Bracketology: Last 4 In, First 4 Out Update

Jeff Gross

After Thursday's results, Iowa State moved up from of the Last Four In, with idle St. Mary's dropping down to replace them. With a busy bubble day on tap for Friday, particularly in the SEC, this list will see more changes in short order.

Before I take a look at the updated Last Four In/First Four Out list, here's a quick look at how Thursday's late evening results affected the picture for tomorrow morning's projection.

Iowa closed out the Big Ten's first round with a win over Northwestern, setting up a quarterfinal (and quality win chance) against Michigan State on Friday night. UMass, another team on the fringe of the conversation, stayed alive by slipping past George Washington in the Atlantic 10 opening round. The Minutemen will play Temple next.

California may have a long weekend ahead of it, thanks to an overtime loss to Utah -- a game the Golden Bears appeared to have sewn up in the final moments.

Baylor rallied from a double-digit deficit to tie Oklahoma State late, but the Cowboys ended up winning on a questionable foul call, followed by a missed Pierre Jackson three attempt at the buzzer. That result means the Bears are likely headed to the NIT, while Oklahoma State will play Kansas State for a potential protected seed in Friday's Big 12 semifinals.

In a matchup of teams safely in the field, Notre Dame toppled Marquette to set up a Big East semifinal against Louisville. The defeat dropped the Golden Eagles down to the fourth seed line for the moment.

Now, here's a look at how the bubble looks just after midnight ET on the Friday before the bracket is announced.

Last Four In

Note: All RPI and SOS information is courtesy Basketball State and is accurate as of the evening of Thursday, March 14, 2013. All records reflect only games against Division I opposition.

Avoiding Dayton: Villanova, Oklahoma, California, La Salle

Kentucky
21-10; 12-6 SEC; RPI: 50; SOS: 61; Non-conf. SOS: 71; R/N Record: 5-8
On Saturday, the Wildcats picked up their second win against a team in the RPI Top 50, as they toppled SEC regular season champion Florida. Curiously, both Saturday’s win and a home victory over Missouri came after Nerlens Noel was lost for the season with a torn ACL in Kentucky's loss in Gainesville. Since its star went down, John Calipari's team has gone 4-4, with all of the wins coming at home -- typical for an SEC club this season. With Noel, the Wildcats grabbed a rare quality SEC road win at fellow bubble squad Mississippi and lost at Alabama. Tennessee blew UK out of the water in the first full game Noel missed. At 7-9 against the Top 100, and owning a bad loss to Georgia, Kentucky still has to win games at the SEC Tournament in Nashville, where it could meet Missouri or Ole Miss in the semifinals, to qualify for an at-large. But first, the Wildcats will need to defeat a Vanderbilt team which it swept by just six total points.
Next game: SEC Tournament Quarterfinal vs. Vanderbilt (Fri.)

St. Mary's
26-16; 14-2 WCC; RPI: 35; SOS: 109; Non-conf. SOS: 120; R/N Record: 11-5
The Gaels could have used a close loss to Gonzaga in Monday night's WCC final, instead of the 14-point hammering they received. Making matters worse, St. Mary's lost the services of guard Jorden Page, who left in the first half with what appeared to be a rather severe knee injury. Since a December 23rd loss at Northern Iowa, the Gaels have lost just three times -- with all of those defeats inflicted by the pollsters' No. 1 team. However, the best of the 19 wins in that span came against Creighton in Moraga and BYU home and away. Add in a pair of bad early losses to Georgia Tech and Pacific (later avenged at home) in the Directv Classic the Gaels were favored to win, and it could be a tense Selection Weekend in the East Bay.
Next game: None

Boise State
19-10; 9-7 MWC; RPI: 38; SOS: 42; Non-conf. SOS: 54; Road/Neutral (R/N) Record: 7-9
After two games in the span of five days against San Diego State -- a Saturday home win and Wednesday loss in the Mountain West Quarterfinals -- the Broncos stand at 8-8 against the Top 100, with four Top 50 wins. While Boise State handled the Aztecs, UNLV and Colorado State at home, perhaps its most impressive win came on the road -- at Creighton on November 28th, as the Bluejays lost just one other time in Omaha all season. Certainly, there are some lost opportunities on the Broncos' profile, as they couldn't close out New Mexico in either of their meetings and fell in close contests at San Diego State (twice now), UNLV and Michigan State. Plus, there are a couple of bad losses -- at Nevada and Utah. However, Bronco sharpshooter Jeff Elorriaga was out for both of those games and a 20-point loss to Colorado State. The Committee will take his absence into consideration. However, not getting another crack or two at a late quality win in Vegas hurts.
Next game: None

Tennessee
20-11; 11-7 SEC; RPI: 60; SOS: 51; Non-conf. SOS: 85; R/N Record: 5-8
If the Volunteers had managed to find some offense in back-to-back early losses at Georgetown (37-36) and Virginia (46-38), I wouldn't need to be writing this paragraph right now ... but here we are. Winner of eight of nine, Tennessee is one of the hottest teams in the country. Three of those victories -- over Kentucky, Florida and Missouri -- are quality ones, though all of them came at Thompson-Boling Arena. The Vols also own a quality non-conference win over Wichita State, which again came in Knoxville. However, the Shockers are renowned as a quality road team. On the flip side, Tennessee has lost to Virginia and was swept by both fellow SEC bubble contender Ole Miss and Georgia, an NIT team at best. Injuries have played a toll, as Jeronne Maymon has missed the entire season with a knee injury and several other Vols have missed games in 2012-13. The fact Tennessee has responded while shorthanded should give it a boost when its fate is discussed, but winning games in Nashville will help its case more. Friday's quarterfinal game with Alabama looms as an elimination contest, especially as the two split their regular season meetings.
Next game: SEC Tournament Quarterfinal vs. Alabama (Fri.)

First Four Out

Virginia
21-10; 11-7 ACC; RPI: 66; SOS: 125; Non-conf. SOS: 79; R/N Record: 3-9
In a season full of messy profiles, the Cavaliers, along with Indiana State, really take the cake. On the plus side, the Cavaliers have a nice record of 8-3 against the RPI Top 100, with a 4-2 mark against the Top 50. That quartet of wins -- over Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State at home and at Wisconsin -- is among the finest in America. However, Virginia is 13-7 against teams from outside the Top 100, a winning percentage that is weighing down its RPI. The worst loss came at the hands of Old Dominion, 318th out of 347 Division I teams, on a neutral court in Richmond, though the Cavaliers were without point guard Jontel Evans on that afternoon. However, the Cavaliers have continued to play woefully on the road, as illustrated by losses to Florida State, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Clemson. Sunday's overtime win over Maryland, a team with slim NCAA hopes of its own, was a good start, but the Cavaliers will need to take advantage of potential quality win opportunities against N.C. State and Miami in this week's ACC Tournament.
Next game: ACC Tournament Quarterfinal vs. N.C. State (Fri.)

Middle Tennessee
28-5; 19-1 Sun Belt; RPI: 30; SOS: 134; Non-conf. SOS: 178; R/N Record: 13-5
On Sunday night, the Blue Raiders were upset in the Sun Belt semifinals by Florida International, a year after they fell unexpectedly in the quarterfinals in Hot Springs. That leaves Middle Tennessee’s fate in the hands of the Selection Committee. It will be an interesting debate. On one hand, the Blue Raiders’ RPI is superior to last season’s Iona squad that earned a First Four spot (32nd vs. 40th). Neither squad beat at Top 50 foe, but that Gaels squad went 5-3 against the Top 100. On this front, the Blue Raiders do not compare favorably. They're 1-3, and none of those games came after a December 13th loss at Belmont. Sure, Middle Tennessee has a home win over Mississippi, but head-to-head results aren’t necessarily a tiebreaker. Making matters worse, UCF, who was Middle Tennessee’s fifth Top 100 opponent, just dropped down to 101st. I suspect that despite the respectable RPI, the strength of schedule numbers will keep the Blue Raiders out, much like Drexel who dominated the CAA last season and was left out after losing in the championship game. I can’t say I’d be disappointed if I was proven wrong, however.
Next game: None

Mississippi
23-8; 12-6 SEC; RPI: 55; SOS: 133; Non-conf. SOS: 110; R/N Record: 7-7
The Rebels' win at LSU on Saturday pushed their record against the Top 100 to just above .500 at 7-6. Unfortunately, just one of those wins came against a Top 50 foe, Missouri, which naturally was a home win. A sweep of Tennessee is helpful, but falling to Kentucky at home is not. A loss to Indiana State in Hawaii looked better when the Sycamores were a bid threat, but not so much now that they're on their way to the NIT or CBI. Making matters worse, Ole Miss lost at South Carolina and Mississippi State -- two of the worst a bad SEC has to offer --very late in the season. Sure, the Rebels have struggled without three injured players -- forwards Anthony Perez and Aaron Jones and guard Martavious Newby -- but they haven't responded like Tennessee has to being shorthanded. Much like the Volunteers, Kentucky and Alabama, Mississippi's fate will be decided in Nashville, where the Rebels will get a rubber match against Mizzou in Friday's quarterfinals.
Next game: SEC Tournament Quarterfinal vs. Missouri (Fri.)

Alabama
19-11; 12-6 SEC; RPI: 63; SOS: 88; Non-conf. SOS: 70; R/N Record: 6-8
The Crimson Tide probably shouldn't be here, as it has just one Top 50 win (Kentucky in Tuscaloosa), three bad home losses and a defeat at Auburn (while failing to break 40 on the scoreboard) on its profile. Alabama fans probably aren't too happy with the SEC schedule makers, who sent the team to Florida, Missouri and Ole Miss -- three games that resulted in losses -- without giving them a return contest at Coleman Coliseum. Still, the Crimson Tide did beat the Wildcats and Tennessee on its home floor (losing to the Vols in Knoxville). However, Bama's ace in the hole may be a 22-point win over fellow bubble team Villanova in the 2K Sports Classic final in New York in November. The Tide seems to have a knack for winning on neutral courts, something they'll need to tap into in Nashville this weekend, particularly in Friday's quarterfinal against the Volunteers.
Next game: SEC Tournament Quarterfinal vs. Tennessee (Fri.)

Next Four Out: Southern Mississippi, Baylor, Iowa, Maryland

There's one remaining game of at-large interest left this evening, as Oregon takes on Washington in the last of Pac-12 quarterfinal.

I'll post a new projection on Friday morning.

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