Bracketology 2012: VCU Locked In; Drexel, Oral Roberts Among Hopeful Bubble Teams

March 5, 2012; Richmond, VA USA; Virginia Commonwealth Rams head coach Shaka Smart yells form the bench against the Drexel Dragons in the second half of the championship game of the 2012 Colonial Athletic Association Tournament at the Richmond Coliseum. The Rams won 59-56. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

While the Rams are safe, Drexel, the last team in Chris Dobbertean's Tuesday bracket, are not. Can they stick around? And what of Oral Roberts, the regular season Summit champs who fell in the tournament semifinals?

With four automatic bids handed out on Monday night, the field of 68 is starting to come together. Monday, and Tuesday for that matter, serve as the calm before the storm that is Wednesday through Saturday, when games from coast-to-coast will shift fortunes at an incredible pace. Of course, "calm" is a relative term, as Monday's quartet of conference finals was one of the most exciting set of games in recent memory.

During the early part of Monday evening, I took advantage of the lull to run through the field one more time, paying special attention to seed lines four through seven, which have become a bit problematic to figure out. So, you'll notice a few changes there from Monday's projection.

Before I jump to the bracket, here's a quick review of Monday's key results and impacts.

  • VCU won the Colonial Athletic Association crown. Drexel just remains in the field as the final at-large, but will have a nervous week of waiting ahead. As I've mentioned before, even though they pass the eye test, I'm not sure how the Selection Committee will respond to the relative weakness of this season's CAA and the team's non-conference schedule.
  • St. Mary's cut down the nets after an incredible West Coast Conference final that required overtime, but Gonzaga is an at-large with no doubt. Both should be wearing home unis in the first round.
  • Loyola, Md. is also in the field. The Greyhounds claimed the Metro Atlantic title, while Davidson, the regular season champion, won the Southern Conference's auto bid, though Western Carolina closed a 10-point deficit late to force what ended up being two extra sessions.
  • As for teams that failed to take care of business (or fell victim to the lottery that is a mid-major conference tournament), Summit League regular season champion Oral Roberts is likely headed to the NIT, as it fell to Western Illinois in Monday's semifinals.

The full bracket follows.

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/North Texas 16 UNC Asheville (Big South)
8 Kansas State 8 Saint Louis
9 Cincinnati 9 Alabama
Nashville (Fri/Sun) Albuquerque (Thu/Sat)
5 Florida State 5 MURRAY STATE (OVC)
12 Colorado State 12 BYU
4 Wisconsin 4 Baylor
13 USF/Xavier 13 South Dakota St. (Summit)
Albuquerque (Thu/Sat) Nashville (Fri/Sun)
6 Louisville 6 Wichita State
11 Harvard (Ivy) 11 Long Beach St. (Big West)
3 Indiana 3 Michigan
14 Nevada (WAC) 14 Akron (MAC)
Omaha (Fri/Sun) Greensboro (Fri/Sun)
7 New Mexico 7 Florida
10 West Virginia 10 Connecticut
2 Missouri 2 Duke
15 Montana (Big Sky) 15 Bucknell (Patriot)
(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 UT Arlington (Southland)
8 Iowa State 8 Memphis (C-USA)
9 Purdue 9 Virginia
Portland (Thu/Sat) Portland (Thu/Sat)
5 CREIGHTON (MVC) 5 San Diego State (MWC)
12 Seton Hall 12 VCU (CAA)
4 UNLV 4 Temple (A-10)
13 Drexel/Northwestern 13 DAVIDSON (SoCon)
Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat) Columbus (Fri/Sun)
6 St. Mary's (WCC) 6 Gonzaga
11 Southern Mississippi 11 Washington (Pac-12)
3 Georgetown 3 Marquette
14 LOYOLA (MD) (MAAC) 14 BELMONT (A-Sun)
Columbus (Fri/Sun) Louisville (Thu/Sat)
7 Vanderbilt 7 Notre Dame
10 California 10 Mississippi State
2 Michigan State (Big Ten) 2 Ohio State
15 Valparaiso (Horizon) 15 Long Island U.(NEC)
FIRST FOUR (Dayton)
Tuesday: To Louisville
Tuesday: To Portland
16 Miss. Valley State (SWAC) 13 Drexel
16 North Texas (Sun Belt) 13 Northwestern
Wednesday: To Greensboro Wednesday: To Nashville
16 Savannah State (MEAC) 13 South Florida
16 Stony Brook (AmEast) 13 Xavier

After the rundown, I'll have a look at the Last Four In and Last Four Out for Tuesday, which are remarkably similar to Monday, thanks to the absence of major conference action.

BIDS BY CONFERENCE LAST FOUR BYES ARRIVALS DEPARTURES
Big East: 10
Southern Mississippi North Texas Denver
Big Ten: 8 BYU South Dakota State Oral Roberts
Big 12: 5 Colorado State

SEC: 5 Seton Hall

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

WCC: 3 USF

CAA: 2 Drexel

C-USA: 2 LAST FOUR OUT

MVC: 2 Texas

Pac-12: 2 Tennessee

1-Bid Conferences: 19 Miami


N.C. State


NEXT FOUR OUT


Oregon


Dayton


Mississippi


Oral Roberts

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 Tuesday, March 6, 2012, and is courtesy BBState.com.

I also reviewed the teams around the cut line again, so there are a few changes from Monday. However, Southern Mississippi, BYU and Seton Hall still stand just outside of the First Four, and 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: 57, SOS: 47, non-conf. SOS: 72)
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: 48, SOS: 14, non-conf. SOS: 8)
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: 46, SOS: 24, non-conf. SOS: 20)
Some bad early season losses (at Auburn, and against Old Dominion and Penn State in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off), work against the Bulls, though Stan Heath's team was dealing with injuries and suspensions early on. A defeat at VCU looks better now, however. Since USF is so close to the cut line, they really need to do some damage in New York City starting on Wednesday.

Drexel (27-6, 16-2 CAA, RPI: 69, SOS: 251, non-conf. SOS: 212)
The Dragons' hopes now lie in the hands of the Selection Committee, and thanks to those two schedule rankings above, they are not an automatic pick, even though they have lost only twice since Dec. 3. Making matters worse, Drexel has just one win against the RPI Top 50 (VCU) and three more against teams ranked between 51 and 100, while 19 of its victories came against teams ranked worse than 150th. Bruiser Flint's club may receive consideration for the early season games point guard Chris Fouch missed (including Paradise Jam losses to Norfolk State and Virginia) or was limited (losses to Delaware and St. Joseph's, when he was a combined 2-19 from the floor) while he was recovering from knee surgery, but it may not be enough.

First Four Out

Texas (19-12, 9-9 Big 12, RPI: 51, SOS: 23, non-conf. SOS: 24)
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.

Tennessee (17-13, 10-6 SEC, RPI: 75, SOS: 33, non-conf. SOS: 45)
Just when you thought it was safe to ignore the Volunteers, freshman forward Jarnell Stokes joins the team for the SEC campaign, and the team goes on a run that sees them finish with the No. 2 seed for this week's festivities in New Orleans. Tennessee still needs to win a couple of games there, as a group of quality wins (UConn, a sweep of Florida, Vanderbilt) isn't quite yet enough to offset some questionable losses, even if most of them happened before Stokes suited up. A potential quarterfinal with Mississippi, a team with bubble hopes of its own, looms large on Friday.

Miami (18-11, 9-7 ACC, RPI: 53, SOS: 41, non-conf. SOS: 50)
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: 54, SOS: 29, non-conf. SOS: 70)
Currently, N.C. State is without a Top 50 win (0-8) -- barely, as Miami and Texas are close. On the plus side, the Wolfpack now have six Top 100 wins. 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.

Further down the S-curve, Oregon has a crucial quarterfinal game ahead of it on Thursday while Dayton and Mississippi can earn their respective places in such a contest if they win their first round games.

Tuesday Games To Watch

At least three, if not four, bids will be handed out Tuesday, depending on what happens with Penn's visit to Princeton (7 p.m. ET, ESPN3). If the Tigers win, Harvard clinches the Ivy League title outright, but if the Quakers prevail, there will be a one-game playoff on Saturday at a venue to be determined.

Here's the TV info for the three tickets that most assuredly will be punched this evening.

Sun Belt Championship, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
North Texas is in the final for the third straight season, and the Mean Green will hope that this contest goes more like 2010's three-point win over Troy than last year's three-point loss to Arkansas Little Rock. This time around, North Texas will take on a Western Kentucky team that went through a midseason coaching change. The Hilltoppers upset Denver, the conference's best remaining chance to avoid the First Four, on Monday night.

Horizon League Championship, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Valparaiso, looking for its first tournament appearance since 2004 when it was a member of the Mid-Continent Conference, hosts Detroit, who last made the field in 1999.

Summit League Championship, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Either fourth-seeded Western Illinois or No. 2 seed South Dakota State will make the field for the first time, but the Jackrabbits have the advantage since the game is in Sioux Falls, just down the road from their Brookings campus. This is your chance to see one of the nation's most electric players, South Dakota State guard Nate Wolters (24 ppg).

Elsewhere, the Big Sky semifinals tip off in Missoula, Mont. (doubleheader starts at 7:30 p.m. ET, Altitude). No. 2 seed Weber State, featuring Damian Lillard, the nation's second leading scorer, plays third-seeded Portland State in game one, while top-seeded Montana plays Eastern Washington in the nightcap. Plus, there's a whole day's worth of action on tap at Madison Square Garden, as the Big East Tournament begins its five-day run. The two most important games from a bracket perspective are Connecticut's 12 p.m. ET tip with DePaul (ESPN2) and Seton Hall's 7 p.m. contest with Providence (ESPNU). If either lose today, they may very well be destined for the NIT. For full coverage, check out SB Nation's Big East Tournament StoryStream.

My next update will be out Wednesday morning. It may just be the final day without earth-shattering changes, depending on what happens in New York City.

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