If anything, Friday complicated an already complicated bubble picture. The SEC could end up with five teams or two. Both are in play at this point. How will the NCAA Selection Committee handle Middle Tennessee State and Saint Mary’s? And how will they compare those teams against La Salle, Boise State, and even Oklahoma? These are questions we can try to answer, but none of us has a vote that matters.
Heading into action on Saturday, there are three particular wildcards in play: Southern Mississippi, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Any of those could still earn automatic bids to the Field of 68. And that might be what it takes. Vanderbilt is more of a longshot, but the Commodores are a victory over Ole Miss from playing for an SEC title. We’ve seen this type of mayhem before. We also can’t completely forget about Akron should the Zips lose in the Mid-American championship game to Ohio. Clear as mud, right?
March 16 Bracket update | 10:50 a.m.
March 16 Bubble Banter update | 9:00 a.m.
March 16 s-curve update | 11:30 a.m.
We’re going to start here for now: the Last 5 IN today are Boise State, Tennessee, La Salle, Saint Mary’s, and Middle Tennessee. The First Five OUT are Ole Miss, Kentucky, Alabama, Massachusetts, and Virginia. All of these resumes have issues. Which issues the collective Committee values more could help shape the final at-large spots. Tomorrow is a new day. We’ll review everything again and see how it looks.
Enjoy the games. Selection Sunday is almost here.
Conference tournaments start next week. Championship Week is straight ahead. Heading into action on Saturday, March 2, below are some quick updates and notes for the weekend. Updates to the s-curve (seed list) and bracket will start to become more frequent.
By quick count, we have about 15 bubble games worth tracking on Saturday. There’s another three on Sunday. Given the up-and-down cycle we’ve witnessed for the last month or so, this weekend – and the next two weeks – are likely to be unpredictable. With upsets possible in conference tournaments, teams ultimately headed to the First Four in Dayton may change numerous times. The Selection Committee will be especially challenged if teams like Akron, Middle Tennessee, and even Belmont fail to win their conference tournaments. It would add candidates to the at-large field.
Saturday bracket-tracker games:
Connecticut at Cincinnati, Wichita State at Creighton, Alabama at Florida, Maryland at Wake Forest, Iowa State at Oklahoma, Tennessee at Georgia, Massachusetts at Xavier, Arizona State at USC, Kentucky at Arkansas, Colorado at California, Charlotte at St. Bonaventure, Iowa at Indiana, Colorado at Boise State, St. John’s at Providence, Santa Clara at Saint Mary’s.
Sunday’s bracket-tracker games:
Villanova at Pittsburgh, Florida State at North Carolina, Virginia at Boston College.
As for the No. 1 seed race, it’s still wide open. As many as 10 or 11 teams have a realistic shot for consideration. Not only does the final week provide several huge matchups among the contenders, we’ll see even more during conference tournament play. The Committee may not make final decisions on those top seeds until the Friday or Saturday before Selection Sunday. Typically, there’s only one or two spots open at that point. We’ll see how the next two weeks play out.
Riding a six-game conference winning streak, the Tennessee Volunteers find themselves in the thick of the at-large conversation. Since losing at home to Georgia in early February, the Vols have won three league road games and beaten Kentucky and Florida in Knoxville. And while one could argue (correctly) that the SEC isn’t particularly strong or deep, Tennessee has given itself a chance to participate in March Madness. Such a scenario would have been considered a stretch a month ago.
A similar streak helped Illinois overcome a 2-7 mark in the Big Ten. Without a major slip, the Illini are now a likely NCAA participant. A lot can change in two weeks.
Which brings us to Selection Sunday – now just over two weeks away.
Our latest bubble update finds teams moving both toward and away from the cutline. Besides the aforementioned Volunteers, here are some teams climbing the at-large ladder: Temple, Saint Mary’s, and California. Akron should be included too. The Zips beat Ohio for a second time Wednesday and have a clear path toward an outright Mid-American Conference title. That will add credibility to the Zips’ profile if they were to fall short in the MAC tournament.
Teams moving in the opposite direction include Arkansas, Charlotte, and Indiana State. The Sycamores have lost any momentum they once had and probably need to win the MVC tournament in St. Louis to reach the NCAA tournament. For now, they’ve been removed from the bubble.
One other Missouri Valley note: Both Creighton and Wichita State remain as “Should Be In” teams at the time of this update. However, both have slipped a bit of late and certainly aren’t locks. Saturday, they battle for the MVC title. The winner takes a significant step toward an NCAA bid as it’s hard to imagine the outright MVC champion being left out of the Field.
Our current NCAA tournament bubble isn’t necessarily any weaker, but it certainly isn’t shrinking. Games this weekend should help clear up a few spots – although it hasn’t happened yet. Right now, there are 25 teams listed as projected locks, with another seven teams in strong position to claim a bid (Should Be In). When you add in the 31 automatic qualifers (minus projected locks), that leaves us with about 16 spots. Some of the bubble teams are in stronger position than others.
March 3 Bubble Banter update.
A few quick thoughts about the weekend …
- Connecticut and Mississippi State are the two BCS teams currently in our bracket that most need victories this weekend. Connecticut hosts Pittsburgh and Mississippi State hosts Arkansas.
- Cincinnati should punch its ticket by winning at Villanova. A loss would make the Bearcats’ Big East tournament opener more important.
- Northwestern needs to win its game at Iowa, but that won’t be easy. The Hawkeyes have been a tough out at home.
- Washington can wrap up a Pac-12 title by winning at UCLA. That won’t guarantee the Huskies a spot, but it would certainly help.
- Virginia travels to Maryland with a two-game losing streak. A loss would drop the Cavaliers to 8-8 in the ACC and make UVA’s opening round ACC tournament game much more intense.
Enjoy a weekend of college hoops. Several teams will punch NCAA dance tickets.
Welcome to March. Three new teams have joined the bracket: Colorado State, South Florida, and VCU. Sliding out: Northwestern, Dayton, and St. Joseph’s. It’s going to be an interesting nine days until Selection Sunday.
Fresh off a week of great games, here’s your lates update:
March 2 Bracket Projection – Bracketology
The race for No. 1 seeds continues with Goliath matchups this weekend. Michigan State hosts Ohio State, and the Spartans can wrap up an outright Big Ten championship by beating the Buckeyes. There’s also Round 2 of the Duke and North Carolina rivalry. Results from those games will have a direct impact on the No. 1 seed line as we head into Championship Week. Kentucky and Syracuse continue to lead the field, and that’s unlikely to change. Kansas now has the inside track for the Midwest Regional in St. Louis, but it’s not locked in place. The No. 4 overall seed will be shipped West. In essence, there are five teams fighting for two spots on the top line. Ohio State could re-enter the discussion if the Buckeyes beat MSU this weekend and win the Big Ten conference tournament.
Four days until Selection Sunday. The next 48 hours are like Saturday at the Masters: Moving Days. The Big Ten, ACC, and SEC join the post-season tournament party with a host of teams trying to make a final impression on Selection Committee members gathered in Indianapolis. We also have the Mountain West, Atlantic 10, and Pac-10 moving into quarterfinal action. Every bubble team gets its day on the court.
March 9 Bubble Banter | updated at 11:30 p.m. ET
Away from the bubble, it’s all about seeding. A couple of spots on the s-curve might make the difference between playing closer to home or being sent cross-country. We also have at least one No. 1 seed up for grabs. In the west, all eyes will be on BYU – what statement will the Cougars make at the Mountain West tournament?
With Marquette’s win over West Virginia Wednesday night, it looks all but certain that 11 Big East teams will earn bids to the NCAA tournament. A couple will limp in – Villanova and Georgetown – but we’ll have a first (besides the First Four) during the 2011 Madness. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Villanova, Georgetown, and Marquette in 8-9 games (unless the Eagles keep winning or we get confirmation that Chris Wright is returning for the Hoyas).
Any upsets this year? Last year, we went down to the wire with Mississippi State in the SEC tournament. What if Utah State loses in the WAC? What about UAB if they fall in the Conference USA final? It looks like we still have 10 spots available. For the latest, follow along on Twitter @BracketguyDave. March Madness. Gotta love it.
Update: Bubble Banter has been updated through Thursday, March 3. It’s somewhat hard to believe, but there about 11 spots still open in the bracket as we move into Championship Week. Fortunately, we have pared down the bubble some. We now have 11 spots open with 28 teams in contention.
March 4 Bubble Banter – New Update | 6:15 a.m. March 4
Will we add a few teams before or during Championship Week? I would expect it – especially given the nature of college hoops this season. As weak as the bubble is, it’s not a great challenge to work your way into consideration.
Outside Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin, the Big Ten remains highly unsettled. Illinois, Michigan State, Michigan, and Penn State are trying to hold on or play their way in. In the Big 12, Baylor and Colorado could go either way. And in the Pac-10, Washington and Washington State remain question marks. The ACC is equally uncertain with Boston College and Clemson right on the cutline. Florida State and Virginia Tech are in front of them, but need to avoid a letdown this next week. In the SEC, the bubble teams are Georgia and Alabama.
Have an opinion? Send a rebound. Bring some data. Enjoy the hoops and the conversation. March Madness is almost here.