Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 2, 2012 at 8:43 AM
The following Jim Sez column should come with a warning from the surgeon general-it's hazardous to forecast such things as who will make up this year's Top 16 seeds in the upcoming NCAA Tournament with more than a week remaining till we even see the smiling faces of Greg Gumbel (CBS) and/or Rece Davis (ESPN) who anchor those networks' respective Selection Sunday Shows on March 11th but, than again, someone's gotta do it, right?
So, as the clock ticks ever-so-close to 3-11-12 and "1800 hours" Eastern time, we venture out there to both state what lies ahead for the likely top 16 seeds in "The Big Dance" and recommend likely first/second-round opponents (and sites) too: So, let's have some fun (note overall records are listed below) ...
#1 KENTUCKY (28-1)-The Wildcats will indeed be the NCAA Tournament's numero uno seed providing it wins the SEC Tournament in New Orleans next week but rest assured that John Calipari's guys will be a #1 seed no matter what happens in that mini-tourney. Look for Kentucky to be playing first/second-round games in Nashville and count us among the folks that would love to see the'Cats play an #8-vs.#9 game survivor that would feature one of those solid Mountain West Conference clubs such as New Mexico or San Diego State.
#2 SYRACUSE (29-1)-We don't wish to sound repetitive here but the Orange also is assured a #1 tourney seed no matter how things go down at Madison Square Garden in next week's Big East Tournament. Still, if Jim Boeheim's gang runs the table on the rest of the pre-NCAA Tournament games and Kentucky loses, than you can go ahead and slip the'Cuse into #1 overall and wouldn't everyone be anxiously awaiting a first-round game against someone like Montana? We expect Syracuse to play in a "Big East" backyard and so that means first/second-round games in Pittsburgh and wouldn't it make for excellent TV if the Orange played an 8-vs.9 survivor such as Gonzaga?
#3 KANSAS (25-5) - Hats off to the Jayhawks for really jelling at the exact right time and odds are Bill Self's gang-should they win the Big 12 Tournament next weekend in Kansas City-will wind up playing first/second-round NCAA Tourney games in nearby Omaha and we'd really be looking forward to a possible Kansas-Memphis "rematch" of the 2009 national championship game in a Round II affair. Kansas could slide out of a #1 seed if it loses prior to the Big 12 Championship Game and both Duke/Michigan State go unbeaten the rest of the way but that's not apt to happen the way we see things shaping up in the coming days.
#4 MICHIGAN STATE (24-6)-The current Associated Press Top 25 poll puts "Sparty" behind Duke in listing the country's top five teams but consider the Big 10 is rated higher than the ACC these days and Tom Izzo's crew has better non-league wins on its resume and so we'll give the East Lansing gang the nod here for the final #1 seed. No question that Big 10 champs always-and we mean always-get to play in Big 10 backyards and so if M-State gets a #1 seed than pencil'em in for first/second-round games in Columbus (OH) and may we suggest them play an #8-vs-#9 game involving possibly Temple versus Cincinnati?
#5 DUKE (26-4)-Naturally, the Blue Devils could drop out of this whole either #1 seed line or #2 seed line with a home loss against archrival North Carolina on Saturday night and/or a loss in next week's ACC Tournament in Atlanta but we'll assume here that Mike Krzyzewski's guys won't lose twice and so they'll secure a #2 seed and an opening-week tourney venue that's always been kind to'em in Greensboro. This Duke team is no automatic "W" and so a first-round game against a frisky foe (maybe Denver) could be a handful but we'd love to see a second-round game against someone like Tennessee that's really hitting its stride right about now.
#6 MISSOURI (26-4) - Let the record state that the here-and-now Tigers are surely one of the country's top 6 or 7 teams even if the so-called experts often forget to talk about'em but the three-guard system and the penchant for taking (and making) the three-ball makes this one of the more exciting outfits in the land and Mizzou could jump to a #1 seed line by winning the Big 12 Tourney and having a couple of guys above here take a tumble. Expect Frank Haith's club to be playing first/second-round games in Omaha and don't be shocked if we get a Missouri vs. Arizona type matchup in Round II.
#7 OHIO STATE (24-6) - Some folks believe the 2011-12 Buckeyes have underachieved but we think Thad Matta's guys are right about where they should be although we know they won't be getting any NCAA Tourney games in Columbus ... let's ship the'Eyes out West to Portland and odds are some western-flavored team will be waiting for'em in Round II with either Saint Mary's or California two distinct possibilities here.
#8 NORTH CAROLINA (26-4) - Of course, the Tar Heels could make a nice leap onto the #1 seed line with a payback win at Duke on Saturday night followed up by an ACC Tournament title but we'll take a more conservative look at Roy Williams' crew and say it won't get both and so it's a #2 seed for UNC and a possible second-round showdown with a 7-vs.10 seed that could feature a Wichita State or perhaps a Creighton ... we'll see. Yes, expect Carolina to stay in state with opening-round games in Greensboro.
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#9 BAYLOR (25-5)-Don't look for the Bears to drop off the three-line although Scott Drew's club could jump a line if everything falls just right in the next week. Expect this Big 12 crew to play its opening-round tourney game at "The Pit" in Albuquerque and it's possible that Baylor will draw a "headline name" team from the sixth seed in Round II ... like Virginia?
#10 MARQUETTE (24-6)-Wonder if Golden Eagles' boss-man Buzz Williams will be on "Dancing With the Stars" next year ... never mind! This Big East bunch might drop to the #4 seed line if they're ousted early in next week's mini-tourney in NYC but let's put'em here as a third seed with first/second-round destination in Louisville and a juicy second-round matchup being a tilt against a sixth seed such as Florida State.
#11 GEORGETOWN (22-6)-The Hoyas probably don't have much of a case to move into a #2 seed unless they win in all in New York City next week and so let's position'em here with a #3 seed and some opening-round action in Nashville. The second-round matchup we'd like to see: G-town versus Kansas State.
#12 FLORIDA (22-8)-If the Gators can make a little run (like to the SEC Tournament Championship Game) than they ought to leap-frog the Big 10 likes of Michigan and Wisconsin for a #3 seed and it would make for a nice storyline if Florida's playing Round I and Round II games in Louisville where maestro Rick Pitino (and Donovan mentor) patrols the sidelines.
#13 MICHIGAN (21-8) - Might the maize-and-blue be one of those middle-rung teams in a power conference to make a run for all the marbles? Let's place Michigan in Nashville and have'em go in Round I against a second-place team from the Missouri Valley Conference or maybe Long Beach State.
#14 WISCONSIN (22-8)-It appears that the Wisky Badgers are pretty well set here with a #4 seed but a first-round loss in the Big 10 Tourney could shove'em behind Notre Dame or Vanderbilt, so be careful Bo Ryan! Gut feel is that the Badgers will be playing early in the NCAAs out west in Portland.
#15 MURRAY STATE (28-1)-Let's just say the Racers deserve a #4 seed after this sensational season but won't it be interesting to see the Las Vegas betting line for a Round II game against a potential #5 seed like Vandy or Notre Dame? Hmm.
#16 INDIANA (23-7) - The Big 10's overall top-to-bottom strength gets'em a third #3 seed here although the Hoosiers may have to pack a bag (did anyone say Albuquerque?) and a possible second-round game against Vanderbilt. Yummy!
NOTE: Get our College Football Top Saturday Previews-featuring North Carolina at Duke (of course)-in the next edition of Jim Sez.