With five days left, only the top spot in the South is really up for grabs. Plus, after a slow Monday and Tuesday, the bubble really starts percolating again today.
Four teams claimed their conference’s respective automatic bids on Tuesday night. Three of them currently sit close to the bottom of this projection.
The Northeast Conference champion Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers are currently one of the four 16 seeds destined to play an extra game in Dayton next Tuesday or Wednesday. Mike Daum and his fellow South Dakota State Jackrabbits, the Summit League winners, sit just above the Mount — one the two 16 seeds that avoid the extra game. Meanwhile, the Northern Kentucky Norse, making their NCAA tournament debut in their first season of eligibility after winning the Horizon League tournament, are penciled in as a 15 seed.
But the fourth winner, the WCC tournament champion Gonzaga Bulldogs, look firmly bolted to the top line after taking down the Saint Mary’s Gaels in Las Vegas. With a half-dozen wins over teams in the RPI top 50, with all but one of those coming away from Spokane, it would be a surprise if the Zags found themselves on seed line two on Sunday.
With five days left, Gonzaga, Kansas, and Villanova look to have locked up three of the top seeds available. While North Carolina currently owns the fourth, the Tar Heels might need to win the ACC tournament crown to keep it. If they lose in Brooklyn, the door will open for the Kentucky, the Pac-12 tournament winner (if it happens to be Oregon, UCLA, or Arizona), the ACC champion and perhaps even Baylor with a Big 12 tournament title.
After today’s full bracket and rundown, I’ll take a look at what’s at stake for bubble teams as the power conference tournaments ramp up today.
Clinched auto bids appear in ALL CAPS.
1. Midwest (Left) and 2. East (Right)
|Kansas City (Thu/Sat)||New York (Fri/Sun)|
|Tulsa (Fri/Sun)||Buffalo (Thu/Sat)|
|1. Kansas (Big 12)||1. Villanova (Big East)|
|16. JACKSONVILLE STATE (OVC)||16. MT. ST. MARY’S/North Dakota|
|8. Virginia Tech||8. Miami|
|9. Arkansas||9. Michigan State|
|Milwaukee (Thu/Sat)||Orlando (Thu/Sat)|
|5. Notre Dame||5. West Virginia|
|12. Vanderbilt/Illinois State||12. Nevada (MW)|
|4. Purdue (Big Ten)||4. Florida|
|13. Bucknell (Patriot)||13. Vermont (AmEast)|
|Sacramento (Fri/Sun)||Orlando (Thu/Sat)|
|6. Saint Mary’s||6. Maryland|
|11. Middle Tennessee (C-USA)||11. Seton Hall|
|3. UCLA||3. Florida State|
|14. WINTHROP (Big South)||14. FLA GULF COAST (ASUN)|
|Indianapolis (Fri/Sun)||Tulsa (Fri/Sun)|
|7. Creighton||7. Dayton (A 10)|
|10. VCU||10. Providence|
|2. Louisville||2. Baylor|
|15. Texas Southern (SWAC)||15. NTHN. KENTUCKY (Horizon)|
4. West (Left) and 3. South (Right)
|San José (Thu/Sat)||Memphis (Fri/Sun)|
|Salt Lake City (Thu/Sat)||Greenville (Fri/Sun)|
|1. GONZAGA (WCC)||1. North Carolina (ACC)|
|16. SOUTH DAKOTA ST. (Summit)||16. New Orleans/N.C. Central|
|8. Oklahoma State||8. Michigan|
|9. Northwestern||9. WICHITA STATE (MVC)|
|Buffalo (Thu/Sat)||Salt Lake City (Thu/Sat)|
|5. Minnesota||5. Cincinnati|
|12. UNC WILMINGTON (CAA)||12. UT Arlington (Sun Belt)|
|4. Virginia||4. Arizona|
|13. Princeton (Ivy)||13. E. TENNESSEE ST. (SoCon)|
|Greenville (Fri/Sun)||Milwaukee (Thu/Sat)|
|6. SMU (American)||6. Iowa State|
|11. Xavier/Syracuse||11. USC|
|3. Duke||3. Butler|
|14. Cal State Bakersfield (WAC)||14. Akron (MAC)|
|Sacramento (Fri/Sun)||Indianapolis (Fri/Sun)|
|7. South Carolina||7. Wisconsin|
|10. Marquette||10. Wake Forest|
|2. Oregon (Pac-12)||2. Kentucky (SEC)|
|15. UC Irvine (Big West)||15. IONA (MAAC)|
|To Buffalo (Tue.)||To Milwaukee (Tue.)||To Greenville (Wed.)||To Greenville (Wed.)|
|16. MOUNT ST. MARY’S (NEC)||12. Vanderbilt||16. New Orleans (Southland)||11. Xavier|
|16. North Dakota (Big Sky)||12. Illinois State||16. N.C. Central (MEAC)||11. Syracuse|
|AVOIDING DAYTON||LAST FOUR IN||FIRST FOUR OUT||NEXT FOUR OUT|
|VCU (38)||Xavier (43)||Illinois||California|
|Providence (39)||Syracuse (44)||Rhode Island||Monmouth|
|Seton Hall (40)||Vanderbilt (46)||Iowa||Ole Miss|
|USC (41)||Illinois State (47)||Kansas State||Indiana|
Arriving: South Dakota State
By Conference: ACC (10), Big East (7), Big Ten (7), Big 12 (5), SEC (5), Pac-12 (4), American (2), Atlantic 10 (2), Missouri Valley (2), West Coast (2), 22 One-Bid Leagues
Just one automatic bid will be awarded tonight — in the Patriot League. And with no further conference title games scheduled until Saturday morning, that means the bulk of our attention will be on the bubble for the next three days. While today’s Atlantic 10, Big 12, Big Ten, and SEC first rounds don’t feature any teams currently on my at-large board, the other three multi-bid conference tournaments in play today do.
Action in the ACC will be fierce from the first tip of the day, as Syracuse could certainly use a nice neutral-court win over Miami to burnish its credentials (as I mentioned in my Monday bubble rundown), while Clemson will see its slim chances evaporate with a loss to Duke. In the evening session, Wake Forest can all but lock a bid up by defeating Virginia Tech for the second time in five days, while Pitt must win the whole thing in Brooklyn to qualify. And the Panthers won’t be able to cut down the nets without defeating Virginia in the rubber match of the pair’s season series.
Of tonight’s two Big East opening-round tilts at Madison Square Garden, just one matters. Xavier has won just two of its last eight, as it sandwiched a pair of wins over DePaul around a six-game losing streak. The Musketeers face the Blue Demons again tonight, with the winner taking on second-seeded Butler tomorrow. And Xavier desperately needs one last quality-win opportunity.
Out in Las Vegas, the Pac-12’s two bubble teams face opposition they should handle. A four-game skid cost USC valuable breathing room and failure to defeat Washington (2-16 in conference play) for the second time in a week might send the Trojans to the NIT. Earlier in the day, California must defeat woeful Oregon State (1-17 in the Pac-12) to stay in the picture, though the Golden Bears might as well go ahead and win the auto bid at this point.
With those games on the slate, tomorrow’s bubble update should be much more interesting.