1 - Florida Gulf Coast: This was an easy choice. No 15-seed had ever made the Sweet 16 at the NCAA tournament until this year. Perhaps the Eagles were underseeded, but that’s not really the point. This is a team that beat Miami early in the season and has captured the Cinderalla spirit with its wide-open pace and fun-loving personalities. Will FGCU continue its run and beat Florida? Collectively, we’ll be watching. And if it’s a close game in the final minutes, anyone in North Texas who’s not a Gators’ fan will take a ride on the Eagles’ wings.
2 – Michigan State vs. Duke: When it comes to March, it’s hard to ignore a matchup between Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski - two of the NCAA tournament’s Goliaths. It will also be a contract in styles. MSU will try to use it’s size and bulk to pound the glass and score in the paint. Duke will counter with its quickness, guard play, and Ryan Kelly’s ability to stretch the floor. Whichever team establishes its style and makes the other adjust likely wins.
3 – A 1987 Flashback: Indiana fans well remember Keith Smart’s shot to beat Syracuse in the 1987 National Championship game. While Bob Knight has long since departed the IU sideline, Jim Boeheim remains at Syracuse. In an ESPN Radio interview this week, Boeheim said that Smart’s game winner still resonates. At various times this season, both the Hoosiers and Orange were ranked in the Top 5. This is a Final four type matchup with a lot at stake. Indiana was a preseason favorite to cut down the nets in Atlanta.
4 – Oregon Ducks: When the brackets were released on March 17, one of the biggest surprises was finding Oregon as a 12-seed. While the Ducks did not boast a high number of marquee wins, they went 12-6 in the Pac 12 regular season (with point guard Dominic Artis missing significant time), and won the conference tournament. Since, they’ve won two NCAA tournament games by an average of 15 points – beating Oklahoma State and Saint Louis, a team many considered to be a Final Four sleeper. Oregon’s run may end against top-seed Louisville, but the Ducks are peaking at the right time.
5 – La Salle Explorers: While Gonzaga had its doubters, there probably weren’t many brackets that matched Wichita State and La Salle together in Los Angeles. A First Four participant, La Salle already has three NCAA wins – more than any other team in the Sweet 16. It harkens memories of 2011 when 11-seed VCU made its run from the First Four to the Final Four. Now a victory over the ninth-seeded Shockers is all that stands between the Explorers and the Elite 8.
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.
Several bubble teams ended their seasons – and likely their NCAA tournament aspirations – on Thursday. That’s good news for those bubble teams who either didn’t play, or those like Iowa State, that posted important victories. Today might be even an more important day. The SEC quarterfinals are full of bubble action: Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Ole Miss take to the court. Two of those probably survive. At least that’s the way it looks right now.
March 15 Bracket Projection | 11:30 a.m. ET
March 15 s-curve update | 7:20 a.m. ET
As of this morning, this is where I believe we stand: Last 5 IN … Oklahoma, Boise State, La Salle, Saint Mary’s, Kentucky | First 5 OUT … Virginia, Middle Tennesse State, Ole Miss, Alabama, Iowa.
Beyond the bubble, several important seeding games are on tap today. Louisville (vs. Notre Dame) and Georgetown (vs. Syracuse) are still battling for a potential No. 1 seed. Kansas, New Mexico, Miami-FL, and the Big Ten heavyweights also take the floor. Here’s to another great day of college hoops.
Today may end up being a critical juncture for several teams. While the Selection Committee does not over-value what it sees in the final few days of a long season, a team’s entire resume has to be examined. So what happens today (and Friday) still matters.
March 14 S-curve (seed list) | March 14, 7:45 a.m.
Not much has changed at the bottom of the bracket or the seed list. That probably won’t be the case by Saturday morning. Our Last 5 IN today: Boise State, Iowa State, La Salle, Saint Mary’s, Kentucky. The First 5 OUT: Virginia, Baylor, Middle Tennessee State, Ole Miss, Alabama. Teams chasing include: Iowa, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Xavier and Arizona State.
Duke, Indiana, Gonzaga, and Louisville continue to lead the bracket. At this point, Duke and Indiana likely have No. 1 seeds locked up. Gonzaga is in good shape, too. Which leaves one – possibly two – spots up for grabs. Guess is that if Louisville or Georgetown wins the Big East title, the Cards or Hoyas will grab a top seed, the other will be a No. 2. If Kansas rolls through the Big 12 tournament, we can’t eliminate the Jayhawks from that conversation either. Then you have a second Big Ten team, potentially Michigan or Michigan State. Miami-FL would be a wildcard. But for all of that to unfold, someone would have to pass Gonzaga on the seed list (s-curve).
Enjoy a great day of college hoops!
Saturday, the buzzer-beaters, close finishes, and general Madness arrived in full force. Which begs the question: After all of that, where do we stand as far as the bubble and top seeds? Well, here you go …
Last 5 IN … Temple, Saint Mary’s, La Salle, Iowa State, Kentucky
First 5 OUT … Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Baylor, Iowa
No. 1 seeds … Duke (East), Gonzaga (West), Indiana (Midwest), Louisville (South). The loss at Kansas – combined with Louisville’s win over Notre Dame – dropped the Jayhawks to No. 5. Georgetown, New Mexico, and Michigan State are in spots 5-8 on the curve entering today.
March 10 s-curve | 7:45 a.m.
The race, however, is far from over. Conference tournaments could play a huge role in deciding the final few at-large spots. We also have not yet had a conference tournament winner that might take an at-large spot away. Creighton and Wichita State both reached the Missouri Valley final. Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are in the West Coast final. Belmont beat Murray State to capture the Ohio Valley’s automatic bid. That’s not to say a potential bid-stealer won’t appear this coming week.