Tag Archives: 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament

Takeaways and observations from the opening weekend of March Madness

The madness is under way and it is as awesome as ever. Nine lower seeded teams won in the first (technically the second) round. Four more upsets occurred en route to the Sweet Sixteen. Here are some takeaways, observations, facts, and figures about the first three rounds of the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament:

  • A No. 12 seed has defeated a No. 5 seed in 11 of the past 12 seasons and in 22 of the past 24 years. 2013 was no exception; in fact, it was even more extreme than normal. Three No. 12 seeds (Oregon, California, and Ole Miss) pulled off an upset against a No. 5 seed (Oklahoma State, UNLV, and Wisconsin).
  • For the first time ever, a No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 seed in the same region lost in the round of 64. New Mexico, Kansas State, and Wisconsin were defeated in the West Region.
  • The Mountain West, which was the toughest conference in the country in the regular season according to RPI, has been completely eliminated from the tournament after a 2-5 showing for its five teams that made the tourney.
  • The Pac-12 may have been under-seeded and is getting hot at the right time. Two Pac-12 teams with No. 12 seeds (California and Oregon) defeated No. 5 seeds and the conference put two teams (Arizona and Oregon) in the Sweet Sixteen. Arizona defeated No. 11 seed Belmont by 17 points and No. 14 seed Harvard by 23. Oregon topped No. 5 seed Oklahoma State by 13 points and No. 4 seed Saint Louis by 17.
  • Teams from the state of Florida are 6-0 and all three (No. 2 seed Miami, No. 3 seed Florida, and No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast) are in the Sweet Sixteen. Florida and Florida Gulf Coast will face each other on Friday.
  • Big Ten Tournament Champion Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team that did not win a game in the tournament. The conference is 10-3 and has a team in the Sweet Sixteen in each region.
  • For the third year in a row, there was a matchup between a No. 12 seed and No. 13 seed in the round of 32. No. 12 seed Ole Miss and No. 13 seed La Salle faced off in the West Region. Last year it was No. 12 South Florida and No. 13 Ohio that matched up in the Midwest Region and two years ago No. 12 seed Richmond and No. 13 seed Morehead State played in the Southwest Region.
  • No. 13 seed La Salle is doing its best to model itself after 2011 Virginia Commonwealth, who was a No. 11 seed. The Rams played in the First Four before making a Final Four run, where they lost to No. 8 seed Butler. The La Salle Explorers finished tied for third in the A-10, then defeated No. 13 seed Boise State, No. 4 seed Kansas State, and No. 12 seed Ole Miss to reach the Sweet Sixteen. They will face No. 9 seed Wichita State on Thursday.
No. 13 seed La Salle will attempt to follow Virginia Commonwealth's footsteps as a First Four team to make the Final Four. (Image courtesy of www.usatoday.com)
No. 13 seed La Salle will attempt to follow Virginia Commonwealth’s footsteps as a First Four team to make the Final Four. (Image courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com)
  • Only two of the four Naismith Award finalists remain in the tournament–Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Michigan’s Trey Burke. Georgetown’s Otto Porter Jr. and Creighton’s Doug McDermott did not make it out of the first weekend.
  • The main color of the past nine NCAA Champions was blue. Eight (Duke, La Salle, Arizona, Marquette, Florida Gulf Coast, Florida, Michigan, and Kansas) of the remaining schools have blue as their main color.

Pre-selection show bracketology tips

The biggest moment of the college basketball season—Selection Sunday—is almost here. While basketball analysts argue over the No. 1 seeds and bubble teams in the final hour before the bracket is announced, here are a few tips to help you have success in your March Madness predictions.

  • Don’t go all “chalk”—Only once, in 2008, did all four No. 1 seeds make the Final Four. With all of the attention focused on the top teams and their respective regions, it is very tempting to lean towards going chalk—choosing the better seed—but stay strong and resist the temptation. Only 14 No. 1 seeds have made the Final Four in the past decade and there were no top seeds in both 2006 and 2011.
  • Don’t pick Gonzaga to advance past the Sweet Sixteen—The Bulldogs are a staple for the NCAA Tournament after making it every season since 1999 but they only one Elite Eight appearance in that span. While Gonzaga has never been a No. 1 seed, the Zags lost in the Round of 32 as a No. 2 and No. 3 seed in 2004 and 2005. The Bulldogs have proven that they can make the Sweet Sixteen, with five appearances since ’99, they have struggled to make a deep run in March.
  • Expect Georgetown to be upset—In the past three seasons, the Hoyas are 1-3 in the NCAA Tournament and were eliminated by No. 11 North Carolina State, No. 11 VCU and No. 14 Ohio. While Georgetown will likely by a No. 2 seed, they don’t have a good recent track record in March.
  • Pick at least one No. 12 seed to upset a No. 5 seed—No. 12 seeds upset No. 5 seeds in 34 percent of the matchups and at 12 seed has defeated a 5 seed in 11 of the past 12 years. Keep in mind that No. 12 seeds have a winning record in Round of 32.
  • Don’t overthink the 8/9 and 7/10 matchups—The differences between these middle seeds are small. Flip a coin, choose the team with the longer name or simply go with your gut because anything can happen in these first round matchups.

Reactions to college basketball conference awards

Where I agree:

  • ACC Coach of the Year-Jim Larrañaga-University of Miami: The U was projected fourth in the ACC preseason coaches poll and the Hurricanes did not receive a single first place vote. Larrañaga led a Miami team with four fifth-year seniors and a flashy sophomore point guard to the school’s first ACC Championship. The Hurricanes were ranked as high as second in the country and will likely be a No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. 
  • Big Ten Player of the Year-Trey Burke-University of Michigan: The Big Ten POY race came down to two players–Burke and Indiana guard Victor Oladipo. There wasn’t a wrong choice but I think that the Michigan sophomore was more deserving. Trey Burke averaged 19.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game this season and had a strong finish to Michigan’s Big Ten schedule by scoring at least 20 points in five of the team’s final six games. He won the game against Michigan State by picking Keith Appling’s pocket in the final 30 seconds and giving Michigan a two-point advantage with a dunk at the other end; he makes Michigan go. While Burke’s efficiency isn’t ideal (20 points on 20 shots and 25 points on 24 shots against Indiana, 19 points on 21 shots against Wisconsin, 19 points on 19 shots against Illinois, etc.), he gets the job done. Both Oladipo and Burke have talented running mates but Indiana has more depth and offensive weapons, including the preseason national player of the year in sophomore center Cody Zeller.
Michigan sophomore point guard Trey Burke sealed a victory for the Wolverines when he stole the ball from Keith Appling on March 3. (Image courtesy of www.freep.com)
Michigan sophomore point guard Trey Burke sealed a victory for the Wolverines when he stole the ball from Keith Appling on March 3. (Image courtesy of http://www.freep.com)
  • Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year-Victor Oladipo-Indiana University: Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft is probably the best on-the-ball defender in the country and he showed the Hoosiers his peskiness on March 5 when he led the Buckeye defensive effort that resulted in 12 Indiana turnovers. However, Oladipo is a more versatile defender. Oladipo can lock down almost any player from a point guard to a power forward. He has had multiple 20+ deflection games this season and has 69 steals (Craft has 60, for a point of comparison). There was no way that Victor Oladipo was going to go home empty handed on both the Big Ten POY and DPOY awards.

Where I disagree:

  • ACC Player of the Year-Erick Green-Virginia Technical Institute: It’s time to dust off the files containing the arguments about whether or not Alex Rodriguez should have won A.L. MVP in 2003 when the Texas Rangers finished 71-91 and were 25 games out of first place in the A.L. West. This is a similar situation in a different sport but this time there is no discussion. This is blatantly wrong. Green’s Hokies finished dead last in the ACC with a 13-18 (4-14) record. Three of Virginia Tech’s conference wins came against the three teams that are immediately ahead of them in the league’s standings–Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Clemson, whose cumulative record is six games below .500. Yes, Green leads the country in scoring at 25.4 points per game but  VT hasn’t accomplished much this season besides knocking off then-No. 15 Oklahoma State on Dec. 1. What’s wrong with Miami’s Shane Larkin, who led the ACC Champion Hurricanes in points, assists, steals and three-point percentage? What’s wrong with Mason Plumlee, who averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per game for the No. 2 Blue Devils? The ACC voters were way off in their POY vote. 
  • SEC Player of the Year-Kentavious Caldwell-Pope-University of Georgia: I have a similar beef with the SEC voters that I do with the ACC voters. The Georgia Bulldogs finished 9-9 in the SEC. They tied for eighth place in a power 6 conference that barely has three teams in the current projection of the 68-team NCAA Tournament field that will be released on Sunday. There’s no doubt that Caldwell-Pope is a good player–he is in the top 10 in the SEC in nine of the 13 statistical categories. Plus, he is projected to be a future first round draft pick in the NBA. However, the combination of his occasional struggles with inefficiency and inability to excel against ranked opponents do not make him deserving of the honor. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had difficulties with inefficiency in the beginning (17 points on 21 shots against Souther Mississippi on 11/15), the middle (16 points on 18 shots against Georgia Tech on 12/4 and 19 points on 19 shots against Ole Miss on 2/16) and the end (14 points on 15 shots against Alabama on 3/9) of the season. Coincidentally, Georgia lost all of those games. Also, Caldwell-Pope scored below his 18 ppg average in all five of UGA’s games against ranked opponents. In fact, he averaged nearly four fewer points. Star players step up in big games instead of backing down. Maybe I should just accept the SEC’s POY award as a sign of how bad the conference is this season but I think that Tennessee’s Jordan McRae was robbed. The Vols tied for fifth in the SEC and are only a win or two from making the tournament. McRae led UT in scoring with a 16.2 points per game average but he averaged over 24 in the team’s final seven games. In that stretch, Tennessee went 6-1, demolished No. 25 Kentucky by 30 points, defeated No. 8 Florida and McRae scored over 34 points on two occasions.

Bracketology Report: Indiana Hoosiers

Indiana Hoosiers—(24-3, 12-2)—1st in the Big Ten

Strength of schedule: 25

RPI: 7

BPI: 1

Good wins:

  • 88-81 vs. Minnesota
  • 75-70 vs. Michigan State
  • 81-73 vs. Michigan
  • 81-68 @ Ohio State
  • 72-68 @ Michigan State

Bad losses:

  • 74-72 @ Illinois

Remaining schedule:

  • 2/26 @ Minnesota
  • 3/2 vs. Iowa
  • 3/5 vs. Ohio State
  • 3/10 @ Michigan

The Hoosiers started the season at No. 1 and have been ranked no worse than seventh this season thanks to their 24-3 record. Indiana has lost on two last-second shots and IU’s losses have been by a total of nine points.

Indiana’s non-conference schedule was worse than almost every other top-ranked team. The only ranked team the Hoosiers played before the start of their Big Ten schedule was No. 14 UNC, who hasn’t been ranked since week 7 after the Tar Heels suffered five losses by at least nine points in its first 15 games.

Indiana junior Victor Oladipo is a leading candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year, National Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. (Image courtesy of www.nba-draft.com)
Indiana junior Victor Oladipo is a leading candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year, National Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. (Image courtesy of http://www.nba-draft.com)

However, IU’s weak schedule early in the season proved not to be a cause for concern for the Hoosiers once they won 12 of their first 14 conference games, which included five against opponents ranked in the top 15. One of Indiana’s greatest achievements has been its ability to win on the road in tough environments. IU won at Ohio State and Michigan State, which are the Buckeyes’ and Spartans’ only home losses in conference play this season.

Indiana will be favored to win its next three games—against Minnesota, Iowa and Ohio State—but the regular season finale at Michigan could be problematic for the Hoosiers. Michigan has not lost at home this season and the Wolverines will be eager to get revenge for their eight-point loss at Assembly Hall on Feb. 2nd.

Indiana has established itself as the No. 1 team in the country by holding the spot for 10 of the 17 weeks this season. The Hoosiers’ strong performance in the Big Ten made up for a weak non-conference résumé and they are on pace to earn the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. As long as IU does not lose more than once in the remainder of the regular season and is not blown out in a loss, the Hoosiers will likely maintain the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region.

Prediction: Indiana will win its next three games relatively easily but the game at Michigan will be a very tough challenge for the Hoosiers. IU will defeat Michigan by fewer than five points in a competitive matchup. The Hoosiers will be the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament but will lose to Wisconsin or Michigan State in the semi-finals or championship. However, Indiana will maintain its No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and will be placed in the Midwest Region.

Bracketology Report: Cincinnati Bearcats

Cincinnati Bearcats—(19-7, 7-6)—10th in the Big East

Strength of schedule: 31

RPI: 42

BPI: 21

Good wins:

  • 77-66 vs. Oregon
  • 70-61 @ Pittsburgh
  • 71-69 OT vs. Marquette

Bad losses:

  • 54-50 @ Providence

Remaining schedule:

  • 2/21 @ Connecticut
  • 2/24 @ No. 24 Notre Dame
  • 3/2 vs. Connecticut
  • 3/4 @ Louisville
  • 3/9 vs. South Florida

Even though Cincinnati has six conference losses and sits towards the bottom of the Big East standings, the Bearcats have been competitive in every game they’ve played in this season. Four of their losses have come against ranked opponents and another was against an unranked New Mexico squad that is now No. 16. UC has lost two games by one point, in addition to three other losses by six points or fewer. The Bearcats have proven that they’re a tough out but they lack quality conference wins, which are readily available in a conference with six ranked teams.

Cincinnati has held its opponents below 70 points on 23 occasions this season. However, the Bearcats’ offense leaves them susceptible to close losses in low-scoring games. Junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with his 18 points per game average on 41.6% shooting. Senior guards Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker are the only other Bearcats to average in double figures in scoring. UC’s offense is too guard heavy and Cincinnati is lacking an inside scoring presence that the team had last season with center Yancy Gates.

Cincinnati junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with an 18 points per game scoring average. (Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com)
Cincinnati junior guard Sean Kilpatrick leads the team with an 18 points per game scoring average. (Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com)

Cincinnati’s résumé is certainly tournament worthy but the Bearcats still have lots of room for improvement. At this point, UC is on pace for a seven, eight or nine seed. With four games remaining against Louisville, Notre Dame and Connecticut, who are fourth, fifth, and sixth in the Big East, respectively, the Bearcats could move up to a No. 4 or No. 5 seed if they run the table. A strong showing in the Big East Tournament would allow Cincinnati to be in the discussion as a No. 5 or No. 6 seed.

Prediction: Cincinnati will lose at Connecticut and Notre Dame, then end its three-game losing streak with a home victory over UConn. The Bearcats will lose on the road to Louisville and end the regular season with a win over South Florida to finish the season 21-10 (9-9). UC will be the No. 10 seed in the Big East Tournament. Cincinnati will win its first game and lose the second. The Bearcats will be a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Bracketology Report: Xavier Musketeers

Xavier Musketeers—(14-10, 7-4)—5th place in the Atlantic 10

Strength of schedule: 96

RPI: 98

BPI: 87

Good wins:

  • 62-47 vs. Butler
  • 57-52 vs. Temple
  • 70-63 vs. La Salle

Bad losses:

  • 56-55 vs. Wofford
  • 66-59 @ Wake Forest

Remaining schedule:

  • 2/20 @ Rhode Island
  • 2/23 vs. No. 24 VCU
  • 2/26 vs. No. 21 Memphis
  • 3/2 vs. Massachusetts
  • 3/6 vs. Saint Louis
  • 3/9 @ Butler

Xavier has made the NCAA Tournament in each of the last seven seasons and in 11 of the past 12 but the Musketeers are on pace to miss the Big Dance this year. XU Coach Chris Mack had a difficult challenge ahead of him for the 2012-13 season when senior guard Mark Lyons and sophomore forward Dez Wells left the team. Lyons and Mack disagreed about Lyons’ role on the team, which led to Lyons transferring to Arizona; Wells was expelled from Xavier University after allegedly committing sexual assault but he was never charged. XU Coach Mack had to replace all five starters from last year’s Musketeers team that made the Sweet Sixteen.

Led by freshman sensation Semaj Christon, Xavier has remained in the top third of the A-10 but the Muskies’ résumé needs some major improvement for XU to be chosen by the selection committee on March 17th. The highlight of Xavier’s non-conference schedule and overall résumé is a 15-point victory against Butler on Nov. 13. While XU has also defeated La Salle and Temple, who are fourth and seventh in the A-10, respectively, the Musketeers let too many winnable games slip out of their grasp. Xavier lost by three to Pacific, two to Vanderbilt in overtime, one to Wofford, four to Tennessee, six to Charlotte and two to Richmond.

Freshman point guard Semaj Christon has been one of the few bright spots for Xavier this season. (Image courtesy of www.bannersontheparkway.com)
Freshman point guard Semaj Christon has been one of the few bright spots for Xavier this season. (Image courtesy of http://www.bannersontheparkway.com)

While Xavier is certainly on the outside, looking in on the field of 68 teams selected for the NCAA Tournament, hope remains for the Musketeers. Three of Xavier’s final six games are against ranked opponents, in addition to a matchup against the A-10 leading Saint Louis Billikens. If the Musketeers can win three of those four games, or if they can win the A-10 Tournament, Xavier will be in the Big Dance.

Prediction: Xavier will defeat Rhode Island and Massachusetts but will lose to VCU, Memphis, Saint Louis and Butler. The Musketeers will be the No. 7 seed in the A-10 Tournament. XU will win its first round matchup but lose in the second round. Xavier’s 17-15 record will earn the Musketeers a No. 7 seed in the NIT.

College basketball stock report for week 16

After five consecutive weeks of teams moving up to the No. 1 spot one week and then back down the next as if there was a revolving door for the top spot, Indiana has held on to the No. 1 rank for the past three weeks. Miami (FL) has continued its ascent up in the polls from No. 25, No. 14, No. 8, and No. 3 to No. 2 and 23 first place votes behind the Hoosiers.

The Big East leads all conferences with six ranked teams, followed by the Big Ten with five and Big 12 with three.

With three weeks left of regular season conference play, here is my college basketball stock report:

BUY

Michigan State Spartans-(22-4, 11-2)-Ever since losing by five on the road to No. 7 Indiana, the Spartans have rattled off five wins in a row, including a 23-point drubbing of No. 4 Michigan. Michigan State is tied for first in the Big Ten with the opportunity to have sole possession of first place with a game against No. 1 Indiana tonight in East Lansing, Mich.

Adreian Payne and Michigan State are heating up as March approaches. The Spartans are tied with No. 1 Indiana for first place in the Big Ten entering their game on Tuesday.(Image courtesy of buckey extra.dispatch.com)
Adreian Payne and Michigan State are heating up as March approaches. The Spartans are tied with No. 1 Indiana for first place in the Big Ten entering their game on Tuesday.
(Image courtesy of buckey extra.dispatch.com)

Georgetown Hoyas-(19-4, 9-3)-The Hoyas have taken advantage of Syracuse’s three losses in the Orange’s last six games; Georgetown has won seven straight games, including three against ranked Big East opponents, and is in a three-way tie for first place.

Gonzaga Bulldogs-(25-2, 12-0)-Gonzaga has won 16 of its last 17 games and the Bulldogs’ only loss in the new year was a one-point defeat at the hands of Roosevelt Jones and the Butler Bulldogs on the road. Gonzaga played and defeated the four teams remaining on its schedule by an average of nearly 13 points this season. It would be no surprise if the Bulldogs do not lose until the NCAA Tournament.

SELL

Butler Bulldogs-(21-5, 8-3)-Butler has proven that its best is very good after the Bulldogs defeated No. 1 Indiana in December. However, Butler has lost three of its past eight games. Even though the Bulldogs play in an improved A-10, they have gradually fallen from their top 10 ranking.

Michigan Wolverines-(22-4, 9-4)-There is no doubt that the Wolverines have a roster that has the ability to play in Atlanta for the Final Four but Michigan has slipped up several times lately. The Wolverines lost three of their past five games. All four of Michigan’s losses this season have come on the road and the No. 7 team in the country will have to be able to play away from Ann Arbor, Mich. in order to go deep in the tournament.

Cincinnati Bearcats-(19-7, 7-6)-Cincinnati has been ranked for most of the season but fell out of the top 25 this week after losing three of their past four games and four of seven. All of the Bearcats’ losses have been by ten points or fewer, with four of them being by less than five points, UC has struggled to emerge as one of the best teams in the Big East. Cincinnati is tied for ninth in the conference with games against Connecticut, Notre Dame and Louisville remaining on its schedule. The Bearcats were projected to be a No. 3 seed in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s projected NCAA Tournament but they are falling quickly.

HOLD

Notre Dame Fighting Irish-(21-6, 9-5)-In the past two weeks, Notre Dame defeated No. 11 Louisville in five overtimes and No. 20 Pittsburgh on the road. However, the Fighting Irish also lost to No. 9 Syracuse by 16 and unranked Providence by 17. Notre Dame has a lot of potential but the team has been too inconsistent.

Marquette Golden Eagles-(18-6, 9-3)-With the exception of a loss at Green Bay in December, Marquette does not have any horrible losses this season. The Golden Eagles were routed by Florida and Louisville, two teams that have been at the top of the polls for most of the season, but they have faired well in their conference schedule. Marquette hasn’t proven that it’s a great team but has exceeded expectations in one of college basketball’s toughest conferences. With four road games and two matchups against ranked opponents remaining on their schedule, the Golden Eagles have a challenging home stretch before the Big East Tournament.

Week 15 NCAA men’s basketball power rankings

During Week 15 of last year’s college basketball season, it was evident that the Kentucky Wildcats were the premier team in college basketball and UK’s freshman center Anthony Davis was the best player in the country. The Wildcats had  a 25-1 record, with their only slip up being a 73-72 loss at Indiana early in December that will forever be remembered for the “Wat Shot.” Kentucky lost only one more game, the SEC Championship, the rest of the season and lived up to expectations by winning last year’s NCAA Tournament.

There is no Kentucky this year. In the past six weeks, the No. 1 team has changed five teams. No one has separated from the pack and any team that enters the top five seems to play hot potato with the No. 1 spot by losing. Last week, four of the top five teams–Indiana, Florida, Michigan and Kansas–in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll lost at least once. Kansas dropped consecutive games for the first time since November 21-22, 2005. Every team in the latest AP Poll has at least two losses, the average number of losses per top 25 team is slightly over four and No. 20 Wisconsin has seven.

So what does it all mean?

A) The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee are going to have a difficult time determining the field of the 68 teams that make it to the Big Dance.

and

B) Once the teams and seeds are finalized, the national championship is truly up for grabs.

Without further adieu, here are my NCAA men’s basketball power rankings for Week 15:

1. Miami Hurricanes (19-3, 10-0)-Miami is the only team in one of the power six conferences to have a perfect conference record. The Hurricanes’ 10-0 record in ACC play has given Miami a two-game cushion over Duke. The Hurricanes have proven that they can run traditional college basketball powerhouses out of the gym as seen by their 27-point win against Duke and 26-point victory over North Carolina.

The Miami Hurricanes are the only team in a power six conference that is undefeated in conference play. (Image courtesy of http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/29/3118194/win-signals-progress-for-miami.html)
The Miami Hurricanes are the only team in a power six conference that is undefeated in conference play. (Image courtesy of http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/11/29/3118194/win-signals-progress-for-miami.html)

2. Indiana Hoosiers (21-3, 9-2)-Indiana let an 11-point lead with seven minutes remaining against Illinois slip away, which could been a major concern for the Hoosiers if it wasn’t for IU’s bounce back win at No. 10 Ohio State. The 81-68 victory was Indiana’s first road win over a ranked opponent since 2002 and kept the Hoosiers atop the AP Poll.

3. Michigan Wolverines (21-3, 8-3)-If Ben Brust’s half-court prayer didn’t force overtime in Madison, Wisc. and eventually lead to a Badgers victory, Michigan would likely be No. 1 team in the country. The Big Ten’s abundance of tournament-bound teams has taken its toll on the Wolverines, who are tied for third in the conference with Wisconsin.

4. Duke Blue Devils (21-2, 8-2)-The Blue Devils have finally gotten their feet under them after losing senior forward Ryan Kelly to a foot injury. Duke lost two of its first three games without Kelly but have rattled off five straight wins as the team sits in second place in the ACC.

5. Michigan State (20-4, 9-2)-Don’t look now but the Spartans are tied for first in the Big Ten with Indiana. The Spartans still have to play Michigan twice as well as Indiana, Ohio State and Wisconsin a second time; if Sparty can survive the gauntlet, they have a shot at a No. 1 seed in March.

6. Florida Gators (19-3, 9-1)-The Gators should not be judged too harshly for their 80-69 loss to Arkansas. Every team has off nights and Florida showed that their lone conference loss was a fluke. They returned to their prior form by beating Mississippi State by 25 on Saturday.

7. Gonzaga Bulldogs (23-2, 10-0)-Barring a horrible loss or two, Gonzaga seems destined for a No. 2 seed with an outside chance to be a No. 1 if the teams in front of them don’t finish the regular season on high notes. The Bulldogs are a major question mark because of their weak conference schedule. They aren’t tested on a nightly basis the way that ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 teams are. Gonzaga played against three ranked opponents and lost two of those matchups, which could hint at an early exit in the tournament.

8. Syracuse Orange (20-3, 8-2)-If Syracuse can settle senior forward James Southerland’s eligibility issue, then the Orange may be the favorite to win the Big East and ‘Cuse could match last year’s Elite Eight appearance.

9. Kansas Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3)-Last week may have been the darkest period in the history of Kansas basketball with three losses. Texas Christian University’s first Big 12 win, an unexpected 62-55 upset of the Jayhawks, was sandwiched by Kansas losses to unranked Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. With four teams within one game of the conference lead, Kansas doesn’t have any more room for error in a wide open Big 12.

10. Arizona Wildcats (20-3, 8-3)-Arizona was one of the hottest teams in the country and arguably the best team out West early in the season with wins against No. 5 Florida, Miami (Fla.) and No. 17 San Diego State during its 14-0 start. However, the Wildcats have started to show their true colors and fade from the spotlight with losses to unranked Oregon, UCLA and California.

ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi responds to my question about Gonzaga’s NCAA Tournament seed

The Gonzaga Bulldogs (21-2, 8-0) are ranked sixth in the country and have a half-game lead over Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference. However, Gonzaga has lost two of its three games against ranked opponents. The Bulldogs lost at home to No. 11 Illinois 85-74 and at No. 13 Butler 64-63 this season. Even though they have one of the best records in college basketball, most of their wins have come against unimpressive WCC teams and good but not great non-conference opponents.

This afternoon, ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi held a live chat on ESPN.com at I asked him if Gonzaga’s seed can (not will) only get worse from their current two seed projection. Click here for the full live chat.

Joe Lunardi live chat

Jay Bilas responds to 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament question on Twitter

Collectively, North Carolina, Kentucky and Illinois have 13 men’s basketball national championships, 38 Final Four appearances and a 260-118 record in the NCAA Tournament. However, all three teams could be in danger of missing the tourney this season. North Carolina is 13-6 (3-3) and tied for fifth place in the ACC. Kentucky is also 13-6 (4-2) and tied for third in the SEC. Illinois is 15-6 (2-5) and tied for ninth in the Big Ten.

I tweeted at several college basketball analysts about what the chances are that the teams meet in the First Four (teams 65 through 68) in Dayton, Ohio in March.

Jay Bilas question

 

Jay Bilas answer

 

Certainly, I don’t expect these three teams to be in the “First Four,” let alone for all three to make the 2013 NCAA Tournament, but it would make for an exciting day of basketball in Dayton.