Bracketology 2012: Tennessee, Miami Sneak In After Bubbles Burst

February 29, 2012; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; Tennessee Volunteers center Yemi Makanjuola (0) and teammates celebrate a basket in overtime against the LSU Tigers at the Maravich Assembly Center. Tennessee defeated LSU 69-74 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Crystal LoGiudice-US PRESSWIRE

In our latest Bracketology, the Hurricanes and Volunteers replace Northwestern and Washington after a confounding Thursday of action, while Mississippi State and USF stay in our NCAA Tournament bracket projection despite losses.

Three days remain until Selection Sunday, and the NCAA Tournament bubble remains about as clear as mud. With a few more poor results for at-risk teams in the major conference tournaments, the door may just open for mid-major regular season champions -- like Iona, Middle Tennessee and Oral Roberts -- who suffered what appeared to be fatal losses during their conference tournaments.

Here's a recap of some of the major events since Thursday's projection.

  • Northwestern will likely remain the only team from a Big Six conference to have never made an NCAA Tournament appearance following an overtime loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten First Round.
  • Pac-12 regular season champion Washington is in serious danger of being left out after falling to Oregon State. So is Oregon after a loss to the Colorado Buffaloes. On the other hand, Arizona and California stayed alive with wins. However, the league has just one team in this projection.
  • Connecticut remains in, even with a loss to Syracuse in the Big East quarterfinals. The Orange keep on moving toward locking up one of the top two seeds overall. Meanwhile, Cincinnati jumped up the S-curve after its thrilling overtime win over Georgetown.
  • Mountain West-bubble team Colorado State put itself in great position by blasting TCU in the tournament quarters in Las Vegas.
  • Texas also gave itself more breathing room by knocking Iowa State out of the Big 12 quarterfinals.
  • Teams that weren't so lucky include USF, who is hanging on in the "Last Four In" group, thanks to an ugly (but is there any other type of game for the Bulls) overtime loss to Notre Dame in the Big East quarterfinals, and Mississippi State, who lost to their Georgia counterparts in the final SEC Tournament game of the night. The Bulldogs are also in the Dayton quartet at the moment.
  • As indicated in the headline, Miami and Tennessee slide in to replace Northwestern and Washington. Both newcomers can improve their respective positions with wins today.

The full bracket follows. I completely scrubbed it on Thursday afternoon and evening, so you should notice a few seeding adjustments.

Note: Teams that have clinched automatic bids appear 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 Norfolk State/WKU 16 UNC ASHEVILLE (Big South)
8 Cincinnati 8 Iowa State
9 Virginia 9 Purdue
Albuquerque (Thu/Sat) Portland (Thu/Sat)
5 MURRAY STATE (OVC) 5 CREIGHTON (MVC)
12 West Virginia 12 BYU
4 Wisconsin 4 Temple (A-10)
13 Nevada (WAC) 13 SOUTH DAKOTA ST. (Summit)
Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat) Nashville (Fri/Sun)
6 San Diego State (MWC) 6 Florida
11 Southern Miss. 11 Texas
3 Georgetown 3 Michigan
14 LOYOLA (MD) (MAAC) 14 DAVIDSON (Southern)
Omaha (Fri/Sun) Greensboro (Fri/Sun)
7 ST. MARY'S (WCC) 7 New Mexico
10 Alabama 10 VCU (CAA)
2 Missouri 2 Duke
15 MONTANA (Big Sky) 15 LONG ISLAND U. (NEC)
(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 MVSU/Stony Brook 16 Lamar (Southland)
8 Saint Louis 8 Memphis (C-USA)
9 Kansas State 9 Connecticut
Nashville (Fri/Sun) Portland (Thu/Sat)
5 Louisville 5 Florida State
12 Drexel 12 Xavier
4 Indiana 4 UNLV
13 Miami/Mississippi State 13 USF/Tennessee
Albuquerque (Thu/Sat) Columbus (Fri/Sun)
6 Gonzaga 6 Wichita State
11 Colorado State 11 Long Beach St. (Big West)
3 Baylor 3 Marquette
14 Akron (MAC) 14 BELMONT (A-Sun)
Louisville (Thu/Sat) Columbus (Fri/Sun)
7 Notre Dame 7 Vanderbilt
10 HARVARD (Ivy) 10 California (Pac-12)
2 Ohio State 2 Michigan State (Big Ten)
15 LEHIGH (Patriot) 15 DETROIT(Horizon)
FIRST FOUR (Dayton)
Tuesday: To Louisville
Tuesday: To Portland
16 Norfolk State (MEAC) 13 USF
16 WESTERN KENTUCKY (Sun Belt) 13 Tennessee
Wednesday: To Greensboro Wednesday: To Nashville
16 Miss. Valley State (SWAC) 13 Miami
16 Stony Brook (AmEast) 13 Mississippi State

An explanation of the Last Four In and Last Four Out follow the Friday rundown.

BIDS BY CONFERENCE LAST FOUR BYES ARRIVALS DEPARTURES
Big East: 10
West Virginia Lamar Northwestern
Big Ten: 7 BYU Miami UT Arlington
Big 12: 6 Xavier Tennessee Washington
SEC: 6 Drexel

ACC: 5
LAST FOUR IN PROCEDURAL SHIFTS
MWC: 4
USF

A-10: 3 Mississippi State

WCC: 3 Tennessee

CAA: 2 Miami

C-USA: 2 LAST FOUR OUT

MVC: 2 N.C. State

1-Bid Conferences: 20 Seton Hall


Northwestern


Washington


NEXT FOUR OUT


Mississippi


Dayton


Arizona


Iona

Last Four In

While Colorado State and Texas have achieved a certain level of safety, the Drexel Dragons, the BYU Cougars, the Southern Miss. Golden Eagles, the West Virginia Mountaineers and the Xavier Musketeers are all just above the cut line for the First Four.

Records reflect only games against Division I competition, per Selection Committee guidelines. Records, RPI and SOS data is accurate as of Friday, March 9, 2012, and is courtesy BBState.com.

USF (19-13, 13-7 Big East, RPI: 40, SOS: 27, non-conf. SOS: 27)
The Bulls could have really used a victory over Notre Dame to solidify their position, but they were completely unable to close out the Fighting Irish in both regulation and overtime on Thursday night. A win at Louisville and home triumphs over Cincinnati and fellow bubble team Seton Hall boost the Bulls' profile, but early season struggles could make this a close call for USF.

Mississippi State (21-11, 8-9 SEC, RPI: 65, SOS: 66, non-conf. SOS: 48)
One truly standout win (at Vanderbilt) and a handful of decent ones (Alabama, West Virginia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arizona) help the Bulldogs' case. Maddening inconsistency, highlighted by two losses at the hands of Georgia and a loss at Auburn, do not.

Tennessee (17-13, 10-6 SEC, RPI: 76, SOS: 31, non-conf. SOS: 45)
The Volunteers looked like a team that would sit out the postseason after early losses to Austin Peay, College of Charleston and Oakland, but Jarnell Stokes' arrival early in the SEC season revitalized Cuonzo Martin's squad, which now owns four Top 50 wins. The No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament faces a virtual elimination game with Mississippi Rebels, one of the Next Four Out, this afternoon.

Miami (19-11, 10-7 ACC, RPI: 55, SOS: 41, non-conf. SOS: 50)
Wins at Duke and over Florida State, along with a relative absence of bad losses mean the Hurricanes have a slight priority over teams like N.C. State and Seton Hall. Picking up a second win over the Seminoles in Atlanta on Friday night would certainly make the decision easier for the Selection Committee though.

First Four Out

N.C. State (21-11, 10-7 ACC, RPI: 53, SOS: 26, non-conf. SOS: 72)
The Wolfpack took care of Boston College on Thursday afternoon, even though the Eagles gave them a game for about 33 minutes. N.C. State can pick up its first win against the Top 50 against Virginia this afternoon. A 5-9 mark against the Top 100 will likely not be enough with all of the wins coming against teams ranked between 51 and 100.

Seton Hall (20-12, 9-11 Big East, RPI: 62, SOS: 44, non-conf. SOS: 29)
On the surface, the Pirates should be in good shape, thanks to three wins over the Top 50 and seven over the Top 100. However, late losses to Rutgers and DePaul, their two worst, mean Seton Hall has likely left a bad late impression for the Committee.

Northwestern (18-13 8-11 Big Ten, RPI: 47, SOS: 12, non-conf. SOS: 9)
Thursday's loss to Minnesota likely doomed the Wildcats, who own just one Top 50 win (against 10 losses), to the NIT. They likely needed to beat Michigan today anyway, and now they won't even get the chance.

Washington (21-10, 14-5 Pac-12, RPI: 54, SOS: 81, non-conf. SOS: 100)
Sure, the Huskies won the Pac-12 regular season crown, but given the conference's struggles this season, that doesn't really mean much. Making matters worse, Washington dropped its tournament quarterfinal to Oregon State on Thursday. One win against the Top 50 and a lackluster 4-8 mark against the Top 100 may not be enough to get the Huskies in.

Among the Next Four Out, Dayton and Mississippi face opposition directly above them on Friday; Arizona really needs to win its Pac-12 semifinal; and Iona is stuck watching and waiting.

Friday Games To Watch

Finally, here's a look at today's most significant conference tournament action, at least from the at-large selection and seeding perspective.

ACC Quarterfinals
The second day of action in Atlanta opens with No. 1 seed candidate North Carolina's contest with Maryland (12 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ACC Network). Game two is N.C. State's must win encounter with Virginia (approx. 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ACC Network). The evening doubleheader begins with Virginia Tech's attempt to upset second-seeded Duke (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ACC Network) and ends with a Sunshine State showdown between Florida State and Miami (approx. 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2/ACC Network).

Atlantic 10 Quarterfinals
This could very well be the most wide-open and unpredictable tournament of them all, as all eight teams could make a run at the auto bid. In other words, fans of bubble teams should pay close attention to what goes on in Atlantic City. The quadruple-header opens with regular season champion -- and potential protected seed -- Temple taking on UMass (12 p.m. ET, Comcast Sports Networks). Game two features St. Joseph's, a team on the edge of the bid conversation, facing the team that defeated them in an overtime classic on Leap Day, St. Bonaventure (approx. 2:30 p.m. ET, Comcast Sports Networks). No. 2 seed Saint Louis takes on La Salle to begin the night session (6:30 p.m. ET, Comcast Sports Networks), while Southwestern Ohio and bubble rivals Dayton and Xavier (approx. 9 p.m. ET, Comcast Sports Networks) close the day's proceedings.

Big East Semifinals
A Syracuse win in its semifinal against now-safe Cincinnati (7 p.m. ET, ESPN) would keep the Orange in the conversation for the top seed overall. The second spot in Saturday's final will be filled by either Louisville, a real threat to sneak onto the No. 4 seed line, or Notre Dame, who failed to impress in defeating USF last night (approx. 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Big Ten Quarterfinals
Iowa can cause heart palpitations among bubble fans if they can upset top-seeded Michigan State in the day's first game in Indianapolis (12 p.m. ET, ESPN). Then, Indiana faces Wisconsin, in a game that will help determine whether either or both end up as protected seeds (approx. 2:30 p.m ET, ESPN). Note the Hoosiers will be shorthanded, thanks to the knee injury Verdell Jones III suffered on Thursday afternoon. The evening session opens with 10th-seeded Minnesota's attempt to mount a surprising run to the semifinals. The Golden Gophers take on Michigan (6:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network). Game four sees Purdue face Ohio State, the No. 3 seed that still has a shot at a national No. 1 slot (approx. 9 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network).

Big 12 Semifinals
Baylor gets its third shot to beat Kansas in the evening's opener (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU/Big 12 Network), while in the finale, Missouri will look to treat Texas much like it treated Oklahoma State last night (approx. 10 p.m. ET, ESPNU/Big 12 Network).

Big West Semifinals
Regular season champion Long Beach State's path became easier when No. 2 seed Cal State Fullerton lost its quarterfinal to UC Irvine. The seventh-seeded Anteaters take on the top-seeded 49ers (EDIT: the Big West reseeds its tournament), who may earn an at-large should they fail to cut down the nets in Anaheim (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3). Semifinal two features No. 3 UC Santa Barbara and fourth-seeded Cal Poly (12 a.m. ET, ESPNU).

Conference USA Semifinals
After needing overtime to defeat East Carolina yesterday, Southern Mississippi would be well served to win tonight against a Marshall team that needed three overtimes to beat Tulsa (4 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network). The second matchup features host and top seed Memphis and No. 4 UCF (approx. 6:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network). Like the Thundering Herd, the Knights need the auto bid to advance to the NCAAs.

Mountain West Semifinals
Thursday's quarterfinals were all chalk, barely. No. 1 seed San Diego State, who needed a Jamaal Franklin buzzer-beater to top Boise State on Thursday will need to play more effectively to earn a win against Colorado State in the opener (9 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network). New Mexico faces home team UNLV, who struggled with Wyoming late on Thursday, in game two (approx. 11:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network). It should be a fiercely contested evening of basketball at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Pac-12 Semifinals
Friday's first semifinal features ninth-seeded Oregon State, which likely popped Washington's bubble yesterday, against at-large candidate Arizona (9 p.m. ET, FSN/Comcast SportsNet). California, the team in best position to earn a spot should it fail to win on Saturday night, takes on Colorado in game two (approx. 11:30 p.m. ET, FSN/Comcast SportsNet).

SEC Quarterfinals
Top seeded Kentucky opens up what should be a long run in New Orleans against LSU (1 p.m. ET, SEC Network/ESPN3), while Florida looks to break a three-game losing streak with a win over Alabama (approx. 3:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network/ESPN3). The at-large elimination game between Tennessee and Ole Miss opens the night session (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network/ESPN3), while Friday's action concludes with No. 3 seed Vanderbilt's contest with Georgia (approx. 10 p.m. ET, SEC Network/ESPN3).

My next full projection will come on Saturday morning, a day that will see 12 automatic bids handed out. As events warrant, I'll update the Last Four In/Last Four Out as Friday unfolds.

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