Bracketology 2011: NCAA Tournament Field Shifts Following Mid-Major Championships

With four conference championship games on the Monday slate, and the major conference tournaments at least a day away from tipping off, our Tuesday Bracketology features only a few changes to the 2011 NCAA Tournament field from Monday's version. Lines seven through 12 are the most affected, thanks to Old Dominion's Colonial Athletic Association final victory over VCU and Gonzaga's West Coast title win over St. Mary's. The Gaels remain a part of March Madness, but they've slipped to just above the First Four and could still be passed as we speed toward Sunday.

 

Here's a look at how today's projection shakes out.

National Semifinal Matchups

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

First Four

Automatic Bid Teams
March 15: Bethune-Cookman (MEAC) vs. North Texas (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: Marquette vs. Virginia Tech to Denver on March 17th
March 16: Clemson vs. Michigan State to Cleveland on March 18th

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

Previous seeds are in parentheses.

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)
9. Tennessee
8. Villanova
9. Utah State (WAC)
Denver (Thu/Sat)
Tucson (Thu/Sat)
5. Arizona
12. Marquette/Virginia Tech
5. Xavier (Atlantic 10)
12. UAB (Conference USA)
4. Louisville
13. Milwaukee (Horizon)
4. St. John's
13. INDIANA STATE (Missouri Valley)
Charlotte (Fri/Sun) Washington (Thu/Sat)
6. Georgetown
11. St. Mary's
6. Vanderbilt
11. Butler
3. North Carolina (ACC)
14. Bucknell (Patriot)
3. Syracuse
14. WOFFORD (Southern) (NEW)
Chicago (Fri/Sun) Charlotte (Fri/Sun)
7. UNLV
10. Georgia (11)
7. Texas A&M (6)
10. Illinois (9)
2. Purdue
15. MOREHEAD STATE (Ohio Valley)
2. Duke (1)
15. ST. PETER'S (Metro Atlantic) (NEW)
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/North Texas
8. UCLA
9. GONZAGA (West Coast) (10)
8. Florida State (7)
9. Missouri (8)
Cleveland (Fri/Sun)
Tampa (Thu/Sat)
5. West Virginia
12. Clemson/Michigan State
5. Connecticut
12. BELMONT (Atlantic Sun)
4. Kentucky
13. Oakland (Summit)
4. Wisconsin
13. Harvard (Ivy) (NEW)
Tulsa (Fri/Sun)
Denver (Thu/Sat)
6. Cincinnati
11. Richmond
6. Kansas State
11. Boston College
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) (9) 
10. Michigan
7. Temple
10. Washington
2. San Diego State
15. Northern Colorado (Big Sky)
2. Florida (SEC)
15. Long Island (Northeast)


Conference Breakdown

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

The First Eight Out group remains the same after Monday's action, as VCU remains even with a loss to Old Dominion. Who knows, if things get really crazy over the next six days, perhaps there is some room for the Rams to move up.

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

 

Here's a more detailed look at the profiles of the Last Four In and First Four Out.

Last Four In

Marquette Golden Eagles (18-13, 9-9 Big East, RPI: 68, SOS: 31)
After closing the regular season by dropping a home game to Cincinnati and being embarrassed at Seton Hall, the Golden Eagles suddenly need to win a game or two at the Big East Tournament to become the Big East's 11th NCAA entrant.   Buzz Williams' team has played a whopping 15 games against the RPI top 50; however, they've won just four with only a victory at Connecticut coming away from Milwaukee. Marquette's 4-9 road/neutral record is a cause for concern, but the absence of truly bad losses on their profile keeps them ahead of several other bubble teams.

The Golden Eagles start their Big East Tourney run with a game against Providence, a team they defeated by 24 at home on February 27th, Tuesday. Win that and West Virginia would be the opponent in Wednesday's Second Round. A win over the Mountaineers on a neutral court would all but lock Marquette up.

Michigan St. Spartans (16-13, 9-9 Big Ten, RPI: 48, SOS: 9)
The Spartans remain in the bracket, barely, after completing a .500 Big Ten campaign with a loss at Michigan Saturday, a win which puts the Wolverines in better bid position than their in-state rivals. Michigan State's position is courtesy of an uninspiring overall profile, as their best non-league wins came against Washington, Oakland, and South Carolina, and they won only two games against top 50 Big Ten opponents, both at the Breslin Center.

Tom Izzo's squad also lost by 20 at Iowa on February 20th, and guess who the Spartans happen to play in their first-ever Thursday Opening Round game at the Big Ten Tournament. If they win that, a quarterfinal against Purdue, a team that handled Michigan State twice during league play, would follow on Friday.

Virginia Tech Hokies (19-10, 9-7 ACC, RPI: 64, SOS: 87)
You could argue the Hokies are eight to ten points away from being a near lock, thanks to a two-point setback at fellow ACC bubble team Boston College, a three-point home loss to Purdue in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, a three-point come-from-ahead loss at North Carolina, and a consternating three-point defeat at Virginia to start the ACC season. The fact the Cavaliers swept the season series with the Hokies on Saturday is a major negative, so is the two-game losing streak that followed their stunning win over Duke. Making matters worse, both of those defeats came to teams who join Seth Greenberg's team on the bubble.

The Hokies open the ACC with a game against Georgia Tech, who handed them a bad loss on January 25th in Atlanta. If they avenge that setback, a chance at a second win over Florida State would await in Friday's quarterfinals.

Clemson Tigers (20-10, 9-7 ACC, RPI: 57, SOS: 74)
The Tigers' lack of quality wins could push them into the NIT (which honestly wouldn't be the worst fate, considering where this team was at the first of the year), but they still have a decent shot at the NCAA field. Clemson has just two top 50 victories on the year, which came over Boston College and Florida State, both at home, along with a third quality home win over Virginia Tech. Otherwise, the Tigers' wins are rather middling. Brad Brownell's team's best road win came at Miami, though Clemson also won at the College of Charleston and topped Seton Hall at the Paradise Jam. As for the losses, the worst came at Virginia (thanks to a woeful offensive performance), but defeats at the hands of South Carolina and Michigan aren't helpful either, even if the Wolverines are in better shape for a bid than the Tigers.

First Four Out

Colorado Buffaloes (18-12, 8-8 Big 12, RPI: 76, SOS: 73)
Colorado owns four wins over teams in the RPI Top 50 and four over teams that are in good shape for a bid. However, Tad Boyle's team has several bad losses on their profile, with a March 2nd defeat at Iowa State joining earlier ones to Oklahoma and San Francisco. Plus, only one of the Buffs' key wins (Kansas State) came on the road, symptomatic of their 4-10 record away from Boulder.

The Buffaloes open Big 12 Tournament play in Wednesday's First Round, where they'll face the same Cyclone team who defeated them just a week earlier. If Colorado can avenge that loss, they would earn the opportunity to defeat Kansas State for the third time this season.

Alabama Crimson Tide (20-10. 12-4 SEC, RPI: 79, SOS: 125)
The Crimson Tide have a win against Kentucky, another at Tennessee, and little else, particularly outside of the SEC. Alabama's non-conference results, which include seven wins against the bottom half of Division I and losses to Seton Hall, Iowa, and MAAC auto bid winner St. Peter's in the Virgin Islands and a defeat at Providence, are the main factor keeping them out. On the surface, 12 SEC wins should be more than enough, but you must consider that the Tide's record is inflated slightly because they racked up an 8-2 mark against the weaker West. Last Tuesday's emphatic loss at Florida leaves them lacking in the perception department as well.

As West champion, Anthony Grant's squad earned a bye to Friday's SEC quarterfinals, where they'll hope to meet Georgia, a team they beat in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. East No. 2 Kentucky would be the Tide's likely semifinal opponent, if both teams advance to Friday. In other words, Alabama still has chances to grab quality wins late.

USC Trojans (18-13, 10-8, RPI: 69, SOS: 42)
The Trojans have won six of their last eight to storm into the bid conversation, but Kevin O'Neill's team boasts a profile that will make the heads of the Selection Committee members spin. After winning at Washington Saturday, USC now has five  impressive wins, with two coming on the road (Tennessee is the other). However, the Trojans also have some really head-scratching losses, even if the ones against TCU, Rider, and Bradley took place very early in the season before Jio Fontan became eligible.

Look out for the Trojans at the Pac-10 Tournament, which will be played at the Staples Center, not too far from campus. (Remember their run to a bid in 2009?) They'll open the event with a game against California in Thursday's quarterfinals, and a win there would likely result in a semifinal against top seed Arizona, a team the Men of Troy handled at the Galen Center on February 24th.

Memphis Tigers (22-9, 10-6, RPI: 38, SOS: 55)
Why exactly is the fourth seed in this week's Conference USA Tournament this close to sniffing the field? Simply because there's a little more quality on their profile than you're likely expecting. The Tigers swept No. 1 seed UAB by winning two thrillers. Plus, they own decent non-conference wins over Gonzaga (in Spokane on February 5th) and Miami (way back on November 15th). That being said, Memphis is on the outside looking in because of three bad conference road losses: East Carolina, Rice, and SMU. 

With the regular season champions from Birmingham, and five seed Southern Miss (another team the Tigers swept) in their half of the bracket, Josh Pastner's team has to feel fairly confident that they can make the C-USA final. Their road begins in the quarterfinals on Thursday, when they face the winner of Wednesday's contest between the Golden Eagles and Tulane. The bad news for the Memphis' hopes is that the tournament is hosted by three seed UTEP, who happened to batter the Blue and White on February 26th.

Tonight, just three bids are up for grabs with Butler the only team of the six in action who has a legitimate case for an at-large.

Sun Belt Final: West No. 5 Arkansas-Little Rock vs. West No. 4 North Texas, ESPN2 (7 p.m. ET)
Horizon League Final: No. 2 Butler at No. 1 Milwaukee, ESPN (9 p.m. ET)
Summit League Final: No. 2 Oral Roberts vs. No. 1 Oakland, ESPN2 (9 p.m. ET)

Head over at Blogging the Bracket for broadcast info and schedules for the other conference tourmament games set for today, including the Big East and Atlantic 10 opening rounds.

Tomorrow, I'll have another update reflecting Tuesday's championship games and first round matchups from New York.

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