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5. Texas Tech Red Raiders (15-1)
No, there aren’t five No. 1 seeds this year. But in addition to all the time spent talking about the No. 11 seeds on the verge of missing the tournament, we’ve decided to also start discussing the No. 1 seed bubble, when Texas Tech is the top challenger to the top seed line.
Since our last projection, Texas Tech has flexed its defensive muscles in wins over Kansas State, Oklahoma and Texas. The Red Raiders are 4-0 in Big 12 play with just the neutral-court loss to Duke keeping them from chasing an undefeated season.
Beyond Jarrett Culver, their offense leaves much to be desired. But they have held all 16 opponents below one point per possession, so they’re able to get away with the occasional turnovers and air balls. Kansas’s Big 12 streak is in danger of being snapped.
4. Tennessee Volunteers (14-1)
The Volunteers picked up their second-best win of the season on Saturday, winning at Florida behind yet another great performance from Grant Williams. The big man had 20 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals in the 78-67 victory, earning the right to troll the Florida fans with a little post-game Gator chomp.
Like Texas Tech, a neutral-court loss to a title contender (Kansas in overtime) is the only blemish on Tennessee’s schedule. But the Vols also have a huge win over a title contender (Gonzaga) that helps push them ahead of the Red Raiders. Also, their nonconference schedule was stronger than Texas Tech’s, as half of the Red Raiders’ resume consists of home wins against Quadrant 4 opponents.
3. Duke Blue Devils (14-1)
Duke finally played some true road games this week, dismantling Wake Forest before narrowly defeating Florida State on a last-second Cam Reddish three-pointer. Zion Williamson missed the entire second half against the Seminoles after getting poked in the eye*, but Reddish and RJ Barrett shouldered the load, finishing with a combined 55 points.
Coupled with the earlier neutral-site victories over Kentucky, Auburn and Texas Tech, Duke now has four wins away from home against KenPom top-20 teams. It’s tempting to vault the Blue Devils ahead of undefeated Virginia because of that, but we’ll let them settle that on the court this coming Saturday in Durham.
*That happened to Marvin Bagley III in a key game against Michigan State last year, too. Is this just a rite of passage for Duke’s potential No. 1 draft picks now?
2. Virginia Cavaliers (15-0)
Virginia has opened ACC play on some kind of a tear. After struggling with the likes of Wisconsin, Maryland, Dayton and VCU early in the season, the Cavaliers were up 29 on a good Florida State team before calling off the hounds. They proceeded to win road games over Boston College and Clemson by a combined margin of 47 points.
Only two opponents have scored 60 or more points against Virginia this season, and one of those instances was Marshall scoring a bunch of meaningless buckets against backups in a game that was 91-48 with three minutes remaining.
That defense is about to face a pair of serious tests, though. Virginia will host Virginia Tech on Tuesday before traveling to Duke on Saturday.
1. Michigan Wolverines (16-0)
The final margin was only 11 points, but Michigan made a statement early in its recent win over Indiana. The Wolverines led 32-13 in the first half, reminiscent of the team that beat the tar out of Villanova, North Carolina and Purdue earlier in the season.
They have gone through some stretches when it seems like they can’t buy a bucket on offense, but they also have spurts like those where it seems like this team—not Duke—should be the overwhelming favorite to win the national championship.