Bracketology 2011: March Madness Is About To Get, Well, Mad

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 09: Jae Crowder #32 of the Marquette Golden Eagles celebrates after defeating the West Virginia Mountaineers during the second round of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters at Madison Square Garden on March 9, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

With only two automatic bids handed out on Wednesday night, and surprisingly few games of impact in early conference tournament action in the Big East, Big 12, and Pac-10, Thursday's Bracketology looks quite similar to Wednesday's version. The biggest piece of NCAA Tournament bid news, other than Long Island and Northern Colorado's qualification, was Marquette's victory over West Virginia in the final Big East Second Round game of the day, a victory that all but assures a record-smashing 11 bids for the conference.

But don't expect things to remain static for much longer, thanks to the sheer number of games with bid and seeding impact that are on the horizon.

First, a look at how things stand before the fury arrives, and remote controls from coast-to-coast are sure to malfunction.

National Semifinal Matchups

(1) Southwest vs. (4) West
(2) East vs. (3) Southeast

First Four

Automatic Bid Teams
March 15: Bethune-Cookman (MEAC) vs. ARKANSAS-LITTLE ROCK (Sun Belt) (NEW) to Washington on March 17th
March 16: McNeese State (Southland) vs. Texas Southern (SWAC) to Cleveland on March 18th

At-Large Teams (Last Four In)
March 15: Michigan State vs. Virginia Tech to Denver on March 17th
March 16: Clemson vs. Colorado to Cleveland on March 18th

Next Four In (automatically in the Round of 64): Georgia, Richmond, St. Mary's, Boston College

Previous seeds are in parentheses. Teams that have earned an auto bid are in ALL CAPS.

SOUTHWEST
San Antonio (March 25 and 27)
EAST
Newark (March 25 and 27)
Tulsa (Fri/Sun)
Cleveland (Fri/Sun)
1. Kansas (Big 12)
16. UNC ASHEVILLE (Big South)
1.  Ohio State (Big Ten)
16. McNeese State/Texas Southern
8. George Mason
9. Tennessee
8. Missouri
9. Marquette (11) 
Denver (Thu/Sat)
Tucson (Thu/Sat)
5. Arizona
12. Michigan State/Virginia Tech
5. Xavier (Atlantic 10)
12. Boston College
4. Louisville
13. BELMONT (Atlantic Sun) (12)
4. St. John's
13. INDIANA STATE (Missouri Valley)
Charlotte (Fri/Sun) Washington (Thu/Sat)
6. Kansas State
11. Richmond 
6. Vanderbilt
11. Washington
3. North Carolina (ACC)
14. Bucknell (Patriot)
3. Syracuse
14. WOFFORD (Southern)
Chicago (Fri/Sun) Charlotte (Fri/Sun)
7. Georgetown (6) 
10. BUTLER (Horizon) (11)
7. UNLV
10. Illinois
2. Purdue
15. MOREHEAD STATE (Ohio Valley)
2. Duke
15. ST. PETER'S (Metro Atlantic)
WEST
(Anaheim: March 24 and 26)
SOUTHEAST
(New Orleans: March 24 and 26)
Chicago (Fri/Sun)
Washington (Thu/Sat)
1. Notre Dame
16. Boston University (America East)
1. Pittsburgh (Big East)
16. Bethune-Cookman/UALR
8. UCLA
9. GONZAGA (West Coast)
8. Florida State
9. Utah State (WAC)
Cleveland (Fri/Sun)
Tampa (Thu/Sat)
5. West Virginia
12. Clemson/Colorado
5. Connecticut
12. UAB (Conference USA)
4. Kentucky
13. OAKLAND (Summit)
4. Wisconsin
13. Harvard (Ivy)
Tulsa (Fri/Sun)
Denver (Thu/Sat)
6. Cincinnati
11. Georgia
6. Temple (7)
11. St. Mary's
3. Texas
14. Long Beach State (Big West) (15)
3. BYU (Mountain West)
14. Kent State (MAC)
Tucson (Thu/Sat)
Tampa (Thu/Sat)
7. OLD DOMINION (Colonial)
10. Michigan
7. Texas A&M
10. Villanova (9) 
2. San Diego State
15. NORTHERN COLORADO (Big Sky)
2. Florida (SEC)
15. LONG ISLAND (Northeast)


Conference Breakdown

Big East: 11
ACC, Big Ten, Big 12: 6
SEC: 5
A-10, MWC, Pac-10: 3
CAA, WCC: 2
21 one-bid conferences

The First Eight Out were all idle on Wednesday, but with five of these teams in action today, this group may look very different on Friday.

First Four Out
69. Alabama 70. USC  71. Memphis 72. Penn State
Next Four Out
76. Washington State 75. Missouri State 74. Colorado State 73. VCU

 

With the ACC, Big Ten, and SEC Tournaments tipping off this afternoon, all seven major conference events will finally be underway. That means there are plenty of games that will impact the bubble and, for those teams fortunate enough to be safely in the field four days from Selection Sunday, seeding.

You only need to pay attention to two of today's ACC First Round contests, as the five and six seeds, Boston College and Virginia Tech will both look to avoid potentially costly losses and reach tomorrow's quarterfinals. The Eagles meet the same last-place Wake Forest team they handled Sunday (ACC Network/TheACC.com/ESPN3/Full Court, 2:30 p.m. ET), while the Hokies will look to beat Georgia Tech, who they split with during the regular season (ACC Network/TheACC.com/ESPN3/Full Court, 9:30 p.m. ET).

Up in New York, all eight teams still alive for the Big East crown are in good shape for a bid. Top seed Pittsburgh, gunning for a spot on the top line of the NCAA bracket, opens Thursday's play against a UConn team that's making a late push for a protected seed (ESPN, 12 p.m. ET). Syracuse and St. John's also happen to be in the thick of that race, and they'll meet in game two (ESPN, 2:30 p.m. ET). It will be interesting to see how the Red Storm responds to the backlash from their controversial (to be kind) win over Rutgers Wednesday afternoon. In the night session, Notre Dame will look to build their own case for a No. 1 seed against Cincinnati (7 p.m. ET), while Louisville, yet another candidate for a top four seed takes on Marquette in the nightcap (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET).

Kansas, another team looking to run through its conference tournament and lock up a top seed, opens Big 12 play against ninth-seeded Oklahoma State, a club whose only chance at a bid is to win the whole thing (ESPN2, 12:30 p.m. ET). The second afternoon game will see Colorado attempt to beat Kansas State for the third time this year, and all but lock up a bid in the process (Big 12 Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 3 p.m. ET). In the evening session, Texas and Texas A&M will both look to not trip up. The Longhorns take on an Oklahoma team (Big 12 Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 7 p.m. ET) that took advantage of Perry Jones III's absence to eliminate Baylor from both the Big 12 tournament and NCAA discussion, while the Aggies face a Missouri team that's looking to get out of the middle of the middle of the bracket (ESPN2, 9:30 p.m. ET).

For a league that for much of the season appeared to be challenging the Big East as the best in the country, it's surprising that only two of the three Big Ten First Round games have bid implications, unless Minnesota or Northwestern, who meet at 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2 win four games in four days, of course. Michigan State will look to win their rubber match with Iowa (ESPN2, 5 p.m. ET), while Penn State will look to stay alive against Indiana (Big Ten Network, 7:30 p.m. ET), right in the Hoosiers' backyard.

The early games in the Conference USA Tournament in El Paso feature that league's two best at-large candidates, though both are relative longshots right now. Top seed UAB takes on an East Carolina team they beat the close out the regular season (CBS College Sports, 1 p.m. ET), while No. 4 Memphis, a team that swept the Blazers during league play, plays Southern Mississippi (CBS College Sports, 3:30 p.m. ET), another team that the Tigers happen to beat twice. Keep an eye out on host UTEP though, as they thrashed Memphis by 27 on February 26th at the Haskins Center. The Miners, the No. 3 seed, open against sixth-seeded Marshall (CBS College Sports, 7:30 p.m. ET).

The key bubble game in the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas features the four and five seeds, Colorado State and New Mexico (The Mtn. and CBS College Sports, 5:30 p.m. ET), with the Rams in far better position for a bid. Regular season co-champs BYU and San Diego State will look to march toward a tourney crown, and shot at a spot on the top two lines of the NCAA bracket. The Cougars take on last-place TCU (The Mtn., 3 p.m. ET), and the Aztecs face Utah (The Mtn., 9 p.m. ET). Meanwhile, host UNLV, a team trying to rise above mid-bracket, close the day's action against Air Force (The Mtn. and CBS College Sports, 11:30 p.m. ET).

Down I-15 and I-10 in Los Angeles, the first and last games of the day will play a significant role in shaping how many bids the Pac-10 receives this season. Four seed USC has to be considered at threat to win the auto bid not far from campus, but they also could get in as an at-large if they win a game or two, thanks to five wins against the RPI Top 50. However, their NCAA hopes will be toast if they fall to California in today's opener (FSN/Comcast SportsNet, 3 p.m. ET). Likewise, Washington and Washington State will meet in the nightcap (FSN/Comcast SportsNet, 11:30 p.m. ET) with both teams in need of a win. The Cougars will get Klay Thompson back from a one-game suspension, while the Huskies will be shorthanded, thanks to Venoy Overton's own legal troubles and the potential absence of forward Justin Holiday, thanks to a concussion

The SEC Tournament gets underway in Atlanta with Georgia and Tennessee looking to move closer to bid security. The Bulldogs open the day's proceedings with a game against Auburn (SEC Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 1 p.m. ET) knowing that a potential elimination game with West champ Alabama awaits on Friday. In the first game of the night session, Tennessee wiil look to avenge an early conference season loss to Arkansas (SEC Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 7 p.m. ET), while Thursday's action closes with Vanderbilt attempting to stay alive for a decent seed. The Commodores take on West six seed LSU (SEC Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 9:30 p.m. ET).

Indeed, Thursday will be pretty hectic. Expect to see significant shuffling in my Friday morning projection.

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