GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 10: Malcolm Delaney #23 of the Virginia Tech Hokies calls a play against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the first half of the game in the first round of the 2011 ACC men's basketball tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum on March 10, 2011 in Greensboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Bracketology 2011: As Bubble Teams Win And Lose, NCAA Tournament Clarity Approaches

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Bracketology 2011: Penn State Somehow Wins, While USC And New Mexico Fall

Penn State, who was in the Next Four Out group of Friday morning's bracket projection, moves into the First Four Out group after upsetting Wisconsin in their Big Ten quarterfinal by the unbelievably low score of 35-33. Thanks to a lack of quality non-conference wins and struggles away from State College, the Nittany Lions really need to beat Michigan State tomorrow to have a realistic chance of getting in the field, and even then they'll likely need help.

In the Pac-10, USC, playing without suspended head coach Kevin O'Neill, fell to top seed Arizona, a defeat that all but seals the Trojans' NCAA fate. While USC has five top 50 wins, they also have six bad losses on their profile--two against Oregon and one at Oregon State with Jio Fontan in the lineup, and defeats to Rider, TCU, and Bradley without him. Those are likely enough to send USC to the NIT.

New Mexico would have had a serious case for consideration had they beaten BYU for a third time this season, but Jimmer Fredette had no interest in that. He scored 52 in the Cougars' 87-76 Mountain West semifinal win. That victory puts BYU back in the thick of the conversation for a two seed.

Richmond moved on to the Atlantic 10 semifinals after topping Rhode Island, 55-45. The Spiders have been living on the edge of the bracket for the past few weeks, so they'd love to keep winning and earn the conference's auto bid. A game against a Temple team that has a shot at a top five seed is next for Chris Mooney's team.

Utah State advanced to tomorrow's WAC championship game with an unconvincing 58-54 win over No. 8 seed San Jose State in the first semifinal of the night. With 28 Division I wins, it would be difficult to believe the committee would leave the Aggies out were they to lose Saturday evening, but with only two wins against the RPI Top 100 to their credit, Stew Morrill's team better not take any chances.

But the biggest thrill and controversy came at the end of the late evening window, as Virginia Tech escaped their ACC quarterfinal with Florida State after the officials overturned Derwin Kitchen's game-winning buzzer-beater.

So, as this Friday evening winds to a close, here are my updated Last Eight In and First Eight Out. Keep in mind, things may change for tomorrow morning's bracket, after I sleep on things for the night.

Next Four In (avoiding Dayton): Illinois, Colorado, Virginia Tech, Richmond
Last Four In (First Four-bound): Clemson, St. Mary's, Georgia, Boston College
First Four Out: Alabama, Memphis, Penn State, USC
Next Four Out: VCU, Missouri State, New Mexico, Washington State

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Bracketology 2011: Michigan State Grabs Big Win, Colorado And Tennessee Are Left To Wait

In this morning's projection, Michigan State was an 11 seed in danger of falling down to the First Four in Dayton with a loss to Purdue in their Big Ten quarterfinal this evening. Then, a funny thing happened at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The Spartans channeled State teams of the recent past in pummeling the Boilermakers, a win that should put Tom Izzo's team in the field with room to spare. On the other hand, Matt Painter's squad leaves the conference tournament earlier than expected for the second year running, after a defeat that may just cost them a top two seed and spot in Chicago for the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

In the SEC, Tennessee fell to Florida for the third time this season, 85-74. The Volunteers continue to look like a great candidate for an 8 vs. 9 game next week, while the Gators have a serious case for a No. 2 seed if they win out in Atlanta, particularly with Purdue's recent struggles.

The other bubble team in action in the early Friday night window, Colorado, put up a brave fight, but fell short against Kansas. The Jayhawks prevailed, 90-83, to continue their push toward a No. 1 seed. Meanwhile, the Buffaloes have likely done enough, thanks to their six wins over the RPI Top 50.

Another top seed contender, Duke, was victorious this evening. The Blue Devils handled Maryland, a team destined for the NIT, 87-71. It wasn't all good news for Duke, however, as ACC Player of the Year Nolan Smith left the game with a foot injury. His health is something that bears watching in the days to come.

Elsewhere, Memphis had no problems with East Carolina in their Conference USA semifinal. The Tigers will take on host UTEP in Saturday morning's final, with only the winner likely to get a bid.

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Bracketology 2011: Clemson Grabs Edge On Boston College, Michigan Looks Safe

Back on November 30th, Michigan won at Clemson in a Big Ten/ACC Challenge game that didn't seem terribly noteworthy at the time. It certainly didn't appear to be a game pitting two NCAA Tournament teams against each other, but after both teams won in their respective conference tournament quarterfinals, it may very well be. Both clubs appeared in our Friday Bracketology projection, and they'll remain in Saturday's with the wins.

The Wolverines used some late three-point shooting to get past Illinois, 60-55. For the record, the Illini, who have been inconsistent down the stretch should hear their name called on Sunday night. The victory was Michigan's fourth over a team rated in the RPI Top 50 (Illinois has just three, for comparison's sake), and they'll get the chance at a fifth tomorrow against archrival Ohio State.

In the ACC, fourth-seeded Clemson defeated No. 5 Boston College for the second time in two tries this season, giving the Tigers an edge over the Eagles in terms of a bid, especially given the 23-point margin of this afternoon's win. Here's how the two teams' profiles compare, thanks to data from BBState.com.

Clemson
Record: 21-10, 10-7 ACC
RPI: 60
SOS: 73
Record vs. RPI Top 50: 3-5
Record vs. RPI Top 100: 9-6
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: None
Quality Wins: Boston College (twice), Florida State, Virginia Tech
Problematic Losses: at Maryland, at N.C. State, at Virginia, at South Carolina

Boston College
Record: 20-12, 9-8 ACC
RPI: 44
SOS: 27
Record vs. RPI Top 50: 1-6
Record vs. RPI Top 100: 5-11
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: Yale
Quality Wins: Texas A&M (neutral), Virginia Tech (twice)
Problematic Losses: Harvard, at Florida State, Clemson (twice), Miami (twice)

Both teams appear to be in trouble because of their losses, but Clemson gets a slight edge because of their performance against the top 100. The Eagles got nearly as many opportunities as the Tigers, but didn't take advantage of them.

Much like Georgia and Alabama, these two ACC teams will continue to create plenty of discussion between now and Sunday evening.

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Bracketology 2011: Georgia Falls To Alabama, Now Must Wait For Selection Sunday

Georgia, one of the "next four teams" in our Friday Bracketology projection (meaning they didn't need to worry about traveling to the Opening Round in Dayton), is in serious trouble of not making the NCAA Tournament now. The Bulldogs had a 14-point lead on Alabama with seven minutes to go in their SEC Tournament quarterfinal in Atlanta, but fell to the Crimson Tide in overtime, 65-59.

It didn't have to be that way for Georgia, however, as Dustin Ware hit a runner from well beyond the three-point arc with 0.8 seconds left. That shot would have given the Bulldogs a likely ticket-punching victory, except for one thing: Georgia coach Mark Fox had called timeout. His team couldn't score in the fraction of a second remaining. So, the two teams played an extra 5 minutes, which Alabama dominated.

With that result, Georgia is out and Alabama is in, right?

Not so fast. Georgia still has a profile that's worthy of some consideration, while Alabama's is still lacking. The difference is that the Crimson Tide still have a chance to play their way in, as they will play the Kentucky-Mississippi winner in tomorrow's SEC semifinals.

For now, here's a comparison of the two teams' cases with data from BBState.com.

Georgia
Record: 21-11, 9-8 SEC
RPI: 39
SOS: 35
Record vs. RPI Top 50: 3-9
Record vs. RPI Top 100: 5-11
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: None
Quality Wins: Kentucky, UAB, Tennessee, Colorado
Problematic Losses: Alabama (twice)

Alabama
Record: 21-10, 12-5 SEC
RPI: 82
SOS: 126
Record vs. RPI Top 50: 4-3
Record vs. RPI Top 100: 5-7
Bad (RPI 150+) Losses: at Providence, Iowa (neutral)
Quality Wins: Kentucky, at Tennessee, Georgia (twice)
Problematic Losses: St. Peter's (neutral), Seton Hall (neutral)

If they don't make it to Sunday's final, the numbers show that the Crimson Tide should be worried about their position when the Selection Show rolls around.

As for Georgia, our Bulldog blog, Dawg Sports is fatalistic about the team's chances.

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Bracketology 2011: Ohio State, UNC Survive Early Scares; Keep An Eye On Dayton And A-10

Ohio State was the top overall seed in our Friday morning 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket projection, and they will remain so through tomorrow, even though Northwestern took them to overtime in the first Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal in Indianapolis.

The Buckeyes weren't the only conference regular season champ to struggle with a noon Eastern tip, as North Carolina needed to rally from 16 down to eliminate nine-seed Miami in the first ACC Tournament game of the day. A Tyler Zeller buzzer-beating layup kept the Heels' chances at a No. 1, or more likely No. 2, seed in next week's NCAA Tournament alive.

Fans of teams on the bubble will definitely want to keep tabs on the Atlantic 10 Tournament in Atlantic City, which saw another league No. 1, Xavier, start slow. Ninth-seeded Dayton opened up a 21-3 lead on the Musketeers, then held on for a 68-67 victory after Terrell Holloway's three at the buzzer refused to go down. The Flyers, a team with more than enough talent to make a late run at the A-10's automatic bid, faces the winner between Duquesne or St. Joseph's in Saturday's semifinals.

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Bracketology 2011: As Bubble Teams Win And Lose, Clarity Finally Approaches

With so many exciting conference tournament games on Thursday, Friday's Bracketology is significantly different than yesterday's edition in terms of NCAA Tournament seeding. Before getting into the nuts and bolts of the bracket, here's a quick summary of the day's big movers.

Boston College, Colorado, Georgia, Memphis, Michigan State, New Mexico, USC, Virginia Tech, and Washington moved closer to booking their place in th March Madness field, while UAB, Colorado State, Washington State, and idle VCU and Missouri State had better start preparing for the NIT. No one new has moved into the bracket yet, but expect to see a fresh team or two on Saturday morning.

In the Big East, Connecticut, Louisville, and Syracuse picked up key wins to improve their seeding, but St. John's slipped, thanks to their loss to the Orange and the news that D.J. Kennedy's is out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

Top seed candidate Kansas looked shaky in their Big 12 opener, meaning the top line isn't as set in stone as you think, particularly as Pittsburgh's chances took a real hit with their loss to the Huskies. Notre Dame, on the other hand, made a statement in blowing out Cincinnati.

Now, on to how today's bracket looks.

National Semifinal Matchups

(1) East vs. (4) West
(2) Southwest 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: Boston College vs. Richmond to Tampa on March 17th
March 16: Clemson vs. St. Mary's to Cleveland on March 18th

Next Four In (automatically in the Round of 64): Washington, Colorado, Georgia, Virginia Tech

Richmond is actually ahead of Virginia Tech in my seeding curve, but as there would be three ACC teams in the First Four if the Hokies remained. So, I switched them with the Spiders.

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

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


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

Of the First Eight Out, Alabama and USC are in best position to move into Saturday's projection, thanks to their own involvement in key games combined with key contests in the ACC and Big Ten.

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

 

While Duke and North Carolina will enter Friday's ACC quarterfinals looking to move closer to a conference title and potential top seed in the NCAA Tournament, the four teams playing in the middle games in Greensboro are looking just to get in at this point. Game two sees four seed Clemson take on Boston College, winners over Wake Forest Thursday, with the loser likely headed to the NIT (ACC Network/The ACC.com or ESPN2, 2:30 p.m. ET). The second game of the evening session sees Virginia Tech face a Florida State team that's in far better position (ACC Network/The ACC.com or ESPN2, 9:30 p.m. ET).

The four winners of campus site first-round games advanced to Atlantic City for today's Atlantic 10 quarterfinals. The key game here from a bid perspective is three seed Richmond's game against No. 6 Rhode Island (CSN Washington Plus/Comcast Network Philly/CSS, 9 p.m. ET), the only home team (and higher seed) to win on Tuesday night. The Spiders have stayed relatively steady on the S-curve because other bubble teams have been more inconsistent than them, but they'll be in deep trouble if they fall to the Rams.

As the teams that needed wins at the Big East Tournament to get off the bubble (except for Villanova), the four teams playing in the semifinals are looking to improve their seeding. No. 9 seed Connecticut will look to win their fourth game in four days as they take on four seed Syracuse (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET). In the nightcap, Notre Dame will continue their push toward a No. 1 seed against Louisville (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET).

The Big 12 Tournament has also reached the semifinal stage, Kansas will look to make a statement against Colorado (Big 12 Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 7 p.m. ET). The Buffaloes defeated Kansas State for the third time this season in the second quarterfinal in Kansas City yesterday, a victory that likely moved them closer to a bid. Game two between Texas and Texas A&M will just have an impact on seeding, as both teams are safely in the field (Big 12 Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 7 p.m. ET).

Northwestern's only hope at earning a first-ever NCAA bid is to win the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. After beating Minnesota in yesterday's opening round, the Wildcats will continue their quest against top seed Ohio State (ESPN, 12 p.m. ET). Michigan and Illinois both look safe, but the winner of the quarterfinal between those two will be in better position on the seeding curve (ESPN, 2:30 p.m. ET). The night session sees two bubble teams in need of one more win facing tough challenges as Michigan State faces No. 2 seed Purdue (Big Ten Network, 6:30 p.m. ET), which will be followed by Penn State's attempt to win their season series with Wisconsin (Big Ten Network, 9 p.m. ET).

After Thursday's action in El Paso, Conference USA's hopes of receiving more than a single bid are in flames, thanks to the failure of a team that has a fire-breathing dragon for it's mascot. No. 8 seed East Carolina stunned regular season champ UAB in overtime, meaning the Pirates will take on Memphis, who they defeated in Greenville nine days ago, in today's second semifinal (CBS College Sports, 6;30 p.m. ET). The other spot in the final will be filled either by host and three seed UTEP or No. 2 Tulsa (CBS College Sports, 4 p.m. ET).

BYU will hope their Mountain West semifinal goes a little more smoothly than their six-point quarterfinal win over TCU on Thursday afternoon. That isn't likely as the Cougars take on a New Mexico team (CBS College Sports, 9 p.m. ET) that handed BYU their only two losses of the conference season. The Lobos' win over Colorado State moved them ahead of the Rams in terms of the bubble, though Steve Alford's team needs to a win today to have a serious chance. The second semifinal will see another major roadblock in front of BYU-San Diego State Part III, as the Aztecs take on three seed and host UNLV (CBS College Sports, 11:30 p.m. ET).

A little further West, the Pac-10 Tournament's first semifinal will feature a USC team that's moving ever closer to a bid against regular season champ Arizona (FSN/Comcast SportsNet, 9 p.m. ET). Keep in mind that the Trojans handled the Wildcats fairly easily at the Galen Center on February 24th. The second semifinal will feature Washington, who popped Washington State's bubble last night, and Oregon, upset winners over UCLA earlier in the evening (FSN/Comcast SportsNet, 11:30 p.m. ET).

As Georgia had no trouble with Auburn in their First Round game Thursday, the Bulldogs get the opportunity to avenge Saturday's defeat in Tuscaloosa and likely knock SEC West champion Alabama out (SEC Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 1 p.m. ET). In the first game of the night session, Tennessee will look beat Florida for the first time this season and damage the Gators' chances at a two or three seed in the process (SEC Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 7 p.m. ET), while Friday's final game sees with Vanderbilt take on Mississippi State, a team whose only hope for a bid is to better their memorable run to last year's final (SEC Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 9:30 p.m. ET).

Finally, Utah State enters the WAC tournament after receiving a bye to the semifinal. The Aggies, a likely at-large candidate if they don't win the title in Vegas, face No. 8 seed San Jose State (9 p.m. ET, no TV). The Spartans stunned fourth-seeded Idaho to earn their second upset win in as many days.

My next full update will come Saturday morning, but I'll be updating the Last Four In and First Four Out in this StoryStream as events warrant today.

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