Bracketology 2013: Breaking Down Joe Lunardi's Latest Update
For some, the most exciting part about March isn't the Big Dance itself, but predicting what the actual bracket will look like.
This "study of brackets," or "bracketology" as it has so eloquently been named, is a specialty of ESPN's Joe Lunardi, and as conference play winds down and the demand for predictions increases, his updates have become more frequent.
Lunardi's most recent complete bracket was revealed on March 1, but after a normally wild Saturday, he made necessary adjustments to the No. 1 seeds and bubble dwellers.
Let's take a closer look at the highlights.
Assuming Indiana, Gonzaga and Kansas hold on, who will grab the final No. 1 seed?
After falling victim to The White Raven and Duke on Saturday night for its second loss in three games, Miami was ousted from it's No. 1 spot.
It wasn't the Blue Devils who took the Hurricanes' spot, though—a fact that will be hotly disputed. Duke is two games behind Miami in the ACC, but undefeated with Ryan Kelly in the lineup, No. 1 in the RPI and 6-2 against the RPI top 25.
Instead, it was Georgetown that took the final spot in Lunardi's bracket.
Behind Otto Porter, the Hoyas have looked like a completely different team without Greg Whittington, winning 13 of 14 and 11 straight, including road wins at St. John's, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Cincinnati, Syracuse and Connecticut.
As it stands, the Hoyas (East) would join Indiana (Midwest), Gonzaga (West) and Kansas (South) as the premier schools in each region.
Final 5 In
According to Lunardi, the final at-large teams to make the tournament (assuming Belmont, Middle Tennessee, Akron and Louisiana Tech win their conference tournaments) will be Boise State, Iowa State, Temple, Villanova and Tennessee.
After a loss to New Mexico on February 16, Boise State has caught fire, winning four straight and knocking off Colorado State (RPI 17) in impressive fashion on Saturday to nearly seal its March Madness fate.
Who is most likely to miss the tournament?
The final four aren't nearly as safe.
Villanova has lost two in a row to Seton Hall (ouch) and Pittsburgh (not quite as much ouch) and now has to face to Georgetown to finish the season. If they doesn't upset the Hoyas, the Wildcats can't afford an early exit in the Big East tourney.
Tennessee is 8-7 in the mediocre SEC and just lost to Georgia (RPI 130) for the second time. Outside of a massive win over Florida in late February, the Vols' resume isn't pretty.
Temple, meanwhile, like Boise State, has caught fire at the right time. The Owls, behind leader Khalif Wyatt, have reeled off five straight wins—four of which have come against top 100 teams—and are moving in the right direction.
Finally, you have the curious case of Iowa State. The Cyclones are oozing with talent, but boast just two top-50 wins (both at home) along with some bad losses. Beating Oklahoma State on Wednesday night would make Fred Hoiberg's squad much safer.
Final 5 Out
Just missing Lunardi's tournament are Alabama, Baylor, Kentucky, Southern Miss and Ole Miss.
This is where things get ugly.
The Crimson Tide are 11-5 in the SEC, but have zero top 50 wins, four losses outside the top 100 and one outside the top 200.
Southern Miss has a solid RPI of 34 but just one top 100 win (against No. 64 Denver at home) and three losses in the poor Conference USA. Getting another shot at Memphis—and winning—in the conference tournament is vital for the Golden Eagles.
About four hours north, Ole Miss is tanking—quickly. It will be hard for the selection committee to deny Marshall Henderson a limelight appearance, but the Rebels have just one top 50 win, an RPI of 57 (and SOS of 139) and now have two losses outside the top 200 after an embarrassing defeat at rival Mississippi State.
The two most talented teams on this list still may have a bit more than a sliver of hope.
Kentucky is obviously not the same without Nerlens Noel, but it is beginning to cope with three wins in its past four. The Wildcats also have one thing going for them that not many other teams on the bubble can boast—zero bad losses. The worst defeat of the season came on Saturday against Arkansas (RPI 81).
Who is most likely to make the tournament?
Still, there is work to be done, and a home matchup against Florida on Saturday gives good opportunity for that work. Considering the weakness of the bubble, that's a win-and-you're-in game for the Wildcats.
Baylor had a similar opportunity against Kansas State on Saturday, but fell victim to a bad pass and a Rodney McGruder dagger. The Bears' best win remains against Oklahoma (RPI 25), and they are now just 8-8 in the Big 12.
Fortunately for all of these teams, March is just getting started, and once conference tournaments get underway, anything can happen.
Heck, even Grambling State (yes, 0-27 Grambling State) is just three wins away from punching its NCAA tournament ticket.
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