The men’s college basketball NCAA Tournament is exactly one month away, with the First Four set to tip off on March 13 after 68-team field is determined on Selection Sunday. There is still a lot of basketball left to be played, including conference tournaments, but we’re going through the 12 teams with the best shot at the four No. 1 seeds.
1. Villanova (23-2)
All season, the Wildcats have been the most consistent team, and they have a lot of experienced veteran leadership. Many people have Xavier as a No. 1, but Villanova already blew them out this season and will look to make an excellent case when they face them again later this week. Nova is the best bet to secure a No. 1 seed, and they’ve been a 1- or 2-seed in each of the last four years.
2. Michigan State (24-3)
This weekend’s thrilling win over Purdue in a top-four matchup could go a long way for Michigan State as they head into the final stretch of the regular season. The concern is the losses to ranked Duke, Ohio State, and Michigan, but the win over the Boilermakers shows they can beat the top teams in the nation.
3. Virginia (23-2)
Despite the surprising home loss to Virginia Tech, Virginia is in a prime position for the top overall seed in the tournament with a month to go. As always, the defense is an elite unit that should keep them in every game, and they would be up above Michigan State if not for a deeper conference tournament field in the ACC.
4. Cincinnati (23-2)
Because Xavier handled them in their matchup earlier this season they might get the nod, but Cincinnati has been rolling over teams in the AAC en route to a 16-game winning streak. The two matchups against Wichita State will be huge, as domination in both of those could keep them on the path to a one-seed.
5. Purdue (23-4)
They appeared to be in an excellent position for a No. 1 seed, but two straight losses have bumped Purdue’s chances down just a bit. However, the losses were to two teams on this list, and by a combined four points. The Big Ten Tournament will be huge for Purdue, as the regular season might not be enough to have them among the top four entering March.
6. Xavier (23-3)
Xavier has suffered some ugly losses this season, including a 24-point loss to Villanova last month. However, they get to face Villanova at home on Saturday in a game that could potentially get them into the top-four heading into conference tournaments. If the offense stays hot, Xavier will be tough to beat.
7. Duke (20-5)
The losses have been close, but Duke has dropped three of the last five games and are now trying to hold on to a top-two seed. The good news is they have six big regular season games coming up and then the ACC Tournament will give them a chance to sweep on their way to a one-seed.
8. Auburn (22-3)
If not for a loss at Alabama on January 17, Auburn might be right up there with Cincinnati and others for the last one-seed. However, they still have a chance to string together convincing wins and a conference tournament win, which would mean a lot even if the SEC is having a down year.
9. Kansas (19-6)
Kansas has surprisingly lost two home games over the last few weeks, which might indicate Bill Self’s team isn’t quite as strong as in year’s past. However, there’s still time to get rolling heading into the Tourney, and a No. 1 seed is still within reach if they can run the table.
10. Texas Tech (21-4)
The Red Raiders had a tough stretch in the middle of January, but they do have a win at Kansas and have chance to get to 27-4 heading into conference tournaments if they can win the next six games. Oklahoma and Kansas are among the tough tasks to finish the regular season, though.
11. Clemson (20-4)
The ugly loss to Virgnia in which the Tigers scored only 36 points could stick with the Selection Committee, but Clemson has responded well since then, including with a win over North Carolina. Also, Clemson’s RPI is at four, which the Committee might not way too much, but it could be a factor.
12. Ohio State (22-5)
Wins over Michigan State and Purdue give Ohio State an outside chance at a No. 1 seed, and they’ll probably need to win the Big Ten Tournament to be in the conversation. The loss to Penn State last month could loom large, as they had been red-hot other than that.