Bracketology for Dummies: Can Northwestern finally get to the dance?

Bracketology for Dummies: Can Northwestern finally get to the dance?

Greg Frank ('13)/ Eastside Staff

Fantastic Four (projected number one seeds)

Kentucky: After completing a perfect SEC regular season with a win over the weekend in Gainesville against Florida, the Wildcats look to add to that perfection in the SEC tournament which begins Thursday.  The opening game Thursday features LSU and Arkansas.  While the winning team is obviously going to be happy for the win, they’re winning the right to play Kentucky on Friday.  Even Florida didn’t prove to be much of a test for Kentucky this year and the Wildcats disposed with them twice with ease.  Vanderbilt played Kentucky tight in two games this year and is probably the biggest threat to take them down should the two meet in the Sunday tournament final.  However, don’t be surprised if Kentucky continues in its winning ways and is announced as the NCAA tournament number one overall seed on Sunday night.

Syracuse: While some call the Orange the biggest challenger to Kentucky for a National Championship, I’m not going there.  I’m continuing to shoot down the Orange as a pretender more so than a contender.  They did look better over the weekend against Louisville but I need to see more before I hop on.  If they win the Big East Tournament this week, then I think I’ll have to believe in them.  They’ll play the winner of West Virginia and UCONN in their first game of the Big East Championship on Thursday afternoon.

Kansas: After having won that eighth straight Big 12 regular season title I referred to last week, Kansas disposed of Texas in Lawrence and continues to roll.  They’ll await the winner of tomorrow’s Oklahoma and Texas A&M tilt.  While there are some teams in the Big 12 tournament that have a shot to take down the Jayhawks, Bill Self’s crew has earned the right to enter the Big 12 tourney as the favorite, and a great shot at getting a number one seed on Sunday night.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels cemented themselves as a firm number four team in the nation with Saturday’s beat down of Duke at Cameron Indoor.  After a loss by Michigan State against Ohio State, Carolina slid into the fourth slot in this week’s poll.  Having clinched the ACC regular season title North Carolina enters the ACC tournament as the number one seed in the ACC and the conference tournament bracket opens up a little bit for them.  Both Duke and Florida State are on the bottom half so at worst if Carolina only as to play one of those two ACC contenders to win the ACC tournament and stay hot.  Roy Williams is only three years removed from that national championship he won with Tyler Hansborough leading the charge.  Keep an eye on the Heels.  They impressed me Saturday night and I won’t be surprised if they continue to do so.

Bubble Watch:

Northwestern: Well, I thought I exhausted the bubble, as most of the teams on the cusp of making the field of 68 that are garnering national recognition have already been analyzed in Bracektology for Dummies.  But then came Northwestern.  A team that has never made the NCAA tournament is on the brink of doing so right now.  At 18-12 and 8-10 in the Big 10, Northwestern sits in a spot they never have before.  Their best win came against Michigan State, but they took tough losses against Michigan twice and Indiana.  They’ll have to do some work in the Big 10 tournament to make it.  They open with Minnesota in a game they must win.  Minnesota has played their way off the bubble and it’s lose and out for Northwestern.  Should they win they would play Michigan in the next round.  Getting over the hump this season against Michigan would go a long way in getting an at-large bid for Northwestern and then they would most likely be safe.  A loss to Minnesota, and as said earlier, they’re not getting in.  A win against Minnesota and a third loss to Michigan leaves Northwestern still firmly on the bubble heading into Sunday evening.

Tennessee: A nice win over the weekend against Vanderbilt got the Vols into consideration and coupled with a win over nationally-ranked Florida earlier this year gives Tennessee a chance. However at 18-13 and 10-6 in the SEC there’s still some work to be done here.  Tennessee gets the winner of Ole Miss and Auburn in their first game in the SEC tournament.  That’s a game they’ll have to win regardless of who they’re playing.  Should they win that game there’s a possibility they play Vanderbilt again.  A second win over Vanderbilt would strengthen Tennessee’s chances for sure.  Regardless of who they play though, Tennessee needs to win a couple games in the SEC tournament to have a shot on Sunday night.

Cinderella Chance?

St. Louis: Since this has been a down year for the A-10, I find it feasible to have a Cinderella come out of what is normally a power conference. St. Louis has quietly put together a nice 24-6 mark to go with 12-4 in conference.  That earned them the number two seed in this week’s A-10 tournament where it was determined tonight that they’ll play La Salle on Friday in Atlantic City.  They didn’t have a game all year where they got whitewashed and blown away, which could play to their advantage in the tournament if they can keep it close.  Perhaps winning the A-10 tournament would get St. Louis some more national recognition, but I’ve got my eye on the Bilikens right now.

Don’t Sleep on Me

Iowa State: At 22-9 and 12-6 in the Big 12, Iowa State has put together one of their best seasons in a long time.  They’ve beaten Baylor and K-State this year, played Missouri tight, and their best win came in January against Kansas.  They open the Big 12 Tournament tomorrow against Texas.  It’s a game against a Longhorns team that needs a resume builder so I wouldn’t be shocked if the Cyclones go down.  Win or lose, I’m sold on Iowa State and their abilities to beat some of the better teams in the country as proven by the aforementioned regular season victories.

*While some conference tournaments have concluded and tickets have been punched, the majority of the conference tournaments occur and conclude this week.  This is the week that teams can make last impressions before the big dance, and some teams can play their way into the dance and it culminates with the Selection Show on Sunday night.  Enjoy it, cause I know I will.

**Next week, Bracketology for Dummies will be written on Sunday night shortly after the field is announced.