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

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystFebruary 14, 2017

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

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    Villanova remains the team to beat atop the seeding projection for the 2017 NCAA tournament.
    Villanova remains the team to beat atop the seeding projection for the 2017 NCAA tournament.Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Projections for the NCAA tournament can change in the blink of an eye, but it has been three days since the NCAA selection committee released its top 16 seeds, and we still have the same four No. 1 seeds they had Saturday afternoon: Villanova, Gonzaga, Kansas and Baylor.

    Those teams have fierce challengers, though. The ACC doesn't have a team in the top four, but it does have six in the top 14. Arizona, Oregon, Kentucky and even Florida are all in the mix for a spot on the top line.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum, the bubble is a convoluted mess. The difference between being a No. 9 seed and being the ninth team out is minimal at best. Plenty of teams on the wrong side of the cut line are just one quality win away from jumping comfortably into the field, while teams currently projected for the tournament could be one bad loss away from the NIT

    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 since last week. 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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    Can Marquette recover from yet another pair of back-to-back losses?
    Can Marquette recover from yet another pair of back-to-back losses?Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Last Team In: Marquette Golden Eagles (15-10, RPI: 84, KP: 42, SOS: 65)

    Since the back-to-back wins over Creighton and Villanova that supposedly saved their season, the Golden Eagles have gone 1-4 with losses to St. John's, Providence and Georgetown. Their RPI is hideous, thanks in large part to a nonconference SOS that ranks 261st.

    But by putting both West Virginia (RPI: 30, NC SOS: 238) and UCLA (RPI: 25, NC SOS: 252) in Saturday's top 16, it seems the selection committee isn't quite as concerned as usual with which teams played in November and December. Quality wins are more important, and Marquette has three RPI Top 50 winsincluding one against the No. 1 overall seed.

    The Golden Eagles probably need to go 4-1 the rest of the way, which won't be easy with two games remaining against Xavier and one against Creighton. But that remaining schedule, plus the Big East tournament, should be enough to get their RPI back to a respectable level.

    Second-To-Last: Syracuse Orange (16-11, RPI: 72, KP: 48, SOS: 55)

    Despite consecutive losses to Pittsburgh and Louisville in the last three days, Syracuse still has more than a faint pulse. The Orange have two wins against the RPI Top 15 and seven wins against the RPI Top 55, but they are forever trying to make up for bad early losses to Connecticut, St. John's and Boston College.

    They need to at least win both of their remaining games against Georgia Tech and would be strongly advised to get to 19-12 with either a home win over Duke or a road win over Louisville. If they instead finish 18-13, they'll probably need at least one win in the ACC tournament to get into the big one. 

    Third-To-Last: Tennessee Volunteers (13-11, RPI: 47, KP: 41, SOS: 5)

    In a vacuum, it was a terrible week for Tennessee. Following Saturday's home loss to Georgia, the Volunteers can only afford one more regular-season loss if they want to dance. With games remaining at Kentucky and South Carolina, that's a tough hill to climb.

    Yet, they remain in the projected field because other bubble teams fared even worse. Marquette and Indiana each suffered multiple losses. Seton Hall suffered a worse loss (St. John's) than Tennessee did. And Wake Forest fell to 0-8 against the RPI Top 50 with its loss to Notre Dame. But if Tennessee doesn't finish strong, it will inevitably be bypassed.

    Fourth-To-Last: Clemson Tigers (13-11, RPI: 56, KP: 39, SOS: 19)

    Close but no cigar has become the unofficial motto of Clemson's season following another pair of one-possession losses this week. The Tigers lost by one on a buzzer-beater against Syracuse and were unable to return the favor against Duke when Shelton Mitchell fumbled away what could have been the game-winning shot.

    Eight of their 11 losses have come by a margin of six points or fewer, which explains the top 40 KenPom ranking despite a 3-9 record in ACC play. But regardless of the margin, the next loss might be the one that crushes their at-large dream. Those quality wins at the end of December don't carry anywhere near as much weight as they once did.

    Fifth-To-Last: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (14-10, RPI: 78, KP: 79, SOS: 50)

    Georgia Tech just had the easiest week in mid-February that you'll ever see from a major-conference program, winning home games against Boston College and D-II Tusculum. The Yellow Jackets dropped in both RPI and SOS as a result, but at least they didn't lose any games. That's better than most teams on the bubble can claim in the past seven days.

    The computer numbers aren't good, but Georgia Tech does have four wins against the RPI Top 30North Carolina, Florida State, Notre Dame and VCU.

    Still, the Yellow Jackets probably need to go at least 4-2 down the stretch, which means protecting home court against Syracuse, Pittsburgh and N.C. State while also winning a road game against Miami, Notre Dame or Syracuse. Anything short of that and they'll need to find some magic in the ACC tournament.

First 5 Out

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    Hey, Wake Forest: Beat somebody good!
    Hey, Wake Forest: Beat somebody good!Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    First Team Out: Wake Forest Demon Deacons (15-10, RPI: 31, KP: 32, SOS: 15)

    At some point, Wake Forest has to beat a quality opponent, right? Those computer numbers look great, but the Demon Deacons are 0-8 against the RPI Top 50 and 1-10 against the RPI Top 72.

    It's one thing when a minor-conference team has a resume with zero great wins and zero bad losses in just a handful of opportunities against quality opponents, but Wake Forest has given away too many chances at this point. With five games remaining against teams in the RPI Top 60, though, these final three weeks will determine whether the Demon Deacons deserve to be in the field.

    Second Team Out: Seton Hall Pirates (15-9, RPI: 49, KP: 55, SOS: 49)

    In the next 10 days, we're going to find out whether this team is any good. In addition to suffering losses to Marquette, Providence and St. John's, Seton Hall has not beaten a RPI Top 60 team since a three-point neutral-court win over South Carolina in mid-Decemberand the Gamecocks played that game without their star, Sindarius Thornwell.

    But the Pirates are about to play three consecutive home games against Creighton, Villanova and Xavier. They also close the regular season with a road game against Butler. They need to win at least two of those games to finish .500 in Big East play, but they also need to win two of those games to show they're worthy of a bid.

    Third Team Out: Rhode Island Rams (16-8, RPI: 40, KP: 44, SOS: 51)

    Rhode Island was a late Xeyrius Williams three-pointer away from picking up a marquee win against Dayton Friday night. Alas, the Rams fell one possession shy of a win for the fourth time this season.

    That leaves them with just one quality win (vs. Cincinnati) and only one other victory against the RPI Top 100 (vs. Belmont). They do have one more big opportunity against VCU in two weekends, but it might be a do-or-die game given the lack of noteworthy victories.

    Fourth Team Out: Indiana Hoosiers (15-11, RPI: 93, KP: 49, SOS: 45)

    Remember back in November when North Carolina lost at Indiana and we partially chalked it up to how difficult it is for opposing teams to go into Assembly Hall? So much for that theory, as Indiana lost consecutive home games to Purdue and Michigan this week to fall to 4-4 at home in Big Ten play and 5-8 overall against conference foes.

    The Hoosiers still have those great wins over UNC and Kansas and only have one loss to a team outside the RPI Top 100. However, they are failing the proverbial eye test by losing nine of their last 14 games. They probably need to get back to .500 in Big Ten play to make the tournament, which means going 4-1 with four of those five games coming on the road.

    Fifth Team Out: Illinois State Redbirds (20-5, RPI: 34, KP: 45, SOS: 129)

    At this point, the Redbirds are at the mercy of the other teams on the bubble. Wins against Drake and Bradley did nothing to help them. In fact, their RPI dropped from 31 to 34 and their SOS plummeted from 103 to 129. Their four remaining regular-season games won't be that damagingprovided they win them—but they don't play another team in the RPI Top 125.

    Even if the Indianas and Seton Halls of this world keep losing games, it's hard to imagine Illinois State getting in with three RPI Top 100 wins and three losses to teams outside the RPI Top 100.

On the Horizon

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    How long can the Cougars keep this winning streak going?
    How long can the Cougars keep this winning streak going?Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    Between losses piling up and time running out, it's getting tougher by the day to find teams that could still play their way into the field. But here are a few teams that have a shot if they bring their A-game for the next few weeks.

    Houston Cougars (18-7, RPI: 58, KP: 36, SOS: 100)

    I left this team for dead after consecutive losses to UCF, Memphis and SMU in mid-January. However, in apparent honor of the midseason return of The Walking Dead, the Cougars' tournament chances have been reanimated after five consecutive wins. Granted, sweeping Tulane, winning at Tulsa and winning home games against Temple and UCF is nothing special, but it's better than losing to any of those teams.

    Houston will still need to earn its bid, though, with four consecutive games against SMU, Connecticut, Memphis and Cincinnati on deck. Going 3-1 against that slate (and winning the season finale against East Carolina) would at least give this team reasonable hope heading into the AAC tournament.

    Ole Miss Rebels (15-10, RPI: 59, KP: 69, SOS: 31)

    Like Wake Forest, Ole Miss has blown more than its fair share of opportunities. It is 1-9 against the RPI Top 60, and that one win (vs. Tennessee) isn't nearly enough to hang a hat on. The Rebels don't play Kentucky or Florida again and finish the season with a home game against South Carolina. They would be in good shape if they win every remaining game before the SEC tournament, but that's their only path to an at-large bid that doesn't include a trip to the SEC championship game.

    Arkansas Razorbacks (18-7, RPI: 44, KP: 57, SOS: 69)

    After last week's unforgivable loss to Missouri, Arkansas doubled down with a home loss to Vanderbilt and a tight game against LSU in which the Razorbacks trailed by 14 in the first half. The seven in the loss column looks nice, but we're still waiting on Arkansas to beat a tournament team.

    For better or worse, the Razorbacks close out the season with six consecutive games against the RPI Top 100, including road games against Florida and South Carolina. If they still have a single-digit number in the loss column on Selection Sunday, they should be in business.

    Auburn Tigers (16-9, RPI: 66, KP: 76, SOS: 72)

    This isn't some desperate attempt to find worthy SEC teams. That league just happens to have a handful of teams that could be one or two quality wins away from the field. Case in point; no one has been talking about Auburn as a bubble team this year, but that conversation would begin in earnest if the Tigers were to win Tuesday's home game against Florida.

    They have a middling resume with one quality win (at TCU) and one bad loss (vs. Boston College). That's not nearly enough for a bid, but supporting it with a win over the Gators while avoiding bad losses the rest of the way could do the trick.

    Providence Friars (15-11, RPI: 68, KP: 60, SOS: 36)

    Rather than a resume devoid of great wins and bad losses, Providence has a ton of each. The Friars beat Butler, Rhode Island and Seton Hall and swept Georgetown. They also lost to Boston College, DePaul and St. John's. Given their lackluster nonconference schedule and 5-8 Big East record, they probably need to win every remaining game, beginning with hosting Xavier this Wednesday.

    Georgetown Hoyas (14-12, RPI: 62, KP: 53, SOS: 12)

    Georgetown kept hope afloat with a dominant home win over Marquette, but the Hoyas are still going to need to win at least four of their final five regular-season games. This includes a home game against Villanova and road games against Creighton and Seton Hall.

    Texas Tech Red Raiders (17-9, RPI: 99, KP: 40, SOS: 102)

    Texas Tech has lost four games in the past three weeks by a margin of four points or fewer, including a pair of one-point losses to TCU and Kansas in the last seven days.

    The Red Raiders had one of the worst nonconference schedules in the country and probably need to get to 10-8 in Big 12 play to make up for it. Currently sitting at 5-8, that means winning every remaining game, including road games against West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Good luck with that.

East Region (New York City)

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    Northwestern is tightening its grip on a long-awaited trip to the NCAA tournament.
    Northwestern is tightening its grip on a long-awaited trip to the NCAA tournament.Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    Buffalo, New York

    No. 1 Villanova (25-2, RPI: 2, KP: 3, SOS: 28)
    No. 16 Sam Houston State / Mount St. Mary's (First Four)

    No. 8 Oklahoma State (15-9, RPI: 29, KP: 20, SOS: 11)
    No. 9 California (18-7, RPI: 35, KP: 46, SOS: 41)

    Buffalo, New York

    No. 4 Virginia (18-6, RPI: 14, KP: 2, SOS: 13)
    No. 13 Vermont (America East Auto Bid)

    No. 5 West Virginia (20-6, RPI: 30, KP: 4, SOS: 74)
    No. 12 UNC-Wilmington (CAA Auto Bid)

    Indianapolis, Indiana

    No. 3 Kentucky (20-5, RPI: 9, KP: 8, SOS: 9)
    No. 14 Chattanooga (Southern Auto Bid)

    No. 6 Cincinnati (22-3, RPI: 15, KP: 21, SOS: 62)
    No. 11 Marquette / Syracuse (First Four)

    Greenville, South Carolina

    No. 2 North Carolina (20-5, RPI: 8, KP: 10, SOS: 20)
    No. 15 Bucknell (Patriot Auto Bid)

    No. 7 Northwestern (19-6, RPI: 33, KP: 30, SOS: 70)
    No. 10 Kansas State (16-9, RPI: 42, KP: 28, SOS: 38)

    Stock Up: Northwestern Wildcats (Up Four Spots)

    It's still too early to use the "L" word, but Northwestern is closing in on its first-ever trip to the NCAA tournament.

    The week started out horribly with a home loss to Illinois, but the Wildcats made up for that and then some with a road win over Big Ten front-runner Wisconsin. Despite playing without leading scorer Scottie Lindsey (undisclosed illness) for the third consecutive game, Northwestern shut down Ethan Happ and Bronson Koenig and received a monster performance from Bryant McIntosh (25 points, seven assists and seven rebounds).

    At long last, the Wildcats have their marquee win. At this point, they probably just need to avoid disaster in order to dance. Even if they lose the home game against Maryland this Wednesday, following that up with wins over Rutgers and Illinois would effectively lock up their bid.

    Stock Down: Virginia Cavaliers (Dropped Seven Spots)

    Virginia's only game since our last projected bracket was Sunday night's double-overtime loss to Virginia Tech. Despite leading by 14 at halftime, the Cavaliers gave it all away. Dating back to the 2016 Elite Eight, it was the sixth time in the last 25 games that they suffered a loss after holding a lead of at least nine points at some juncture in the contest.

    The Cavaliers now have a bit of a strange resume with losses to Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Virginia Tech and only two wins against the RPI Top 25a season sweep of Louisville.

    Tempo-free metrics adore this team, but they're going to need some quality wins to get back into the running for best seed among ACC teams. Virginia hosts Duke this Wednesday and still plays a pair of games against North Carolina, so at least the opportunities are there.

Midwest Region (Kansas City)

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    Derrick Walton Jr. had 45 points, 12 assists and five steals this week in a pair of big wins for the Wolverines.
    Derrick Walton Jr. had 45 points, 12 assists and five steals this week in a pair of big wins for the Wolverines.Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

    Tulsa, Oklahoma

    No. 1 Kansas (23-3, RPI: 3, KP: 9, SOS: 17)
    No. 16 UC Irvine / North Carolina Central (First Four)

    No. 8 Dayton (18-5, RPI: 28, KP; 33, SOS: 67)
    No. 9 Michigan (16-9, RPI: 61, KP: 31, SOS: 47)

    Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    No. 4 Notre Dame (19-7, RPI: 26, KP: 24, SOS: 24)
    No. 13 Belmont (Ohio Valley Auto Bid)

    No. 5 Butler (19-6, RPI: 12, KP: 25, SOS: 7)
    No. 12 Texas-Arlington (Sun Belt Auto Bid)

    Sacramento, California

    No. 3 Oregon (21-4, RPI: 7, KP: 17, SOS: 27)
    No. 14 New Mexico State (WAC Auto Bid)

    No. 6 Minnesota (18-7, RPI: 24, KP: 37, SOS: 22)
    No. 11 Iowa State (15-9, RPI: 55, KP: 26, SOS: 46)

    Orlando, Florida

    No. 2 Florida State (21-5, RPI: 11, KP: 13, SOS: 25)
    No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun Auto Bid)

    No. 7 Xavier (18-7, RPI: 13, KP: 29, SOS: 3)
    No. 10 Wichita State (22-4, RPI: 48, KP: 16, SOS: 162)

    Stock Up: Michigan Wolverines (New to the Field)

    By and large, this was a bad week for teams on the bubble. Northwestern, Virginia Tech and Providence were the only ones to defeat a team in the AP Top 25, and we're being generous with our definition of "bubble" by even including Providence on that list. Most of the other teams either blew golden opportunities or suffered bad losses.

    Partially because of those struggles around the country, Michigan's dominant wins over Michigan State and Indiana stand out like a beacon of light.

    The Wolverines are still just 6-6 in Big Ten play and have a tough schedule remaininghome games against Wisconsin and Purdue and four road gamesbut they now have two RPI Top 50 wins (SMU and Michigan State) and a total of nine wins against the RPI Top 100. There are only 25 other teams that entered play on Monday with that many Top 100 wins, and all 25 rank among our top 30 overall seeds.

    Michigan will need to get its RPI rank (61) down to a more palatable figure before Selection Sunday, but this is looking like the sixth-best tournament resume from the Big Ten as we hit the home stretch of the regular season. 

    Stock Down: Iowa State Cyclones (Dropped Nine Spots)

    Less than 10 days after the "season-defining" road win over Kansas, Iowa State is back in bubble trouble, courtesy of its worst loss of the season.

    Suffering an apparent hangover from that win over the Jayhawks, the Cyclones fell behind Texas 22-5 in their next game, ultimately losing by a two-point margin. It was their second loss of the year to a team outside the RPI Top 100the other was at Iowawhich isn't great news for a team with just four wins against the RPI Top 98.

    Iowa State is 7-5 in Big 12 play, but it went 9-4 during the nonconference portion of the season with only one win against the RPI Top 150. The Cyclones might need to go 3-3 the rest of the way in order to cement their bid, and there's not a gimme left on their schedule.

South Region (Memphis)

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    The Gators are climbing the overall seed list with (granny) style.
    The Gators are climbing the overall seed list with (granny) style.Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Tulsa, Oklahoma

    No. 1 Baylor (21-4, RPI: 1, KP: 7, SOS: 2)
    No. 16 Eastern Washington (Big Sky Auto Bid)

    No. 8 Virginia Tech (17-7, RPI: 39, KP: 51, SOS: 64)
    No. 9 USC (21-5, RPI: 32, KP: 58, SOS: 84)

    Milwaukee, Wisconsin

    No. 4 Creighton (20-4, RPI: 17, KP: 22, SOS: 37)
    No. 13 Monmouth (MAAC Auto Bid)

    No. 5 Purdue (20-5, RPI: 19, KP: 11, SOS: 39)
    No. 12 Middle Tennessee (C-USA Auto Bid)

    Orlando, Florida

    No. 3 Florida (20-5, RPI: 10, KP: 6, SOS: 18)
    No. 14 Princeton (Ivy League Auto Bid)

    No. 6 SMU (22-4, RPI: 18, KP: 12, SOS: 77)
    No. 11 Clemson / Tennessee (First Four)

    Indianapolis, Indiana

    No. 2 Louisville (21-5, RPI: 4, KP: 5, SOS: 4)
    No. 15 UNC-Asheville (Big South Auto Bid)

    No. 7 South Carolina (19-5, RPI: 21, KP: 27, SOS: 42)
    No. 10 Michigan State (15-10, RPI: 41, KP: 54, SOS: 16)

    Stock Up: Florida Gators (Up Four Spots)

    On behalf of all bracketologists, I'll admit to spending the past six weeks looking for a reason to not buy into Florida's computer profile. It's nothing personal against the Gators. It's just thatuntil their 22-point win over Kentucky two Saturdays agothey felt like an outlier, somehow beating the system for better RPI, KP and SOS numbers than they deserved.

    But I have been converted to believe that this is the best team in the SEC and that it has earned the best seed among teams from that conference.

    That might change two weeks from now after rematches with South Carolina and Kentucky, but the Gators have just one loss to a team outside the RPI Top 25 and 10 wins against teams in the RPI Top 75six of which came away from home.

    Florida would likely need to win every remaining game (including the SEC tournament) in order to get into the conversation for a No. 1 seed, but a No. 2 seed is well within reach.

    Stock Down: Michigan State Spartans (Dropped Four Spots)

    The past five weeks have not been kind to the Spartans.

    Those four early losses to Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor and Duke have long since been forgotten; and the nonconference win over Wichita State is looking even better with age. But Michigan State is just 4-5 in its last nine games, despite playing just two of those against teams that are near-locks to reach the NCAA tournament.

    The mid-January home win over Minnesota was nice. Losing to Penn State, Ohio State, Indiana and Michigan was not. The Spartans are now saddled with 10 total lossesfive to teams outside the RPI Top 60and still have games remaining at Purdue, at Maryland and vs. Wisconsin. To remain in the projected field, they're going to need to win at least one of those games against the conference's top three teams.

West Region (San Jose)

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    If nonconference SOS doesn't matter, Miami is in great shape.
    If nonconference SOS doesn't matter, Miami is in great shape.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Salt Lake City, Utah

    No. 1 Gonzaga (26-0, RPI: 5, KP: 1, SOS: 75)
    No. 16 Texas Southern (SWAC Auto Bid)

    No. 8 VCU (20-5, RPI: 27, KP: 43, SOS: 66)
    No. 9 TCU (16-8, RPI: 36, KP: 38, SOS: 33)

    Sacramento, California

    No. 4 UCLA (23-3, RPI: 25, KP: 18, SOS: 104)
    No. 13 Nevada (Mountain West Auto Bid)

    No. 5 Wisconsin (21-4, RPI: 23, KP: 15, SOS: 76)
    No. 12 Akron (MAC Auto Bid)

    Greenville, South Carolina

    No. 3 Duke (20-5, RPI: 16, KP: 14, SOS: 29)
    No. 14 Valparaiso (Horizon Auto Bid)

    No. 6 Maryland (20-4, RPI: 22, KP: 35, SOS: 52)
    No. 11 Georgia Tech (Last Five In)

    Salt Lake City, Utah

    No. 2 Arizona (23-3, RPI: 6, KP: 23, SOS: 34)
    No. 15 North Dakota State (Summit Auto Bid)

    No. 7 Saint Mary's (22-3, RPI: 20, KP: 19, SOS: 80)
    No. 10 Miami (16-8, RPI: 52, KP: 34, SOS: 58)

    Stock Up: Miami Hurricanes (New to the Field)

    Save for temporarily falling to 2-4 after road losses to Wake Forest and Duke, Miami has been within one game of .500 in ACC play for the past seven weeks. The Hurricanes kept that trend going with a home win over Virginia Tech and a road loss to Louisville, progressing to 6-6 against the ACC. And if they can finish the season at .500, it should be enough for a bid.

    Their nonconference schedule was atrocious. Outside of drawing Iowa State and Florida in the Advocare Invitational (both losses), the Hurricanes didn't play a single game against a team that has won more than 52 percent of its games this year. Aside from Virginia Tech (289) and Texas Tech (329), Miami's nonconference SOS rank (262) is the worst among teams under consideration for an at-large bid.

    But they don't have any bad losses and have a pair of RPI Top 50 wins over North Carolina and Virginia Tech. Getting to .500 in conference play would meanat worstpicking up additional wins over Georgia Tech, Clemson and Virginia Tech while acquiring understandable losses to Virginia, Duke and Florida State. As long as they don't lose to Boston College in their first game of the ACC tournament, that ought to get them in.

    Stock Down: Saint Mary's Gaels (Dropped Seven Spots)

    Following its second loss to Gonzaga by a double-digit margin, how certain are we that Saint Mary's is good? The Gaels have not beaten a team in the RPI Top 75 since mid-November, and even their two best wins come with some caveats.

    The season-opening home win against Nevada was a victory over a team trying to replace four of last year's six leading scorers with a few transfers. It's no surprise that Saint Mary'swhich brought back all of last year's key playerslooked superior in that one. Eight days later, the signature win over Dayton came against a team that just lost a key frontcourt player (Josh Cunningham) to injury and that did not yet have its frontcourt star (Kendall Pollard) due to injury.

    Other than that, all Saint Mary's has done is lose to Gonzaga and Texas-Arlington and beat up on teams with no business thinking about an at-large bid.

    As long as they don't lose another regular-season game, the Gaels should be safe. Their 27-5 wasn't enough for a bid last year, but A) the bar for a bid is a bit lower than it was last year, B) the Gaels put together a much stronger nonconference schedule and C) 28-4 is better than 27-5.

    However, if Saturday's road game against BYU turns into this team's worst loss of the season, Saint Mary's could be in some trouble with a third blowout loss to Gonzaga in the WCC championship game.

Ranking the No. 1 Seeds

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    Losing to Texas Tech wasn't enough to bump Baylor from the top line.
    Losing to Texas Tech wasn't enough to bump Baylor from the top line.John Weast/Getty Images

    No. 4 Baylor Bears (21-4, RPI: 1, KP: 7, SOS: 2)

    Despite picking up their worst loss of the season (at Texas Tech) Monday night, we couldn't justify bumping the Bears off the top line.

    They have 10 RPI Top 50 winsno other team entered Monday with more than eightand put together the best nonconference resume of any team in the country.

    When all is said and done, it would be a surprise if the Big 12 ends up with two teams on the top line. There are six ACC teams in the top 14 of this projection, and eventually one of them will emerge as a team deserving of a No. 1 seed. Both Arizona and Oregon are still in the mix, too, if either can finish with a flourish and win the Pac-12 tournament.

    As things stand, though, there are not four resumes in the country better than the one Baylor has. 

    No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks (23-3, RPI: 3, KP: 9, SOS: 17)

    As if there was ever a doubt, Kansas fully took the reins for a 13th consecutive Big 12 title Monday night with a historic comeback against West Virginia.

    The Jayhawks trailed by 14 with 2:45 remaining. ESPN's cameras were showing fans leaving the Phog in disgust. But they went on a 21-7 run the rest of the way to force overtime. Once there, Kansas was able to pick up its eighth RPI Top 50 and 15th RPI Top 100 win of the season.

    Even if the Jayhawks had lost the game, they still would have been a No. 1 seed in this projection. That should give you some indication of how securely they now are on the top line.

    No. 2 Gonzaga Bulldogs (26-0, RPI: 5, KP: 1, SOS: 75)

    Though the selection committee had Gonzaga as the fourth No. 1 seed on Saturday afternoon, that was before the Bulldogs got one of their best wins of the season at Saint Mary's. Had the committee released their top 16 seeds 12 hours later, the Bulldogs likely would have been in this spot instead.

    Either way, as long as they keep winning, they'll be the No. 1 seed in the West Region. Whether that's No. 1 or No. 4 overall is irrelevant.

    Speaking of irrelevant, it's a shame Gonzaga only scheduled 12 nonconference games instead of the customary 13. Over the past several years, the quest for perfection has been one for 40 wins. But winning every remaining game through the national championship would only get them to 39-0. It wouldn't make the achievement any less impressive, but it doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

    No. 1 Villanova Wildcats (25-2, RPI: 2, KP: 3, SOS: 28)

    Villanova has been our projected No. 1 overall seed for several weeks. Since the last update, the Wildcats beat Georgetown by 11, stomped Xavier by 16 and waltzing past DePaul by 13. Gonzaga is a serious contender for the title and deserves a ton of respect for getting this deep into the season with a zero in the loss column, but the national champions are refusing to clear a path for the Zags to become the No. 1 overall seed.

    The crazy thing is Villanova has been doing most of its damage lately without getting much of anything from last year's hero. Prior to Monday night's game against DePaul, Kris Jenkins was averaging 8.7 points over his last six games, shooting 27.5 percent from three-point range.

    It wasn't until late February last year that Jenkins started to catch fire. If he has another end-of-season hot streak coming, best of luck to everyone in this team's path.

Seeding by Conference

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    The ACC is well-represented in the projected field, per usual.
    The ACC is well-represented in the projected field, per usual.Streeter Lecka/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: 21. SMU; 22. Cincinnati

    Atlantic 10: 30. Dayton; 32. VCU; 71. Rhode Island

    ACC: 5. Louisville; 6. North Carolina; 8. Florida State; 9. Duke; 13. Virginia; 14. Notre Dame; 29. Virginia Tech; 38. Miami; 42. Georgia Tech; 43. Clemson; 45. Syracuse; 69. Wake Forest

    Big 12: 3. Kansas; 4. Baylor; 18. West Virginia; 31. Oklahoma State; 34. TCU; 37. Kansas State; 41. Iowa State

    Big East: 1. Villanova; 15. Creighton; 19. Butler; 27. Xavier; 46. Marquette; 70. Seton Hall

    Big Ten: 17. Purdue; 20. Wisconsin; 23. Maryland; 24. Minnesota; 26. Northwestern; 36. Michigan; 40. Michigan State; 72. Indiana

    Missouri Valley: 39. Wichita State; 73. Illinois State

    Pac-12: 7. Arizona; 11. Oregon; 16. UCLA; 33. USC; 35. California

    SEC: 10. Florida; 12. Kentucky; 25. South Carolina; 44. Tennessee

    West Coast: 2. Gonzaga; 28. Saint Mary's

    Other: 47. Middle Tennessee; 48. UNC Wilmington; 49. Texas-Arlington; 50. Akron; 51. Vermont; 52. Nevada; 53. Belmont; 54. Monmouth; 55. Valparaiso; 56. Princeton; 57. Chattanooga; 58. New Mexico State; 59. UNC-Asheville; 60. Bucknell; 61. Florida Gulf Coast; 62. North Dakota State; 63. Texas Southern; 64. Eastern Washington; 65. UC Irvine; 66. North Carolina Central; 67. Sam Houston State; 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. 13.

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