Why Kansas is a clear No. 1 and national title favorite – USA TODAY

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In this unpredictable college basketball season in which no No. 1 is permanent in the polls and bracketology seeds have wildly fluctuated, it has become increasingly difficult to answer the question that starts to creep up this time of year: Who will win the national title?

Enter Kansas.

The Jayhawks (25-4, 13-3) just clinched a share of their 12th consecutive Big 12 regular-season title on Saturday after shaking off Texas Tech 67-58. They’ll likely be the No. 1 team in Monday’s USA TODAY Sports coaches poll and are the top overall seed in Sunday’s USA TODAY Sports bracketology projections based on a fantastic NCAA résumé that includes the country’s best Ratings Percentage Index.

Coach Bill Self’s team looks much different than many of his more recent teams. It lacks the one-and-done flavor of two years ago, when Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid steered the Jayhawks. Instead this is a veteran group, led by seniors Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor, and juniors Frank Mason III and Wayne Selden Jr. These veterans aren’t stars or lottery picks by themselves. But together the recipe has led to one of Self’s better teams in the last decade. Including the 2008 championship team.

Though a star-studded freshman class — mostly Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg Jr. — has underachieved, sophomores Devonte Graham (11.1 ppg) and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (17 points vs. Texas Tech on Saturday) nicely bolster the experienced lineup.

Forecasting a Kansas national title in February is familiar. But it’s different this year. The Jayhawks clinched the Big 12 title, not based on individual talent but as a much more cohesive unit. And they won the league in perhaps its toughest year ever; Oklahoma, West Virginia and Iowa State have all been considered Final Four candidates. Texas, Baylor and Texas Tech have great March potential as well.

So one predictable outcome that actually did follow preseason forecasts is that Kansas won another Big 12 title. They also were predicted to be in the national title hunt. That doesn’t seem too far off at this point, either.

This ACC title race is super close

Virginia’s big win against North Carolina on Saturday and Miami’s victory against Louisville made things interestingly close at the top of the ACC standings with one week remaining in the regular season. Miami and UNC (both 12-4) are in first place, while Virginia and Louisville (11-5) are one game behind. And if Duke wins at Pittsburgh on Sunday, there will be a three-way tie for second place. All five teams are in contention for the regular-season title. (Louisville has self-imposed a postseason ban.) The Cavaliers, fueled by an impressive performance from Malcolm Brogdon, looked like the best team in the ACC on Saturday. But losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech back in January could end up costing them.

How about Utah?

No. 23 Utah handed No. 10 Arizona its second consecutive loss on Saturday, besting the Wildcats on their home floor 70-64. After Arizona seemed to have taken control of the Pac-12, now the conference title race is close following that pair of losses (the other came against Colorado). Oregon leads the standings (11-4) but the Utes (12-5) certainly looked like the most elite team in the conference on Saturday. They’re surging at the right point in the season and should notch a secured seed in the NCAAs because of it. Big man Jakob Poeltl (17.7 ppg, 8.9 rpg) is having an All-American season and will be a major force in March.

Biggest résumé boosts

► Vanderbilt: Defeated No. No. 14 Kentucky 74-62. It’s the signature victory this bubble team needed big time.

► No. 25 Texas: Defeated No. 4 Oklahoma 76-63. It’s the Longhorns’ best win and places them as a solid No. 4 seed in bracketology.

► Butler: Defeated Georgetown 90-87 in overtime. The Bulldogs, who couldn’t afford this loss, coughed up a huge lead but held on — keeping their NCAA hopes alive.

► VCU: Defeated fellow bubble team George Washington, 69-65. It’s a solid road win for the Rams, who needed this one. We talked earlier about the possibility of a the Atlantic 10 winner missing the NCAA tournament. It’s still a possibility for VCU, leading the A-10 standings.

No. 24Providence: Defeated DePaul 87-66. It’s not a good win at all, but the Friars avoided an ugly loss that likely would have put them on the bubble after being a top-10 team at one point this season. A road loss to DePaul led to Providence losing five of six, so this could signal a turn in the right direction.

Biggest résumé blemishes

No. 9 Maryland:Lost to No. 19 Purdue 83-79. That’s three losses in four games for a Terrapins team that has a deceptively unimpressive profile. A win on the road here could have bulked it up for a much higher seed, and they didn’t get it.

► No. 20 Notre Dame:Lost to Florida State 77-56. It hurts the Irish’s NCAA seeding and they actually were in the running for the ACC title. Not anymore.

No. 22 Dayton:Lost to Rhode Island 75-66. The Flyers have now lost three of four, which is not a recipe for a comfortable résumé position. Dayton was relatively safe. Now it’s not.

► South Carolina:Lost to Mississippi State, 68-58. It’s not a bad loss, but it hurts nonetheless

► Kansas State:Lost to Iowa State 80-61. No disgrace in losing to the Cyclones, but the Wildcats’ NCAA profile has too many losses (14). This all but solidifies their NCAA omission unless they win the Big 12 tournament title. 

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Why Kansas is a clear No. 1 and national title favorite – USA TODAY

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