Posted: Fri January 11, 2013 11:45AM; Updated: Fri January 11, 2013 11:54AM
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SI.com's 2012-13 Midseason Crystal Ball
SI.com's Seth Davis, Luke Winn, and Andy Glockner serve up their predictions at the midway point of the 2012-13 season.
Final Four (Plus One Darkhorse)
Seth Davis
Final Four Final Four Final Four Final Four Darkhorse
Luke Winn
Final Four Final Four Final Four Final Four Darkhorse
Andy Glockner
Final Four Final Four Final Four Final Four Darkhorse
National Champion
Davis
Louisville: I love teams that have more than one guard who can break defenders off the dribble, get their own shots, and make plays for their teammates. The Cardinals have that in Peyton Siva and Russ Smith (and I expect Luke Hancock, the transfer from George Mason, to steadily improve.) The Cards are already the best defensive team in the country, yet Rick Pitino says they can get much better in that regard. Now that's a scary thought.
Winn
Louisville: My Final Four picks haven't wavered from the preseason, but I'm changing my champ from Indiana to the Cardinals. They have the nation's most efficient defense, which isn't a surprise, and the offense they're getting from guards Russ Smith and Peyton Siva has exceeded all expectations.
Glockner
Kansas: All of the things I wrote in our preseason Crystal Ball still hold, and the Jayhawks are developing right on the expectation curve that will leave them as a major force in March. They have an elite primary scorer, the game's best shotblocker, experienced guard play, depth, one of the game's best coaches, and a softish Big 12 to win again. They will be a 1-seed, will play in Kansas City, and then likely Dallas as they aim for Atlanta.
Second-Half Surprise Team
Davis
Oregon: Dana Altman is a terrific defensive coach, and even though he has a pair of freshmen in his backcourt, I love the rebounding and shot blocking he has up front with Tony Woods and Arsalan Kazemi.
Winn
Oregon: The Ducks didn't generate much buzz in the nonconference season -- all the Pac-12 attention was on Arizona's undefeated run and the Shabazz Muhammad saga -- but they're a darkhorse contender for the league title. Their defense is much better than expected, with Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi leading the nation in rebounding percentage and he and Dominic Artis posting surprisingly high steal rates.
Glockner
UCLA: This surprises me a bit, as I had the Bruins as my Flop Team in November, but they kind of were. Now freed of Josh Smith (and Tyler Lamb) and freed by Ben Howland to be what they have to be -- an uptempo, offense-first team, they can exist this way most nights in a modest Pac-12. Now in shape, Shabazz Muhammad is playing up to billing, and the Wear brothers have been unexpectedly excellent.
Second-Half Flop Team
Davis
Syracuse: I think the Cuse is good, but based on their record and ranking, they have nowhere to go but down. The zone is tough to score on as always, but the backcourt combo of Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche has trouble converting three-pointers and free throws. I also like that the Orange is getting fewer contributions from its freshmen as the season goes on. That has all but eliminated its depth.
Winn
Arizona State: The Sun Devils are off to a surprise 13-2 (2-0 in the Pac-12) start that has raised expectations in Tempe. But their efficiency numbers suggest they may only be a sub-.500 team in conference play, which would likely keep them out of the NCAA tournament.
Glockner
Washington: In a league with a lot of decent-to-good offenses, the Huskies (along with Oregon State) are clearly the worst defensive team, and that's not going to go well when talent levels are down in Seattle. They're not going to be able to score enough consistently to overcome getting pounded on the glass and from the 3-point line.
Best Mid-Major Team
Davis
Gonzaga: People say this is Mark Few's best team. I agree it is his best ... since last year. The only difference is that the Zags can beat you in more ways -- with Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris in the post, or with Kevin Pangos from behind the three-point line. All they need is a little more luck and they'll get to the Final Four.
Winn
VCU: This version of the Rams is far superior to the one that reached the Final Four in 2010. Shaka Smart's defense is forcing turnovers at the highest rate (on 31.1 percent of opponents' possessions) of any team in the country, and they have a breakout scoring star in Treveon Graham, too.
Glockner
Butler: The easy answer is Creighton, but I personally don't consider a top-10 attendance team that spends north of $5 million a year on basketball a mid-major. Butler also spends a strong percentage of its athletics budget on hoops, but remains cuddlier and qualifies. Rotnei Clarke's expansive shooting has led the way, although Rose Jones is probably their most valuable player. You don't want to be in the Bulldogs' bracket in March.
National Player of the Year
Trey Burke: Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Davis
Doug McDermott, Creighton: The Dougie can put up numbers that are as impressive as you'll find anywhere, but his scoring is not always off the charts because that's not what Creighton always needs. He is excelling in all areas of the game, and most important, his team is winning.

Winn
Trey Burke, Michigan: Duke's Mason Plumlee has been the early frontrunner, but Burke has looked amazing of late while piloting the nation's best offense. If he continues on this path, he should soon take over the No. 1 spot.

Glockner
Trey Burke, Michigan: The race is wide open. Russ Smith, Mason Plumlee, Doug McDermott (my preseason choice), Cody Zeller and others are all viable choices. I'm going with a point guard who's leading the No. 2 team in the land and making a significant run at the Point Guard Nirvana season of Jordan Taylor in 2010-11. He's scoring in ridiculously efficient fashion and, since the NC State game on Nov. 27, has had 63 assists against just 10 turnovers.
Impact Freshman
Anthony Bennett: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Davis
Anthony Bennett, UNLV: This is the closest thing to Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson that I've seen come into college basketball in a long time. (That includes Robinson's son, Glenn III, who plays for Michigan.) He is a beast on the block, he can drill three-pointers, and he's a monster finisher on the break. I would not be surprised if he ends up as the NBA's number one draft pick next spring.

Winn
Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA: As good as Anthony Bennett has been for UNLV -- his numbers make him an All-America candidate -- Muhammad is starting to take over the Bruins' offense now that he's healthy, and he could transform them from an early underachiever into an actual Pac-12 title contender.

Glockner
Anthony Bennett, UNLV: Easy choice here. He's been great for the Rebels and is in the discussion for NPOY, not just NFOY.
Matchup We Can't Miss
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
Davis
Michigan at Indiana, Feb. 2: The biggest game in the best conference will likely pit two top-five teams. I can't wait to see how those young Wolverines handle the pitched environment of Assembly Hall.

Winn
Michigan at Indiana, Feb. 2: The Wolverines have to travel to Ohio State and Minnesota before they get to face the Hoosiers, so they may no longer be undefeated; regardless, this is the true battle for supremacy of the country's best conference and the marquee regular-season matchup of 2012-13.

Glockner
Arizona at Colorado, Feb. 14: You can pick a lot of elite games in the Big Ten, along with Syracuse-Louisville, and be fine. After Thursday's controversial ending in Tucson (on top of the Buffs edging Zona for the Pac-12 tournament title last season), this is a budding rivalry and the Coors Event Center should be bedlam. No love lost on Valentine's Day, for sure.

Most Brutal Second-Half Schedule
Cody Zeller:AJ Mast/Icon SMI/td>
Davis
Anybody in the Big Ten: Normally there's at least some debate as to which is the best conference in the country. Not this year. A road win against the top half of the league should count twice.

Winn
VCU: The final two-and-a-half weeks of the Rams' regular season will be huge for at-large seeding purposes. Their Atlantic-10 schedule is so end-loaded that their lone matchups with five of the league's upper-level teams -- St. Louis, Xavier, Butler, Richmond and Temple -- all occur between Feb. 19 and March 10.

Glockner
Northwestern: Really, pick any mid-level Big Ten team here. The Wildcats opened league play with losses to Michigan and at Minnesota, and still have Illinois and Ohio State twice, road games at Michigan and Michigan State, plus Minnesota and Indiana at home. Good luck with that.

Unknown Player Poised for a Breakout
Preston Medlin: Jim Urquhart/AP
Davis
Alex Kirk, New Mexico: You've heard of a stretch four? Kirk is a stretch five. He is a big, strong post player who can body up with the best of them, yet he can step out and has made eight three-pointers this season. Kirk dominated UNLV for 23 points and nine rebounds this week.

Winn
Zeke Marshall, Akron: The senior 7-footer is having a Jeff Withey-like season (blocking 15.6 percent of opponents' shots and scoring efficiently) without getting much attention for it. If the Zips reach the NCAA tournament -- and they've been the best team in the MAC thus far -- Marshall could have an Omar Samhan-like swan song.

Glockner
Preston Medlin, Utah State: He was my preseason choice and struggled a bit early, but he's finding himself just in time to lead the Aggies to the WAC crown in their final season and scare someone in the NCAAs. He's now above 40 percent on threes for the season.
What We'll Be Saying On Selection Sunday
Michael Hickey/Getty Images
Davis
"The world is flat." When the Mountain West is poised to get more bids than the ACC, SEC or Pac 12, then you know the center of power has dissipated in college hoops. You can also expect the Atlantic 10 and Missouri Valley to place at least one team in the Sweet Sixteen.

Winn
That some No. 3, 4 or 5 was extremely unlucky to draw Bucknell. The Bison took Missouri to the wire last week in Columbia and have a 6-11 center, Mike Muscala, who might be the most under-hyped, dominant big man in all of college hoops. As long as they win the Patriot League tourney, they'll be the best small-conference upset threat in the bracket.

Glockner
Mid-major conferences will get very few at-large bids this season. The Colonial is definitely one-bid. If Memphis wins the C-USA auto-bid, that will be a one-bid league. The Valley has been hurt by injuries, so two bids appears to be the cap there. The WCC? Two, max. The benefactors should be the Mountain West and maybe the Atlantic 10.

Coach On The Hottest Seat
Kevin O'Neill: Reed Saxon/AP
Davis
Kevin O'Neill, USC: O'Neill was fortunate to hang on last season, but that was only because his team had suffered a rash of injuries. That hasn't been the case this year. They're just bad.

Winn
Jeff Bzdelik, Wake Forest: The once-proud Deacons are headed toward their third-straight sub-.500 season. They're among the worst major-conference teams in the country. The fan base is getting vocal about a coaching change. It all seems to add up to a mid-March firing.

Glockner
Kevin O'Neill, USC: Pat Haden is so frustrated by his annoying, underachieving football coach that he fires his basketball proxy. If Ron Wellman pulls his support of Jeff Bzdelik, that's an easy alternative. The Wake Forest fan base is about to riot.

A Bold Prediction
Jack Cooley: Michael Hickey/Getty Images
Davis
Notre Dame will end up being the second-best Big East team behind Louisville. The Irish have great balance and experience, they have a plethora of terrific shooters, and they can beat good teams on the run or in the halfcourt. They also have one of the most underrated players in the country in junior point guard Eric Atkins.

Winn
That Ole Miss will make a surprise top-five finish in the SEC, end an 11-year NCAA tournament drought and save coach Andy Kennedy's job for at least one more season. The Rebels' defensive numbers are surprisingly good, Murphy Holloway and Marshall Henderson are capable of carrying their offense, and their league is wide open after the Florida-Kentucky-Missouri trio at the top.

Glockner
An 8-seed or lower could make the Final Four. It feels like that kind of year. A lot of very interesting teams, no real dominance at the top. A second-round upset like Butler-Pitt in 2011 will open up the 1- or 2-seed path for an outsider.

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