by Jerry Palm
Today's bracket has been posted. The battle for No. 1 seeds is tighter this year than we have seen in a long time.
Usually, even by this time of the season, we'll have a pretty good idea who at least one or two of the No. 1 seeds are going to be in the final bracket on Selection Sunday. Someone will be so dominant that nothing short of an injury would derail them. This year, that's not really the case. Here is a look at the contenders.
Duke -- The Blue Devils are back on the top line in this week's bracket and have the best chance of staying there. The reason for that is because the rest of their league is at least a step-and-a-half behind them, so it will be a reasonably significant upset every time they get beat. If that happens.
Ohio State -- The undefeated, top-rated Buckeyes have been playing with fire lately, with five of their last six wins coming by single-digit margins. They still have plenty of landmines ahead, including home-and-homes with Purdue (starting tonight) and Wisconsin .
San Diego State -- Undefeated and maybe under-respected, the Aztecs can start building some of that respect tomorrow at BYU . Win or lose, they are likely to be favored every time they take the floor from here on out.
Kansas -- Texas knocked the Jayhawks off their perch in the Big 12 on Saturday. They are 11-0 against NIT-quality teams (a few of which may end up in the NCAAs anyway) and 0-1 vs NCAA-quality teams. They'll get some chances to make statements still against Missouri and Texas A&M .
Connecticut , Pittsburgh , Syracuse , Villanova -- The top of the Big East is loaded again. Any of these could be No. 1 seeds, and it wouldn't be a big surprise if two of them are. Which ones is harder to predict, but the Orange are behind the curve just slighly having already lost to Pitt and Nova. Nobody has more top 25 RPI wins right now than UConn, which has five. Pitt, Notre Dame and Texas have four each. Maybe the Irish could play their way into this group too eventually.
BYU - It's hard to think of the No. 1 team in the RPI as a longshot for a No. 1 seed, but they probably are. Like San Diego State, the Cougars don't have a high-quality non-conference win, and don't have too many chances to get them in the league, except against the Aztecs. That means that for both of those teams, a gaudy record will be required to compete for a spot on the top line.
Purdue is up a couple of spots this week to a 3-seed after beating Michigan State and filling a hole in their tournament profile. The Boilers can really make some noise if they knock off Ohio State tonight.
Cincinnati has crept up to a five-seed after winning at St. John's . Xavier 's ascent to the top of the Atlantic 10 has helped too. The Red Storm has dropped into the dreaded 8-9 game after an 0-2 week that also included at loss at Louisville .
Gonzaga would probably be happy to be in an 8-9 game, like they were in last week's bracket. Now, the Zags are in a First Four game against Miami after losses at Santa Clara and San Francisco last week.
Nobody has fallen harder than UCF though, which just two weeks ago was undefeated and 14th in the RPI. Now, they are on a four-game losing streak and down to 64th. The Knights lost at home to East Carolina and Rice this week and fell from a 7-seed to out of the bracket entirely.