clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Kentucky cracks top 5 of Jay Bilas’ top 68 teams

A good spot to be in ahead of Selection Sunday.

Georgia v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

With conference tournaments being played all throughout this week, we are just four days from getting to see this year’s NCAA Tournament bracket. There’s a lot still up for grabs for every conference in the country.

Beyond who wins one of the 32 automatic bids, this week determines who will remain a “one-bid league”, the overall seeding and who sneaks in from the bubble.

With the madness in full swing, ESPN’s Jay Bilas released his top 68 ranking for Championship Week.

Bilas’ top five is pretty fair with Virginia, Gonzaga, North Carolina, Duke and Kentucky.

Virginia may be one of the best teams on offense and defense in the country, but they made history last year as they were the first #1 seed to lose a #16 seed in tournament history. They were the #1 overall seed as well, which shows that even though seeding DOES matter, you still have to show it every game.

It’s justified to drop Gonzaga from the top spot after losing in the WCC Championship to St. Mary’s. If Duke and North Carolina play again in the ACC Tournament like we all expect, the winner of that game will get to remain a #1 seed. The Tarheels won the first two, but a healthy Zion Williamson changes the makeup of the game completely. I just don’t see any realistic scenario in which the ACC can end up with three of the four #1 seeds.

Who will get the final #1 seed? From most projections and Bilas’ ranking, the possible third meeting between Kentucky and Tennessee (sixth in Bilas’ ranking) in the SEC semifinals would decide it.

Michigan State sits at #7 with an outside shot at earning a #1 seed. From there, Houston, Michigan, Texas Tech, Purdue and LSU fill out #8-#12. They all can help themselves with strong conference tournament performances and even winning their respective tournaments. But these are all teams that won’t be any higher than a #2 in any circumstance.

One interesting placement is Auburn at #15, ahead of Villanova, Marquette and Kansas State. Despite the season they’ve had, he cites Auburn’s ability to hit shots and force turnovers to justify their ranking ahead of those teams. They finished the season on a four-game win streak, including a big one against Tennessee, but they’ll have to make a lot of noise in the SEC Tournament to truly justify this high of a spot.

Another interesting team is Kansas, who Bilas has at #21. Even with potential, talent and experience in either Ochai Agbaji, Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes and Dedric Lawson, this Jayhawks team is not the powerhouse they’re used to being. The losses of LaGerald Vick, Udoka Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa throughout the season have taken this team apart like a puzzle. They’re 8-6 in their last 14 and even with success in the Big-12 Tournament, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kansas out as a first weekend team as their inconsistencies may finally catch up with them.

The other SEC teams in his rankings include Mississippi State at #33, Florida at #38, Ole Miss at #42, and Alabama at #59. Mississippi State could get an opportunity against Tennessee, and Florida could earn a chance at LSU, a team they’ve beaten once and lost to by one in overtime.

Ole Miss will play Alabama for another shot at Kentucky, while the Crimson Tide likely need a win against the Rebels to feel comfortable come Sunday. If Alabama were to win, they would get a Kentucky team they beat in the first game of conference play in Tuscaloosa. There’s a lot at stake for every team in Nashville starting tonight.

Some other interesting rankings include Seton Hall at #40, Belmont at #46, Indiana at #47 and UNC Greensboro at #58. The Pirates beat Kentucky in OT earlier this year in Madison Square Garden and the UNCG Spartans came into Rupp Arena and led for the majority of the ball game before the Wildcats pulled away.

Belmont is interesting because they have a strong resume, but after losing to Ja Morant and Murray State and not earning their conference’s automatic bid, they may need some luck around them to get them back in the field.

Indiana may be one of the most confusing teams in the country because even with an overall record at 17-14 and an even worse conference record at 8-12, they have wins against Marquette, Louisville, Wisconsin and two big ones against Michigan State. That’s what’s kept them in the conversation.

Based on Bilas’ rankings and all that we will see throughout Champ Week, it’s obvious that there’s going to be a lot left to figure out and even more to enjoy until a champion is crowned in Minneapolis.

Here’s a look at Bilas’ top 20 teams in this ranking:

1. Virginia Cavaliers

2. Gonzaga Bulldogs

3. North Carolina Tar Heels

4. Duke Blue Devils

5. Kentucky Wildcats

6. Tennessee Volunteers

7. Michigan State Spartans

8. Houston Cougars

9. Michigan Wolverines

10. Texas Tech Red Raiders

11. Purdue Boilermakers

12. LSU Tigers

13. Virginia Tech Hokies

14. Nevada Wolf Pack

15. Auburn Tigers

16. Villanova Wildcats

17. Marquette Golden Eagles

18. Kansas State Wildcats

19. Florida State Seminoles

20. Louisville Cardinals