Before I get to Saturday's bubble action, two teams clinched actual automatic bids last night and will appear in ALL CAPS the rest of the way, as is my custom. They're the first of 32 teams who will take their fate out of the Selection Committee's hands before next Sunday evening arrives.
The Austin Peay Governors, the first-ever eight seed to claim the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament, won four games in four days to claim their place. Dave Loos' team knocked out the top-seeded Belmont Bruins on Friday, in the regular season champs' first game in the event, and the second-seeded UT Martin Skyhawks — playing just their second game — on Saturday, The Governors last appeared in the tournament in 2008 and are playing for Loos' 5-year old granddaughter Rhyan, who's fighting Stage 4 cancer.
The second team to clinch on Saturday broke a long drought, as the Ivy champion Yale Bulldogs last qualified back in 1962, when a mere 25 teams made the field. Thanks to the Princeton Tigers' Friday night loss at a Harvard Crimson team that represented the Ancient Eight in each of the last four NCAAs, the door was open for the Bulldogs to clinch the title with a win at Columbia on Saturday. (Remember that Harvard defeated Yale in a one-game playoff last season after Dartmouth stunned the Bulldogs in their league finale.) And while the Lions narrowed the gap in the second half at Levien Gymnasium, the Bulldogs prevailed by a 71-55 score.
While Austin Peay is likely destined for Dayton, Yale could be an upset pick with the right draw as a 12 or 13 seed.
Three bids are up for grabs on Sunday, but one of Saturday's semifinals might have a major impact on the bracket we see next Sunday night. I'll have more on that and the rest of Saturday's bubble news after today's bracket and rundown.
|(1) MIDWEST |
|Des Moines (Thu/Sat)||Brooklyn (Fri/Sun)|
|1||Kansas (Big 12)||1||Villanova (Big East)|
|16||Florida Gulf Coast/Texas Southern||16||AUSTIN PEAY/Hampton|
|↓8||Saint Joseph's||8||South Carolina|
|Denver (Thu/Sat)||Spokane (Fri/Sun)|
|↑12||Saint Mary's (WCC)||12||San Diego State (MW)|
|13||Akron (MAC)||13||YALE (Ivy)|
|Providence (Thu/Sat)||Brooklyn (Fri/Sun)|
|11||Cincinnati/Oregon State||11||Tulsa/Wichita State|
|14||Stony Brook (Am East)||14||UAB (C-USA)|
|St. Louis (Fri/Sun)||Raleigh (Thu/Sut)|
|2||Xavier||2||North Carolina (ACC)|
|↑15||Weber State (Big Sky)||*15||Winthrop (Big South)|
|(4) WEST |
|St. Louis (Fri/Sun)||Raleigh (Thu/Sat)|
|*16||Lehigh (Patriot)||16||Wagner (NEC)|
|Oklahoma City (Fri/Sun)||Des Moines (Thu/Sat)|
|12||Hofstra (CAA)||↑12||Chattanooga (SoCon)|
|↑4||Texas A&M (SEC)||4||Indiana (Big Ten)|
|↓13||Little Rock (Sun Belt)||*13||Evansville (MVC)|
|Providence (Thu/Sat)||Denver (Thu/Sat)|
|11||Monmouth (MAAC)||↑11||Valparaiso (Horizon)|
|↑14||Stephen F. Austin (Southland)||14||IPFW (Summit)|
|Spokane (Fri/Sun)||Oklahoma City (Fri/Sun)|
|↑7||Texas Tech||7||Dayton (A 10)|
|↓15||Hawai'i (Big West)||15||New Mexico State (WAC)|
|FIRST FOUR (Dayton)|
|Tuesday: To Des Moines||Tuesday: To Providence|
|*16||Florida Gulf Coast (A-Sun)||11||Cincinnati|
|16||Texas Southern (SWAC)||11||Oregon State|
|Wednesday: To Brooklyn||Wednesday: To Brooklyn
|*16||AUSTIN PEAY (OVC)||*11||Tulsa|
|16||Hampton (MEAC)||↓11||Wichita State|
|BIDS BY CONFERENCE||AVOIDING DAYTON||ARRIVALS||DEPARTURES|
|ACC: 7||Pittsburgh (36)||Austin Peay (OVC)||Belmont (OVC)|
|Big 12: 7||VCU (38)||Evansville (MVC)||Bucknell (Patriot)|
|Pac-12: 7||Syracuse (39)||FGCU (A-Sun)||Florida|
|Big Ten: 6||Butler (40)||Lehigh (Patriot)||High Point (Big South)|
|Big East: 5||LAST FOUR IN||Tulsa||Michigan|
|American: 4||Cincinnati (42)||Winthrop (Big South)||North Florida (A-Sun)|
|SEC: 4||Wichita State (43)|
|Atlantic 10: 3||Oregon State (44)|
|MVC: 2||Tulsa (45)|
|One-Bid Conferences: 23||FIRST FOUR OUT|
|NEXT FOUR OUT|
Also considered (in order): Princeton, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Creighton, Georgia Tech, BYU, Alabama, LSU, Clemson
Now maybe my headline exaggerates a bit, but for a good portion of Saturday, it seemed like the majority of teams that had the most on the line were simply at their worst.
A Shocker in St. Louis
The most important news of Saturday arrived with a St. Louis dateline. The Missouri Valley Conference's regular season champions, the Wichita State Shockers, fell in the Arch Madness semifinals to the Northern Iowa Panthers by a 57-52 score after overtime. Now Gregg Marshall's team has a long week of waiting ahead of it.
Wichita State's profile offers a fascinating case for the Selection Committee. While the Shockers' RPI ranking of 50 remains within at-large range, it's KenPom ranking of 10th is far higher. No team ranked that highly in the metric has ever been left out of the field in its existence (since the 2001-02 season). However, if you look more closely, there is a potential trouble spot. After Saturday's loss, Wichita State is just 4-7 against the RPI Top 100 with a single Top 50 win, which came at home over the Utah Utes. On the other hand, the Shockers have just one loss to a team from outside of the Top 100, a 58-53 loss at 119th-ranked Illinois State.
Another factor to consider is injuries, as Wichita State traveled to the Advocare Invitational in Orlando over Thanksgiving weekend with point guard Fred VanVleet already out, and they lost Anton Grady to a scary head injury late in a four-point loss to Alabama in their second game in the tournament. (I was there that afternoon and the Shockers were clearly shaken in the final moments.) If the Committee considers their injury troubles, there's a good chance the Shockers get a bid.
But theirs feels like a profile that might be perfect for the First Four.
Saturday's poor bubble results affected teams from sea to shining sea
The struggles Wichita State's competitors encountered yesterday also help the Missouri Valley regular season champion's cause.
On Wednesday, we could see a bubble elimination game right off the bat in the ACC Tournament, as both the Syracuse Orange and Pittsburgh Panthers lost on the road, to the Florida State Seminoles and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, respectively. Pitt has already defeated the Orange twice during ACC play. Meanwhile, the Seminoles, Yellow Jackets, Clemson Tigers and a Virginia Tech Hokies squad that pounded the Miami Hurricanes in Blacksburg are all threats to create further shocks in the Nation's Capital this week. The Hokies will unexpectedly be the sixth seed at the Verizon Center!
Two Big Ten bubble hopefuls took the court on Saturday — one on the road in a noon Eastern tip, the other at home in an evening start. Both fell. A second loss to the Michigan State Spartans in two weeks means the Ohio State Buckeyes' at-large hopes are faint, despite 11 conference wins. The Michigan Wolverines now have 10 Big Ten victories, but after a home loss to an Iowa Hawkeyes team that had lost its previous four, they're left needing to win games in the Big Ten Tournament as well.
While the St. Bonaventure Bonnies won their Atlantic 10 finale at Saint Louis, the George Washington Colonials dropped theirs at Davidson. That wasn't an ideal result for a team that defeated both Virginia and Seton Hall at home earlier in the season ... and lost to the Billikens and DePaul on the road. At the end of the night, the Bonnies ended up in a three-way tie for the regular season conference title with the Dayton Flyers and VCU Rams. The Flyers defeated the Rams in OT, depriving Will Wade's team of a badly needed marquee road win, and clinching the top seed in the Atlantic 10 Tournament for the home team.
On the West Coast, the Pac-12's only bubble team entering the day, the Oregon State Beavers, won for the second time on the road in conference play to get to 9-9. However, this is not a year when a win at UCLA will count for much. Across Los Angeles, the USC Trojans dropped their sixth game in their last eight, falling to the Oregon Ducks by 10. Andy Enfield's team is not as safe as you think.
In the SEC, the Florida Gators picked up a victory at Missouri that did nothing to help their case but end a four-game slide. The South Carolina Gamecocks also hammered Arkansas on the road to keep themselves from sliding closer to the cut line. Otherwise, it was bad news. The Vanderbilt Commodores struggled at Texas A&M, helping the Aggies clinch the top seed in the SEC Tournament. Making matters worse for the Commodores, they dropped to the five seed in Nashville, meaning they have to play a Thursday game against either Tennessee or Auburn, a potential late bad loss in either case. A considerable distance down the pecking order, the LSU Tigers remained in a deep hole, thanks to a loss at Kentucky. Later, the Georgia Bulldogs put the final nail in the coffin of the Alabama Crimson Tide with a 70-63 win in Athens. Who knows, maybe Mark Fox's Bulldogs — the six seed in Nashville — have a late run in them.
However, Saturday had a few bright spots
The evening closed with both West Coast Conference hopefuls — the Saint Mary's Gaels and Gonzaga Bulldogs — recording wins in their quarterfinal games. Both remain on course to meet in Tuesday's championship game, provided they get past troublesome teams in Monday's semis. The Gaels meet a Pepperdine Waves squad that swept them during the regular season, while the Bulldogs split its series with the BYU Cougars, who defeated the Zags in Spokane.
It looks like the Big 12 will get seven bids for sure, as long as the Texas Tech Red Raiders don't slip up against the TCU Horned Frogs in the Big 12 Tournament First Round on Wednesday. Tubby Smith's team took care of the Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday afternoon.
Five bids look likely for the Big East, as the bid-hungry Creighton Bluejays just didn't have enough to top the Xavier Musketeers in Cincinnati, falling 98-93. However, the league's three teams closest to the cut line — the Butler Bulldogs, Providence Friars and Seton Hall Pirates — all managed easy wins. The Pirates won at DePaul by 14, the Friars handled St. John's by the same margin, and the Bulldogs rolled past Marquette by 21.
Only one bubble team from the Big East's former conference partner, the American Athletic, was in action on Saturday. But the Tulsa Golden Hurricane picked up a needed victory, even if they trailed the South Florida Bulls at halftime of an eventual 84-74 win. Tomorrow is a bigger day for Division I's newest league, as the Temple Owls, Cincinnati Bearcats and Connecticut Huskies are all in action, with the Bearcats' home game with the tournament-ineligible SMU Mustangs looming particularly large.
With those games and a pair of crucial Big Ten matchups (Maryland Terrapins at Indiana Hoosiers and Wisconsin Badgers and Purdue Boilermakers) on today's slate, I'll be back with another update on Monday. That post will include a closer look at the profiles of those teams closest to the cut line.
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March Madness: From conference tournaments to a national champ