Bracketology 2011: Butler Books Its Spot In March Madness While Villanova Looks Shaky

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 08: Head coach Jay Wright of the Villanova Wildcats gestures from the bench late in the game against the South Florida Bulls during the first round of the 2011 Big East Men's Basketball Tournament presented by American Eagle Outfitters at Madison Square Garden on March 8, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

Tuesday night saw three more teams, Sun Belt surprise Arkansas-Little Rock, Horizon power Butler, and repeat Summit winner Oakland, make their way into the 2011 NCAA Tournament's field of 68.The Bulldogs' win was the biggest of the three in terms of the at-large pool, as Milwaukee's departure opened up a spot in our Bracketology, which is filled by former "first team out" Colorado. The Buffaloes are in line for a trip to Dayton ... for now.

Yesterday, the Big East's five day marathon of basketball opened at Madison Square Garden, and it wasn't a good night for Villanova. The Wildcats lost to the second-to-last place South Florida in the opening round and will be without big man Mouphtaou Yarou for the rest of the season after he broke his collarbone early in the first half. Despite the loss, Nova's fifth in a row and seventh setback in their last nine, they remain in the field, thanks to seven quality wins, though they are likely to have to pack their dark jerseys for the first weekend. Remember, selection is about a team's body of work. The Wildcats simply have a lot more on their profile than many of the others looking to jump them, even if they aren't closing well.

But it's a long week and there's a lot of basketball to be played and many surprises sure to come.

In the second night game at the Garden, Marquette had no trouble with Providence, which means the Golden Eagles are a bit safer today than they were 24 hours ago.

Here's how our projection for the middle of Selection Week looks.

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 (NEW) 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)
9. Villanova (8) 
Denver (Thu/Sat)
Tucson (Thu/Sat)
5. Arizona
12. Michigan State/Virginia Tech
5. Xavier (Atlantic 10)
12. Boston College (11) 
4. Louisville
13. BELMONT (Atlantic Sun) (12)
4. St. John's
13. INDIANA STATE (Missouri Valley)
Charlotte (Fri/Sun) Washington (Thu/Sat)
6. Georgetown
11. Richmond 
6. Vanderbilt
11. Washington (10)
3. North Carolina (ACC)
14. Bucknell (Patriot)
3. Syracuse
14. WOFFORD (Southern)
Chicago (Fri/Sun) Charlotte (Fri/Sun)
7. UNLV
10. BUTLER (Horizon) (11)
7. Texas A&M
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 (10)
6. Kansas State
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. Temple
10. Marquette (12)
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

With Colorado moving up into the bracket, Washington State moves into the First Eight Out.

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

 

Two conference champions will earn places in the field tonight, the last bids to be handed out before Friday. In the Northeast final, third-seeded Robert Morris will look to earn its third consecutive bid, while host Long Island is in search of its first NCAA trip in 14 years. Later, Northern Colorado will need to knock off defending Big Sky champ Montana in order to book their first ever trip to the NCAAs

Northeast Final: No. 3 Robert Morris at No. 1 Long Island ESPN2 (7 p.m. ET)
Big Sky Final: No. 2 Montana at No. 1 Northern Colorado, ESPN2 (9 p.m. ET)

Tournament play begins in Conference USA, the Big 12, and the Pac-10 today, while the Big East moves into round two. While none the 12 teams opening play in the C-USA event in El Paso and Pac-10 festival in Anaheim have a real shot at an at-large, there are a few games to pay attention to in New York and Kansas City.

In the Big East, the 8 vs. 9 game between Connecticut and Georgetown opens the day (ESPN, 12 p.m. ET) with both teams needing a win to boost their respective cases for a top four seed, something that's not out of the question thanks to their performances outside of the conference. St. John's is also in the thick of the protected seed race, and they'll hope to continue their dominance at Madison Square Garden against Rutgers (ESPN, 2:30 p.m. ET). In the evening session, Cincinnati will look to end USF's run (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET). Finally, West Virginia could find themselves anywhere between a four and a seven in four days time, they'll begin their push for a higher seed against Marquette (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET).

Colorado, the last team in this projection, is the squad with the most to lose in the Big 12 First Round, as they face a 12th-place Iowa St. Cyclone team used its advantage inside to beat them in Ames a week ago (Big 12 Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 3 p.m. ET). That contest follows a Nebraska-Oklahoma State game that should have more bearing on the NIT than the NCAAs (Big 12 Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 12:30 p.m. ET). In the evening session, Baylor opens its quest for a bid against Oklahoma (Big 12 Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 7 p.m. ET), followed by a key game for fading Missouri. The Tigers face 11 seed Texas Tech (Big 12 Network/ESPN3/Full Court, 9:30 p.m. ET) in what could be Pat Knight's final game at the helm of the Red Raiders.

Head over at Blogging the Bracket for broadcast info and schedules for the other conference tourmament games set for today, including openers in the Southland and WAC.

My next update will post on Thursday morning; however, don't expect many changes until Friday. That bracket will reflect a busy day of action which will see all seven major conference tournaments in progress.

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