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NCAA Tournament 2017: Jay Bilas ranks Sweet 16 teams

The Cats get a bump up in the Bilas Index thanks to a big win and some big upsets.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

After snubbing the Kentucky Wildcats from his initial list of true National Championship contenders, Jay Bilas now has the Cats listed as the third-best team in the field on the Bilas Index.

That’s great, but the No. 1 team, according to Bilas, is in their region in North Carolina. And they have to get past the No. 5 team on Bilas’ list, the UCLA Bruins, to even get to the Tar Heels.

Here’s what Bilas said about the improved Cats.

The Wildcats are playing much better defense, which was the only thing standing in their way of being a title winner. Bam Adebayo has 28 rebounds in the NCAA tournament, the most in the field and the most through the first two rounds of an NCAA tournament in Kentucky history. Adebayo is the third Kentucky player to have a double-double in each of his first two career NCAA tournament games (Julius Randle in 2014, Frank Ramsey in 1951).The toughest draw of the No. 2 seeds still belongs to Kentucky. The Wildcats will have to play UCLA and perhaps North Carolina to reach the Final Four.

Between North Carolina and Kentucky are the Kansas Jayhawks at No. 2, and SEC foes Florida and South Carolina rank No. 13 and No. 16, respectively. Here is how his entire ranking played out:

1. North Carolina Tar Heels

2. Kansas Jayhawks

3. Kentucky Wildcats

4. Arizona Wildcats

5. UCLA Bruins

6. West Virginia Mountaineers

7. Oregon Ducks

8. Gonzaga Bulldogs

9. Wisconsin Badgers

10. Michigan Wolverines

11. Purdue Boilermakers

12. Baylor Bears

13. Florida Gators

14. Butler Bulldogs

15. Xavier Musketeers

16. South Carolina Gamecocks