Bracketology: Kentucky's bubble bursts, Maryland gets a big win

Andy Lyons

The biggest loser so far on a busy Friday night is Kentucky, which left the Selection Committee with an awful final impression, a 64-48 loss at the hands of Vanderbilt.

While Kentucky's loss was the biggest early evening result for those with bubble rooting interests, the race for the four No. 1 seeds got a bit more interesting. In the game of the night so far, Syracuse topped Georgetown in their final meeting in Big East play to advance to Saturday night's final and end the possibility of a Hoyas-Louisville showdown for a top spot.

That game wasn't the only one that affected the top seed race, however. Duke's ACC quarterfinal loss to Maryland may have blown the chase wide open. I'm not sure the Selection Committee will give the team ranked No. 1 in the RPI a top seed nod without either the ACC regular season or tournament crowns. Only two teams in the past five seasons have earned a No. 1 seed without one. I'll keep the Blue Devils there for now, but if Kansas -- winner over Iowa State in the first Big 12 semifinal -- can claim the league tournament crown tomorrow, it could get the honor instead. However, I think that may be a long shot and the overall quality of Duke's profile wins out.

As for the Terrapins, they're not yet in the field of 68 even with two wins over Duke, thanks to a lackluster 4-9 record against the Top 100, bad late losses at Boston College and Georgia Tech and a weak non-conference schedule. A win over North Carolina (if that game happens) would be vital.

Middle Tennessee replaces Kentucky in the bracket for now, though the Blue Raiders are on very shaky ground considering they are idle.

Ohio State hammered Nebraska to book a Big Ten semifinal berth.

In the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, VCU held off a St. Joseph's rally to end the Hawks' NCAA hopes.

Two conference finals in likely one-bid leagues will be closely watched by bubble teams. One of the first tips of the morning is the Conference USA final in Tulsa, where bubble teams will want to see Memphis dispatch Southern Mississippi. When the evening arrives, Akron will be team of choice. The Zips defeated Kent State to reach the MAC final in Cleveland and will have a slight shot at an at-large with a championship game loss.

With those early evening results in mind, here's an updated look at how the top seed and bubble race shape up.

No. 1 Seeds: Indiana, Duke, Gonzaga, Louisville
Avoiding Dayton: Villanova, Boise State, Oklahoma, California
Last Four IN: La Salle, Tennessee, St. Mary's, Middle Tennessee
First Four OUT: Virginia, Mississippi, Maryland, Kentucky
Next Four OUT: Alabama, Iowa, Southern Mississippi, UMass

Friday's late evening schedule is even more loaded that the early window.

  • Iowa can seriously boost its candidacy by upsetting a Michigan State squad that's angling for a No. 2 or 3 seed in the final Big Ten game of the night.
  • UMass is even more desperately in need of a quality win than the Hawkeyes. The Minutemen get Temple, a team that's risen above the bubble, in the fourth A10 quarter in Brooklyn.
  • Florida State needs to defeat North Carolina Tar Heels to continue its quest for consecutive ACC crowns -- the only way the Seminoles are getting in on Sunday.
  • At Madison Square Garden, Louisville and Notre Dame meet, with the Cardinals looking to stay in the hunt for a No. 1 seed.
  • Defending MAC Tournament champion Ohio faces Western Michigan in the second semifinal in Cleveland.
  • Kansas State and Oklahoma State meet in a rubber match in Kansas City with a potential protected seed on the line.
  • Mississippi can take a big step toward the field with a victory over Missouri in those two teams' third meeting of the season.
  • New Mexico, the top seed in the Mountain West, has a real shot at grabbing a surprisingly high seed, but those might end if the Lobos fall to San Diego State in the first semifinal in Las Vegas.
  • About a mile away from the Thomas & Mack, UCLA and Arizona meet for the third time, with the Wildcats still looking for their first win over the Bruins.
  • Later tonight, UNLV, in visitors' colors based on seeding only, takes on Colorado State in the second Mountain West semifinal, while Utah will look to continue its surprising Pac-12 run against Oregon. Bubble teams from coast-to-coast will be cheering for the Ducks in that one.

I'll have one final bubble update after midnight and a full bracket at some point on Saturday morning.

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