What does it take to be No. 1?
While Virginia, Villanova and Xavier have essentially locked up their No. 1 seeds before their respective conference tournaments have even begun, there's a battle between currently projected No. 1 seed Kansas (the Jayhawks are the worst of the four No. 1s right now) and the best No. 2 seed, Duke.
The NCAA tournament selection committee could have an interesting decision on its hands depending on how championship week shakes out. If Kansas doesn't win the Big 12 tournament — a very likely scenario given the strength of the league and how KU showed up in an ugly loss to Oklahoma State over the weekend — then that opens the door for Duke, which is coming off a momentous win over archrival North Carolina on Saturday but still has to stage a solid run in the ACC tournament (likely winning it all) to leapfrog the Jayhawks.
It's a unique scenario compared to years' past where several teams are at least in the mix to shake things up for the top seeds battle. But both Michigan State and Purdue don't have enough on their profile following Big Ten tournament exits to Michigan. Newly-anointed No. 2 Cincinnati won't move up. And North Carolina's loss to Duke on Saturday was sort of a de facto No. 1 seed duel. The only No. 2 with a shot is the Blue Devils.
If you compare Duke's current résumé (25-6, 13-5, No. 4 RPI) to Kansas' résumé (24-7, 13-5, No. 5 RPI), you'll notice that the Blue Devils have a better RPI — barely. But thanks to the overall strength of the Big 12 (the country's best RPI conference), KU has the nation's second best strength of schedule to far surpass Duke.
In championship week, Duke could face either Virginia Tech or Notre Dame in the quarterfinals. That's a must-win. Same goes for a semifinal battle with either Miami or North Carolina (barring a surprise run by Syracuse). If the Blue Devils were to take down Virginia in the ACC tourney championship, that should be enough to trump a Kansas team that doesn't win the Big 12 tourney. If they lose to UVa in the title game, it still might be enough to beat out a Kansas team that loses to Oklahoma or Oklahoma State in the Big 12 quarterfinals or bows out in the Big 12 semis to either Kansas State or TCU.
Others considered for at-large bids (in no particular order): Louisville, Washington, LSU, Notre Dame, Oregon, Boise State, Nebraska
On life support: Temple, Penn State.
Multi-bid conferences: ACC (8), SEC (8), Big 12 (7), Big East (7), Big Ten (4), Pac 12 (4), AAC (3), Atlantic 10 (2), WCC (2).
Leaders or highest RPI from projected one-bid conferences — (23 total): America East (Vermont), Atlantic Sun (Lipscomb), Big Sky (Montana), Big South (Radford), Big West (UC Davis), CAA (Charleston), Conference USA (Middle Tennessee State), Horizon League (Wright State), Ivy League (Penn), MAAC (Iona), MAC (Buffalo), MEAC (Hampton), Missouri Valley (Loyola-Chicago), Mountain West (Nevada), Northeast (Wagner), Ohio Valley (Murray State), Patriot (Bucknell), Southern (UNC-Greensboro), Southland (Southeast Louisiana), SWAC (Arkansas-Pine Bluff), Summit (South Dakota State), Sun Belt (Louisiana), WAC (New Mexico State).
Banned from participating: Alabama A&M, Grambling, Southeast Missouri State.
Note: All RPI and statistical data is used from WarrenNolan.com.
About our bracketologist: Shelby Mast has been projecting the field since 2005 on his website, Bracket W.A.G. He joined USA TODAY in 2014. In his fifth season as our national bracketologist, Mast has finished as one of the top three bracketologists in the past four March Madnesses. He’s also predicted for The Indianapolis Star, collegeinsider.com and is an inaugural member of the Super 10 Selection Committee. Follow him on Twitter @BracketWag.