Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 9:09 AM
Ask us right here and right now what likely makes the most sense in terms of divvying up this year's 68 NCAA Tournament bids and - this year -- we'd prefer half of the so-called "power conferences" to land bids while the other half is distributed to the smaller or mid-major leagues.
No doubt by now you know our feeling on this always-thrilling tourney and that is we would rather reward smaller/mid-major teams that are having big years as opposed to handing out invites to power conference teams that are at or below .500 in league play:
Let's say 34 NCAA Tournament bids in all go to the "Big Six" conferences that include the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC - and here's how we see it all playing out save for any late-season rise/fall jobs:
ACC (5) - Let's look for the Atlantic Coast Conference to push through five bids in all with Miami and Duke each jockeying for positions on either the #1 or #2 NCAA Tournament seed line with at-large bids sent out to North Carolina, Virginia and N.C. State although the Wolfpack (19-8 at press time) needs to win either three of its final four regular-season tilts or at least gain a split there and win at least one mini-tourney game. For argument's sake, we'll say that Mark Gottfried's crew will get "mission accomplished" and so here's your ACC representation in the "Big Dance" and that means no Maryland.
How We See the NCAA Tournament Seeds - Duke gets a #1 seed, Miami a #2 seed while the remainder goes like this: North Carolina is given a #6 seed; Virginia a #8; and aforementioned N.C. State gets a #9.
BIG EAST (6) - No doubt that this huge 15-team conference is used to getting its way in terms or 8 or 9 bids but not this year.
Okay, so lately we've seen some articles by well-respected college hoops writers who believe the Big East will get eight NCAA Tournament bids even with Connecticut ineligible for either next month's conference tourney at Madison Square Garden (the really last big one of its kind) but how do they figure?
It sure seems to us that there are six lead-pipe cinch bids - that's Georgetown, Marquette, Louisville, Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pittsburgh - and then at least three teams who are truly on the outside looking in save for a late-season miracle such as making it all the way to the Big East Championship Game on the night of March 16th and they are Villanova, Cincinnati and St. John's.
Could a 'Nova or Cincy heat up late and win five or six games and make it to the "Dance"? Sure, but have you seen either one of these "bubble teams" roll up monster winning streaks yet this year? Nope!
How We See the NCAA Tournament Seeds - Georgetown gets a #2; Marquette and Louisville land #3 bids; Syracuse and Notre Dame get #4 seeds and Pittsburgh settles for a #5. As you can see, some prime seeds lie ahead for the still-mighty Big East but the league that soon will fracture into a billion pieces better not believe it's getting 50 percent (or more) of its teams into this year's big tournament.
BIG 10 (6) - Clearly the best league in the land this 2012-13 season, the conference is what one would call "top heavy" with Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State all sporting double-digit league wins already and it's quite possible that three of the overall top eight seeds will hail from the Big 10 (more about that in a moment).
The $64,000 question is what happens with Illinois (20-9 overall but just 7-8 in league play right now)?
Well, according to our own "eye test" the Fighting Illini get a "passing" grade here and should secure one of the NCAA Tournament's at-large bids unless they completely go in the tank the next two weeks of play. Minnesota? No dice, Tubby!
How We See the NCAA Tournament Seeds - Count on Indiana getting one of the NCAA Tourney #1 seeds while Michigan State and Michigan will pop up on the #2 seed line while we see Ohio State as a #4 and Wisconsin as a #5. As for the dissected Illini, let's slot 'em in as a #7 seed although that could go up a line or two with a red-hot finish.
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BIG 12 (5) - This 10-team conference will get half its clubs into the "Dance" and truth be told it's really a slam-dunk scenario with Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Iowa State all getting an invite while on-the-fence Baylor (16-11, 7-7 in the Big 12) simply won't make the cut.
The key here is whether or not Kansas can win another Big 12 Tourney title 'cause that will push the Jayhawks onto the famed #1 seed line and - even though nobody asked us -- we do expect that to happen!
How We See the NCAA Tournament Seeds - Okay, so let's slot Kansas onto the #1 seed line while everyone else steps way back with Kansas State and Oklahoma State getting in as #5 seeds while Oklahoma is a #7 and Iowa State is a #9.
PAC-12 (6) - Here's the trickiest power conference to accurately judge 'cause just two weeks ago we were all prepared to proclaim only four teams from the Pac-12 would get in but now our list includes Arizona, Oregon, UCLA, California, Arizona State and Colorado although the reality is the A-State Sun Devils (20-8, 9-6) and the CU Buffaloes (18-8, 8-6) will probably have to settle for double-digit seeds here. The good news for the Pac-12 is Arizona (23-4, 11-4) could wind up as high as a #2 should the 'Cats win the Pac-12 Championship.
How We See the NCAA Tournament Seeds - Let's peg Arizona onto the #3 seed line as strength of the Pac-12 could hurt U of A's power rating while Oregon and UCLA each gets a #6 seed, California a #8, Arizona State a #10 and Colorado a #11. Okay?
SEC (6) - It's hard to imagine that the ESPN folks televising last Saturday's game from Rupp Arena (see Kentucky 90, Missouri 83 in overtime) didn't believe that Wildcats' win that evening cemented 'em a berth in this year's NCAA Tournament as now the Wildcats head into tonight's home game against Mississippi State with a 19-8 overall mark (and 10-4 in SEC play). Hey, 'Cats, you're not only in even without injured star and shot-blocker supreme Nerlens Noel but you've got a shot at a #4 overall seed if you happen to win the SEC Tournament in Nashville ... so there!
The proverbial "bottom line" is that Florida, Kentucky, Alabama, Ole Miss and Missouri are all getting in and then we see a scenario where either (but not both) Arkansas or Tennessee gets an at-large bid even with double-digit losses.
How We See the NCAA Tournament Seeds - We're putting in Florida on the #1 seed line with the expectations that the Gators will win this year's SEC Tournament and so that means our #1s are Duke, Indiana, Kansas and Florida (and so a #3 seed for Gonzaga) while the remainder of the SEC teams making it to the NCAAs goes like this: Kentucky gets a #6 seed, 'Bama gets a #7, Ole Miss a #8 seed, Missouri a #10 and we'll say Tennessee a #11 seed.
Okay, so here's our #1-thru-#8 seed lines for the NCAA Tournament should we be making out our bracket today:
#1 seeds - Indiana, Duke, Florida and Kansas
#2 seeds - Miami, Michigan State, Michigan and Georgetown
#3 seeds - Gonzaga, Louisville, Arizona and Marquette
#4 seeds - Syracuse, Ohio State, Notre Dame and New Mexico
#5 seeds - Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin
#6 seeds - North Carolina, Kentucky, Oregon and UCLA
#7 seeds - Butler, Illinois, Oklahoma and Alabama
#8 seeds - Virginia, California, Saint Louis and Ole Miss
Tonight, it's ...
#7 GEORGETOWN (21-4, 11-3 Big East) at CONNECTICUT (19-7, 9-5 Big East) - 7 p.m. ET, espn2
Okay, Hoyas, how about a one-two road punch here?
Georgetown defeated 8-point favorite Syracuse 57-46 last weekend before some 35,000 fans inside the Carrier Dome - so much for that retirement jersey celebration honoring the Orange's Carmelo Anthony - and now look to KO a Connecticut club that is staying home this March.
Georgetown hero Otto Porter - who finished last weekend's game with 33 points, 8 rebounds and 5 steals and now is gaining major momentum as this year's John Wooden Award Winner - doesn't have to be perfect here but if UConn's defensive heat gets in Porter's grill here than John Thompson III's crew must get something from G Markel Starks (12.1 ppg).
Remember that G-town has lost six of its last seven road games in this Big East rivalry.
On Thursday, it's ...
#2 GONZAGA (27-2, 14-0 WCC) at BYU (20-9, 9-5 WCC) - 11 p.m. ET, espn2
Now that the 'Zags are enjoying their highest ranking - ever - we'll see if Mark Few's club can bang out an 11th consecutive win here in Provo against a BYU bunch that Gonzaga wasted 83-63 back on January 24th.
You might recall that Gonzaga was coming off that brutal prime-time, last-second loss at Butler five nights earlier when the Bulldogs raced out to a 40-21 halftime lead en route to this lopsided win against BYU powered by seven-footer Kelly Olynyk who finished up with 26 points on 9-of-9 field-goal shooting to go along with an 8-of-8 game from the free-throw line and don't forget the 9 rebounds and 5 assists tossed in for good measure.
Now, Olynyk looks to command the paint one mo' time while BYU needs guard Tyler Haws to get movin' after he shot a putrid 0-of-9 from the field in that first tilt against Gonzaga.
Keep it in mind the following:
Gonzaga wins here and than beats Portland in the regular-season finale and it'll top off a 16-and-oh season in the West Coast Conference - super stuff!
NOTE: Get more College Basketball Updates in the next Jim Sez as we draw nearer to "March Madness".