2018 NCAA Tournament Bracket: Latest Projection of the Field of 68

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystJanuary 22, 2018

2018 NCAA Tournament Bracket: Latest Projection of the Field of 68

0 of 9

    Jalen Brunson (1), Eric Paschall (4) and Omari Spellman (14)
    Jalen Brunson (1), Eric Paschall (4) and Omari Spellman (14)Jessica Hill/Associated Press

    Defense may win championships, but offense is the name of the game in the race for No. 1 seeds for the 2018 men's NCAA tournament. Villanova, Duke and Purdue rank in the top five in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency on KenPom.com, and they are on the top line in the projected field.

    Elsewhere, former potential No. 1 seeds Kentucky, Texas Tech and Wichita State are among the teams trending rapidly in the wrong direction over the last seven days since our last projected bracket.

    As always, we'll take a look at the last five teams to make the field, as well as the first five out and a few others 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.


    KenPom rankings and RPI ratings (courtesy of WarrenNolan.com) current through the start of play on Jan. 21.

Last 5 In

1 of 9

    Barry Brown
    Barry BrownOrlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Last Team In: Kansas State Wildcats
    14-5, RPI: 57, KP: 38, SOS: 103

    Welcome to the Big 12, where you can do absolutely nothing for two months, win a pair of games against ranked teams and suddenly sneak into the tournament picture.

    One week agodespite a near-win at KansasKansas State wasn't even remotely on the NCAA tournament radar. But home wins over Oklahoma and TCU have given the Wildcats life. If they win the home game against Georgia in next weekend's SEC-B12 challenge, it would help redeem a terrible nonconference SOS and put KSU in a position to dance with a 9-9 Big 12 record.


    Second-to-Last: SMU Mustangs
    14-6, RPI: 53, KP: 32, SOS: 59

    After three straight losses to Tulane, Cincinnati and Temple to drop out of the projected field, SMU scored a huge road win over Wichita State to jump back in.

    Nonconference wins over Arizona, USC and Boise State are aging nicely, and each of the toughest games of the season is already behind the Mustangs. Even if they lose the remaining home games to Cincinnati and Wichita State, an 8-3 record the rest of the way would likely do the trick.


    Third-to-Last: Marquette Golden Eagles
    13-6, RPI: 47, KP: 42, SOS: 27

    Despite winning its only game in the past seven days, Marquette has slipped a few spots since last week. Such is life when winning a home game against DePaul by an 18-point margin causes both your RPI and SOS to fall more than 10 spots each.

    One thing to note about Marquette: Both of its Group 2 wins (vs. Vermont and at Wisconsin) just barely qualify as such. Those could both drop to Group 3 at any time, leaving the Golden Eagles with only two wins (vs. Seton Hall, at Providence) even remotely worth boasting about. They'll need at least one or two more quality wins in Big East play to have a legitimate case for a bid.


    Fourth-to-Last: Boise State Broncos
    15-4, RPI: 34, KP: 48, SOS: 83

    Almost doesn't count in RPI, but Boise State almost won a road game against Nevada this past Saturday. That would have been every bit the fortifying victory that Saint Mary's got against Gonzaga this week, but instead, the heartbreaking loss leaves the Broncos in a perilous position.

    They don't have any Group 1 wins, and most of their four Group 2 wins arelike Marquette'sin danger of becoming Group 3 wins at any moment. And with only two games remaining against RPI top 100 teams, Boise State's computer resume is going to gradually crumble over the next few weeks. Unless they plan on winning the Mountain West tournament, the Broncos probably need to win the home game against Nevada on Valentine's Day—as well as every other regular-season game.


    Fifth-to-Last: Syracuse Orange
    13-6, RPI: 42, KP: 49, SOS: 19

    Let's make one thing clear: From an RPI perspective, Syracuse has not done anything impressive in ACC play. The Orange are 2-4 with home wins over Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh, which might be the two worst teams in the conference right now.

    Their nonconference resume isn't great, either. Home wins over Buffalo and Maryland are as good as it gets. Basically, Syracuse is hanging around in the projected field only because it doesn't have any horrendous lossesthough the home loss to St. Bonaventure and road loss to Wake Forest aren't exactly stellar.

    But, hey, it wouldn't be a proper college basketball season without a heated debate about whether Syracuse belongs in the NCAA tournament.

First 5 Out

2 of 9

    Omer Yurtseven
    Omer YurtsevenKarl B DeBlaker/Associated Press

    First Team Out: Georgia Bulldogs
    12-6, RPI: 52, KP: 66, SOS: 61

    For the second straight week, Georgia is just barely on the wrong side of the cut line. The Bulldogs eked out a road win over LSU before blowing a 14-point halftime lead in a loss at Auburn. The nonconference neutral-court win over Saint Mary's got a little more valuable when the Gaels beat Gonzaga, but the neutral-court loss to San Diego State got a lot worse after the Aztecs lost to Fresno State and New Mexico.

    As seems to be the case every year, Georgia is the prototypical bubble team. It has a few nice wins and a handful of questionable losses, and it can't seem to string together any sort of prolonged success. Given what we've seen from the Bulldogs all season, expect them to win the home game against Arkansas, lose the road game against Kansas State and end up in this exact same spot in seven days.


    Second Team Out: Washington Huskies
    14-6, RPI: 51, KP: 99, SOS: 52

    KenPom still has no love for the Huskies, but they have road wins over Kansas, USC and Colorado. They also don't have any terrible losses, unless you're deluded enough to think a home loss to Stanford in the past few weeks is actually a bad one.

    But they still have a lot of work to do, because that win over Kansas is the only thing of any value accomplished in nonconference play. Washington hosts Arizona and Arizona State over the first weekend of February. A win in either of those games might push this team into the tournament picture.


    Third Team Out: North Carolina State Wolfpack
    13-7, RPI: 71, KP: 65, SOS: 80

    Few teams have a trio of wins better than NC State's top bragging rights. The Wolfpack won back-to-back home games against Duke and Clemson and scored a neutral-court win over Arizona in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

    But what else have they done? And is that enough to make up for bad losses to Northern Iowa and UNC Greensboro? Had they won Sunday's home game against Miami, they likely would have jumped into the field. Instead, they lost by a slim margin and need to find another quality win or two in the next seven weeks.


    Fourth Team Out: St. Bonaventure Bonnies
    12-6, RPI: 50, KP: 69, SOS: 72

    The Bonnies have lost four of their last five games, and only the road game against Rhode Island was one they were supposed to lose. They were our last team in last week, but a road loss to Davidson was more than enough to knock them out of the field.

    St. Bonaventure does have some nice wins away from home against Syracuse, Maryland and Buffalo, but this recent schneid has effectively eliminated all of the value extracted from those victories. The Bonnies might need to win every remaining regular-season game to get back into position for an at-large bid.


    Fifth Team Out: Maryland Terrapins
    14-6, RPI: 48, KP: 36, SOS: 49

    The best thing about Maryland's resume is "good" losses. The Terrapins have a home win over Butler, but their second-best win is either a home game against Penn State or Minnesotaneither of which is anywhere close to the projected field. But Maryland has a respectable computer resume because of six losses to RPI top 50 teams.

    If a fifth Big Ten team is going to sneak it, it's probably Maryland. The Terps are one big win away from having a strong case for a bid. They're also one bad loss away from dropping out of the conversation altogether. Stay tuned.

Next 7 Out

3 of 9

    Prince Ali (23) and Aaron Holiday (3)
    Prince Ali (23) and Aaron Holiday (3)Chris Pietsch/Associated Press

    In addition to the First 5 Out, here are a few others who were at least worth a second or third look before casting aside as unworthy. They could be one quality win or a couple of not-losses away from sneaking into the field.

    Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
    13-6, RPI: 43, KP: 46, SOS: 29

    There aren't many mid-major teams in the running for an at-large bid this year, but Western Kentucky certainly is. Neutral-court wins over Purdue and SMU are holding a lot of water, and the only C-USA loss the Hilltoppers have suffered was against Middle Tennessee (RPI: 23). Even if they lose the rematch with the Blue Raiders on March 1, the Hilltoppers will feature prominently in the bubble conversation if they can win every other conference game—which they should. 


    Notre Dame Fighting Irish
    12-7, RPI: 60, KP: 30, SOS: 51

    Since losing Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame has been more competitive than expected. Unfortunately, over the past two weeks, the Fighting Irish have just been competitive in losses. They have dropped four straight to Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Louisville and Clemson by combined margin of 21 points, including a double-overtime game. Unless they win one of the three remaining road games against Duke, North Carolina or Virginia, they're probably toast.


    UCLA Bruins
    13-7, RPI: 62, KP: 59, SOS: 60

    UCLA isn't anywhere close to the field. I'm just putting them here to note how quickly it all fell apart. After beating Kentucky on Dec. 23, KenPom had UCLA projected to win every game in January. Instead, it's 2-4 this month and has lost three straight. At this point, the Bruins must win at least one of the two road games against the Arizona schools, possibly both of them.


    Boston College Eagles
    13-7, RPI: 63, KP: 73, SOS: 86

    Had Boston College won at Louisville on Sunday, it likely would've become my last team in. The Eagles fell just a little short of that, but they have been remarkable in ACC play, beating Duke and Florida State and nearly knocking off Virginia, Clemson and Louisville. Had they done a single thing worth mentioning in nonconference play, they'd probably be in right now. Regardless of how this ends, credit to Jim Christian for finally getting this program pointed back in the right direction.


    South Carolina Gamecocks
    11-7, RPI: 54, KP: 76, SOS: 43

    South Carolina picked up a huge home win over Kentucky this week, but the Gamecocks couldn't quite finish off the two-game homestand with a win over Tennessee. They have a massive opportunity at home against Texas Tech in the SEC/B12 challenge on Saturday. A win over the Red Raiders would be a significant boost to what is currently a rather pathetic nonconference resume. 


    Temple Owls
    10-9, RPI: 46, KP: 92, SOS: 2

    Neutral-court wins over Auburn and Clemson in November are the gifts that keep on giving to Temple. The Owls have an impressive resume for a team that just got back over .500 for the first time in several weeks. If they were to win at Cincinnati on Wednesday, that fourth Group 1 win would put them right in the thick of the race.


    Baylor Bears
    11-7, RPI: 84, KP: 39, SOS: 72

    A road win over Kansas would've been a huge shot in the arm for Baylor's resume, but the loss leaves the Bears in dire straits. They are 1-6 against Group 1, and seven of their 11 wins came against Group 4. At a minimum, they'll need to go 7-5 the rest of the way to enter the Big 12 tournament with a realistic shot at a bid.

East Region (Boston)

4 of 9

    Keith Stone
    Keith StoneJames Crisp/Associated Press

    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 16 North Carolina A&T / Texas Southern

    No. 8 Michigan vs. No. 9 Gonzaga


    San Diego, California

    No. 4 Florida vs. No. 13 Missouri State

    No. 5 Michigan State vs. No. 12 SMU / Kansas State


    Wichita, Kansas

    No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 14 Northeastern

    No. 6 Louisville vs. No. 11 USC


    Charlotte, North Carolina

    No. 2 Virginia vs. No. 15 Stephen F. Austin

    No. 7 Kentucky vs. No. 10 Houston


    Moving Up: Florida Gators (Up 20 Spots)
    14-5, RPI: 24, KP: 22, SOS: 20

    In addition to rising the most (by far) in the past seven days, Florida's stock has improved more in the past three weeks than any other team. That's because the Gators have true road wins over Texas A&M, Missouri and Kentucky since Jan. 1, each of which is in the RPI top 40 and should remain a Group 1 win through Selection Sunday.

    The most recent of those wins came Saturday night against Kentuckythree days after putting a beating on Arkansas.

    It wasn't beautiful basketball at Rupp Arena. The Gators and Wildcats shot a combined 10-of-47 from three-point range. Many of the misses clanged so hard off the rim or backboard that it looked like they were trying to break it. Even one of the makes was ugly, as Kevin Knox banked in a three-pointer late in the game. Nevertheless, Florida fought hard, dominated the turnover battle and eked out a two-point win, improving to 6-1 in SEC play.

    Meanwhile, Loyola-ChicagoFlorida's worst loss of the seasonhas won five of its last six games, keeping that loss from turning into an RPI landmine.

    Up next for the Gators are home games against South Carolina and Baylor, so they should climb even a little bit higher in next week's projection.


    Moving Down: Kentucky Wildcats (Down 11 Spots)
    14-5, RPI: 20, KP: 33, SOS: 12

    The counterpart to Florida's key win is yet another disappointing loss for Kentucky.

    It's time for Big Blue Nation to face facts: The Wildcats have not looked good yet in SEC play. They are 4-3 with losses to Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida. In three of their four wins (LSU, Georgia and Texas A&M), they trailed in the final five minutes. In the other win (Vanderbilt), the game was tied with four minutes to go.

    Kentucky showed nice resolve and experience beyond its years to win those games, but one bounce here and a missed call there and Kentucky could be 0-7 right now. In no way is that hypothetical counted against the Wildcats in this projection, but it's worth noting that outside the blowout win over Louisville, Kentucky has looked nothing like a Sweet 16 team in the past month.

    The Wildcats are still putting up a good fight on defense, particularly with defending the three-point line. Their last eight opponents have shot a combined 22.5 percent from downtown. But their three go-to guysKevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander—have been painfully unreliable. In the loss to Tennessee, they teamed up for 14 points on 20 shots with eight turnovers. They weren't much better against South Carolina or Florida.

    Kentucky isn't yet in "bubble trouble," but it is just 1-4 against Group 1. If the Cats get blown out at West Virginia on Saturday, don't be surprised if you start hearing the B word thrown out there.

Midwest Region (Omaha)

5 of 9

    Jock Landale
    Jock LandaleYoung Kwak/Associated Press

    Detroit, Michigan

    No. 1 Purdue vs. No. 16 Princeton / Wagner

    No. 8 Creighton vs. No. 9 Texas


    Boise, Idaho

    No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 13 South Dakota State

    No. 5 Rhode Island vs. No. 12 Buffalo


    Nashville, Tennessee

    No. 3 North Carolina vs. No. 14 Northern Kentucky

    No. 6 Arizona State vs. No. 11 Alabama


    Detroit, Michigan

    No. 2 West Virginia vs. No. 15 Bucknell

    No. 7 Saint Mary's vs. No. 10 Florida State


    Moving Up: Saint Mary's Gaels (Up Nine Spots)
    19-2, RPI: 40, KP: 16, SOS: 154

    Slowly but surely, Saint Mary's is putting together a respectable tournament resume. The early November home win over New Mexico State has aged like fine wine. And with BYU playing better than most people seem to have noticed, the road win over the Cougars holds a lot of value on this RPI sheet.

    But the biggest reason Saint Mary's is looking more like a sure thing to go dancing is Thursday night's road win over Gonzaga.

    Even on a night when Gonzaga's Rui Hachimura played like a soon-to-be lottery pick, the Gaels simply had too much Jock Landale and Calvin Hermanson.

    What else is new, though? Landale is No. 2 in the KenPom.com player of the year rankings, and Hermanson has been one of the most efficient offensive weapons this season. Add in a veteran point guard (Emmett Naar) who would be leading the nation in assists if not for Trae Young, and Saint Mary's has an offense that can make a deep run in the tournament.

    Thanks to the win over Gonzaga, the Gaels now have a resume worthy of a bid. They just have to avoid disastrous losses for the next five weeks to maintain it.


    Moving Down: Florida State Seminoles (Down Eight Spots)
    14-5, RPI: 41, KP: 25, SOS: 62

    Florida State is arguably the toughest team to evaluate right now.

    Outside of the road win over Floridawhich looks rather fantastic at the momentthe Seminoles did nothing in nonconference play. Their second-best win was a neutral-court game (in Florida) against Tulane. The third-best win was a road game against Rutgers. Seven of their 11 wins were of the Group 4 variety. Trust us. They didn't do much.

    And thus far in ACC play, the Seminoles have been...OK? The home win over North Carolina was huge, but aside from that nail-biter, they're 2-4 with wins over Syracuse and Virginia Tech and a loss to Boston College. Granted, all four losses were by seven points or fewer, but it's still a sub-.500 record.

    Not all conference records are created equalespecially in the ACCbut given Florida State's nonconference resume, it needs to go at least 9-9 in-conference to earn a bid. It should probably go 10-8 just to be safe. The 'Noles still play Clemson twice, at Louisville, at Notre Dame, at NC State and home games against Miami and Virginia. Even if they hold serve in the other games that they should win, they'll need to pick up wins in at least two of those seven games.

South Region (Atlanta)

6 of 9

    Keita Bates-Diop
    Keita Bates-DiopJay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Charlotte, North Carolina

    No. 1 Duke vs. No. 16 Lipscomb

    No. 8 Butler vs. No. 9 Middle Tennessee


    Boise, Idaho

    No. 4 Ohio State vs. No. 13 Vermont

    No. 5 Texas Tech vs. No. 12 Louisiana


    Dallas, Texas

    No. 3 Cincinnati vs. No. 14 Belmont

    No. 6 TCU vs. No. 11 Boise State / Marquette


    Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

    No. 2 Xavier vs. No. 15 Iona

    No. 7 Miami vs. No. 10 Arkansas


    Moving Up: Ohio State Buckeyes (Up Nine Spots)
    17-4, RPI: 14, KP: 11, SOS: 22

    For the second consecutive week, Ohio State is one of the top surging teams.

    At No. 13 overall on our seed list, there's only so much higher the Buckeyes can possibly climb. And considering their next four games are at home against non-tournament teams (Nebraska, Penn State, Indiana and Illinois), their RPI and SOS are likely going to get worse in the next two weeks.

    Should they win all four of those games, though, they'll be 12-0 in Big Ten play heading into the big showdown with Purduewhich should also be 12-0 for that one.

    This week, Ohio State took care of business at Northwestern and stomped Minnesota in a neutral-court game at Madison Square Garden. (Why?) The Keita Bates-Diop streak of game MVPs did finally come to an end at 11, but the Buckeyes couldn't even be beaten away from home while getting subpar outings from their star. That's the sign of a team that could be extremely difficult to eliminate from the NCAA tournament.


    Moving Down: Texas Tech Red Raiders (Down Nine Spots)
    15-4, RPI: 19, KP: 12, SOS: 46

    Just when we were starting to buy Texas Tech as a team that could make a run to the Final Four, the Red Raiders have fallen victim to life on the road in the Big 12. In the past two weeks, they have lost at Oklahoma, at Texas and at Iowa State by a combined margin of 37 points.

    The margins don't necessarily affect their resume. They have only fallen eight spots on KenPom during this stretch, and margin definitely doesn't matter for RPI or SOS. But as far as the proverbial eye test is concerned, Texas Tech is a mess.

    One other commonality over the past two weeks is the lack of Zach Smith, who is likely going to miss the rest of the season with a broken bone in his foot. Smith wasn't much of a weapon on offense, but he was Texas Tech's defensive anchor in the paint. Without him, the Red Raiders have struggled on defense, which had been their strong suit.

    Inconveniently, they have also gone ice cold on offense. In each of the three losses, they shot worse than 39 percent from the field and worse than 26 percent from three-point range.

    They're still in fantastic shape to reach the tournament. Texas Tech had a good nonconference profile before winning a road game over Kansas. Despite this swoon, it is still 4-3 in Big 12 play. And it's not like there are many bad losses to be found in this league. But the Red Raiders have slipped from the bottom No. 2 seed to the top No. 5 seed, which theoretically means a drop from Elite Eight to Round of 32.

West Region (Los Angeles)

7 of 9

    Kyron Cartwright
    Kyron CartwrightNati Harnik/Associated Press

    Wichita, Kansas

    No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Radford

    No. 8 Texas A&M vs. No. 9 Providence


    San Diego, California

    No. 4 Arizona vs. No. 13 East Tennessee State

    No. 5 Nevada vs. No. 12 New Mexico State


    Dallas, Texas

    No. 3 Auburn vs. No. 14 UC Davis

    No. 6 Seton Hall vs. No. 11 Syracuse


    Nashville, Tennessee

    No. 2 Clemson vs. No. 15 Portland State

    No. 7 Wichita State vs. No. 10 Missouri


    Moving Up: Providence Friars (New to the Field)
    14-6, RPI: 36, KP: 52, SOS: 25

    Don't look now, but Providence might finally be starting to figure things out.

    If nothing else, the Friars have gotten back to being incredibly difficult to beat at home. They have beaten Xavier, Butler and Creighton during their current four-game winning streak, adding some firepower to a resume that had been woefully lacking it.

    As a result, they are now 5-2 in Big East play. They still have two games remaining against Georgetown, as well as home games against St. John's and DePaul. Thus, they should finish no worse than .500 in league play.

    Don't be surprised if they bounce in and out of the projected field while on that journey. Providence plays at Villanova, at Seton Hall and at Marquette in its next three games, which likely means an early February resume with a 5-5 Big East record and nonconference losses to Massachusetts, Minnesota and Houston. Even without knowing what other bubble teams will look like at the time, that doesn't sound promising.

    Then again, who thought the Friars would win all three of their most recent home games? If they can just steal one more win in conference play, they'll be in a good spot for a fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.


    Moving Down: Wichita State Shockers (Down 14 Spots)
    15-4, RPI: 29, KP: 21, SOS: 48

    There have been spurts within games when Wichita State looks like the best team in the country. But long before going 0-2 this past week against SMU and Houston, the Shockers were already showing serious signs of cracking.

    At times, this perimeter defense has been just plain awful, and that reared its ugly head at home against the Mustangs. SMU shot 11-of-22 from three-point range and committed just eight turnovers. (This came just 10 days after the Mustangs coughed up the ball 18 times and shot poorly in a blowout loss to Cincinnati.) It was the seventh time this season that an opponent made at least 10 triples against Wichita State. It was also the seventh time an opponent committed fewer than 10 turnovers.

    Wichita State has also had occasional issues with committing turnovers, and that was on full display against the Cougars. Five different Shockers committed three turnovers. They finished the game with 18 and compounded the problem by shooting miserably from the field.

    Coupled with last Saturday's close call against Tulsa, Wichita State has gone from a team that grinds out wins in spite of its flaws to one that doesn't seem like it can be trusted to win a single game in March. The Shockers still have two games against Cincinnati and a road game against SMU to fix that. They also have six straight games that they should win comfortably in the next few weeks. But, at the moment, they are trending in the wrong direction at an alarming rate.

Ranking the No. 1 Seeds

8 of 9

    Malik Newman
    Malik NewmanEd Zurga/Getty Images

    No. 4 Kansas Jayhawks
    16-3, RPI: 7, KP: 10, SOS: 2

    It's not vintage Kansas. There are flaws. And with Billy Preston turning pro, we can finally stop speculating about his potential return and start evaluating this team for what it actually is.

    And yet, at 6-1, the Jayhawks effectively have a two-game lead in the Big 12, since they already won a road game against the only 5-2 team (West Virginia). They are 6-1 against Group 1 and 7-0 away from home. Barring some kind of unforeseeable collapse, they are headed for a second straight season as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament and a 14th consecutive Big 12 title.

    Here's my question about Kansas: Who is its least valuable starter? For a while, the obvious answer was Malik Newman, but he carried the Jayhawks to recent victories against Baylor and Iowa State. After scoring a combined 51 points in those contests, each of the five starters is now averaging better than 11 points per game. Each of the other three guards is shooting at least 42 percent from three, and Udoka Azubuike continues to lead the nation in effective field-goal percentage.

    Depth is a serious concern, but there's a strong case to be made that Kansas has the best starting five in the country. We lost sight of that back in December during back-to-back losses to Washington and Arizona State.


    No. 3 Duke Blue Devils
    17-2, RPI: 1, KP: 5, SOS: 10

    Since the disturbing loss to North Carolina State, Duke has obliterated Pittsburgh twice, blown out Wake Forest once and had an incredible comeback win against Miami.

    In a word, Duke is back.

    The Blue Devils sit atop the RPI rankings, thanks in large part to a schedule devoid of duds (aside from a home game against Southern). They're only 4-1 against Group 1 and 2-1 against Group 2, which keeps them from ousting either Purdue or Villanova for a top-two spot. Still, they are in great shape for a team that has been raked over the coals for its struggles on defense.

    They've got a huge game Saturday at home against Virginia, which could determine who wins the ACC regular-season title. While that team isn't necessarily guaranteed a No. 1 seed, it's going to be hard to deny it one.


    No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers
    19-2, RPI: 9, KP: 2, SOS: 42

    Purdue has won 15 consecutive games. Of the last 11, 10 were decided by at least a 12-point margin, including an active streak of three wins by at least 23 points.

    The Boilermakers have turned the Big Ten into their own personal playground, destroying inferior opponents on a nightly basis. They have made at least 10 three-pointers in seven of their last eight games. They drained 20 against Iowa this past Saturday and led, 78-42, with 11 minutes remaining when they finally decided to stop embarrassing the Hawkeyes on their home floor.

    Purdue is 6-2 against Group 1 and may well be 7-2 depending on when you look, as the road win over Minnesota would count as Group 1 if the Golden Gophers had an RPI in the top 75 instead of their current rank of 76. The only other team with more than five such wins is Kansas. So it's not like the Boilermakers are just making mincemeat of bad teams. They're beating up on everyone.


    No. 1 Villanova Wildcats
    18-1, RPI: 3, KP: 1, SOS: 37

    If Purdue and Villanova played on a neutral court today, it would be more than a little tempting to pick the Boilermakers. But as far as tournament resumes go, the Wildcats are clearly at the head of the class right now.

    Though they don't have as many Group 1 wins (4-1) as Purdue, their 9-1 record against Groups 1 and 2 is the best in the nation. And their lone loss (at Butler) wasn't a bad one by any stretch of the imagination.

    This is what we've been expecting for months, though. With a back-loaded schedule that includes road games against Providence, Xavier, Seton Hall and Creighton in the final three weeks of the season, it wasn't unreasonable to think Villanova might win its first 25 games. The Wildcats should remain the No. 1 overall seed until that rough stretch. We shall see what happens from there.

Seeding by Conference

9 of 9

    Marvin Bagley III
    Marvin Bagley IIIGerry Broome/Associated Press

    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. The first five out are in italics.

    12. Cincinnati
    27. Wichita State
    40. Houston
    46. SMU

    Atlantic 10 
    19. Rhode Island
    72. St. Bonaventure

    3. Duke
    5. Virginia
    7. Clemson
    9. North Carolina
    21. Louisville
    28. Miami
    39. Florida State
    43. Syracuse
    71. North Carolina State

    Big 12
    4. Kansas
    8. West Virginia
    11. Oklahoma
    17. Texas Tech
    24. TCU
    35. Texas
    47. Kansas State

    Big East
    1. Villanova
    6. Xavier
    22. Seton Hall
    30. Creighton
    31. Butler
    36. Providence
    45. Marquette

    Big Ten
    2. Purdue
    13. Ohio State
    20. Michigan State
    32. Michigan

    Mountain West
    18. Nevada
    44. Boise State

    16. Arizona
    23. Arizona State
    42. USC
    70. Washington

    10. Auburn
    14. Tennessee
    15. Florida
    26. Kentucky
    29. Texas A&M
    37. Missouri
    38. Arkansas
    41. Alabama
    69. Georgia

    West Coast 
    25. Saint Mary's
    33. Gonzaga

    34. Middle Tennessee
    48. Buffalo
    49. New Mexico State
    50. Louisiana
    51. South Dakota State
    52. East Tennessee State
    53. Vermont
    54. Missouri State
    55. Belmont
    56. Northern Kentucky
    57. UC Davis
    58. Northeastern
    59. Iona
    60. Portland State
    61. Bucknell
    62. Stephen F. Austin
    63. Radford
    64. Lipscomb
    65. Princeton
    66. Wagner
    67. North Carolina A&T
    68. Texas Southern


    Kerry Miller covers men's college basketball and college football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.