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Bracketology 2017: The bubble is in disarray and the top line is taking shape

On Thursday, Villanova and North Carolina consolidated their positions at the top of the field, while Kansas slipped.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-St. John's vs Villanova Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

After the Kansas Jayhawks’ stunning Big 12 Tournament quarterfinal loss to the TCU Horned Frogs, I’ve shuffled the top line of the bracket again.

Thanks to KU’s loss, the Villanova Wildcats and North Carolina Tar Heels are now first and second overall, with Kansas, No. 1 yesterday, dropping to third. Still, Bill Self’s team is destined for Kansas City and the Midwest Regional. The Gonzaga Bulldogs continue to sit fourth, anchoring the West.

The UCLA Bruins and Duke Blue Devils join the Kentucky Wildcats and Oregon Ducks on the second line, thanks to their close conference tournament victories yesterday. But the Bruins’ Pac-12 Tournament semifinal against the Arizona Wildcats, currently a three seed, and the Blue Devils’ ACC Tournament rubber match with eternal rival North Carolina will help determine their respective eventual fates.

Keep an eye on the top team on the three line, the Florida State Seminoles, who have a great shot at landing on the two line, particularly if they can knock off the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the second ACC semifinal in Brooklyn.

The Louisville Cardinals, who fell to Duke in a thriller at the Barclays Center, and Baylor Bears, stunned by the Kansas State Wildcats in the nightcap in Kansas City, join Florida State and Arizona as threes. The Florida Gators, Butler Bulldogs, Purdue Boilermakers, and West Virginia Mountaineers comprise the four line, with only the Bulldogs sitting Friday from that quartet.

Other possibilities for a spot among the protected seeds at this late stage include Notre Dame, the Cincinnati Bearcats, and SMU Mustangs out of the American, the Big Ten’s Minnesota Golden Gophers and an Iowa State Cyclones squad that suddenly has a great shot to win the Big 12 tourney.

After today’s full bracket and rundown, I’ll take a quick look at the bubble, though I’ll have fresh, more detailed look in a separate post.

1. East (Left) and 2. South (Right)

New York (Fri/Sun) Memphis (Fri/Sun)
New York (Fri/Sun) Memphis (Fri/Sun)
Buffalo (Thu/Sat) Greenville (Fri/Sun)
1. Villanova (Big East) 1. North Carolina (ACC)
16. New Orleans/N.C. Central 16. JAX STATE/S.D. STATE
8. Oklahoma State 8. Northwestern
9. Michigan State 9. Virginia Tech
Orlando (Thu/Sat) Milwaukee (Thu/Sat)
5. Notre Dame 5. Cincinnati
12. UNC WILMINGTON (CAA) 12. USC/Syracuse
4. Florida 4. Purdue (Big Ten)
13. Princeton (Ivy) 13. BUCKNELL (Patriot)
Tulsa (Fri/Sun) Salt Lake City (Thu/Sat)
6. Saint Mary's 6. Iowa State
11. Providence 11. Wake Forest
3. Baylor 3. Arizona
14. Cal St. Bakersfield (WAC) 14. WINTHROP (Big South)
Greenville (Fri/Sun) Indianapolis (Fri/Sun)
7. Wisconsin 7. Creighton
10. Seton Hall 10. VCU
2. Duke 2. Kentucky (SEC)
15. IONA (MAAC) 15. NTHN. KENTUCKY (Horizon)

No. 4 West (Left) and No. 3 Midwest (Right)

San José (Thu/Sat) Kansas City (Thu/Sat)
San José (Thu/Sat) Kansas City (Thu/Sat)
Salt Lake City (Thu/Sat) Tulsa (Fri/Sun)
1. GONZAGA (WCC) 1. Kansas
16. North Dakota (Big Sky) 16. MT. ST. MARY'S (NEC)
8. Miami 8. Dayton (A 10)
9. Arkansas 9. WICHITA STATE (MVC)
Buffalo (Thu/Sat) Milwaukee (Thu/Sat)
5. Minnesota 5. Virginia
12. Nevada (MW) 12. UT Arlington (Sun Belt)
4. West Virginia (Big 12) 4. Butler
13. Vermont (AE) 13. E. TENNESSEE ST. (SoCon)
Indianapolis (Fri/Sun) Orlando (Thu/Sat)
6. SMU (American) 6. Maryland
11. Vanderbilt/Kansas State 11. Middle Tennessee (C-USA)
3. Louisville 3. Florida State
14. Akron (MAC) 14. FLA GULF COAST (ASUN)
Sacramento (Fri/Sun) Sacramento (Fri/Sun)
7. Michigan 7. South Carolina
10. Marquette 10. Xavier
2. Oregon (Pac-12) 2. UCLA
15. UC Irvine (Big West) 15. Texas Southern (SWAC)

First Four

To Buffalo (Tue.) To Greenville (Wed.) To Milwaukee (Tue.) To Indianapolis (Wed.)
16. New Orleans (Southland) 16. JACKSONVILLE ST. (OVC) 12. USC 11. Vanderbilt
16. N.C. Central (MEAC) 16. S. DAKOTA ST. (Summit) 12. Syracuse 11. Kansas State


Xavier (39) Vanderbilt (44) Rhode Island TCU
Marquette (40) USC (45) California Monmouth
Wake Forest (41) Syracuse (46) Illinois State Indiana
Providence (42) Kansas State (47) Illinois Iowa

Also Considered: Georgia, Houston, Ole Miss
Arrival: Kansas State
Departure: Illinois State
Bids by Conference: ACC (10); Big East and Big Ten (7); Big 12 (6); SEC (5); Pac-12 (4); American, Atlantic 10 and West Coast (2); 23 single-bid conferences

Thanks to Thursday wins, the Michigan State Spartans, Northwestern Wildcats, Seton Hall Pirates, and Xavier Musketeers can breathe a whole lot easier heading into the weekend. On the other hand, the Marquette Golden Eagles, Providence Friars, and USC Trojans have a long weekend’s wait ahead of them after tasting conference quarterfinal defeat.

Kansas State and the Vanderbilt Commodores cannot feel safe yet, particularly a Wildcat team that’s handing the Selection Committee a poor nonconference schedule (227th compared to Vanderbilt’s No. 1). While the Commodores should be in even with a loss to the Florida Gators in tonight’s SEC Tournament quarterfinals, a win over the West Virginia Mountaineers tonight in Kansas City might not be enough to lock up a bid for the K-State.

That’s because the two teams immediately lurking behind the Wildcats and Syracuse Orange, currently the second-to-last team in, both take the floor today. The first team out, the Rhode Island Rams, will play the St. Bonaventure Bonnies in the second Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinal this afternoon.

Later, the team sitting immediately behind the Rams, the California Golden Bears, take on Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals. While those teams might not be able to match Kansas State in terms of top-50 wins, their respective nonconference schedule ranks of 26th and 33rd blow the Wildcats’ slate away.

TCU and the Indiana Hoosiers, who face the Wisconsin Badgers in the Big Ten quarters, also set themselves up to poach a bid, though both will likely need to win their conference tournaments outright to do so.

I’ll have another full update on Saturday morning, but I’ll be bringing you a few more bubble updates as Friday’s slate unfolds.