The more things change at the bracket's cut line, the more they stay the same at the top, where the top eight teams from Tuesday's projection -- Kentucky, Virginia, Wisconsin and Duke on line one and Gonzaga, Villanova, Kansas and Arizona on line two -- keep their favored positions.
After today's full bracket and rundown, I'll take a look at the bid picture, which is surprisingly close to the one from a week ago. Such is the difficulty many teams are having in separating themselves from the competition.
|(1) MIDWEST |
|Louisville (Thu/Sat)||Charlotte (Fri/Sun)|
|1||Kentucky (SEC)||1||Virginia (ACC)|
|16||Bucknell/St. Francis-Brooklyn||16||South Dakota State/Texas Southern|
|8||Dayton||↑ 8 88||Ole Miss|
|↑ 9||Iowa||9||Michigan State|
|Jacksonville (Thu/Sat)||Seattle (Fri/Sun)|
|5||VCU (A 10)||5||Butler|
|12||Eastern Washington (Big Sky)||122||Wofford (SoCon)|
|↓ 4||North Carolina||4||Northern Iowa (MVC)|
|13||Murray State (OVC)||13||Valparaiso (Horizon)|
|Columbus (Fri/Sun)||Portland (Thu/Sat)|
|6||West Virginia||↑ 6666||Georgetown|
|11||St. John's||↓ 11||Georgia|
|14||N.C. Central (MEAC)||14||Sam Houston State (Southland)|
|Portland (Thu/Sat)||Omaha (Fri/Sun)|
|↓ 7||Oklahoma State||7||SMU (American)|
|2||Arizona (Pac-12)||2||Kansas (Big 12)|
|15||High Point (Big South)||15||UL Monroe (Sun Belt)|
|(4) WEST |
Los Angeles (Thu/Sat)
|Charlotte (Fri/Sun)||Omaha (Fri/Sun)|
|1||Duke||1||Wisconsin (Big Ten)|
|16||Albany (AE)||16||New Mexico State (WAC)|
|8||Ohio State||↓ 8||Texas|
|Jacksonville (Thu/Sat)||Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)|
|4||Maryland||↓ 4||Notre Dame|
|13||William & Mary (CAA)||*13||Toledo (MAC)|
|Louisville (Thu/Sat)||Columbus (Fri/Sun)|
|3||Oklahoma||↑ 3||Iowa State|
|14||Harvard (Ivy)||14||Louisiana Tech (C-USA)|
|Seattle (Fri/Sun)||Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)|
|↑ 7||San Diego State (MW)||7||Indiana|
|10||Texas A&M||10||Colorado State|
|2||Gonzaga (WCC)||2||Villanova (Big East)|
|15||UC Davis (Big West)||15||FGCU (A-Sun)|
|FIRST FOUR (Dayton)|
|Tuesday: To Louisville||Tuesday: To Louisville|
|16||St. Francis-Brooklyn (NEC)||11||Purdue|
|Wednesday: To Charlotte||Wednesday: To Columbus
|16||South Dakota State (Summit)||11||North Carolina State|
|16||Texas Southern (SWAC)||↓ 11||Stanford|
* = new entrant
Note: Xavier is a natural 11 seed that was dropped to the 12 line to accommodate the First Four's travel requirements.
|BIDS BY CONFERENCE||AVOIDING DAYTON||ARRIVALS||DEPARTURES|
|Big Ten: 8||Illinois||Miami||Bowling Green|
|Big 12: 7||St. John's|
|Big East: 6||Xavier|
|SEC: 6||LAST FOUR IN|
|A 10: 2||N.C. State|
|MW: 2||FIRST FOUR OUT|
|One-Bid Conferences: 22||Oregon|
|NEXT FOUR OUT|
Also considered (in alphabetical order): Alabama, Brigham Young, George Washington, Green Bay, UMass, Old Dominion, St. Mary's, UTEP, Wyoming
Locks and Protected Seeds (16)
|1 seeds||1. Kentucky*
|2 seeds||8. Arizona*
|3 seeds||9. Louisville||10. Utah
||11. Oklahoma||12. Iowa State|
|4 seeds||16. Maryland||15. Northern Iowa*||14. North Carolina||13. Notre Dame
The same 16 teams that occupied these positions last week are here again, though Oklahoma and Iowa State have jumped to the three line. The Big 12 rivals replace the ACC pair of North Carolina and Notre Dame, who slide down to line 4. Big Ten newcomer Maryland is the team in this group most in danger of falling out, thanks to a series of unimpressive performances -- including close wins over second-division Penn State and Nebraska in the last seven days.
Other Locks (4)
|5 seeds||17. Butler||18. VCU*||19. Wichita State
It might still be a little early to lock VCU in, but Saturday's impressive win at fading George Washington illustrated that the Rams might be figuring out how to play without Briante Weber, especially since Treveon Graham has returned from his injury.
Remember, 21 of the 68 bids go to probable one-bid conferences, leaving 47 up for grabs for the multi-bid leagues. With 20 locks accounted for, 27 spots remain.
In Good Shape (11)
|6 seeds||24. Georgetown
||22. Arkansas||21. West Virginia
|7 seeds||25. Indiana||26. SMU*||27. Oklahoma State||28. San Diego State*|
|8 seeds||31. Texas||30. Ohio State||29. Dayton|
Of this group, Texas is the team in the most trouble. While the Longhorns are ranked 34th in the RPI and have not lost to a team from outside of that metric's Top 50, they have just one win in an astounding 10 games against that group. They must add to that total in a closing stretch that boasts home games against Iowa State, Baylor and struggling Kansas State, and road trips to West Virginia and Kansas.
That's 11 more bids off the board, dropping the total available to bubble teams to 16.
|8 seeds||32. Ole Miss
|9 seeds||33. Iowa||34. Michigan State||35. Temple
|10 seeds||39. LSU||38. Texas A&M
There wasn't a whole lot of positive movement by members of this group over the past week. Texas A&M completed a sweep of LSU; however, that Tuesday win knocked the Tigers out of the RPI Top 50. Iowa took care of business against Rutgers, allowing the Hawkeyes to improve their position at a time when Temple and Cincinnati lost midweek games. The same went for Ole Miss and Colorado State, who each avoided bad losses since Tuesday's projection.
Last Four At-Larges (Avoiding Dayton)
|10 seeds||40. Illinois|
|11 seeds||41. Georgia||42. St. John's||43. Xavier^|
^Xavier was moved to a 12 seed in the bracket to accommodate the First Four.
Illinois gained a bit of breathing room despite being idle during the week -- with the failings of others boosting the Fighting Illini's chances. On the flip side, Georgia is suddenly in real danger following back-to-back losses to Auburn and South Carolina, with the Gamecocks completing a season sweep. Given the lack of non-conference wins on the Bulldogs' profile, they really need to be careful down the stretch, with upcoming games at Alabama and Ole Miss looming particularly large.
Last Four In (First Four)
|11 seeds||45. Purdue||44. Stanford|
|12 seeds||47. Miami^||46. N.C. State^|
^Miami and N.C. State were moved into 11 seed positions for the First Four.
Purdue won at archrival Indiana Thursday night, a result that edges the Boilermakers further from the cut line. While early losses to Gardner-Webb and North Florida will always be on Purdue's profile, strong late performances should help lessen their impact.
First Four Out/Next Four Out
|First 4 Out||69. Oregon||70. UCLA
And that's because Oregon and UCLA, the two teams in the best position to pass the Hurricanes, can both grab marquee wins this weekend. The Ducks host Utah on Sunday afternoon, while the Bruins face a near-must win at Arizona on Saturday night.
Keep an eye on Davidson, quiet winners of four in a row, including a 65-63 win at George Washington on Wednesday night. The Wildcats host Atlantic 10 leader VCU on March 5 and visit fellow bid contender Rhode Island on Feb. 25.
|Next 4 Out||76. Rhode Island
||75. Seton Hall
||73. Boise State
Opportunities are running out for half of this group, as Pittsburgh (Miami) and Boise State (San Diego State) have only one game apiece remaining against contenders. Seton Hall, which has won just twice since Jan. 13, has basically destroyed the profile it built during November and December. Rhode Island, meanwhile, will have a lot riding on a home date with Davidson and a trip to Dayton.
In The Hunt
|77. BYU||78. UMass||79. Old Dominion||80. Wyoming|
|84. St. Mary's||83. UTEP||82. Geo. Washington||81. Green Bay|
At this point, the eight teams in this group look likely to need the same result as the 21 teams in the final group. In particular, UMass did itself no favors in falling to Rhode Island Wednesday night.
Auto Bid Only
|12 seeds||48. Iona'||49. Wofford*||50. E. Washington*|
|13 seeds||54. Toledo"||53. William & Mary*||52. Murray State*||51. Valparaiso*|
|14 seeds||55. Harvard*||56. Louisiana Tech*||57. Sam Houston St.*||58. N.C. Central*|
|15 seeds||62. FGCU*||61. UL Monroe*||60. High Point
||59. UC Davis*|
|63.Albany*||64. New Mexico State*
|65. South Dakota St.*||66. Texas Southern*||67. St. Francis-Bkn.*
As usual, the only chance these 21 teams have at qualifying is to claim their conference's automatic bid. In fact, the first of the weekend's games to watch will go a considerable way to determining the path to the tournament final in one of the probable one-bid conferences.
Cleveland State at Green Bay, Friday 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
The loser falls two games behind Valparaiso in the Horizon race with just two regular season contests remaining. The Vikings closed January with a 14-point home win over the Phoenix.
Seton Hall at St. John's, Saturday noon ET (FS1)
The Pirates opened the Big East portion of their schedule with a 78-67 win over the Red Storm on New Year's Eve. However, they've only won four times since and have just about fallen completely out of the picture as a result. A similar fate may await the Johnnies if they lose this one.
Minnesota at Wisconsin, Saturday noon ET (ESPN)
Curiously, the Gophers will play the Badgers twice in their next three, a scheduling quirk that does not apply to Wisconsin. Minnesota's best chance will likely come at the Barn on March 5. However, after falling to Northwestern at home on Wednesday, Richard Pitino's squad really needs to sweep the Badgers.
UMass at VCU, Saturday noon ET (ESPN2)
The Minutemen need a win in Richmond to make the selection committee take notice.
Texas A&M at South Carolina, Saturday noon ET (SEC Network)
Tuesday night, the Gamecocks let some of the air out of Georgia's bubble in Athens. Today, they'll attempt to do the same to the Aggies back in Columbia.
Pittsburgh at Syracuse, Saturday noon ET (ACC Network Regional/ESPN3)
The Orange will attempt to reverse the six-point loss they suffered on Feb. 7, and send the Panthers tumbling off the bubble in the process.
Florida at LSU, Saturday 1 p.m. ET (CBS)
On Jan. 20, the Tigers routed the Gators in Gainesville. They really need to repeat the feat to boost their profile, especially after Tuesday's loss in College Station.
Miami at Louisville, Saturday 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)
It's unlikely that the Hurricanes play the Cardinals as closely as they did in a 63-55 loss in Coral Gables, but they desperately need a late quality win.
Iowa State at Texas, Saturday 2 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
These two played a thriller on Jan. 26 in Ames, an 89-86 Cyclone victory. Revenge would be sweet for the Longhorns, particularly after an opportunity lost on Tuesday at Oklahoma.
West Virginia at Oklahoma State, Saturday 2 p.m. ET (ESPNews)
The Mountaineers continue their late-season gauntlet with a trip to Stillwater, the first of two meetings between the pair in a three-Saturday span.
Butler at Xavier, Saturday 2 p.m. ET (FSN)
The Bulldogs triumphed by 12 in the pair's first meeting on Jan. 10, but the Musketeers are riding high after a needed rivalry road win over Cincinnati on Wednesday.
George Washington at Richmond, Saturday 4 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
The Spiders took the Colonials to double OT Jan. 15, where they fell by three. GW, barely on the bubble, cannot afford a road reversal.
Virginia Tech at North Carolina State, Saturday 6 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
It's been a week since the Wolfpack picked up a marquee win at Louisville. A home loss to the struggling Hokies would not be an ideal follow-up.
Tennessee at Ole Miss, Saturday 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Danger, Rebels. While the Volunteers are basically out of the picture following Tuesday's home loss to Kentucky, they can still play spoiler on the way to the NIT.
Georgia at Alabama, Saturday 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
If the Bulldogs drop this one, they will almost assuredly need to win at Ole Miss to stick around.
UCLA at Arizona, Saturday 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)
After falling in Tempe Wednesday night, a win in Tucson is suddenly paramount for the bubbly Bruins.
Gonzaga at St. Mary's, Saturday 10 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
Even a home triumph for the Gaels on Saturday would likely not be enough, though such a result would all but end the Bulldogs' no. 1 seed hopes.
Iowa at Nebraska, Sunday 3 p.m. ET (BTN)
The Hawkeyes could use a repeat of their 11-point home win over the Cornhuskers.
Temple at Tulsa, Sunday 6 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
The Golden Hurricane's best win is their 63-56 Jan. 10 win over the Owls in Philadelphia, and it's not particularly close.
Michigan State at Illinois, Sunday 7:30 p.m. ET (BTN)
Remember, the Fighting Illini won by five in East Lansing Feb. 7. A repeat would do wonders for their hopes while sending the Spartans further toward the cut line.
Xavier at St. John's, Monday 8 p.m. ET (FS1)
The Red Storm will look to complete a sweep after toppling the Musketeers in Cincinnati Feb. 14.
Kansas at Kansas State, Monday 9 p.m. (ESPN)
Another Monday, another tricky road game for the Jayhawks. KU handled K-State rather easily in Lawrence to close out January, winning 68-57.
Check in on Tuesday to see how February's final full weekend affected the field. March beckons.