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Bracketology: Bubble expansion edition

At the top of Chris Dobbertean's latest projected bracket, there has been little change since Friday. But as one might expect, the same cannot be said for the bottom of the at-large pool. Thanks to the challenges and opportunities conference play offers, the number of teams in play for the final spots in the field continues to grow. And it's not only new contenders moving toward the cut line. SB Nation 2014 NBA Slam Dunk Contest Coverage

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Seed lines one and two from Friday's update (and last Tuesday's for that matter) remain the same, with Syracuse (East), Arizona (West), Florida (South) and Wichita State (Midwest) ahead of Kansas (even after Monday's loss to Kansas State), Michigan StateVillanova and San Diego State.

The bubble, on the other hand, is as volatile as ever, with Baylor and Oregon finally falling out along with fading Florida State. As those teams have cooled, GeorgetownSt. John's and West Virginia have heated up and moved in as the replacements for the struggling trio. But not all trend lines are positive. GonzagaProvidenceXavier and -- thanks to Saturday night's events in Lubbock -- Oklahoma State are finding their positions shakier by the day.

I'll have more on those teams, and many others, after today's bracket and rundown.

New teams are indicated by an asterisk (*), while teams shifted for bracketing purposes are marked with a caret (^).

(1) EAST
New York (Fri/Sun)
(2) WEST
Anaheim (Thu/Sat)
Buffalo (Thu/Sat) San Diego (Fri/Sun)
1 Syracuse (ACC) 1 Arizona (Pac-12)
16 Davidson/VMI 16 Weber State (Big Sky)
8 Oklahoma State 8 88 Kansas State
9 Stanford 9 New Mexico
San Diego (Fri/Sun) San Antonio (Fri/Sun)
55 5 Wisconsin 5 5 Saint Louis (A-10)
*12 North Dakota State (Summit) ↓^1212 Providence
4 Kentucky 4 Iowa State
13 Delaware (CAA) 13 Green Bay (Horizon)
Milwaukee (Thu/Sat) Raleigh (Fri/Sun)
6 Pittsburgh 666 Memphis
11 Xavier 11 California
3 Michigan (Big Ten) 3 Duke
14 Stephen F. Austin (Southland) *14 UC Irvine (Big West)
Spokane (Thu/Sat) Buffalo (Thu/Sat)
7 Oklahoma 7 Connecticut
10 Minnesota 10 Arizona State
2 San Diego State (MW) 2 Villanova (Big East)
*15 Yale (Ivy) 15 American (Patriot)
Indianapolis (Fri/Sun)
Memphis (Thu/Sat)
St. Louis (Fri/Sun) Orlando (Thu/Sat)
1 Wichita State (MVC) 1 Florida (SEC)
16 Southern/Utah Valley 16 Robert Morris (NEC)
8 North Carolina 8 George Washington
9 SMU 9 Colorado
Spokane (Thu/Sat) Raleigh (Fri/Sun)
5 Louisville 5 Texas
12 Toledo (MAC) 12 Richmond/St. John's
4 Iowa 4 Virginia
*13 Iona (MAAC) 13 Belmont (OVC)
San Antonio (Fri/Sun) Orlando (Thu/Sat)
6 UMass 6 Ohio State
*^11 Southern Miss. (C-USA) 11 BYU/West Virginia
3 Creighton 3 Cincinnati (AAC)
14 Mercer (A-Sun) 14 Georgia State (Sun Belt)
St. Louis (Fri/Sun) Milwaukee (Thu/Sat)
10 Gonzaga (WCC) *10 Georgetown
2 Kansas (Big 12) 2 Michigan State
15 Stony Brook (AE) *15 N.C. Central (MEAC)
Tuesday: To Buffalo Tuesday: To Orlando
16 Davidson (SoCon) 11 BYU
16 VMI (Big South) *11 West Virginia
Wednesday: To St. Louis Wednesday: To Raleigh
16 Southern (SWAC) 11 Richmond
16 Utah Valley (WAC) *11 St. John's

Big 12: 7 Minnesota Georgetown Baylor
Big East: 6 Xavier Iona Canisius
Big Ten: 6 California North Dakota State Florida State
Pac-12: 6 Providence St. John's Harvard
AAC: 5 LAST FOUR IN Southern Mississippi IPFW
A10: 5
Richmond UC Irvine Oregon
ACC: 5 BYU Vermont Stony Brook
MW: 2 West Virginia West Virginia UC Santa Barbara
SEC: 2 St. John's Yale UTEP

1-Bid Conferences: 22 St. Joseph's



N.C. State



Florida State



Also considered: Clemson, Harvard, Indiana, Louisiana Tech, Maryland

Teams are listed in the conference rundowns in seed list order. This post contains information about how I determine automatic bids before the conference tournaments, and my preseason bracket includes a rundown of the new bracket rules for this season. All RPI and SOS data is courtesy Basketball State ($) and reflects games against Division I opposition only that were completed before Monday, February 10, 2014.


Bids This Week (4): Cincinnati Bearcats (auto bid), Louisville Cardinals, Memphis Tigers, Connecticut Huskies, SMU Mustangs

The American is one of the few conferences where teams are doing a good job of rising above the mire, though that's primarily due to the lack of competition offered up by its bottom five teams.

As for SMU, the only thing its profile lacks right now is a quality road win.

On Saturday night, SMU ended Cincinnati's 15-game winning streak and perfect AAC run with a resounding victory at Moody Coliseum. That result not only significantly boosted the Mustangs' tournament chances -- they now sit in the RPI top 40 and have three top 50 wins to their credit -- but it also opened the title race back up for them (8-3), Louisville (8-2) and Memphis (7-3). The latter two had perfect weeks themselves. The Cardinals picked up two easy league wins over the past seven days, while the Tigers hammered woeful Rutgers in AAC play and picked up a potentially crucial non-conference win over Gonzaga.

As for SMU, the only thing its profile lacks right now is a quality road win. (The Mustangs' current best win came at Wyoming.) While the Mustangs won't get one at either Rutgers or Temple, they must remember their loss at USF on Jan. 28 and avoid falling into the same trap again.

Five Games To Watch
Louisville at Temple, Thursday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
SMU at Rutgers, Thursday 7 p.m. ET (ESPNews)
Memphis at Connecticut, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Houston at Cincinnati, Saturday 3 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
SMU at Temple, Sunday 2 p.m. ET (CBS SN)

Atlantic 10

Bids This Week (5): Saint Louis Billikens (auto bid), VCU Rams, UMass Minutemen, George Washington Colonials, Richmond Spiders (First Four)

I'm saying this now: The Atlantic 10 Tournament in Brooklyn may very well be bubble central as Championship Week winds down. While the conference's top four -- Saint Louis, VCU, GW and UMass -- are closing in on bids, Richmond, St. Joseph's and Dayton are building cases of their own. That should make the quarterfinal round one of the more intriguing sets of games to watch on perhaps the most important day of the season.

Richmond did the least positive work this week, slipping past St. Bonaventure at home Wednesday. In Philadelphia, the St. Joseph's split a pair with the league favorites, falling to Saint Louis before holding off VCU on Saturday night. Meanwhile, Dayton has followed a four-game skid with three wins in a row. Given that Dayton has three losses to teams outside of the top 100, more victories like their bout over George Washington on Feb. 1 will be necessary to push them higher in the pecking order.

The team with the most on the line this week is VCU, which hosts GW before heading to Saint Louis for the first of two meetings in a span of two weeks. Certainly, Wednesday's Siegel Center crowd will keep the Rams from looking ahead to Saturday.

Five Games To Watch
George Washington at VCU, Wednesday 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Rhode Island at Dayton, 7 p.m. ET (WHIO/OSN/SNY/A10 Network)
St. Joseph's at La Salle, Saturday 11 a.m. ET (ESPNU)
UMass at George Washington, Saturday 2 p.m. ET (CSN Mid-Atlantic/SNY)
VCU at Saint Louis, Saturday 2 p.m. ET (ESPN2)


Bids This Week (5): Syracuse Orange (auto bid), Duke Blue Devils, Virginia Cavaliers, Pittsburgh Panthers, North Carolina Tar Heels

Even though Pittsburgh's offense is apparently hibernating this month, these five teams are looking like excellent bets for the NCAA Tournament with less than five weeks to go before Selection Sunday. However, if the ACC is going to grab a sixth, or even seventh, bid, someone from the middle is going to have to rise above mediocrity. That doesn't look possible given the group's inconsistent results of the past week.

Florida State falls out after dropping games to Maryland and Miami, the Seminoles' fourth and fifth setbacks in their last six outings. The Terrapins' win didn't move them up the bubble much because it was sandwiched between losses at UNC and Virginia. Clemson lulled Georgia Tech to sleep on Tuesday, but couldn't take advantage of Syracuse's lack of interior depth Sunday night. The Tigers lost a chance to gain one of the better wins a bubble team will ever earn just one month after upsetting Duke.

The team that helped itself the most played just once. N.C. State snuck past Miami on Saturday to earn its fourth win in its last five tries (the loss was a no-show performance in Chapel Hill.) The Wolfpack will take on Wake Forest, which has dropped three straight to fall out of the hunt, Tuesday night in Raleigh.

Five Games To Watch
Syracuse at Pittsburgh, Wednesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Duke at North Carolina, Wednesday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN and ACC Network)
Virginia at Clemson, Saturday 12 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Pittsburgh at North Carolina, Saturday 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
North Carolina at Florida State, Monday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Big 12

Bids This Week (7): Kansas Jayhawks (auto bid), Iowa State Cyclones, Texas Longhorns, Oklahoma SoonersKansas State WildcatsOklahoma State Cowboys, West Virginia Mountaineers (First Four)

The most significant story in the Big 12 this week is the suspension of Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart after he shoverd a Texas Tech fan late during Saturday night's loss in Lubbock. It was an outburst that literally could not have come at worse time for the Cowboys. All three games during Smart's ban fall in the next seven days, all against teams with NCAA hopes of their own.

Oklahoma State has already struggled mightily during conference play -- coinciding, probably not coincidentally, with the loss of center Michael Cobbins to an Achilles tear -- and a recent four-game skid has seen the Cowboys fall from a protected seed to the middle of the bracket. With three loseable games this week and no Smart in the lineup, a 4-6 conference mark could turn far uglier. The bubble, and perhaps even the wrong side of it, may then beckon. Sure, the Selection Committee will consider the suspension, but from what I've observed over the past nine seasons, their deliberations rarely help a team's final position, particularly if a team is sliding, anyway.

Baylor, which looked to have saved its season by winning in Stillwater to open February, falls out of the bracket after following that victory with a pair of ugly performances against Kansas and Oklahoma. West Virginia, meanwhile, moves into the First Four after a week in which they toppled the Sooners, lost at Kansas then obliterated Iowa State. The Mountaineers could slip if guard Eron Harris is suspended for a game or two after being ejected for punching ISU's Monte Morris late in Monday night's win.

Five Games To Watch
Oklahoma State at Texas, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State, Saturday 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)
West Virginia at Texas, Saturday 8 p.m. ET (Longhorn Network)
Kansas State at Baylor, Saturday 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Oklahoma State at Baylor, Monday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Big East

Bids This Week (6): Villanova Wildcats (auto bid), Creighton Bluejays, Georgetown Hoyas, Xavier Musketeers, Providence Friars, St. John's Red Storm (First Four)

Eleven days into February, the only two Big East teams that are truly out of the at-large hunt are Butler and DePaul. On Sunday night, St. John's held Creighton's Doug McDermott without a point for the final eight minutes of a 70-65 win, which was the Red Storm's sixth victory in its last seven tries. That is good enough to push Steve Lavin's team just into the field at the moment. But the Johnnies aren't the only Big East newcomer in the bracket. Georgetown returns after a long absence, and as a 10-seed no less. The Hoyas defeated Providence on Monday for their fourth win in a row.

As for the Friars, they have only managed one win over DePaul in their last five games -- a stretch that has included four brutal road trips -- which leaves them teetering on the edge. But Providence isn't the only Big East bid contender struggling. On Saturday, Ed Cooley's squad fell at Xavier, giving the Musketeers their first win since winning in Rosemont on Jan. 20. Considering Georgetown and St. John's resurgence, and the fact that Marquette and Seton Hall could climb up the standings if they find some consistency, Providence and Xavier are going to have to end their slumps soon to maintain their places.

Five Games To Watch
Marquette at Seton Hall, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (FS1)
Creighton at Butler, Thursday 7 p.m. ET (CBS SN)
Xavier at Marquette, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (Fox)
Villanova at Creighton, Sunday 5 p.m. ET (FS1)
Georgetown at St. John's, Sunday 7 p.m. ET (FS1)

Big Ten

Bids This Week (6): Michigan State Spartans, Michigan Wolverines (auto bid), Iowa Hawkeyes, Wisconsin Badgers, Ohio State Buckeyes, Minnesota Golden Gophers

Michigan State's hopes for a top seed received a boost Sunday in Madison when Adreian Payne returned from a foot injury, though the Spartans did fall to Wisconsin in a thrilling finish. The win was the Badgers' second win in a row, which stopped the bleeding of a 1-6 slide.

Around the Big Ten

Despite two losses in its last three games, Michigan's seeding hasn't taken much of a hit. However, things may change quickly, with Saturday's loss at Iowa being the first game in a brutal four-game stretch for the Wolverines. Tuesday night, John Beilein's team travels to Ohio State, which has rattled off three straight wins. Then Wisconsin and Michigan State appear on the schedule, though Michigan gets to play them in Ann Arbor.

The Big Ten's bubble remains rather small. Minnesota toppled Indiana on Saturday night to give themselves a bit of a cushion, while simultaneously depriving the Hoosiers of the decent road win they desperately need.

Five Games To Watch
Michigan at Ohio State, Tuesday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Minnesota at Wisconsin, Thursday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Indiana at Purdue, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Wisconsin at Michigan, Sunday 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
Minnesota at Northwestern, Sunday 6 p.m. ET (BTN)

Mountain West

Bids This Week (2): San Diego State Aztecs (auto bid), New Mexico Lobos

Not much has changed, or likely will change, in the Mountain West picture. San Diego State and New Mexico remain entrenched in the bracket after perfect weeks, even if the Lobos needed overtime to defeat Wyoming at home Wednesday night. Boise State really does need the auto bid now, after a two-point home loss to the Aztecs and a defeat at Utah State pushed the Broncos to 5-6 in the conference. UNLV's position is also not looking great, either. The Runnin' Rebels followed a road thumping at the hands of Colorado State with an unimpressive home win over Wyoming.

Five Games To Watch
San Diego State at Wyoming, Tuesday 11 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
New Mexico at Boise State, Wednesday 9:15 p.m. ET (CBS SN)
UNLV at Utah State, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (CBS SN)
Nevada at New Mexico, Saturday 6 p.m. ET (CBS SN)
Air Force at San Diego State, Saturday 8 p.m. ET (CBS SN)


Bids This Week (6): Arizona Wildcats (auto bid), UCLA Bruins, Colorado Buffaloes, Stanford Cardinal, Arizona State Sun Devils, California Golden Bears

Last week's muddle in the middle of the Pac-12 table has disappeared for the moment, and now it appears there is a clear division between the six bid contenders and the half-dozen who are out of the hunt. That includes Oregon, who is gone from the First Four after a weekend sweep in the desert.

Colorado did itself a considerable amount of good this week

Colorado did itself a considerable amount of good this week, even if its two wins came against the Washington schools. The Buffaloes have now won three straight and look to be finding their way without Spencer Dinwiddie. Of course, this week's trip to Los Angeles -- particularly, Thursday's game at Pauley Pavilion -- will be a better indicator of the Buffs' hopes than three victories in Boulder.

Arizona State's sweep of the Oregon schools was vital for the Sun Devils' hopes. They can take another big step by topping archrival Arizona in Tempe on Friday night. In the Bay Area, Stanford prevented a Cal sweep by winning at Haas Pavilion, pushing the Cardinals above the Golden Bears (1-4 in their last five games) on the seed list.

Five Games To Watch
Stanford at Washington, Wednesday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Colorado at UCLA, Thursday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Arizona at Arizona State, Friday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
California at Washington, Saturday 3 p.m. ET (Pac-12 Network)
Oregon State at Oregon, Sunday 3 p.m. ET (FS1)


Bids This Week (2): Florida Gators, Kentucky Wildcats

This week will be vital for Florida's top-seed hopes, with a brutal road swing forthcoming. The Gators will face Tennessee on Tuesday and Kentucky on Saturday. They have only won twice in Knoxville in the past decade and last tasted victory in Lexington back in 2007 during their second national championship season. The Wildcats have won three in a row to maintain their position among the top 16 seeds, and they will likely rise if they score a win over Florida on Saturday night.

The bubble is still a mess. Mississippi followed a loss at Kentucky with a home win over Missouri, who has now dropped three games in a row. Tennessee blasted South Carolina, days after being stopped by shorthanded Vanderbilt in Nashville. LSU followed a pair of nice home wins with a loss at Georgia and a close win at Auburn. None of these four teams feature in the bracket for this week. The Volunteers, who visit Mizzou after hosting Florida, have a decent chance to join next Tuesday's projection, provided it can pull off a 2-0 week.

Five Games To Watch
Florida at Tennessee, Tuesday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Arkansas at Missouri, Thursday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Tennessee at Missouri, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)
LSU at Arkansas, Saturday 5 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Florida at Kentucky, Saturday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Likely Single-Bid Conferences

Automatic Bids This Week (23): Vermont Catamounts (America East), Mercer Bears (Atlantic Sun), Weber State Wildcats (Big Sky), VMI Keydets (Big South), UC Irvine Anteaters (Big West), Delaware Blue Hens (Colonial), Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (Conference USA), Green Bay Phoenix (Horizon), Yale Bulldogs (Ivy), Iona Gaels (Metro Atlantic), Toledo Rockets (Mid-American), N.C. Central Eagles (Mid-Eastern), Wichita State Shockers (Missouri Valley, in as at-large), Robert Morris Colonials (Northeast), Belmont Bruins (Ohio Valley), American Eagles (Patriot), Davidson Wildcats (Southern), Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (Southland), Southern Jaguars (Southwestern), North Dakota State Bison (Summit), Georgia State Panthers (Sun Belt), Gonzaga Bulldogs (West Coast, in as at-large), Utah Valley Wolverines (Western Athletic)

At-Large Bids This Week (1): BYU Cougars (First Four)

While Wichita State remains perfect and a tournament lock, it's looking highly unlikely that we will see more than two at-large bids from the remaining 23 conferences. BYU hangs in the First Four after a pair of home wins, but Gonzaga may not want to give the Selection Committee any reason to examine its resume after Saturday's collapse at Memphis. While the Bulldogs own a 7-3 record against the top 100, only one of those wins -- against BYU at home -- came against a top 50 team. The rematch in Provo on Feb. 20 is likely their only remaining chance at grabbing another top 50 during the regular season.

On the other side of the country, the big story was Harvard's Saturday home loss to Yale, a result that moves the Bulldogs into the field as the Crimson's replacement (based on a head-to-head result). That pushes Tommy Amaker's team into the at-large pool, where a 2-2 record against the top 100 without a single top 50 win likely won't make the cut. The Harvard-Yale rematch is set for Friday, March 7, at Lee Amphitheater, and there may very well be a one-game playoff to follow.

Five Games To Watch
Ohio at Toledo, Wednesday 7 p.m. ET (TWCS/ESPN3)
UC Santa Barbara at Long Beach State, Thursday 10 p.m. (ESPN3)
Green Bay at Cleveland State, Saturday 4 p.m. (Horizon League Network/ESPN3)
BYU at St. Mary's, Saturday 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Delaware at Towson, Monday 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

My next bracketology will come on Friday. In the meantime, head over to Blogging the Bracket for my daily TV previews and morning recaps, and follow me during each night's action on Twitter @ChrisDobbertean.

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