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Mississippi took a big step toward the field of 68 late on Friday night, but the Rebels aren't safe yet. Meanwhile, Iowa saw its hopes evaporate late against Michigan State.
Before I get to the bubble update for the night, here's a rundown of some of the key bracket results in the late evening window of games on this Selection Week Friday.
- Mississippi picked up a crucial win over Missouri, but they still need to keep winning, especially with Vanderbilt, the team that delivered a potentially fatal blow to Kentucky's hopes, on tap tomorrow.
- For a time, it looked like Iowa was going to move into the Big Ten semifinals and onto the bubble, then Michigan State woke up. Now, the Hawkeyes are almost assuredly NIT bound.
- UMass did grab a necessary win over Temple. The Minutemen are a serious threat to earn the Atlantic 10's auto bid, provided they get past VCU tomorrow.
- North Carolina dispatched Florida State to move on to a big ACC semifinal against Maryland tomorrow afternoon.
- Louisville topped Notre Dame to move on to the Big East championship where the Cardinals will attempt to cement a No. 1 seed with a win over Syracuse.
- Kansas State set it self up for a protected seed with a victory over Oklahoma State in the second Big 12 semifinals. Of course, the Wildcats would like to knock of Kansas in tomorrow's championship game first.
- New Mexico handled San Diego State in the first Mountain West semifinal in Las Vegas, keeping the Lobos' hopes for a surprise No. 2 seed alive.
- At the MGM Grand Garden, UCLA held off Arizona to claim their third win of the season over the Wildcats. The victory came at a steep cost, however, as star guard Jordan Adams broke his foot on the final play of the game and is out for the rest of the postseason.
- Defending MAC Tournament champion Ohio dispatched Western Michigan to set up a blockbuster final with Akron tomorrow night.
Now onto a look at how the Last Four In and First Four Out look heading into Saturday's action.
Last Four In
Note: All RPI and SOS information is courtesy Basketball State and is accurate as of the evening of Friday, March 15, 2013. All records reflect only games against Division I opposition.
21-9; 11-5 A-10; RPI: 42; SOS: 88; Non-conf. SOS: 111; R/N Record: 8-7
The biggest things working against the Explorers are a relative lack of quality non-conference wins -- a home win over Villanova on November 25th is by far their best -- and a loss to Central Connecticut State that came one week earlier. Wins over Saint Louis on Saturday and Butler in the A-10 quarterfinals on Friday would have helped bolster a Top 50 record that now stands at 2-4, but wins at VCU and against the Bulldogs at home are nothing to sneeze at. A loss at Miami is a quality one, but defeats at Bucknell, Charlotte, Xavier and to UMass at Tom Gola Arena are problematic, but not terrible. All the Explorers can do now is wait.
Next game: None
26-6; 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 will be a tense Selection Weekend in the East Bay. However, the bubble carnage of Friday has to calm some nerves.
Next game: None
20-12; 11-7 SEC; RPI: 59; SOS: 59; Non-conf. SOS: 89; R/N Record: 6-9
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 its last nine heading into the SEC Tournament, Tennessee was one of the hottest teams in the country, then the Vols lost to Alabama in Friday's quarterfinals, muddying the picture. Three of Tennessee's late 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, was swept by both fellow SEC bubble contender Ole Miss and Georgia, an NIT team at best and now the Volunteers have lost two of three to Alabama. 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 would have helped the Vols' case more.
Next game: None
28-5; 19-1 Sun Belt; RPI: 31; SOS: 133; Non-conf. SOS: 177; 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 (31st 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 out of the group. 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. Of course, with the way bubble teams are falling, Kermit Davis' club may just get its chance.
Next game: None
First Four Out
24-8; 12-6 SEC; RPI: 55; SOS: 132; Non-conf. SOS: 110; R/N Record: 8-7
The Rebels boast an 8-6 record against the RPI Top 100. Unfortunately, just two of those wins came against a Top 50 foe -- the same one actually, namely Missouri, which the Rebels defeated both in Oxford and in Friday's SEC quarterfinals in Nashville. A sweep of Tennessee is helpful, but falling to Kentucky at home and Middle Tennessee are 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 hadn't responded like Tennessee has to being shorthanded -- at least until last night. The Rebels still have work to do, simply because a loss to Vanderbilt would be devastating at this late stage. Just ask Kentucky.
Next game: SEC Tournament Semifinal vs. Vanderbilt (Sat.)
21-11; 11-7 ACC; RPI: 63; SOS: 125; Non-conf. SOS: 80; R/N Record: 3-10
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 8-4 against the RPI Top 100, with a 4-23mark 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 really needed to take advantage of Friday's game with N.C. State. They didn't so now, it's likely that the NIT beckons.
Next game: None
22-11; 8-10 ACC; RPI: 79; SOS: 116; Non-conf. SOS: 85; R/N Record: 6-8
Soft early season scheduling might end up costing the Terrapins if they fail to win the ACC Tournament on Sunday. Even with two wins over Duke, Maryland is just 4-9 against the RPI Top 100. The Terps' best non-conference win came against No. 80 Stony Brook, which failed to win the America East. Making matters worse, Maryland dropped games at Boston College and Georgia Tech in late February, after taking care of inferior opponents with ease in the first three months of the season. In other words, even a win over North Carolina on Saturday may not be enough.
Next game: ACC Tournament Semifinal vs. North Carolina (Sat.)
21-11; 12-6 SEC; RPI: 49; SOS: 62; Non-conf. SOS: 74; R/N Record: 5-9
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 4-5, 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 also blew UK out of the water in the first full game Noel missed. At just 7-9 against the Top 100, and owning a bad loss to Georgia, Kentucky could not afford a loss to Vanderbilt in its SEC Tournament opener. Considering the Wildcats' play without Noel, it's likely they are heading to the NIT this season.
Next game: None
I'll post my next full bracket, with plenty of changes, on Saturday morning. After that, only two will be left, a Sunday morning update and the final version right before the selections are announced.
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