Published March 13, 2019

By William Whisler

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With championship week in full swing and Selection Sunday just days away, the NCAA Tournament field has started to take shape.

While some teams have already punched their ticket with victories in their conference championships, the biggest question remaining are the four No. 1 seeds up for grabs. Who should the committee select as the four best teams entering the tournament?

Here’s a short look at six teams vying for No. 1 seeds.

Virginia 28-2, 16-2 ACC

The Cavaliers should have no trouble commanding a No. 1 seed in the tournament, especially with a strong performance in the ACC Tournament. Even if Virginia were to fall to a team in the ACC Semifinals, they seem like a lock with their lone two losses coming at the hands of the fully-loaded Duke team. Virginia swept the season-series with the likes of North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Louisville. The Cavaliers also have quality wins over Wisconsin and Maryland.

Virginia has always plays suffocating defense and it comes as no surprise that the Cavaliers lead the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 54.6 points per game while scoring 72.1 per game. The Cavaliers also possess the second-greatest scoring margin in all of Division I basketball, winning their contests by an average of 17.6 points.

Key Players: Kyle Guy, De’Andre Hunter, Ty Jerome

Confidence Level: Sharpie

Gonzaga 30-3, 16-0 WCC

After a shocking loss to rival Saint Mary’s in the WCC Championship Game, the Bulldogs had their stomachs ripped out with a 13-point loss in which they scored just 47 points on Tuesday night. The Bulldogs beat The Gaels by 48 in one regular-season matchup. But when the pressure was on? Choke.

The conversation around Gonzaga has always been the legitimacy of its conference schedule. Are the Zags overrated? We hear that question every season, but this year is especially interesting. I’ve always been hesitant when taking Gonzaga, but this year seems special. The team won 30 games. Rui Hachimura is one of the best players in college basketball, along with star guard Brandon Clarke. The loss (should) prevent Gonzaga from getting the Top overall seed. But you can’t argue with the line of work. They beat Duke, at full-strength, remember?

Key Players: Rui Hachimura, Brandon Clarke, Killian Tillie

Confidence Level: Sharpie 

North Carolina 26-5, 16-2 ACC

 The injury to Duke’s Zion Williamson has arguably affected no team greater than the Tar Heels. North Carolina capitalized off Williamson’s injury in the first meeting between the two teams in Cameron Indoor, knocking off Duke in an 88-72 contest. Carolina then followed it up with a 79-70 win at home to wrap-up the regular season.

North Carolina has easily been one of the best teams in the ACC and a late-season surge has put the Tar Heels in great shape for a No. 1 overall seed, as long as they don’t have an early exit in the ACC Tournament or have Duke win the ACC title. UNC is 14-1 in its last 15 games.

Key Players: Coby White, Cameron Johnson, Luke Maye

Confidence Level: Pencil 

Kentucky 26-5, 15-3 SEC

John Calipari’s 2019 squad wasn’t itself to start the season. It has taken some time for Kentucky to figure some things out, but now the Wildcats are rolling into the SEC Tournament. The Wildcats have excelled with stellar guard play from Ashton Hagans, who has become an elite defender when it comes to steals and has been a great freshman for the Wildcats.

Kentucky continues to roll, along with P.J. Washington turning into a stellar player, averaging just under 15 points per game in 29.2 minutes per game. The Wildcats have split with Tennessee, who could be the biggest threat to a Wildcat title and a No. 1 seed, along with LSU.

Key Players: P.J. Washington, Ashton Hagans, Tyler Herro, Reid Travis 

Confidence Level: Pencil 

Michigan State 25-6, 16-4 Big Ten

Michigan State has been an elite team that has gone somewhat under the radar in 2019, despite grabbing a share of the regular-season Big Ten title with Purdue. The Spartans have been led by guard Cassius Winston who is without a doubt one of the best players in all of college basketball. Couple that with the fact that Sparty gets forward Nick Ward back for a stretch run and Michigan State is extremely dangerous.

The Spartans have lost just one game against a ranked opponent this season — the season-opener against Kansas — and swept rival Michigan, Iowa, Ohio State and earned a split with Purdue. Winston leads the Big Ten in assists per game, is second in assist-turnover ratio and fourth in points per game. A Big Ten title makes Michigan State a lock for a No. 1 seed.

Key Players: Cassius Winston, Nick Ward, Xavier Tillman

Confidence Level: Sharpie

 Tennessee 27-4, 15-3 SEC

Tennessee is the team with the most to gain in its conference tournament. Tennessee saw itself slip from the top ranks of college basketball, failing to close out its schedule with LSU winning the regular-season title in the SEC.

The Volunteers share the basketball extremely well, average 82.3 points per game and turn it over just 11.2 times per game. If there is anything that really hurts this team, it is a lack of perimeter shooting, which doesn’t always translate to NCAA Tournament success. The Volunteers rank 268th in 3-pointers per game and 265th in total 3-pointers made.

Tennessee needs some help to get a No. 1 seed, including an SEC Title or upsets to Kentucky or LSU. I don’t know how much I love the Vols for a one seed, however they do have a top offensive-threat in leading scorer Grant Williams.

Key Players: Grant Williams, Kyle Alexander, Jordan Bone 

Confidence Level: Pencil with an eraser