NCAA Bracket Predictions 2013: Projecting the March Madness Field at Week 12
There's nothing quite like a projected bracket to put a capstone on what has been the most chaotically unpredictable 48 hours of the college hoops season to date. From this point forward, I'll be putting out an updated bracket on at least a weekly basis.
Each time we run this, I'll list the five teams on either side of the bubble and provide reasoning for why a particular team is in or out of the current bracket. Debating in the comments is strongly encouraged, but let's please do our best to keep it civil.
We'll also be including a full region-by-region breakdown with justifications for why each team is seeded where they are.
Please see the final slide for some analysis on the No. 1 seeds, including which team I consider to be the overall No. 1 seed.
Last Five In
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Wyoming (15-2, RPI: 35)
While the loss to Fresno State was a disturbing one, Wyoming quickly rebounded to knock off San Diego State three nights later. I want to see what the Cowboys can do against a quality team when they don't have that weird altitude home-court advantage working in their favor. They still have six quality in-conference road games left.
If I were a betting man, I'd predict Wyoming loses at least five of those six, but the Cowboys have done enough to this point that they would need to fall out of the field as opposed to having to prove they belong.
Oklahoma State (12-5, RPI: 47)
Take away that win over N.C. State, and there isn't all that much to like about this team's resume. The Cowboys are 1-4 against the RPI Top 50 and 0-4 in true road games.
I still have faith. They'll probably lose both of their remaining games against Kansas, but I don't see any other likely losses left on their schedule. They're just barely in the field for now, but I think they'll solidify their case before too long.
La Salle (13-5, RPI: 40)
I'll admit it: La Salle wasn't even on my radar before it beat Butler. It had a respectable resume, but no wins worth mentioning, an ugly home loss to Central Connecticut State and about 20 years' worth of being irrelevant in March.
And although it beat a short-handed Butler, I'm a tentative believer. I'll make a similar argument later in the article for Alabama, but someone has to finish fourth in the A-10, and that team will get serious at-large consideration. Why not La Salle?
Georgetown (13-4, RPI: 46)
No offense to Hoyas nation, but this is a painful team to watch. However, sometimes slow and steady wins the race.
The South Florida loss certainly wasn't a good one, but I think Georgetown is still in a position to get into the tournament, provided it wins the games that it should. Any additional wins over Louisville or Syracuse would help cement the Hoyas' case.
Maryland (15-4, RPI: 64)
I'm including Maryland mostly on the theory that there's no way it will lose its final home game against Duke, and at that point, it would only need to finish the season at 10-8 in the ACC to get into the tournament. Sure, it's flimsy, but it's better than the cases for the first five teams omitted.
First Five Out
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Boise State (14-4, RPI: 44)
While the Broncos do have big wins over Creighton and Wyoming, the loss to Air Force and the near home loss to Fresno State seem to indicate that their three-point barrage isn't a sustainable blueprint for victory.
Charlotte (16-3, RPI: 52)
Wednesday night's win over Xavier moves Charlotte into my peripheral vision, but I still think it's in for a rude awakening in its upcoming five-game stretch against Temple (twice), VCU, Butler and Saint Louis.
Arizona State (14-4, RPI: 71)
Jahii Carson and the Sun Devils are fun to watch. It's conceivable that they could play their way into the field, but it's likely going to take a top-three finish in the conference for them to get in, given their horrendous non-conference strength of schedule.
Saint Louis (13-5, RPI: 79)
The home loss to Rhode Island was ill-advised but also strangely encouraging, because Kwamain Mitchell was finally playing like his old self. The Billikens were projected to win the A-10 in the preseason, and if they can start firing on all cylinders, it's still a distinct possibility.
St. John's (12-7, RPI: 70)
I don't have much to say about St. John's, as it would need at least a few more marquee wins to erase the pair of awful losses it has (San Francisco, UNC-Asheville), but what does it say about Kentucky's season that it can't even crack the First Five Out?
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No. 1 Syracuse (18-1, RPI: 9) vs. No. 16 Norfolk State (MEAC auto bid) / Southern (SWAC auto bid)
No. 8 Wisconsin (13-6, RPI: 57) vs. No. 9 North Carolina (13-5, RPI: 36)
Aside from Baylor and North Carolina State, these might be the two most inconsistent teams in the tournament field, but unless things change drastically, they should both wind up in the No. 7-10 range.
No. 4 Minnesota (15-4, RPI: 7) vs. No. 13 Georgetown (13-4, RPI: 46) / Maryland (15-4, RPI: 64)
Hey, remember back before Minnesota played Indiana, when everyone was preemptively arguing that the Gophers should be No. 1 in the nation if and when they won that game? Life in the Big Ten is hard.
No. 5 Ole Miss (15-2, RPI: 33) vs. No. 12 Louisiana Tech (WAC auto bid)
Marshall, Marshall, Marshall. Henderson is shooting the Rebels to their first tournament bid in 11 years.
No. 6 VCU (16-3, RPI: 29) vs. No. 11 Oklahoma (13-4, RPI: 25)
Poor strength of schedule (both past and future) will likely keep Havoc from climbing above a No. 6 seed, but when has seeding ever mattered to Shaka Smart?
At times, Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma State each would have been favorites to finish in second place in the Big 12, but is it possible the Sooners could steal that honor?
No. 3 Gonzaga (17-2, RPI: 10) vs. No. 14 Stony Brook (America East auto bid)
I don't think Gonzaga is this good, but I'm just projecting the field, not saying where I think it should be seeded. Barring some sort of poor West Coast Conference season that they haven't suffered in at least a dozen years, the Zags should do no worse than a No. 3 seed.
No. 7 UCLA (15-4, RPI: 43) vs. No. 10 Notre Dame (15-4, RPI: 60)
After a rough start to their season, the Bruins have righted the ship and should finish the year as one of the top three teams in the Pac-12.
Notre Dame has lost three of four and hasn't looked anything like a tournament-caliber team in the past two weeks. The Irish will need to turn it around soon, and I think they will.
No. 2 Florida (15-2, RPI: 6) vs. No. 15 Loyola (Md.) (MAAC auto bid)
Florida may very well be the best team in the nation, but the SEC won't do its RPI any favors.
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No. 1. Kansas (17-1, RPI: 3) vs. No. 16 Long Beach State (Big West auto bid)
No. 8. Pittsburgh (16-4, RPI: 51) vs. No. 9 Alabama (11-6, RPI: 53)
You get the feeling that Pittsburgh is going to fly under the radar all season, finishing fourth or fifth in the Big East and making a big run in the conference tournament as always. If anything, I think I'm seeding the Panthers too low.
Quite the opposite with Alabama, but someone has to finish fourth in the SEC and get into the tournament, right? And Kentucky and Texas A&M don't seem interested in the position.
No. 4 Butler (16-3, RPI: 11) vs. No. 13 Middle Tennessee (Sun Belt auto bid)
The longer Rotnei Clarke is forced to sit out with a neck injury, the lower Butler drops. It could easily lose its next two games (vs. Temple, at Saint Louis) without him.
No. 5 Ohio State (14-4, RPI: 26) vs. No. 12 Belmont (Ohio Valley auto bid)
Deshaun Thomas needs to start getting some love for national player of the year because Ohio State is, at best, a .500 team without him.
No. 6 Creighton (17-3, RPI: 24) vs. No. 11 Southern Miss (14-4, RPI: 42)
The most overrated mid-major against the most underrated mid-major. A No. 6 seed is probably the minimum for what Creighton will end up getting. And unless it goes 15-1 in C-USA play, a No. 11 seed might be the ceiling for Southern Miss, but I really hope this first-round matchup happens.
No. 3 Indiana (17-2, RPI: 13) vs. No. 14 North Dakota State (Summit auto bid)
The Hoosiers will drop a few more games along the way, but I can't imagine them dropping much lower than a No. 3 seed.
No. 7 UNLV (14-4, RPI: 19) vs. No. 10 Colorado (12-6, RPI: 18)
UNLV's frequent inability to show up on the road will limit it to no better than a No. 7 seed. Somehow, Colorado and Colorado State always have much better computer profiles than the eye test would suggest, but if they're anywhere close to the bubble, the human element of remembering the Arizona game will be more than enough to push them into the field.
No. 2 Louisville (16-3, RPI: 12) vs. No. 15 Bryant (NEC auto bid)
I still believe in Louisville, though it's pretty hard to justify an elite team losing to Villanova. It'll rebound to finish second in the Big East.
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No. 1 Michigan (16-1, RPI: 5) vs. No. 16 George Mason (Colonial auto bid)
No. 8 San Diego State (13-4, RPI: 31) vs. No. 9 Temple (13-5, RPI: 50)
It was nice to see the Aztecs win comfortably on the road against Nevada, but it's this weekend's tilt with New Mexico that should help define the arc of each team's season. Temple almost lost at home to Penn on Wednesday, which might have been grounds for removing it from the field entirely.
Also carrying weight are the losses to Canisius and St. Bonaventure, which will loom large if the Owls don't win at least three out of their five remaining games against the cream of the A-10 crop.
No. 4 Wichita State (18-2, RPI: 14) vs. No. 13 Stephen F. Austin (Southland auto bid)
The Shockers struggle on the road (though they somehow won at VCU back in November), so I presume they'll lose upwards of three more regular-season games, which could cause them to drop a seed or two.
No. 5 Marquette (13-4, RPI: 20) vs. No. 12 Oklahoma State (12-5, RPI: 47) / La Salle (13-5, RPI: 40)
I don't feel great about any of the No. 5 seeds, but Marquette is especially bothersome. Its best win of the season is over a team that's ineligible for the tournament, and that isn't going to change unless it picks up a win over Louisville or Syracuse.
No. 6 Cincinnati (16-4, RPI: 21) vs. No. 11 Wyoming (15-2, RPI: 35)
I'm as surprised as anyone that Cincinnati is this high, but its body of work and remaining schedule suggest that might climb even higher.
Wyoming is "safely" in the field for now, but it won't take much for it to drop out. When all is said and done, I think it's going to be very difficult for the Mountain West to send more than four teams.
No. 3 Oregon (17-2, RPI: 23) vs. No. 14 Davidson (Southern auto bid)
Oregon doesn't play another game this season against Arizona, Arizona State or UCLA. It's going to win the conference and might go 18-0 in the process. If there's one team currently lower than a No. 2 seed that could make a run to the top line, you're looking at it.
No. 7 Iowa State (13-5, RPI: 39) vs. No. 10 Illinois (14-5, RPI: 28)
The loss to Texas Tech on Wednesday wasn't a great idea, but I still think Iowa State is the second-best team in the Big 12, and it will have plenty of opportunities to prove me right or wrong in the next five games.
Illinois relies too heavily on the three in too good of a conference to finish the season as anything better than a 10-loss team, but it will still get in.
No. 2 Miami (14-3, RPI: 4) vs. No. 15 Harvard (Ivy auto bid)
I promise this isn't an overreaction to one game; I had the Hurricanes as a No. 3 seed before they beat Duke. That RPI is just too good to overlook, and it certainly looks like they're going to win the ACC.
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No. 1 Arizona (16-1, RPI: 2) vs. No. 16 Mercer (Atlantic Sun auto bid) / VMI (Big South auto bid)
No. 8 Memphis (15-3, RPI: 41) vs. No. 9 Colorado State (15-4, RPI: 17)
Memphis' win total will balloon in C-USA conference play while its computer profile plummets, which sounds like the formula for an No. 8 seed. Colorado State seems like no worse than the fourth-best team in a Mountain West Conference sure to send at least four to the tournament.
No. 4 Michigan State (16-3, RPI: 15) vs. No. 13 Ohio (MAC auto bid)
With at least six potential losses left on their schedule, I think the Spartans will eventually come to rest as a No. 5 seed, but if they can add wins over Indiana, Michigan or Minnesota to a resume already responsible for Kansas' only loss, I could see them creeping up as high as a No. 2 seed.
No. 5 North Carolina State (15-4, RPI: 16) vs. No. 12 Lehigh (Patriot auto bid)
N.C. State has proven it can both beat Duke and lose to Wake Forest, which makes it the highest-seeded team in my bracket that I can still absolutely envision missing the tournament altogether.
No. 6 Kansas State (15-3, RPI: 32) vs. No. 11 Saint Mary's (14-4, RPI: 62)
I had more difficulty slotting Kansas State than any other team in the field. The Wildcats probably deserve to be a little bit higher, but I'm concerned that the lack of strength in the Big 12 will cause their profile to gradually wane.
No. 3 New Mexico (17-2, RPI: 8) vs. No. 14 Weber State (Big Sky auto bid)
I'm not 100 percent sold on New Mexico as one of the top 12 teams in the nation. However, someone from the Mountain West is going to finish in first place and warrant discussion as an elite team, and it might as well be the team currently holding a two-game lead over the rest of the conference.
No. 7 Missouri (14-4, RPI: 27) vs. No. 10 Baylor (12-5, RPI: 37)
Missouri's stock is in complete free fall, but I suspect it'll bounce back to form when Laurence Bowers returns. Baylor has been hit or miss for most of the season, but it appears to be stabilizing into a legitimate tourney-caliber team.
No. 2 Duke (16-2, RPI: 1) vs. No. 15 Valparaiso (Horizon auto bid)
As bad as Duke's loss to Miami looked, from an RPI perspective, it wasn't bad at all. But it still drops the team from the No. 1 overall seed to the best No. 2.
Who Gets the No. 1 Overall Seed?
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No. 4 Syracuse (18-1, RPI: 9, SOS: 33)
No. 3 Arizona (16-1, RPI: 2, SOS: 5)
As recently as six hours ago, I was wrestling with whether Syracuse or Arizona was more likely to get a No. 1 seed. Duke went ahead and cleared up that dilemma, but I had ultimately decided that Arizona was getting the nod.
The irony of the debate is that people will say Arizona doesn't deserve a No. 1 seed because it definitely should have lost the game against Colorado, and it probably should have lost to Florida and San Diego State as well.
However, Syracuse was quite fortunate in its two biggest wins of the season over Louisville and Cincinnati, so I don't understand the argument. At the end of the day, Arizona's computer numbers are much better than Syracuse's.
No. 2 Michigan (16-1, RPI: 6, SOS: 19)
No. 1 Kansas (17-1, RPI: 3, SOS: 4)
In my opinion, the Wolverines and Jayhawks are head and shoulders above the rest of the field. (To be fair, I would've made the same argument for Duke, Louisville and Michigan about two weeks ago.) I've got Kansas as the top dog, though, because it has seven wins over the RPI Top 50, and it's at least conceivable that the Jayhawks won't lose a game in the Big 12 this season.
Michigan, on the other hand, has only three wins against the RPI Top 50, and I sincerely doubt it has any chance of running the table in the Big Ten (though it would absolutely be the overall No. 1 if it didn't lose again).
For the record, at no point in time in making this decision did I consider the transitive property of Kansas beating Ohio State and Ohio State beating Michigan, because that's just crazy talk. I simply believe Kansas to be the better team.