Conference tournament time is officially here. At the time this is being written, seven NCAA Tournament tickets have been punched with more to come this evening as the West Coast, Summit and Horizon league’s will all crown a Champion this evening. For teams on this list, this next week won’t be about battling for a NCAA Tournament bid, but rather battling for seeding as there are still #1 seeds on the line as well as battles for which region teams want to be in as they look to play as close to home as possible.

Rank (Last week’s rank)
1. Kansas (3)
Wins over Kentucky, Duke, Baylor and West Virginia (all teams on this list) along with a record tying 13th straight Big 12 regular season Championship gives the Jayhawks the top spot on this list as well as the #1 overall seed no matter what happens in the remaining conference tournaments.
2. Villanova (2)
Jay Wright is on record saying that "teams with size and depth could give us problems".  And while I agree with that to a certain degree, they’ve proven themselves all season long and have arguably the best guard trio in the country.  They are the reigning Champions and they are poised for another long tourney run this season.
3. UCLA (5)
They didn’t win the Pac-12 regular season title, being edged out by Arizona and Oregon but they own the better resume overall and thus jump both of those teams on this list.  Lonzo Ball may have fallen short of POY honors but he’s not going to fall short in June when it comes to his draft status, as long as his Dad can tone it down a little.
4. Gonzaga (1)
Seems a little harsh to drop the Zags from #1 to #4 simply because they lost one game. But that’s more of a sign of how well the teams above them are playing against better competition. They are still  in line for a #1 seed if they can take care of business and win the WCC tonight against a good St. Mary’s team.  But this team’s goal wasn’t regular season success and they’ll have their chance with a top seed next week.
5. Oregon (6)
Dillon Brooks edged out Ball for the Pac 12 POY award as did his team in the regular season standings.  The Ducks are part of a trio of teams from the conference that have Final Four potential but with the edge of the "been there before" mentality having been to the Elite 8 just last year.
6. North Carolina (7)
The ACC is the deepest conference in America and the Tar Heels were the top dog once again.  You can argue against Justin Jackson as the POY but you can’t argue that this team is every bit as good as the National Championship Runner Up from last season.  They are one of the best offensive teams in the country and should feast on lower seeded teams over the weekend’s first weekend.
7. Arizona (4)
The Wildcats round out that Pac-12 trio I referenced above.  They had a chance to win the conference outright if they could have handled UCLA at home last week.  Allonzo Trier did his best but it just wasn’t enough to handle the balance of the UCLA offensive attack.  Kobe Simmons has struggled recently and needs to get back on track in the Pac 12 tourney for this team to reach their full potential.
8. Kentucky (10)
Another year and another regular season Championship for the Wildcats.  This team has all the potential in the world but they go cold at times from the field, especially to start games and that can’t happen as we get deeper into March.  They’ll be playing teams better than the Vandy’s and Texas A&M’s of the world.
9. Louisville (8)
The double by in the ACC Tournament is big for their chances at making a run and getting up to that #2 line in the NCAA Tournament.  It might be a long shot but taking down the teams standing in their way would go a long way in helping their seeding as the committee looks at their entire body of work, which is really good.
10. Baylor (11)
After starting the season 20-1, the Bears have gone 5-5 down the stretch which took them out of the running in the Big 12.  That’s no way to head into March and so their conference tournament will be a chance to get back to their winning ways and shake off their recent struggles, particularly on offense.
11. Purdue (15)
If there’s a "non-elite" team heading into March that would scare me it is Purdue.  Trying to match up with the size and strength that this team brings in the front court is something that will cause problems for most teams.  Caleb Swanigan has arguably been the best big man in the country this season and is a walking double double.
12. SMU (NR)
The Mustangs break the Power 16 for the first time this season and the cries from their fans that they are being overlooked is completely valid.  They are winners of 13 straight and are the top seed in the AAC conference tournament.  It should and will be a two horse race (pun intended) between SMU and Cincy for the Tournament Title.  The two teams split during the regular season with the home team winning both contests.  This time it will be on a neutral court for all the marbles.
13. Duke (9)
Let’s just call a spade a spade.  Duke hasn’t played well the last two weeks.  You can overlook the loss at UNC and even on the road at Miami but they blew a lead at Syracuse in a game that, if they had won, would have given them the double bye in the ACC tournament.  As it stands, they’ll play on Wednesday and will need to win four games in four days to capture another Tournament title under Coach K.
14. West Virginia (16)
The Mountaineers have the defense to win against any team on any given night but they struggle from the three point line and from the free throw line at times which will end up hurting them in close games.  They are a dark horse team that could surprise some people over the next few weeks.
15. Cincinnati (13)
Kyle Washington has finally become the player that most Wolfpack fans waited for him to become at NC State.  He’s rebounding well, he’s become a better post player and he has learned the difference between a good shot and a bad shot.  And he is a huge reason for the success of Mick Cronin’s squad.  Winning the AAC could bring huge dividends for their NCAA Tournament seeding.
16. Florida (12)
Much like Baylor has done over the last month, Florida lost out on a chance at the regular season SEC crown by losing two of their last three and finishing two games behind Kentucky.  I still like the Gators to make some noise in both their conference and NCAA tournaments.  Michael White has done a great job with this team considering the injuries he’s had to deal with.

First Five Out

Notre Dame, Florida State, St. Mary’s, Butler, Wichita State

Follow me on Twitter @CCroweNBADraft


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