Bracketology: Virginia, La Salle and Tennessee suffer costly defeats

Streeter Lecka

Four bubble teams took the floor in the second Friday afternoon window of games. Only one left with a win. As a result, there are some changes near the cut line two days from the release of the actual bracket.

In the second ACC quarterfinal in Greensboro on Friday, N.C. State crushed Virginia, a result that will likely send the Cavaliers to the NIT. Even though Virginia has four top 50 wins on its profile, a relatively weak non-conference schedule and a whopping seven losses against teams from outside of the RPI top 100 torpedo its chances.

Tennessee, on the other hand, lost to Alabama, but just stays in the field thanks to four top 50 wins of its own. The Volunteers don't have the bad losses that Virginia does, but a sweep at the hands of Georgia is problematic. Tennessee fans will have to hope that a surprise winner doesn't emerge in the remaining power conference tournaments, Kentucky and Mississippi stumble in the coming days and that the Selection Committee takes into account the Vols' injury issues.

As for the Crimson Tide, they have yet to seal the deal themselves, though they'll have a shot against Florida in tomorrow's first SEC semifinal. Alabama could use another top 50 win (it has two now), and three bad home losses and a defeat at Auburn hurt.

La Salle also remains just in after an A-10 quarterfinal loss to Butler. However, the Explorers played without big man Steve Zack for the loss, and he should be able to return from a sprained foot in about a week. The Selection Committee might keep that news in mind as it evaluates a team that won at VCU and beat Butler in a four-day span in late January, and defeated Villanova by three back in November. Otherwise, the Explorers' 6-8 record against the top 100 may not hold up. It will be interesting to see if the Committee takes La Salle or Middle Tennessee, which dominated a bad conference but struggled against the few quality opponents it played, or Mississippi, which can play its way in at the SEC Tournament.

The second Big Ten quarterfinal was a matchup that was important for NCAA seeding purposes. Wisconsin took a big step toward earning a protected seed by handling Michigan, which is now likely going to be a No. 3 seed when the bracket is revealed.

So after two of the biggest bubble games of the week, here's an updated look at the bubble.

Just Avoiding Dayton: Villanova, Boise State, Oklahoma, California
Last Four IN: Kentucky, St. Mary's, La Salle, Tennessee
First Four OUT: Middle Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Virginia

Finally, here's a look at what's at stake in the early evening window of games.

  • Ohio State is in position to earn a No. 2 seed if it makes a run in the Big Ten tournament. The Buckeyes take on Nebraska in the first quarterfinal of the night in Chicago.
  • Atlantic 10 No. 2 seed VCU will look to end the St. Joseph's Hawks' run at the auto bid.
  • Thanks to the arrest of its starting point guard and a couple of late losses, Akron's chances at an at-large are pretty much gone at this point. You can eliminate the "pretty much" from that previous sentence if the Zips lose to Kent State in the first MAC semifinal in Cleveland.
  • Memphis faces a challenge in the second Conference USA semifinal, as it takes on Tulsa, who happens to be the de facto host of the tournament.
  • Duke can burst Maryland's bubble and continue its push toward the No. 1 overall seed in the third ACC quarterfinal.
  • Top seed contender Georgetown meets Syracuse for the final time as Big East members (we mean it this time, unless they happen to meet in the NCAAs) in the first semifinal in New York.
  • Iowa State gets its third chance at knocking off Kansas, a team with top line hopes of its own, in the first Big 12 semifinal.
  • In the third SEC quarterfinal, Kentucky will attempt to stay on the right side of the cut line against a Vanderbilt squad that sent Arkansas to the NIT on Thursday.

I'll have another bubble update, and perhaps a No. 1 seed one too, later this evening.

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