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Bracketology: Championship Week has the bubble in major flux

Our resident bracketologist salutes the three new teams that reached the 2016 NCAA Tournament on Sunday and examines the eight teams who should be the most anxious during the final week before Selection Sunday.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Three further teams will now have their names in ALL CAPS from here on out, thanks to the conference tournament titles they claimed on Sunday afternoon.

In the Missouri Valley final, Northern Iowa's Wes Washpun stunned the Evansville Purple Aces at the buzzer to send the Panthers to their second consecutive NCAA Tournament. Not long after action wrapped up in St. Louis, the UNC Asheville Bulldogs qualified by pulling away from the Winthrop Eagles late in the Big South final. Finally, the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles spared their conference, the Atlantic Sun, some blushes by defeating the tournament-ineligible Stetson Hatters in an overtime thriller in Fort Myers. Had the seventh-seeded Hatters defeated Dunk City, the regular season champion North Florida Ospreys would have represented the conference instead.

In non-elimination action, Sunday was a better day for the bubble teams in action than Saturday. All three American Athletic Conference bid contenders in action -- the Connecticut Huskies, Cincinnati Bearcats and Temple Owls -- won. Cincinnati picked up the biggest win of the trio, as it completed a season sweep of the SMU Mustangs. However, UConn awaits the Bearcats in the 4 vs. 5 game of the conference tournament on Friday afternoon.

In the Big Ten, the Indiana Hoosiers completed their Big Ten championship season with a resounding win over the Maryland Terrapins, a result that led to the teams swapping places on the three and four lines of the bracket below. The Purdue Boilermakers, another team with protected seed hopes, knocked off the Wisconsin Badgers to help their cause.

After today's full bracket and rundown, I'll look more closely at the eight teams surrounding this projected field's cut line.

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

ACC: 7 Connecticut (36) Northern Iowa (MVC) Evansville (MVC)
Big 12: 7 Oregon State (37) St. Bonaventure Tulsa
Pac-12: 7 Pittsburgh (38) UNC Asheville (Big South) Winthrop (Big South)
Big Ten: 6 Cincinnati (39)

Big East: 5 LAST FOUR IN

Atlantic 10: 4 Syracuse (40)

SEC: 4 St. Bonaventure (41)

American: 3 VCU (42)

MVC: 2 Wichita State (43)

One-Bid Conferences: 23 FIRST FOUR OUT






Florida State

George Washington

Ohio State


Also considered (in order): Princeton, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Creighton, Georgia Tech, BYU, Alabama, LSU, Clemson

With less than a week remaining until Selection Sunday, it's time to take our first close look at the four teams that are just on the right side of the cut line, and the quartet that's the closest to breaking through with the right results this week.

Note: All Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and strength of schedule (SOS) information is courtesy

Last Four IN

Avoiding Dayton: Connecticut Huskies, Oregon State BeaversPittsburgh Panthers, Cincinnati Bearcats

Syracuse Orange

19-12 (9-9 ACC); RPI: 60; SOS: 39; Non-conf. SOS: 110 ; KenPom: 41

The Orange looked to be in great position in mid-February, until they dropped four of their final five regular season games. Saturday's loss at Florida State is particularly ugly and costly, especially since the Orange handled the Seminoles at the Carrier Dome. Syracuse's profile features an 8-9 record against the RPI Top 100 with five particularly good wins, three of which came away from home (over Connecticut and Texas A&M en route to the Battle 4 Atlantis title and at Duke). However, Jim Boeheim's team has three bad losses—at former Big East rivals Georgetown and St. John's, and to Clemson at the Carrier Dome.

However, that trio of defeats came during Boeheim's NCAA-mandated suspension. If the Selection Committee considers his absence in its deliberations as promised in media and broadcast reports, Syracuse might get a boost. However, after a rough finish, the Orange would be well advised to win a game or two in Washington, D.C., especially Wednesday's third meeting of the season with Pitt, a possible elimination game. Claim victory then and a third shot at a North Carolina squad the Orange lost to by five in Chapel Hill a week ago would await in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Next game: Pittsburgh in the ACC second round (Wednesday)

St. Bonaventure Bonnies

22-7 (14-4 A 10); RPI: 27; SOS: 85; Non-conf. SOS: 163; KenPom: 77

What's now one of Syracuse's five best wins came over the Bonnies at the Carrier Dome back in the season's earliest stages—on Nov. 17. The Orange were the only "name brand" team Mark Schmidt's squad played in November and December, which is part of the reason why they're near the cut line, despite their high RPI position. Note that Hofstra, whom the Bonnies fell to in Olean, actually ranks as the Bonnies' best non-conference opponent in the metric.

But St. Bonaventure, left for dead after dropping three straight to Duquesne, Dayton and VCU in January, rallied to win 10 of its last 11. Unfortunately, the only loss in that span came at a La Salle squad that finished last. That result also hurts their hopes. However, a road win at Dayton and a sweep of Saint Joseph's helped push Bona into a three-way tie for the conference title, while pushing their RPI into the Top 30.

A win or two in Brooklyn would push the Bonnies even nearer to safety.

Next game: TBD in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals (Friday)

VCU Rams

22-9 (14-4 A 10); RPI: 41; SOS: 70; Non-conf. SOS: 61; KenPom: 37

Like St. Bonaventure, the Rams started slowly, Shaka Smart left new head coach Will Wade a tough November and December slate, and VCU failed to record victories against teams like Duke, Wisconsin (both in New York), Florida State, Georgia Tech (both in Atlanta) and Cincinnati (also away from Richmond). As a result, the Rams' best non-league win came against a Middle Tennessee team that's barely within the RPI Top 100.

Since falling to 5-5 after the loss to the Bearcats, VCU has gone 17-4, but the Atlantic 10 schedule didn't do them many favors. While the Rams defeated both St. Bonaventure and Saint Joe's in league play, they only played each once. The same goes for the Dayton team they lost to after overtime on Saturday night. That result might be one they regret on Sunday evening.

Of course, VCU and St. Bonaventure are each a win away from meeting in the Atlantic 10 semifinals on Saturday. If you're a fan of a bubble team, you might want to keep an eye on happenings in Brooklyn on Friday evening.

Next game: TBD in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals (Friday)

Wichita State Shockers

24-8 (16-2 MVC); RPI: 48; SOS: 105; Non-conf. SOS: 11; KenPom: 11

On Sunday, I wrote about the Shockers' situation and little has changed, except for the fact their 1-2 record against Missouri Valley Tournament champions Northern Iowa looks far better now than it did on Saturday evening.

Similar to Syracuse's case, if the Selection Committee accounts for the absences of Fred VanVleet and Anton Grady (which most seem to forget about), Wichita State should be in good shape. If not, they'll be a top seed in the NIT.

Next game: none

First Four OUT

Next Four Out: Florida State Seminoles, George Washington Colonials, Ohio State Buckeyes, Washington Huskies

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

20-10 (12-6 American); RPI: 51; SOS: 57; Non-conf. SOS: 104; KenPom: 46

While Sunday was a good day for the American's bubble teams as a whole, the Golden Hurricane dropped out of this projection, for the moment at least. That's despite a win over Wichita State and a 4-4 mark against the three other American contenders and ineligible SMU. A lack of non-conference results beyond the victory over the Shockers (a loss to South Carolina in the Paradise Jam final hurts) and a late loss at struggling Memphis damage Tulsa's case.

Wins in Orlando, starting with a rematch against those same Tigers, would do wonders for Frank Haith's team, especially with the competition that will be sharing the stage there.

Next game: Memphis in the American quarterfinals (Friday)

Florida Gators

18-13 (9-9 SEC); RPI: 54; SOS: 18; Non-conf. SOS:4 ; KenPom: 44

Just two weeks ago, the Gators were 17-10 and in relatively decent shape, even after an overtime loss at South Carolina. Since Feb. 20, Florida lost three further games, not looking particularly interested in defending in any of them, before finally winning at woeful Missouri on Saturday.

Far and away, Mike White's team has the best non-conference schedule of the eight teams profiled here, a gift from the NBA-bound Billy Donovan. However, other than a home win over West Virginia and a win over Saint Joseph's in Connecticut, Florida didn't take advantage of its opportunities. A 2-8 record against the Top 50 and 7-12 mark against the Top 100 is the result. Lost opportunities against Miami, Michigan State, Purdue and Florida State might end up sending UF to the NIT (where it can't even host games).

Winnable games against Arkansas and possibly Texas A&M (who only defeated Florida by three in College Station) in the SEC Tournament might give the Gators some fresh hope.

Next game: Arkansas in the SEC second round (Thursday)

Gonzaga Bulldogs

24-7 (15-3 WCC); RPI: 66; SOS: 127; Non-conf. SOS: 57; KenPom: 30

If the Bulldogs fail to win the WCC Tournament, their run of consecutive NCAA appearances that began in 1999 will likely be over. Gonzaga played a typically difficult non-conference schedule, even hosting Arizona and UCLA at the Kennel, but they claimed just one Top-100 win in November and December, a 73-70 decision over UConn in the Battle 4 Atlantis third-place game. The Zags also failed to win at SMU in their typical mid-February, non-WCC test.

Making matters worse, Gonzaga only went 1-3 against the other two possible bid teams in the WCC, as they were swept by co-champ Saint Mary's and split with BYU. That combination of results leaves Mark Few's team needing to defeat both over the next two nights to get back to the dance.

Next game: BYU in the WCC semifinals (tonight)

Michigan Wolverines

20-11 (10-8 Big Ten); RPI: 68; SOS: 59; Non-conf. SOS: 190; KenPom: 54

The best thing about the Wolverines' profile is that they went a perfect 16-0 in games against teams from outside of the Top 100. However, Michigan went just 3-11 in its games against the teams in that group. Home wins over Maryland, Purdue and a Battle 4 Atlantis victory over Texas likely won't be enough.

John Beilein's team, which finished by winning just three of its last nine games, will have to pick up some wins in Indianapolis to reach the field. They'll start by putting that perfect record against non-contenders on the line.

Next game: Northwestern in the Big Ten second round (Thursday)

Three bids are on the line tonight, with the Monmouth Hawks a possible at-large team should they fall in the Metro Atlantic final. Plus, the WCC semifinals are also on the night's slate. I'll be back tomorrow with a new bracket accounting for tonight's games.

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March Madness: From conference tournaments to a national champ