Welcome to the latest installment of our weekly series looking at the top 10 NCAA tournament resumes. As we approach the end of December and conference play begins in earnest, we are now almost 40 percent of the way through the regular season. That means a lot can change between now and selection Sunday.
When the NCAA selection committee evaluates teams, they are looking to answer some key questions about each team. Who did they play? Where did they play them? Who did they beat? And who beat them? It's a subjective process guided by objective data (RPI). There are five other computer ranking systems averaged together to help inform the committee, but no team gets in or seeded based on any individual or collective computer ranking alone.
This early in the season, there will be a lot of disagreement among the various computer rankings simply because there aren't enough games played yet. The rankings will tend to converge as the season goes on, but there will still be disagreements and anomalies.
For those of you who follow the football selection committee, note that head-to-head is not necessarily a decisive criterion in basketball. It is not unusual to see a team selected or seeded ahead of a team it lost to during the season.
Here is how things stand as of games through Jan. 3.
No. 10 Florida State Seminoles
Best Wins: Florida, at Virginia
Losses: vs. Temple
The Seminoles are one head-scratching loss from being undefeated. In their defense, Temple was playing at a pretty high level early and beat West Virginia the day after taking down FSU. They have five very difficult games coming up, although they will get four of them at home, so there is a chance to rocket up this list.
9. Duke Blue Devils
Best wins: vs. Florida
Losses: vs. Kansas, at Virginia Tech
Duke has had a season fraught with peril and they have more adversity coming as coach Mike Krzyzewski sits out a month with back surgery. The Blue Devils are coming off a loss at Virginia Tech to start ACC play. They have what should be a relatively easy week ahead at home, but nothing seems to be easy for Duke lately. And when will Grayson Allen return?
8. Kentucky Wildcats
Best wins: vs. North Carolina
Losses: UCLA, at Louisville
Kentucky began its march through the SEC with complete destructions of Ole Miss and Texas A&M by a total of 65 points. There aren't many teams in the league that can push the Wildcats, and none that can touch them at all if they are on their game.
7. Louisville Cardinals
Best wins: Kentucky, Purdue
Losses: vs. Baylor, Virginia
Louisville has played a very good schedule so far. Last week gave the Cards a loss at home to Virginia and a win over fading Indiana in Indianapolis. They have another chance for a good win coming up Wednesday night in South Bend against Notre Dame.
6. Creighton Bluejays
Best wins: Wisconsin
The Bluejays had No. 1 Villanova at home last weekend with a chance to make a big statement. While they acquitted themselves well, the opportunity for a big win slipped away. Creighton will get more chances, but none as good.
5. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Best wins: vs. Florida, vs. Arizona
Gonzaga has played a decent schedule and hasn't lost. The Zags may be favored every time they take the floor the rest of the way. Now that they are into conference play, their strength of schedule will slowly slide down the rankings.
4. UCLA Bruins
Best wins: At Kentucky
Losses: at Oregon
The Bruins suffered their first loss this week at Oregon on a buzzer beater by Dillon Brooks. Their overall schedule is nothing special beyond Kentucky and Oregon. It's not as horrible as Indiana's, but there aren't a lot of great tests on it. They have a win over Nebraska that looks much better this week.
3. Kansas Jayhawks
Best wins: vs. Duke.
Losses: vs. Indiana.
Kansas lost to Indiana in overtime on a neutral floor to start the season and hasn't lost since. They beat Duke on a neutral floor. Wins over TCU and Nebraska are looking better now than they may later, although the Cornhuskers are surging.
2. Baylor Bears
Best wins: vs. Louisville, Xavier, Oregon
The Bears also have wins over VCU and Michigan State on neutral floors. That win over Louisville took a slight hit in the last week with the Cards loss at home to Virginia. Baylor opened conference play with a destruction of Oklahoma in Norman. The Bears have three games between now and the next version of this column, including a trip to West Virginia.
1. Villanova Wildcats
Best wins: At Creighton, At Purdue, vs. Notre Dame
The Wildcats win at Creighton last weekend has pushed them past Baylor to the top of the bracket at the moment. They are the No. 1 team in the polls and no worse than fourth in any of the computer rankings. The Big East will continue to test Villanova, starting with a game at Butler on Wednesday.