UNC-Asheville, Murray State, Belmont, and Creighton all punched their tickets to the Big Dance over the weekend, so we have the first set of teams I actually can’t get wrong as I select teams for these projections.
There is still the potential for a lot of movement within the last few spots, and while bubble teams dodged their first bid thief when Creighton took care of Illinois State, more threats are sure to emerge over the course of Championship Week.
Below are my latest bracket projections through Thursday’s games. As usual, underneath the bracket I will give my last four in, and this week I am including my last five out as well as the rationale I used to make those decisions.
|EAST (BOSTON)||SOUTH (ATLANTA)|
|PITTSBURGH – March 15 & 17||LOUISVILLE – March 15 & 17|
|1 Syracuse (30-1)||1 Kentucky (30-1)|
|16 NC-Ash. (24-9)/Savannah St. (21-10)||16 UT-Arlington (23-7)|
|8 Iowa State (22-9)||8 Purdue (20-11)|
|9 Saint Louis (24-6)||9 Virginia (22-8)|
|ALBUQUERQUE – March 15 & 17||PORTLAND – March 15 & 17|
|5 Florida State (21-9)||5 Murray State (30-1)|
|12 Long Beach State (22-8)||12 Seton Hall (19-11)|
|4 UNLV (25-7)||4 Temple (24-6)|
|13 Dayton (19-11)/Northwestern (18-12)||13 Nevada (25-5)|
|ALBUQUERQUE – March 15 & 17||COLUMBUS – March 16 & 18|
|6 Vanderbilt (21-10)||6 Notre Dame (21-10)|
|11 California (23-8)||11 Mississippi State (21-10)|
|3 Baylor (25-6)||3 Michigan (23-8)|
|14 Davidson (23-7)||14 Denver (21-8)|
|PITTSBURGH – March 15 & 17||OMAHA – March 16 & 18|
|7 Louisville (22-9)||7 New Mexico (24-6)|
|10 Harvard (26-4)||10 Connecticut (18-12)|
|2 Ohio State (25-6)||2 Missouri (27-4)|
|15 Bucknell (24-8)||15 Valparaiso (22-10)|
|MIDWEST (ST. LOUIS)||WEST (PHOENIX)|
|OMAHA – March 16 & 18||GREENSBORO – March 16 & 18|
|1 Kansas (26-5)||1 North Carolina (27-4)|
|16 Stony Brook (22-8)/Miss. Vall. St. (18-12)||16 Long Island (24-8)|
|8 Saint Mary’s (26-5)||8 Memphis (23-8)|
|9 Cincinnati (22-9)||9 Alabama (20-10)|
|PORTLAND – March 15 & 17||NASHVILLE – March 16 & 18|
|5 Wichita State (27-5)||5 Creighton (28-5)|
|12 South Florida (19-12)||12 VCU (27-6)/Xavier (19-11)|
|4 Wisconsin (23-8)||4 Indiana (24-7)|
|13 Drexel (27-5)||13 Oral Roberts (27-5)|
|LOUISVILLE – March 15 & 17||NASHVILLE – March 16 & 18|
|6 San Diego State (24-6)||6 Gonzaga (25-5)|
|11 Southern Mississippi (24-7)||11 Colorado State (19-10)|
|3 Marquette (25-6)||3 Georgetown (22-7)|
|14 Akron (21-10)||14 Belmont (27-7)|
|GREENSBORO – March 16 & 18||COLUMBUS – March 16 & 18|
|7 Florida (22-9)||7 Kansas State (21-9)|
|10 West Virginia (19-12)||10 Washington (21-9)|
|2 Duke (26-5)||2 Michigan State (24-7)|
|15 Montana (23-6)||15 Loyola, MD (23-8)|
Last Four In:
The Musketeers needed a second half comeback to avoid a crushing loss against Charlotte. Xavier does have six Top 100 wins and only one sub-100 loss, but their margin for error is slim based on their recent play. They have a bye in the first round of the A-10 Tournament, but a likely Quarterfinal matchup with Dayton may serve as an elimination game.
Depending on the outcome of Monday night’s CAA Final against Drexel, the Rams may not have to sweat out an at-large, but just getting there gives them a compelling case. They are 5-4 against the Top 100, but a poor strength of schedule may hurt VCU in the eyes of the committee. The Rams are definitely the kind of team that could get bumped by a bid thief.
The Flyers closed out the season with a 16-point win over George Washington, and the two teams will face one another again in the first round of the A-10 Tournament. Dayton has an impressive eight Top 100 wins, but a few ugly losses may be their undoing. If they can beat Xavier to get to the Semifinals, things start to get interesting, but anything less means they’ll probably be heading to the NIT.
After escaping from Iowa with a win, Northwestern is back in the field, but just barely. With only one Top 50 win, the Wildcats need to beat Minnesota in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament, then follow that up by knocking off Michigan in the Quarterfinals. Even that might not be enough, but it’s a good start.
First Five Out:
The Cougars got crushed by Gonzaga in the WCC Semifinals, and the fact that all but one of their Top 50 losses has come by double digits certainly doesn’t help their case. Now they have to hope for some of the other bubble contenders to lose, but their overall profile just isn’t that impressive with nearly half of their wins coming against sub-200 squads.
Saturday’s win over Utah didn’t move the needle much for the Ducks, but they did get some benefit from losses by fellow Pac-12 bubblers. Their best-case scenario would be a convincing win over Cal to get to the conference tournament final, but even that may not be enough.
Similar to Oregon, the Canes took care of business against a conference bottom-feeder on Saturday, which didn’t really help their case. A second win over Florida State in the Quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament would certainly help, but they may need to knock off Duke for a second time as well.
Not surprisingly, the Longhorns fell at Kansas on Saturday night. They are now just 8-12 against the Top 150, which means they likely need to beat both Iowa State and Missouri to get to the Big 12 Championship Game to have a legitimate chance for an at-large.
The Hawks were idle over the weekend, so hopefully they will be well-rested for what they need to be a deep run in the A-10 Tournament. They have to beat Charlotte and Saint Bonaventure to get to the Semifinals where they would likely face a Temple squad they knocked off within the last month.
Here is how the bids broke out by conference:
Big East (10): Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Seton Hall, South Florida, Syracuse, West Virginia
Big Ten (7): Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Big 12 (5): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri
SEC (5): Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt
ACC (4): Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia
Mountain West (4): Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Atlantic 10 (4): Dayton, Saint Louis, Temple, Xavier
Colonial (2): Drexel, VCU
Conference USA (2): Memphis, Southern Mississippi
Missouri Valley (2): Creighton, Wichita State
Pac-12 (2): California, Washington
West Coast (2): Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s
America East: Stony Brook
Atlantic Sun: Belmont*
Big Sky: Montana
Big South: UNC-Asheville*
Big West: Long Beach State
MAAC: Loyola (MD)
MEAC: Savannah State
Northeast: Long Island
Ohio Valley: Murray State*
Summit: Oral Roberts
Sun Belt: Denver*
SWAC: Mississippi Valley State
* – Won automatic berth