The 2013 version of the NCAA College Basketball Tournament will be in front of us before we know it. The next several weeks will fly by, but between now and then we can scratch our bracket itch by looking at the latest projections. Both ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm updated their respective predictions today and despite some recent losses by our area teams, things continue to look very promising.
Unfortunately one thing we do know is that UMKC (7-21, 4-10) will not be involved in the NCAA Tournament action, unless they win the Summit League conference tourney of course.
Kansas Jayhawks (21-4, 9-3) / RPI: 6th / Strength of Schedule: 14th
Lunardi: #3 Jayhawks vs. #14 Valparaiso Crusaders (20-7, 10-3) out of the Horizon League. Kansas gets slotted in the South region in this projection but they get to play their first two games in Kansas City. A win over the Crusaders would put them up against #6 Notre Dame (21-6, 9-5) if the seeds hold or either Virginia (18-7, 8-4) or Arizona State (19-7, 8-5) as the #11 seed.
Palm: #4 Jayhawks vs. #13 Akron Zips (21-4, 12-0) out of the Mid-American. They may be one seed lower in the CBS bracket but they still get to play in Kansas City and Notre Dame, as the #5 would still be their opponent if the seeds hold up. If the Irish were upset, it would be at the hands of either St. Mary’s (22-5, 11-2) or fellow Big 12 member Baylor (16-9, 7-5).
Both brackets have Michigan slotted as the #2 seed in the South but they differ on the #1. Lunardi has Florida tabbed as his top seed in the region while Palm has Miami. Given that Florida tends to be offensively challenged and defensive-minded, they’re probably the #1 that Kansas would want to share a bracket with.
Kansas State Wildcats (21-5, 10-3) / RPI: 20th / SOS: 51st
Lunardi: #4 Wildcats vs. #13 Akron in the Midwest. This would be a perfect setup for K-State with their first two games taking place in Kansas City, and a date against #5 Butler or #12 Middle Tennessee State on Sunday the 24th if they got past the Zips.
Palm: #4 Wildcats vs. #13 South Dakota State (21-7, 12-3) in the East. The seeds are lopsided but frankly this would be a terrible draw for K-State. Tournament upsets are built on the backs of stars having breakout moments and the Jackrabbits have senior Nate Wolters who is one of the best players in college basketball this season. Let’s also not forget that SDSU, as a #14 seed, gave Baylor a scare in the tourney last year. If the Wildcats survived the Jackrabbits they’d have a very winnable game against an overachieving Wisconsin (18-8, 9-4) team that drew the #5 seed or #12 Middle Tennessee State (23-4, 15-1).
Missouri Tigers (18-7, 7-5) / RPI: 35th / SOS: 68th
Lunardi: #9 Tigers vs. #8 Cincinnati (19-7, 7-6) in the Midwest. No matter how you slice it, the Tigers have struggled away from Columbia this season and this set up would be a significant blow to their chances. The game would be in Dayton with a crowd that will be slanted heavily in favor of the Bearcats. If the Tigers survived they’d be stuck taking on a Big 10 battle tested Indiana team.
Palm: #9 Tigers vs. #8 Oregon (21-5, 10-3) in the East. This is a more attractive option for Mizzou as they’d be playing in Lexington. #1 seed Miami would be their opponent in the next round.
Obviously if you’re a fan of Missouri, you much prefer Jerry Palm’s projection, but it’s hard to see them beating either of the #1 seeds that these brackets project. The Tigers have done this to themselves dropping several very winnable SEC road games and are no lock to even make the field of 68 at this point.
Creighton Blue Jays (21-6, 10-5) / RPI: 44th / SOS: 113th
Lunardi: #8 Blue Jays vs. #9 St. Louis (19-5, 8-2) in the West. This would be a fantastic matchup with plenty of local flavor as both teams would be scrapping for the right to take on #1 seed Duke. The Blue Jays and Billikens could both pose problems for the #1 seed. With the game set in Philadelphia the Blue Devils will hardly be playing in front of a friendly crowd and everyone loves an upset.
Palm: #10 Blue Jays vs. #7 Oklahoma (16-8, 7-5) in the South. As a Creighton fan and alum, all I can say is that a matchup with SLU would have me far more nervous than a game against the Sooners.