Kentucky has been patiently hanging around as a No. 2 seed for some time now.
After Auburn's upset loss to Texas A&M in the SEC tournament on Friday – in conjunction with the Wildcats' dispatching of Vanderbilt – John Calipari's team finally ascended to the No. 1 seed line. Just in time for Selection Sunday.
The Wildcats (26-6, 14-4 SEC) have a NET score of 4 and nine Quadrant 1 victories on their profile, including an 18-point victory over Kansas. The Jayhawks (27-6, 14-4 Big 12) have uniquely emerged as the biggest threat to Kentucky in a likely down-to-the-wire battle for the final No. 1 seed. Kansas took care of business vs. TCU to reach the Big 12 tournament final and should the Jayhawks win that – and Kentucky lose to Tennessee in the SEC tournament semifinal – then expect them to take the final top seed.
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Kansas has a nation-leading 11 Quadrant 1 victories, but Kentucky has more games to play with the SEC tourney final on Sunday. If both teams win out, expect Kentucky to take the slight nod. Auburn has plummeted to the third No. 2 seed – behind Kansas and fellow blue-blood Duke. The Blue Devils escaped Miami (Fla.) to reach the ACC tournament final vs. Virginia Tech. Should Kentucky and Kansas lose Saturday, it slightly opens the door for Duke at the No. 1 seed line.
Even though Baylor got upset by Oklahoma early in the Big 12 tournament, the team has 11 Quad 1 wins and is likely locked with Gonzaga and Arizona to be top seeds. Now it's just an ultimate battle for the final No. 1 seed – just a day away from Greg Gumbel announcing the teams on Selection Sunday (6 p.m. ET, CBS).
No. 1 seeds
Gonzaga, Arizona, Baylor, Kentucky.
Last four in
Notre Dame, Rutgers, Dayton, Michigan.
First four out
Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, Xavier, Oklahoma.
Next four out
BYU, Wake Forest, Saint Louis, VCU.
Others considered for at-large bids: St John's, Florida, Colorado, Santa Clara.
On life support: Richmond.
Multi-bid conferences: Big Ten (9), Big East (6), Big 12 (6), SEC (6), ACC (4), Mountain West (4), American Athletic (3), Pac-12 (3), West Coast (3), Atlantic 10 (2).
Leaders or highest NET from projected one-bid conferences - (22 total): America East - Vermont; Atlantic Sun - Jacksonville State; Big Sky - Montana State; Big South - Longwood; Big West - Long Beach State; CAA - Delaware; C-USA - UAB; Horizon - Wright State; Ivy League - Princeton; MAAC - St. Peter's; MAC - Kent State; MEAC - Norfolk State; Missouri Valley - Loyola-Chicago; Northeast - Bryant; Ohio Valley - Murray State; Patriot - Colgate; Southern - Chattanooga; Southland - Texas A&M-CC; SWAC - Alcorn State; Summit - South Dakota State; Sun Belt - Georgia State; WAC - New Mexico State.
Ineligible schools: Oklahoma State (banned), Cal Baptist, North Alabama, Merrimack, Dixie State, Tarleton State, Bellarmine, UC San Diego, St. Thomas.
NCAA Tournament language explainer:
NET stands for the NCAA Evaluation Tool, which is the barometer for the selection committee. It includes game results, strength of schedule, game location, scoring margin (capping at 10 points per game), and net offensive and defensive efficiency.
Quadrant 1 wins: Home games vs. 1-30 NET teams; Neutral-site games vs. 1-50 NET; Away games vs. 1-75 NET
Quadrant 2 wins: Home games vs. 31-75 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 51-100 NET; Away games vs. 76-135 NET
Quadrant 3 wins: Home games vs. 76-160 NET; Neutral-site games vs. 101-200 NET; Away games vs. 136-240 NET
Quadrant 4 wins: Home games vs. 161-plus NET; Neutral-site games vs. 201-plus NET; Away games vs. 241-plus NET
About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his ninth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past eight March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.
About our college basketball reporter: Scott Gleeson has covered men's college basketball for USA TODAY since 2012, contributing to bracketology and running Bubble Tracker before tackling everything March Madness following Selection Sunday. He correctly forecasted Virginia would win the national championship in 2019 before the season began and also picked Loyola-Chicago as a Cinderella mid-major in 2018. Follow him on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NCAA bracketology: Kentucky steals No. 1 seed before Selection Sunday