The season for No. 16 seeds?

Posted: February 23, 2013

The nightly parade of upsets in college basketball adds more uncertainty for anyone trying to predict a national champion. But what could be more certain this year is the chance that a No. 16 seed will defeat a No. 1 seed.

"I think this is the year that a 16 could possibly beat a 1 for the first time," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said Thursday. "I don't think it will happen but I think it's more possible than in other years."

Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the 16th seed is 0-112 against No. 1.

Syracuse had a close call last year against UNC-Asheville before winning, 72-65. You know it's going to happen one of these years. Why not this one?

How about a 15?

Norfolk State, one of two No. 15 seeds that upset a No. 2 last year, looks ready to return to the Big Dance and again make some noise. The Spartans improved to 12-0 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference earlier this week and have to be considered the favorite in the MEAC tournament. Norfolk State lost four starters, including Terry O'Quinn, a second-round NBA draft choice, from the team that knocked off Missouri, 86-84, a year ago. "It's a credit to [the players] for understanding what it takes to be successful," Spartans coach Anthony Evans told the Newport News Daily Press.

Rock-star Butler

The Atlantic Ten Conference has to hope that Butler stays around and doesn't wander off to join the Big East's exiled Catholic schools. The Bulldogs have sold out every A-10 road game they have played. They drew rare overflow crowd of 3,200 last weekend at ancient Rose Hill Gym on the Fordham campus.

"Butler coming in here was an event," Rams coach Tom Pecora said. "It's anywhere Butler goes. The trademark of Butler basketball had our place sold out well in advance."

Count on another sure sellout March 2 when Butler travels to Virginia Commonwealth.

SEC blues

The Southeastern Conference often stuck out its collective chest during football season but it's keeping a low profile in basketball, and for good reason. After Florida, there are no locks for NCAA tournament entry among SEC teams.

The best chance belongs to Missouri (RPI of 33), which knocked off the Gators last week to put a quality win on its resumé. Kentucky (RPI 47) is on the bubble but it lost its only Top 50 win now that Mississippi has faded from view, and it remains to be seen how the committee will treat the loss of Nerlens Noel from the lineup. The conference ranks eighth in the RPI, one rung behind the Atlantic 10.

Toiling in obscurity

The nation's leading scorer in Division I basketball, senior guard Erick Green of Virginia Tech, entered Thursday night's home game against Duke with a 25.3-point average. Green owns three of the eight games of 30 or more points posted this season by ACC players, with a high of 35.

He has a knack for getting fouled; his 173 free throws made and 213 attempted are tops in the nation, and to fans of a 6-foot guard who used to throw his body around for the 76ers, it's absolutely Iversonian. Alas, the Hokies are 11-14 overall and 2-10 in the ACC, so Green is not receiving much attention.

Bracket Busters

This is Bracket Buster weekend on the networks of ESPN, allowing mid-major programs to spotlight their talents and come up with resumé-building victories. The best games, all on Saturday, are Iona at Indiana State (11 a.m., ESPNU); Creighton at St. Mary's (6 p.m., ESPN2); South Dakota State at Murray State (8 p.m., ESPN2); and Ohio at Belmont (10 p.m., ESPN2).

Some of the nation's best scorers will be featured: Creighton's Doug McDermott, Nate Wolters of South Dakota State, Lamont Jones of Iona, and Isaiah Canaan of Murray State.

Expat of the Week

Juan'ya Green, a sophomore guard from Archbishop Carroll High School, is the second-leading scorer for Niagara and one of the reasons the Purple Eagles continue to hold down first place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

The 6-foot-3 Green, one of five Philadelphia-area players on the Niagara roster, is averaging 16.7 points and 5.0 assists, and his 47 three-point baskets lead the team. In his most recent game, Green scored 11 points in the final six minutes to lead the Purple Eagles over Manhattan.


The Real Top 10

1. Indiana 24-3

2. Miami 22-3

3. Gonzaga 26-2

4. Duke 23-3

5. Syracuse 22-4

6. Michigan St. 22-5

7. Michigan 22-4

8. Florida 21-4

9. Kansas 22-4

10. Louisville 21-5

- Joe Juliano


Games of the Week

Top Choice

Georgetown at Syracuse, Saturday at 4 p.m., CBS3: The final episode of the Big East's best rivalry at the Carrier Dome will draw a record campus crowd of more than 35,000, making the atmosphere electric. The Orange's James Southerland has been the X-factor for his team since returning from eligibility issues. But the Hoyas defense, one of the best in the nation, will have Southerland and other shooters in its sights.

Starting Five

New Mexico at Colorado State, Saturday at 4 p.m., NBC-SN: The teams with the best records in the Mountain West square off with the Rams seeking to avenge a 66-61 loss last month to the Lobos.

Michigan State at Ohio State, Sunday at 4 p.m., CBS3: The Spartans must bounce back from their home loss to No. 1 Indiana; the Buckeyes currently are outside the Big Ten's top four. If they remain outside, they won't get a first-round tournament bye.

Syracuse at Marquette, Monday at 7 p.m., ESPN:

The Golden Eagles, probably the surprise team of the Big East this season, are on a 23-game home winning streak at the Bradley Center.

Indiana at Minnesota, Tuesday at 7 p.m., ESPN:

The Golden Gophers are in free fall, with eight losses in their last 11 games. They could make a statement in front of the home folks by beating No. 1.

Florida at Tennessee, Tuesday at 9 p.m., ESPN:

The Volunteers, who blasted Kentucky by 30 last week, have an uphill climb to the NCAA tournament. A win over the Gators will give them some hope.

- Joe Juliano


Contact Joe Juliano at jjuliano@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @joejulesinq

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