Their respective postseason bans, one NCAA-mandated and the other a pre-emptive strike against possible sanctions, have left us with two extra spaces to fill in a year when the teams fighting for the final six or so places all have tremendous flaws on their profiles. It's very possible that multiple teams will be left out of the field who can win one or two games — and I'm not including a First Four appearance in that total.
On Saturday night, while half paying attention to the various western conference tournament finals, I did a complete scrub of the bracket from top to bottom, re-evaluating each team's profile one more time. Then, I attempted to sleep on my things.
After all of this, the same eight teams I wrote about in my bubble picture post early Saturday evening still remain around the cut line. Their cases haven't changed at all since then, really. Plus, there are only so many ways to write "these teams are all so flawed that it makes my head hurt." Therefore, the South Carolina Gamecocks remain out, following up from that post, as I simply don't think a single road win over the Texas A&M Aggies is going to do it, not with the Gamecocks' three defeats at the hands of teams ranked 145th or worse. The Michigan Wolverines remain in as their replacement, even after Saturday's loss to the Purdue Boilermakers. That's due to an absence of bad losses and four Top 50 wins, though the 11 losses against that group still might be an issue.
But they're not as much of an issue as three losses to teams ranked 201st or worse. And that's why I've swapped out the Monmouth Hawks with the Syracuse Orange. Yes, the Orange still have that ugly loss to the St. John's Red Storm, and they finished poorly. However, that defeat (and those to Georgetown and Clemson) did come during Jim Boeheim's suspension. If the Selection Committee considers his absence (and this is important) without discussing the reason behind it, the Orange should get a nice boost. Otherwise, Syracuse might just be receiving extra punishment.
But this is really a question of preference. With the committee changing its membership partially each year, it's hard to get a good grasp on what perspectives new members bring to the table. I wouldn't be surprised if the real bracket has Monmouth in and Syracuse out or for several other decisions to be reversed. That's how subjective the analysis will possibly be this year.
After today's full bracket and rundown, I'll take a look at what's at stake during the final hours before the bracket is revealed.
|(1) MIDWEST |
|Des Moines (Thu/Sat)||Raleigh (Thu/Sat)|
|1||KANSAS (Big 12)||↑1||NORTH CAROLINA (ACC)|
|16||HOLY CROSS/SOUTHERN||16||FLORIDA GULF COAST (A-Sun)|
|Providence (Thu/Sat)||Des Moines (Thu/Sat)|
|↑12||YALE (Ivy)||12||Little Rock (Sun Belt)|
|↓13||UNC WILMINGTON (CAA)||↑13||STONY BROOK (Am East)|
|Providence (Thu/Sat)||Denver (Thu/Sat)|
|11||Saint Mary's/Temple||↑11||CHATTANOOGA (SoCon)|
|*14||BUFFALO (MAC)||*14||FRESNO STATE (MW)|
|St. Louis (Fri/Sun)||Oklahoma City (Fri/Sun)|
|15||GREEN BAY (Horizon)||*15||CAL STATE BAKERSFIELD (WAC)|
|(4) WEST |
|St. Louis (Fri/Sun)||Raleigh (Thu/Sat)|
|1||Michigan State (Big Ten)||1||Virginia|
|16||AUSTIN PEAY/FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON||16||Hampton (MEAC)|
|9||Pittsburgh||↑9||VCU (A 10)|
|Spokane (Fri/Sun)||Denver (Thu/Sat)|
|12||SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (Summit)||12||NORTHERN IOWA (MVC)|
|4||SETON HALL (Big East)||4||Kentucky|
|↑13||HAWAI'I (Big West)||13||IONA (MAAC)|
|Oklahoma City (Fri/Sun)||Brooklyn (Fri/Sun)|
|3||Texas A&M (SEC)||3||West Virginia|
|14||STEPHEN F. AUSTIN (Southland)||14||MIDDLE TENNESSEE (C-USA)|
|Spokane (Fri/Sun)||Brooklyn (Fri/Sun)|
|10||Wichita State||↑10||Oregon State|
|15||Weber State (Big Sky)||15||UNC ASHEVILLE (Big South)|
|FIRST FOUR (Dayton)|
|Tuesday: To Des Moines||Tuesday: To Providence|
|16||HOLY CROSS (Patriot)||11||Saint Mary's|
|Wednesday: To St. Louis||Wednesday: To Brooklyn
|16||AUSTIN PEAY (OVC)||*11||Michigan|
|16||FAIRLEIGH DICKINSON (NEC)||*11||Syracuse|
|BIDS BY CONFERENCE||AVOIDING DAYTON||ARRIVALS||DEPARTURES|
|ACC: 7||Butler (37)||Buffalo (MAC)||Akron (MAC)|
|Big 12: 7||Oregon State (38)||Cal St. Bakersfield (WAC)||Jackson State (SWAC)|
|Big Ten: 7||Wichita State (39)||Fresno State (MW)||Monmouth|
|Pac-12: 7||St. Bonaventure (40)||Michigan||New Mexico State (WAC)|
|Big East: 5||LAST FOUR IN||Southern (SWAC)||San Diego State (MW)|
|Atlantic 10: 4||Saint Mary's (42)||Syracuse||South Carolina|
|American: 3||Michigan (43)|
|SEC: 2||Syracuse (44)|
|MVC: 2||Temple (45)|
|WCC: 2||FIRST FOUR OUT|
|One-Bid Conferences: 22||Monmouth|
|NEXT FOUR OUT|
|San Diego State|
Also considered (in order): Akron, Georgia, Princeton, George Washington, Princeton, UAB
For starters, after yesterday's championship games, the North Carolina Tar Heels, the unofficial ACC regular season winner and official conference champion, jumped to the second spot overall on the bracket, thanks to their ACC Tournament final win over the Virginia Cavaliers, who sits just behind them. The Big 12's double champ, the Kansas Jayhawks, is first overall and will anchor the Midwest. UNC heads up the South, while Virginia gets the East, where the Villanova Wildcats, the Big East regular season champ lurks. That's noteworthy because Nova's part-time home floor will host the regional. Since La Salle is the designated host school and the Wildcats played just three games at the Wells Fargo Center, the Committee can place Villanova there.
The fourth spot, at the top of the West region, will likely go to the Michigan State Spartans with a win in the Big Ten Tournament championship (3 p.m. ET, CBS) over Purdue. If Tom Izzo's team falls, it's likely to swap places with the Pac-12 double champs, the Oregon Ducks, although Villanova might be able to sneak back in.
The American Athletic championship tips 15 minutes later (3:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) with the Memphis Tigers in position to burst someone's bubble—in the case of this projection it would be the league's regular season champion, the Temple Owls, oddly enough. Therefore, bubble fans from coast-to-coast will be cheering for a Connecticut Huskies win. They'll also want to see an Arkansas-Little Rock Trojan win over the ULM Warhawks in the Sun Belt Tournament final (1 p.m. ET, ESPN2). The Trojans will get a look if they fall, though their chances aren't great thanks to a pair of sub-200 losses and the questionable value of their two best wins, over fellow bubble teams San Diego State and Tulsa. However, both of those were road victories.
Seeding is all that's on the line in the other two early games, as the Saint Joseph's Hawks and VCU Rams locked their positions in grabbing Saturday wins to reach the Atlantic 10 Tournament final (12:30 p.m., ET, CBS). In the SEC Tournament's championship (1 p.m. ET, CBS), the Kentucky Wildcats and Texas A&M are playing for a possible spot on the three line. The Aggies hold that for the moment.
And at 5:30 Eastern, a new time for this season, we will all tune in to CBS to see how wrong we really were. I'll have one last bracket just before then.
* * *
Greatest Cinderella: Was it the NC State Wolfpack or Butler Bulldogs?
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