With Selection Sunday just two weeks away, Villanova remains our projected No. 1 overall seed for the 2017 NCAA tournament. Joining the Wildcats on the top line are Kansas, North Carolina and Gonzaga—though the Zags are in serious danger of losing that honor now that they no longer have a goose egg in the loss column.
Ladies and gentlemen, college basketball's championship week has officially arrived. Major conference teams still have one or two regular-season games remaining, but the Atlantic Sun gets the conference tournament party started with Monday's quarterfinals.
It's now or never for the litany of teams still sitting on the bubble, desperately seeking that one quality win (or two, or three) that could push them into the field.
Since our last bracket projection (Feb. 21), two former bubble teams that have all but locked up their bids are Miami and Michigan State.
The former improved to 10-6 in ACC play with a win over Duke. Coupled with previous wins over North Carolina and Virginia, the Hurricanes would seem to have done enough regardless of how these next two weeks go. The latter also improved to 10-6 in its conference, scoring home wins over Nebraska and Wisconsin. The Spartans do still have that ugly home loss to Northeastern, but their six RPI Top 50 wins have more than made up for that misstep.
But Miami and Michigan State are in the minority, as most bubble teams are playing their way out of the picture. Clemson, Georgia Tech, Kansas State and USC were each on the correct side of the bubble six days ago, but they have since gone a combined 0-8 to fall onto the wrong side. Elsewhere, Xavier is still in the field but has dropped onto the bubble with its fourth and fifth consecutive losses.
Here's the full region-by-region picture of what the bracket might look like if the season ended today, followed by some commentary on the No. 1 seeds and the teams right on the cut line:
|2017 NCAA Tournament Projection (Feb. 26)|
|Seed||East (NYC)||Midwest (KC)||South (Memphis)||West (San Jose)|
|Sub-Region||Buffalo, New York||Tulsa, Oklahoma||Greenville, South Carolina||Salt Lake City, Utah|
|16||Texas Southern / New Orleans||NC Central / Mount St. Mary's||UC Irvine||Eastern Washington|
|8||Michigan||Miami||South Carolina||Oklahoma State|
|Sub-Region||Buffalo, New York||Orlando, Florida||Milwaukee, Wisconsin||Greenville, South Carolina|
|5||Purdue||SMU||Notre Dame||West Virginia|
|12||Nevada||Marquette / Wake Forest||Texas-Arlington||California / Syracuse|
|Sub-Region||Sacramento, California||Salt Lake City, Utah||Milwaukee, Wisconsin||Orlando, Florida|
|6||Saint Mary's||Creighton||Iowa State||Cincinnati|
|11||Providence||Illinois State||Vanderbilt||Seton Hall|
|14||Bucknell||Valparaiso||Akron||East Tennessee State|
|Sub-Region||Indianapolis, Indiana||Indianapolis, Indiana||Tulsa, Oklahoma||Sacramento, California|
|10||UNC-Wilmington||Virginia Tech||Middle Tennessee||Xavier|
|15||North Dakota State||UNC-Asheville||Florida Gulf Coast||New Mexico State|
We'll see what happens in the next two weeks, but the top three teams seem to be locked in as No. 1 seeds. Villanova, Kansas and North Carolina have already clinched the No. 1 seeds in the conference tournaments of the three best conferences in the country. As long as they don't lose to a bottom-feeder, they should remain on the top line.
However, that fourth No. 1 seed is anyone's guess.
Gonzaga has the most deserving resume at the moment, but even if the Bulldogs win the WCC tournament, they could get bypassed by any number of teams. If Baylor wins every remaining game, it could have three times as many RPI Top 50 wins as Gonzaga. Same goes for Butler, Florida State and Duke. Both Florida and Kentucky could still get into the mix by winning the SEC tournament. And as long as Oregon, Arizona or UCLA wins the Pac-12 tourney, that team will have a solid case, too.
Those teams are just jostling for position, though. The more intriguing drama is with the teams battling for those last couple of No. 12 seeds.
Here's a quick look at our last five in and first five out:
Fifth-to-Last In: Vanderbilt Commodores. They have 13 losses and finish the regular season with games against Kentucky and Florida. Playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation has kept them in the conversation thus far, but they need to win at least one of those games—possibly both.
Fourth-to-Last In: Marquette Golden Eagles. Losing to Providence over the weekend was a big no-no that leaves Marquette needing to finish off a season sweep of either Xavier or Creighton this week. Even that might not be enough, as both of those teams are shells of their former selves.
Third-to-Last In: Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Played a brutal schedule, but 1-9 against the RPI Top 50 isn't going to cut it. The Deacs host Louisville Wednesday before playing at Virginia Tech Saturday. Win both and they're in. Go 1-1 and they can play their way in with a win or two in the ACC tourney.
Second-to-Last In: Syracuse Orange. The win over Duke was huge, but it wasn't nearly enough to lock the Orange into the field. With 13 losses and a bad RPI rank (78), they must win the season finale against Georgia Tech before at least showing up in the ACC tournament.
Last Team In: California Golden Bears. They blew a huge opportunity against Oregon, giving away a 16-point second-half lead in the process of falling to 0-5 against the Pac-12's top three teams. Cal's only wins against projected NCAA tournament teams are auto-qualifiers Princeton and UC Irvine. It might need to win both games at Utah and Colorado this week.
First Team Out: USC Trojans. USC has lost four in a row to fall to 8-8 in a conference that might only have three NCAA tournament teams. The Trojans do have great home wins over SMU and UCLA, but Sunday night's loss to Arizona State leaves them with work to do. And remaining home games against Washington and Washington State are only going to hurt USC's RPI.
Second Team Out: Illinois Fighting Illini. Out of nowhere, here come the Illini with four RPI Top 50 wins, nine RPI Top 100 wins and no losses to teams outside the RPI Top 100. The problem with just focusing on those buckets, though, is that only one of those four "great" wins came against the RPI Top 45, five of the Top 100 wins came against teams ranked 71 or worse and four of their losses came against Winthrop, Indiana and Penn State (twice). But Illinois is in the conversation with a big opportunity against Michigan State this Wednesday.
Third Team Out: Rhode Island Rams. We wrote this team off after its home loss to Fordham, but Rhode Island has crept back into the picture with consecutive wins over George Mason, La Salle and VCU. The Rams have benefited from a ton of external help, as well. Early-season losses to Valparaiso, Providence and Houston don't look too bad with Valpo's winning a share of the Horizon League and the Friars and Cougars streaking onto the bubble. It's the inverse of what happened to Monmouth last season, when its "quality" wins over UCLA and Georgetown grew less valuable by the day.
Fourth Team Out: TCU Horned Frogs. They almost got a huge win over West Virginia, but the Horned Frogs instead fell to 6-10 in Big 12 play. Home wins over Iowa State and Illinois State aren't nearly enough to buoy that anchor of a conference record. They must win remaining games against Kansas State and Oklahoma and probably need a win over Kansas or Baylor in the Big 12 tournament.
Fifth Team Out: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Losing at home to North Carolina State may have been the final straw. Even if the Yellow Jackets win their remaining games against Pittsburgh and Syracuse, they'll need at least a couple more wins in the ACC tournament to get their RPI (95) back to a respectable spot.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @kerrancejames.