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NCAA bracket 2017 Bracketology: Super Saturday promises to shake things up

Selection Eve will see 13 teams clinch automatic bids. But today’s slate features 10 games that bubble teams will be watching with particular interest.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Tournament-Florida vs Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt is close to a lock, even with 14 losses, but a pair of wins this weekend will eliminate any worry.
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Before I get into the “bubble fan’s rooting guide for Saturday,” here’s a quick rundown of what changed at the top of the bracket, thanks to Friday’s conference tournament action.

While the Villanova Wildcats remain first overall, the Kansas Jayhawks moved back into second following the North Carolina Tar Heels ACC Tournament semifinal loss to the Duke Blue Devils. The Gonzaga Bulldogs remain cemented to the top spot out west.

The No. 2 seed out west looks likely to go to the winner of tonight’s Pac-12 Tournament final between the Oregon Ducks and Arizona Wildcats. Both join Duke and the Kentucky Wildcats there now, with the Wildcats replacing the UCLA Bruins following last night’s semifinal in Las Vegas. The Florida State Seminoles, Louisville Cardinals, and Baylor Bears share line three with Steve Alford’s squad.

The Florida Gators dropped out of the top 16 after their SEC Tournament quarterfinal loss to the Vanderbilt Commodores. The ACC finalist Notre Dame Fighting Irish replace them, with the Butler Bulldogs, Purdue Boilermakers (even after a Big Ten Tournament loss to the Michigan Wolverines), and West Virginia Mountaineers occupying the other spots on line No. 4.

There was one change at the cut line thanks to yesterday’s results, but danger lurks for bubble teams during the final two days of action. I’ll discuss what to watch for after today’s full bracket and rundown.

No. 1 East (Left) and No. 2 Midwest (Right)

New York (Fri/Sun) Kansas City (Thu/Sat)
New York (Fri/Sun) Kansas City (Thu/Sat)
Buffalo (Thu/Sat) Tulsa (Fri/Sun)
1. Villanova (Big East) 1. Kansas
16. New Orleans/N.C. Central 16. JAX STATE/S.D. STATE
8. Arkansas 8. Miami
9. VCU (A 10) 9. Michigan State
Milwaukee (Thu/Sat) Milwaukee (Thu/Sat)
5. Virginia 5. Cincinnati
12. UNC WILMINGTON (CAA) 12. Syracuse/Rhode Island
4. Purdue 4. Butler
13. BUCKNELL (Patriot) 13. Vermont (AE)
Tulsa (Fri/Sun) Orlando (Thu/Sat)
6. Michigan 6. Wisconsin (Big Ten)
11. Vanderbilt 11. Middle Tennessee (C-USA)
3. Baylor 3. Florida State
Greenville (Fri/Sun) Salt Lake City (Thu/Sat)
7. Maryland 7. Saint Mary's
10. Xavier 10. Marquette
2. Duke 2. Arizona
15. IONA (MAAC) 15. UC Irvine (Big West)

No. 4 West (Left) and No. 3 South (Right)

San José (Thu/Sat) Memphis (Fri/Sun)
San José (Thu/Sat) Memphis (Fri/Sun)
Salt Lake City (Thu/Sat) Greenville (Fri/Sun)
1. GONZAGA (WCC) 1. North Carolina
16. North Dakota (Big Sky) 16. MT. ST. MARY'S (NEC)
8. Oklahoma State 8. WICHITA STATE (MVC)
9. Virginia Tech 9. Seton Hall
Orlando (Thu/Sat) Buffalo (Thu/Sat)
5. Florida 5. Minnesota
12. UT Arlington (Sun Belt) 12. Nevada (MW)
4. Notre Dame (ACC) 4. West Virginia (Big 12)
13. E. TENNESSEE ST. (SoCon) 13. Princeton (Ivy)
Indianapolis (Fri/Sun) Sacramento (Fri/Sun)
6. Iowa State 6. SMU (American)
11. Providence/USC 11. Wake Forest
3. Louisville 3. UCLA
14. Akron (MAC) 14. Cal St. Bakersfield (WAC)
Sacramento (Fri/Sun) Indianapolis (Fri/Sun)
7. Northwestern 7. Creighton
10. South Carolina 10. Dayton
2. Oregon (Pac-12) 2. Kentucky (SEC)

First Four

To Buffalo (Tue.) To Tulsa (Wed.) To Milwaukee (Tue.) To Indianapolis (Wed.)
16. New Orleans (Southland) 16. JACKSONVILLE ST. (OVC) 12. Syracuse 11. Providence
16. N.C. Central (MEAC) 16. S. DAKOTA ST. (Summit) 12. Rhode Island 11. USC


Providence (44) Kansas State Iowa
USC (45) Illinois State Indiana
Syracuse (46) Monmouth Illinois
Rhode Island (47) California TCU

I dropped the “Last Four Byes” category today, since the teams in that group shouldn’t be in any danger of dropping out at this point.

IN: Rhode Island
OUT: Kansas State
By Conference: ACC (10); Big East and Big Ten (7); Big 12 and SEC (5); Pac-12 (4); A 10 (3); American and West Coast (2); 23 one-bid leagues

As I wrote in my final bubble update Friday, the Rhode Island Rams jump into the field to replace the Kansas State Wildcats. Bruce Weber’s team really needed a win over West Virginia to mitigate its horrendous nonconference schedule.

While the Rams can still win the Atlantic 10 Tournament, the rest of the teams sitting in the first four spots — the Providence Friars, Syracuse Orange, and USC Trojans — will be paying particular attention to the following games today and tonight (presented in rough tip time order).

UT Arlington Mavericks vs. Texas State Bobcats (12:30 p.m., ESPN3)
The Mavericks sit 37th in the RPI heading into today’s Sun Belt Tournament semifinal against a Bobcat team that they split with during the regular season. While the odds are slim for UTA, it will probably have a better chance at earning an at-large with a loss in tomorrow’s championship game.

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Kentucky Wildcats (1 p.m., ESPN)
Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Arkansas Razorbacks, approx. 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Even a win over the Wildcats won’t be enough to get the Crimson Tide an at-large, but it would put them in position to earn a surprise SEC Tournament crown on Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, the Commodores will either be the first-ever, 15-loss at-large team or the SEC’s auto bid winner after this weekend in Nashville. Still, a blowout loss to the Hogs might give the Selection Committee second thoughts. Maybe.

Davidson Wildcats vs. Rhode Island Rams, (1 p.m., CBSSN)
Richmond Spiders vs. Virginia Commonwealth Rams, approx. 3:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
A loss might drop Rhode Island from the bracket, while simultaneously allowing the Wildcats to poach a bid tomorrow afternoon in Pittsburgh. If Davidson and Richmond both win, a bubble will officially be popped. Note that VCU swept its regular season series with the Spiders, its crosstown rivals.

Penn Quakers vs. Princeton Tigers, (1:30 p.m., ESPNU)
While the Tigers are unlikely to get an at-large look if they lose in the first-ever Ivy League Tournament, they could move into the RPI Top 50 with a pair of wins. That would be a boost to the California Golden Bears and Monmouth Hawks, teams that defeated the Ivy favorite during the regular season.

UCF Knights vs. SMU Mustangs, 3 p.m. (ESPN2)
Connecticut Huskies vs. Cincinnati Bearcats, approx. 5:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
The top two seeds, the Mustangs and Bearcats, only lost to each other during league play. But the Huskies, playing in Hartford, are potentially the biggest threat to bubble teams. And that’s even after getting blown out by the Bearcats on Sunday.

Colorado State Rams vs. Nevada Wolf Pack, 6 p.m. (CBS)
The Wolf Pack currently ranks 31st in the RPI, one spot ahead of the Illinois State Redbirds, so it’ll get at-large consideration if it fails to defeat the Rams for the second Saturday in a row. However, Nevada’s 9-5 Top 100 record doesn’t (and likely won’t) feature a win over a Top 50 foe.

Marshall Thundering Herd vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders, 8 p.m. (CBSSN)
I think the Blue Raiders will be in the field win or lose. However, a defeat at the hands of the second-seeded Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in tonight’s Conference USA Tournament final would have been better than the potential of one to the sixth-seeded Thundering Herd.

There. Your viewing day is mostly set.

Naturally, I’ll be back with further bubble updates during the day, as events warrant.