Michigan State, Kentucky, Arizona, Ohio State are top seeds for now
Selection Sunday is still three and a half months away but it's never too early to see how teams are positioning themselves for the Big Dance. On the heels of an overstuffed week of hoops and heading into another big week that will be highlighted by the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, here is an early look at the top four seeds in each regional. We'll do this throughout December and then start our weekly projection at the entire 68-team field starting in January.
1. Michigan State
The Spartans are a perfect 7-0 and have a neutral-court win over Kentucky and a championship in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic as their signature achievements of the young season. They are No. 1 in the polls and our current No. 1 overall seed, though an interesting game with unpredictable North Carolina looms on Wednesday.
The win over Baylor gave the Orange its first resume-building victory of the season. C.J. Fair had 24 points and is now averaging 18 points per game.
The Cardinals lost their only true test of the season -- a neutral court game against the Tar Heels -- and won't face an opponent in their class until facing Kentucky in Lexington at the end of the month.
Perhaps most impressive in its 63-59 win over Kansas was how Villanova held Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden to a combined 4-of-13 from the floor. The Wildcats did more in November to boost their stock than any other team.
They're still turning the ball over too much, but the Wildcats' talent is really starting to coalesce. Willie Cauley-Stein had 15 points, eight rebounds and nine blocks in Sunday's win over Providence.
2. Oklahoma State
We're not going to overreact too much to what has happened in the first three weeks of the season, but the Cowboys have struggled when Marcus Smart hasn't brought his A game. He was held to just 12 points in Sunday's loss to Memphis.
The Badgers have shown a greater propensity than usual to get up and down the floor, but don't be fooled by some of their surface stats. In games against Florida, Saint Louis and West Virginia, they scored 59, 63 and 70 points, respectively.
The No. 12 Huskies haven't done anything to betray their lofty ranking, but we'll get a better idea of just how good they are when they host Florida on Monday night.
Arizona boasts three wins over teams ranked in the KenPom.com top 55, including Saturday's impressive 72-66 victory over Duke to win the NIT Tip-off.
The Blue Devils' in-season accomplishments to this point may peg them at a lower seed. They have lost to both strong opponents they've faced -- neutral court defeats to Kansas and Arizona -- and have allowed 73.3 points per game overall.
The Gators' only loss came at Wisconsin with Damontre Harris, Scottie Wilbekin and Dorian Finney-Smith out due to suspension or off-court issues, and that game still went down to the wire. Their next three games are as tough as any team will face in the non-conference: at UConn, vs. Kansas in Gainesville and vs. Memphis in New York City.
4. Wichita State
Last season's Final Four Cinderellas would have been outside this column before a notice-serving 70-65 win at Saint Louis on Sunday. Five Shockers posted double figures, including Ron Baker leading the way with 22.
1. Ohio State
What a weekend for the Buckeye faithful. Sure, their football team now has an inside track to the BCS National Championship Game, but what really matters is that LaQuinton Ross finally got going with 17 points in a win over North Florida on Friday. Ohio State's best win is over Marquette and it won't face a true test until playing Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 21.
The Jayhawks, which dropped their first game of the season to Villanova on Friday, looked lethargic during the Battle 4 Atlantis, specifically Andrew Wiggins on the offensive end. They don't get a chance to rest, as they travel to Colorado and Florida before playing New Mexico in the Kansas City Shootout in their next three games.
The Tigers exacted some revenge on Oklahoma State by beating the Cowboys in the championship of the Old Spice Classic less than two weeks after being routed in Stillwater. Now let's see if the Tigers can build on that performance when they face Florida on Dec. 17 at Madison Square Garden.
The Ducks are averaging 88 points per game and shooting 52 percent from the floor and 41.3 percent from behind the arc in their 7-0 start.
Gonzaga: Kevin Pangos is averaging 20.4 points per game for the Bulldogs, but their most impressive win so far is over Arkansas.
Michigan: The smart bet is that the Wolverines will eventually land one of the top four seeds in a given region, but early-season losses to Iowa State and Charlotte have them as a mid-tier seed right now.
Iowa State: Fred Hoiberg's squad gave Michigan one of those defeats, a win that will help the Cyclones all season long. They also impressed during a 27-0 run in the first half of their drubbing of UMKC last week.
Virginia: The Cavaliers will likely find themselves in the other section of this column next week if they can beat Wisconsin in Charlottesville on Wednesday.
UCLA: The Bruins have scored at least 95 points in three straight games, capping off an undefeated run in the Las Vegas Invitational by going 13-for-17 from three-point land against Northwestern.
Baylor: Syracuse held the Bears at arm's length all night in winning the championship game of the Maui Invitational. Friday's matchup with Kentucky will be a measuring stick for Baylor.
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