1.The silver anniversary — meaning the 25th year — of Bradley’s Bracket Fiasco is almost at hand. How about a silvery sliver of a guess as to who’s going to make the Final Four? I’d say Ohio State, Kentucky and Syracuse have stamped themselves as the three best teams, and unless one of them slips they won’t have to play each other in a regional. I’m guessing I’d pick at least two of those to reach New Orleans. As for the fourth team: I’ve been underwhelmed by North Carolina, and I won’t pick Kansas no matter how good Kansas is because I’ve been wrong so many times before. I liked Florida last season because of its guards and I like the Gators again for the same reason. If you’re looking for a unranked major of substance, I’d try West Virginia. For a mid-major, try Wichita State.
2. With big conference games at hand all across the basketball landscape, how do we handicap the league races? With Duke losing twice at home, the ACC will come down to North Carolina or Florida State. But the two don’t meet again, and Carolina still must play the Devils twice. Kentucky is unbeaten in the SEC but has five difficult games remaining, two of them this week. If Ohio State beats Michigan State in Columbus on Saturday, the Buckeyes will seize control of the Big Ten. The Big East is Syracuse’s to lose, which it won’t, and the Big 12 is a mess. Baylor, Kansas and Missouri are tied for first place, and the winner of the Feb. 25 Mizzou-at-KU game could well be the champ.
3. Er, didn’t you forget the Pac-12? Didn’t forget it. Just didn’t feel like lumping it with the other five. The Pac-12 in 2012 is as weak as a major conference ever gets. Washington, which was 7-5 in non-league play, is the leader. UCLA and Southern Cal are an aggregate 19-28, and Herb Sendek, once of North Carolina State, is about to get fired at Arizona State. (His Sun Devils are 7-16.) Even Arizona, usually a Top 25 fixture, is only 16-8. According to ESPN Insider RPI, the top-ranked Pac-12 team, California, would be eighth in the Big East and seventh in the SEC.
1. Kentucky: Midterm exam week for the Big Blue. The Wildcats face Florida in Rupp Arena on Tuesday, Vandy in Nashville on Saturday.
2. Ohio State: After the grind-it-out win at Wisconsin, the Buckeyes will get another test Saturday when Michigan State comes calling.
3. Syracuse: Also midterm exam week for the Orange. Guests at the Carrier Dome will be Georgetown on Wednesday, UConn on Saturday.
4. Missouri: Not really sure how the Tigers took down Kansas on Saturday. But that’s pretty much the story of Mizzou’s giddy season.
5. North Carolina: Also midterm exam week for the Pale Blue. Duke comes to the Dean Dome on Wednesday, then Virginia on Saturday.
6. Baylor: Midterm exam week, with an edge. The Bears get Kansas on Wednesday, Missouri on Saturday. They’ve already lost to both.
7. Murray State: The pressure is mounting on the unbeaten Racers. They trailed at home at the half against Southeast Missouri State. Still won.
8. Florida: The getting-it-together Gators have won seven in a row and will enter Rupp Arena on Tuesday having not lost in a month.
9. Kansas: After squandering an eight-point lead with 2:05 remaining at Missouri, the Jayhawks now get to play Baylor in Waco.
10. Michigan State: After losing one of those Big Ten Specials — 42-41 at Illinois — the Spartans handled Michigan on Super Bowl Sunday.
11. Saint Mary’s: It will be a big Thursday in the West Coast Conference. The Gaels, who’ve won 20 0f 21, play at second-place Gonzaga.
12. Duke: A less-than-super Sunday in Cameron. The Blue Devils trailed unranked Miami by 14 points at the half and lost in overtime.
13. Florida State: Talk about a flipped switch. On Jan. 7 FSU lost to Clemson by 20 and fell to 9-6. The Seminoles haven’t lost since.
14. Georgetown: Hoyas are tied with Marquette for second place in the Big East, and they’ll play first-place Syracuse on Wednesday.
15. Creighton: The Bluejays tripped at Northern Iowa on Saturday, leaving them tied with Wichita State atop the Missouri Valley.
16. San Diego State: It’ll be a big Saturday in the Mountain West. The Aztecs, who beat UNLV by two in January, play the Rebels in Vegas.
Dropped out: Marquette, Virginia.
By Mark Bradley