INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Sparty, the mascot for the Michigan State Spartans performs against the Wisconsin Badgers during their Semifinal game of the 2012 Big Ten Men's Basketball Conference Tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 10, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Michigan State holds it in our Selection Sunday morning bracket projection, but expect a change if the Spartans fail to win the Big Ten title this afternoon.
The moment of reckoning is almost upon us. Here's a rundown of some of the major moves made since Saturday morning's projection, featuring the TV information for today's four conference championship games, the final ones of 2012.
- Kentucky continued its push for 19 wins in 19 SEC games and the No. 1 overall seed (which it has all but locked up anyway) by defeating Florida. The Wildcats, who currently head up the South region, will take on Vanderbilt for the conference's auto-bid this afternoon (1 p.m. ET, ABC). The Commodores burst Mississippi's bubble in Saturday's second semifinal.
- North Carolina remains in line for a top seed (though they won't pass East No. 1 Syracuse on the S-curve), thanks to a somewhat controversial ACC semifinal win over N.C. State Wolfpack, who now must wait until this evening to see if they will make the field of 68. In today's final, the Tar Heels will face Florida State (1 p.m. ET, ESPN/ACC Network), who knocked Duke out of the race for a top seed.
- In the Big Ten, Michigan State handled Wisconsin in their Big Ten semifinal, which means the Spartans replace Kansas on the top line for the moment. In today's final, Tom Izzo's squad will take on Ohio State, which has a shot to seize a No. 1 seed for itself, for a third time this season in the final game before the bracket is revealed (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS).
- Missouri made its case for a top seed by defeating Baylor to claim the Big 12 championship in its final attempt before heading to the SEC next season. I suspect the Tigers will remain on the No. 2 line, however.
- The fourth conference championship of Sunday sees St. Bonaventure looking to pop someone's bubble, as the Bonnies can earn the Atlantic 10's automatic bid by defeating Xavier (1 p.m. ET, CBS). The Musketeers must be now considered safe after they knocked off Saint Louis in the semifinals yesterday.
- Colorado, snubbed last season, took matters out of the Selection Committee's hands by topping Arizona in the Pac-12 final to win the conference's auto-bid in its first season in the league. The question now is whether the Buffaloes will be the lone Pac-12 representative, or if California and/or Washington will join them.
- Long Beach State removed itself from the bubble by defeating UC Santa Barbara for the Big West's auto bid.
- Memphis claimed the Conference USA title with a resounding victory over Marshall, whose late push for an at-large may (or may not) fall just short.
- The Big East Tournament trophy went to Louisville who held off Cincinnati in particularly ugly contest. The Cardinals sit on the No. 3 seed line after their run in New York City.
- New Mexico topped San Diego State in the Mountain West finale, keeping the Aztecs from winning their third consecutive crown.
- Lamar (Southland), Mississippi Valley State (SWAC), New Mexico State (WAC), Norfolk State (MEAC), Ohio (MAC) and Vermont (America East) earned the other automatic bids passed out on Saturday. Norfolk State is in the field for the first time ever.
With that information out of the way, here's my penultimate projection.
Teams that have clinched automatic bids appear in all caps.
|(1) SOUTH |
| (2) EAST
|Louisville (Thu/Sat)||Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)|
|16||MVSU/WKU||16||UNC ASHEVILLE (Big South)|
|8||Iowa State||↑ 8||Kansas State|
|9||Connecticut||↑ 9||HARVARD (Ivy)|
|Portland (Thu/Sat)||Portland (Thu/Sat)|
|5||MURRAY STATE (OVC)||5||Temple|
|↑ 12||COLORADO (Pac-12)||12||BYU|
|13||SOUTH DAKOTA ST. (Summit)||13||N.C. State/Seton Hall|
|Albuquerque (Thu/Sat)||Columbus (Fri/Sun)|
|↑ 6||Notre Dame||↑ 6||Vanderbilt|
|↓ 11||VCU (CAA)||↑ 11||Colorado State|
|14||LOYOLA (MD) (MAAC)||14||BELMONT (A-Sun)|
|Greensboro (Fri/Sun)||Omaha (Fri/Sun)|
|7||San Diego State||↓ 7||Cincinnati|
|↓ 10||Saint Louis||↑ 10||Southern Miss.|
|2||Duke||2||MISSOURI (Big 12)|
|15||LONG ISLAND U. (NEC)||15||MONTANA (Big Sky)|
|(4) WEST |
St. Louis (Fri/Sun)
|Columbus (Fri/Sun)||Greensboro (Fri/Sun)|
|↑ 1||Michigan State (Big Ten)||1||North Carolina (ACC)|
|16||LAMAR (Southland)||16||NORFOLK STATE/VERMONT|
|8||ST. MARY'S (WCC)||↓ 8||Gonzaga|
|↑ 9||Xavier (A-10)||9||Alabama|
|Nashville (Fri/Sun)||Albuquerque (Thu/Sat)|
|↑ 5||NEW MEXICO (MWC)||↑ 5||Wichita State|
|↓ 12||LONG BEACH STATE (Big West)||↓ 12||Texas|
|4||Florida State||↓ 4||Georgetown|
|Nashville (Fri/Sun)||Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)|
|↓ 6||CREIGHTON (MVC)||6||MEMPHIS (C-USA)|
|↑ 3||LOUISVILLE (Big East)||3||Marquette|
|14||NEW MEXICO STATE (WAC)||↑ 14||OHIO (MAC)|
|Omaha (Fri/Sun)||Louisville (Thu/Sat)|
|↓ 10||Purdue||↑ 10||West Virginia|
|15||DETROIT (Horizon)||15||LEHIGH (Patriot)|
|FIRST FOUR (Dayton)|
|Tuesday: To Louisville
||Tuesday: To Portland|
|16||MISS. VALLEY ST. (SWAC)||13||N.C. State|
|16||WESTERN KENTUCKY (Sun Belt)||↑ 13||Seton Hall|
|Wednesday: To Greensboro||Wednesday: To Nashville
|16||NORFOLK STATE (MEAC)||13||Drexel|
An explanation of the Last Four In and First Four Out, along with a few more teams, follows the rundown.
|BIDS BY CONFERENCE||LAST FOUR BYES||ARRIVALS||DEPARTURES|
|Big East: 10
|Big Ten: 7||California||Ohio||Arizona|
|Big 12: 6||BYU||Seton Hall||Mississippi State|
|ACC: 5||Texas||Vermont||Stony Brook|
||LAST FOUR IN||PROCEDURAL SHIFTS|
||N.C. State||Harvard||Up to a 9 from a 10|
|A-10: 3||USF||Purdue||Down to a 10 from a 9|
|WCC: 3||Seton Hall|
|C-USA: 2||LAST FOUR OUT|
|1-Bid Conferences: 19||Mississippi|
|NEXT FOUR OUT|
Last Four In
After comparing the profiles for this season's bubble teams with those from 2011, the first season of the 68-team field, and 2009 and 2010, the final two years of the 65-team bracket, it seems apparent that the Selection Committee will assign teams with a variety of profile issues to Dayton to sort things out amongst themselves. This is the approach I've taken in naming the final four teams in this projection. Of course, this may not be the exact combination they favor in Indianapolis. I also may very well change my mind between now and my final bracket, so stay tuned.
Each team is presented with a list of pros and cons for selection, so you can feel the frustration I have over the past few weeks.
All records and RPI and SOS are accurate through games played on Saturday, March 10, 2012 and are courtesy BBState.com. Records only reflect games against Division I competition, per Selection Committee standards.
N.C. State (22-12, 11-8 ACC, RPI: 49, SOS: 32, non-conf. SOS: 63)
Pros: Has head-to-head victories over fellow bubble teams Virginia, Miami (twice) and Texas. Won four in a row, and three away from home, before closing the regular season with a loss to North Carolina in controversial circumstances. Won relatively frequently away from Raleigh (9-6).
Cons: Owns just one win against the RPI Top 50, compared with nine losses (including three in a row to Duke, Florida State and North Carolina) and a 7-10 record against the Top 100. The single win came against Texas, which compares poorly to teams with a similar record against top competition (Northwestern, Miami, USF). Owns two horrible losses (at Clemson, Georgia Tech at home).
USF (19-13, 13-7 Big East, RPI: 53, SOS: 27, non-conf. SOS: 27)
Pros: Favorable computer numbers, quality wins against Cincinnati in Tampa and at Louisville, and a potential tiebreaking win over Seton Hall. Performed well in the Big East, though the schedule was comparatively soft.
Cons: Has a 2-9 record against the Top 50, 6-10 against the Top 100. Profile features three bad losses from early in the season (Old Dominion and Penn State in Springfield, at Auburn). Performed poorly away from home (6-11).
Seton Hall (20-12, 9-11 Big East, RPI: 65, SOS: 49, non-conf. SOS: 31)
Pros: Has three wins against the Top 50 (Georgetown, Connecticut and VCU (in Charleston)), also defeated West Virginia at home and won at Dayton. Overall record against the Top 100 is a respectable 7-9.
Cons: Finished poorly by losing seven of its last 12, including games against Rutgers and at DePaul. Lost at USF and to Northwestern in Charleston. Seven wins in 16 road/neutral games is also not helpful.
Drexel (27-6, 18-3 CAA, RPI: 71, SOS: 226, non-conf. SOS: 215)
Pros: Won 25 of 27 games to close the season, claiming the Colonial regular season title in the process. If the Committee values wins, the Dragons are in without a doubt. Owns four Top 100 wins (and three losses), though only the one against VCU came against a Top 50 team. Good road/neutral mark of 14-6.
Cons: Computer numbers are not attractive, thanks to a down CAA and weak non-league schedule. Went 2-4 to start season, when Chris Fouch was out or limited, with losses to Norfolk State and Delaware in that span.
First Four Out
Marshall (20-13, 12-8 C-USA, RPI: 42, SOS: 26, non-conf. SOS: 86)
Pros: Earned four Top 50 wins, including one at Cincinnati early in the season and two over Southern Mississippi, and six Top 100 wins (against 10 losses). Strong RPI and SOS numbers.
Cons: Lost at Tulsa and East Carolina, fell at home to UAB. Split with UCF and Belmont. Completely manhandled by Memphis in C-USA final. Road/neutral mark of 8-9 is merely respectable.
Dayton (20-12, 10-8 A-10, RPI: 79, SOS: 66, non-conf. SOS: 74)
Pros: A .500 record against the Top 50 and Top 100, with four Top 50 wins, including one at Temple. Defeated Alabama, Saint Louis, Seton Hall and Xavier at home.
Cons: RPI is a tad high. Owns a pair of truly bad losses (at Miami (Ohio) and Rhode Island at home) and questionable ones against Duquesne and Richmond. The Flyers' road/neutral mark of 6-8 leaves a little to be desired.
Mississippi (20-13, 10-9 SEC, RPI: 54, SOS: 48, non-conf. SOS: 33)
Pros: Victories over Alabama, Miami and Mississippi State, all at home. Decent out-of-conference schedule.
Cons: Road/neutral record of 8-10 is deceptive, as the Rebels best wins away from Oxford came against Tennessee in New Orleans and at Georgia and Arkansas. Mississippi also owns seven losses against the Top 50 and 12 against the Top 100, along with a bad loss at Auburn. Lost to Middle Tennessee, Dayton and LSU, though Murphy Holloway was out for those games.
Mississippi State (21-11, 8-9 SEC, RPI: 74, SOS: 71, non-conf. SOS: 54)
Pros: Has seven Top 100 wins and two against the Top 50 (at Vanderbilt, Alabama). Defeated West Virginia at home and Arizona in New York. Split with Mississippi.
Cons: Won just five of last 12. Lost to Georgia twice, as well as at Arkansas and Auburn. A 6-8 record away from home is not as good as it appears simply because the Bulldogs failed to beat an SEC West foe on the road.
Next Four Out
Iona (25-7, 16-4 MAAC, RPI: 41, SOS: 143, non-conf. SOS: 174)
Pros: Five wins against the Top 100, favorable RPI, excellent record away from home (15-6).
Cons: Two best wins came against Nevada and St. Joseph's, both of whom will likely be in the NIT. Has three losses to teams ranked 150+ in the RPI (Manhattan, at Siena, at Hofstra).
Washington (21-10, 14-5 Pac-12, RPI: 69, SOS: 87, non-conf. SOS: 100)
Pros: Pac-12 regular season champions, though that may not mean much this season. Has swept Arizona and split with Oregon, besting the Ducks in Seattle. Won nine of its final 12.
Cons: Has a 4-8 record against the Top 100, with no Top 50 wins. Lost at UCLA and was eliminated from Pac-12 Tournament as top seed by Oregon State. Owns an unimpressive 7-8 record in road/neutral games.
Miami (19-12, 10-8 ACC, RPI: 61, SOS: 43, non-conf. SOS: 52)
Pros: Owns victories over Duke (in Durham) and Florida State. Worst loss is at Maryland, who is just outside the Top 100.
Cons: Victory over UMass at home is the Hurricanes' only other one against a team in the Top 100 (against 11 losses). Won just six of 15 games away from Coral Gables.
Northwestern (18-13, 8-11 Big Ten, RPI: 60, SOS: 18, non-conf. SOS: 12)
Pros: Exceptionally strong schedule provides a boost, as do victories over Michigan State and Seton Hall (in Charleston). Worst loss came to Illinois (No. 93 in the RPI).
Cons: Failed to take advantage of the numerous opportunities handed to them, by going 1-10 against the Top 50 and 5-13 against the Top 100. Grabbing a few of them would have also likely improved a 7-8 record away from Evanston.
Arizona (23-11, 14-7 Pac-12, RPI: 72, SOS: 116, non-conf. SOS: 95)
Pros: Won at California to claim its only Top 50 win (against three losses), owns six total Top 100 wins (against nine losses), though three of those victims are on the edge of the list.
Cons: Swept by Washington and lost only meeting of the season with Oregon. Lost to Mississippi Sate in New York early in the campaign. Closed regular season with bad loss to Arizona State.
Cons: Quartet of bad losses (at Georgia, College of Charleston and Oakland, plus Austin Peay at home). Lost likely elimination game to Mississippi on Friday night. Flat out bad in road/neutral contests (3-11).
Oregon (22-9, 13-6 Pac-12, RPI: 64, SOS: 92, non-conf. SOS: 106)
Pros: Five Top 100 wins, including single victories over Arizona, Colorado and Washington. Only one bad RPI loss, at home against archrival Oregon State. Record away from Eugene is decent at 7-6.
Cons: Has no Top 50 wins, though losses at Vanderbilt, against BYU in Salt Lake City and at home to Virginia all happened before Devoe Joseph became eligible. Swept by Cal and was unable to beat Colorado and Washington twice.
As you can see, each of these teams have selling points and significant issues. In a few hours, we will know what specific combinations the Selection Committee agreed upon. I'll have one last projection before they reveal the finished product at 6 p.m. ET. Expect it between 30 minutes and one hour beforehand.