2013 College basketball bracketology, gearing up for March Madness: 1/28 to 2/3

Michigan Wolverines guard Trey Burke (3) drives around Illinois Fighting Illini guard D.J. Richardson (1) during the second half at Assembly Hall. Michigan defeated Illinois 74-60. (Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports)

A day late and a dollar short on this one, sorry.  Try and have these in by Monday afternoon but sometimes our best laid plans don’t quite work out.  Thankfully, Kansas wasn’t upset by West Virginia and Louisville ended their losing streak so these picks are still accurate.  As always, make your debate points in the comments.  Let’s roll!

1 Seeds: Michigan, Kansas, Indiana, Duke

Controversy right from the top.  Yes, I have Duke a tad of a bit ahead of coach Billy Donovan and Florida.  The Blue Devils have a better RPI (1 vs. 5), strength of schedule (2 vs. 13) and better wins than the Gators.

2 Seeds: Florida, Syracuse, Gonzaga, Arizona

So Syracuse, 18-2 (9 RPI, 30 SOS, No. 6 AP ranking), has really been stuck on the two line for a while — why?  Well, obviously losing to Villanova in OT on a day when a win would most likely have put them past Duke is the obvious answer but I think it still is the Temple loss.  Temple is a good team but hasn’t been blowing A-10 teams out of the water, so people still hold it against the Orange.  Another reason is their two best wins, Lousville and Cincy, have come by a combined five points.  When you think of a No. 1 seed, don’t you expect them to be thrashing clubs?

3 Seeds: Butler, Oregon, Michigan State, Ohio State

I have these teams sandwiching Louisville out of the 3-seed range, and MSU, who is lower-ranked than OSU, as a safer three; this surely raised a few eyebrows.  Well the first is MSU had the most impressive win recently, at Wisconsin.  The other is that MSU knocked off those very Buckeyes.  Lastly, Sparty has a better RPI and SOS than both clubs.  Finally the eye test tells me that MSU played Indiana extremely tough in Bloomington so despite coming up just short, they even looked the best of this trio.

Mississippi Rebels guard Marshall Henderson (22) reacts to scoring the tying basket against the Vanderbilt Commodores with teammate Mississippi guard Derrick Millinghaus (3) sending the game into overtime at Memorial Gym. Mississippi won 89-79. (Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports)

4 Seeds: Louisville, Miami, Wichita State, Ole Miss

Who had the Shockers, Canes and Rebs as four-seeds to start the season?  Heck, who had all three in the tournament?  Wichita was the most likely to make it based on preseason expectations but Miami and Ole Miss … woah.

[Ole Miss state Marshall Henderson double-fists Coors Lights in celebration of win over Auburn]

5 Seeds: Missouri, NC State, New Mexico, Kansas State

A rather flawed group here (other than Mizzou who I think will choke regardless of their seed and quite frankly, stink).  NC State can’t get a winning streak going.  The Lobos just lost by 21 (and only scored 34 points) to SDSU and KSU has dropped two in a row.  One at home to Kansas tight but the other was a loss at Iowa State where the team’s defense simply took a night off.

6 Seeds: SDSU, Cincy, Creighton Marquette

I already mentioned the Aztecs big win over New Mexico and Creighton got back in the win column after a loss to Wichita and a hang-over loss at Drake. Cincy beat this very Marquette team but both have plenty of nice wins and look to pick up some more as the swan song of the Big East continues to unfold in the most fascinating of ways.

7 Seeds: La Salle, UNLV, Minnesota, Colorado

I’m still not jazzed about this Buffs team, but they have won three straight, unlike ah-hem, Minnesota.  Let’s give some love to the Explorers. La Salle has similar CPU numbers (and record) to OU, CSU and others but I really love is that record against AP teams: 2-0.  The Sooners, by comparison, are 0-4.

8 Seeds: Oklahoma, UCLA, Georgetown, Illinois

UCLA’s surge continued with the Bruins whooping of Arizona. The program now has no where to go but up.  The Hoyas also had a hot week with two wins, one of which in a thriller over Louisville so they seem to have stabilized after some early season struggles.  Illinois … not so much.  Yes they stopped the bleeding at woeful Nebraska but they followed that up by losing to Michigan.  No harm in that, but it was by 14 (and not even that competitive) and it was at home.  There is harm in that.

9 Seeds: Colorado State, VCU, North Carolina, Wisconsin

Giving the Badgers the edge over Nova since the Badgers have three big wins versus the Cats’ two; also the Wildcats’ losses have been much more egregious than Wisconsin’s.  On the flip side, VCU dropped their last two.  Facing a little bit of adversity for the first time all year, let’s see how they react going to a cupcake, hosting a cupcake and then traveling to the surprisingly good Charlotte 49ers.

[Related >> Wisconsin’s Jared Berggren posterizes this hapless Hoosier]

10 Seeds: Belmont, Villanova, Iowa State, Baylor

Here’s my problem with Baylor: The Bears haven’t beaten anybody other than St. John’s.  Also, they got completely drubbed at Kansas.  I’m not saying they should have won, but they lost by 17 and only managed 44 points.  Their computer stats feel inflated based on the much more reliable eye-test.  I also had Belmont as a 10-seed (higher than a few other polls out there) but feel vindicated.  Both their RPI and SOS has improved in a week and they are coming off a beat-down of sneaky-good Eastern Kentucky on the Colonel’s home court.

St. John’s Red Storm forward/center Chris Obekpa (12) dunks on an empty basket during the second half against the Seton Hall Pirates at Madison Square Garden. St John’s won 71-67. (Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports)

11 Seeds: St. John’s, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, PLAY IN

First of all, St. John’s is a stronger team right now with their impressive 27th-ranked SOS and wins over Cincy, Notre Dame and Rutgers to back it up.  As for the Irish and Cowboys, similar stories.  Some nice wins but games that just make you scratch your head.  They seem like they could either get real hot, or stumble all the way to the NIT here in the second half.

12 Seeds: Southern Miss, Middle Tennessee State, Bucknell, BYU

Of the teams left on my big board, BYU has the best RPI remaining and the 5th-best strength of schedule.  It seems strange that the 3rd place team in the WCC would get in, but their numbers are there.  Interestingly, the Cougars are behind a team in the WCC but ahead of that same squad here — Saint Mary’s who always seems to be snubbed; however, with a 61 RPI and a SOS outside of 150, I’m not sure that’s much of a snub.

13 Seeds: Louisiana Tech, Akron, Stephen F. Austin, PLAY IN

Why, with a top 50 RPI, is Tech all the way down here?  Three letters: W-A-C.  The league is letting them down, especially Utah State, as the Aggies are in a tail spin right now.  As a result the RPI might be hot but the SOS is not.  A robust 187, ouch.  By my league champions still left on my big board, the next lowest of teams expecting decent seeds is Bucknell, at 141.  A few percentage points is worth some wiggle room but 46 teams different?  That’s bad.

14 Seeds: Valparaiso, Harvard, Northeastern, Long Beach State

Two of these teams have been downgraded based on their leagues having down years (Valpo and Northeastern).  The other two … well … they just haven’t won many games yet still lead their respective leagues.

15 Seeds: Stony Brook, Davidson, Florida Gulf Coast, Niagara

Stony Brook has a better RPI than Northeastern by just 17 spots.  The SOS isn’t as kind.  Northeastern’s is 140 versus the Seawolf’s brutal 260 mark.  I don’t know how many high school teams you have to play until you are ranked outside the top 250.

16 Seeds: Montana, Western Illinois

The Griz are having a nice season but the Big Sky isn’t that stout this season, and as a result their SOS is barely inside 300. The incredibly low number has led to their RPI slipping to 125.  Ditto that for WIU out of the Summit.

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

These four RPIs: 194, 151, 170, 173.  I’m sure the people of Dayton, where these first Tourney games are being held, are looking forward to these two bracket busters.

Play in 11: Memphis vs Kentucky

The NCAA would love to have this; regional rivalry, a power league team and both in driving distance.  They are also very evenly matched

Play in 13: Temple vs Pittsburgh

Another power league team as well as teams with a regional rivalry.  Pittsburgh is also an easy drive to Dayton, which the NCAA would like to have.

[Hilarious giant head spotting at Kansas-WVU game — even Brent Musberger loves it]

Last five in:

First five Out:
Arizona State — wretched schedule, but they have beaten who they played for the most part, including UCLA the last time out.
Rutgers — I love that top 40 SOS and they have some nice wins.  They are right there if they can just take care of the bunnies down the stretch to pad the overall win-loss.
Massachusetts — Pretty solid numbers but they lack a marquee win.  They still have some cracks to get it in A-10 play.
Charlotte — The opposite of UMass.  Their 142 SOS is a big issue, but they do have a nice win against La Salle.  They just need to keep winning to make the record so gaudy that the schedule strength becomes a footnote.
Maryland — I really wanted to put the Terps in, especially with the win over NC State in their back pocket but a 65 RPI and even worse, 95th ranked SOS in a down year for the ACC simply isn’t good enough.

Next five Out:
Indiana State — great numbers but I just don’t buy it.  A bad loss to Morehead State, an even worse one to Illinois State and then a downright brutal loss to Southern Illinois (the Salukis’ only league win so far) and they haven’t even knocked off anyone that good.  No, I don’t get the love for the Sycamores.
Saint Mary’s — The RPI is still in the top 68 but that SOS like I mentioned is ugly.  They really need to win a ton more games and hope Gonzaga is among that group of wins.
Saint Louis — Much like SMC, the RPI would say they are in if that was how the field was made, but life doesn’t work that way.
Xavier — The Musketeers have the best SOS left but not enough wins to justify more than a sniff of the Dance.
Wyoming — The wheels really have come off thanks to suspensions and hitting league play.  It was a nice story for awhile there, but I don’t see the Pokes getting their groove back.

Appeared on my big board:
Boise State — Top 68 RPI but bad SOS, need more wins ASAP as well as an upset of the top Mountain West teams
Iowa — Need another signature win to help the mark, or at least a 9-9 Big Ten finish.
Richmond — 70 SOS and 70 RPI puts them within striking distance but they need to take the reigns and win some of these games
Washington — Spoiling the 50th-best schedule in the land with a pedestrian win-loss.  Knocking off a top Pac-12 team would go a long way.

31 Champions
28 “Power” At Larges
9 “Mid Major” At Larges

League Breakdown:
9: Big East
7: Big Ten
6: Big 12
4: A-10, ACC, Mountain West, Pac 12, SEC
1: 20 Others

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