If anything is certain in this college basketball season, it is that Kansas, Kentucky and Syracuse should lock up one-seeds in the NCAA tournament. Once thought to be a lock for that fourth No. 1, Villanova now finds itself in a group of teams fighting for that last remaining spot. Here is a breakdown of those teams from most likely to least likely:
1) Duke (25-5, 12-3), RPI: 3, SOS: 6
- What it needs to do: Beat UNC on Saturday, win the ACC tournament
- Despite the loss at Maryland yesterday, Duke still finds itself with the best shot for a No. 1 seed. If it wins the ACC tournament, which should conclude with a rematch against Maryland, the selection committee will find it hard to keep a team that tied for the ACC regular season title and won the conference tournament off the top line. What Duke really has working for them is the numbers. Their RPI and SOS compare favorably to any team in competition. With one win over a top-25 team (Maryland) and one road win over a team in the top 80 of the RPI (Clemson), it is hard to figure out why the numbers work in Duke’s favor, but they do. Either way, the bottom line is that with just one potentially difficult game on the schedule being that ACC title game, Duke has the easiest road to winning out.
2) Villanova (24-5, 13-4), RPI: 7, SOS: 28
- What it needs to do: Beat West Virginia on Saturday, make the Big East final
- For all the struggles that Villanova has had over the last month, its hot start keeps the Wildcats in contention for a top seed. The Big East has been the best conference in America this season, and if any league is to get two top seeds, it will be that one. The road would to a one-seed would most likely include a win over West Virginia on Saturday and then a win over either West Virginia or Pittsburgh in the Big East semifinals. The advantage that the Wildcats have is that no win by any other team would seal up the top seed as easily as knocking off Syracuse in the Big East final.
3) Kansas State (24-5, 11-4), RPI: 5, SOS: 4
- What it needs to do: Beat Iowa State on Saturday, win Big 12 tournament, get help
- Kansas State had its best chance Wednesday night to show that it deserved a one-seed but fell by 17 to Kansas. Now the Wildcats might have to settle for a two-seed. Even with a win over Kansas in the Big 12 final, Kansas State may not be able to do enough if Duke and Villanova do what they need to do. As of now, Kansas State’s best win is a victory against Baylor on the road, and that does not sound like the resume of a top seed.
4) Ohio State (24-7, 14-4), RPI: 28, SOS: 69
- What it needs to do: Win Big Ten tournament, get help
- Over the last month Ohio State has looked like one of the best four teams in college basketball. It has the best player in the country in Evan Turner, and he has a chance to lead his team to the regular season and postseason title in the Big Ten. It sounds like Ohio State should be atop this list, but its terrible computer numbers suggest otherwise. With an RPI and SOS so high, it will be tough for the selection committee to overlook these numbers when making the bracket. I doubt any team with numbers like those has received a one-seed, but if Ohio State is the first, it would be hard to argue.
5) West Virginia (23-6, 12-5), RPI: 6, SOS: 4
- What it needs to do: Beat Villanova on Saturday, win Big East tournament
- The Mountaineers have floated around the top-10 for most of the season, never showing that they deserved to be considered among the nation’s elite, while also never giving a reason to drop them too low. Bob Huggins’ team will have plenty of chances the next ten days to do the former as it faces Villanova on Saturday and then has potential games with Villanova, Syracuse and Pittsburgh in the Big East tournament. If West Virginia was able to run the table, it would enter the NCAA tournament as the hottest team in the country and with three more top-notch wins under its belt. That being said, it is by far the most difficult road of any team.
- Purdue (25-4, 13-4), if it runs the table, and the selection committee believes it can win without Robbie Hummel.
- New Mexico (28-3, 14-2), if the selection committee forgets the Lobos play in the Mountain West Conference and that their best win is against Texas A&M.
– David Cassilo