1 - Florida Gulf Coast: This was an easy choice. No 15-seed had ever made the Sweet 16 at the NCAA tournament until this year. Perhaps the Eagles were underseeded, but that’s not really the point. This is a team that beat Miami early in the season and has captured the Cinderalla spirit with its wide-open pace and fun-loving personalities. Will FGCU continue its run and beat Florida? Collectively, we’ll be watching. And if it’s a close game in the final minutes, anyone in North Texas who’s not a Gators’ fan will take a ride on the Eagles’ wings.
2 – Michigan State vs. Duke: When it comes to March, it’s hard to ignore a matchup between Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski - two of the NCAA tournament’s Goliaths. It will also be a contract in styles. MSU will try to use it’s size and bulk to pound the glass and score in the paint. Duke will counter with its quickness, guard play, and Ryan Kelly’s ability to stretch the floor. Whichever team establishes its style and makes the other adjust likely wins.
3 – A 1987 Flashback: Indiana fans well remember Keith Smart’s shot to beat Syracuse in the 1987 National Championship game. While Bob Knight has long since departed the IU sideline, Jim Boeheim remains at Syracuse. In an ESPN Radio interview this week, Boeheim said that Smart’s game winner still resonates. At various times this season, both the Hoosiers and Orange were ranked in the Top 5. This is a Final four type matchup with a lot at stake. Indiana was a preseason favorite to cut down the nets in Atlanta.
4 – Oregon Ducks: When the brackets were released on March 17, one of the biggest surprises was finding Oregon as a 12-seed. While the Ducks did not boast a high number of marquee wins, they went 12-6 in the Pac 12 regular season (with point guard Dominic Artis missing significant time), and won the conference tournament. Since, they’ve won two NCAA tournament games by an average of 15 points – beating Oklahoma State and Saint Louis, a team many considered to be a Final Four sleeper. Oregon’s run may end against top-seed Louisville, but the Ducks are peaking at the right time.
5 – La Salle Explorers: While Gonzaga had its doubters, there probably weren’t many brackets that matched Wichita State and La Salle together in Los Angeles. A First Four participant, La Salle already has three NCAA wins – more than any other team in the Sweet 16. It harkens memories of 2011 when 11-seed VCU made its run from the First Four to the Final Four. Now a victory over the ninth-seeded Shockers is all that stands between the Explorers and the Elite 8.
Congratulations to the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State on being selected for an at-large spot in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. In a rare move (based on selection history), the Committee looked beyond “win” numbers and included a team that scheduled well and ran through it’s conference season before an upset in the league tourney. As I noted earlier in the day Sunday, such a decision would be appreciated. Now, such moves have not been commonplace. More often than not, RPI win totals surpass victories over largely inferior competition – regardless of how the numbers add up. Having been through this a time or two, we’ve seen teams with equal or even better resumes (than MTSU’s this year) be left holding a bid to the NIT. So was it somewhat surprising? Yes. Whether it becomes a trend remains to be seen.
As a quick recap on our final bracket … 67 of 68 teams were correctly identified (thus 36 of 37 at-large teams). The one miss was Middle Tennessee. I had Tennessee in the bracket instead. The rest of the numbers look like this: 32 teams on the correct seed line and another 29 within one seed of actual. Combined, that is 61 of the 68 teams either on their actual seed line or within one. Four others were within two of their actual seed. Oregon as a 12 seed was the wildcard and would be my one – where did that come from? – reaction to the bracket.
Again, thanks for your interest in Bracketville and your participation. The journeys and conversations along the way make it enjoyable. Here’s to a great tournament!
Going into today, the biggest question was whether Louisville or Indiana would be the overall No. 1 seed. Great arguments can be made either way. Indiana won the Big Ten outright and had some very strong road wins. Louisville won a share of the Big East regular-season title and won the conference tournament in spectacular fashion. Both resumes are impressive. Indiana led the Midwest Region in our early morning update and ultimately the Hoosiers stayed put. If the Selection Committee ranks Louisville above them, I have no issues. It was a coin-flip. As for the rest of the top line, Duke and Kansas join the Hoosiers and Cardinals. Gonzaga had a stellar season and was also deserving of a No. 1 seed. Miami-FL was in the mix, too. But there are only four spots available.
FINAL 2013 BRACKET PROJECTION | March 17 – 5:00 p.m. ET
FINAL S-CURVE Rankings | March 17 - 5:25 p.m.
Ole Miss earned its ticket by beating Florida in the SEC title game. It took what could have been a tough decision out of the Committee’s hands. It’ll be interesting to see how the Committee handles this year’s group of bubble teams. Every resume has holes. It would be great to see the Committee reward Middle Tennessee. In a tough call, MTSU is one of our first team’s out. We’ll all know soon enough.
It’s been another great season, and the tournament is sure to provide us with excitement, great games, and remarkable story lines. Thanks for your continued interest. The journey is what makes it fun and worthwhile.
With Louisville’s win over Syracuse on Sunday and Indiana’s loss to Wisconsin, that scenario is up for debate. Both the Cardinals and Hoosiers would relish the opportunity to go through Indianapolis. It will come down to this: the team that ends up higher on the Selection Committee’s final seed list gets first choice. Indiana won the regular-season Big Ten title and should be a No. 1 seed regardless. Same for Louisville after sweeping through the Big East tournament.
Selection Morning Bracket Update (March 17) | 1:30 a.m.
There are two No. 1 seed spots remaining with three teams realistically in the mix: Duke, Gonzaga, and Kansas. Based on pure profile metrics of quality wins, etc. the edge would have to go to Duke and Kansas. At the same time, Gonzaga successfully navigated a strong non-conference slate and survived the West Coast Conference without a loss.
If there’s a game that matters today, it’s the SEC title matchup between Ole Miss and Florida. Are the Rebels already in or do they need to beat Florida today? Guess is the Selection Committee has already made that decision. If not, then one spot remains open. Which of the bubble teams might get that spot is highly subjective. For a variety or reasons, it would be rewarding for the Committee to recognize Middle Tennessee State on its excellent season.
We’ll have our final bracket projection this afternoon.
If anything, Friday complicated an already complicated bubble picture. The SEC could end up with five teams or two. Both are in play at this point. How will the NCAA Selection Committee handle Middle Tennessee State and Saint Mary’s? And how will they compare those teams against La Salle, Boise State, and even Oklahoma? These are questions we can try to answer, but none of us has a vote that matters.
Heading into action on Saturday, there are three particular wildcards in play: Southern Mississippi, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Any of those could still earn automatic bids to the Field of 68. And that might be what it takes. Vanderbilt is more of a longshot, but the Commodores are a victory over Ole Miss from playing for an SEC title. We’ve seen this type of mayhem before. We also can’t completely forget about Akron should the Zips lose in the Mid-American championship game to Ohio. Clear as mud, right?
March 16 Bracket update | 10:50 a.m.
March 16 Bubble Banter update | 9:00 a.m.
March 16 s-curve update | 11:30 a.m.
We’re going to start here for now: the Last 5 IN today are Boise State, Tennessee, La Salle, Saint Mary’s, and Middle Tennessee. The First Five OUT are Ole Miss, Kentucky, Alabama, Massachusetts, and Virginia. All of these resumes have issues. Which issues the collective Committee values more could help shape the final at-large spots. Tomorrow is a new day. We’ll review everything again and see how it looks.
Enjoy the games. Selection Sunday is almost here.