No. 1 Kentucky won again on Saturday, this time beating No. 18 Arkansas, 84-67, in a game that wasn’t all that close after the opening tip. Heck, Kentucky led by 16 at halftime and by 31 with eight minutes to go.
The win clinched another SEC title for the Wildcats (29-0, 16-0), who appear a virtual lock for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
“Yeah, they’d probably have to lose twice (to fall from the top spot),” CBS Sports college basketball analyst Jerry Palm said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “If they lost twice and won out, then Virginia could be ahead of them. But even one-loss Kentucky is probably still the overall No. 1 seed.”
Palm’s top four includes Kentucky, Virginia, Duke and Villanova, which replaced No. 3 Gonzaga (29-2, 17-1) following the Zags’ surprising 73-70 home loss to BYU (23-8, 13-5) on Saturday.
Gonzaga won at BYU in December and entered Saturday riding a 22-game winning streak.
“(It’s) pretty stunning that Gonzaga would lose at home,” Palm said. “That knocked Gonzaga off the top line. The thing for Gonzaga is they really had no margin for error because their schedule isn’t as good as some of these other teams, so any loss was going to knock them down.”
Villanova (27-2, 14-2), meanwhile, might be the most underrated elite team in the country. The Wildcats have just two losses – both on the road against conference rivals, including one in overtime.
“Villanova, who nobody really talks about at all, is having a great year,” Palm said. “Won the Big East again this year. They’re up there now as the fourth No. 1, and who knows? Maybe (they) even (have) a chance to move up higher.”
Amy Lawrence wondered if the Big East is still as respected as it was before realignment.
“Well, it’s obviously different now,” Palm said. “It’s a completely different makeup, but it’s had a fantastic year. It’s the No. 2 league in the ratings behind the Big 12, but it’s had a pretty similar year. They were great outside the league. Up until Seton Hall kind of went in the tank, they had seven potential tournament teams in a 10-team league, and they’re most likely going to get six of those 10 teams into the field. If you have a 10-team league, and you’re putting more than half your teams in the tournament, that’s a pretty good year.”
In any event, the No. 1 seeds remain fairly fluid outside of Kentucky and perhaps Virginia.
“I think Virginia could lose once and stay on the top line,” Palm said. “They might even be able to lose twice – depending on what happens with some of these other teams – and stay on the top line. Wisconsin still has a shot to move up. Arizona still has a shot to move up. And if enough things happen, even Gonzaga has a shot to move back up, but I think that there would have to be some significant help.
“But you know you’ve got two ACC teams on that top line, and they can’t both run the table because they’d have to play each other in the ACC Tournament, and the loser of that game could fall from the top line – and that could open the door for someone else.”