It's Thursday of Championship Week, which means that just about every conference that is likely to earn multiple bids to the 2012 NCAA Tournament will be engaged in elimination play (except for the Atlantic 10, which resumes with quarterfinals Friday). That means Thursday morning's bracket is, in all likelihood, the final one that won't see significant movement, both in terms of the bubble and seeding, between now and Selection Sunday.
Here's a recap of some of the key pieces of bracket news since Wednesday's projection.
- Connecticut won its 13th consecutive postseason game, and moved even closer to lock status, with a 71-67 overtime win over West Virginia in the opening game of Big East Tournament's second round, the Mountaineers' final game as a member of the conference.
- Seton Hall's bubble likely burst, thanks to a close, but ugly loss to Louisville in the first game of the evening doubleheader at Madison Square Garden. Texas slides in to replace the Pirates for the moment.
- USF and Villanova probably put most of those watching their slugfest to sleep, but the Bulls earned a 56-47 win that moves them out of the "Last Four In" group.
- Long Island U. defeated Robert Morris in the Northeast Conference final for the second year in a row to claim the first automatic bid of the night. (That game featured an incredible half-court alley-oop dunk that must been seen to be believed.) Not long after the buzzer sounded in Brooklyn, Lehigh won at Bucknell for the second time in less than a month to earn the Patriot League title. To close the night, the Big Sky crown went to Montana, who routed Weber State in Missoula, depriving America of the chance to see Damian Lillard work his magic during the Second Round.
The full NCAA bracket 2012 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/WESTERN KENTUCKY||16||UNC ASHEVILLE (Big South)|
|8||Kansas State||8||Saint Louis|
|Nashville (Fri/Sun)||Albuquerque (Thu/Sat)|
|5||Florida State||5||MURRAY STATE (OVC)|
|13||Texas/Xavier||13||SOUTH DAKOTA ST. (Summit)|
|Albuquerque (Thu/Sat)||Nashville (Fri/Sun)|
|↑ 11||VCU (CAA)||11||Long Beach St. (Big West)|
|14||Nevada (WAC)||14||Akron (MAC)|
|Omaha (Fri/Sun)||Greensboro (Fri/Sun)|
|↑ 10||HARVARD (Ivy)||10||Connecticut|
|15||MONTANA (Big Sky)||15||LEHIGH (Patriot)|
|(4) WEST |
St. Louis (Fri/Sun)
|Greensboro (Fri/Sun)||Omaha (Fri/Sun)|
|1||North Carolina (ACC)||1||Kansas (Big 12)|
|16||Norfolk State/Stony Brook||16||DETROIT (Horizon)|
|8||Iowa State||8||Memphis (C-USA)|
|Portland (Thu/Sat)||Portland (Thu/Sat)|
|5||CREIGHTON (MVC)||5||San Diego State (MWC)|
|↑ 12||USF||↓ 12||West Virginia|
|Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)||Columbus (Fri/Sun)|
|6||St. Mary's (WCC)||6||Gonzaga|
|11||Southern Mississippi||11||Washington (Pac-12)|
|14||LOYOLA (MD) (MAAC)||14||BELMONT (A-Sun)|
|Columbus (Fri/Sun)||Louisville (Thu/Sat)|
|2||Michigan State (Big Ten)||2||Ohio State|
|15||UT Arlington (Southland)||15||LONG ISLAND U. (NEC)|
|FIRST FOUR (Dayton)|
|Tuesday: To Louisville
||Tuesday: To Portland|
|16||Miss. Valley State (SWAC)||13||Drexel|
|16||WESTERN KENTUCKY (Sun Belt)||13||Northwestern|
|Wednesday: To Greensboro||Wednesday: To Nashville
|16||Norfolk State (MEAC)||13||Texas|
|16||Stony Brook (AmEast)||13||Xavier|
After the rundown, I'll have a look at the Last Four In and Last Four Out for Thursday, which features a change or two from Tuesday and Wednesday's versions.
|BIDS BY CONFERENCE||LAST FOUR BYES||ARRIVALS||DEPARTURES|
|Big East: 9
|Big Ten: 8||Colorado State||Norfolk State||Savannah State|
|Big 12: 6||West Virginia||Texas||Seton Hall|
||LAST FOUR IN||PROCEDURAL SHIFTS|
|C-USA: 2||LAST FOUR OUT|
|Pac-12: 2||Seton Hall|
|1-Bid Conferences: 19||Miami|
|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 Thursday, March 8, 2012, and is courtesy BBState.com.
Several teams that are just avoiding an extra game in Dayton, like Colorado State, Southern Mississippi, USF and the bracket's two Pac-12 teams, Washington and California, will have chances to move up, or down, as Thursday unfolds. Unfortunately, for BYU and West Virginia fans, their teams will have to sit and wait to see if they fall into this group.
Xavier (19-11, 10-6 A-10, RPI: 59, SOS: 52, non-conf. SOS: 69)
The Musketeers will play Dayton for the third time in Friday's Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, with the loser out of picture for all intents and purposes.
Northwestern (18-12, 8-10 Big Ten, RPI: 48, SOS: 13, non-conf. SOS: 9)
To remove all doubt, Northwestern will need to impress in Indianapolis -- first against Minnesota early this evening. Win that and another shot at Michigan, a team that has two narrow wins over the Wildcats, would await in Friday's quarterfinals.
Drexel (27-6, 16-2 CAA, RPI: 70, SOS: 222, non-conf. SOS: 213)
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.
Texas (19-12, 9-9 Big 12, RPI: 52, SOS: 23, non-conf. SOS: 26)
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 lock up a place.
First Four Out
Tennessee (17-13, 10-6 SEC, RPI: 75, SOS: 32, 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.
Seton Hall (20-12, 8-10 Big East, RPI: 54, SOS: 53, non-conf. SOS: 29)
If the Pirates could have stopped the season once they earned four wins against the RPI Top 50, they would be safely in. Unfortunately, Seton Hall had to keep playing, which resulted in late defeats to Rutgers and DePaul, a pair of teams ranked 160th or worse in the RPI. Those terrible losses, coupled with Wednesday's unconvincing showing in the Big East Second Round against Louisville, mean the Pirates are now likely NIT-bound.
Miami (18-11, 9-7 ACC, RPI: 56, 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: 53, SOS: 28, non-conf. SOS: 73)
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 victories. 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.
Mississippi, Oregon, Dayton and Arizona still remain just outside of this group. All four need conference quarterfinal wins to have a real chance, but the Rebels need to beat Auburn in tonight's SEC Opening Round first.
Thursday Games To Watch
ACC First Round
Two of today's four games in Atlanta feature bubble teams in absolute cannot lose games. N.C. State takes on Boston College to close the afternoon session (ESPNU or ACC Network, approx. 2:30 p.m. ET), while Georgia Tech will look to sting Miami's bubble in the last game of the opening round (ESPNU or ACC Network, approx. 9:30 p.m. ET).
Big East Quarterfinals
Connecticut will look to further help its case by ending top-seeded Syracuse's conference tournament stay for the second consecutive year (12 p.m. ET, ESPN), while an Orange win would keep them in the hunt for the overall No. 1 spot in the NCAA bracket. Cincinnati can guarantee its safe passage with a quarterfinal win over Georgetown (approx. 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). USF will likely do the same if they can stifle Notre Dame in the nightcap (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Big Ten First Round
All apologies to Illinois and Iowa who have a morning tip in Indianapolis, but Northwestern's early evening contest with Minnesota (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) is the key bubble game of the first-ever Thursday quadruple-header at the Big Ten Tournament. Remember, a Wildcat win will result in a third chance to beat Michigan, while Northwestern fans everywhere know what a loss will mean. The Golden Gophers may be without big man Ralph Sampson III, thanks to a knee injury.
Big 12 Quarterfinals
The final game of four in Kansas City is an important one for Texas, as they look to edge closer to the field with a second win over Iowa State (approx. 9:30 p.m. ET, Big 12 Network/ESPN3). The winner will likely face Missouri in Friday's semifinals.
Conference USA Quarterfinals
Southern Mississippi faces No. 10 seed East Carolina in Thursday's first quarterfinal (1 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network). It's a potentially dangerous game for the Golden Eagles, even though they swept the season series. The first meeting between the two, in Hattiesburg on Jan. 4, was decided by just a bucket. Host Memphis also has a tricky matchup, as UTEP has defeated the Tigers twice in a row at FedEx Forum (7:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network).
Mountain West Quarterfinals
While San Diego State, New Mexico, and UNLV all face difficult quarterfinals, Colorado State's battle in the 4 vs. 5 game against TCU (approx. 5:30 p.m. ET, The Mtn./CBS Sports Network) is the only one to feature a team that's truly fighting for a place in the bracket.
It's fitting this tournament is taking place not all that far from Hollywood, as hopes and dreams will be evaporating throughout the afternoon and evening at Staples Center. Top seed Washington, not guaranteed a bid even with a regular season crown, opens with Oregon State (3 p.m. ET, FSN/Comcast SportsNet). Arizona takes on UCLA (approx. 5:30 p.m. ET, FSN/Comcast SportsNet), though the Wildcats will be without freshman guard Josiah Turner, who was suspended indefinitely on Wednesday. In the night session, California gets an immediate opportunity to avenge Sunday's loss to Stanford (9 p.m. ET, FSN/Comcast SportsNet). Finally, Oregon will look to boost its case by defeating Colorado (approx. 11:30 p.m. ET, FSN/Comcast SportsNet).
SEC First Round
Three of the four openers in New Orleans might impact the bubble. Alabama is rather safe at the moment, but a loss to South Carolina (approx. 3:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network/ESPN3) would put them back into peril. Meanwhile, Mississippi State is a bit more in danger, and a loss Georgia in the final game of the day (approx. 10 p.m. ET, SEC Network/ESPN3) might end Rick Stansbury's team's hopes. The most intriguing game, however, may be Mississippi's must-win contest against Auburn (7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network/ESPN3).
As I've been writing and tweeting over the past few days, there is still a lot of basketball to be played. Check back tomorrow to see how today's busy slate affected the field of 68.