A dozen teams have now punched their tickets to the Big Dance, and Championship Week is off to a great start thanks to a number of close finishes, including multiple overtime thrillers.
As things start to heat up in the major conference tournaments, look for plenty of movement within the last few spots given a seemingly endless supply of teams with mediocre profiles.
Below are my latest bracket projections through Tuesday’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 Texas-Arlington (23-7)||16 UNC-Asheville (24-9)|
|8 Kansas State (21-9)||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 (20-11)|
|4 UNLV (25-7)||4 Temple (24-6)|
|13 Dayton (20-11)/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 Colorado State (19-10)|
|3 Baylor (25-6)||3 Michigan (23-8)|
|14 Davidson (25-7)||14 Detroit (22-13)|
|PITTSBURGH – March 15 & 17||OMAHA – March 16 & 18|
|7 Louisville (22-9)||7 Gonzaga (25-6)|
|10 Harvard (26-4)||10 Connecticut (19-12)|
|2 Ohio State (25-6)||2 Missouri (27-4)|
|15 Bucknell (24-8)||15 LIU Brooklyn (24-8)|
|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 W. Kent. (15-18)/Savannah St. (21-10)|
|8 Memphis (23-8)||8 Iowa State (22-9)|
|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 (28-6)|
|4 Wisconsin (23-8)||4 Indiana (24-7)|
|13 Drexel (27-6)/Xavier (19-11)||13 South Dakota State (27-7)|
|LOUISVILLE – March 15 & 17||NASHVILLE – March 16 & 18|
|6 San Diego State (24-6)||6 New Mexico (24-6)|
|11 Southern Mississippi (24-7)||11 Mississippi State (21-10)|
|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 Saint Mary’s (27-5)|
|10 West Virginia (19-12)||10 Washington (21-9)|
|2 Duke (26-5)||2 Michigan State (24-7)|
|15 Montana (24-6)||15 Loyola, MD (24-8)|
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 face Dayton in their first game of the A-10 Tournament, and that will essentially serve as an elimination game.
A valiant comeback fell just short in the CAA Championship Game, but the Dragons still went 25-2 in the last 27 games. The issue is that 15 of their 27 victories came at the expense of sub-200 squads, and outside of an early January win over VCU, Drexel has not beaten a tournament team. Still, the Dragons were the outright regular season champs in the Colonial, and I think they deserve a bid. Any bid thieves in smaller leagues would put them in serious danger though.
The Flyers took care of business in the first round of the A-10 Tournament by beating George Washington by 17 points. 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 beat Charlotte by 16 points in their A-10 Tournament opener, which sets up a rematch with Saint Bonaventure, who beat them in double overtime last week. If they can win there, the Hawks 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: South Dakota State*
Sun Belt: Western Kentucky*
SWAC: Mississippi Valley State
* – Won automatic berth