Ranking the contenders for the final No. 1 seed entering conference tourney week

Ranking the contenders for the final No. 1 seed entering conference tourney week
Ranking the contenders for the final No. 1 seed entering conference tourney week

Top-ranked Florida, unbeaten Wichita State and Pac-12 champion Arizona have all but wrapped up three of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament, but nobody seems to want to seize the fourth. 

Kansas fell at West Virginia on Saturday afternoon. Virginia was upset by Maryland the next day. And Wisconsin couldn't hold on at Nebraska the next night.

Those losses have made the race for the final No. 1 seed a free-for-all heading into conference tournament play and have opened the door for some other contenders to capitalize. Here's a look at how the teams chasing the final No. 1 seed stack up six days before Selection Sunday:

1. Kansas (23-8, 14-4, RPI: 3, SOS: 1)
Five best wins: Duke, at Iowa State, Iowa State, at Oklahoma, New Mexico)
Losses: Villanova, at Colorado, at Florida, San Diego State, at Texas, at Kansas State, at Oklahoma State, at West Virginia
Case for the final No. 1 seed: A No. 1 seed has never endured more than seven losses but Kansas has a realistic chance at becoming the first if it wins the Big 12 tournament. That would give the Jayhawks a sweep of the titles in the nation's toughest league and a list of marquee victories unmatched by any other No. 1 seed contender. Entering the Big 12 tournament, Kansas has 12 victories against RPI top 50 teams, either 10 or 11 of which are against surefire NCAA tournament teams depending on how you evaluate Oklahoma State. That number would increase by three were the Jayhawks to win the Big 12 tournament because their likely path includes Oklahoma State and either Iowa State or Kansas State before the title game.  


2. Villanova (28-3, 16-2, RPI: 4, SOS: 45)
Five best wins: Kansas, Iowa, at Xavier, Xavier, at St. Joseph's
Losses: at Syracuse, Creighton, at Creighton
Case for the final No. 1 seed: From its gaudy record, to its No. 4 RPI, to the fact it hasn't lost to a team outside the RPI top 10 all season, some elements of Villanova's profile certainly are worthy of a No. 1 seed. The problem is that the Wildcats don't have nearly the marquee wins some of their peers do. Aside from wins in November over Big 12 champ Kansas and slumping Iowa, nobody that Villanova has beaten is even a surefire NCAA tournament team. To secure the last No. 1 seed, Villanova will almost certainly have to win the Big East tournament. And it would really help the Wildcats if they could avenge their two prior losses to Creighton and grab another quality win in the process.     


3. Michigan (23-7, 15-3, RPI: 12, SOS: 13)
Five best wins: at Wisconsin, at Michigan State, Michigan State, at Ohio State, at Nebraska
Losses: at Iowa State, at Duke, Arizona, at Iowa, Wisconsin, at Indiana, Charlotte
Case for the final No. 1 seed: By winning the outright title in one of the nation's two strongest leagues, Michigan has at least put itself in the running for a No. 1 seed. The problem for the Wolverines is that their argument is similar to that of Kansas, only they didn't play quite as strong a schedule and they don't have quite as many marquee wins over NCAA tournament-bound teams. Michigan's best chance is winning the Big Ten tournament and hoping Kansas does not win the Big 12 tournament. In that scenario, a sweep of the titles in the nation's second toughest conference could put the Wolverines over the top. 


4. Wisconsin (25-6, 12-6, RPI: 6, SOS: 3)
Five best wins: Florida, at Virginia, at Michigan, Michigan State, at Iowa
Losses: Michigan, at Minnesota, Ohio State, at Nebraska, at Indiana, Northwestern
Case for the final No. 1 seed: Wisconsin's argument is similar to that of Duke's beneath it. It will probably have to win its conference tournament to realistically factor in the conversation, but if the Badgers do that, they'll have a resume that rivals every other one listed. Wisconsin has a gaudy 15-5 record against the RPI top 100, an 8-4 mark against the RPI top 50 and victories over three fellow No. 1 seed contenders. That home loss to Northwestern is abysmal, but every team in this discussion besides Kansas and Villanova has at least one loss to a sub-100-RPI team. 


5. Duke (24-7, 13-5, RPI: 7, SOS: 8)
Five best wins: Michigan, Syracuse, Virginia, North Carolina, UCLA
Losses: Kansas, Arizona, at Syracuse, at North Carolina, at Clemson, at Wake Forest, at Notre Dame
Case for the final No. 1 seed: Since it finished third in the ACC and it has a couple of unseemly losses against Wake Forest and Notre Dame, Duke is back in the pecking order at this point. The Blue Devils could pounce, however, if they were to win the ACC tournament and some of the teams above them were to bow out early in their tournaments. Duke has a group of marquee wins as eye-catching as any team on here. Were they to add to that by toppling, say, Syracuse in the ACC semis and either North Carolina or Virginia in the ACC title game, it's easy to see the Blue Devils squarely in the running on Sunday.


6. Virginia (25-6, 16-2, RPI: 11, SOS: 37)
Five best wins: Syracuse, North Carolina, SMU, at Pittsburgh, at Florida State
Losses: VCU, Wisconsin, at Tennessee, at Duke, Green Bay, at Maryland
Case for the final No. 1 seed: Virginia makes this list by virtue of winning the outright ACC title, but as remarkable an accomplishment as that was, its resume doesn't stack up well against those above it. There are only three wins against surefire NCAA tournament teams, and unlike Villanova, the Cavs don't have only three losses -- all to top 10 opponents -- to make up for it. Were Virginia to add the ACC tournament title to its regular season crown, the Cavs would have to merit consideration, especially if they were to beat North Carolina and either Duke or Syracuse in the process. More likely, however, the ceiling for Tony Bennett's team is a No. 2 seed.  


7. Syracuse (27-4, 14-4, RPI: 10, SOS: 74)
Five best wins: Villanova, Duke, North Carolina, Baylor, at Pittsburgh
Losses: at Duke, at Virginia, Georgia Tech, Boston College
Case for the final No. 1 seed: Only a few weeks after it seemed like a potential lock No. 1 seed, Syracuse now is at the bottom of this pecking order. The Orange didn't win their league title, they don't have as many quality wins as some of their other peers and while they only have four losses, the two at home against Boston College and Georgia Tech are eyesores. Were Syracuse to win the ACC tournament, the Orange would probably get a look, especially since they might have to go through Duke and either Virginia or North Carolina to do it. Even then, many of the teams above Syracuse on this list would have to lose early in their conference tournaments.   


 

 

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