Category Archives: march madness

“…just like our gym back in hickory…”

About 20 years ago, I was asked to be a PA announcer for a small, NAIA basketball program in northern Indiana. I initially declined, but then decided to give it a shot. Had you told me then I’d one day be the PA announcer at games during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship in front of 35,000 screaming fans, I would’ve thought you were nuts. But that’s exactly what happened.

“Are you getting nervous yet?” asked IUPUI Associate Athletic Director Ed Holdaway a few weeks ago at one of our men’s basketball games.

“Not yet,” I told him. “Once I get in the stadium and see the fans, I probably will.”

Joe, Matt, Jess, Mike and I, prior to the Duke-Louisville game.

Joe, Matt, Jess, Mike and I, prior to the Duke-Louisville game.

“Did you bring your tape?”
My pre-game preparation has become something of a running joke with the people at IUPUI. I keep my script on a red clipboard and work off my own version of a scorecard I create and print at home to track fouls, timeouts, jump balls and the score. The scorecard is a specific size because I have them on a separate, black clipboard. I tape down the game-day itinerary to the table in front of me, along with two sets of rosters that are affixed to the table, angled toward each goal. That way I can quickly glance down and not move away from the stick mic in front of me. I perform these rituals at every game. Jess, one of the game-day workers, watched me prepare one day. She was slightly fascinated but mostly bewildered.

At our first meeting with with NCAA reps, Jess, Mike the scoreboard operator and Joe the scorekeeper took turns making fun of me. “Did you bring your tape?” “Do you have your highlighter?” “Do you have your clipboard?” Sadly, the answer is yes, to all of them. I even upped the preparation for this event by printing the script on index cards, so I could flip through and discard when done with them. I also brought silicon earplugs to help tamp down the echos in this cavernous barn.

No, I don’t know why I’m so OCD. I just am.

AA PassPre-game Jitters
Truth is, I was at my highest level of anxiety on the drive to Lucas Oil Stadium Friday afternoon for the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Midwest Regional Semifinals. Once I locked in and completed a couple pre-game reads, I was settled down. My nerves were replaced by excitement.

I was remarkably calm when it came time to announce the starting lineups, which is usually when I get nervous; even for IUPUI games. That’s likely because I have to control sound and music as well as announce the games. I’m always paranoid about something malfunctioning (including me). At Lucas Oil Stadium, I was merely an actor in an ensemble cast. Being in constant contact with the game producer and stadium video guys via headset somehow relieved pressure…and taught me how to mentally multitask. As I’m reading my announcements, I’ve got real, actual voices in my head telling me what to do.

I think the jitters subsided mostly because I felt at ease about everything. I rehearsed every word in the script. I reviewed it with the game producers and felt more than prepared for anything that might happen.

NCAA Neutrality
My style for announcing these games was decidedly different than when I work for IUPUI. Inside The Jungle, I’m all about the home team. For the tournament, the NCAA demands neutrality. That really wasn’t a problem at all for me during the semifinal games. I was allowed, however, to incorporate what’s become my signature announcement into the tourney games, my “one minute remaining…ooooonnnnnnnnnneeee minute!” call. It’s not a “homer” call, since I do it the same regardless of the score. And it’s become something the band and cheerleaders have come to enjoy, so I like doing it.

Like Being Shot Out of a Cannon
That’s how I described it to someone. Yes, I was prepared. Yes, I was relaxed. And yes, I was having fun. But once that ball is jumped up, the game is on and you have to be completely focused. At the scorers table, I’m sandwiched between Joe, whose keeping the official book, and Chuck Leonard, the scoreboard operator. The caliber of play at this level is much faster than what we’re used to at IUPUI. So, for about two minutes, we’re all just trying to adjust to the speed, the names, the sounds, the sight lines…everything. It’s a bit of sensory overload.

“This isn’t your first rodeo,” I said to Chuck, who also mans the scoreboard for Colts games.

“Yeah, but this is a different kind of rodeo,” he replied.

By the time we reached our first media timeout, though, everything leveled off. “It’s just like our gym back home in Hickory,” I said to Joe.

Friday Night Re-cap
Everything went off without a hitch. I had TONS of announcements to read, especially at halftime. But I rehearsed them no less than three times each the day before and rested my voice for about 24 hours before the games (and stuck to water and coffee as my only beverages). By the time we started the script for the first game, my voice was sounding good and my throat felt fine. It wasn’t until the next day when I lost my voice a bit and had a scratchy throat. But I rested it for the day so I’d be ready for the championship game.

Joe & I, ready to jump it up.

Joe & I, ready to jump it up.

Championship Sunday
“Enjoy the hell out of this, boys.”

Horizon League Director of Communications Billy Potter said that to Joe and I just ahead of tipoff. The atmosphere in Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday night was a bit of bedlam. Of the 34,657 fans in attendance, I’d say all but 3,000 were Louisville fans. It really was a home game for them. And it was LOUD right from the start. I met with game producer Don Lukes before the game and he said I’d probably need to really step it up to compete with the loud environs. Having watched the previous day’s championship games, I already planned on bringing a bit more oomph to it. Unlike Friday night, though, the crowd pretty much drowned me out for a good portion of the night. That’s fine by me, honestly. That’s what you want from the fans. It makes for a better environment.

My favorite moment from Sunday’s game came when I made my final “one minute remaining” announcement. The place went nuts.

In the post game, I was announcing the All Region Team when I was interrupted by Rick Pitino to get a chant of “Ke-vin, Ke-vin, Ke-vin” going. When it started, I turned to my producer and joked, “this is for me, right?” Of course, we know why Pitino did this.

Kevin Ware
I did not see Ware’s injury when it happened. I saw players collapsing on the floor and thought, “what just happened?” Their faces a combination of shock, horror and disgust. I looked over and saw a player (I couldn’t tell which one) lying on the floor. Then I see Chane Behanan writhing on the floor. I see Russ Smith, his face frozen in horrified silence.

As medical staff tended to Ware, Louisville coach Rick Pitino and his assistants had to get the players to regain composure. Not only because they had to finish playing the game, but because one of their teammates was seriously hurt. “That’s your teammate over there,” I heard Pitino say to his players. “He wants to talk to you.”

Around that same time, Pitino turned to wipe tears from his eyes. Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski was toeing the mid-court line when Pitino walked toward him. “What happened?” Krzyzewski asked. “He broke his leg,” Pitino replied. Coach K’s face sunk. “I’m sorry,” he replied and both men went back to their benches.

In this moment, I felt I was watching a very classy gesture from Krzyzewski and one of Pitino’s best coaching efforts ever. He had to get his Louisville players back into game mode after watching a gruesome injury that sickened some people who witnessed it.

Once everyone got back into game mode, it was shaping up to be a classic. But Louisville was just too much. They were unstoppable in the second half. I’m not sure anyone can beat them.

My brother snapped this photo off TV to give you an idea of where I was sitting for the game. I wasn't lying about having the best seat in the house.

My brother snapped this photo off TV to give you an idea of where I was sitting for the game. I wasn’t lying about having the best seat in the house.

‘Til We Meet Again
When the game ended and we wrapped up the scripted portion of the night, I took off my headset and exhaled. I was happy, satisfied and a bit drained (more mentally, than anything). But I was filled with a sense of accomplishment and appreciation. No one will ever remember the PA announcer at this event, and that’s fine. But thousands of people will remember this game for years and I can say I played one, small part in it. Without a doubt, I enjoyed the hell out of it.

The 2014 Midwest Regional Championship will be held in Indianapolis again next year. Here’s to hoping I have an opportunity to do this again.

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my very own sweet sixteen party.

In Focus...Rick Pitino's top-seeded Louisville Cardinals will play the No. 12 seed Oregon Ducks Thursday night in Indianapolis.

In Focus…Rick Pitino’s top-seeded Louisville Cardinals will play the No. 12 seed Oregon Ducks Thursday night in Indianapolis.

We started with 68 on Tuesday, and now we’re down to the Sweet Sixteen™. Now that the field is set, I have the itinerary of games for next weekend’s Midwest Regional games for which I’ll be the PA announcer at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Game 1
(1) Louisville Cardinals vs.
(12) Oregon Ducks
Friday, 29 March 2013 | Tip-off: 7:15 p.m. EDT
Television: CBS

Game 2
(3) Michigan State Spartans vs.
(2) Duke Blue Devils
Friday, 29 March 2013 | Tip-off: 9:45 p.m. EDT
Television: CBS

Game 3
Louisville/Oregon vs.
Michigan State/Duke
Sunday, 31 March 2013 | Tip-off: TBD
Television: TBD

Am I nervous? Not yet. I’m excited. This regional features college basketball royalty: Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo. I’m most looking forward to the Duke-Michigan State game. That will be like a championship game all by itself. The game will also feature a kid from my hometown of Bay City, Michigan, freshman Matt Costello. Not sure if he’ll get in the game or not, but it’s kinda cool.

I expect these games to be well attended. Louisville fans will make the short trip from Kentucky, no doubt. Sparty fans and Duke fans travel well, too. I have no idea how many Oregon fans will make the trip, but their Ducks should give Louisville a run for their money.

Prior to this weekend, the largest event I’ve ever worked was in front of 4,000 – 5,000 people over at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Lucas Oil Stadium will be set up to hold 45,000 for these games. That is a HUGE crowd!

But I’m not nervous…yet. 🙂

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bracketology prediction: hoosiers no. 1 in the midwest. period.

Indiana's junior guard Victor Oladipo.

Junior guard Victor Oladipo scored 21 points in IU’s 75-70 win over Michigan State on Jan. 27. The Hoosiers travel to East Lansing Tuesday night in a battle between the B1G’s two first-place teams.

All the guessing, politicking and pontificating ends in two hours. We’ll know who’s playing where and who’s No. 1. All four No. 1s. I’m not saying I’m absolutely correct. I may be completely wrong, but if I were in that room with the selection committee, this would be my opening salvo.

No. 1 Seeds
Louisville — East
Indiana — Midwest
Duke — South
Gonzaga — West

Yeah, a lot of people are calling for the Cardinals to get the Midwest top seed, but why? They beat two teams that previous beat them. Indiana has three quality road wins against ranked teams (Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan). Hoosiers in the Midwest, Louisville gets the East.

I rejected the urge to place Kansas No. 1 in the South. I suppose it could still happen, what with the Jayhawks winning the Big 12 conference tournament while Duke choked in the ACC. Nevertheless, Duke’s done enough to keep a top seed.

And Gonzaga is my justification for it all. While all the experts are shifting and shuffling Indiana, Duke and Louisville around—praising/punishing them for postseason performance, why are the Zags too sacrosanct? Because they’re 30-2? Because they’re ranked No. 1 by the AP and USA Today?

Everyone agrees Gonzaga is the weakest No. 1 seed in the field, yet no one will dare move them. Sorry, “experts.” Not all wins and losses were created equal. If we’re going to keep the Zags No. 1 in the West, we keep Indiana No. 1 in the Midwest. End of story.

No. 2 Seeds
Ohio State — East
Georgetown — Midwest
Kansas — South
Miami — West

I may know nothing about the regions, but I think I’m right in the seedings. Ohio State show itself to be the best second-place team in the toughest basketball conference in the nation. They earned their No. 2 seeding.

Georgetown and Miami, at one time, might’ve been No. 1 seeds. They’ve had too many bad losses along the way.

For Kansas, a No. 2 in the South is sort of a 1a seeding. The Jayhawks are the best No. 2 seed.

No. 3 Seeds
Michigan State — East
New Mexico — Midwest
Syracuse — South
Kansas State — West

Any one of these teams can cause real trouble in the tournament…for themselves as much as their opponents. Sparty might be the strongest of the four, but New Mexico and Kansas State will be strong challengers in their brackets. Syracuse? Depends on which team shows up.

No. 4 Seeds
Michigan — East
St. Louis — Midwest
Memphis — South
Florida — West

St. Louis is going to be a real dark horse in this tournament. They play in a very competitive conference, but got smoked by Kansas early in the year. How they’re playing now—15-1 down the stretch—is important.

I’m not sold on Florida being a bona fide No. 4 seed, but given the performance of teams around them, this Gators backed into this seed. I’ve never been convinced of Florida’s prowess this season anyway.

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march madness round-up: hoosiers, louisville charge to no. 1 seeds; duke chokes away the east.

Victor Oladipo's 360-dunk was the exclamation point on Indiana's 80-64 win over Illinois in the B1G quarterfinals.

Victor Oladipo’s 360-dunk was the exclamation point on Indiana’s 80-64 win over Illinois in the B1G quarterfinals.

The NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship Tournament Selection Committee is not so unlike a papal conclave. They meet behind closed doors and no one truly knows their process. But when they exit their respective conclaves, their decisions are met with great anticipation and fascination. And criticism.

With the power conferences still playing their postseason tournaments, one wonders how much (or how little) consequence a team’s performance will factor into their Big Dance™ chances.

Hoosiers Punch Their Ticket
Heading into the B1G’s conference tournament, the conventional wisdom was Indiana needed to win at least one game to lock down the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region. The Hoosiers knocked off Illinois 80-64, so mission accomplished, right?

Duke Pukes On Itself, Heads South
Ahead of the ACC tournament, the Duke Blue Devils were being considered a consensus No. 1 team. And then they go and throw up all over themselves, losing to Maryland 83-74. According to ESPN’s Eamonn Brennan, that knocks Duke out of No. 1 in the East Region, The Blue Devils will still get a No. 1 seed, but their road to the Final Four now goes through Dallas in the South Region.

Cardinals Head East
So who gets that No. 1 seed in the East? Louisville. The Cardinals are playing for the final Big East tournament championship tomorrow and are, quite possibly the hottest team playing right now.

Bubble Wrapped (Alt. Headline: Commodore 64 Bursts Kentucky’s Bubble)
Seeded No. 2 in the SEC tournament, conventional wisdom stated Kentucky did enough to get off the bubble and into the Big Dance. And then they lost to Vanderbilt, 64-48. The defending champion (in name only, really) Wildcats finish the season 21-11 and 12-6 in a weak, watered down conference. My guess is they make the tournament as a No. 12 seed, but wouldn’t it be awesome if they were in a play-in game? Hey, a Hoosiers fan can hope, no?

Here’s my seeding breakdown, as of right now. No it’s not very scientific at all. I used my own system of hunches and superstitions.

No. 1 Seeds
Louisville — East
Indiana — Midwest
Duke — South
Gonzaga — West

No. 2 Seeds
Ohio State / Michigan State — East
Georgetown — Midwest
Miami — South
Kansas / Kansas State — West

No. 3 Seeds
Ohio State / Michigan State — East
St. Louis — Midwest
Syracuse — South
Kansas / Kansas State — West

No. 4 Seeds
Michigan — East
UCLA — Midwest
Memphis — South
Florida — West

Possible No. 4 Seeds
New Mexico
Wisconsin

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marching to march: hoosiers make their case for consensus no. 1.

That's how close Michigan came to winning.

That’s how close Michigan came to winning.

The biggest game of the season lived up to its hype. For Indiana, the win over Michigan yesterday delivered the first outright B1G championship in 20 years and, most likely, a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region. For Michigan, it’s a bitter pill. I’m still a believer that they can earn a top seed if they win the conference postseason tournament, but that all depends on Louisville, Kansas and Georgetown.

The Four Tops
Not sure how the rankings will shake out, but we have a much clearer picture of the top seeds now.

West Region—Gonzaga: Rolled through their schedule, but still the weakest top seed, if you ask me.
South Region—Georgetown: The only ranked team they haven’t beaten all year is Indiana.
Midwest Region—Indiana: 7-1 vs. ranked opponents, including three road wins vs. Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. Consensus No. 1? Hmm….
East Region—Duke: Might be the best team in the tournament, now that Ryan Kelly is healthy.

Who’s No. 2?
One of these teams could play its way into a top seed, if you ask me. But for now, they’re going to hold down the second seeds:

* Louisville
* Kansas
* Michigan
* Miami

What’s Left?
Selection Sunday is six days away. Between now and then, we’ll have today’s national rankings and a slew of conference tournaments. It remains to be seen how much or how little credence the selection committee gives to postseason conference play. After all, 20-loss Liberty already backed its way into the Big Dance™ by virtue of winning its conference tourney. Should Georgetown get punished if they lose an opening round game? We’ll see.

I think those No. 2 and possible No. 3 seeds (Michigan State, Ohio State, Okie State and Marquette) could move up, depending on how they do this week. Moe down? Who knows.

Who’s No. 1?
The national rankings are nearly meaningless today. It doesn’t matter if you’re No. 1, as long as you’re in the Top Four. Here goes my prediction for the Top Ten:

1. Gonzaga (30-2/16-0)—They won a game in their conference tournament. It doesn’t matter anymore.
2. Indiana (25-5/14-4)—The Ohio State loss created drama, but beating Michigan at Ann Arbor was THE biggest win of the season.
3. Duke (27-4/14-4)—Carolina was no match for the Blue Devils. This team is surging.
4. Georgetown (24-5/14-4)—Started the season unranked. Finished tied for a share of the Big East.
5. Louisville (24-5/14-4)—7-0 since losing at Notre Dame in 5 overtimes.
6. Kansas (26-5/14-4)—Laid an egg at Baylor. Still tied for Big 12 championship and went 4-1 vs. ranked opponents on the season.
7. Michigan (24-5/12-6)—This ranking belies their true talent, but they’re 4-4 vs. ranked teams.
8. Michigan State (24-7/13-5)—Starting to pick up the pieces, but still have to prove they’re an elite team, after going 5-6 vs. ranked opponents.
9. Miami (24-6/15-3))—They won the ACC outright, but the late loss to Duke (and Georgia Tech) really hurt.
10. Ohio State (23-7/13-5)—Closed out the season on a 5-0 run, including wins against Michigan State and at Indiana. Could be a dark horse.

The Rest of the Pack
11. Marquette (23-7/14-4)
12. Oklahoma State (23-7/13-5)
13. Kansas State (25-6/14-4)
14. New Mexico (26-5/13-3)
15. St. Louis (24-6/13-3)
16. Florida (24-6/14-4)
17. Arizona (24-6/12-6)
18. Pittsburgh (24-7/12-6)
19. Syracuse (23-8/11-7)
20. Memphis (27-4/16-0)
21. Butler (24-7/11-5)
22. Oregon (23-8/12-6)
23. Wisconsin (21-10/12-6)
24. UCLA (23-8/13-5)
25. VCU (24-7/12-4)

Honorable Mention
Creighton (27-7/13-5) won the Missouri Valley Conference postseason tournament this weekend. They could earn a national ranking.

Gone, Daddy Gone
These three teams fell out of the rankings this week. Bubble teams? Perhaps. But I think at least two of these teams make it to the Big Dance.

* Notre Dame (23-8/11-7)
* Louisiana Tech (26-5/16-2)
* North Carolina (22-9/12-6)

Off the Bubble
Thanks to Florida for blowing it for everybody. Because they lost to Kentucky 61-57 this weekend, the Wildcats played their way into the tournament. Nice work, Gators. Nice work.

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summit league tourney roundup.

The Summit League postseason tourneys are underway right now in Sioux Falls, S.D. So far, there haven’t been any surprises. I confess this roundup is rather generic. Forgive me. I am not on the ground in South Dakota to provide you up-close-and-personal coverage of the event. Perhaps next year. For now, here’s the map-of-the-earth view.

Men’s Basketball Bracket
As expected, No. 1 seed South Dakota State put away my IUPUI Jaguars 66-49. The nightcap between No. 2 Western Illinois and No. 7 South Dakota was a bit more dramatic as the Coyotes no doubt enjoyed the comforts of this “neutral” site. The Leathernecks, however, prevailed, beating South Dakota 54-53.

Tonight’s games:
No. 4 Oakland vs. No. 5 Fort Wayne—Normally, I’d say Oakland is the better team, but I think the Mastadons pull off the minor upset. They beat Oakland twice this year already. I know it’s tough to beat a team three times, but I’ve got a feeling about Fort Wayne.

No. 3 North Dakota State vs. No. 6 Kansas City—Ah, the charmed six-seed. Most often, upsets in the Summit tourney happen at the hands of the No. 6 seed. Not this year. Kansas City got its doors blown off twice by the Bison. It’s going to happen a third time.

Women’s Basketball Bracket
No surprises at all on the women’s side of the tournament. Top-seeded South Dakota State beat No. 8 seed Oakland 67-53. My No. 2-seeded IUPUI Jaguars knocked off No. 7 Kansas City 59-47, thanks to stifling defense. Again, no surprises.

Tonight’s games:
No. 4 Fort Wayne vs. No. 5 Western Illinois—I just saw Fort Wayne play last week. They are not the same team without Saule Kontautaite. I expect Western Illinois to pull this one out.

No. 3 South Dakota vs. No. 6 North Dakota State—For the sake of my Jaguars, I hope the Bison get the sixth-seed mojo working and pull out the upset. The Coyotes beat IUPUI twice this year. Worse yet, the “neutral” site. Sure, North Dakota State fans might travel in droves, too, but I like IUPUI’s chances better against the Bison. The Coyotes and Bison split on the season, so this is anyone’s game. The Coyotes match up well against IUPUI, but they’re vulnerable. Here’s to hoping North Dakota State sends the Coyotes packing.

Being There
I’ve been to three conference tournaments. The men’s team reached the championship game twice (2004, 2008). The women reached the championship game once, in 2008. Here’s to hoping the women’s team has two more games (and then some) to play. Of course, my legacy from my tournament junkets is one that you may have seen. I never get tired of sharing it.

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marching to march: zags top the charts…for now.

Junior forward Kelly Olynyk's 17.7 ppg led the Zags to No. 1 for the first time ever.

Junior forward Kelly Olynyk’s 17.7 ppg led the Zags to No. 1 for the first time ever.

If history is a guide, the final week of the NCAA men’s basketball regular season will be an unpredictable, wild ride. It will likely produce a new No. 1 team and could be the difference between a top seed for some, while being the bubble that bursts for others.

New No. 1…for Now
In fairness to Gonzaga, they’ve taken care of business. Undefeated in the the WCC and only two losses on the season, the Zags will claim their first No. 1 ranking in school history. But it won’t last. With their season done, Gonzaga will watch as every other team plays out their regular seasons.

Road Warriors Weary
There’s no place like home; especially for the Top Ten. At home, the Top Ten went 8-0 last week. On the road? 5-6. Who suffered the most embarrassing road loss? No. 4 Michigan. Losing at Penn State was embarrassing. But beating No. 9 Michigan State at home atoned for it.

The Four Tops
* Gonzaga — West Region
* Indiana — Midwest Region
* Duke — East Region
* ??? — South Region

The Zags are a lock for the West Region. Kansas, Michigan, Miami, Georgetown and even Louisville will make their cases for that fourth No. 1 seed in The Big Dance™. Stay tuned.

Shaka to the System
Right on cue, here comes Shaka Smart and his VCU Rams. By virtue of pistol-whipping Butler last week, VCU should move into the Top 25 and be poised to make another run at the Final Four.

Worst Week Ever
After winless weeks, Arizona and Syracuse will fall to the middle of the pack and, likely, losing a grip on No. 2 seeds.

Cadet Kelly
Duke senior forward Ryan Kelly picked a fine time to get back into the mix. His 36 points lifted the Blue Devils over No. 5 Miami; just in time for the postseason. For Coach K, Kelly’s return gives Duke another double-digit scoring threat. The real test for Duke will be its season-ending game at North Carolina.

Bubblelicious
Minnesota’s upset victory over No. 1 Indiana may have been the signature win to punch their ticket to the Big Dance™. Even though Illinois has an identical 8-8 conference record and also beat Indiana, they’re still on the bubble with two difficult road games to close out the season. They may need a good showing in the conference tournament to punch their ticket.

UConn is in the same boat as the Illini. They’re 3-3 against ranked teams and lack any sense of consistency. They are truly middle-of-the-pack. Out in the Mountain West, here come the Runnin’ Rebels, making their case. After a 2-0 week and in a tie for second place in the MWC, UNLV is one step closer to a potential No. 5 seed.

So Who’s No. 1?
This is a difficult week to predict. I have about 45 percent confidence in my selections.

1. Gonzaga (29-2/16-0)— All that’s left is their conference tourney, which won’t hurt their shot at the No. 1 seed in the West Region.
2. Indiana (24-4/13-3)—Losing has consequences. But if the Hoosiers win out, they’ll be the consensus No. 1 again.
3. Kansas (25-4/13-3)—Just as losing has consequences, so does winning. The Jayhawks had a good week.
4. Duke (25-4/12-4)—The Miami win atones for the Virginia loss. But they have to close out their season at Carolina. Good luck.
5. Georgetown (23-4/13-3)—The Hoyas are gaining momentum.
6. Michigan (24-5/11-5)—A win over Indiana would all but give the Wolverines a line on a No. 1 seed.
7. Miami (Fl) (23-5/14-2)—A No. 1 seed isn’t out of reach, but a No. 2 is all but locked.
8. Louisville (24-5/12-4)—A strong finish at home earns a No. 2 seed or better (depending on circumstances).
9. Kansas State (24-5/13-3)—The March 9 game at Okie St. is the battle for Big 12 second place.
10. Florida (23-5/13-3)—The Gators have one job this week: knock Kentucky’s ass to the NIT. Don’t let us down, Florida.

The Rest of the Field
I’m taking a shot at the entire Top 25 this week. Here goes:

11. Michigan State (22-7/11-5)—Road loss to Michigan hurt; down to a No. 3 or 4 seed.
12. New Mexico (25-4/12-2)—Could be a troublemaker in the tournament.
13. Oklahoma State (22-6/12-4)—Regardless of the K-State game, Okie St. is for real.
14. Ohio State (21-7/11-5)—A win over Indiana salvages an otherwise disappointing season.
15. St. Louis (23-5/12-2)—The Billikens could be the mid major who crashes the Final Four this year.
16. Arizona (23-6/11-6)—No one fell harder, faster than the Wildcats…
17. Syracuse (22-7/10-6)—…except for Syracuse. Hello, No. 4 seed.
18. Wisconsin (20-9/11-5)—Losing to Purdue hurt, but they’re still in the Dance.
19. Marquette (21-7/12-4)—Big wins over Syracuse and Notre Dame raised their stock.
20. Memphis (25-4/14-1)—Just when I started believing in the Tigers. They could still hold a No. 4 seed.
21. Louisiana Tech (26-3/16-0)—Difficult to determine how good they are, playing in a weak WAC.
22. PIttsburgh (23-7/11-6)—The Big East has too damn many teams.
23. Oregon (23-6/12-4)—They’re leading a rather mediocre Pac-12.
24. VCU (23-6/11-3)—They did something even Indiana couldn’t do, beat the hell out of Butler.
25. North Carolina (21-8/11-5)—In my mind, the Tar Heels didn’t earn this ranking. More like: it fell off the back of a turnip truck.

Gone Baby Gone
Butler and Notre Dame. Despite getting blown out by VCU, Butler will still be a tough out in the tournament. Notre Dame? They’re schizophrenic anymore. Could be a Sweet Sixteen team or be one-and-done.

Honorable Mention
UNLV. I thought about slotting the Runnin’ Rebels at No. 25 instead of North Carolina. The only difference is Carolina plays in a stronger conference. The Rebs could end up ranked next week, though. Not sure what sort of tournament team they’ll be, yet.

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