Welcome to the final week before Selection Sunday. Things should hopefully become clearer over the next seven days and nights, but given how this season has unfolded so far, I wouldn't bet on it.
There are few changes in this bracket compared to Sunday's version. Here are some of the highlights.
- Kentucky, Syracuse, Kansas and North Carolina remain on the top line, thanks to Ohio State's thrilling win at Michigan State on Sunday afternoon. The Buckeyes and Spartans are joined on the No. 2 line by Duke and Missouri. In other words, more of the same at the top.
- The Pac-12 is rapidly moving toward one or two-bid status, thanks to losses by Arizona, California and Washington over the weekend. The Huskies are in this projection since they're the top seed at this week's conference tournament in Los Angeles. So is California, as they have the best at-large profile of the conference's four marginal contenders. Since I don't see the Pac-12 getting three bids, I dropped Oregon out for the moment, even though the Ducks won twice this week.
- Since they reached the Colonial Athletic Association final, VCU is in, barely, for now. The Rams can make things official with a win on Monday. Things become dicey for VCU with a loss -- and the same holds true for their opponent, Drexel.
- Two regular season champions, Middle Tennessee and Iona, were bounced from their conference tournaments on Sunday. The Blue Raiders fell to 19-loss Arkansas State in the Sun Belt quarterfinals, while the Gaels lost to Fairfield in the Metro Atlantic semifinals. Both are bound for the NIT.
The complete bracket follows.
Note: Teams who have clinched auto bids are in all caps.
|(1) SOUTH |
| (2) EAST
|Louisville (Thu/Sat)||Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)|
|1||Kentucky (SEC)||1||Syracuse (Big East)|
|16||MVSU/Stony Brook||16||UNCA (Big South)|
|↑ 8||Kansas State||8||Iowa State|
|Nashville (Fri/Sun)||Portland (Thu/Sat)|
|5||MURRAY STATE (OVC)||5||Florida|
|Albuquerque (Thu/Sat)||Nashville (Fri/Sun)|
|11||Harvard (Ivy)||11||Long Beach St. (Big West)|
|14||Nevada (WAC)||14||Akron (MAC)|
|Omaha (Fri/Sun)||Greensboro (Fri/Sun)|
|7||New Mexico||7||CREIGHTON (MVC)|
|10||West Virginia||↓ 10||California|
|15||Montana (Big Sky)||15||Loyola, Md. (MAAC)|
|(4) WEST |
St. Louis (Fri/Sun)
|Greensboro (Fri/Sun)||Omaha (Fri/Sun)|
|1||North Carolina (ACC)||1||Kansas (Big 12)|
|16||Savannah State/UT Arlington||16||Bucknell (Patriot)|
|8||Saint Louis||8||Memphis (C-USA)|
|↑ 9||Alabama||↓ 9||Purdue|
|Albuquerque (Thu/Sat)||Portland (Thu/Sat)|
|5||UNLV||5||San Diego State (MWC)|
|13||Oral Roberts (Summit)||13||Davidson (SoCon)|
|Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)||Columbus (Fri/Sun)|
|11||Southern Mississippi||11||Washington (Pac-12)|
|14||Denver (Sun Belt)||14||BELMONT (A-Sun)|
|Louisville (Thu/Sat)||Columbus (Fri/Sun)|
|7||Vanderbilt||7||St. Mary's (WCC)|
|2||Ohio State||2||Michigan State (Big Ten)|
|15||Long Island U. (NEC)||15||Valparaiso (Horizon)|
|FIRST FOUR (Dayton)|
|Tuesday: To Louisville
||Tuesday: To Portland|
|16||Miss. Valley State (SWAC)||12||Northwestern|
|16||Stony Brook (AmEast)||↑ 12||South Florida|
|Wednesday: To Greensboro||Wednesday: To Nashville
|16||Savannah State (MEAC)||↑ 13||VCU|
|16||UT Arlington (Southland)||↓ 13||Xavier|
After the rundown, I'll have a look at the Last Four In and Last Four Out for today.
|BIDS BY CONFERENCE||LAST FOUR BYES||ARRIVALS||DEPARTURES|
|Big East: 10
|Big Ten: 8||BYU||Loyola, Md.||Middle Tennessee|
|Big 12: 5||Colorado State||VCU||Oregon|
|SEC: 5||Seton Hall|
||LAST FOUR IN||PROCEDURAL SHIFTS|
|C-USA: 2||LAST FOUR OUT|
|Pac-12: 2||N.C. State|
|1-Bid Conferences: 19||Texas|
|NEXT FOUR OUT|
The Last Four In
Records reflect only games against Division I competition, per Selection Committee guidelines. Records, RPI and SOS data is accurate as of Monday, March 5, 2012, and is courtesy BBState.com.
Once again, Southern Mississippi, BYU and Seton Hall find themselves just outside of the First Four. The bracket's two Pac-12 teams, Washington and California are in the same neighborhood of the S-curve.
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 representing 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 sneaks 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.
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 over the weekend as well. 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. Still, 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 the Wolverines 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; 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, including defeat at the hands of fellow bubble team VCU, work against the Bulls (along with ones at Auburn, and against Old Dominion and Penn State in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off), 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.
VCU (27-6, 15-3 CAA, RPI: 59, SOS: 184, non-conf. SOS: 176)
The Rams can remove all doubt, and move Drexel onto the bubble, with a win in the Colonial final this evening.
First Four Out
Miami (18-11, 9-7 ACC, RPI: 51, SOS: 30, non-conf. SOS: 45)
Saturday's win over Boston College simultaneously boosted Miami's record and damaged their computer numbers. Unfortunately for Canes fans, they have to play another RPI killer, Georgia Tech, on Thursday in Atlanta. If they win that one, a potential rubber match with Florida State awaits in Friday's quarters.
N.C. State (20-11, 9-7 ACC, RPI: 58, SOS: 22, non-conf. SOS: 65)
The Wolfpack are back in the frame after completing a sweep of Miami on Wednesday night, but their inability to close out Duke back on Feb. 16, and a loss to Florida State 48 hours later may still likely cost them on Selection Sunday. Currently, N.C. State is without a Top 50 win (0-8) -- barely, as Miami is currently ranked 51st. On the plus side, the Wolfpack now have six Top 100 wins, though only the two over the Hurricanes and one over Texas are against teams under consideration. Conversely, the Pack's profile is burdened by defeats at the hands of Clemson and Georgia Tech. N.C. State has plenty of work to do in Atlanta, starting with Thursday's opening game against Boston College.
Texas (19-12, 9-9 Big 12, RPI: 54, SOS: 31, non-conf. SOS: 22)
Thanks to an uninspiring closing run that 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.
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 since they only have one bad loss, a home setback to archrival Oregon State, which they avenged in Corvallis last Sunday. As the third seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, Oregon will face one of the two teams they defeated this week, Colorado or Utah, in Thursday's quarterfinals. Win that, and a semifinal against No. 2 seed California would await. Thanks to the conference's struggles, particularly earlier in the season, that would likely be an elimination game for both.
Three teams that sit just below this group are serious threats to move into the field as the week unfolds. The SEC Tournament will be vital for both Tennessee and Mississippi. If the Rebels can top Auburn in Thursday's First Round in New Orleans, they'll face the Volunteers in a bubble elimination game a day later. As I mentioned in my Xavier capsule above, Dayton -- a team that beat Ole Miss when the Rebels were going through some roster transition -- will receive more attention if they advance to the Atlantic 10 semifinals. On the other hand, the Arizona Wildcats, my current eighth team out, needs to either win the Pac-12 auto bid or hope that all sorts of crazy things happen.
Monday's Games To Watch
Four teams will take matters out of the Selection Committee's hands tonight.
CAA Championship, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Either VCU or Drexel will be in for sure. The loser will have a nerve-racking week of waiting ahead.
MAAC Championship, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Preseason co-favorite Fairfield has a great chance to send head coach Sydney Johnson, who led Princeton last season, to the Tournament for a second year in a row, even without the injured Derek Needham in the lineup. They just have to get by No. 2 seed Loyola (MD) first.
WCC Championship, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Both Gonzaga and St. Mary's, the top two seeds, are tournament locks. This one is purely for seeding.
Southern Conference Championship, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
North Division third seed Western Carolina will look to make its first NCAA trip since 1996, when the 16th-seeded Catamounts nearly upset Purdue. They'll face regular season champion Davidson, regional finalists back in 2008.
My next update will come on Tuesday morning. It should be the final one without significant changes.