Friday proved to be another crazy day of conference tournament action with a few more teams playing their way into and out of the at-large picture.
Below are my latest bracket projections through Friday’s games. As usual, underneath the bracket I will give my last four in and my last four out as well as the rationale I used to make those decisions.
|EAST (BOSTON)||MIDWEST (ST. LOUIS)|
|PITTSBURGH – March 15 & 17||LOUISVILLE – March 15 & 17|
|1 Syracuse (31-2)||1 Kentucky (30-1)|
|16 Lamar (22-11)||16 UNC-Asheville (24-9)|
|8 Kansas State (21-10)||8 Iowa State (22-10)|
|9 Saint Louis (24-6)||9 Purdue (21-12)|
|ALBUQUERQUE – March 15 & 17||PORTLAND – March 15 & 17|
|5 Florida State (22-9)||5 Temple (24-7)|
|12 Long Beach State (24-8)||12 Drexel (27-6)/Iona (25-7)|
|4 UNLV (26-8)||4 Murray State (30-1)|
|13 Arizona (23-10)||13 New Mexico State (25-9)|
|ALBUQUERQUE – March 15 & 17||COLUMBUS – March 16 & 18|
|6 Vanderbilt (22-10)||6 Louisville (25-9)|
|11 Southern Mississippi (25-8)||11 VCU (28-6)|
|3 Baylor (27-6)||3 Michigan (24-8)|
|14 Davidson (25-7)||14 Detroit (22-13)|
|PITTSBURGH – March 15 & 17||OMAHA – March 16 & 18|
|7 Cincinnati (24-9)||7 Memphis (25-8)|
|10 Harvard (26-4)||10 Colorado State (20-11)|
|2 Ohio State (26-6)||2 Missouri (29-4)|
|15 Lehigh (26-7)||15 LIU Brooklyn (25-8)|
|WEST (PHOENIX)||SOUTH (ATLANTA)|
|OMAHA – March 16 & 18||GREENSBORO – March 16 & 18|
|1 Kansas (27-6)||1 North Carolina (28-4)|
|16 Stony Brook (22-8)/Miss. Vall. St. (19-12)||16 W. Kentucky (15-18)/Norfolk St. (24-9)|
|8 Gonzaga (25-6)||8 Notre Dame (22-11)|
|9 Connecticut (20-13)||9 Alabama (21-11)|
|PORTLAND – March 15 & 17||NASHVILLE – March 16 & 18|
|5 Wichita State (27-5)||5 New Mexico (26-6)|
|12 North Carolina State (22-11)||12 Texas (20-13)|
|4 Wisconsin (24-8)||4 Indiana (25-8)|
|13 Tennessee (18-14)/Seton Hall (20-12)||13 South Dakota State (27-7)|
|LOUISVILLE – March 15 & 17||NASHVILLE – March 16 & 18|
|6 San Diego State (26-6)||6 Creighton (28-5)|
|11 BYU (25-8)||11 Xavier (20-11)|
|3 Marquette (25-7)||3 Georgetown (23-8)|
|14 Akron (22-10)||14 Belmont (27-7)|
|GREENSBORO – March 16 & 18||COLUMBUS – March 16 & 18|
|7 Florida (23-9)||7 Saint Mary’s (27-5)|
|10 West Virginia (19-13)||10 Virginia (22-8)|
|2 Duke (27-5)||2 Michigan State (25-7)|
|15 Montana (25-6)||15 Loyola, MD (24-8)|
Last Four In:
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.
A rash of losses by other bubble teams helped the Gaels to back into the field. The struggles of major conference teams would seem to dictate the committee will give more mid-majors a look, and Iona seems to be the best of that bunch. They are 5-3 against the Top 100, and while they do have a few ugly losses, their RPI is still inside of the Top 50. The Gaels certainly aren’t safe, but they are worthy of a second look after losing in the MAAC Tournament.
The Pirates took care of business in the opening round of the Big East Tournament by crushing Providence, but Wednesday’s loss to Louisville moved them out of the field, but following another slew of losses by bubble teams on Friday, the Pirates are back in by virtue of their seven Top 50 wins. I’m not sure they can hang on, but for now, they’re here.
There probably isn’t a more interesting case for the selection committee, as the Vols were just 8-8 prior to the mid-season addition of freshman Jarnell Stokes. Tennessee proceeded to go 10-5 in their last 15 regular season games to tie for second place in the SEC. Last year’s USC team faced a similar situation with guard Jio Fontan, and the Trojans wound up in the First Four. However, the Vols lost to Ole Miss in overtime in their first SEC Tournament game, which has them teetering on the brink of exclusion.
First Four Out:
The Rebels have knocked off Auburn and Tennessee in their first two SEC Tournament games, which sets up a matchup with Vanderbilt in the semifinals. Ole Miss has just one Top 50 win but now owns six victories versus the Top 100. One more win, and I think they can get in. Or maybe I’m just overly impressed by a bubble team actually winning.
The best thing the Huskies have going for them is the fact that they won the Pac-12 regular season outright, but they have just one Top 50 win and lost in the Quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament. The talent is definitely there, but I’m not sure the profile is there to back it up. It will be yet another interesting decision for the selection committee. Now that Cal lost, I think the Huskies are the more likely at-large candidate by virtue of winning the league.
The Golden Bears squandered an opportunity to assert themselves as the Pac-12’s best team, but they lost to Colorado in the Pac-12 semifinals, which was their third loss in the last four games. Like their other leaguemates, Cal has no Top 50 wins, and while they have a number of wins against teams ranked between 50 and 100, I’m not convinced that the quantity can make up for the lack of quality.
Eight Top 100 wins are nice, but Thursday’s opening round loss to Georgia was the culmination of a month-long slide by the Bulldogs. They lost six of their final eight games, and their RPI has plumetted during that stretch to the point where it’s hard seeing them rewarded with an at-large.
Here is how the bids broke out by conference:
Big East (9): Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Seton Hall, Syracuse, West Virginia
Big Ten (6): Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin
Big 12 (6): Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Texas
ACC (5): Duke, Florida State, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia
SEC (5): Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
Mountain West (4): Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV
Atlantic 10 (3): Saint Louis, Temple, Xavier
West Coast (3): BYU, Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s*
Colonial (2): Drexel, VCU*
Conference USA (2): Memphis, Southern Mississippi
MAAC (2): Iona, Loyola (MD)*
Missouri Valley (2): Creighton*, Wichita State
Pac-12 (1): Arizona
America East: Stony Brook
Atlantic Sun: Belmont*
Big Sky: Montana*
Big South: UNC-Asheville*
Big West: Long Beach State
MEAC: Norfolk State
Northeast: LIU Brooklyn*
Ohio Valley: Murray State*
Summit: South Dakota State*
Sun Belt: Western Kentucky*
SWAC: Mississippi Valley State
WAC: New Mexico State
* – Won automatic berth