By Kevin Duffy
1. UCLA (26-3) 3 2
The Bruins have dominated what most people call the best conference in America, so it’s no wonder they are considered almost a sure-bet to see a No. 1 next to their name on Selection Sunday. Their Thursday match up with Stanford may lack the hype of Saturday’s Duke-UNC game, but for many it has even more intrigue.
2. Memphis (28-1) 2 3
There’s no clear-cut No. 1 team out there, but the Tigers have as strong a resume as anyone despite playing in a weak conference. They played a rigorous non-conference schedule and aside from Tennessee, they rolled through it. Barring a complete meltdown, Memphis is a lock for a No. 1 seed.
3. North Carolina (27-2) 1 1
UNC has the big name. It has the star power. But it doesn’t have any quality wins (in comparison to the other top five teams), and that is why I put the ‘Heels at No. 3. Another loss to Duke this week and anything less than a berth in the ACC championship game would cause this team to fall to a No. 2 seed.
4. Tennessee (26-3) 4 4
The Vols are still clinging to one AP first-place vote. Given the frantic pace and offensive firepower Tennessee plays with, it should still be considered a serious national title contender and more than likely a No. 1 seed.
5. Kansas (26-3) 5 6
Talk about getting it together at the right time. The Jayhawks put an absolute beating, and I mean beating, on Texas Tech by the score of 109-51 on Monday night. I still consider this to be one of the three most likely teams to cut down the nets in San Antonio. Nonetheless, Kansas is looking at a No. 2 seed right now.
6. Duke (25-3) 6 5
After narrowly escaping NC State last week, Duke tunes up for the post-season with a finale vs. UNC in Cameron Indoor Stadium. A win vs. the Tar Heels and an ACC tournament championship will give the Dukies a No. 1 seed.
7. Texas (24-5) 9 9
Sorry voters, but there is no way Stanford and Xavier are better than Texas. Depending on how they do in the Big 12 tournament, DJ Augustin and Co. could be in prime position to earn themselves the top No. 2 seed. A No. 1 is very unlikely however, despite a tremendous resume.
8. Stanford (24-4) 7 7
A big win vs. Washington State helped keep the Cardinal in the top 10, but don’t expect Stanford to climb much higher. It finishes with games at UCLA and USC, and could stumble to a No. 3 or 4 seed, especially considering its recent history in the tournament.
9. Xavier (25-4) 8 11
Sorry Musketeer fans, the highest seed Xavier will be looking at is a No. 3. Not that its resume isn’t impressive, but the fact that Xavier plays in a lesser conference will hurt.
10. Louisville (24-6) 12 13
The coaches are finally buying into the Cardinals. After being ranked 18th last week, they jumped all the way to No. 13 this week. I still have them a few spots higher, and if they can win the Big East tournament, they’ll be in the top eight and likely claim a No. 2 seed. If not, Louisville will get no less than a 3 or 4.
11. Georgetown (24-4) 11 10
Once considered a lock for a No. 2 seed, G’Town will have to do some serious work (otherwise known as win the Big East tournament) to position itself back into the Top 8.
12. Connecticut (24-6) 13 14
Three Big East teams in a row? Well, there’s 16 of them so it’s not all that unlikely. Big East Player of the Year candidate AJ Price and his Huskies are looking at No. 3-4 seed unless they go into New York and win the Big East tournament, in which case, they’d likely receive a No. 2 seed.
13. Wisconsin (24-4) 10 8
Before the season, it looked like the Big Ten was a two-horse race between Indiana and Michigan State. Somehow, the Badgers have emerged as the top team in the conference after a convincing 57-42 victory over the Spartans last Thursday. Though it might win the Big 10, don’t expect anything higher than a No. 3 seed for Wisconsin.
14. Vanderbilt (24-5) 16 16
After knocking off No. 1 Tennessee, the Commodores suffered a massive, yet somewhat predictable letdown at Arkansas. Nonethless, we learned this team can play with anyone at home, and given the run it made last year, Vandy should be expecting a No. 3-4 seed in the tournament.
15. Butler (27-3) 14 12
Not quite Kansas’ beatdown on Texas Tech, but Butler’s 65-31 win over Detroit deserves some attention. Butler will likely only lose three games this season, but it could get anywhere from a No. 3 to a No. 6 seed depending on what the committee thinks about its overall resume.
16. Notre Dame (22-6) 19 19
Don’t look now, but burly sophomore Luke Harangody is the odds on favorite to win Big East Player of the Year. Notre Dame is going to be a very dangerous team come tournament time, regardless of what seed it receives, which will likely be in the No. 4-6 range.
17. Michigan State (23-6) 17 18
The Spartans, who were once held to 36 points in a game vs. Iowa, exploded for 103 in a thrashing of arch-rival Indiana on Sunday. I’m not quite sure which State team we’ll see in the postseason, but Izzo and Co. can do some damage from the No. 3-6 seed range. .
18. Purdue (23-7) 15 15
The Boilermakers fall because of a Tuesday night loss to Ohio State just before the poll was released. A No. 5-7 seed is looking like a strong possibility unless Purdue gets into the Big 10 championship, in which case it would earn a No. 4.
19. Indiana (24-5) 18 17
I still think Indiana is the most talented team in the Big 10, but it has too many question marks to merit a higher ranking. Still, the committee will grant the Hoosiers a higher ranking than they deserve. Right now, I’d say they’d be a No. 4 seed, but that is certainly subject to change.
20. Drake (25-4) 20 21
The Bulldogs drop a bit after a loss to Missouri State last week, but after beating Butler, Drake can’t do much to fall out of the top 25. I’d expect the Bulldogs to earn a No. 5-7 seed on Selection Sunday
21. Marquette (21-7) 21 20
The Golden Eagles actually move up one spot after a heartbreaking overtime loss to Georgetown. Though they lack an inside presence, Dominic James is playing arguably the best basketball of his career and could carry Marquette relatively far in the tournament. Expect around a No. 6 seed.
22. Gonzaga (23-6) 22 23
The Zags are back! Mark Few’s squad heads into the WCC tournament on a roll and looking at the possibility of earning anywhere from a No. 5-7 seed in the Big Dance.
23. Mississippi State (20-8) NR 25
How the Bulldogs haven’t cracked the AP poll is beyond me. They’ve reached the 20 win plateau and have won 11 games in the SEC. They deserve at least a No. 7 seed.
24. BYU (23-6) NR 24
BYU graced our rankings early in the season and actually reached as high as No. 12 after beating Louisville. The Cougars have been nowhere to be found, but are starting to resurface on the national landscape. They are looking at a possible No. 6-8 seed.
25. Washington State (21-7) 23 22
Once considered a perennial top ten team, Wazzou is feeling the effects of being in the nationa’s top conference and will need a good Pac-10 tourney to avoid sliding into a No. 7 or 8 seed.