ranks.

    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 rankings of the No. 1 seeds, followed by a summary of the entire field broken up by conference.

Last 5 In

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    Wait a minute...where did the Demon Deacons come from?
    Wait a minute...where did the Demon Deacons come from?Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Last Team In: Rhode Island Rams (12-6, RPI: 48, KP: 46, SOS: 45)

    A testament to how ugly things are on the bubble right now, Rhode Island only has one quality win (vs. Cincinnati on a neutral court) and doesn't rank in the top 40 in any of the primary metrics, but its resume would probably be good enough for a bid if the season ended today. The Rams need to walk a tightrope from this point forward, though. They should be favored in each of their 12 remaining games, but they cannot afford to lose more than one of them if they expect to dance.

    Second-To-Last: Pittsburgh Panthers (12-7, RPI: 38, KP: 64, SOS: 17)

    Pitt was in the field with room to spare prior to consecutive losses to Miami and North Carolina State. The Panthers have now lost four in a row and sit at 1-5 in the ACC. But at least that one win came against Virginia, and the November wins away from home against Maryland and Marquette look nice. They won't be able to back into the tournament, though. Pittsburgh still has two games to come against North Carolina, road games against Duke and Virginia and home games against Louisville and Florida State. Best of luck, Panthers!

    Third-To-Last: Michigan Wolverines (13-7, RPI: 69, KP: 43, SOS: 53)

    Bubble teams doing much of anything to enhance their resumes have been few and far between lately, so winning home games against Nebraska and Illinois was somehow enough to get the Wolverines back into the field. Their RPI isn't pretty, but they do have two RPI top-50 wins, three more wins against the RPI top 75 and only one bad loss (at Iowa). Like Pittsburgh, though, they'll need to earn it from here. Michigan plays Indiana and Michigan State twice each in the next three weeks, followed by four out of five against Wisconsin, Minnesota, Purdue and Northwestern.

    Fourth-To-Last: Wake Forest Demon Deacons (12-7, RPI: 23, KP: 36, SOS: 5)

    While Pittsburgh lost to Miami and North Carolina State, Wake Forest picked up a pair of wins against those teams to suddenly jump into the tournament picture. It's not a great sign that those are the two best wins of the season for the Demon Deacons, but they have yet to lose to a team outside the RPI top 50. At some point, though, they'll need to actually beat a quality opponent or two. Saturday's home game against Duke could be a huge one.

    Fifth-To-Last: Texas Tech Red Raiders (14-5, RPI: 82, KP: 42, SOS: 126)

    A nonconference strength of schedule that KenPom ranks as the worst in the entire country is going to be a problem for the Red Raiders. But at least they have three RPI top-50 wins already in Big 12 play. Because of the brutal SOS, they probably need to go 8-4 the rest of the way. Considering they still have two games left against Baylor, a home game against Kansas and a road game against West Virginia, that puts their margin for error at almost nil.

First 5 Out

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    It didn't take long for Illinois' bubble to pop.
    It didn't take long for Illinois' bubble to pop.Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    First Team Out: Illinois Fighting Illini (12-8, RPI: 49, KP: 72, SOS: 13)

    Three consecutive losses to Maryland, Purdue and Michigancoupled with the wins over VCU and N.C. State getting less valuable by the daycaused Illinois to drop out of the picture after receiving a No. 8 seed in our previous projection. With five RPI Top 100 wins and no hideous losses, the Illini still have a decent resume. However, they need to go at least 8-3 the rest of the way to enter the Big Ten tournament with realistic hope for an at-large bid.

    Second Team Out: North Carolina State Wolfpack (14-7, RPI: 79, KP: 78, SOS: 57)

    I'm resisting the urge to overreact to one game, because the Wolfpack were nowhere near the conversation Monday morning. But winning at Duke is kind of a big deal. They didn't do anything during the nonconference portion of the season. They now have three RPI top-50 wins in ACC play, but they also picked up losses to Miami, Boston College and Georgia Tech along the way. It's a bubble resume through and through with another huge opportunity looming at Louisville on Sunday.

    Third Team Out: VCU Rams (15-5, RPI: 42, KP: 49, SOS: 69)

    VCU picked up a much-needed blowout victory over La Salle this past Sunday, but it came after losses to Davidson (RPI: 123) and Fordham (RPI: 205). Despite getting their second-best win of the season, it was a brutal net loss for the Ramswho already had a home loss to Georgia Tech on their resume. Friday's home game against Dayton is a must-win, and even that might not be enough to get VCU back into the projected field.

    Fourth Team Out: Wichita State Shockers (17-4, RPI: 78, KP: 25, SOS: 188)

    The Shockers were already on the bubble before their road loss to Illinois State. They're now 0-4 against the RPI top 100 with only one chance left (Feb. 4 vs. the Redbirds) to get a win against that club. The road win over Oklahoma (RPI: 115) might eventually become a top-100 win, but when you're hoping for that to serve as the best thing you've done all season, you're in trouble.

    Fifth Team Out: Georgia Bulldogs (12-7, RPI: 45, KP: 41, SOS: 31)

    The officials may have screwed Georgia in the closing seconds of Saturday's loss to Texas A&M, but the Bulldogs also screwed themselves by blowing what was a 13-point lead with nine minutes remaining. Disappointing as the Aggies have been this season, that road loss isn't a horrible one in a vacuum. Already owning a resume that epitomizes the bubble, though, it was the type of game Georgia needed to win. At this point, winning one of the two (possibly three?) remaining games against Kentucky is all but a requirement.

On the Horizon

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    Utah has a solid record, but where are the quality wins?
    Utah has a solid record, but where are the quality wins?Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

    Utah Utes (14-5)

    In addition to two games against non-D-I schools, nine of Utah's 12 "official" wins have come against teams outside the RPI top 150. The Utes already lost their only games of the season against Arizona and UCLA, which could make this Thursday's home tilt with Oregon a do-or-die January affair.

    Ole Miss Rebels (12-7)

    The Rebels are almost on equal footing with Wake Forest. Both teams are 0-7 against the RPI top 50 and 12-0 against everyone else. But Wake's numbers (RPI: 23, KP: 35, SOS: 5) are much better than those of Ole Miss (RPI: 46, KP: 89, SOS: 24) because the Demon Deacons have only faced two teams outside the RPI top 200 compared to five for Ole Miss. But Saturday's home game against Baylor could be the jolt this resume needs.

    Miami Hurricanes (12-6)

    A nonconference SOS rank of 263 is going to be Miami's undoing. As far as both RPI and KenPom are concerned, the fourth-best win of the season for the 'Canes was a home game against Rutgers. They almost have to go 3-0 in their upcoming home stand against Boston College, North Carolina and Florida State to have any shot at dancing.

    Auburn Tigers (13-6)

    Though they have yet to beat a team in the RPI top 75, a 13-6 record for a major-conference team at least bears mentioning. The Tigers aren't all that close to the bubble today, but road games against South Carolina and TCU in the next five days could change that in a hurry.

    Oklahoma State Cowboys (11-8)

    Oklahoma State finally got its first win against the RPI top 75 (in eight tries), beating TCU at home Monday night. There's still work to do, but the computer profile (RPI: 54, KP: 29, SOS: 25) is strong enough that the Cowboys could turn things around in a moment's notice.

    Tennessee Volunteers (10-9)

    The record looks awful, but the Vols have yet to lose to a team with a worse RPI than Chattanooga (63). Win Tuesday's home game against Kentucky and this team would somehow be in business.

    La Salle Explorers (11-6)

    La Salle has three RPI top-100 wins (at Rhode Island, vs. Florida Gulf Coast, vs. Bucknell) with nary a loss to a team outside that group. Following Sunday's 90-52 loss at VCU, the Explorers dropped from 77 to 103 on KenPom, which isn't good by any stretch of the imagination. However, they have already played their road games against Dayton, Rhode Island and VCU and ought to be favored in every remaining game.

    California Golden Bears (14-6)

    California was our second team out 10 days ago, and it hasn't done anything noteworthy since, beating Washington State and Oregon State with a 23-point loss to Oregon sandwiched in between. Though 14-6 overall, the Golden Bears are just 1-6 against the RPI top 100, and that road win over USC already doesn't look anywhere near as good as it did two weeks ago.

East Region (New York City)

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    Lauri Markkanen and the Wildcats are moving on up the seed list.
    Lauri Markkanen and the Wildcats are moving on up the seed list.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Buffalo, New York

    No. 1 Villanova (19-1, RPI: 2, KP: 3, SOS: 15)
    No. 16 North Carolina Central / Mount St. Mary's (First Four)

    No. 8 Dayton (14-4, RPI: 28, KP: 39, SOS: 47)
    No. 9 Kansas State (15-4, RPI: 39, KP: 26, SOS: 78)

    Buffalo, New York

    No. 4 Virginia (15-3, RPI: 17, KP: 6, SOS: 33)
    No. 13 New Mexico State (WAC Auto Bid)

    No. 5 Wisconsin (16-3, RPI: 25, KP: 10, SOS: 73)
    No. 12 Chattanooga (Southern Auto Bid)

    Greenville, South Carolina

    No. 3 North Carolina (18-3, RPI: 9, KP: 7, SOS: 27)
    No. 14 Vermont (America East Auto Bid)

    No. 6 Xavier (14-5, RPI: 15, KP: 27, SOS: 12)
    No. 11 UNC-Wilmington (19-2, RPI: 26, KP: 45, SOS: 142)

    Salt Lake City, Utah

    No. 2 Arizona (18-2, RPI: 8, KP: 11, SOS: 21)
    No. 15 North Dakota State (Summit Auto Bid)

    No. 7 Florida (14-5, RPI: 11, KP: 16, SOS: 2)
    No. 10 Middle Tennessee (17-3, RPI: 35, KP: 47, SOS: 99)

    Stock Up: Arizona Wildcats (Up 11 Spots)

    Following road wins over USC and UCLA, Arizona skyrocketed from a No. 5 seed all the way to a No. 2. The Wildcats now have five wins away from home against the RPI top 60 and have won 12 in a row overall.

    Despite now serving as the highest-seeded team from the Pac-12, the Wildcats have the misfortune of falling into the East Region. They're still one spot behind Gonzagain part due to the head-to-head resultso the Bulldogs get No. 2 in the West Region.

    But there's still plenty of time to potentially rise up to grab the No. 1 seed in the West Region. Their only losses of the season came on neutral courts against Gonzaga and Butler. Even if they lose the road game against Oregon in less than two weeks, finishing off a season sweep of UCLA before winning the Pac-12 tournament would almost certainly do the trick.

    Stock Down: Florida Gators (Down Nine Spots)

    Florida still has one of the best computer resumes in the country, but recent losses to South Carolina and Vanderbilt are more concerning than the RPI and KenPom ranks are inspiring.

    The Gators do not have a single win against a team projected for a single-digit seed. Wins away from home against Seton Hall and Arkansasboth No. 10 seeds in this projectionare as good as it gets. The reason their resume looks so strong is because they won games away from home against the likes of Florida Gulf Coast, Saint Bonaventure and Belmont while a bunch of the upper-echelon teams were beating up the dregs of the D-I world.

    If Florida wants to get a seed as good as its computer resume, it probably needs to win one of its remaining games against Kentucky.

    Holding Steady: Virginia Cavaliers (Down One Spot)

    Not much to report here, as the Wahoos have won four consecutive "keep the status quo" games against Wake Forest, Clemson, Boston College and Georgia Tech. But the toughest two-game stretch of Virginia's season is now knocking on the door, as it will travel to Notre Dame and Villanova this week.

    The Cavaliers have been lingering in relative obscurity in the teens of the AP Top 25 for nearly two months. This is their chance to remind the world that they intend to finally get to the Final Four this year.

Midwest Region (Kansas City)

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    How does Clemson just keep hanging around?
    How does Clemson just keep hanging around?Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Tulsa, Oklahoma

    No. 1 Kansas (18-1, RPI: 6, KP: 8, SOS: 32)
    No. 16 Texas Southern (SWAC Auto Bid)

    No. 8 Virginia Tech (15-4, RPI: 37, KP: 50, SOS: 74)
    No. 9 Marquette (13-6, RPI: 53, KP: 32, SOS: 51)

    Sacramento, California

    No. 4 UCLA (19-2, RPI: 22, KP: 15, SOS: 79)
    No. 13 Texas Arlington (Sun Belt Auto Bid)

    No. 5 Duke (15-5, RPI: 14, KP: 13, SOS: 29)
    No. 12 Nevada (Mountain West Auto Bid)

    Greenville, South Carolina

    No. 3 Louisville (16-4, RPI: 7, KP: 9, SOS: 1)
    No. 14 Princeton (Ivy League Auto Bid)

    No. 6 SMU (17-4, RPI: 31, KP: 23, SOS: 87)
    No. 11 Michigan / Wake Forest (Last 5 In)

    Indianapolis, Indiana

    No. 2 Butler (17-3, RPI: 4, KP: 17, SOS: 8)
    No. 15 Belmont (Ohio Valley Auto Bid)

    No. 7 Northwestern (16-4, RPI: 34, KP: 31, SOS: 75)
    No. 10 Clemson (11-8, RPI: 47, KP: 37, SOS: 16)

    Stock Up: Marquette Golden Eagles (Up 12 Spots)

    Though they let what would have been a huge road win over Butler slip away in the second half, the Golden Eagles bounced right back with a key road win over Creighton. They're now 4-3 in Big East play and have already played four of the five toughest road games the conference has to offer.

    That win over the Bluejays was precisely what they needed to make a big jump. Marquette had a good number of decent winsat Georgia, neutral court against Vanderbilt, vs. Seton Hallbut it was just an overall "blah" resume. Case in point, even with the marquee win, Marquette still isn't quite in the RPI top 50.

    But the Golden Eagles now have three RPI top-50 wins, six RPI top-100 wins and no bad losses. Even if they merely win their remaining six games against Providence, Georgetown, St. John's and DePaul, it might be enough for a bid.

    Stock Down: Clemson Tigers (Down Four Spots)

    The Tigers have now lost six in a row and sit alone in last place in the ACC. Needless to say, that's not good. But there are only eight teams in the country that have more RPI top-50 wins than Clemson has (four), and all eight of those teams are at No. 14 or better on our overall seed list. In fact, the only team with at least three RPI top-50 wins that isn't in this projected field is Georgia Tech.

    As bad as 1-6 in conference play looks, the quality wins are impossible to ignore.

    Now, if the Tigers continue losing left and right and finish with 11 or more conference losses, they'll miss the tournament. But A) we're not projecting what they'll do for the next six weeks and B) if we were projecting, they have already played all of their games against North Carolina, Louisville, Virginia and Notre Dame. If they can just get back on track against the likes of Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and Syracuse, there's still time to put on those dancing shoes.

    Holding Steady: Northwestern Wildcats (Up One Spot)

    A lot of people were upset Northwestern didn't break into the latest AP Top 25 after a road win over Ohio State on Sunday, and even more people have now shifted from "Is this the year?" to "It's going to be the year!" for Northwestern to finally reach the NCAA tournament. As such, I wanted to take a moment to discuss this team's resume / future.

    The Wildcats are 16-4 with good wins over Dayton and Wake Forest and nothing that could be interpreted as a bad loss. Even though their third-best win of the season arguably came against Nebraska, as things currently stand, there's no question they belong in the projected field. But they have a long way to go to lock up a bid against their back-loaded Big Ten schedule.

    Northwestern still plays two games each against Indiana and Purdue, has a road game against Wisconsin and a home game against Maryland. Aside from the home game against Rutgers, not much will come easily the rest of the way. A 5-6 finish might be good enough, but even finding five more wins could be a challenge.

South Region (Memphis)

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    O.G. Anunoby's breakout year began when James Blackmon Jr. got hurt. Blackmon flipped the script this week, scoring 33 in the first game without Anunoby.
    O.G. Anunoby's breakout year began when James Blackmon Jr. got hurt. Blackmon flipped the script this week, scoring 33 in the first game without Anunoby.Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Tulsa, Oklahoma

    No. 1 Baylor (18-1, RPI: 1, KP: 5, SOS: 7)
    No. 16 Weber State / Sam Houston State (First Four)

    No. 8 Indiana (14-6, RPI: 73, KP: 30, SOS: 68)
    No. 9 USC (17-4, RPI: 32, KP: 59, SOS: 67)

    Orlando, Florida

    No. 4 Cincinnati (17-2, RPI: 16, KP: 19, SOS: 59)
    No. 13 Monmouth (MAAC Auto Bid)

    No. 5 West Virginia (15-4, RPI: 43, KP: 4, SOS: 89)
    No. 12 Illinois State (Missouri Valley Auto Bid)

    Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    No. 3 Creighton (18-2, RPI: 12, KP: 20, SOS: 23)
    No. 14 Valparaiso (Horizon Auto Bid)

    No. 6 Saint Mary's (17-2, RPI: 24, KP: 22, SOS: 80)
    No. 11 Iowa State (12-6, RPI: 52, KP: 24, SOS: 46)

    Orlando, Florida

    No. 2 Florida State (18-2, RPI: 5, KP: 14, SOS: 14)
    No. 15 Bucknell (Patriot Auto Bid)

    No. 7 Maryland (17-2, RPI: 21, KP: 44, SOS: 49)
    No. 10 Arkansas (15-4, RPI: 33, KP: 48, SOS: 50)

    Stock Up: Indiana Hoosiers (Up 11 Spots)

    Indiana's RPI is still bad, and it isn't likely to get better with home games against Mississippi Valley State, SIU-Edwardsville, Delaware State, Southeast Missouri State, UMass-Lowell, Austin Peay and Houston Baptist doing more collective harm than the wins over Kansas and North Carolina are doing good.

    Upcoming road games against Wisconsin, Purdue, Minnesota and Northwestern might help get the Hoosiers back into the RPI top 50in three weeks of Big Ten play, they have already improved from 130 to 73but their computer profile is always going to leave something to be desired.

    That said, wins over Penn State and Michigan State in the past week pushed Indiana back in the right direction. It now has four RPI top-50 wins and would need to suffer some sort of collapse down the stretch in order to slip back into any bubble trouble.

    Stock Down: West Virginia Mountaineers (Down 11 Spots)

    Despite a dominant win over Baylor and a huge road win over Virginia, losses to Oklahoma and Kansas State in the past week put quite the damper on West Virginia's resume. In fact, it's one of the stranger resumes in the country, as the Mountaineers are now 3-0 against the RPI top 30 and 2-4 against teams in the RPI 31-115 range.

    This leaves them teetering on the brink between being defined as a title contender that occasionally loses bad games or just an OK team that can occasionally be a matchup nightmare for anyone. A home win over Kansas on Tuesday would push them toward the former camp. However, a loss in the subsequent games against Texas A&M, Oklahoma State or Oklahoma would be more evidence for the latter perspective.

    Holding Steady: Florida State Seminoles (Down One Spot)

    Though that one-spot drop did mean a fall from the fourth No. 1 seed to the top No. 2 seed, it bears mentioning that the Seminoles are still in fantastic shape. In the past 10 days, they went 2-1 with wins over Louisville and Notre Dame. During that same span, Baylor went 3-0 with road wins over Kansas State and TCU. It was just enough to push the Bears back onto the top line.

    Florida State now has seven RPI top-25 wins and a total of nine RPI top-50 victorieseach of those wins coming more recently than the strange early loss to Temple. Though they're "only" No. 5 in RPI and No. 14 on KenPom, you're not going to find a team with a better collection of wins than what the Seminoles have.

    And after six straight games against ranked opponents, their schedule finally relents a bit. They do play seven of their final 11 games away from home, but only the games against Duke and Notre Dame are particularly concerning. A 15-3 (or better) conference record en route to an ACC title and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament is well within the realm of possibility.

West Region (San Jose)

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    P.J. Dozier (15) and Sindarius Thornwell (0) have quietly become one of the best duos in the nation.
    P.J. Dozier (15) and Sindarius Thornwell (0) have quietly become one of the best duos in the nation.Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Indianapolis, Indiana

    No. 1 Kentucky (17-2, RPI: 3, KP: 2, SOS: 6)
    No. 16 UC Irvine (Big West Auto Bid)

    No. 8 TCU (13-6, RPI: 30, KP: 33, SOS: 34)
    No. 9 Michigan State (12-8, RPI: 41, KP: 52, SOS: 9)

    Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    No. 4 Notre Dame (17-3, RPI: 19, KP: 18, SOS: 44)
    No. 13 Akron (MAC Auto Bid)

    No. 5 Purdue (16-4, RPI: 27, KP: 12, SOS: 48)
    No. 12 Pittsburgh / Rhode Island (Last 5 In)

    Salt Lake City, Utah

    No. 3 Oregon (18-2, RPI: 13, KP: 21, SOS: 38)
    No. 14 UNC-Asheville (Big South Auto Bid)

    No. 6 South Carolina (15-4, RPI: 20, KP: 28, SOS: 28)
    No. 11 Texas Tech (Last Five In)

    Sacramento, California

    No. 2 Gonzaga (20-0, RPI: 10, KP: 1, SOS: 65)
    No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun Auto Bid)

    No. 7 Minnesota (15-5, RPI: 18, KP: 38, SOS: 10)
    No. 10 Seton Hall (13-6, RPI: 36, KP: 54, SOS: 39)

    Stock Up: South Carolina Gamecocks (Up Eight Spots)

    They lost to Kentucky on Saturday, but that snapped a streak of five consecutive wins against RPI top-100 teams, including three in the RPI top 50.

    When at full strength, South Carolina is undefeated. Sindarius Thornwell was out for the losses to Memphis, Clemson and Seton Hall; PJ Dozier didn't play against Kentucky. When both guys are in there, though, no team has been more impenetrable on defense.

    The computer profile is almost certainly going to taper off with only two of the remaining 12 games coming against the RPI top 40. But as long as the Gamecocks can avoid racking up losses to teams like Missouri, Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi Statethey lost to each one last year in the process of going from 15-0 to the NITthey'll be in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004.

    Stock Down: Michigan State Spartans (Down Nine Spots)

    The Spartans only played two games in the past 10 days, but they lost them both, falling on the road to Ohio State and Indiana. The overall resume still looks OK with a sweep of Minnesota (RPI: 18) and a win over Northwestern (RPI: 34); but what happens to the Spartans if those teams drop off a bit?

    We gave Michigan State a mulligan for scheduling aggressively in nonconference play and coming up short against Baylor, Arizona, Duke and Kentucky. However, if we pretend those losses didn't even happen, all the Spartans did early in the year was pick up a not-as-great-as-expected win over Wichita State and a home loss to Northeastern.

    The Spartans are in trouble if they don't do some serious work the rest of the way. They're already 4-3 in Big Ten play, but anything less than 11-7 would mean they enter the conference tournament with at least 13 losses. They simply can't afford to lose any more games against teams like Ohio State.

    Holding Steady: Gonzaga Bulldogs (No Change)

    Undefeated Gonzaga has climbed all the way to No. 1 on KenPom, winning its last eight games by an average margin of 26.9 points. Only three of its games all season have been decided by single-digit marginsthe neutral-court wins over Arizona, Florida and Iowa State.

    But this resume needs one more oomph to get onto the top line. Iowa State is a bubble team, Florida isn't as good as its computer resume and neither Allonzo Trier nor Parker Jackson-Cartwright played in Gonzaga's win over Arizona. The Zags are close, but until we see what happens at Saint Mary'sor until Villanova, Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky and/or Florida State plays its way out of the conversationGonzaga will likely remain projected for a No. 2 seed.

Ranking the No. 1 Seeds

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    After a brief hiatus, Baylor is back among the No. 1 seeds.
    After a brief hiatus, Baylor is back among the No. 1 seeds.Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats (17-2, RPI: 3, KP: 2, SOS: 6)

    No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks (18-1, RPI: 6, KP: 8, SOS: 32)

    We can split hairs over these two teams, but here's the reality of the situation: Kansas and Kentucky are two exceptional blue-blood teams that will likely win their respective major conferences, and this Saturday's head-to-head battle will determine which one becomes the No. 2 overall seed and which one becomes the top No. 2 seed in next Monday's projection.

    There's a reasonable chance that one or both of these teams will lose before that showdown. Kansas has the stiffer test at West Virginia Tuesday night, but we can't rule out Kentucky's road game against Tennessee as a potential trap game. Should they both get to Saturday without another loss, though, that is what's at stake.

    No. 2 Baylor Bears (18-1, RPI: 1, KP: 5, SOS: 7)

    On Jan. 10, Baylor lost to West Virginia by a 21-point margin. Two nights and zero games later, I posted a bracket update with the Bears slipping to the No. 5 overall seed, despite only one loss and all the great wins they picked up in the first month of the season.

    It didn't help matters that Florida State beat Duke by a 16-point margin on the same night, extending its winning streak to 12 games and racking up so many quality victories it would have been irresponsible to leave the Seminoles off the top line.

    It's also tough to argue in mid-January that two teams from the same conference deserve to be No. 1 seeds when there are so many viable options, and Baylor's loss to West Virginia meant Kansas became the Big 12's undisputed top candidate.

    In retrospect, the Bears never should have dropped off the No. 1 line, but they more than earned their way back with road wins over Kansas State and TCU. There haven't been any earth-shattering victories lately, but the Bears have three RPI top-15 wins, seven RPI top-50 wins and 10 RPI top-75 wins. Blowout loss at Press Virginia be darned, that's a fine candidate for the No. 1 overall seed.

    No. 1 Villanova Wildcats (19-1, RPI: 2, KP: 3, SOS: 15)

    Sometimes losses reveal or accentuate weaknesses in quality teamssee: UCLA's defense against Arizona. Other times, losses simply awaken a sleepwalking giant.

    Villanova's loss to Butler earlier this month seems to belong in the latter category.

    In the first game after that loss, the Wildcats held a 30-point second-half lead against Marquette before allowing the Golden Eagles to make the final margin look a little more respectable. They beat Xavier by 25. They stomped Seton Hall by 30.

    Perhaps most important during that stretch is they have turned a weakness into a strength. For most of the season, the Wildcats couldn't buy an offensive rebound. In four of the past five games, though, they have grabbed at least 34 percent of their own misses.

    Good luck pulling a fast one on these guys. Providence shot 13-of-26 from three against the Wildcats on Saturday and still lost by double digits.

Seeding by Conference

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    Which teams are seeded where?
    Which teams are seeded where?Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    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: 16. Cincinnati; 24. SMU

    Atlantic 10: 31. Dayton; 47. Rhode Island; 71. VCU

    ACC: 5. Florida State; 9. North Carolina; 10. Louisville; 14. Notre Dame; 15. Virginia; 20. Duke; 29. Virginia Tech; 38. Clemson; 45. Wake Forest; 46. Pittsburgh; 70. North Carolina State

    Big 12: 2. Baylor; 3. Kansas; 18. West Virginia; 32. TCU; 36. Kansas State; 42. Iowa State; 43. Texas Tech

    Big East: 1. Villanova; 8. Butler; 12. Creighton; 23. Xavier; 33. Marquette; 40. Seton Hall

    Big Ten: 17. Wisconsin; 19. Purdue; 26. Maryland; 27. Northwestern; 28. Minnesota; 30. Indiana; 35. Michigan State; 44. Michigan; 69. Illinois

    Missouri Valley: 48. Illinois State; 72. Wichita State

    Pac-12: 7. Arizona; 11. Oregon; 13. UCLA; 34. USC

    SEC: 4. Kentucky; 21. South Carolina; 25. Florida; 39. Arkansas; 73. Georgia

    West Coast: 6. Gonzaga; 22. Saint Mary's

    Other: 37. Middle Tennessee; 41. UNC-Wilmington; 49. Chattanooga; 50. Nevada; 51. Akron; 52. Monmouth; 53. Texas-Arlington; 54. New Mexico State; 55. Vermont; 56. Valparaiso; 57. Princeton; 58. UNC-Asheville; 59. Belmont; 60. Bucknell; 61. North Dakota State; 62. Florida Gulf Coast; 63. Texas Southern; 64. UC Irvine; 65. Weber State; 66. Sam Houston State; 67. North Carolina Central; 68. Mount St. Mary's

    Stats are courtesy of WarrenNolan.comKenPom.com and Sports-Reference.com and are current through start of play on Monday, Jan. 23.

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