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Bracketology: Villanova claws way to top line

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The Big East-leading Wildcats replace Wisconsin, which picked up its third loss of the season at Maryland Tuesday night. Down by the cut line, Miami rotates in for the second Friday in a row, replacing struggling Stanford.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Villanova Wildcats, owner of a 9-1 record against the RPI Top 50 and 14-2 mark against the Top 100, takes over top spot in the South region in Friday's projection. Tuesday's top two seeds, Kentucky and Virginia, still lead the way, with Villanova jumping West anchor Duke and the top two teams on two line, Gonzaga and Wisconsin, to sit third in this projection.

Given the continued presence of two ACC teams on the top line, it's still very possible for the Badgers and Bulldogs to claim one of the coveted spots there, but both may need to sweep their respective conference regular season and win tournament titles to hear their names called at the start of the Selection Show.

After today's full bracket and rundown, it's time to take a look at what is still a volatile bid picture.

(1) MIDWEST
Cleveland (Thu/Sat)
(2) EAST
Syracuse (Fri/Sun)
Louisville (Thu/Sat) Charlotte (Fri/Sun)
1 Kentucky (SEC) 1 Virginia (ACC)
16 North Florida/St. Francis-Brooklyn 16 Bucknell/Texas Southern
8 Iowa 8 88 Ohio State
9 St. John's 9 Georgia
Columbus (Fri/Sun) Seattle (Fri/Sun)
5 West Virginia 5 North Carolina
12 Miami/Oregon 122 Harvard (Ivy)
4 Notre Dame 4 Northern Iowa (MVC)
13 Valparaiso (Horizon) 13 Louisiana Tech (C-USA)
Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat) Columbus (Fri/Sun)
6 Butler 6666 SMU (AAC)
11 Temple 11 Purdue
3 Maryland 3 Oklahoma
14 William & Mary (CAA) 14 Stephen F. Austin (Southland)
Omaha (Fri/Sun) Omaha (Fri/Sun)
7 San Diego State (MW) 7 Georgetown
10 Texas A&M 10 LSU
2 Kansas (Big 12) 2 Wisconsin (Big Ten)
15 South Dakota State (Summit) 15 High Point (Big South)
(4) WEST
Los Angeles (Thu/Sat)
(3) SOUTH
Houston (Fri/Sun)
Charlotte (Fri/Sun) Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)
1 Duke 1 Villanova (Big East)
*16 Georgia Southern (Sun Belt) 16 Albany (AE)
8 Xavier 8 N.C. State
9 Dayton 9 Ole Miss
Jacksonville (Thu/Sat) Jacksonville (Thu/Sat)
5 Arkansas 5 Wichita State
12 Wofford (SoCon) 12 Iona (MAAC)
4 Baylor 4 Louisville
13 Murray State (OVC) *13 Eastern Washington (Big Sky)
Portland (Thu/Sat) Louisville (Thu/Sat)
6 Providence 6 VCU (A 10)
11 Colorado State 11 Illinois/Texas
3 Utah 3 Iowa State
14 N.C. Central (MEAC) *14 Central Michigan (MAC)
Seattle (Fri/Sun) Portland (Thu/Sat)
7 Indiana 7 Oklahoma State
10 Cincinnati 10 Michigan State
2 Gonzaga (WCC) 2 Arizona (Pac-12)
15 New Mexico State (WAC) 15 UC Davis (Big West)
FIRST FOUR (Dayton)
Tuesday: To Louisville Tuesday: To Louisville
*16 North Florida (A-Sun) 11 Illinois
16 St. Francis-Brooklyn (NEC) 11 Texas
Wednesday: To Charlotte Wednesday: To Columbus
16 Bucknell (Patriot) *12 Miami
16 Texas Southern (SWAC) 11 Oregon

* = new team

BIDS BY CONFERENCE AVOIDING DAYTON ARRIVALS DEPARTURES
Big Ten: 8 LSU Central Michigan Florida Gulf Coast
ACC: 7 Purdue Eastern Washington Georgia State
Big 12: 7 Temple Georgia Southern Montana
Big East: 6 Colorado State Miami Stanford
SEC: 6 LAST FOUR IN North Florida Toledo
AAC: 3
Oregon

Pac-12: 3 Texas

A 10: 2 Illinois

MVC: 2 Miami

MW: 2 LAST FOUR OUT

One-Bid Conferences: 22 UCLA


Davidson


Pittsburgh


Boise State


NEXT FOUR OUT


Stanford


Tulsa


BYU


St. Mary's

Also considered (in alphabetical order): Alabama, Eastern Washington, Green Bay, UMass, Old Dominion, Rhode Island, Richmond, UTEP and Wyoming

We will start today with a reminder that 21 of the 68 available bids will be claimed by the auto bid winners from conferences that are likely to receive only a single bid. Several of these leagues close regular season play, which means tournament play is right around the corner, starting Tuesday with the Atlantic Sun's quarterfinals and Patriot League opening round.

Of this group, keep an eye on Iona, ranked 50th in the RPI table, and Wofford, 54th but boasting wins over the Gaels and North Carolina State (in Raleigh), as fringe at-large candidates.

Auto Bid Only

12 seeds
48. Iona' 49. Wofford* 50. Harvard*
13 seeds 54. Murray State" 53. Louisiana Tech* 52. Valparaiso* 51. E. Washington*
14 seeds 55. Central Michigan* 56. Stephen F. Austin* 57. William & Mary* 58. N.C. Central*
15 seeds 62. New Mexico State* 61. High Point* 60. South Dakota St.*
59. UC Davis*
16 seeds
(Direct)
63.Georgia Southern* 64. Albany*


16 seeds
(First Four)
65. Bucknell* 66. Texas Southern* 67. St. Francis-Bkn.* 68. North Florida*

Looking at the 47 spots that will go to the auto bid winners and at-large selections from the multi-bid conferences, we have just two more locks compared to a week ago, West Virginia (22nd in the RPI, five Top 50 wins, no bad losses) and Arkansas (19th, 6-2 against the Top 50, three questionable losses to teams still in the Top 100). That increases the total to 22, leaving 25 spots up for grabs.

Locks and Protected Seeds (16)

*=automatic bid holder

1 seeds 1. Kentucky*
2. Virginia*
3. Villanova*
4. Duke
2 seeds 8. Kansas*
7. Arizona*
6. Wisconsin*
5. Gonzaga*
3 seeds 9. Iowa State 10. Oklahoma
11. Utah 12. Maryland
4 seeds 16. Northern Iowa* 15. Louisville 14. Notre Dame 13. Baylor

Villanova's jump to the top line isn't the only change to the top 1 this Friday, as Maryland jumps up to the three line following its win over Wisconsin and Notre Dame's Tuesday loss to Syracuse.

Northern Iowa is in the most tenuous position here, as the Panthers host Wichita State, a team two spots below it in the seed list, Saturday. The Missouri Valley regular season crown will be on the line, and a sweep of it and the tournament title may be necessary for either the Panthers or Shockers to reach the protected seed group this season.

Other Locks (6)

5 seeds 17. West Virginia 18. Wichita State 19. North Carolina
20. Arkansas
6 seeds

22. Butler 21. VCU*

West Virginia has defeated Kansas, Oklahoma State and Texas in its last three outings, bumping the Mountaineers' record against the Top 50 from 2-5 to 5-5 in rapid fashion. That, and the fact WVU's worst loss RPI-wise came against an LSU team ranked 53rd, means Bob Huggins's team has a chance at earning a protected seed.

VCU is not in selection trouble, but Wednesday's double overtime, sweep-completing loss to Richmond hurt their seeding position. Saturday's game at Dayton Flyers and  trip to surging Davidson next Thursday will be vital not only for VCU's Atlantic 10 title hopes, but also for their diminishing hopes for a protected seed.

In Good Shape (9)

6 seeds 24. Providence
23. SMU*


7 seeds 25. San Diego State* 26. Georgetown 27. Oklahoma State 28. Indiana
8 seeds
31. Xavier 30. Iowa 29. N.C. State

North Carolina State Wolfpack is new to this group after defeating North Carolina in Chapel Hill Tuesday night, easily avenging a disappointing home loss to the Tar Heels. The Wolfpack now boast a 5-5 record against the RPI Top 50, which also accounts for a road win at Louisville and home victory over Duke.

On the flip side, Indiana's loss at Northwestern keeps them here for another week, while Iowa's position has stabilized following a home win over Illinois Wednesday night. Xavier is also in better position following a Saturday win over Butler, and a one-point road loss at St. John's a little more than 48 hours later didn't really change that.

With 9 more spots off the board, 16 remain for teams on the crowded bubble.

Moving Off The Bubble (1)

8 seeds 32. Ohio State



Ohio State, owners of one of the more unremarkable profiles out there (2-4 against the Top 50, six Top 100 wins, no bad losses, but no impressive non-conference victims either) replaces Michigan State in this group, following the Spartans' overtime home loss to Minnesota Thursday night.

Bubble In (7)

9 seeds 33. Georgia 34. Dayton 35. St. John's
36. Ole Miss
10 seeds
39. Cincinnati 38. Texas A&M
37. Michigan State

Of this group, Georgia did itself a huge favor by winning at Ole Miss, completing a season sweep of its SEC bubble rival, a pair of results that will not go unnoticed. St. John's aforementioned win over Xavier, which also wrapped up a season sweep, improved the Red Storm's position. Meanwhile, Michigan State fell after last night's setback and Texas A&M really could have used a win at Arkansas Tuesday night to solidify things, especially since LSU -- the Aggies' best victim -- still sits just outside of the Top 50. However, a slow start in Fayetteville doomed Billy Kennedy's squad to defeat.

Last Four Byes (Avoiding Dayton)

10 seeds 40. LSU


11 seeds 41. Purdue 42. Temple 43. Colorado State

Last night, Purdue Boilermakers let Rutgers get within seven late, but still picked up its fourth win in a row, which gave the Boilermakers a little breathing room. Temple remains perched in the field following a home win over Houston, but Sunday's loss at Tulsa, which gave the Golden Hurricane a season sweep over the Owls, was a lost opportunity. Colorado State's unremarkable profile, highlighted by home wins over both San Diego State and Boise State and just a single loss to a team outside of the Top 100 will cause Ram fans to sweat out Selection Sunday, barring a Mountain West tournament title, despite an RPI rank of 29th.

Last Four In (First Four)

11 seeds

45. Texas 44. Oregon
12 seeds
47. Miami 46. Illinois

Texas, 3-7 in its last 10, is in serious danger now. A closing stretch that sees the Longhorns go on a road trip to Kansas before returning to host Baylor and Kansas State might not be the prescription for recovery.

Oregon faces a desperate Stanford team at Maples Sunday, meaning the Ducks will have to prove they belong in Tuesday's projection. Illinois, very much treading on thin ice, encounters a surprising hurdle Saturday night at home. While Miami, the very last team in, has a great chance to solidify its place that afternoon when North Carolina visits.

Last Four Out/Next Four Out

Last 4 Out 69. Davidson 70. UCLA
71. Pittsburgh
72. Boise State

Next 4 Out 76. St. Mary's
75. BYU
74. Tulsa
73. Stanford

A win over fading George Washington Saturday might not boost Davidson into the field, but it would set them up for a huge Thursday home game against VCU. UCLA, off to a great start on its closing three-game homestand, also looks to be set up for a return.

A win at San Diego State could catapult Boise State above its bubble rivals, while the Pittsburgh Panthers could sneak in thanks to a closing stretch that features three winnable games, starting Saturday at Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

I've already mentioned the importance of Stanford's home game with Pac-12 bubble rival Oregon, but keep an eye on BYU Cougars 's trip to Gonzaga Saturday night. A victory would give the Cougars a second Top 50 win, which would compare favorably with many of the teams in this group.

In The Hunt

77. Old Dominion 78. Richmond 79. UTEP 80. UMass

83. Green Bay 82. Rhode Island 81. Alabama

These seven squads are still in the picture, but all will likely require a conference tournament victory to dance. Richmond is a newcomer, following Wednesday's win over VCU, but 12 losses, including three to teams from outside of the Top 100, might be too much for the Spiders to overcome.

SB Nation presents: Four mid-majors who will destroy your March brackets

As always, here is a look at the games I'll be paying the most attention to over the penultimate weekend (and final Monday) of the regular season:

All times Eastern.

Valparaiso at Cleveland State, Friday 10 p.m. (ESPNU)
The Crusaders defeated the Vikings at the ARC by two Jan. 10. If they can complete the sweep tonight, they'll host the majority of the Horizon League tournament.

Georgetown at St. John's, Saturday 12 p.m. (CBS)

The Red Storm can take a big step toward safety if they can avenge the Hoyas' 79-57 win of Feb. 17.

North Carolina at Miami, Saturday 2 p.m. (CBS)

A win over the Tar Heels would be a third Top 50 victory for the Hurricanes, which would make their profile just a bit more attractive.

Villanova at Xavier, Saturday 2 pm. (Fox)
The Musketeers will attempt to grab a marquee win by stopping the Wildcats from clinching the outright Big East title.

Northern Iowa at Wichita State, Saturday 2 p.m. (ESPN)
The winner claims the top seed for next week's Arch Madness and moves into decent position for a protected seed. The Panthers blasted the Shockers by 16 in Wichita in their Jan. 31 meeting.

Dayton at VCU, Saturday 2 p.m. (ESPN2)
The Flyers and Rams are in a four-way tie for the Atlantic 10 lead, along with Rhode Island and Davidson.

Ole Miss at LSU, Saturday 2 p.m. (SEC on FSN/ESPN3)

The Rebels need to rebound from their heartbreaking home loss to Georgia Wednesday, while the Tigers look to complete a season sweep.

Arkansas at Kentucky, Saturday 4 p.m. (CBS)

The Razorbacks will likely be the most difficult opponents the Wildcats face until a possible rematch in the SEC final (unless LSU happens to be in the 'Cats half of the bracket in Nashville).

Iowa State at Kansas State, Saturday 4 p.m. (ESPN2)

The Cyclones may want to beware here, following their loss to Baylor Wednesday night at the Wildcats' big home win over Kansas Monday. Might the Wildcats be building for a Big 12 tournament run?

West Virginia at Baylor, Saturday 4 p.m. (ESPNU)
Like Iowa State and Oklahoma, the Mountaineers are a game behind Kansas in the Big 12 race. They'll stay in the hunt if they can pick up a second win over a Bear team they blasted in Morgantown.

Texas at Kansas, Saturday 5 p.m. (ESPN)
A loss in Lawrence would be the fourth straight for the Longhorns, and their eighth in 11 games. That's not a recipe for selection.

Syracuse at Duke, Saturday 7 p.m. (ESPN)

The Orange look to pick up their second road win over an ACC contender this week.

Northwestern at Illinois, Saturday 7 p.m. (BTN)
If the Fighting Illini allow the Wildcats to extend their record Big Ten win streak to five, they won't be in the projection Tuesday.

Boise State at San Diego State, Saturday 8 p.m. (ESPN2)

The Broncos, who defeated the Aztecs by 15 at home Feb. 8, look for a surprising sweep that would push them into a tie for the Mountain West lead, and improved bubble position.

Arizona at Utah, Saturday 9 p.m. (ESPN)
The Utes, routed by 18 in Tucson Jan. 17, look to split the season series and gain a needed marquee win. Again, a share of a conference lead is on the line.

BYU at Gonzaga, Saturday 10 p.m. (ESPN2)

The Cougars can catapult themselves up the bubble with a win in Spokane. That will be easier said than done; however, as the Bulldogs already defeated BYU by seven in Provo Dec. 27. That seems like a long time ago.

SMU at Connecticut, Sunday 2 p.m. (CBS)

Might this be a preview of the American final on Selection Sunday afternoon?

Michigan State at Wisconsin, Sunday 4 p.m. (CBS)
The pair's only regular-season meeting has a bit more importance for the Spartans, who really could use a big win for a disappointing profile.

Pittsburgh at Wake Forest, Sunday 6:30 p.m. (ESPNU)

The Panthers' hopes would just about be finished with a loss in Winston-Salem.

Oregon at Stanford, Sunday 7 p.m. (FS1)

Given the Cardinal's recent 2-4 swoon and the Ducks' resurgence, this is one of the biggest bubble games of the season.

Purdue at Ohio State, Sunday 7:30 p.m. (BTN)
The Boilermakers are another team that can boost itself significantly by grabbing a sweep, though they'll find it difficult to repeat their two-point win in Columbus from Feb. 4.

Washington State at UCLA, Sunday 9:30 p.m. (FS1)
See what I wrote about Pittsburgh above? The Bruins' hopes would be more dire with a home loss to the Cougars.

Virginia at Syracuse, Monday 7 p.m. (ESPN)
The Orange will attempt to stun the Cavaliers in their home finale.

Baylor at Texas, Monday 7 p.m. (ESPNU)

Even if the Longhorns can upset Kansas Saturday, they should really aim to defeat the Bears 48 hours later, just to be safe. Baylor routed Texas by 23 in Waco Jan. 31.

Oklahoma at Iowa State, Monday 9 p.m. (ESPN)

The Sooners follow their home game against TCU Saturday with contests against the Cyclones in Ames and Kansas in Norman. The Big 12 title is still in their grasp.

After four loaded days and nights, expect to see plenty of changes both at the top of the bracket and near the cut line Tuesday.