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The Early Lead
Posted at 09:48 AM ET, 01/30/2012

Kentucky, Syracuse, Ohio State, Duke in line for NCAA tournament top seeds


Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski directs his players in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Maryland. Duke won 74-61. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (Patrick Semansky - AP)
Kentucky, Ohio State and Syracuse all can make strong cases at this point to be No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. The race for the fourth top seed is extremely competitive right now, with at least five teams in the mix — six if you consider Missouri — with impressive tournament profiles.

Which team deserves that final No. 1 seed as of today? Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Baylor or Michigan State?

Duke: The Blue Devils may have the most impressive resume among the five in contention for this final spot. They have played the nation’s strongest overall schedule and rank second in the Ratings Percentage Index. More than that, they have won four games against top 25 RPI teams, including victories on a neutral court against Michigan State, Kansas and Michigan. They have played just two games against teams ranked 200 or worse in the RPI, and their worst loss is against a Florida State team that throttled North Carolina.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels’ profile appears inferior to Duke’s at this point. They have played the nation’s 30th-strongest schedule. They have just two top 25 RPI victories, including a neutral court win against Michigan State. Like Duke, their worst loss was to Florida State, albeit by 33 points.

Kansas: The Jayhawks had a tenuous grasp on a top seed until the loss at Iowa State. They are in a dogfight with Baylor and Missouri to keep the Big 12 crown another season. The Jayhawks have an impressive six victories against RPI top 50 teams, including attention-grabbing victories against Baylor and Ohio State. Their worst loss is that home setback to Davidson on Dec. 19.

Michigan State:
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo could be leading the Spartans to a No. 1 seed. (AP Photo/Al Goldis, File) (Al Goldis - AP)
Is the Big Ten strong enough to see two teams emerge with No. 1 seeds? Maybe this season. After an 0-2 start this season, the Spartans have lost just two games. Their best wins came against Gonzaga, Florida State, Indiana and Wisconsin. They will have no shortage of opportunities to impress the rest of the way because they play seven top-50 teams before the Big Ten tournament.

Baylor: The Bears are an extremely talented team that has collected an 8-1 record outside of Waco. Most impressive were victories against West Virginia, St. Mary’s, Mississippi State and Kansas State, all away from home. Baylor has a 7-2 record against top 50 teams. And they will get their rematch against Kansas at home Feb 8.

More on Washington Post Sports

Maryland coverage at Terrapins Insider

Virginia coverage at Cavaliers Journal

Hokies coverage at Hokies Journal

By  |  09:48 AM ET, 01/30/2012

 
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