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Bracketology: March Madness is officially here as the conference tournaments get real

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The power conference tournaments will start to hit their stride on Thursday, meaning bubble changes might be fast and furious. Chris Dobbertean takes a look at which teams have the most to play for.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA Tournament's newest entrant is also its most unlikely. The 14-19 Holy Cross Crusaders, 0-9 in Patriot League road games during the regular season, won their fourth conference tournament road game to almost assuredly book a trip to Dayton for either Tuesday or Wednesday night. The Crusaders topped the second-seeded Lehigh Mountain Hawks, who had won their 11 previous games, 59-56 in Bethlehem, Pa., to clinch their first NCAA bid since 2007. Bill Carmody, the coach who took the Princeton Tigers to a pair of NCAAs and two NITs in four seasons before 13 fruitless years at Northwestern, has his new team in the field in his first season.

As for the bubble, the biggest game of the day was the noon tip in the ACC Tournament in Washington, D.C., where the Pittsburgh Panthers defeated the Syracuse Orange 72-71. A third loss to Pitt likely dooms the Orange to the NIT, especially now that they rank 68th in the RPI. But a profile that features a road win at Duke Blue Devils, neutral-site wins over Texas A&M and Connecticut, and a home victory over Notre Dame will get a long look. On the flip side, losses to Clemson at home and Georgetown and St. John's Red Storm on the road are problematic.

Speaking of the Tigers, they drop off the board after an overtime loss to Georgia Tech, who can move closer to a bid by knocking off Virginia for a second time this evening, a result that would knock the Cavaliers from the top line. In the ACC nightcap, the Virginia Tech Hokies erased the Florida State Seminoles from the picture. Next up for the Hokies is a Miami Hurricanes team they just defeated on Saturday in Blacksburg.

In the Big 12, the Texas Tech Red Raiders laid an egg against the 10th-seeded TCU Horned Frogs, falling 67-62 to make their final impression upon the Selection Committee a bad one, a loss to a team ranked 184th in the RPI entering the game. While the Red Raiders' remain 26th in the RPI, they will have to sweat things out, as they lost their only true non-conference road game (at Arkansas, outside of the RPI Top 100) and finished 9-10 in Big 12 games. An 8-10 mark in games against the Top 100 with six Top 50 wins (five at home, all except for a win at Baylor) should be enough, but look for Tubby Smith's team to wear dark jerseys next week.

After today's full bracket and rundown, I'll quickly run through today's other crucial bubble matchups.

Chicago (Fri/Sun)
(2) EAST
Philadelphia (Fri/Sun)
Des Moines (Thu/Sat) Brooklyn (Fri/Sun)
1 Kansas (Big 12) 1 Villanova (Big East)
8 Providence 8 USC
9 Vanderbilt 9 Cincinnati
Denver (Thu/Sat) Spokane (Fri/Sun)
5 Iowa 5 Purdue
12 Little Rock (Sun Belt) 12 NORTHERN IOWA (MVC)
4 Duke 4 Kentucky
13 Akron (MAC) 13 YALE (Ivy)
Des Moines (Thu/Sat) Brooklyn (Fri/Sun)
6 Baylor 6 Arizona
11 Monmouth/St. Bonaventure 11 VCU/Wichita State
3 Indiana (Big Ten) 3 West Virginia
14 Stephen F. Austin (Southland) 14 UAB (C-USA)
St. Louis (Fri/Sun) Raleigh (Thu/Sut)
77 Notre Dame 7 Dayton (A 10)
10 Connecticut 10 Oregon State
2 Xavier 2 North Carolina (ACC)
15 GREEN BAY (Horizon) *15 UNC ASHEVILLE (Big South)
(4) WEST
Anaheim (Thu/Sat)
Louisville (Thu/Sat)
St. Louis (Fri/Sun) Raleigh (Thu/Sat)
1 Michigan State 1 Virginia
8 Butler 8 South Carolina
9 Pittsburgh 9 Saint Joseph's
Oklahoma City (Fri/Sun) Providence (Thu/Sat)
5 Iowa State 5 Texas
4 Texas A&M (SEC) 4 Maryland
13 South Dakota State (Summit) 13 IONA (MAAC)
Providence (Thu/Sat) Denver (Thu/Sat)
6 California 6 Wisconsin
11 Temple (American) 11 San Diego State (MW)
3 Miami 3 Utah
14 Stony Brook (Am East) 14 Hawai'i (Big West)
Spokane (Fri/Sun) Oklahoma City (Fri/Sun)
7 Seton Hall 7 Colorado
10 Texas Tech 10 GONZAGA (WCC)
2 Oregon (Pac-12) 2 Oklahoma
15 Weber State (Big Sky) 15 New Mexico State (WAC)
Tuesday: To Des Moines Tuesday: To Des Moines
16 AUSTIN PEAY (OVC) 11 Monmouth
16 Texas Southern (SWAC) 11 St. Bonaventure
Wednesday: To Brooklyn Wednesday: To Brooklyn
*16 HOLY CROSS (Patriot) 11 Wichita State

Big 12: 7 Cincinnati (36) Holy Cross (Pat) Lehigh (Pat)
Pac-12: 7 Oregon State (37)

ACC: 6 Texas Tech (38)

Big Ten: 6 Connecticut (39)

Big East: 5 LAST FOUR IN

Atlantic 10: 4 St. Bonaventure (41)

SEC: 4 VCU (42)

American: 3 Wichita State (43)

MAAC: 2 Monmouth (45)


One-Bid Conferences: 22 Syracuse


Saint Mary's





George Washington


Also considered (in order): Florida State, Ohio State, Washington, Princeton, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Creighton, Georgia Tech, BYU, Alabama, LSU

Over at Blogging the Bracket, I have a more comprehensive look at today's conference tournament action, including tip times and TV info, but here are the teams with the most to play for in each league.

ACC: Pitt should be OK even with a loss to North Carolina. Georgia Tech needs more than just another win over Virginia. Virginia Tech also needs to keep winning. North Carolina, Virginia and Miami have top-seed hopes; Duke and Notre Dame have Top-16 "protected seed" potential.

Atlantic 10: George Washington is the only one of the conference's bid hopefuls playing in Thursday's second round and the Colonials' game against the 13th-seeded Saint Louis won't move the needle at all (and a loss would be fatal).

Big 12: With the six teams in this bracket playing safe, seeding is on the line. Kansas is a virtual lock for a top seed, while Oklahoma probably needs three wins to join them. West Virginia has a shot at a two, while Baylor, Texas and Iowa State all have hope for a four.

Big East: Villanova and Xavier are also in the race for a one, with the Wildcats looking like a better bet. The Providence-Butler game is vital for both's seeding, while a loss to Creighton could hurt Seton Hall's position, but not the Pirates' place in the bracket. The Bluejays and Marquette (and Georgetown too) all need the auto bid on this late date.

Mountain West: With so many one-bid league regular season champs already on the bubble, fans of those teams need to root hard for the top-seeded San Diego State Aztecs against Utah State.

Pac-12: Oregon and Utah are likely to be three seeds at worst, and wins in Vegas might push them up to a two. Arizona and California are also playing to improve their position, along with Wednesday winners USC and Colorado. After slipping past Arizona State late last night, the Oregon State Beavers really need a quality neutral-site win, so defeating Cal in the nightcap would be a great idea, especially since the Beavers might need to show the Committee they can top a good team without Tres Tinkle (foot).

SEC: Florida will be out for sure with a loss to Arkansas, while Vanderbilt will be sweating if they fall to Tennessee (particularly after sweeping the Vols during the regular season). Georgia and possibly Ole Miss could make a late run with multiple wins in Nashville.

I'll update the bubble picture today as events warrant.