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Bracketology 2017: Syracuse is the ultimate bubble team

The Orange are the very last team in after Wednesday’s lunchtime loss to Miami, but they shouldn’t get too comfortable — three of the four teams immediately behind them take the floor today.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Syracuse vs Miami Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s bracket features just two minor modifications from yesterday’s version. First, the Bucknell Bison avenged their two regular-season losses to the Lehigh Mountain Hawks in the Patriot League tournament final, so their name now appears in all caps. No team will join the club of 12 current auto-bid winners between now and Saturday morning, when the America East tournament final is the first of 14 title tilts set for the day.

The second is the Syracuse Orange’s move to the spot immediately above the cut line, thanks to their loss to Miami in the first of Wednesday’s four ACC second-round games.

While Syracuse indeed fell to Pitt at the same exact time in the 2016 ACC tournament and eventually made the field, there are some key differences between that Orange team’s profile and 2017’s that don’t work to this one’s advantage. First, Syracuse’s current RPI placing of 84th (per is worse than the 71 number that made them the lowest-ranked team to ever get an at-large last season. Secondly, the 2015-16 version of the Orange managed to defeat two NCAA teams (Connecticut and Texas A&M) on neutral floors. This year’s best non-conference win came over Monmouth at home, and the Orange are a woeful 2-11 in games played away from the Carrier Dome. Last year, they went 6-9 in such games.

Finally, the Selection Committee had to account for the nine games head coach Jim Boeheim missed due to an NCAA suspension — a time when the Orange went 4-5 and lost to both St. John’s and Georgetown. That won’t be a factor this time.

Still, with the teams behind them off yesterday, Syracuse remains in temporarily. After today’s full bracket and rundown, I’ll look at what’s on today’s slate, including the games that could knock Syracuse (and Illinois State, for that matter) out.

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

Kansas City (Thu/Sat) New York (Fri/Sun)
Kansas City (Thu/Sat) New York (Fri/Sun)
Tulsa (Fri/Sun) Buffalo (Thu/Sat)
1. Kansas (Big 12) 1. Villanova (Big East)
8. Virginia Tech 8. Miami
9. Arkansas 9. Michigan State
Milwaukee (Thu/Sat) Orlando (Thu/Sat)
5. Notre Dame 5. West Virginia
12. Vanderbilt/Illinois State 12. Nevada (MW)
4. Purdue (Big Ten) 4. Florida
13. BUCKNELL (Patriot) 13. Vermont (AmEast)
Sacramento (Fri/Sun) Orlando (Thu/Sat)
6. Saint Mary's 6. Maryland
11. Middle Tennessee (C-USA) 11. Seton Hall
3. UCLA 3. Florida State
Indianapolis (Fri/Sun) Tulsa (Fri/Sun)
7. Creighton 7. Dayton (A 10)
10. VCU 10. Providence
2. Louisville 2. Baylor
15. Texas Southern (SWAC) 15. NTHN. KENTUCKY (Horizon)

4. West (Left) and 3. South (Right)

San José (Thu/Sat) Memphis (Fri/Sun)
San José (Thu/Sat) Memphis (Fri/Sun)
Salt Lake City (Thu/Sat) Greenville (Fri/Sun)
1. GONZAGA (WCC) 1. North Carolina (ACC)
16. SOUTH DAKOTA ST. (Summit) 16. New Orleans/N.C. Central
8. Oklahoma State 8. Michigan
9. Northwestern 9. WICHITA STATE (MVC)
Buffalo (Thu/Sat) Salt Lake City (Thu/Sat)
5. Minnesota 5. Cincinnati
12. UNC WILMINGTON (CAA) 12. UT Arlington (Sun Belt)
4. Virginia 4. Arizona
13. Princeton (Ivy) 13. E. TENNESSEE ST. (SoCon)
Greenville (Fri/Sun) Milwaukee (Thu/Sat)
6. SMU (American) 6. Iowa State
11. Xavier/Syracuse 11. USC
3. Duke 3. Butler
14. Cal State Bakersfield (WAC) 14. Akron (MAC)
Sacramento (Fri/Sun) Indianapolis (Fri/Sun)
7. South Carolina 7. Wisconsin
10. Marquette 10. Wake Forest
2. Oregon (Pac-12) 2. Kentucky (SEC)
15. UC Irvine (Big West) 15. IONA (MAAC)

First Four

To Buffalo (Tue.) To Milwaukee (Tue.) To Greenville (Wed.) To Greenville (Wed.)
16. MOUNT ST. MARY'S (NEC) 12. Vanderbilt 16. New Orleans (Southland) 11. Xavier
16. North Dakota (Big Sky) 12. Illinois State 16. N.C. Central (MEAC) 11. Syracuse


VCU (38) Xavier (43) Illinois California
Providence (39) Vanderbilt (44) Rhode Island Monmouth
Seton Hall (40) Illinois State (46) Iowa Ole Miss
USC (41) Syracuse (47) Kansas State Indiana

Also considered: Georgia, TCU
By Conference: ACC (10), Big East (7), Big Ten (7), Big 12 (5), SEC (5), Pac-12 (4), American (2), Atlantic 10 (2), Missouri Valley (2), West Coast (2), 22 One-Bid Leagues

While all eight ACC quarterfinalists are locks and are only playing for seeding right now (with North Carolina and Louisville still in the race for a spot on the top line) and the American Athletic looks like it will just be a two-bid league, every other major conference tournament features at least one bubble game today.

In the Big 12 tournament, Kansas State can vault into the field by picking up a second win over Baylor, another team with one-seed potential, in the final quarterfinal of the day. If TCU manages to upset Kansas in the second game of the afternoon session, the Horned Frogs will re-enter the picture.

On Wednesday night in the Big East, Xavier cleared its first hurdle, defeating DePaul for the second time in five days. That win sets up a matchup with Butler, which swept the Musketeers during the regular season. While Chris Mack’s team should be safe now, a late win over the Bulldogs wouldn’t hurt. The winner between Seton Hall and Marquette Golden Eagles might find itself in better position, though both should hear their names called on Sunday. It’s a similar story for Creighton and Providence, though the Bluejays might see their seeding take a further hit with another loss. As for Villanova, a late bad loss to St. John’s might make the Wildcats’ one seed a bit shaky.

All four Big Ten tournament second-round games are vital, with Michigan‘s afternoon showdown with Illinois and the evening’s Indiana-Iowa matchup the most important. While the Wolverines won’t drop out with a loss, the Fighting Illini can get themselves in prime position by winning the season’s rubber match. Thanks to a plane accident yesterday, John Beilein’s team only got on its way to Washington, D.C. this morning, which could impact its performance. As for the Hoosiers and Hawkeyes, the winner stays in the hunt, while the loser falls out.

Michigan State and Northwestern just need to take care of Penn State and Rutgers, respectively, to avoid any unnecessary late drama.

In the Pac-12 tournament, a win over Utah won’t be nearly enough to get California into the field, but it could set the Golden Bears up for a golden opportunity against Oregon in tomorrow’s semifinals. The Ducks, Arizona, and UCLA all need victories to keep their hopes for a national No. 1 seed alive. The Bruins face the sternest test on that front, as they face a USC squad that needs a win for some bubble breathing room. On the other hand, the Ducks take on Arizona State and the Wildcats get Colorado — a pair of matchups that aren’t quite so dangerous.

Finally, Vanderbilt can edge closer to safety by knocking off Texas A&M in the SEC tournament’s second round in Nashville. Georgia (playing Tennessee) and Ole Miss (facing 14th-seeded Missouri) both need victories to keep their flames flickering.

Tomorrow’s update will include a fresh look at the cut line, though I will update the picture later today if events warrant.