NCAA Tournament Bracket 2013: Projecting Conference Champs Set to Go Home Early

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2013

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 16:  The Oregon Ducks celebrate their 78 to 69 win over the UCLA Bruins in the Pac-12 Championship game at MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 16, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

With championship week in the books, the 2013 NCAA tournament bracket is nearing completion (click here to print your own), as the selection committee determines the field of 68 teams that will go dancing this March.

While there are tons of bubble teams waiting to hear their fate this weekend, a handful of teams have already secured their bid to the Big Dance, punching their ticket by winning their respective conference championships this past week.

With Selection Sunday set to begin at 6 p.m. ET, here we'll project which 2013 conference champions are set for early exits.


Ole Miss Rebels, SEC Champions

Andy Kennedy's Rebels deserve credit for their remarkable run at the SEC tournament this March. But based on what Mississippi has accomplished this season, don't expect Marshall Henderson and Co. to replicate their run in Nashville again in the NCAA tournament.

Yes, Ole Miss has now won five straight overall, but prior to Sunday's narrow victory over Florida, the Rebels' best wins had come against Missouri.

On top of that, Mississippi experienced a bad out-of-conference loss to Indiana State as well as disappointing conference defeats to South Carolina and Mississippi State, two teams outside the RPI Top 220.

The Rebels have a star player to lead the way in Henderson (20 points per game), but their inconsistency and lackluster defense (ninth in SEC in scoring defense) will ultimately doom them in the dance.


Oregon Ducks, Pac-12 Champions

Oregon may have UCLA's number this season, but the Pac-12 is one of several down conferences at the moment, and a majority of the Ducks' success has come against non-tournament teams.

The Ducks' strength of schedule is rated at 125 and their nonconference strength of schedule at 253. Plus, prior to Saturday's win over the Bruins in the Pac-12 title game, Oregon's last win over an RPI Top 25 team had come in January, also against UCLA.

Although the Ducks earned a hard-fought nonconference win over UNLV, they followed that up with out-of-conference losses to Cincinnati and UTEP.

Another key fact to remember before picking Oregon to make a deep run is that the Ducks do not feature a single player who is averaging more than 11.6 points per game this season.


Saint Louis Billikens, Atlantic 10 Champions

The A-10 champs edged Charlotte, Butler and VCU in three straight days at the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y., but suffered telling losses to Santa Clara, Kansas and Washington out of conference.

Saint Louis has played well over the course of the entire season, but the Atlantic 10 Conference doesn't begin to compare to the Big Ten, Big East or ACC. 

Plus, of the Billikens' five RPI Top 25 wins, only one came out of conference; a win over New Mexico on New Year's Eve. So while Saint Louis has been hot as of late, its success has come against A-10 competition that it's not guaranteed to come up against in the NCAA tournament this March.

The expectations on Saint Louis will also weigh heavily on the Billikens' shoulders this spring, which could spell an early exit for Jim Crews' men.

Be sure to stay updated throughout March Madness using Bleacher Report's live 2013 NCAA Tournament Bracket. And download our printable 2013 NCAA tournament bracket.


Make your picks for the 2013 NCAA Tournament here with the Bracket Challenge Game


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