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

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystFebruary 7, 2017

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

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    The Wildcats are still looking like strong candidates to repeat as national champions.
    The Wildcats are still looking like strong candidates to repeat as national champions.Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    The upset bug has been running rampant through the college basketball nation over the past two weeks, but Villanova, Gonzaga, Kansas and North Carolina have stayed healthy enough to secure projected No. 1 seeds with just four weeks left before Selection Sunday.

    Most of the teams that were in the first five out in our last NCAA tournament projection had a great week, as Seton Hall, TCU, Wake Forest and California have each moved into the new field. Bubble teams like Arkansas, Georgetown and Georgia Tech didn't fare quite as well and have dropped out of the field for the moment.

    One other thing to note before diving in: The ACC is finally starting to assert its dominance with five of the top 10 teams and 10 total teams in the fieldwith two more lurking in the first five out.

    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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    How did Jim Boeheim and Syracuse get back into the tournament picture?
    How did Jim Boeheim and Syracuse get back into the tournament picture?Rich Barnes/Getty Images

    Last Team In: Tennessee Volunteers (12-10, RPI: 35, KP: 36, SOS: 1)

    All the Volunteers had to do was avoid disaster, and they would have been fine. Instead, they shot 45.5 percent from the free-throw line and got destroyed on the glass in a loss to Mississippi State.

    Against the No. 1 strength of schedule in the nation, 10 losses don't seem so bad. But that was their worst loss of the season, and they still have road games remaining against Kentucky and South Carolina. Unless they can steal one of those, the Vols are going to enter the SEC tournament with (at least) 12 losses and only one RPI Top 25 win. The bubble is soft, but they're going to need a lot of help for that to be good enough for a bid.


    Second-To-LastSeton Hall Pirates (14-8, RPI: 37, KP: 53, SOS: 35)

    The second team out one week ago, Seton Hall becomes the second-to-last team in after an overtime win at Georgetown. Aside from a neutral-court win over South Carolina (playing without Sindarius Thornwell), there's nothing remarkable about this resume. That's the only RPI Top 40 win the Pirates have, but each of their eight losses has come against the RPI Top 70.

    They'll eventually need another quality win, though, and Feb. 15-22 is the range in which they can find it. That's when Seton Hall has three consecutive home games against Creighton, Villanova and Xavier. As long as the Pirates win one of those gameswhile avoiding losses to Providence, St. John's, DePaul and Georgetownthey'll be in good shape.


    Third-To-Last: Indiana Hoosiers (15-9, RPI: 73, KP: 41, SOS: 52)

    Indiana needed three overtimes to survive what would have been a season-crushing home loss to Penn State, but it got the job done. The Hoosiers also put up a respectable fight at Wisconsin before falling five points shy of a big upset.

    The net result is that nothing changed for this bubble team. They're still a game below .500 in Big Ten play, have two great wins against Kansas and North Carolina, and still haven't done anything good since then. Thursday's home game against Purdue is the big one. Let that slip away, and the Hoosiers would probably need to win at Purdue in a few weeks to save their bid.


    Fourth-To-Last: Syracuse Orange (15-9, RPI: 72, KP: 47, SOS: 45)

    Five weeks ago, Syracuse was 8-6 with losses to Boston College, Connecticut, St. John's and Georgetown. Its second-best win of the season was probably the home game against Eastern Michigan. Since then, though, the Orange are 7-3 with no bad losses and wins over Virginia, Florida State, Miami and Wake Forest.

    They'll need to take that show on the road, though. Syracuse is 14-2 in the Carrier Dome and 1-7 everywhere elseand six of those losses came by a double-digit margin. The Orange still play at Clemson, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Louisville, and have home games remaining against Louisville, Duke and Georgia Tech. Winning four out of seven might do the trick.


    Fifth-To-Last: Wake Forest Demon Deacons (14-9, RPI: 27, KP: 33, SOS: 10)

    With all due respect to the Demon Deacons, it's disgusting that this resume just keeps hanging around. Unless you count Bucknell as an auto bid, Wake Forest doesn't have a single win against a team in the projected field. Yet, both RPI and KenPom love Wake Forest, because it has played so many close games against Top 50 teams.

    But the Demon Deacons still have a home game against Louisville and road games against Notre Dame, Duke, Clemson and Virginia Tech. They'll probably need to win at least two of thoseas well as the home games against Pittsburgh and North Carolina Statein order to enter the ACC tournament with a reasonable chance of dancing.

First 5 Out

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    Arkansas should know better than to lose a game to Missouri.
    Arkansas should know better than to lose a game to Missouri.Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    First Team OutGeorgia Tech Yellow Jackets (13-10, RPI: 75, KP: 79, SOS: 42)

    After soaring into the field with wins over Florida State and Notre Dame, Georgia Tech is back on the outside looking in thanks to losses at Clemson and Wake Forest. The Yellow Jackets are now 5-6 in ACC play with a nonconference SOS that ranks 268th in the country. Though they have wins over North Carolina, Florida State, Notre Dame, VCU and Clemson, that's not a good combination of numbers.

    The good news is they have home games remaining against Boston College, N.C. State, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. In fact, aside from a road game against Notre Dame, they don't have any games left against what are arguably the nine best teams in the conference. If they can take care of business against the conference's lower tiers to get to 10-8 (or better) in ACC play, they might get in. 9-9 isn't going to cut it, though. Not with the above computer profile.


    Second Team Out: Miami Hurricanes (15-7, RPI: 55, KP: 39, SOS: 62)

    If the field had 70 teams instead of 68, the ACC would have 12 teams in right now. But, like Georgia Tech, Miami is being dragged down by a putrid nonconference schedule (NC SOS rank: 243). The Hurricanes did get a huge home win over North Carolina two weekends ago, but that's their only RPI Top 50 win of the season. And if we take out the season sweep of N.C. State (RPI: 99), Miami only has three RPI Top 100 wins.

    Seven total losses look good compared to most teams on the bubble, but the 'Canes have work to do against a brutal schedule. They still play at Louisville, Virginia, Florida State and Virginia Tech and have a home game against Duke. In addition to protecting home court against Virginia Tech, Clemson and Georgia Tech, Miami probably needs to emerge victorious from at least two of those five challenges.


    Third Team Out: Arkansas Razorbacks (17-6, RPI: 36, KP: 51, SOS: 63)

    Like Miami, the total number of losses for Arkansas looks promising, but who has this team beaten? The Razorbacks are 1-4 against the RPI Top 50 with a close win over Tennessee and a few blowout losses to Kentucky, Oklahoma State and Minnesota.

    That would be plenty for a projected bid if there weren't any bad losses, but Arkansas has two of the worst losses of any team on the bubble: vs. Mississippi State and at Missouri. Because of those missteps, the Razorbacks might need to go 7-1 the rest of the way, which would mean a road win over either Florida or South Carolina.


    Fourth Team Out: Georgetown Hoyas (13-11, RPI: 66, KP: 59, SOS: 15)

    Just when we were ready to believe the Hoyas were back, they barely win a road game against DePaul and lose at home to Seton Hall. Not good, Georgetown. Not good at all.

    The Hoyas still have two games remaining against Villanova, as well as road games against Creighton and Seton Hall. Getting to the Big East tournament with 13 or fewer losses means winning at least two of those four games, which seems unlikely, at best.


    Fifth Team Out: Illinois State Redbirds (18-5, RPI: 31, KP: 48, SOS: 103)

    Unlike other sites that will project Illinois State as the Missouri Valley champion because it has a better RPI than Wichita State, we're opting to allow Wichita's 86-45 win over the Redbirds on Saturday to serve as the tiebreaker, leaving ISU as the MVC team on the bubble.

    And, frankly, the Redbirds don't even deserve to be this close to the conversation. They have three RPI Sub 100 losses (Murray State, Tulsa and San Francisco) and only two RPI Top 100 wins (Wichita State and New Mexico). The RPI and loss totals are impressive, but it's almost impossible to get into the tournament as an at-large team with more bad losses than good wins.

On the Horizon

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    Utah might be a good team, but it has blown too many chances.
    Utah might be a good team, but it has blown too many chances.Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

    Here are a few other teams at least temporarily considered in the process of determining which bubble teams are most worthy of a bid.


    Utah Utes (13-8, RPI: 78, KP: 44, SOS: 78)

    Utah's resume was up a creek without a paddle before this week's road losses to Cal and Stanford. Now the Utes are all but toast. Even if they win out, they would finish the regular season with just four RPI Top 100 wins and a terrible nonconference SOS. Take out the games played against teams outside the RPI Top 200 and Utah is just 5-8.


    Michigan Wolverines (14-9, RPI: 79, KP: 40, SOS: 50)

    Michigan was our first team out one week ago, but losing at home to Ohio State was a big no-no. The Wolverines have now lost seven consecutive games against RPI Top 70 opponents and picked up a pair of worse losses along the way. They'll need to win two of their remaining three home games against Michigan State, Purdue and Wisconsin, beginning with the Spartans on Tuesday.


    Rhode Island Rams (15-7, RPI: 38, KP: 45, SOS: 51)

    Consecutive wins over Saint Bonaventure, George Washington and Davidson put the Rams back to within a stone's throw of the projected field, but the big test is this Friday's home game against Dayton. They need to win seven of their final eight regular-season games, and picking up that one loss five days from now would make the quest even tougher.


    Texas Tech Red Raiders (16-7, RPI: 90, KP: 42, SOS: 134)

    The RPI is hideous, but playing seven of its final eight games against the seven best teams in the Big 12 will at least help solve that problem for Texas Tech. Actually winning four or five of those games could be another story, though.


    Ole Miss Rebels (14-9, RPI: 57, KP: 69, SOS: 28)

    Ole Miss doesn't have any bad losses, but its only remotely quality win of the season was a home game against Tennessee. The Rebels could get into the at-large conversation with upcoming road wins over Tennessee and Arkansas, but the need to both add quality wins and avoid bad losses leaves them with little choice other than to win every remaining game.


    Georgia Bulldogs (12-10, RPI: 54, KP: 50, SOS: 23)
    Pittsburgh Panthers (12-11, RPI: 58, KP: 73, SOS: 7)

    Georgia lost twice to South Carolina by a combined margin of eight points, lost by four at Florida and forced overtime before losing at Kentucky. Six of Pittsburgh's nine ACC losses have come by a single-digit margin, including a one-point OT loss to Notre Dame and a two-point loss at North Carolina. If these teams could have just closed out one or two of those opportunities, they'd be in great shape. Instead, they each might need to close the season on an eight-game winning streak to reach the tourney.

East Region (New York City)

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    The Horned Frogs are back in the projected field, but can they stay there?
    The Horned Frogs are back in the projected field, but can they stay there?Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    Buffalo, New York

    No. 1 Villanova (22-2, RPI: 2, KP: 4, SOS: 26)
    No. 16 UC Irvine/Mount St. Mary's (First Four)

    No. 8 Northwestern (18-5, RPI: 33, KP: 30, SOS: 79)
    No. 9 Kansas State (16-8, RPI: 39, KP: 28, SOS: 47)



    No. 4 Wisconsin (20-3, RPI: 17, KP: 11, SOS: 65)
    No. 13 Belmont (Ohio Valley Auto Bid)

    No. 5 Cincinnati (21-2, RPI: 15, KP: 21, SOS: 77)
    No. 12 Tennessee/Seton Hall (Last 5 In)


    Orlando, Florida

    No. 3 Duke (18-5, RPI: 19, KP: 15, SOS: 31)
    No. 14 Valparaiso (Horizon Auto Bid)

    No. 6 South Carolina (18-4, RPI: 18, KP: 25, SOS: 43)
    No. 11 Middle Tennessee (Conference USA Auto Bid)


    Greenville, South Carolina

    No. 2 Virginia (18-5, RPI: 14, KP: 3, SOS: 19)
    No. 15 Bucknell (Patriot Auto Bid)

    No. 7 Xavier (17-6, RPI: 9, KP: 26, SOS: 6)
    No. 10 TCU (15-7, RPI: 42, KP: 32, SOS: 39)


    Stock Up: TCU Horned Frogs (New to the Field)

    TCU has been bouncing around the bubble like a rag doll for the past few weeks, but it's in the projected field today following consecutive wins over Kansas State and Texas.

    Though they needed overtime to accomplish it, the road win over the Wildcats was the most impressive victory the Horned Frogs have secured this season. They also have home wins over Iowa State and Illinois State and a sneaky-impressive win over Arkansas State.

    They're currently 5-5 in Big 12 play. Given the strength of their nonconference schedule and the difficulty of the games remaining, getting to 9-9 should be enough. However, three of the next five games are on the road against Baylor, Iowa State and Kansasotherwise known as three of the four toughest games in Big 12 conference play. Ending the 19-year NCAA tournament drought won't be easy.


    Stock Down: Northwestern Wildcats (Dropped Five Spots)

    Speaking of lengthy tournament droughts and tough remaining schedules, Northwestern slipped a little closer to the bubble following a 21-point loss to Purdue.

    We're not worried about the Wildcats yet, but we're not ready to guarantee they'll make the tournament, either. They're still in great shape, as they have yet to lose to a team outside the RPI Top 50. However, with only two RPI Top 65 wins (Wake Forest and Dayton), they have the type of resume that could get iffy in a hurry.

    Leading scorer Scottie Lindsey missed the game against Purdue due to an illness and has already been ruled out for Tuesday night's home battle against Illinois. Considering they still play Maryland, Wisconsin and Purdue once each and probably need to finish 4-4 in order to make the tournament, that's a game the Wildcats almost cannot afford to lose.


    Holding Steady: South Carolina Gamecocks (No Change)

    It was a ho-hum week for South Carolina, crushing LSU before barely winning at home against Georgia. But thanks to Florida dismantling Kentucky, the Gamecocks are now in sole possession of first place in the SEC.

    When both P.J. Dozier and Sindarius Thornwell play, South Carolina is 16-0 and has one of the most impenetrable defenses in the nation. A lack of marquee wins is keeping the Gamecocks from getting the national attention they deserve, but this is an opponent that no coach wants to draw on Selection Sunday.

Midwest Region (Kansas City, Mo.)

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    Freshman point guard Charlie Moore has been a huge part of California's success this season.
    Freshman point guard Charlie Moore has been a huge part of California's success this season.Leon Bennett/Getty Images

    Tulsa, Oklahoma

    No. 1 Kansas (21-3, RPI: 5, KP: 9, SOS: 17)
    No. 16 Eastern Washington (Big Sky Auto Bid)

    No. 8 Minnesota (16-7, RPI: 24, KP: 37, SOS: 12)
    No. 9 VCU (18-5, RPI: 30, KP: 46, SOS: 64)



    No. 4 Creighton (19-4, RPI: 16, KP: 24, SOS: 25)
    No. 13 Monmouth (MAAC Auto Bid)

    No. 5 Purdue (19-5, RPI: 22, KP: 12, SOS: 41)
    No. 12 UNC-Wilmington (Colonial Auto Bid)


    No. 3 Kentucky (18-5, RPI: 7, KP: 6, SOS: 5)
    No. 14 Akron (MAC Auto Bid)

    No. 6 SMU (20-4, RPI: 25, KP: 16, SOS: 90)
    No. 11 Syracuse/Indiana (Last 5 In)

    Orlando, Florida

    No. 2 Florida State (20-4, RPI: 6, KP: 13, SOS: 20)
    No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun Auto Bid)

    No. 7 Oklahoma State (14-8, RPI: 29, KP: 20, SOS: 16)
    No. 10 California (17-6, RPI: 43, KP: 54, SOS: 49)


    Stock Up: California Golden Bears (New to the Field)

    Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was California's NCAA tournament resume. Rather, the Golden Bears have been gradually laying the foundation for the past month and now have something that might impress the selection committee.

    Buttressed by recent home wins over Utah and Colorado, California is 7-1 in its last eight games. The only loss during that stretch was a forgivable one at Oregon. But the Golden Bears surrounded that L with four of their five best wins of the season, including the road victory over USC that set this whole turnaround in motion.

    Getting into the projected field was only half of the battle, and it was the easier half, at that. Cal has road games remaining against Arizona, Utah, Stanford and Colorado, as well as a home game against Oregon. A 4-3 finish should be enough, but a home game against Oregon State is the only gimme of the bunch. Rather than simply protecting it, they'll need to earn their bid down the stretch.


    Stock Down: Kentucky Wildcats (Dropped Three Spots)

    Kentucky's computer profile is still rock solid. In fact, Baylor, Louisville and Kentucky are the only teams in the country that rank top 10 in RPI, KP and SOS, and the Wildcats are the only team that is top seven in all three.

    However, there's no question that they're slipping after the blowout loss to Florida. The Gators had been average on the glass for most of the season, but they were plus-25 against Kentucky in the 22-point rout. It was the least interested Kentucky has looked in a game since losing to Robert Morris in the 2013 NIT.

    There's no telling what type of carnage the next four weeks will have in store for the nation's top teams, but Kentucky can probably say goodbye to any dream of being a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, as it might not even be the No. 1 seed in the SEC tournament.


    Holding Steady: Creighton Bluejays (Up One Spot)

    If you're still waiting for the bottom to drop out on Creighton, you might be disappointed. The Bluejays are 2-3 since finding out that Maurice Watson Jr. tore his ACL, but they did so much good for their resume in the first two-plus months of the season that they've been able to tread water while they figure out life after Watson.

    This week, the Bluejays shot 26-of-49 from beyond the three-point arc in the process of winning at Butler and losing by a deuce to Xavier. This team can still score with the best of them and could re-emerge as a Final Four threat if and when they learn how to get by on the defensive end.

    With nothing more than a road game against DePaul in the next seven days, expect to see Creighton projected for either a No. 3 or No. 4 seed again next week.

South Region (Memphis, Tenn.)

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    Wichita State finally got a quality win.
    Wichita State finally got a quality win.Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    Greenville, South Carolina

    No. 1 North Carolina (20-4, RPI: 4, KP: 10, SOS: 21)
    No. 16 Sam Houston State/North Carolina Central (First Four)

    No. 8 USC (20-4, RPI: 26, KP: 57, SOS: 76)
    No. 9 Dayton (16-5, RPI: 32, KP: 31, SOS: 61)


    Buffalo, New York

    No. 4 Florida (18-5, RPI: 12, KP: 7, SOS: 13)
    No. 13 Vermont (America East Auto Bid)

    No. 5 West Virginia (18-5, RPI: 34, KP: 5, SOS: 69
    No. 12 Texas-Arlington (Sun Belt Auto Bid)


    Salt Lake City

    No. 3 Arizona (21-3, RPI: 11, KP: 22, SOS: 40)
    No. 14 Princeton (Ivy League Auto Bid)

    No. 6 Maryland (19-3, RPI: 21, KP: 35, SOS: 48)
    No. 11 Clemson (13-9, RPI: 45, KP: 38, SOS: 18)


    Tulsa, Oklahoma

    No. 2 Baylor (19-3, RPI: 1, KP: 8, SOS: 2)
    No. 15 Winthrop (Big South Auto Bid)

    No. 7 Notre Dame (17-7, RPI: 28, KP: 27, SOS: 27)
    No. 10 Wichita State (20-4, RPI: 52, KP: 17, SOS: 164)


    Stock Up: Wichita State Shockers (Up Five Spots)

    The Shockers needed to show us something against Illinois State on Saturday. They have been ranked in the top 30 on KenPom since the first week of the season, but they entered the weekend 0-4 against the RPI Top 100beaten by a double-digit margin in three of those games. Falling to 0-5 with a loss to the Redbirds would have been the final straw for Wichita State's at-large campaign.

    Instead, the Shockers blew the doors off of Illinois State, winning 86-45, climbing into the KenPom Top 20 and soaring onto the cusp of the RPI Top 50 for the first time all year. The strength of schedule is still a disaster, but consistently obliterating the inferior competition helps make up for that.

    If they were to win every remaining game before losing the rubber match against Illinois State in the Missouri Valley championship, they would likely receive an at-large bid. But they're still in a perilous enough position where one loss might put them in "auto bid or bust" territory.


    Stock Down: Clemson Tigers (Dropped Eight Spots)

    Despite the 48-point loss to Florida State on Sunday, we just can't seem to quit the Tigers.

    Fortunately for them, they prefaced that loss with wins over Pittsburgh and Georgia Tech. However, this resume is losing its luster in a hurry. Clemson has now lost six consecutive games against the RPI Top 50, and it peppered in an ill-advised loss to Georgia Tech in the middle of that cold spell. Also, that loss to Oklahoma back in November is getting uglier by the day, as the Sooners have fallen to 8-14 overall and now sit outside the RPI Top 150.

    Clemson needs to win at least five of its final eight games to remain in the field—maybe six, depending on how the rest of the bubble shakes out and against whom the wins come. Anything short of that and the Tigers had better make a deep run in the ACC tournament.


    Holding Steady: Dayton Flyers (Dropped One Spot)

    It has been a struggle for Dayton to get and stay healthy. Josh Cunningham tore a ligament in his ankle in the second game of the season and might not return before the end of the year. Kendall Pollard missed the first six games for the Flyers. Charles Cooke missed three games in December and January. Kyle Davis missed a pair of contests in late January.

    They're just now starting to get into a rhythm, much to the chagrin of Fordham and Duquesne in the past seven days. The Flyers trounced the Dukes 90-53 on Saturday with eight different players scoring at least seven points.

    Dayton made the Elite Eight in 2014 and the Sweet 16 in 2015. Friday's road game against Rhode Island could be the litmus test for determining if a few more tournament wins are forthcoming.

West Region (San Jose, Calif.)

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    It was a "Thumbs Up" type of week for Iowa State.
    It was a "Thumbs Up" type of week for Iowa State.Reed Hoffmann/Getty Images

    Salt Lake City

    No. 1 Gonzaga (24-0, RPI: 8, KP: 1, SOS: 88)
    No. 16 Texas Southern (SWAC Auto Bid)

    No. 8 Iowa State (14-8, RPI: 40, KP: 26, SOS: 29)
    No. 9 Michigan State (14-9, RPI: 48, KP: 49, SOS: 22)

    Sacramento, California

    No. 4 Butler (18-5, RPI: 13, KP: 23, SOS: 9)
    No. 13 New Mexico State (WAC Auto Bid)

    No. 5 UCLA (21-3, RPI: 23, KP: 18, SOS: 100)
    No. 12 Nevada (Mountain West Auto Bid)

    Sacramento, California

    No. 3 Oregon (20-3, RPI: 10, KP: 19, SOS: 36)
    No. 14 East Tennessee State (Southern Auto Bid)

    No. 6 Saint Mary's (21-2, RPI: 20, KP: 14, SOS: 91)
    No. 11 Wake Forest (Last 5 In)


    No. 2 Louisville (19-5, RPI: 3, KP: 2, SOS: 8)
    No. 15 North Dakota State (Summit Auto Bid)

    No. 7 Virginia Tech (16-6, RPI: 44, KP: 55, SOS: 70)
    No. 10 Marquette (15-8, RPI: 65, KP: 34, SOS: 66)


    Stock Up: Iowa State Cyclones (Climbed Eight Spots)

    Iowa State played in a pair of historic games this week.

    First, the Cyclones lost at home to West Virginia by a score of 85-72. It was the first time in more than seven years that they lost in regulation by a double-digit margin. (There was a 108-96 overtime loss to Kansas in 2013, but when your largest margin of defeat comes in an extra period, we'll just call that a mulligan.)

    That wasn't great for their tournament resume, but snapping a 54-game home winning streak for Kansas sure was. Teams in the RPI Top 10 have suffered a combined total of just six home losses, so there's a case to be made that the win over Kansas was the best win any team has had this year. Whether it's the best or just one of the five best, it was a massive development for a squad that had been in danger of falling onto the wrong side of the bubble.


    Stock Down: Marquette Golden Eagles (Dropped Nine Spots)

    It should have been an uneventful week for Marquette. Road games in conference play are never easy, but tournament-bound teams ought to go 2-0 in back-to-back games at St. John's and DePaul. The Golden Eagles, in particular, should have been fired up to get those W's after losing at home to Providence.

    Rather than getting back on the right track, they went further down the wrong one with a 14-point loss to the Johnnies. Even in the subsequent win over DePaul, they gave up 79 points in a 67-possession game.

    Marquette has the offense to cause problems for opponents in the NCAA tournament, but does it even have the defense to get there? Its RPI (65) is already in the danger zone with tough games remaining against Xavier (twice), Butler and Creighton.


    Holding Steady: Saint Mary's Gaels (Dropped One Spot)

    Poor Saint Mary's. Despite a pair of road winsone by a 71-27 marginthe Gaels dropped from No. 18 to No. 20 in RPI and from No. 75 to No. 91 in SOS.

    Such is life in the West Coast Conference, where opportunities to enhance a resume are few and far between. But Saint Mary's gets the ultimate chance this Saturday when it hosts Gonzaga. If the Gaels have any hope of getting a top five seed in the NCAA tournament, they need to win that one.

Ranking the No. 1 Seeds

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    Kansas lost a game, but it didn't lose any ground in its quest for a No. 1 seed.
    Kansas lost a game, but it didn't lose any ground in its quest for a No. 1 seed.Reed Hoffmann/Getty Images

    No. 4 North Carolina Tar Heels (20-4, RPI: 4, KP: 10, SOS: 21)

    No offense to the Tar Heels, but the bar for a spot on the top line isn't nearly what it was two weeks ago. On Jan. 23, the top five projected seeds were Villanova, Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky and Florida State. In the 14 days since then, Villanova lost to a bubble team; Kansas, Baylor and Florida State each suffered a pair of losses; and Kentucky has been beaten three times.

    North Carolina also lost a game during that time, but the resume of the projected ACC champion just keeps looking better and brighter. The Tar Heels now have nine RPI Top 50 wins and 13 total wins against the RPI Top 100.

    Only two of those wins have come against the RPI Top 25, but there won't be any questions about the strength of this schedule by Selection Sunday. They still play Duke twice, Virginia twice and Louisville once. If they hang on to win the ACC regular-season title against that slate, the Tar Heels will be in the running for the No. 1 overall seed.


    No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks (21-3, RPI: 5, KP: 9, SOS: 17)

    Despite a home loss to Iowa State on Saturday, it's looking like Kansas is going to win the Big 12 for a 13th consecutive year. The Jayhawks improved to 9-2 in conference play with wins over Baylor and Kansas State, and now hold a 1.5-game lead over the Bears.

    As is the case in the ACC, it seems likely that the Big 12 regular-season champion will end up with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. There's still a chance that Baylor climbs that title, but you'd have to be off your rocker to bet against Kansas at this point.

    The more intriguing race involving the Jayhawks might be the one for National Player of the Year. Frank Mason III has now scored at least 15 points in 12 consecutive games and has arguably surpassed Villanova's Josh Hart as the favorite for the Wooden Award.


    No. 2 Gonzaga Bulldogs (24-0, RPI: 8, KP: 1, SOS: 88)

    Following Thursday's road win over BYU, the only significant hurdle standing between Gonzaga and the undefeated regular season is Saturday's trip to Moraga, California, to face Saint Mary's.

    But even if the Bulldogs lose that game before winning the WCC tournament, the No. 1 seed in the West Region will probably be theirs. If Arizona, Oregon or UCLA runs the table from this point forward, it would claim that spot. Anything short of that, though, and a one-loss Gonzaga would be a No. 1 seed for the second time in five years.


    No. 1 Villanova Wildcats (22-2, RPI: 2, KP: 4, SOS: 26)

    Villanova and Gonzaga had eerily similar nonconference resumes. Villanova went 13-0 with an RPI rank of 4 and SOS rank of 44. Gonzaga's numbers were 12-0, 5 and 47, respectively.

    But the Wildcats have faced and passed a stiffer test in conference play, resulting in a better overall resume, despite the pair of losses. The Wildcats have six RPI Top 30 wins and 11 wins over the RPI Top 70. Gonzaga's totals in those categories are just three and six, respectively.

    A few hours before Gonzaga's showdown with Saint Mary's, Villanova will face a huge test of its own at Xavier. Will this be the week that elite teams start asserting their dominance again, or are we headed for a few more upsets?

Seeding by Conference

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    Trying to keep track of all the ACC teams in the projected field can be a headache.
    Trying to keep track of all the ACC teams in the projected field can be a headache.Grant Halverson/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: 19. Cincinnati; 24. SMU

    Atlantic 10: 33. Dayton; 35. VCU

    ACC: 4. North Carolina; 6. Virginia; 7. Florida State; 8. Louisville; 10. Duke; 26. Notre Dame; 28. Virginia Tech; 41. Clemson; 42. Wake Forest; 43. Syracuse; 69. Georgia Tech; 70. Miami

    Big 12: 3. Kansas; 5. Baylor; 17. West Virginia; 27. Oklahoma State; 32. Iowa State; 34. Kansas State; 38. TCU

    Big East: 1. Villanova; 13. Creighton; 16. Butler; 25. Xavier; 37. Marquette; 45. Seton Hall; 72. Georgetown

    Big Ten: 15. Wisconsin; 18. Purdue; 23. Maryland; 30. Northwestern; 31. Minnesota; 36. Michigan State; 44. Indiana

    Missouri Valley: 40. Wichita State; 73. Illinois State

    Pac-12: 9. Oregon; 11. Arizona; 20. UCLA; 29. USC; 39. California

    SEC: 12. Kentucky; 14. Florida; 22. South Carolina; 46. Tennessee; 71. Arkansas

    West Coast: 2. Gonzaga; 21. Saint Mary's

    Other: 47. Middle Tennessee; 48. UNC Wilmington; 49. Nevada; 50. Texas-Arlington; 51. Vermont; 52. Belmont; 53. New Mexico State; 54. Monmouth; 55. East Tennessee State; 56. Akron; 57. Valparaiso; 58. Princeton; 59. Bucknell; 60. Florida Gulf Coast; 61. Winthrop; 62. North Dakota State; 63. Texas Southern; 64. Eastern Washington; 65. Sam Houston State; 66. North Carolina Central; 67. UC Irvine; 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, Feb. 6.

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