The top 10 teams in college basketball are generally identifiable, but there is a lot of fluidity and movement in terms of which teams are in the top half of that top 10 and which teams are in the bottom half. There is not a lot of stability in college basketball this season, so you’re going to see a lot of teams switch places, especially among teams 6 through 15 in the country.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
The Alabama Crimson Tide have never been a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but that is very likely to change this March. Alabama lost by 24 points to Oklahoma in late January, and that result seemed to put the Tide on the No. 2 seed line for March Madness. However, Alabama has destroyed its opponents since then, beating Vanderbilt by 57 points and obliterating Florida by more than 20 before winning on the road against Auburn this past Saturday.
Alabama is still unbeaten in the SEC and is collecting lots of road wins. That is a No. 1 seed profile. Moreover, with Houston and especially Purdue struggling, Alabama just doesn’t have a good chance of falling far enough to not be a top seed. The other teams contending for a No. 1 seed aren’t rising, so even if Alabama loses another game or two before the NCAA Tournament, that probably won’t prevent the Tide from getting a top seed. Bama probably needs to lose three games in the next four weeks to fall to a No. 2 seed.
2. Houston Cougars
The Cougars are No. 2 because Purdue has begun to accumulate losses. Purdue has lost twice in the past two weeks, first to Indiana and then to Northwestern. That is enough to move Houston to the second overall ranking and a top seed position. Houston’s one bad loss was a home-court loss to Temple. The Cougars’ only other loss was to No. 1 Alabama, so that’s a result which doesn’t hurt the Cougars.
Essentially, they have that one blemish versus Temple and nothing else. Houston won at Virginia. They defeated Saint Mary’s, a clear NCAA Tournament team, on a neutral court. They scored a few other notable nonconference wins but it will be important for Houston to beat Memphis in the American Athletic Conference. Memphis beat Houston twice last season. If the Cougars lose to Memphis again, they might not be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
3. Purdue Boilermakers
The Purdue Boilermakers had just one loss this season a few weeks ago. Purdue looked like the best bet to be the No. 1 overall seed at the NCAA Tournament. Then came an ugly loss at Indiana and an even worse loss this past Sunday to Northwestern. Purdue led 55-47 with just under four minutes left in regulation and seemed to be in complete control. Then the Boilermakers unraveled late, allowing a 17-3 Northwestern run for a 64-58 loss. Purdue big man Zach Edey is the likely National Player of the Year in college basketball, but he doesn’t have a lot of help.
More precisely, the Purdue backcourt is young and fragile. Strong defensive ball pressure can rattle Purdue’s guards and limit the amount of touches Edey gets inside. This is a huge concern for Purdue heading into March Madness. Nevertheless, other challengers for a No. 1 seed aren’t playing great, so Purdue is still likely to be a top seed.
4. UCLA Bruins
This is where things get really complicated and especially fluid. UCLA is probably the fourth and final No. 1 seed simply by process of elimination. It’s not that UCLA is playing great; the Bruins lost to USC and Arizona in late January. Their games since then have not been very challenging. However, Arizona lost to Stanford and UCLA took full control of the Pac-12 race.
If UCLA beats Arizona in the rematch between the two teams later this season, the Bruins have a very good chance of getting the fourth No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. This would be the top seed in the West Region.
5. Texas Longhorns
The Longhorns are in first place in the rugged Big 12 Conference, but they just did lose to Texas Tech, the last-place team in the Big 12, on Monday night. That probably keeps them out of the No. 1 seed position, but if Texas finishes strong, it will still be in the hunt for a top seed.
The Longhorns have done really well this season when you realize that coach Chris Beard got fired after being arrested. Interim head coach Rodney Terry has done a surprisingly good job. In March, he will likely be auditioning for the permanent head coaching position. If he gets to the Final Four, he will probably keep his job. If he loses early in March, he will be replaced.
6. Kansas Jayhawks
The Jayhawks are battling Texas for the Big 12 lead. They recently did beat Texas at home to stay in the hunt for the conference championship. Coach Bill Self doesn’t have an elite big man, but he still has a lot of highly skilled guards and wings who will keep the Jayhawks in the conversation for the March Madness odds.
7. Baylor Bears
The Bears are getting healthier, having added Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua after a months-long absence due to surgery and injury recovery. Baylor could be an especially dangerous team no one will want to face in March. This is a deeper team than what we saw in early January.
8. Arizona Wildcats
The loss to Stanford this past Saturday might cost the Wildcats a No. 1 seed in March Madness, but they visit UCLA in Los Angeles in a few weeks. If they can win that game and then win the Pac-12 Tournament, they might still have a chance to be a No. 1 seed when the brackets are announced on Selection Sunday, March 12.
9. Virginia Cavaliers
The Cavaliers were fortunate to beat Duke this past Saturday. They were the beneficiaries of what was clearly a missed call at the very end of the game. Duke appeared to have been fouled by Virginia with 0.1 seconds left, but officials ruled the clock had expired. Virginia has a lot of work to do to win the ACC and get a high seed in March.
10. Tennessee Volunteers
The Vols had a horrendous week, losing to Vanderbilt and Missouri in the final seconds. We will see in the coming days if Tennessee is for real versus the college basketball odds or if the Vols are going to unravel and collapse.