After a quintet of bubble games early on this Selection Eve, the late afternoon hours saw three contests involving teams near the cut line in my Saturday projection.
Richmond, one of my Last Four In, has their fate in their own hands now, as they topped Temple, 58-54, in the second Atlantic 10 semifinal in Atlantic City. The Spiders will take on Cinderella nine seed Dayton, a talented team that struggled through the regular season, for the conference's automatic bid tomorrow. Win or lose, the Spiders should be in the field.
The Big Ten may be sending seven teams to the Tournament after all, as Penn State reached the Big Ten final by rolling past Michigan State, 61-48, in the second Big Ten semifinal. The Nittany Lions, who can take the committee out of the equation by upsetting Ohio State in tomorrow's final, replace Boston College in the Last Four In group. However, the Eagles' absence is subject to change upon further review and reflection.
While Penn State has an oft-ridiculed loss to Maine on its profile, it now have five wins against the RPI Top 50 as well. Thanks to today's victory over the Spartans and last night's over Wisconsin, the Lions can also claim two quality victories away from State College, which was a major gap in their case for selection up until this week.
Like their conference rivals from New England, Virginia Tech now has a nervous wait, thanks to a 77-63 loss to Duke in the second ACC semifinal. The Blue Devils, on the other hand, face North Carolina in tomorrow afternoon's final with a potential top seed on the line.
Keep an eye on Harvard Crimson, however, after their 63-62 loss to Princeton Tigers in the Ivy League playoff, thanks to a Doug Davis 14-footer at the buzzer. With wins over Boston College (at Chestnut Hill) and Colorado Buffaloes (in Cambridge), the Crimson deserve a shot at an at-large. We'll all have to see what the committee does with Tommy Amaker's team.
As this evening is filled with conference championship games with minimal bubble impact, this will be the last update of the day. My attention will now turn to this evening's games, another look at the teams near the cut line, and seeding for tomorrow. So, here's a look the Last Eight In and Last Four Out look heading into Sunday. I'll have an updated Last Four In and First Four Out and why they are where they are in my next projection on Selection Sunday morning.
Next Four In (avoiding Dayton): Michigan State, Illinois, St. Mary's, Virginia Tech
Last Four In (First Four): Colorado, Penn State, Clemson, Georgia
First Four Out: Boston College, USC, Alabama, Harvard