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The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Which teams will join Kentucky and Syracuse as No. 1 seeds?

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

Almost three weeks before Selection Sunday, Kentucky (26-1) and Syracuse (27-1) have all but secured No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament.

Who the remaining two No. 1s will be, however, is still difficult to project.

Six teams appear to be realistic contenders: Missouri, Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, Ohio State and North Carolina. Here's a look at how those six teams compare to one-another and why the Tigers and Blue Devils would be my choices for the final No. 1 seeds if the season ended today:

1. Missouri (25-2, 12-2, RPI: 9, SOS: 99)
• Five notable wins: Kansas, Baylor (twice), Notre Dame, at Iowa State, Cal
• Losses: at Kansas State, at Oklahoma State
• Remaining schedule: Kansas State, at Kansas, Iowa State, at Texas Tech
• Case for a No. 1 seed: Despite a resume dragged down a bit by a modest non-league schedule, Missouri's gaudy 25-2 record and 8-1 mark vs. the RPI Top 50 give the Tigers a slight edge over their peers in the race for one of the final No. 1 seeds. Missouri could all but secure a No. 1 seed if it wins its final four regular season games including Saturday's visit to Allen Fieldhouse to face co-Big 12 leader Kansas. A loss to the Jayhawks, and the Tigers might need to win a rubber match between the two rivals in the Big 12 tournament to secure a No. 1 seed.

2. Duke (23-4, 10-2, RPI: 4, SOS: 3)
• Five notable wins: at North Carolina, Kansas, Michigan State, Michigan, Virginia
• Losses: at Ohio State, Temple, Florida State, Miami
• Remaining schedule: at Florida State, Virginia Tech, at Wake Forest, North Carolina
• Case for a No. 1 seed: For all its defensive shortcomings, Duke has somehow still assembled a profile that could merit a No. 1 seed. The Blue Devils remain tied for first in the ACC and have the best set of wins of any team in the nation besides Kentucky, having beaten four teams likely to be ranked in the Top 15 of this week's AP poll. Winning the ACC title outright is probably a must for Duke's hopes of a No. 1 seed, so remaining matchups against Florida State and North Carolina will be key. Those two games will either bolster Duke's hopes or validate critics who argue the Blue Devils lack elite talent this year despite an impressive resume.

3. Michigan State (22-5, 11-3, RPI: 2, SOS: 2)
• Five notable wins: at Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin (twice), Florida State, at Gonzaga
• Losses: North Carolina, Duke, at Northwestern, at Michigan, at Illinois
• Remaining schedule: at Minnesota, Nebraska, at Indiana, Ohio State
• Case for a No. 1 seed: As the outright leader of the nation's toughest conference, Michigan State has a strong case for a No. 1 seed, but the profiles of Missouri and Duke are just a bit stronger today. Plenty of opportunities remain for the Spartans to change that, however, with games at Indiana and at home against Ohio State remaining. If the Spartans win out to capture the outright Big Ten title, it's likely that would be enough to vault them over one or both of the teams listed ahead of them here. Even if Michigan State shares the Big Ten title with Ohio State or Michigan but wins the conference tournament, that would also give the Spartans a great case for a No. 1.

4. Kansas (22-5, 12-2, RPI: 6, SOS: 9)
• Five notable wins: Ohio State, Georgetown, Baylor (twice), Kansas State (twice), at Texas
• Losses: Kentucky, Duke, Davidson, at Iowa State, at Missouri
• Remaining schedule: at Texas A&M, Missouri, at Oklahoma State, Texas
• Case for a No. 1 seed: In what was supposed to be a down season for Kansas after losing three underclassmen to the NBA, the Jayhawks have instead exceeded expectations. They're tied with Missouri atop the Big 12 and boast a 9-4 record against opponents in the RPI Top 50. Any chance at a No. 1 seed for Kansas likely hinges on the Jayhawks avenging an earlier loss to Missouri winning at least a share of the Big 12 title. From there, whether the Jayhawks earned a No. 1 or 2 seed would depend on how they fared in the Big 12 tournament and how strongly their fellow contenders finish the season.

5. Ohio State (22-5, 10-4, RPI: 7, SOS: 15)
• Five notable wins: Duke, Florida, Michigan, at Wisconsin, Indiana
• Losses: at Kansas, at Indiana, at Illinois, Michigan State, at Michigan
• Remaining schedule: Illinois, Wisconsin, at Northwestern at Michigan State
• Case for a No. 1 seed: Once seemingly a shoo-in for a No. 1 seed along with Kentucky and Syracuse, Ohio State has slipped back in the pack thanks to losses to fellow Big Ten contenders Michigan State and Michigan in the past 10 days. Now the Buckeyes may have to beat the Spartans at Breslin Center in their regular season finale to claim even a share of the conference title. If that happens, a No. 1 seed is still a possibility entering the Big Ten tournament. If not, the Buckeyes are likely looking at a No. 2 seed at best.

6. North Carolina (23-4, 10-2, RPI: 5, SOS: 16)
• Five notable wins: Michigan State, Wisconsin, Virginia, Texas, Long Beach State
• Losses: UNLV, at Kentucky, at Florida State, Duke
• Remaining schedule: at NC State, at Virginia, Maryland, at Duke
• Case for a No. 1 seed: Check out North Carolina's list of noteworthy wins, and you'll see why the Tar Heels are behind the other five teams on this list. They've defeated fewer top teams than the other teams on the list and they've beaten nobody of consequence besides bubble-bound Miami in a true road game, leaving them with virtually no margin for error in the chase for a No. 1 seed. The only way North Carolina can realistically vault ahead of the other teams in contention for a No. 1 seed is probably to win at Duke, capture at least a share of the ACC title and win the conference tournament.

This week, the Dagger will examine some of the most pressing questions the NCAA tournament selection committee will face. A look at what's to come:

• Monday: Which teams will join Kentucky and Syracuse as No. 1 seeds?
• Tuesday: Will Northwestern earn its first-ever NCAA bid?
• Wednesday: Will the ACC get a fifth team into the NCAA tournament?
• Thursday: How many bids will the Pac-12 receive?
• Friday: Which league will receive the most NCAA bids?
• Saturday: Where should Murray State be seeded?
• Sunday: Long Beach State, Middle Tennessee State and Oral Roberts dominated their leagues. Do they need to win their conference tournaments to get in?

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