While the at-large pool is exactly the same this morning as it was in Friday's projection, thanks in no small part to UCLA's Pac-12 Tournament semifinal loss to Arizona, the composition of the top line has shifted slightly as a result of what happened in the ACC and Big East Tournaments, and a further change may be afoot, depending on what happens in Las Vegas tonight and at the Big Ten festivities in Chicago this afternoon.
Naturally, the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats lead the way, slated for the same Louisville opening weekend pod and Cleveland regional they've owned since the very beginning of the season. But after last night, the Villanova Wildcats have ascended to the second spot overall in the bracket. They now anchor the East with a friendly Pittsburgh-to-Syracuse path to the Final Four. The Duke Blue Devils remain in the third spot after a semifinal loss to Notre Dame, while the Virginia Cavaliers drop to fourth after falling at the same stage to North Carolina. The Blue Devils head up the South, while the Cavaliers lead the West.
This afternoon, Virginia fans need to cheer for Purdue in their Big Ten semifinal against Wisconsin, as the Big Ten regular season champions still have a chance to collect a championship double that might lead the Committee to nudge the Badgers ahead of Virginia (a topic I've written about before). Duke's road victories over the Cavaliers and Badgers, not to mention a 7-2 record over the RPI top 25 -- a mark neither of its rivals can match -- should be enough to keep the Blue Devils on the top line at their expense, and that of Arizona.
Speaking of the Wildcats, they'll have a chance at taking the top spot in their natural region this evening, as they take on Oregon in the Pac-12 final. However, the three questionable losses -- to Arizona State, UNLV, and Oregon State -- on Arizona's profile make this unlikely.
After today's bracket and rundown, I'll have a couple of notes about bracket placement and a preview of today's most important semifinals and championship contests.
|(1) MIDWEST |
|Louisville (Thu/Sat)||Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)|
|1||Kentucky (SEC)||1||Villanova (ACC)|
|16||Delaware State/ROBERT MORRIS||16||COASTAL CAROLINA (Big South)|
|↑ 8||Davidson (A 10)||↓ 8 88||Dayton|
|9||Ohio State||↑ 9||Purdue|
|Columbus (Fri/Sun)||Jacksonville (Thu/Sat)|
|↑ 5||Providence||↑ 5||SMU (AAC)|
|12||Ole Miss/Texas||↑ 122||Stephen F. Austin (Southland)|
|↓ 4||Oklahoma||4||North Carolina|
|13||Central Michigan (MAC)||↑ 13||Georgia State (Sun Belt)|
|Columbus (Fri/Sun)||Pittsburgh (Thu/Sat)|
|↑ 6||Oregon||6||Wichita State|
|3||Notre Dame (ACC)||3||Maryland|
|14||NORTH DAKOTA STATE (Summit)||*14||UAB (C-USA)|
|Omaha (Fri/Sun)||Omaha (Fri/Sun)|
|↓ 7||Butler||↓ 7||Georgetown|
|10||N.C. State||↓ 10||Boise State|
|2||Wisconsin (Big Ten)||2||Kansas (Big 12)|
|15||LAFAYETTE (Patriot)||15||BELMONT (OVC)|
|(4) WEST |
Los Angeles (Thu/Sat)
|Charlotte (Fri/Sun)||Charlotte (Fri/Sun)|
|16||Montana (Big Sky)||16||MANHATTAN/NORTH FLORIDA|
|↓ 9||St. John's||↓ 9||Cincinnati|
|Portland (Thu/Sat)||Seattle (Fri/Sun)|
|12||WOFFORD (SoCon)||12||VALPARAISO (Horizon)|
|4||NORTHERN IOWA (MVC)||↑ 4||Arkansas|
|↓ 13||Harvard (Ivy)||↑ 13||NORTHEASTERN (CAA)|
|Jacksonville (Thu/Sat)||Louisville (Thu/Sat)|
|↑ 6||Xavier||↓ 6||Utah|
|↑ 14||New Mexico State (WAC)||*14||UC Irvine (Big West)|
|Portland (Thu/Sat)||Seattle (Fri/Sun)|
|7||Michigan State||7||San Diego State (MW)|
|↑ 10||Colorado State||↓ 10||Oklahoma State|
|2||Arizona (Pac-12)||2||GONZAGA (WCC)|
|↑ 15||TEXAS SOUTHERN (SWAC)||15||Albany (AE)|
|FIRST FOUR (Dayton)|
|Tuesday: To Louisville||Tuesday: To Louisville|
|*16||Delaware State (MEAC)||↓ 11||LSU|
|16||ROBERT MORRIS (NEC)||11||Temple|
|Wednesday: To Charlotte||Wednesday: To Columbus
|↓ 16||MANHATTAN (MAAC)||↓ 12||Ole Miss|
|16||NORTH FLORIDA (A-Sun)||↓ 12||Texas|
* = new team
|BIDS BY CONFERENCE||AVOIDING DAYTON||ARRIVALS||DEPARTURES|
|Big 12: 7||Boise State||Delaware State||Louisiana Tech|
|Big Ten: 7||Georgia||UAB||N.C. Central|
|ACC: 6||BYU||UC Irvine||UC Davis|
|Big East: 6||Indiana|
|SEC: 5||LAST FOUR IN|
|A 10: 3||LSU|
|MW: 3||Ole Miss|
|MVC: 2||FIRST FOUR OUT|
|One-Bid Conferences: 21||UCLA|
|NEXT FOUR OUT|
Also considered (in rank order): Stanford, Iona, Louisiana Tech, Murray State, Buffalo, Wyoming, Green Bay
In the past couple of brackets, I switched BYU's position with one of the First Four games to keep the Cougars on a Thursday-Saturday path through both the first and second weekends. While I didn't have to do that this time around, it's important to note that the Selection Committee likes to limit travel for the teams who have to play in Dayton. Therefore, the teams scheduled to play on Tuesday will most likely be sent to a reasonably close Thursday-Saturday site (Louisville or Pittsburgh this season), while the ones on Wednesday will get the same treatment for Friday-Sunday (Columbus would be the preference, but with no top seed there, the winning 16th seed is sent to Charlotte). With these considerations in mind, it's a relatively easy decision to switch the seed lines of BYU and a First Four game to satisfy both scheduling and geography.
With that bit of pedantry out of the way, here's a look at what's ahead on a loaded Selection Eve.
Of the 15 conference finals scheduled for Saturday, these are the most intriguing. For info on the rest, check out Conference Tournament Central.
Ivy League Playoff, 4 p.m. (American Sports Network/ESPN3)
Can the Yale Bulldogs end the Harvard Crimson's stranglehold on the Ivy crown? The winner will likely end up as a 12 or 13 seed, depending on results elsewhere.
Mountain West, 6 p.m. (CBS)
The Wyoming Cowboys will secure a possible fourth bid for the Mountain West and burst some team's hopes in the process with a win over the favored San Diego State Aztecs in Las Vegas.
Big East, 8 p.m. (FS1)
If Villanova defeats Xavier at Madison Square Garden, they will likely hold on to the No. 1 seed in the East Regional come Sunday night. If the Wildcats fall, look for Duke to possibly sneak back in.
ACC, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN/ACC Network)
North Carolina, currently a No. 4 seed, and Notre Dame, on line three right now, are playing for a possible spot on the No. 3 seed line, and in the case of the Irish, a two, depending on what happens in Kansas City.
Pac-12, 11 p.m. (ESPN)
Depending on what happens in the Big East and Big Ten tourneys, Arizona might be in position to take the top seed out West with a win over Oregon. The Ducks, meanwhile, are rocketing up the bracket, currently sitting on line six, a jump of three spots in a day.
If you're a fan of a bubble team or true national contender, you'll also want to pay attention to these four conference semifinals on Saturday afternoon.
Big Ten, 1 p.m. and approx. 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
In game one, Wisconsin will look to move one step closer to a conference double with a victory over a Purdue team that all but secured its bid with a win over Penn State on Friday. Later, Maryland, in play for at least a No. 3 seed, will look to stop a Michigan State squad that seeks to escape the middle of the bracket.
SEC, 1 p.m. and approx. 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
The afternoon in Nashville opens with 13th-seeded Auburn looking to shock the world against the likely No. 1 overall NCAA seed, the still perfect Kentucky Wildcats. Game two features a Georgia group that will attempt to make things easy on the Committee by defeating Arkansas, who is currently in the final spot on the four line.
Atlantic 10, 1:30 p.m. and approx. 4 p.m. (CBSSN)
With three of the four semifinalists, game one participants Davidson and VCU and No. 2 seed Dayton safe, all eyes will be on the Flyers' opponent in the day's finale, Rhode Island, coached by Dan Hurley, whose brother has a big game of his own in Cleveland a bit later on. The Rams likely need to win today and tomorrow in Brooklyn to make the field.
American, 3 p.m. and approx. 5:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
The top-seeded SMU Mustangs are the only sure selection bet among the four teams that will take the floor in Hartford this afternoon, and the Ponies face a Temple team that's barely in this projection in game one. While fans of bubble teams will likely check in and out of that game, they'll surely be glued to the second game that features the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. The Hurricane are in need of the tournament title to qualify, despite their status as the first team out and the Connecticut Huskies, the most dangerous team in this event, simply because it's being played on their secondary home floor in Hartford.
As you can see, there is still so much to play for. I'll again have updates on the bubble and protected seed pictures as events warrant today. Plus, I'll be active on Twitter (@ChrisDobbertean).