1. Kansas (23-4, LW: No. 1): If you want to know what makes this season so weird, it’s Kansas being ranked No. 1 overall. I think they have the best overall profile. I think that the fact they are sitting two games ahead of the field is the uber-competitive Big 12 says all that you need to know. I think what Bill Self has done with a team where his only three projected first round picks barely may be the best coaching job of his career.
But if you had to pick four teams to make the Final Four right now, how many of you would have the Jayhawks on that list? Michigan State and Xavier will be the trendy picks. Oklahoma has the star everyone knows. North Carolina and Maryland are the talent-laden underperformers with the highest ceilings.
Kentucky. Duke. Cal. Arizona. Those teams have lottery picks and are peaking at the right time.
Kansas is a balanced, well-coached, veteran team. That doesn’t usually get a ton of hype. But it is a good formula for winning games.
2. Oklahoma (21-5, LW: No. 2): The Sooners are exactly who we thought they were. On the nights where they’re shooting well, they can do things like win by 14 at West Virginia. When they don’t shoot well, they lose three out of four, including road trips to Kansas State and Texas Tech.
3. Michigan State (22-5, LW: No. 5): I think Michigan State is back to being one of the nation’s best teams, particularly when Denzel Valentine is doing the kind of ridiculous stuff that he’s been doing over the course of the last three or four weeks. He makes everyone on that roster better, because that roster doesn’t have the kind of talent that would traditionally make them a favorite come Selection Sunday. But they will be.
4. Villanova (24-3, LW: No. 4): Blah blah blah. We get Villanova at Xavier on Wednesday. That will tell us what we need to know about both teams.
5. Virginia (21-5, LW: No. 7): The ‘Hoos are hitting their stride at the right now, and Malcolm Brogdon is playing like a first-team all-american. The improvements this team has made defensively since the start of the season have been drastic.
6. Xavier (24-3, LW: No. 10): See: Villanova.
7. Iowa (20-6, LW: No. 3): I’m really curious to see how Iowa bounces back from their loss at Penn State last week.
8. North Carolina (21-5, LW: No. 6): This is such a confusing basketball team. On Wednesday, when they lost at home to Duke, the Tar Heels showed us exactly why it’s so difficult to trust them. Then on Saturday, they showed us just how good they can be.
9. West Virginia (20-7, LW: No. 8): The Mountaineers have had better weeks. The good news? They’ll get a chance to bounce back immediately against Iowa State on Monday.
10. Kentucky (20-7, LW: No. 12): I know they lost on Saturday, but that was as fluky of a loss as you’re going to see. The Wildcats actually played pretty well considering the circumstances, and the emergence of Isaac Humphries is a huge deal for a team that needs interior depth.
11. Oregon (21-6, LW: No. 14)
12. Maryland (23-5, LW: No. 9)
13. Louisville (21-6, LW: No. 15)
14. Duke (20-7, LW: No. 19)
15. Arizona (22-5, LW: No. 21)
16. Miami (21-5, LW: No. 11)
17. Purdue (21-7, LW: No. 13)
18. Iowa State (19-8, LW: No. 16)
19. Utah (20-7, LW: No. 25)
20. Indiana (20-6, LW: No. 24)
21. Notre Dame (18-8, LW: No. 17)
22. Baylor (20-7, LW: UR)
23. Cal (18-8, LW: UR)
24. Texas (17-10, LW: No. 22)
25. USC (19-8, LW: No. 23)
DROPPED OUT: No. 18 Dayton, No. 20 SMU
NEW ADDITIONS: No. 22 Baylor, No. 23 Cal