Brian Rauf answers your biggest college basketball questions of the week in a new College Hoops Mailbag.

We’re barely a few days into March and the madness has already set in across the college basketball world.

Baylor and Michigan both suffered double-digit losses in the past week, Ohio State is suddenly sliding, and teams like Illinois and Kansas are surging at the right time. All of that has created a new conversion about the teams that will be No. 1 seeds when the bracket is officially released in a weekend and a half!

Conference tournaments also got underway this week and the Horizon League is already providing plenty of drama. Three of Tuesday’s four games went into overtime, including Milwaukee’s 24-point comeback win over Wright State and Cleveland State’s triple OT win over Fort Wayne.

We don’t specifically discuss the Horizon League in this week’s mailbag, but we do start with a look at the most impactful conference tournaments and Illinois’ chances to getting a No. 1 seed.

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We post these mailbags every Wednesday throughout the course of the season, so make sure you join the conversation on Twitter at @brauf33. Thanks as always to those who contributed this week.

This question was submitted before Illinois’ monster win over Michigan on Tuesday night, but I included it because I think we need to discuss the No. 1 seeds.

Losses by Baylor and Michigan have locked up the No. 1 overall seed for Gonzaga. Even if they were to stumble in the WCC Tournament, there is enough of a margin of error now that neither of those teams will jump them. Baylor and Michigan are also safe on the top line thanks to their metrics and sheer number of quality wins, and I think Illinois’ win safely puts them in the fourth No. 1 spot.

The Illini now lead the nation in Quadrant 1 wins and won’t have a bad loss the rest of the way should they stumble. There also isn’t really a team who can threaten to replace them unless Ohio State ends up winning the Big Ten Tournament and Illinois loses early.

Conference tournaments won’t matter for Gonzaga, Michigan, and Baylor in terms of getting a No. 1 seed, but they could matter in terms of where they sit on the overall seed line (who is the No. 2 overall seed, etc). That’s not a huge deal but is the only thing that would really change.

For a team to gain a lot of ground in a conference tournament, they have to play in one with multiple opportunities for Q1 wins. Those are essentially just the Big Ten and Big 12 and, since most of the Big Ten is already locked into a top two or three seed, I’m looking at the Big 12. I think Kansas could jump to a No. 2 seed and potentially grab a No. 1 if Illinois completely tumbles, but Texas Tech has the most ground to gain. I think they could go from a middling seed to a top 16 overall seed if they pick up two or three Q1 victories.

On the flip side of that, we need to look at top-heavy conferences for teams who could really hurt themselves. To me, that team is Drake. The Bulldogs are in the field now but have a flimsy resume and won’t be at full strength. If they lose to someone other than Loyola-Chicago in the Missouri Valley Tournament, this group could be NIT bound.

I’m not high on them, to say the least, but I am curious to see if this late run at home carries over into next season. The first step in a program’s maturation is learning how to defend its home court, which the Huskers have done over the last two weeks. They’ve also developed an identity defensively, which is important.

I just don’t see where this group goes offensively. Trey McGowens needs to be better if Nebraska is going to turn things around and while I really like Dalano Banton, he has got to bring it consistently. Hopefully a full offseason program to develop will help speed up their development.

Nope, absolutely none. Smartest thing you can do. Certainly fun, too.

Brian Rauf
Brian Rauf

Heat Check CBB Lead National Writer