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Bracketology: Alabama and Texas Tech are in, LSU and Florida State are out

With two straight gutsy road wins, the Crimson Tide have made a strong case for an NCAA bid. The Red Raiders have done the same by knocking off three ranked foes in succession. Our resident bracketologist breaks down how this affects the rest of the NCAA Tournament picture.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

With three of the top five teams in the AP Poll losing on Wednesday night alone, all indications are the chase for the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament bracket will go right down to the end, much like the race to be one of the final at-large entries selected. On this Friday, the Big East-leading Villanova Wildcats (first overall), the top two teams in the Big 12 (the Kansas Jayhawks and Oklahoma Sooners) and the ACC's Virginia Cavaliers anchor this projected field of 68.

After a shocking road loss at Minnesota, the Maryland Terrapins drop to the lowest two seed. When I first started writing this piece earlier on Thursday evening, they were the highest.

Locks and Protected Seeds (16)

*=automatic bid holder

1 seeds 1. Villanova*
2. Kansas*
3. Oklahoma
4. Virginia
2 seeds 8. Maryland*
7. Iowa
6. North Carolina
5. Xavier
3 seeds 9. Oregon 10. Miami*
11. Michigan State 12. Kentucky*
4 seeds 16. Iowa State 15. Duke 14. Purdue 13. West Virginia

Keep an eye on the two and three lines during the weekend, particularly two of the ACC teams among the eight. The Miami Hurricanes have a chance to boost their seeding, if they can knock off the North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill on Saturday. Note that the Duke Blue Devils have returned to the top 16 after their Wednesday win at the Dean Dome. Still, their long-term prospects are in doubt, thanks not only to Amile Jefferson's continued absence, but to the injury Matt Jones suffered against the Tar Heels.

Other Locks (8)

5 seeds 17. Dayton 18. Notre Dame 19. Arizona*
20. Utah
6 seeds 24. Texas A&M 23. USC 22. Indiana* 21. Texas

Following their Wednesday loss at Saint Joseph's, the Dayton Flyers dropped down to a mere lock instead of a protected seed. Given the strength of this year's Atlantic 10, the Flyers will likely need to claim both the conference's regular season and tournament crowns to have a shot at the top 16, not that likely placement in Spokane or Denver would be much of a reward for a team from Southwestern Ohio.

The team of these eight that has the best chance at moving up is the squad Dayton head coach Archie Miller's brother helms, Pac-12 co-leading Arizona. They're on a tear since Allonzo Trier returned from a broken hand. With quality win opportunities remaining against Utah and Colorado next week on the road and then a visit from California, the Wildcats will have a chance to boost their computer numbers late and claim the regular season crown outright.

In Good Shape (8)

7 seeds 25. Baylor 26. South Carolina 27. Connecticut 28. Syracuse
8 seeds 32. Providence 31. California 30. Colorado 29. Saint Joseph's*

Now we've hit the portion of the bracket where things become muddier. Not necessarily selection-wise, but the teams from say, 22nd down are rather difficult to seed. In terms of securing a spot, the squads that should be worried the most are the South Carolina Gamecocks (ranked 32nd in the RPI, but losers of two in a row, including at woeful Missouri), Providence Friars (still skidding, 2-5 in their last seven games) and Saint Joseph's (must be careful not to follow up their win over Dayton with a road stumble against either Davidson or Massachusetts).

With all 32 of these teams coming from likely multi-bid conferences, 12 spots remain (68 bids - 24 single-bid conference winners). A whopping 34 teams are in play for them, including the shrinking pool of possible mid-major at-large hopefuls.

Bubble IN

9 seeds 33. Florida 34. Monmouth* 35. Michigan 36. Alabama

The hottest team in this group: the Alabama Crimson Tide. Avery Johnson's team has nearly doubled its Top-100 win total in the past week and a half, with two of those wins (over Florida and LSU) coming on the road. The Tide's worst loss came at Auburn, 128th in the RPI, which isn't too shabby for a bubble team this season.

Last Four Byes (Avoiding Dayton)

10 seeds 40. Pittsburgh 39. Wichita State* 38. Seton Hall 37. Wisconsin
11 seeds 41. Temple* 42. Oregon State

Yes, there are six teams here, but two of them are conference leaders (with the Wichita State Shockers leading a likely one-bid league), so the Pittsburgh Panthers, Seton Hall Pirates, Wisconsin Badgers and Oregon State Beavers are the four teams that truly count. The Panthers, who have not won consecutive games since January and have only defeated Wake Forest (needing two OTs to do so) and Virginia Tech in their last half-dozen games, are the squad most precariously placed here.

Wisconsin's standing wasn't really affected by Thursday's loss in East Lansing, though a win would have bumped them up considerably.

Last Four In (First Four)

11 seeds 48. Butler 47. Cincinnati 46. Tulsa 45. Texas Tech

With a Thursday night overtime win over the Cincinnati Bearcats, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane join this projected field, with the two American Athletic Conference rivals ticketed for Dayton at the moment. The Bearcats host Connecticut on Saturday, so their position is more likely to change than Tulsa's, unless Frank Haith's squad falls at UCF.

The Texas Tech Red Raiders solidified their position a bit by knocking off Oklahoma on Wednesday night. That wasn't the worst way to follow up wins over Iowa State and Baylor, with the latter coming on the road.

As for the Butler Bulldogs, they continue to tread water, topping Creighton on Tuesday. But if they can win at Villanova on Saturday ...

First Four Out/Next Four Out

First 4 Out 69. VCU 70. Florida State
71. Geo. Washington
72. LSU
Next 4 Out 76. Creighton
75. St. Bonaventure
74. Vanderbilt
73. Clemson

With three consecutive losses -- two over bid contenders Syracuse and Miami on the road and, most damaging, to a struggling Georgia Tech squad at home -- the Florida State Seminoles drop out. So does LSU, after following up Saturday's big win over Texas A&M with a deflating home loss to Alabama. I find it difficult to believe the Bayou Bengals will be selected, even with three Top 50 wins and six Top 100 wins, with an RPI of 80. The same goes for the Clemson Tigers, with five Top 50 wins, and an RPI of 89.

The Vanderbilt Commodores hurt themselves with a Tuesday loss at Mississippi State, 173rd in the RPI, even though it was on a buzzer beater. On Wednesday, the St. Bonaventure Bonnies did worse, dropping a seven-point decision at 217th-ranked La Salle (whose other Atlantic 10 win came over Dayton, strangely enough). But losses elsewhere keep these two squads, along with the teams below, alive for now.

In The Hunt

77. Ohio State 78. Saint Mary's 79. Washington 80. Georgia
84. UCLA 83. Marquette 82. Ole Miss 81. Kansas State

The teams in this group are either treading water or falling out of the picture, like Georgia after its home loss to Florida and Kansas State, 1-2 since topping Oklahoma. However, the Ohio State Buckeyes are in position to make a late charge, thanks to their final three games—a home-and-home with Michigan State sandwiching a visit from Iowa. Similarly, Creighton can get itself in decent position by sweeping its final two, road trips to fading Providence and one-seed contender Xavier, a team the Jays already defeated in Omaha.

The UCLA Bruins' loss to Utah Thursday night just about ended their at-large hopes. The same goes for the Washington Huskies, who lost at home to California.

Likely Auto Bid Only

12 seeds 47. Gonzaga* 48. Valparaiso* 49. Chattanooga* 50. San Diego St.*
13 seeds 54. Yale* 53. Stony Brook* 52. Akron* 51. Little Rock*
14 seeds 55. Hawai'i* 56. IPFW* 57. UNC Wilmington* 58. UAB*
15 seeds 62. UNC Asheville* 61. New Mexico State* 60. Stephen F. Austin*
59. Belmont*
16 seeds
(Direct)
63. Weber State* 64. North Florida*


16 seeds
(First Four)
65. Hampton* 66. Bucknell* 67. Wagner* 68. Texas Sthn.*

Note that the 12 seeds have an at-large chance, though the Valparaiso Crusaders did theirs some serious damage with a home loss to Wright State on Saturday, and the Gonzaga Bulldogs missed a golden opportunity to pick up a late non-conference win later that night at SMU.

Only two teams can still dream of a perfect conference season -- Southland power Stephen F. Austin and the Ivy League's Yale Bulldogs -- and the latter faces roadblocks on both Friday and Saturday. Not only would a loss at either 6-1 Princeton tonight or 3-4 Penn Saturday evening ruin Yale's dreams of a 14-0 Ivy campaign, a defeat might also cost them the auto bid. That's because the Ivy League is the lone Division I conference of 32 to give its NCAA bid to the regular season champion. (Though this might change as soon as next year.)

Sure, a Yale loss might lead to a dramatic one-game playoff, but considering they haven't made the field since 1962, you can imagine the Elis don't want to go through the pain of 2015, when they lost such a game to Harvard by just two points, again.

Will Yale be in my next projection? Check in on Tuesday to find out.