2013 NCAA basketball tournament top line isn’t as fine as it used to be


Otto Porter Jr. and Georgetown earned at least a share of the Big East regular seaosn title, but will that be enough for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and does it even matter? (Jonathan Newton/THE WASHINGTON POST)

It’s easier to pick a new pope than it is to predict the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament. It changes by the day. Indiana seemed to have the Midwest spot sewn up, but lost to Ohio State on Tuesday. Georgetown seemed a lock for one of the spots, but lost to Villanova a day later. Kansas and especially Indiana have tough games to finish out their regular seasons this weekend.

Who knows which four teams will rise to the top? And who cares?

I can’t remember a tournament in which the seeding could mean so little. A hairsbreadth will separate the No. 1s from the No. 2s. The difference between the No. 1s and the No. 4s — who meet in the regional semifinals, if chalk runs its course — will be only marginally bigger.

Chalk will most certainly not run its course this year, not if the regular season is any indication. The best teams have shown remarkable weaknesses, some against pretty dreadful competition. Although I seriously doubt it will happen, this could be the year we see a No. 16 beat a No. 1. After all, Kansas — to my utter despair — already has been beaten by the equivalent of a 16, TCU.

The list of projected No. 1 seeds has changed, and changed, and changed again over the past month. That in itself should tell you that it’s not an easy process, but it also should make you wonder why it matters. To Joe Lunardi, maybe, because that’s his job: picking the NCAA bracket for ESPN in advance of its actual announcement. I think it matters about as much as the No. 1 ranking, which is to say not at all. (I am far more interested, at least this season, in Lunardi’s last four in and first four out, especially seeing 2012 national champion Kentucky on the bubble entering the last weekend of the regular season. How weird is that?)

Then again, how weird is this season? But weird in a good way. It’s no fun when the same team dominates, year after year. (Unless you are a fan of said team, in which case it’s a ball.) Perhaps the one-and-done guys are the cause, and unpredictability is the effect — how else to explain Kentucky’s plummet? But while the one-and-done players get the attention, far more fellows are playing out the string, so that can’t be the only reason for the season we’re seeing.

But why dissect it anyway? What difference does it make? Much as I wish it did — I’m looking at you, Ben McLemore — hand-wringing isn’t going to keep those one-and-done kids in school. And being awarded a No. 1 seed this year won’t come with any kind of guarantee. Maybe a first-round win — sorry, the No. 1 seeds don’t play till the second round technically because the NCAA wants to call the little play-in tourney the first round, and nuts to that. Maybe a little home cooking: Indiana needs to beat Michigan today to ensure it gets that Midwest No. 1, which could include games in Indianapolis. And so on.

See how easy it is to get caught up in the guessing game, in the “if-then” prognosticating? Nuts to that, too. This is the year to pick your bracket based on team colors or mascots, or to get a Capuchin monkey to draw names out of a mixing bowl. If there was a way to get a lottery Easy Pick machine to spit out a bracket, I’d put down a few bucks on that. Why not? This year, anything goes.

For previous colums by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.com/hamilton.

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