Bracketology 2012: North Carolina Takes Fourth Top Seed (For Now)

Mar 3, 2012; Durham, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward John Henson (31) pulls down a rebound in front of Duke Blue Devils forward Mason Plumlee (5) and guard Austin Rivers (0) during the first half at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-US PRESSWIRE

Thanks to a big win at Duke on Saturday night, the Tar Heels are the fourth top seed in Chris Dobbertean's Sunday bracketology.

Selection Sunday is a week away, which means my bracketology updates will become a daily affair from here on out. They'll also be a bit shorter, and more focused on the key events of the previous day, especially related to the races for top seeds, protected seeds, and the final places in the field of 68.

The biggest move yesterday was made by North Carolina, who claimed the ACC regular season title and the final No. 1 seed in this projection with a resounding victory over archival Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium., The Tar Heels may not stay on the top line for long, however, as Michigan State would have a solid case with a win over Ohio State this afternoon.

Kentucky, Syracuse, and Kansas join UNC as No. 1 seeds, while Missouri is on the two line alongside Duke, Michigan State, and Ohio State.

The full bracket is below. Arizona and Texas, present in Friday's projection, are out, replaced by Oregon and Xavier.

Note: Teams who have clinched auto bids are in all caps.

(1) SOUTH
Atlanta (Fri/Sun)
(2) EAST
Boston (Thu/Sat)
Louisville (Thu/Sat) Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)
1 Kentucky (SEC) 1 Syracuse (Big East)
16 MVSU/UT Arlington 16 UNCA (Big South)
8 Memphis 8 Iowa State
9 Kansas State 9 Virginia
Nashville (Fri/Sun) Portland (Thu/Sat)
5 MURRAY STATE (OVC) 5 Florida
12 Colorado State 12 BYU
4 Wisconsin 4 Temple (A-10)
13 Oregon/USF 13 Iona (MAAC)
Albuquerque (Thu/Sat) Nashville (Fri/Sun)
6 Louisville 6 Notre Dame
11 Harvard (Ivy) 11 Long Beach St. (Big West)
3 Indiana 3 Michigan
14 Oral Roberts (Summit) 14 Nevada (WAC)
Omaha (Fri/Sun) Greensboro (Fri/Sun)
7 New Mexico 7 Creighton (MVC)
10 West Virginia 10 Alabama
2 Missouri 2 Duke
15 Montana (Big Sky) 15 Long Island U. (NEC)
(4) WEST
Phoenix (Thu/Sat)
(3) MIDWEST
St. Louis (Fri/Sun)
Greensboro (Fri/Sun) Omaha (Fri/Sun)
1 North Carolina (ACC) 1 Kansas (Big 12)
16 Savannah State/Stony Brook 16 Bucknell (Patriot)
8 Saint Louis 8 Purdue
9 California 9 Cincinnati
Albuquerque (Thu/Sat) Portland (Thu/Sat)
5 UNLV 5 San Diego State (MWC)
12 Seton Hall 12 Northwestern/Xavier
4 Baylor 4 Florida State
13 Drexel (CAA) 13 Middle Tenn. (Sun Belt)
Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat) Columbus (Fri/Sun)
6 Gonzaga 6 Wichita State
11 Southern Mississippi 11 Washington (Pac-12)
3 Georgetown 3 Marquette
14 Davidson (SoCon) 14 BELMONT (A-Sun)
Louisville (Thu/Sat) Columbus (Fri/Sun)
7 Vanderbilt 7 St. Mary's (WCC)
10 Connecticut 10 Mississippi State
2 Ohio State 2 Michigan State (Big Ten)
15 Akron (MAC) 15 Valparaiso (Horizon)
FIRST FOUR (Dayton)
Tuesday: To Louisville
Tuesday: To Portland
16 Miss. Valley State (SWAC)
12 Northwestern
16 UT Arlington (Southland) 12 Xavier
Wednesday: To Greensboro Wednesday: To Nashville
16 Savannah State (MEAC) 13 Oregon
16 Stony Brook (AmEast) 13 South Florida

After the rundown, I'll have a more detailed look at the four teams who are just above the cut line and the unlucky quartet that falls just below.

BIDS BY CONFERENCE LAST FOUR BYES ARRIVALS DEPARTURES
Big East: 10
Southern Mississippi Oregon Arizona
Big Ten: 8 BYU Xavier Texas
Big 12: 5 Colorado State

SEC: 5 Seton Hall

ACC: 4
LAST FOUR IN PROCEDURAL SHIFTS
MWC: 4
Xavier None
A-10: 3 Oregon

Pac-12: 3 Northwestern

WCC: 3
USF

C-USA: 2 LAST FOUR OUT

MVC: 2
Miami

1-Bid Conferences: 20 VCU


Texas


Arizona


NEXT FOUR OUT


N.C. State


Tennessee


Dayton


St. Joseph's

The Last Four In

Thanks to consecutive losses to Rutgers and DePaul, Seton Hall is the last team to avoid Dayton at the moment. BYU is just above the Pirates, thanks to their loss to Gonzaga in the WCC semifinals late Saturday night. Colorado State actually improved their position by winning at Air Force, while Southern Mississippi is in serious trouble after losing at Marshall.

Now for the teams ticketed for Dayton as of this Sunday morning.

Records reflect only games against Division I competition, per Selection Committee guidelines. Records, RPI, and SOS data is accurate as of Sunday, March 4, 2012 and is courtesy BBState.com.

Xavier (19-11, 10-6 A-10, RPI: 55, SOS: 41, non-conf. SOS: 73)
Up until a 76-53 win over, and subsequent brawl with, Cincinnati on Dec. 10, the Musketeers looked like a surefire tournament lock and solid bet for a protected seed. Since that afternoon, Xavier has played just .500 basketball -- with Tuesday's collapse against Saint Louis the season in microcosm. The highlights of Xavier's profile are a trio of early wins over Vanderbilt, Purdue and, of course, Cincinnati. Those victories are the biggest reason why Chris Mack's team has a shot, and sneak in at the moment. However, the Musketeers' two best wins post-brawl, over St. Joseph's and Dayton, don't quite pack the same punch. Saturday's win over Charlotte clinched the No. 3 seed and a bye to the quarterfinals in the Atlantic 10 Tournament for Xavier, where a potential third meeting with Dayton awaits, provided the Flyers get past George Washington on Tuesday night back in Ohio.

Oregon (22-8, 13-5 Pac-12, RPI: 45, SOS: 74, non-conf. SOS: 104)
Victories over Washington and at Arizona along with a sweep of Stanford are the only highlights of the Ducks' profile, which lacks a win against the RPI Top 50 (against five losses). This season, that's enough to put Oregon in the discussion, especially they only have one bad loss, a home setback to archrival Oregon State, which they avenged in Corvallis last Sunday. The Ducks may eventually regret early losses to Vanderbilt, BYU, and Virginia - though Minnesota transfer Devoe Joseph wasn't in the lineup for the first two. Dana Altman's team will get consideration for that, especially since Joseph is averaging 17-plus points a game. Thanks to their win over Arizona, the Ducks own the No. 3 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament. That means they'll face one of the two teams they defeated this week, Colorado or Utah, in Thursday's quarterfinals. Win that and a semifinal against the No. 2 seed, either Cal or Washington, would await. Win both and Oregon will be in good position.

Northwestern (18-12, 8-10 Big Ten, RPI: 53, SOS: 11, non-conf. SOS: 12)
If Greg Gumbel fails to read Northwestern's name out on Selection Sunday, the nightmares of Wildcat fans will likely feature a loop of a pair of close losses to Michigan and Wednesday's game-winning layup by Ohio State's Jared Sullinger for the foreseeable future. The Wildcats' case took a couple of hits yesterday. While the win at Iowa was sneakily good (remember Indiana and Wisconsin both lost in Iowa City), it didn't help the Cats' computer numbers. Neither did Seton Hall's loss at DePaul. All in all, a win over Michigan State and an absence of bad losses help. However, to remove all doubt, Northwestern will need to impress in Indianapolis - first against Minnesota on Thursday. Win that and another shot at either Ohio State or Michigan would await in Friday's quarterfinals.

South Florida (18-12, 12-6 Big East, RPI: 43, SOS: 19, non-conf. SOS: 19)
The Bulls' 6-9 mark against the RPI Top 100 became more respectable in the final week of the regular season, thanks to wins at Louisville and over Cincinnati in Tampa. However, a loss to West Virginia Saturday hurts, especially from an "eye test" perspective. USF's best wins before this week came against Seton Hall, Pittsburgh (twice), and Cleveland State -- and all three of those have faded late in the season. Some bad early season losses (at Auburn and in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off against Old Dominion and Penn State) and a defeat at the hands of fellow bubble team VCU work against the Bulls, though Stan Heath's team was dealing with injuries and suspensions early on. Since USF is so close to the cut line, they really need to do some damage in New York City starting on Wednesday, when the sixth-seeded Bulls open with the winner of Tuesday's Villanova-Rutgers game. Lose that one and an NIT bid will be a certainty.

The Last Four Out

Miami (18-11, 9-7 ACC, RPI: 51, SOS: 30, non-conf. SOS: 45)
The Hurricanes are only out at the moment because of Washington's half-game lead over California in the Pac-12. Three factors work in Miami's favor: a victory at Duke, a win over Florida State with Reggie Johnson out of the lineup, and an absence of losses to teams that are outside the RPI Top 100. However, the Hurricanes' inability to close the deal (see a recent 1-3 stretch, with the defeats coming at the hands of North Carolina, Florida State, and Maryland) and Wednesday night's loss at N.C. State means they can't quite make NCAA plans yet. Saturday's win over Boston College simultaneously boosted Miami's record and damaged their computer numbers. Unfortunately for Canes' fans, they may have to play the Eagles again (or potentially Wake Forest) on Thursday in Atlanta. Thanks to losses to N.C. State and Virginia, it's likely Miami will fall to the No. 5 or 6 seed, depending on what happens today.

VCU (26-6, 15-3 CAA, RPI: 59, SOS: 184, non-conf. SOS: 176)
One of 2011's most debated at-large teams has leaped into the 2012 picture, thanks to a 15-1 run to close the season. The loss came at George Mason by a point, and the Rams avenged that handily to close the regular season. While VCU's winning ways have moved them back into the conversation, a relatively weak CAA and a few poor choices and bad breaks in their non-conference scheduling may keep them out. However, a November 30th win over USF could be a key point of differentiation for the Committee, even though South Florida's Jawanza Poland was out for that contest. This afternoon's third contest with the Patriots in the Colonial semifinals may determine VCU's fate, but Shaka Smart's team needs to cut down the nets to remove all doubt.

Texas (19-12, 9-9 Big 12, RPI: 54, SOS: 31, non-conf. SOS: 22)
Thanks to an uninspiring closing run, which featured consecutive losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State, close victories over Texas Tech (in overtime) and Oklahoma (thanks to a second half comeback), and Saturday's loss to Kansas, the Longhorns need to win some games in Kansas City to earn a bid. Wins over A-10 leader Temple and splits with Kansas State and Iowa State boost Texas' case, though that loss to Oklahoma State and consecutive losses to Oregon State and N.C. State at the Legends Classic may give the Committee pause. Those moments of reflection might turn into a solid "pass" if the Longhorns fail to win the rubber match with Iowa State on Thursday night at the Sprint Center.

Arizona (21-9, 12-5 Pac-12, RPI: 67, SOS: 104, non-conf. SOS: 96)
The Wildcats' hopes nearly died at the end of their sloppy home win over UCLA last Saturday, but they held on to earn their eighth triumph in their last 10 games. That run, most of it without the services of Jordin Mayes and Kevin Parrom, means Sean Miller's club is in the picture. However, a relative lack of quality wins (4-8 vs. the RPI Top 100, with a February 2nd win at California the Wildcats' only one against the Top 50) and an 0-3 record against fellow Pac-12 bubble teams Washington and Oregon mean the Wildcats will likely need to win a couple of games in the Pac-12 Tournament to book a place. First, Arizona closes the regular season with a trip to Tempe today to take on their woeful in-state rivals. Lose to the Sun Devils and the auto bid may be the only way in.

A little further out of the picture, keep an eye on Tennessee, who may be a couple of wins at the SEC Tournament away from sneaking in. N.C. State faces a key game with Virginia Tech today that will help determine its path in Atlanta at the end of the week. Meanwhile, both Dayton and St. Joseph's will need to make a run through the Atlantic 10 Tournament to have hope.

Finally, here's a look at today's televised games of impact, which includes contests of interest for fans of teams both at the top and bottom of the bracket.

Sunday Games To Watch

Kentucky at Florida, 12 p.m. ET (CBS)
The Wildcats can complete a perfect SEC campaign with a win, while the Gators are looking to stop a two-game skid and to lock up the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament in the process.

Clemson at Florida State, 12 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
A sweep at the hands of the Tigers wouldn't cost the Seminoles a bid, but it would drop them a seed line or two.

Michigan at Penn State, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Depending on what happens in East Lansing later this afternoon, a win might earn the Wolverines a share of the Big Ten title.

Illinois at Wisconsin, 1 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
An upset win over the Badgers would push the Illini closer to the field, but they would still need to go on a run in Indianapolis to make it.

Virginia at Maryland, 2 p.m. ET (ACC Network/Full Court/ESPN3)
The Cavaliers are in real danger of finishing at .500 in the ACC, missing out on a first round bye in Atlanta next week, and falling even closer to the bubble.

Arizona at Arizona State, 3:30 p.m. ET (FSN/Comcast SportsNet)
A loss in Tempe would all but end the Wildcats' hopes.

Ohio State at Michigan State, 4 p.m. ET (CBS)
Since the Spartans lost at Indiana on Tuesday night, they can clinch the outright Big Ten regular season title at the Breslin Center. If they can win Sunday afternoon, they complete a season sweep of the Buckeyes. Note that Michigan State will be the top seed at the conference tournament regardless of this result.

California at Stanford. 5:30 p.m. ET (FSN/Comcast SportsNet)
Thanks to Washington's loss to UCLA on Saturday, the Golden Bears will secure the top seed in the Pac-12 Tournament with a victory over their archrivals.

N.C. State at Virginia Tech, 6 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
The Wolfpack got themselves back into the conversation by beating Miami, but a loss to the Hokies would knock them right back out.

Purdue at Indiana, 6 p.m. ET (Big Ten Network)
The winner will likely earn the No. 5 seed in Indianapolis, with an outside shot at a No. 4 seed that may very well be nonexistent by tip.

Conference Tournaments

Missouri Valley Championship, 2 p.m. ET (CBS)
Illinois State can pop someone's bubble with an upset of Creighton in St. Louis.

Northeast Conference Semifinals, 12 p.m. ET and 6 p.m. ET (MSG/FCS Atlantic)
Third-seeded Robert Morris visits No. 2 Wagner in the afternoon game, while regular season champ and 2011 NCAA qualifier Long Island U. hosts the only low seed to win in Thursday's quarterfinals, No. 5 Quinnipiac, in the evening contest.

America East Semifinals, Doubleheader at 5 p.m. ET (ESPN3)
Top seed Stony Brook takes on No. 4 Albany in the first game, with sixth-seeded Hartford looking to top No. 2 Vermont in the nightcap.

Southern Conference Semifinals, Doubleheader at 6 p.m. ET (SoCon/ESPN3)
The top three teams from the league's North Division will be in action alongside South Division (and overall champion) Davidson. The Wildcats take on North No. 2 seed Elon in the second game of the doubleheader, after North champ UNC Greensboro faces off against Western Carolina.

Summit League Quarterfinals, Doubleheader at 7 p.m. ET (FS Detroit+/FCS Central)
The second day of action in Sioux Falls, S.D. features the No. 3 and 4 seeds. The twin bill opens with No. 4 Western Illinois' matchup with five seed North Dakota State for the right to take on top seed Oral Roberts on Monday. Game two will determine if No. 6 Southern Utah or third-seeded Oakland will face two seed South Dakota State tomorrow.

My next update will be out on Monday morning. Be sure to follow me on Twitter to find out as soon as its published, and to check out my Selection Week thoughts.

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