Two steppin' to The Big Dance

By JON GAGNON & MARKUS MCCAINE
On February 11, 2013

Saturday marked one of the most entertaining, tumultuous days in college basketball history. There were half-court buzzer-beaters and a five-overtime barnburner to conclude the day. The streak of the No. 1 team in the country going down continued.

Top-flight teams continued to prove their inconsistency, as 11 ranked teams fell to unranked opponents this week. The tournament is just over a month away and experts are already scratching their heads over which teams to pencil into their brackets.

We're here to attempt to unscramble a scrambled picture while teams are midway through their conference schedules.

 

The favorite to win it all

Gagnon: Michigan: The Wolverines have a formula proven for success in the NCAA Tourney: perimeter shooting, top NBA prospects and a battle-tested regular season schedule. They are 5-0 against Big East, Big 12 and SEC opponents, with their only three losses coming on the road in grueling Big 10 environments.

McCaine: Indiana: Indiana started the season ranked No. 1 and it will finish the season No. 1. The Hoosiers' only losses have come at the hands of Butler, Wisconsin and Illinois, all teams that are on pace to make it to the dance.

Bracket Buster:

Gagnon: Michigan State: State has been my sleeper team all season. Unfortunately, the Spartans are beginning to climb the rankings amid their three-game winning streak, questioning their eligibility as a "sleeper." Regardless, Keith Appling and Gary Harris can hang with any guard combo in the country and the Spartans have size up front that could drive them to a deep run in the tourney. Tom Izzo's squads have made it to at least the Sweet 16 in six of the past 10 seasons, despite never having fewer than seven losses. The Spartans are always playing their best basketball in March.

McCaine: Georgetown: The Hoyas are 3-1 this season versus ranked opponents. Their only ranked loss came to powerhouse Indiana in overtime and they're currently on a five-game winning streak in the Big East. Big East Player of the Year contender Otto Porter Jr.'s game has turned the corner. He could be the reason the Hoyas ruin your bracket.

 

Overrated:

Gagnon: Duke: The Dukies have only lost two games this season and will most likely enter the tournament as a No. 1 seed, but I'm not buying it. This team hasn't changed all that much from last year's first-round exit squad. The Blue Devils are one of the worst rebounding teams in the country and have zero size outside of Mason Plumlee - two things that seem to be of the utmost importance for a team that has potential to make a title run.

McCaine: Arizona: A soft schedule and an overrated Pac 12 is the only reason the Wildcats are ranked so high. They are currently 123rd in team assists per game, and that lack of ball movement could mean death for Arizona come tournament time.

 

Cinderella:

Gagnon: UNLV: UNLV has wins over then No. 15-ranked New Mexico and San Diego State, and the Runnin' Rebels have a four-point loss to now No. 14-ranked Oregon. Their diaper dandy, Anthony Bennett, is emerging as one of the best big men in the country and has potential to dominate the paint if the Rebels get an advantageous matchup in their bracket.

McCaine: Butler: The Bulldogs are always dangerous in March. Year after year, I don't put my faith in Butler and they devastate my bracket. This year will be different. Led by point guard Rotnei Clarke, the Bulldogs are an experienced, veteran, tested team. They may have some fluke losses this season to Lasalle and St. Louis, putting them behind the 8 ball, but don't write off Brad Stevens' boys. Stevens will have Butler playing scrappy and ready to prove they are the best team in the Sycamore State.

 

Email: sports@ubspectrum.com


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