NCAA Bracket Predictions 2013: Projecting the March Madness Field at Week 13

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystJanuary 29, 2013

NCAA Bracket Predictions 2013: Projecting the March Madness Field at Week 13

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    To say there have been some shake-ups in the projected bracket in the past few days would be a colossal understatement.

    Six of the top 16 teams from Wednesday night's bracket have since suffered losses, and only two of the teams from the Last Five In/First Five Out remain in the same category today.

    Villanova and La Salle had amazing weeks, but was it enough to get into the field? Wyoming and Boise State are a combined 0-3 since Wednesday, but how far do those teams drop? Who in the world actually deserves the third and fourth No. 1 seeds?

    Read on for all of these answers and more.

First Five Out

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    Saint Louis (14-5, RPI: 66)

    The Billikens are the quintessential bubble team—an average RPI, a below average SOS, one great win they want you to remember and one awful loss they hope you'll forget. A win over Butler on Thursday would push them into the field, but chances are they'll be hovering in this "First Five Out" category for at least another three weeks.

    Villanova (13-7, RPI: 51)

    The Wildcats registered arguably the best regular-season week that any team has had in the past decade, but they're still missing the cut until further notice. Fortunately, they'll have plenty of opportunities to play their way in, starting this week at Notre Dame.

    If they finish out the regular season 6-5which would give them at least one more RPI Top 50 winthey should be dancing.

    BYU (16-6, RPI: 48)

    In my opinion, the bubble gets really ugly in a hurry. Saint Louis and Villanova were tempting, but I never truly considered including either of these other teams.

    The Cougars jumped out to a 24-7 lead over Saint Mary's before letting what would have been the best win of the season slip through their fingers. Their other five games against the RPI Top 75 were all losses by double digits. Similar to Saint Louis, BYU should hang around this spot until late February when games against Saint Mary's and Gonzaga decide its fate.

    Iowa (13-7, RPI: 78)

    The Hawkeyes trailed Purdue by double digits with eight minutes remaining before forcing overtime in an eventual loss. (Purdue will probably never quite make it onto the bubble, but its games against Iowa, Illinois and Villanova will likely have long-lasting bubble effects.)

    A win would have pushed the Hawkeyes in ahead of St. John's, but instead they'll need to prove their worth in their three remaining games against Minnesota and Indiana.

    Maryland (15-5, RPI: 62) / Virginia (14-5, RPI: 106)

    I still think the Terrapins eventually make the tournament, as they should go no worse than 9-2 to close out the season.

    I'm including the Cavaliers here as a reminder that they're improving, but also as a note that their RPI is atrocious. As such, please direct your hateful comments to the person responsible for booking them the 338th-ranked nonconference SOS. If they lose to NC State on Tuesday, let's go ahead and never mention them again.

Last Five In

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    St. John's (13-7, RPI: 46)

    I don't think it will last, but if the season ended today, you'd be hard-pressed not to include the Red Storm. The losses to UNC-Asheville and San Francisco are still quite the eye sore, but they've picked up RPI Top 100 wins in three of their last four games.

    I feel marginally better about their momentum than Saint Louis' recent struggles against the three worst teams in the A-10.

    Temple (13-6, RPI: 58)

    The Owls are still riding the big win over Syracuse, as well as two equally huge wins over fellow bubble teams Saint Louis and Villanova. Because of that, the tiebreaker will favor Temple until their resumes are more distinguishable. Let's hope Temple can improve upon its 4-6 record against the RPI Top 150, as anything worse than 11-8 probably isn't going to cut it.

    Saint Mary's (17-4, RPI: 59)

    Even though they aren't losing any games, I seem to be dropping the Gaels further and further each time I make a bracket, and they certainly won't impress me in the next seven days by beating San Francisco and Portland. With home games against Gonzaga and BYU still pending, the Gaels could conceivably secure their bid before the WCC tourney begins.

    Oklahoma State (13-5, RPI: 41)

    The next eight days could make or break the Cowboys' season, with three games against Iowa State, Kansas and Baylor. A 1-2 record would likely maintain the status quo, but any other result would either push them further into the field or drop them (at least) into the "First Five Out."

    Arizona State (16-4, RPI: 52)

    Since the last update, the Sun Devils have picked up wins over USC and UCLA to catapult from third team out to fifth-to-last in.

    They still have three road games against RPI Top 30 teams that no one would fault them for losing, but the rest of their games are against teams with an RPI of 70 or more. Avoid disaster losses and they should be safely in the field.

East Region

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    No. 1 Duke (17-2, RPI: 1) vs. No. 16 Robert Morris (Northeast Auto Bid)/Norfolk State (MEAC Auto Bid)

    Please see the final slide for a more in-depth analysis of the No. 1 seeds.

    No. 8 Georgetown (14-4, RPI: 38) vs. No. 9 Baylor (14-5, RPI: 34)

    Wins over Notre Dame and Louisville have given the Hoyas a boost in the past week, but they're still a far cry from a lock with 10 games left against teams with seven or fewer losses.

    The Bears are 5-1 in Big 12 play, but they've already used up five of their easiest eight conference games in the process. We'll figure them out before long, but a No. 9 seed seems like a safe prediction for now.

    No. 5 Ohio State (15-4, RPI: 22) vs. No. 12 Saint Mary's (17-4, RPI: 59)/Oklahoma State (13-5, RPI: 41)

    The Buckeyes were a No. 5 seed last week, and a win over Penn State didn't do anything to change that.

    No. 4 Oregon (18-2, RPI: 20) vs. No. 13 South Dakota State (Summit Auto Bid)

    After losing Dominic Artis to a foot injury and then struggling at home against Washington, I'm preemptively dropping the Ducks one line, because they're bound to lose on the road to either Stanford or Cal without him.

    I still think they'll win the Pac-12, but 18-0 no longer seems to be in the cards.

    No. 6 Kansas State (15-4, RPI: 35) vs. No. 11 La Salle (14-5, RPI: 26)

    The Wildcats remain the team that I'm least comfortable seeding. You could talk me into putting them as high as a four and as low as a nine. I think they'll eventually settle into a No. 6 seed by virtue of 12 conference wins and that upset of Florida to forever fall back on.

    Even if the Explorers lose their remaining games at Temple and at Saint Louis, they can get to 22-7 and be comfortably in the tournament field. Your next drink is on me if you called that in the preseason.

    No. 3 Louisville (17-4, RPI: 13) vs. No. 14 Valparaiso (Horizon Auto Bid)

    It wasn't done in convincing fashion, but hopefully Monday's win over Pitt will get Louisville back on the right track.

    No. 7 Creighton (18-3, RPI: 31) vs. No. 10 Pittsburgh (17-5, RPI: 49)

    If Doug McDermott and Co. don't lose another game, they could climb as high as a No. 4 seed.

    At 5-4 in the Big East, the Panthers haven't made much of a statement thus far in conference play, but they could win their final eight games after this weekend's tussle with Syracuse.

    No. 2 Florida (16-2, RPI: 7) vs. No. 15 Montana (Big Sky Auto Bid)

    It probably won't be a very popular decision, given Florida is ranked ahead of both Duke and Arizona in the polls, but I'll have them seeded this way as long as Duke and Arizona are in the top four in both RPI and SOS, and Florida is ranked seventh and 15th, respectively.

South Region

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    No. 1 Kansas (19-1, RPI: 2) vs. No. 16 Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun Auto Bid)

    Please see the final slide for a more in-depth analysis of the No. 1 seeds. 

    No. 8 Wisconsin (14-6, RPI: 43) vs. No. 9 Memphis (16-3, RPI: 50)

    Road games this week against Ohio State and Illinois could drop Wisconsin into the Last Five In for next week's bracket. By the way, there's absolutely zero evidence that it's harder to win on the road in the Big Ten than in any other conference. Just throwing that out there.

    In the span of three days, Marshall lost to Southern Miss by 56 and played Memphis to within one point. I'm officially concerned that Memphis could miss the tournament altogether.

    No. 5 UNLV (16-4, RPI: 16) vs. No. 12 Middle Tennessee (Sun Belt Auto Bid)

    Eleven days ago, I argued that the Rebels might not lose another game, and they promptly lost the next game they played. I'm ready to make that claim again, and if they lose at home to Nevada, it's safe to say that I'm a curse.

    UNLV is only going to get better as Anthony Bennett grows into a more consistent and more assertive presence in the paint. 

    No. 4 Michigan State (17-4, RPI: 12) vs. No. 13 Akron (MAC Auto Bid)

    The Spartans still have three home games left against Michigan, Minnesota and Indiana. It isn't hard to picture them getting a No. 2 seed with all of those opportunities to enhance their resume. However, I'm getting a bit of a fraudulent vibe from them, and I think they're more likely to drop to a No. 7 than to move up from here.

    No. 6 Ole Miss (17-2, RPI: 33) vs. No. 11 Southern Miss (17-4, RPI: 42)

    Marshall Henderson won't win the Wooden Award, but he wins the Miller Award for player you have to watch every chance you get. The guy is averaging 11 attempted three-pointers per game. What more do you need to know?

    The Eagles are 0-4 against the RPI Top 100, but they've all been close games and they've all been played away from home. I think their worst-case scenario is a 15-1 record in C-USA, which would almost certainly earn them an at-large bid.

    No. 3 Indiana (18-2, RPI: 14) vs. No. 14 Harvard (Ivy Auto Bid)

    I don't care if they're ranked third in the polls, the Hoosiers' RPI and SOS is not indicative of a top-two seed. Those computer numbers will certainly improve as the season progresses, but it's more than likely that their loss total will increase along with it.

    No. 7 VCU (16-5, RPI: 40) vs. No. 10 Colorado (14-6, RPI: 21)

    Back-to-back losses to Richmond and La Salle have put VCU's ceiling at a No. 5 seed, and that's only if they don't lose another game between now and Selection Sunday.

    Colorado's RPI seems too good to be true, but the Pac-12 is strong enough that we'll be able to judge the Buffaloes by their play rather than their computer profile. By February 17, I suspect we'll know whether or not this is a tournament-caliber team.

    No. 2 Miami (15-3, RPI: 3) vs. No. 15 Northeastern (Colonial Auto Bid)

    Reggie Johnson is working his way back to health, and Shane Larkin/Durand Scott might be the best backcourt in the nation. That statement alone should be worth about 25 comments, but I stand by it.

Midwest Region

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    No. 1 Michigan (19-1, RPI: 5) vs. No. 16 Loyola (MD) (MAAC Auto Bid)

    Please see the final slide for a more in-depth analysis of the No. 1 seeds.

    No. 8 Iowa State (14-5, RPI: 39) vs. No. 9 Belmont (15-4, RPI: 19)

    The Cyclones' big win over Kansas State and bad loss to Texas Tech keep them as a middling seed with four crucial games in the next two weeks.

    You could make a case for Middle Tennessee or Louisiana Tech, but I think Belmont is the only team from a minor conference that could steal an at-large bid if they don't win its conference tournament.

    No. 5 NC State (16-4, RPI: 15) vs. No. 12 Arizona State (16-4, RPI: 52)

    The Wolfpack picked up an important win over the Tar Heels this past weekend, but they've got a difficult three-game stretch starting up on Tuesday night. So long as they don't get swept in those games, they should become a lock for the tournament, but they've surprised us in negative ways before.

    No. 4 Wichita State (19-2, RPI: 17) vs. No. 13 Temple (13-6, RPI: 58) / St. John's (13-7, RPI: 46)

    I caught some flak last week for questioning Wichita State's ability to play on the road, so let me take this opportunity to inform you that neither I nor the selection committee cares what you did in previous seasons. And when the Shockers struggle at Northern Iowa (RPI: 100) on Saturday, you can leave your apologies in the comments.

    No. 6 San Diego State (16-4, RPI: 29) vs. No. 11 Kentucky (13-6, RPI: 61)

    It was ugly as sin, but SDSU registered a huge win over New Mexico to put a bookend on back-to-back 21-point wins, erasing any doubts born in the previous two losses to UNLV and Wyoming.

    Kentucky doesn't belong in the field today, but I'm still operating under the assumption that the SEC will eventually earn a fourth bid.

    No. 3 Butler (17-3, RPI: 10) vs. No. 14 Stony Brook (America East Auto Bid)

    With Rotnei Clarke back and not missing a beat, the Bulldogs could run their A-10 record to 15-1 and ultimately get a No. 2 seed.

    No. 7 UCLA (16-5, RPI: 30) vs. No. 10 Illinois (15-6, RPI: 32)

    When the Bruins are firing on all cylinders, they're one of the five best teams in the country. Unfortunately, it's anyone's guess when they'll actually play up to that level.

    I've been hating on the Illini all season (just ask if you need evidence), and they've made me proud by losing four of their last five games by double digits. If they don't turn a corner in a hurry, that could easily extend to eight out of nine and push them smack dab in the middle of the bubble.

    No. 2 Syracuse (18-2, RPI: 9) vs. No. 15 Davidson (Southern Auto Bid)

    Arizona has five wins and both of its losses against the RPI Top 50 while Syracuse has just three wins against the RPI Top 50, and both of its losses have come against the RPI 51-100 range. Factor in Arizona's significant edge in SOS and it wasn't a tough decision to put Arizona at No. 3 overall and Syracuse at No. 6.

West Region

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    No. 1 Arizona (17-2, RPI: 4) vs. No. 16 Charleston Southern (Big South Auto Bid)/Southern (SWAC Auto Bid)

    Please see the final slide for a more in-depth analysis of the No. 1 seeds.

    No. 8 Colorado State (16-4, RPI: 23) vs. No. 9 North Carolina (13-6, RPI: 36)

    With a phenomenal RPI and Boise State and Wyoming falling completely out of the picture, the Rams are in the driver's seat for the fourth bid from the Mountain West. If they can protect home court as well as they already have this season, they could win the conference with room to spare.

    The Tar Heels have had some notorious losses, but with the exception of the 18-point loss to Texas, I feel they've all been losses that an average No. 9 seed would suffer. They've been gradually improving and have an easy stretch of three games before back-to-back road games against Miami and Duke.

    No. 5 Marquette (15-4, RPI: 18) vs. No. 12 Louisiana Tech (WAC Auto Bid)

    This is officially the region of teams that have a better RPI than you probably think. Since the inexplicable loss at Green Bay, the Golden Eagles are 8-1 with a heartbreaking loss at Cincinnati.

    No. 4 Minnesota (15-5, RPI: 11) vs. No. 13 Bucknell (Patriot Auto Bid)

    The Gophers haven't been able to buy a win in the past two weeks, but I believe the worst is behind them. Perhaps they won't win them all, but they'll at least be favored in no fewer than nine of their remaining 11 games.

    No. 6 Cincinnati (16-4, RPI: 25) vs. No. 11 Oklahoma (13-5, RPI: 24)

    The Bearcats haven't played since the last update, so their seeding remains unchanged. I think they'll eventually work their way into a No. 5 seed.

    I'm still not buying Oklahoma. The pecking order from second through sixth in the Big 12 should work itself out over the course of the next two weeks, and my money is on Oklahoma being the odd team out.

    No. 3 New Mexico (17-3, RPI: 6) vs. No. 14 Stephen F Austin (Southland Auto Bid)

    I've had concerns about New Mexico playing on the road for a while, and scoring 34 points at San Diego State only magnified that issue. I'm ready to start dropping the Lobos' seed if they come out flat at Wyoming on Wednesday. (I know Wyoming plays tough defense, especially at home, but UNM should at least be able to break 50 points.)

    No. 7 Missouri (15-4, RPI: 28) vs. No. 10 Notre Dame (16-4, RPI: 44)

    On behalf of the state of Missouri: Get well soon, Laurence Bowers. As long as Bowers is at full strength by February 9, I think Missouri will beat Ole Miss and start working its way back up the ladder.

    The Irish have a critical game against Villanova on Wednesday. A loss would drop them to 4-4 in Big East play with at least five probable losses remaining. In any other year, 9-9 in the Big East might be enough to get in, but I sincerely doubt that's the case this season.

    No. 2 Gonzaga (19-2, RPI: 8) vs. No. 15 Long Beach State (Big West Auto Bid)

    It's hard to imagine Gonzaga getting anything other than a No. 2 or No. 3 seed this year.

Who Is the Overall No. 1 Seed?

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    No. 4 - Duke (17-2, RPI: 1, SOS: 2)

    Unless you're a Blue Devils fan, you're going to vehemently hate this, because they lost to Miami by 27 points less than a week ago. At the end of the day, a loss is a loss is a loss, and there's little fault in a road loss to the team ranked third in the nation in RPI.

    Still no word on if or when Ryan Kelly will be back, but in his absence, Amile Jefferson has quickly become a formidable presence in the post. The beating they gave Maryland last weekend was promising, but the next six games could go downhill in a hurry if they're actually missing Ryan Kelly as much as everyone seems to believe.

    No. 3 - Arizona (17-2, RPI: 4, SOS: 3)

    After losing to UCLA on Thursday night, I was ready to drop the Wildcats to a No. 2 seed; right up until Syracuse's loss to Villanova. Like it or not, RPI and SOS play a strong role in determining seeding, and the Wildcats are looking much better than Syracuse or Florida in those categories. 

    No. 2 - Michigan (19-1, RPI: 5, SOS: 36)

    No. 1 - Kansas (19-1, RPI: 2, SOS: 5)

    By the end of the season, the Wolverines' SOS will almost certainly be ranked higher than the Jayhawks', but for the time being, it's the biggest differentiation between these title favorites. Aside from that, we're just splitting hairs.

    Kansas has 11 RPI Top 100 wins to Michigan's 10, and both teams lost single-possession games away from home against RPI Top 25 teams from the Big Ten. If you think Michigan is more deserving of the No. 1 overall seed, I won't argue—just as long as it's one of these two teams.