Bracketology for Dummies: What’s the deal with St. Mary’s?

Bracketology for Dummies: What's the deal with St. Mary's?

Greg Frank ('13)/ Eastside Staff

Fantastic Four (Projected number one seeds):

Kentucky: An overwhelming number-one in this week’s AP Poll, Kentucky continues to march towards the tournament (no pun intended).  They’ll play two games before next week’s column is posted.  A home tilt on Saturday with one of last week’s bubble teams Ole Miss, who is hungry for a resume builder, and what could be a trap game at 23rd ranked Mississippi State next Tuesday night.  However, Saturday’s game at Vanderbilt looked to be a trap game for a while until Kentucky survived with a six point win.  Don’t be fooled by the fact that they didn’t blow out Vanderbilt like they do most teams.  Vanderbilt is an NCAA tournament team, Memorial Gym in Nashville is a tough place to play, but they got it done.  We’ll see if they continue to roll in their two games this week.  There’s no reason to think otherwise.

Syracuse: I had them on upset alert last week, and they survived a couple of scares.  Last Wednesday night it took overtime to beat nationally ranked Georgetown 64-61 at home in the Carrier Dome.  The 85-67 score of their Saturday game against UCONN says that it was a laugher but was actually a pretty tight game for the first 25-30 minutes.  Lastly, against Louisville in enemy territory on Monday night, the Orange won by the skin of their teeth 52-51.  Their schedule lightens up from here on out as they play only one ranked team the rest of the way out, a rematch with Louisville but that doesn’t mean they’re off the hook.  Maybe I’m being a little hard on a team that’s 26-1, but in the ever-so-deep conference that is the Big East, anything’s possible.

Missouri: The Tigers have continued to roll since their last loss on January 25th at Oklahoma State.  Five in a row since that loss and the Tigers find themselves at 23-2 overall, 10-2 in the Big 12, and number three in the new AP poll.  Over the weekend they completed the regular season sweep of top-ten foe Baylor.  They’ll try and to keep the momentum going and avenge that January 25th loss when Oklahoma State pays them a visit on Wednesday.  Following that encounter they’ll head to College Station to take on the Texas A&M Aggies before closing out the week on the 21st hosting Frank Martin’s Kansas State Wildcats.  All of this leads up to a big showdown with Kansas on the 25th at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence as Missouri will look to complete a regular season sweep of Kansas as they just did to Baylor.

Kansas: With Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State over the weekend, they fall out of the fantasic four and the Jayhawks slide in.  Bill Self’s team may very well be the second best team in the nation.  As you can tell I’m not sold on Syracuse, and if they can win that rematch with Missouri, then I’d argue it’s Kentucky, and then Kansas at the top.  Thomas Robinson is a National Player of the Year candidate, Tyshawn Taylor is a good distributor at the point, and they get some good contributions from some role players from time to time.  They have five losses but only two in the New Year.  One was a hiccup at Iowa State and the other a nail-bitter at Missouri which they have a chance to avenge.  I like this Kansas team.

Bubble Watch

Miami: Similar to week one’s sleeper team, Alabama, something that may pay dividends for the Hurricanes in March is their coach.  Like the Crimson Tide’s Anthony Grant, Miami’s Jim Larranaga coached George Mason to the Final Four in 2006.  Having a coach that has some tournament experience can help a team like Miami that’s in some unchartered territory the closer they get to making the field.  A win at Cameron Indoor against Duke earlier this season helps their cause, and a win tomorrow night against North Carolina makes the Hurricanes, barring a collapse, a lock for the tournament.  They’re probably just barely in now, but can change their questionable status with a win against the Tar Heels.

Xavier: In case you didn’t know…the Atlantic 10 sucks.  Arguably the worst power conference in America this season, the A-10 probably won’t have many teams get the call on Selection Sunday.  Xavier, usually front runs the A-10 throughout the season, enters the tournament with a respectable seeding usually in the three through six range, and wins a couple games once they’re in the dance.  However, losses to Oral Roberts, Memphis, Long Beach State, Hawaii, and Gonzaga out of conference, and La Salle, Temple, Dayton, and St. Louis in conference make this a not so familiar place for the Musketeers.  The conference has to send one team to the tourney via the A-10 tournament which is definitely Xavier’s best chance to get in the field for another year because right now, it doesn’t look like they’re lined up for an at large and their schedule from here on out doesn’t provide them with many chances to build their resume given they play the A-10 and have to play out the rest of their conference schedule.

Cinderella Chance?

Wichita State: Well, before I start this analysis I’d like to thank Hubert Davis for directing my attention towards Wichita State.  I was watching College Gameday on Saturday morning and he predicted Wichita State to beat Creighton and become the best mid-major team in the country.  Wichita State is the second team in three weeks to be chosen as a Cinderella out of the Missouri Valley Conference.  When Creighton was chosen in week one they promptly fell off a cliff and their recent loss to Wichita State is only the most recent evidence of that.  It’s fitting that Wichita State be a Cinderella, as their team name is the Shockers.  They’ve bolted to the top of the Missouri Valley Conference and sit at 22-4 overall and 13-2 in the MVC.  They’ll be in the tournament whether it’s as an automatic or an at-large, and if they make a run, this is where it all began with that big win on Saturday against Creighton.

Don’t Sleep on Me

Saint Mary’s: You’re might be wondering why the team they’re playing Saturday hasn’t been on this list.  Saint Mary’s plays the Murray State Racers on Saturday on the road.  For a while Murray State was the only undefeated remaining in the nation but not amongst the nation’s elite because they play in the Ohio Valley Conference.  However a slip up at home against Tennessee State caused a drop in the polls this week for Murray State.  The point is that now Murray State, currently 14th, and Saint Mary’s at 16 are a lot closer in the rankings now and the gap may not be so large between both teams.  While Murray State garnered a lot of the national attention as deserved with their long undefeated streak, just because they lost doesn’t seem to have gotten anyone to keep an eye on St. Mary’s as a result. Rather, the same people are just tuning out on Murray State for the time being and targeting the powerhouses and projected number one seeds as contenders.  St. Mary’s made a run to the Sweet 16 two years ago as a 10 seed.  Pay attention to St. Mary’s and don’t be surprised if they win on the Racers home floor Saturday and jump them in the polls.