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Seeding is Believing | Big opportunity for Illinois this weekend

Feb. 8—Men's college basketball and Illini beat writer Scott Richey

projects his top-four seeds for each region of the NCAA tournament. This week? Illinois has a résumé-building opportunity at Michigan State, and Kansas is in a weird place.MIDWEST

* 1. Purdue (21-2)

2. Kansas (18-5)

* 3. Auburn (19-4)

* 4. Dayton (19-3)

Maybe Bill Self should have been a little more proactive this offseason in regards to his three open scholarships. Kansas made some moves, of course, with landing Hunter Dickinson the biggest (in several ways), but Self clearly doesn't trust anyone beyond his starters. The Jayhawks got two points off the bench in Monday's overtime loss at Kansas State, which would be less notable had it not happened twice more in the last two weeks. It's the starters or bust.

WEST

1. North Carolina (18-5)

* 2. Arizona (17-5)

3. Illinois (17-5)

* 4. Iowa State (17-5)

Saturday's game at Michigan State is one of four Quad I opportunities remaining on Illinois' schedule. It's an opportunity the Illini need to capitalize on given their 3-4 record in Quad I games to date. Racking up a couple more should help Illinois solidify its hold on a top-four seed. So will avoiding a résumé-dinging loss the rest of the month. Because after the showdown with the Spartans, Illinois won't play another Quad I game until March.

EAST

* 1. Connecticut (21-2)

2. Tennessee (16-5)

* 3. Wisconsin (16-7)

* 4. Baylor (17-5)

Dalton Knecht made a huge leap between his first and second seasons at Northern Colorado, turning into a 20 points per game scorer and earning All-Big Sky honors. Two months into his lone season at Tennessee he's a surefire All-American. Knecht, who had four 30-point games in January, has also entered the first-round draft pick conversation. Wild. If he gets a Rick Barnes team to the Sweet 16 (or beyond), he automatically becomes a Vols legend.

SOUTH

* 1. Houston (20-3)

* 2. Marquette (17-5)

3. Alabama (16-7)

* 4. Duke (16-5)

The advanced metrics favored Alabama far more than its actual résumé in the first month-plus of the season. The Crimson Tide ended nonconference play with an 8-5 record with a home win against Indiana State now standing as arguably their best. The start of SEC action helped Alabama match better results with still-positive metrics bolstered in large part by one of the best offenses in the country behind veteran guards Mark Sears and Aaron Estrada.