Bracketology: Who's a lock? Who's not?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With a little more than three weeks left until Selection Sunday, Chris Dobbertean takes his first shot at sorting the locks for the rapidly-approaching NCAA Tournament from those teams that still need a few more wins. Plus, a full bracket update for the weekend.

There is one new at-large entrant in Friday's bracketology: BYU, who replaces Georgetown. The Hoyas lost their grip on a place thanks to a loss to Seton Hall Thursday night, a result that gave the Pirates a season sweep over Georgetown. On the other hand, the Cougars picked up a vital win over Gonzaga hours later -- their third this season over a team ranked in the RPI Top 50.

Power Rankings: Florida steals top spot

The four No. 1 seeds are in the same order as on Tuesday, even with Syracuse's loss to Boston College on Wednesday night. However, the gap between the Orange, first overall, and Florida, sitting second, is infinitesimal at this point, thanks to the RPI damage a loss to a 7-19 team can create. Arizona sits in third, while Wichita State continues to round out the quartet.

After today's bracket and rundown, I'll break down the field by how close they are to securing places with 23 days left until Selection Sunday.

New teams are indicated by an asterisk (*), while teams shifted for bracketing purposes are marked with a caret (^).

(1) EAST
New York (Fri/Sun)
(2) SOUTH
Memphis (Thu/Sat)
Buffalo (Thu/Sat) Orlando (Thu/Sat)
1 Syracuse 1 Florida (SEC)
16 Alabama State/Weber State 16 Davidson (SoCon)
8 New Mexico 8 88 Arizona State
9 Colorado 9 George Washington
Spokane (Thu/Sat) San Diego (Fri/Sun)
55 5 Texas 5 5 Virginia (ACC)
12 North Dakota State (Summit) ^1212 St. John's
4 Kentucky 4 Iowa
13 Delaware (CAA) 13 Mercer (A-Sun)
Spokane (Thu/Sat) Raleigh (Fri/Sun)
6 Connecticut 666 VCU
11 Minnesota 11 Providence
3 San Diego State (MW) 3 Duke
14 UTEP (C-USA) 14 Georgia State (Sun Belt)
Milwaukee (Thu/Sat) Buffalo (Thu/Sat)
7 UMass 7 Oklahoma
10 Xavier 10 SMU
2 Michigan State (Big Ten) 2 Villanova
15 Yale (Ivy) 15 N.C. Central (MEAC)
(4) MIDWEST
Indianapolis (Fri/Sun)
(3) WEST
Anaheim (Thu/Sat)
St. Louis (Fri/Sun) San Diego (Fri/Sun)
1 Wichita State (MVC) 1 Arizona (Pac-12)
16 Utah Valley/VMI 16 Stony Brook (AmEast)
8 Kansas State 8 Pittsburgh
9 Stanford 9 Missouri
San Diego (Fri/Sun) San Antonio (Fri/Sun)
5 UCLA 5 Saint Louis (A 10)
12 Green Bay (Horizon) 12 Western Michigan (MAC)
4 Iowa State 4 Michigan
13 Belmont (OVC) 13 Iona (MAAC)
Raleigh (Fri/Sun) Orlando (Thu/Sat)
6 Louisville 6 Ohio State
11 Baylor/Richmond ^11 BYU/St. Joseph's
3 Wisconsin 3 Cincinnati (AAC)
14 Boston U. (Patriot) 14 Stephen F. Austin (Southland)
St. Louis (Fri/Sun) Milwaukee (Thu/Sat)
7 Memphis 7 North Carolina
10 California 10 Gonzaga (WCC)
2 Kansas (Big 12) 2 Creighton (Big East)
15 Robert Morris (NEC) 15 UC Irvine (Big West)
FIRST FOUR (Dayton)
Tuesday: To Buffalo Tuesday: To Orlando
16 Alabama State (SWAC) ^*11 BYU
16 Weber State (Big Sky) ^11 St. Joseph's
Wednesday: To St. Louis Wednesday: To Raleigh
16 Utah Valley (WAC) 11 Baylor
*16 VMI (Big South) 11 Richmond

BIDS BY CONFERENCE AVOIDING DAYTON ARRIVALS DEPARTURES
A 10: 6 Xavier BYU Coastal Carolina
Big 12: 6 Minnesota VMI Georgetown
Big Ten: 6 Providence

Pac-12: 6 St. John's

AAC: 5 LAST FOUR IN

ACC: 5
Richmond

Big East: 5 Baylor

SEC: 3 St. Joseph's

MW: 2 BYU

WCC: 2 FIRST FOUR OUT

1-Bid Conferences: 22 Oklahoma State


Tennessee


Dayton


Nebraska


NEXT FOUR OUT


Georgetown


N.C. State


West Virginia


Oregon

Also considered: Southern Mississippi, LSU, Mississippi, Florida State, Marquette, UNLV, Harvard, Clemson, St. Mary's, Arkansas, Louisiana Tech

Breaking Down The Bid Picture

Now that the NCAA Tournament is less than a month away, it's time to start figuring out how many places are actually up for grabs. Yes, this will require arithmetic. I never said that there would be no math in bracketology. So, let's get started.

Remember that 32 places in this season's 68-team field are reserved for conference auto bid winners. However, nine of these conferences will more than likely place multiple teams in the field, and typically these leagues' automatic qualifiers would have earned at-large berths anyway. So, let's say that 23 places are off the table, as they'll go to the champions of single-bid conferences.

That leaves 36 at-larges and nine power conference auto bids to fill, for 45 available spots.

Conference leaders are designated by an asterisk (*), while teams shifted for bracketing purposes are marked with a caret (^).

Protected Seeds
1 seeds 1. Syracuse
2. Florida*
3. Arizona*
4. Wichita State*
2 seeds 8. Michigan State*
7. Villanova
6. Creighton*
5. Kansas*
3 seeds 9. San Diego State* 10. Duke
11. Cincinnati* 12. Wisconsin
4 seeds 16. Iowa 15. Kentucky 14. Iowa State 13. Michigan

Those 45 spots are now down to 30 after factoring in the top 16 teams in this week's field. Why 30 instead of 29? Well, Wichita State leads the Missouri Valley, which will only get a second entrant if someone other than the Shockers wins the auto bid, which would be a nightmare scenario for teams further down the bracket.

These 16 teams are called "protected seeds" because they cannot be placed in a situation where they would face a "home-crowd disadvantage" in the Round of 64. Note that this rule does not apply for the Round of 32, however.

Other Locks
5 seeds 17. Texas 18. Virginia* 19. Saint Louis*
20. UCLA
6 seeds 24. Connecticut
23. VCU
22. Louisville 21. Ohio State
7 seeds 25. North Carolina


The number of available places drops from 30 to 21 after factoring in these nine teams, just about all of whom still have a shot at cracking the "protected seed" group.

In Good Shape
7 seeds
26. Oklahoma 27. UMass 28. Memphis
8 seeds 32. Pittsburgh
31. New Mexico 30. Arizona State 29. Kansas State
9 seeds 33. Geo. Washington 
34. Colorado
35. Stanford

While these 10 look to be in decent shape to make the field, issues with their selection sheets or remaining hurdles make them not quite ready for "lock" status. Still, their presence drops the number of remaining spots from 21 to 11.

Bubble In
9 seeds


36. Missouri
10 seeds
39. Gonzaga*
38. SMU
37. California

As the cut line approaches, things start to become a bit more fluid. Gonzaga, which doesn't count against our total of available slots because of the West Coast Conference's questionable multi-bid status, fell down here after Thursday night's loss in Provo. With just a single Top 50 win (at home against BYU), the Bulldogs simply don't have the quality wins that guaranteed them a spot in prior seasons.

Missouri falls here because the Tigers lack quality wins and have, frankly, run out of chances to earn them. Cal and SMU, meanwhile, fall here because their decent wins are paired with some truly questionable losses.

The number of available spots is down to eight, which will be filled by four teams destined for Dayton and four who will just avoid the extra game.

Last Four Byes (Avoiding Dayton)
10 seeds 40. Xavier


11 seeds 41. Minnesota 42. Providence 43. St. John's^

Last Four In (First Four)
11 seeds


44. Richmond^
12 seeds
47. BYU
46. St. Joseph's 45. Baylor^

There is honestly very little to separate the bottom eight teams in this projected field at this point. Each team has rather serious flaws on its selection sheet. Baylor, BYU, and to an extent, Xavier, did decent work during November and December, but have been inconsistent since then. The reverse has been the case for Richmond, St. John's and St. Joseph's, while Minnesota and Providence have been all over the place all season.

First Four Out/Next Four Out
First 4 Out 69. Oklahoma State 70. Tennessee
71. Dayton
72. Nebraska
Next 4 Out 73. Oregon
74. Georgetown
75. N.C. State
76. West Virginia

With a little more than three weeks left, all is not lost for these squads, though at this point it feels like Dayton, Georgetown, N.C. State, Oklahoma State, Oregon and West Virginia have more quality win chances left than Nebraska and Tennessee. Of course, quality win chances can quickly become opportunities to fall flat on your face in this sport.

In The Hunt
77. Toledo 78. Southern Miss. 79. LSU 80. Mississippi
84. St. Mary's 83. UNLV 82. Marquette 81. Florida State
85. Harvard 86. Clemson 87. Arkansas 88. Louisiana Tech

These teams, particularly the five mid-majors, have an awful lot of work to do to get back in the hunt at this point. In some cases, (cough) Toledo, Southern Miss. and Harvard (cough), poor decisions in non-conference scheduling might result in an NIT trip.

Potential At-Large
12 seeds
48. North Dakota St.* 49. Green Bay*

A pair of mid-major conference leaders actually have a slim shot at earning an at-large spot, most likely in the First Four, should they not win their respective league's auto bid. North Dakota State's RPI ranking has hovered around 50 for most of the season, which would earn them a place on the Selection Committee's consideration board. However, the Bison's best win came against Delaware back in December. Three losses against teams outside of the RPI Top 150 don't help NDSU's case either.

Green Bay, on the other hand, has a Top 50 win -- against Virginia at home -- to go along with a borderline RPI  rank of 62, and a pair of losses to teams outside the Top 150.

My advice to both the Bison and Phoenix: don't put your fate in the Committee's hands. Cut down the nets during Championship Week.

Auto Bid Only
12 seeds


50. W. Michigan*
13 seeds 54. Iona* 53. Mercer* 52. Delaware*
51. Belmont*
14 seeds 55. UTEP* 56. Boston U.* 57. Stephen F. Austin* 58. Georgia State*
15 seeds 62. Robert Morris* 61. N.C. Central* 60. UC irvine*
59. Yale*
16 seeds
(Direct)
63. Davidson* 64. Stony Brook*


16 seeds
(First Four)
65. Utah Valley* 66. Weber State* 67. VMI*
68. Alabama State*

The final group of teams is the one that will see the most changes during Championship Week. Don't expect to see all 19 of these teams in the field on Selection Sunday. Conference tournaments (and a close Ivy race) will simply offer up too many surprises, particularly in a season as wild as this one.

My next bracketology will be a full update on Tuesday. In the meantime, head over to Blogging the Bracket for my daily TV previews and morning recaps, and follow me during the weekend's action on Twitter @ChrisDobbertean.

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