Bracketology 2011: As Bubble Teams Win And Lose, Clarity Finally Approaches

With so many exciting conference tournament games on Thursday, Friday's Bracketology is significantly different than yesterday's edition in terms of NCAA Tournament seeding. Before getting into the nuts and bolts of the bracket, here's a quick summary of the day's big movers.

Boston College, Colorado, Georgia, Memphis, Michigan State, New Mexico, USC, Virginia Tech, and Washington moved closer to booking their place in th March Madness field, while UAB, Colorado State, Washington State, and idle VCU and Missouri State had better start preparing for the NIT. No one new has moved into the bracket yet, but expect to see a fresh team or two on Saturday morning.

In the Big East, Connecticut, Louisville, and Syracuse picked up key wins to improve their seeding, but St. John's slipped, thanks to their loss to the Orange and the news that D.J. Kennedy's is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

Top seed candidate Kansas looked shaky in their Big 12 opener, meaning the top line isn't as set in stone as you think, particularly as Pittsburgh's chances took a real hit with their loss to the Huskies. Notre Dame, on the other hand, made a statement in blowing out Cincinnati.

Now, on to how today's bracket looks.

National Semifinal Matchups

(1) East vs. (4) West
(2) Southwest vs. (3) Southeast

First Four

Automatic Bid Teams
March 15: Bethune-Cookman (MEAC) vs. ARKANSAS-LITTLE ROCK (Sun Belt) (NEW) to Washington on March 17th
March 16: McNeese State (Southland) vs. Texas Southern (SWAC) to Cleveland on March 18th

At-Large Teams (Last Four In)
March 15: Boston College vs. Richmond to Tampa on March 17th
March 16: Clemson vs. St. Mary's to Cleveland on March 18th

Next Four In (automatically in the Round of 64): Washington, Colorado, Georgia, Virginia Tech

Richmond is actually ahead of Virginia Tech in my seeding curve, but as there would be three ACC teams in the First Four if the Hokies remained. So, I switched them with the Spiders.

Previous seeds are in parentheses. Teams that have earned an auto bid are in ALL CAPS.

EAST
Newark (March 25 and 27)
SOUTHWEST
San Antonio (March 25 and 27)
Cleveland (Fri/Sun)
Tulsa (Fri/Sun)
1. Ohio State (Big Ten)
16. McNeese State/Texas Southern
1. Kansas (Big 12)
16. UNC ASHEVILLE (Big South)
8. Tennessee (9)
9. GONZAGA (West Coast)
8. George Mason
9. Marquette
Tucson (Thu/Sat)
Tampa (Thu/Sat)
5. Texas A&M  (7)
12. Virginia Tech
5. St. John's (4)
12. Boston College/Richmond
4. Connecticut (5)
13. OAKLAND (Summit)
4. Kentucky
13. INDIANA STATE (Missouri Valley)
Washington (Thu/Sat) Charlotte (Fri/Sun)
6. Vanderbilt
11. Colorado (12) 
6. UNLV (7)
11. Washington
3. Syracuse
14. Kent State (MAC) 
3. North Carolina (ACC)
14. Bucknell (Patriot)
Charlotte (Fri/Sun) Chicago (Fri/Sun)
7. OLD DOMINION (Colonial)
10. UCLA (8) 
7. Kansas State (6)
10. Villanova
2. Duke
15. WOFFORD (Southern) (14)
2. Purdue
15. LONG ISLAND (Northeast)
WEST
(Anaheim: March 24 and 26)
SOUTHEAST
(New Orleans: March 24 and 26)
Washington (Thu/Sat)
Chicago (Fri/Sun)
1. Pittsburgh
16. Bethune-Cookman/UALR
1. Notre Dame (Big East)
16. Boston University (America East)
8. Florida State
9. Illinois (10)
8. Utah State (WAC) (9)
9. Missouri (8)
Denver (Thu/Sat)
Cleveland (Fri/Sun)
5. Arizona
12. BELMONT (Atlantic Sun) (13)
5. Xavier (Atlantic 10)
12. Clemson/St. Mary's
4. Louisville
13. Tulsa (C-USA) (NEW)
4. Wisconsin
13. Harvard (Ivy)
Tulsa (Fri/Sun)
Denver (Thu/Sat)
6. Temple
11. Georgia
6. West Virginia (5)
11. Michigan State (12)
3. Texas
14. Long Beach State (Big West)
3. BYU (Mountain West)
14. MOREHEAD STATE (Ohio Valley) (14)
Tucson (Thu/Sat)
Tampa (Thu/Sat)
7. Georgetown
10. Michigan
7. Cincinnati (6)
10. BUTLER (Horizon)
2. San Diego State
15. NORTHERN COLORADO (Big Sky)
2. Florida (SEC)
15. ST. PETER'S (Metro Atlantic) 


Conference Breakdown

Big East: 11
ACC, Big Ten, Big 12: 6
SEC: 5
A-10, MWC, Pac-10: 3
CAA, WCC: 2
21 one-bid conferences

Of the First Eight Out, Alabama and USC are in best position to move into Saturday's projection, thanks to their own involvement in key games combined with key contests in the ACC and Big Ten.

First Four Out
69. USC   70. Alabama 71. Memphis 72. New Mexico
Next Four Out
76. Washington State 75. Missouri State 74. VCU 73.  Penn State

 

While Duke and North Carolina will enter Friday's ACC quarterfinals looking to move closer to a conference title and potential top seed in the NCAA Tournament, the four teams playing in the middle games in Greensboro are looking just to get in at this point. Game two sees four seed Clemson take on Boston College, winners over Wake Forest Thursday, with the loser likely headed to the NIT (ACC Network/The ACC.com or ESPN2, 2:30 p.m. ET). The second game of the evening session sees Virginia Tech face a Florida State team that's in far better position (ACC Network/The ACC.com or ESPN2, 9:30 p.m. ET).

The four winners of campus site first-round games advanced to Atlantic City for today's Atlantic 10 quarterfinals. The key game here from a bid perspective is three seed Richmond's game against No. 6 Rhode Island (CSN Washington Plus/Comcast Network Philly/CSS, 9 p.m. ET), the only home team (and higher seed) to win on Tuesday night. The Spiders have stayed relatively steady on the S-curve because other bubble teams have been more inconsistent than them, but they'll be in deep trouble if they fall to the Rams.

As the teams that needed wins at the Big East Tournament to get off the bubble (except for Villanova), the four teams playing in the semifinals are looking to improve their seeding. No. 9 seed Connecticut will look to win their fourth game in four days as they take on four seed Syracuse (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET). In the nightcap, Notre Dame will continue their push toward a No. 1 seed against Louisville (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET).

The Big 12 Tournament has also reached the semifinal stage, Kansas will look to make a statement against Colorado (Big 12 Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 7 p.m. ET). The Buffaloes defeated Kansas State for the third time this season in the second quarterfinal in Kansas City yesterday, a victory that likely moved them closer to a bid. Game two between Texas and Texas A&M will just have an impact on seeding, as both teams are safely in the field (Big 12 Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 7 p.m. ET).

Northwestern's only hope at earning a first-ever NCAA bid is to win the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. After beating Minnesota in yesterday's opening round, the Wildcats will continue their quest against top seed Ohio State (ESPN, 12 p.m. ET). Michigan and Illinois both look safe, but the winner of the quarterfinal between those two will be in better position on the seeding curve (ESPN, 2:30 p.m. ET). The night session sees two bubble teams in need of one more win facing tough challenges as Michigan State faces No. 2 seed Purdue (Big Ten Network, 6:30 p.m. ET), which will be followed by Penn State's attempt to win their season series with Wisconsin (Big Ten Network, 9 p.m. ET).

After Thursday's action in El Paso, Conference USA's hopes of receiving more than a single bid are in flames, thanks to the failure of a team that has a fire-breathing dragon for it's mascot. No. 8 seed East Carolina stunned regular season champ UAB in overtime, meaning the Pirates will take on Memphis, who they defeated in Greenville nine days ago, in today's second semifinal (CBS College Sports, 6;30 p.m. ET). The other spot in the final will be filled either by host and three seed UTEP or No. 2 Tulsa (CBS College Sports, 4 p.m. ET).

BYU will hope their Mountain West semifinal goes a little more smoothly than their six-point quarterfinal win over TCU on Thursday afternoon. That isn't likely as the Cougars take on a New Mexico team (CBS College Sports, 9 p.m. ET) that handed BYU their only two losses of the conference season. The Lobos' win over Colorado State moved them ahead of the Rams in terms of the bubble, though Steve Alford's team needs to a win today to have a serious chance. The second semifinal will see another major roadblock in front of BYU-San Diego State Part III, as the Aztecs take on three seed and host UNLV (CBS College Sports, 11:30 p.m. ET).

A little further West, the Pac-10 Tournament's first semifinal will feature a USC team that's moving ever closer to a bid against regular season champ Arizona (FSN/Comcast SportsNet, 9 p.m. ET). Keep in mind that the Trojans handled the Wildcats fairly easily at the Galen Center on February 24th. The second semifinal will feature Washington, who popped Washington State's bubble last night, and Oregon, upset winners over UCLA earlier in the evening (FSN/Comcast SportsNet, 11:30 p.m. ET).

As Georgia had no trouble with Auburn in their First Round game Thursday, the Bulldogs get the opportunity to avenge Saturday's defeat in Tuscaloosa and likely knock SEC West champion Alabama out (SEC Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 1 p.m. ET). In the first game of the night session, Tennessee will look beat Florida for the first time this season and damage the Gators' chances at a two or three seed in the process (SEC Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 7 p.m. ET), while Friday's final game sees with Vanderbilt take on Mississippi State, a team whose only hope for a bid is to better their memorable run to last year's final (SEC Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 9:30 p.m. ET).

Finally, Utah State enters the WAC tournament after receiving a bye to the semifinal. The Aggies, a likely at-large candidate if they don't win the title in Vegas, face No. 8 seed San Jose State (9 p.m. ET, no TV). The Spartans stunned fourth-seeded Idaho to earn their second upset win in as many days.

My next full update will come Saturday morning, but I'll be updating the Last Four In and First Four Out in this StoryStream as events warrant today.

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