Bracketology 2012: UConn, Seton Hall Take Small Steps Off Bubble

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 06: Ryan Boatright #11 and Shabazz Napier #13 of the Connecticut Huskies celebrate after defeating the DePaul Blue Demons during their first round game of the 2012 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden on March 6, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Our latest Bracketology has Seton Hall and UConn on the right side of the bubble after picking up Big East Tournament wins on Tuesday. Can they continue to improve their NCAA Tournament bracket position on Wednesday?

Four teams secured a place in the 2012 NCAA Tournament by earning automatic bids on Tuesday night, while a pair of Big East teams moved slightly closer to booking one of the final at-large spots.

A relatively quiet night of Championship Week action means this projection isn't all that different from Tuesday's version. However, there are a few items to note.

  • Connecticut opened the Big East Tournament with a needed win over DePaul (You can read that sentence as, "If the Huskies had lost, they would be finished."), while Seton Hall obliterated Providence in its must-win. That means that Wednesday's at-large pool is identical to Tuesday's.
  • Three teams won conference tournament finals to clinch. Western Kentucky stunned North Texas in the Sun Belt, 74-70. The 15-18 Hilltoppers are the first team to make the NCAAs with a losing record since Coppin State in 2008. No. 3 seed Detroit defeated Valparaiso on its home floor to claim the Horizon League title. Meanwhile, South Dakota State needed overtime (in a virtual home game) to beat Western Illinois in the Summit championship to earn its first ever NCAA trip.
  • The other team to earn a bid, Harvard, did so by watching the Internet stream of Princeton's victory over Penn. A Quaker win would have forced a one-game playoff with the Crimson for the Ivy League title. It also eliminated the slim possibility of a two-bid Ancient Eight. It's Harvard's first tournament trip since 1946.

The full bracket follows.

Note: Teams who have clinched auto bids are in all caps.

(1) SOUTH
Atlanta (Fri/Sun)
(2) EAST
Boston (Thu/Sat)
Louisville (Thu/Sat) Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)
1 Kentucky (SEC) 1 Syracuse (Big East)
16 MVSU/WESTERN KENTUCKY 16 UNC ASHEVILLE (Big South)
8 Kansas State 8 Saint Louis
9 Cincinnati 9 Alabama
Nashville (Fri/Sun) Albuquerque (Thu/Sat)
5 Florida State 5 MURRAY STATE (OVC)
12 Colorado State 12 BYU
4 Wisconsin 4 Baylor
13 USF/Xavier 13 SOUTH DAKOTA ST. (Summit)
Albuquerque (Thu/Sat) Nashville (Fri/Sun)
6 Louisville 6 Wichita State
11 HARVARD (Ivy) 11 Long Beach St. (Big West)
3 Indiana 3 Michigan
14 Nevada (WAC) 14 Akron (MAC)
Omaha (Fri/Sun) Greensboro (Fri/Sun)
7 New Mexico 7 Florida
10 West Virginia 10 Connecticut
2 Missouri 2 Duke
15 Montana (Big Sky) 15 Bucknell (Patriot)
(4) WEST
Phoenix (Thu/Sat)
(3) MIDWEST
St. Louis (Fri/Sun)
Greensboro (Fri/Sun) Omaha (Fri/Sun)
1 North Carolina (ACC) 1 Kansas (Big 12)
16 Savannah State/Stony Brook 16 DETROIT (Horizon)
8 Iowa State 8 Memphis (C-USA)
9 Purdue 9 Virginia
Portland (Thu/Sat) Portland (Thu/Sat)
5 CREIGHTON (MVC) 5 San Diego State (MWC)
12 Seton Hall 12 VCU (CAA)
4 UNLV 4 Temple (A-10)
13 Drexel/Northwestern 13 DAVIDSON (SoCon)
Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat) Columbus (Fri/Sun)
6 St. Mary's (WCC) 6 Gonzaga
11 Southern Mississippi 11 Washington (Pac-12)
3 Georgetown 3 Marquette
14 LOYOLA (MD) (MAAC) 14 BELMONT (A-Sun)
Columbus (Fri/Sun) Louisville (Thu/Sat)
7 Vanderbilt 7 Notre Dame
10 California 10 Mississippi State
2 Michigan State (Big Ten) 2 Ohio State
15 UT Arlington (Southland) 15 Long Island U. (NEC)
FIRST FOUR (Dayton)
Tuesday: To Louisville
Tuesday: To Portland
16 Miss. Valley State (SWAC) 13 Drexel
16 WESTERN KENTUCKY (Sun Belt) 13 Northwestern
Wednesday: To Greensboro Wednesday: To Nashville
16 Savannah State (MEAC) 13 South Florida
16 Stony Brook (AmEast) 13 Xavier

After the rundown, I'll have a look at the Last Four In and Last Four Out for Wednesday.

BIDS BY CONFERENCE LAST FOUR BYES ARRIVALS DEPARTURES
Big East: 10
Southern Mississippi Detroit North Texas
Big Ten: 8 BYU Western Kentucky Valparaiso
Big 12: 5 Colorado State

SEC: 5 Seton Hall

ACC: 4
LAST FOUR IN PROCEDURAL SHIFTS
MWC: 4
Xavier None
A-10: 3 Northwestern

WCC: 3 USF

CAA: 2 Drexel

C-USA: 2 LAST FOUR OUT

MVC: 2 Texas

Pac-12: 2 Tennessee

1-Bid Conferences: 19 Miami


N.C. State


NEXT FOUR OUT


Mississippi


Oregon


Dayton


Oral Roberts

The Last Four In

Records reflect only games against Division I competition, per Selection Committee guidelines. Records, RPI and SOS data is accurate as of Wednesday, March 7, 2012, and is courtesy BBState.com.

Southern Mississippi, BYU and Seton Hall still stand just outside of the First Four, and the bracket's two Pac-12 teams, Washington and California, are in the same neighborhood of the S-curve. All but the Cougars will have opportunities to strengthen their respective cases in the coming days.

Xavier (19-11, 10-6 A-10, RPI: 57, SOS: 47, non-conf. SOS: 69)
The Musketeers will play Dayton for the third time in Friday's Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, with the loser out of picture for all intents and purposes.

Northwestern (18-12, 8-10 Big Ten, RPI: 48, SOS: 7, non-conf. SOS: 9)
To remove all doubt, Northwestern will need to impress in Indianapolis -- first against Minnesota on Thursday. Win that and another shot at Michigan, a team that has two narrow wins over the Wildcats, would await in Friday's quarterfinals.

South Florida (18-12, 12-6 Big East, RPI: 45, SOS: 25, non-conf. SOS: 23)
Some bad early season losses (at Auburn, and against Old Dominion and Penn State in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off), work against the Bulls, though Stan Heath's team was dealing with injuries and suspensions early on. A defeat at VCU looks better now, however. Since USF is so close to the cut line, they really need to do some damage in New York City starting on Wednesday night.

Drexel (27-6, 16-2 CAA, RPI: 70, SOS: 234, non-conf. SOS: 213)
The Dragons' hopes now lie in the hands of the Selection Committee, and thanks to those two schedule rankings above, they are not an automatic pick, even though they have lost only twice since Dec. 3. Making matters worse, Drexel has just one win against the RPI Top 50 (VCU) and three more against teams ranked between 51 and 100, while 19 of its victories came against teams ranked worse than 150th. Bruiser Flint's club may receive consideration for the early season games point guard Chris Fouch missed (including Paradise Jam losses to Norfolk State and Virginia) or was limited (losses to Delaware and St. Joseph's, when he was a combined 2-19 from the floor) while he was recovering from knee surgery, but it may not be enough.

First Four Out

Texas (19-12, 9-9 Big 12, RPI: 52, SOS: 16, non-conf. SOS: 26)
Thanks to an uninspiring closing run that featured consecutive losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State, close victories over Texas Tech (in overtime) and Oklahoma (thanks to a second half comeback), and Saturday's loss to Kansas, the Longhorns need to win some games in Kansas City to earn a bid.

Tennessee (17-13, 10-6 SEC, RPI: 75, SOS: 29, non-conf. SOS: 45)
Just when you thought it was safe to ignore the Volunteers, freshman forward Jarnell Stokes joins the team for the SEC campaign, and the team goes on a run that sees them finish with the No. 2 seed for this week's festivities in New Orleans. Tennessee still needs to win a couple of games there, as a group of quality wins (UConn, a sweep of Florida, Vanderbilt) isn't quite yet enough to offset some questionable losses, even if most of them happened before Stokes suited up. A potential quarterfinal with
Mississippi, a team with bubble hopes of its own, looms large on Friday.

Miami (18-11, 9-7 ACC, RPI: 53, SOS: 51, non-conf. SOS: 50)
Saturday's win over Boston College simultaneously boosted Miami's record and damaged their computer numbers. Unfortunately for Canes fans, they have to play another RPI killer, Georgia Tech, on Thursday in Atlanta. If they win that one, a potential rubber match with Florida State awaits in Friday's quarters.

N.C. State (20-11, 9-7 ACC, RPI: 56, SOS: 34, non-conf. SOS: 73)
Currently, N.C. State is without a Top 50 win (0-8) -- barely, as Miami and Texas are close. On the plus side, the Wolfpack now have six Top 100 victories. Conversely, the Pack's profile is burdened by defeats at the hands of Clemson and Georgia Tech. N.C. State has plenty of work to do in Atlanta, starting with Thursday's opening game against Boston College.

Mississippi, Oregon and Dayton all sit just outside of this group. All three need conference quarterfinal wins to have a real chance, but the Rebels need to beat Auburn in the SEC Opening Round first.

Wednesday Games To Watch

Three teams will earn their tournament tickets Wednesday, the last automatic bids to go out before Saturday's flood of 12 conference championship games.

Northeast Conference Championship, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
The fourth consecutive NEC title game appearance for Robert Morris is a repeat of last year's edition, which they lost at top-seeded Long Island U. The Blackbirds won the only regular season meeting by nine in Brooklyn on January 26th.

Patriot League Championship, 7 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
This game switches days (from Friday to Wednesday) and networks just in time for the top two seeds to clash in Lewisburg, Penn. Top seeded Bucknell was rolling toward a perfect Patriot League campaign until Lehigh visited Sojka Pavilion on Feb. 16. The Mountain Hawks ruined the Bison's perfect record that night, and this evening the No. 2 seed will look to send their Pennsylvania rivals to the NIT.

Big Sky Championship, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Regular season champion Montana looks to stop high-scoring Damian Lillard and No. 2 seed Weber State for the second time in nine days. The Grizzlies last made the Tournament in 2010, while the Wildcats last danced in 2007.

Day two of the Big East Tournament is highlighted by a few key bubble contests and Georgetown's contest with Pittsburgh (approx. 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), which is crucial for the Hoyas' position in the bracket. A win for Seton Hall over Louisville (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) cements the Pirates place, while further damaging the Cardinals' standing for a high seed. As for the teams fighting for a bid, Connecticut meets West Virginia (12 p.m. ET, ESPN) in a game both need, while South Florida cannot afford a loss to Villanova (approx. 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). You can keep up with all of the action in our Big East Tournament StoryStream.

Action also gets under way at four tournaments -- the Big 12 (StoryStream), Conference USA, Mid-American, and Pac-12 (StoryStream) -- though there will be far more bracket-related contests in those events on Thursday.

My next update will come on Thursday morning, just before the major conference tournaments all kick into high gear.

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