Earning an NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed is not only prestigious, it's also a significant competitive advantage. In the first rounds, a top seed faces one of the field's four bottom teams, and a 1-seed never has lost an opening-round game. A top seed has to get to the Sweet 16 before it has any chance of facing a top 25 team.
With that in mind, each week we will dive into the race for the four No. 1 seeds. Unlike our top 10 resumes analysis, this will focus as much on what lies ahead as what these teams have already done. These are the teams with the best chance to finish with a top seed based on talent, schedule, what they have done so far and what they likely can do.
The Wildcats have defeated North Carolina and Michigan State and likely will be favored in every game the rest of the way. There doesn't appear to be a significant challenger in the SEC. Kentucky still has a home nonconference game vs. Kansas on Jan. 28.
Oregon handed the Bruins their first loss, and this is another team that will likely be favored in each of its remaining games. The Ducks and Arizona are capable of giving UCLA problems, and the Bruins will face Oregon at home (Feb. 9) and Arizona twice (Jan. 21, Feb. 25) before Pac 12 play ends.
The defending champs lost for the first time in 20 games Wednesday night at Butler, but their schedule still sets up well. The Wildcats already have wins away from home against Purdue, Notre Dame and Creighton and will get the Bluejays (Feb. 25) and Bulldogs (Feb. 22) at home in Big East action. They also still have home-and-home matchups (Feb. 10, Feb. 22) with Xavier.
I know...Baylor is undefeated and will get to them shortly, but Kansas is the team to beat in the Big 12 until somebody does. The Jayhawks haven't lost since the opener to Indiana and have a win over Duke. They have Baylor (Feb. 1, Feb. 18) and West Virginia twice (Jan. 24, Feb. 13) in conference play, plus the aforementioned game at Kentucky upcoming.
The undefeated Zags' entire case for a top seed will rest on how Florida and Arizona perform in their respective leagues because those represent Gonzaga's best nonconference wins. They also likely must run the table in the West Coast Conference, which means beating St. Mary's at least twice.
The Bears are undefeated and have already beaten Louisville, Xavier and Oregon in nonconference play. All they have to do now is do what nobody but Kansas has done for 12 seasons -- win the Big 12.
It's been one thing after another for the preseason favorite. Injuries, a suspension for Grayson Allen, and now Coach Mike Krzyzewski will miss a month with back surgery. When healthy, Duke may well be the country's best team. Maybe we will finally get a chance to find out.
The Ducks were without Dillon Brooks in the early part of the season, but have won 11 straight wins since a loss to Georgetown. Oregon has a relatively favorable Pac-12 slate that brings Arizona to Eugene (Feb. 4) without a return trip.