2013 College basketball bracketology, gearing up for March Madness 2/18 to 2/24

Indiana Hoosiers forward Cody Zeller (40) and Michigan State Spartans center Derrick Nix (25) and Michigan State Spartans guard Gary Harris (14) fight for loose ball during the 2nd half at Jack Breslin Students Events Center. Indiana won 72-68. (Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports)

Uh-oh time, the Horizon is now trying to throw a monkeywrench into everything by having Detroit crack the unofficial (or is it official?) magic barrier of a 68th ranked RPI.  Worse, their SOS is top 100, so their resume is pretty solid.  Why is this bad for teams like Villanova, Tennessee, etc?  Well, Detroit is behind Valpo in the standings.  The OVC and Summit also have outside chances of getting two teams in.  That should make several big-time bubble teams very nervous.

1 Seeds: Indiana, Miami, Gonzaga, Michigan State

Thanks to two blowout victories, the Hoosiers slip past Miami by the slimmest of margins.  You know what wasn’t slim?  MSU and Gonzaga pounding Michigan and Saint Mary’s respectively.  Even more impressive, the Bulldogs did it at SMC. Sparty’s close loss to Cody Zeller and Indiana should not affect them too much, thanks to the teams below them at the moment.

2 Seeds: Florida, Duke, Kansas, Georgetown

Based on AP standings, I have Kansas and Georgetown jumping Syracuse and Michigan and the reason is simple: The Jayhawks and Hoyas keep winning.  Kansas has bounced back after that three game skid in impressive fashion by slamming Kansas State.  Georgetown meanwhile has now strung together seven in a row. Their current streak includes wins over three ranked teams and a road trip over Cincy.

3 Seeds: Michigan, Syracuse, Oklahoma State, Arizona

Also on the topic of seven game winning streaks, how about those Pokes?  They host Kansas on Wednesday night (the 20th) so the streak will either end or turn into an epic eight-game streak with twoKansas wins in it.  Arizona and K-State was a coin flip, giving the edge to ‘Zona since, despite the recent struggles, have more wins and a better RPI and SOS than Kansas State.

Wisconsin Badgers guard Ben Brust (1) as Ohio State Buckeyes guards Amedeo Della Valle (left) and Shannon Scott (3) defend attempts a basket at the Kohl Center. Wisconsin defeated Ohio State 71-49. (Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports)

4 Seeds: Kansas State, New Mexico, Louisville, Wisconsin

I still love New Mexico (their computer numbers would make them a 1-seed) and right now they are quietly chugging along. That makes them dangerous … unless of course you buy into Steve Alford’s tournament bugaboo.  Wisconsin gets the nod over their Milwaukee rival because the Badgers have enjoyed more recent success against ranked foes.

5 Seeds: Marquette, Colorado State, Butler, Oregon

The Ducks are getting healthy and getting hot again.  They are already ahead of Arizona in the Pac-12 standings and based on how the two have looked in their last two games, UO will probably remain there.  Butler haters would point to that Charlotte loss and laugh, but it was a must win for the 49ers.

6 Seeds: UNLV, Notre Dame, Memphis, Pitt

I have Pitt clinging here despite losing two in a row, and most recently it was ugly to Notre Dame. However, they have wins over Georgetown, Connecticut, Syracuse, Cincy and that scary Providence team — just ask the Irish how good the Friars can be.

7 Seeds: Ohio State, Oklahoma, SDSU, NC State

Do the Buckeyes deserve to be ranked this low?  They have a solid AP ranking and good computer numbers so the heart says yes; but the heart?  I’m going with no.  They have lost three of four and was blown out by Wisconsin.  Worse, in their one win, it was much closer than that final 10-point margin and the team defeated was Northwestern, eww.

8 Seeds: Minnesota, Cincy, Illinois, North Carolina

After a no-show against Miami, UNC played Duke very tight and then dominated a pretty good Virginia team.  They are a cinch for 20+ wins (at 17 right now), will finish over .500 in the ACC, have the 30th ranked RPI and the 16th-best schedule.  Wait a second, how come I have them even this low?  Outside that Texas game, they really haven’t lost any bad ones.  They might turn some heads in the tourney, but keyword though is “might.”

9 Seeds: Wichita State, Virginia Commonwealth, UCLA, Colorado

What is going on in the MVC?  What looked like a three bid league now has UNI making a push but at the expense of WSU and Creighton.  Both teams have had their RPIs dip, their SOS is over 100 and they keep losing dumb games.  As a result, WSU only manages a nine seed and Creighton will comes in below even that.

10 Seeds: Saint Louis, Iowa State, Maryland, Ole Miss

Has any team helped themselves more than Saint Louis?  They have now won seven straight, including a win over Butler and dominating Charlotte, a team just coming off a road win against Butler themselves.  Pretty impressive stuff; I am also looking forward to their tilt against VCU on Wednesday.

I have the Terps in over a bunch of teams right here but I swear I’m not overreacting to that Duke win.  They are 2-2 against AP ranked teams, have a top 68 RPI, a so-so 90th ranked SOS and another nice win over Stony Brook.  Is their resume perfect?  No, but all things considered, that Duke win was impressive and made the NC State win look less like a fluke.  They can back it up in a big way though by winning out.  Certainly not impossible with the remaining slate (@ BC, Clemson, @ Georgia Tech, @ Wake, UNC, @ Virginia).

11 Seeds: Middle Tennessee State, Akron, Creighton, Missouri

One of those teams I have Maryland over is right here, good ‘ol Mizzou.  Now I can’t stand this team and more and more people are coming around to my argument.  Still, most don’t have them as an 11-seed.  So why do I?  Well I heard a very interesting interview the other day by a committee member saying the number one item he looks at is road wins since the tournament is played on the road.  I nearly swerved off the road, stunned as I was at this revelation.  I thought “how can idiots like this be on the committee, that’s his number one criteria?!”  It seemed crazy, but the more I thought about it, I got past the absurdity and realized it had merit.  Minnesota beat Iowa at the Barn and got throttled on the road.  Ohio State plays poorly on the road; yet Kansas, Gonzaga, the other elite teams — they don’t care.  They win everywhere.  So this brings me to Missouri.  Their number of road wins this season: One, and it was against a god-awful Miss. State team.  Throw in the fact that their best win was before Christmas (and it was against a slipping Illinois team) and I don’t care that the computer has them with a top 40 RPI, I really don’t.  The lack of success speaks for itself.

12 Seeds: Louisiana Tech, La Salle, California, PLAY IN

The lack of love for the WAC over the last few years will hurt Tech, but they don’t have a great SOS either.  However, at the rate they are winning (23-3) and no losses since December 12th, they will be an extremely confident team in that opening round game.  Sometimes confidence and faith in the impossible can help schools and a 12 beating a five is very possible — in fact it is one of the most common upsets.  So depending on the match-up, I like those Bulldogs to stand a chance at making the round of 32.

13 Seeds: Belmont, Bucknell, South Dakota State, PLAY IN

Very, very unfair to Belmont (20 RPI/72 SOS) but the perception of the Ohio Valley is still down, despite my love for it (teaser: I rate all the leagues later this week).  Still, they have lost 2-of-3 in-league and Tennessee State is not a game they should’ve dropped.

14 Seeds: Stephen F. Austin, Valparaiso, Stony Brook, Harvard

On the look of it, this is a nasty group of teams for any three seed to take on.  The worst team, based on the computer figures, is Harvard.  The same Harvard team that beat Cal and gave Memphis and Saint Mary’s all they could handle, and on the road no less. Yikes.

15 Seeds: Davidson, Montana, Long Beach State, Robert Morris

Not to inflate my ego even more, but I did pick Robert Morris to win the NEC.  Well they have taken their sweet time, but RMU is finally atop the standings in that up-and-down league.  Let’s see how long it actually lasts.

16 Seeds: Niagara, Northeastern, PLAY IN X 2

I cannot believe a CAA team would ever be a 16-seed, yet here we are.  Still, if there was ever a team to break through and score the first 1 vs. 16 upset, don’t you get the feeling it would be a team from a once-proud league like the Colonial?

Play in 16: Mercer vs Southern and Charleston Southern vs Norfolk State

Geez, you know you write something nice about a school and then they go and lose a game to get bumped out of the tournament.  That’s right, my fun little Florida Gulf Coast team has now slipped behind Mercer in the Atlantic Sun standings.  Mercer, of course, used to own this league (before Belmont) and looks like they want to be the king again.  I know for a fact there is an applicable quote from The Wire to go here.

Villanova Wildcats forward JayVaughn Pinkston (22) makes a layup in the second half against the Cincinnati Bearcats at FifthThird Arena. (Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

Play In 12: Arizona State vs Villanova
Play In 13: Baylor vs Temple

How in the world did I come to these four teams slipping in? Well, let’s break it down.

One new piece of data I really keyed on was road wins.  A member of the committee gave a recent interview when he said that road victories were his number one criteria.  In my initial shock, thinking that was such a random item to have as your number one, the more it made sense.  I don’t value it as much as he does, but I am putting a better focus on it, especially here in crunch time.

Arizona State and Villanova were rather easy.  Despite not having the greatest CPU numbers, Sparky does have 19 wins. That includes victories over UCLA, Cal and sweeping Colorado.  Four big league wins, four true road wins and a win against a fellow bubble team in Arkansas?  That was too much to ignore.  Villanova has a great SOS, four big wins (two against AP teams) and a whopping sixroad victories.

That left just two remaining spots.  Here is how I trimmed the fat.  The first teams didn’t stand much of a chance so I eliminated them right away:

Ohio: MAC never gets two teams in and the cpu numbers were bad.
Kentucky: Committee looks at injuries and losing by 30 their first game without Noel was bad.
Florida State: Don’t care how great the numbers are, they are only 14-11
Providence: Hot team right now, but worse numbers than FSU with the same record.
Wyoming: Worse SOS of the remaining resumes from the Mountain West, under .500 in-league and not the same without Martinez.
Eastern Kentucky: Top 68 RPI but that SOS is awful.

I compared the three A-10 teams and figured if Charlotte had a schedule nearly 40 rankings easier than the other two, why did they only have one more win?  The fact that Temple has the head-to-head win over UMass has me keeping the Owls ahead.  Temple also has the best RPI of that group.

The Mountain West battle was harder.  Air Force is 1-5 vs AP ranked teams to Boise’s 1-3, yet the Broncos have a harder schedule.  Boise has a RPI 30 positions better and one more win but Air Force has the only win in the series so far (they play again on the 20th) and is over .500 while Boise is under .500 in the league.  I do like Boise’s win at Creighton.  Both are in a slump right now.  In the end, as much as it pained me, I didn’t think either team would get in; although Boise is much closer.

The Missouri Valley was even harder than the Mountain West.  Indiana State swept the season series from Northern Iowa, has a better RPI and SOS; yet is struggling right now, while UNI is the hottest team in the league.  Even with Indiana State’s impressive work in last week’s chart (which will be back by the way), that RPI has gone from 46th to 60th thanks to some bad losses.  The fact that Wichita State and Creighton are also struggling has me eliminating both teams.  Believe it or not, I think Northern Iowa is closer to that bid now than the Sycamores, especially because they have a tougher schedule.

That brings us to everyone’s favorite moment … CHART TIME!  Since I have more teams, I’m taking the top 3 RPIs and SOS and giving 2 points, 1 point, .5 points for that.

* Doesn’t include the win over Kentucky due to Noel’s injury

So what does this chart tell us? Well it flushes out some of the problems with computer numbers.  Only Temple managed to stay in the hunt despite posting a good RPI.  As a result of the above findings I kept just Temple, Baylor and Virginia.  I dropped Iowa (worst SOS and RPI remaining) and Tennessee (fewest wins) despite having almost identical number as Virginia.

I decided, based on that interview to now include Road Wins and add that to the totals.  Temple has six for a new total of 15.5.  Baylor had just three, so they finished at 15.  Virginia also had three and so they were at 11.  So despite the totals being so close and the argument that this was arbitrary, this is how the committee operates sometimes.

Last 5 In (order of safety):
Ole Miss
Arizona State
Villanova
Baylor
Temple

First 5 Out:
Virginia
Tennessee
Southern Miss
Saint Mary’s
Iowa

Next 5 Out:
Boise State
Alabama
Air Force
Charlotte
Kentucky

In The Hunt:

UMass
St. John’s
Indiana State
Detroit
Northern Iowa
BYU

Breakdown
31 Champions
29 “Power” At larges
8 “Mid-Major” At larges

League Breakdown
8: Big East
7: Big Ten
6: Big 12, Pac 12
5: Atlantic 10, ACC
4: Mountain West
3: SEC
2: Missouri Valley
1: 22 Others

College basketball expert Jay Bilas calls for NCAA leader Mark Emmert to resign.