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Bracketology 2018: The bubble takes a backseat to the race for top seeds on Selection Sunday

Bubble talk dominated Thursday, but the Big East, ACC and Big 12 semifinals will turn the nation’s attention to the top seed line tonight.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Virginia vs Louisville
By getting past Louisville on Thursday, Virginia all but locked up a No. 1 seed. Tonight, we should have a great idea of who will join them and which of the four get the top spot overall.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday afternoon and evening provided plenty of bubble drama, but Friday evening’s lineup features a trio of semifinal doubleheaders. Most intriguingly, five of those six games feature at least one contender for one of the four No. 1 seeds. I’ll discuss those matchups after today’s full bracket and rundown.

I’m not forgetting about the bubble. I’m just going to reset it in a separate post.

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

Atlanta (Thu./Sat.) Boston (Fri./Sun.)
Atlanta (Thu./Sat.) Boston (Fri./Sun.)
Charlotte (Fri./Sun.) Pittsburgh (Thu./Sat.)
1. Virginia (ACC) 1. Villanova
16. SE La./Ark.-Pine Bluff 16. LIU BROOKLYN/Hampton
↓8. Seton Hall 8. Virginia Tech
↑9. UCLA 9. St. Bonaventure
San Diego (Fri./Sun.) Boise (Thu./Sat.)
5. Ohio State 5. West Virginia
12. Buffalo (MAC) ↑12. MURRAY STATE (OVC)
4. Texas Tech 4. Wichita State
13. Vermont (AE) *13. Old Dominion (C-USA)
Wichita (Thu./Sat.) Dallas (Thu./Sat.)
6. Kentucky 6. Miami (Fla.)
11. N.C. State 11. USC
3. MICHIGAN (Big Ten) 3. Auburn (SEC)
14. BUCKNELL (Patriot) 14. UNCG (SoCon)
Pittsburgh (Thu./Sat.) Nashville (Fri./Sun.)
7. Rhode Island (A 10) 7. TCU
↑10. Texas ↓10. Creighton
2. Cincinnati (American) ↑2. North Carolina
15. Harvard (Ivy) 15. WRIGHT STATE (Horizon)

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

Los Angeles (Thu./Sat.) Omaha (Fri./Sun.)
Los Angeles (Thu./Sat.) Omaha (Fri./Sun.)
Charlotte (Fri./Sun.) Detroit (Fri./Sun.)
1. Duke 1. Xavier (Big East)
16. LIPSCOMB (ASUN) 16. RADFORD (Big South)
↑8. Kansas State 8. Missouri
9. Butler 9. Florida State
San Diego (Fri./Sun.) Boise (Thu./Sat.)
5. Florida 5. Clemson
12. New Mexico State (WAC) 12. LOYOLA (ILL.) (MVC)
4. Arizona (Pac-12) 4. GONZAGA (WCC)
13. SOUTH DAKOTA ST. (Summit) 13. Louisiana (Sun Belt)
Dallas (Thu./Sat.) Nashville (Fri./Sun.)
6. Houston ↑6. Arkansas
*11. Alabama/Baylor 11. Middle Tennessee/Saint Mary's
3. Tennessee ↓3. Michigan State
14. Montana (Big Sky) 14. COLL. OF CHARLESTON (CAA)
Detroit (Fri./Sun.) Wichita (Thu./Sat.)
↓7. Texas A&M 7. Nevada (MW)
↓10. Oklahoma 10. Providence
2. Purdue 2. Kansas (Big 12)
15. UC Davis (Big West) 15. IONA (MAAC)

First Four

SOUTH (Automatic) EAST (Automatic) MIDWEST (At-Large) WEST (At-Large)
SOUTH (Automatic) EAST (Automatic) MIDWEST (At-Large) WEST (At-Large)
To Charlotte (Wed.) To Pittsburgh (Tue.) To Nashville (Wed.) To Dallas (Tue.)
(to play Virginia) (to play Villanova) (to play Arkansas) (to play Houston)
16. SE Louisiana (Southland) 16. LIU BROOKLYN (NEC) ↓11. Middle Tennessee *11. Alabama
16. Ark.-Pine Bluff (SWAC) 16. Hampton (MEAC) 11. Saint Mary's 11. Baylor
KEY: ALL CAPS = clinched auto bid * = new to bracket ↑ = seed rising ↓ = seed falling


Providence Louisville Georgia Alabama Arizona State
Texas Marquette Penn State Old Dominion Louisville
N.C. State Arizona State Nebraska
USC Notre Dame Utah
Alabama (Dayton) Oklahoma State Boise State
Baylor (Dayton) Oregon Washington
Middle Tennessee (Dayton) Syracuse LSU
Saint Mary's (Dayton) Mississippi State

Bids by Conference

Conference Bids Teams (in Seed List Order)
Conference Bids Teams (in Seed List Order)
ACC 8 Virginia (auto bid), Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Miami (Fla.), Virginia Tech, Florida State, N.C. State
Big 12 8 Kansas (auto bid), Texas Tech, West Virginia, TCU, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Texas, Baylor (First Four)
SEC 8 Auburn (auto bid), Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama (First Four)
Big East 6 Villanova, Xavier (auto bid), Seton Hall, Creighton, Butler, Providence
Big Ten 4 Michigan State, Purdue, Michigan (auto bid), Ohio State
American 3 Cincinnati (auto bid), Wichita State, Houston
Pac-12 3 Arizona (auto bid), UCLA, USC
A 10 2 Rhode Island (auto bid), St. Bonaventure
C-USA 2 Middle Tennessee (First Four), Old Dominion (auto bid)
WCC 2 Gonzaga (auto bid), Saint Mary's (First Four)

While the top of today’s bracket isn’t all that different from Thursday morning’s — though I bumped the North Carolina Tar Heels up to the two line, replacing the Michigan State Spartans — tonight’s lineup could radically reshape it.

You’re going to find yourself flipping between ESPN, ESPN2 and FS1. All times are Eastern.

Big East Tournament Semifinals

FS1 will air both games.

No. 5 Providence Friars (20-12, 10-8) vs. No. 1 Xavier Musketeers (28-4, 15-3), 6:30 p.m.
No. 6 Butler Bulldogs (20-12, 9-9) vs. No. 2 Villanova Wildcats (28-4, 14-4), approx. 9 p.m.

If the Musketeers and Wildcats win, they’ll both likely anchor regions on Sunday, but if one loses tonight, things will get interesting, particularly if both Duke and Kansas win (and go on to claim their respective conference tournament titles on Saturday night). Both should be tested tonight, as Providence took down Xavier on January 6th and Butler stunned Nova at Hinkle Fieldhouse one week earlier. An extra top three RPI win would do wonders for both the Friars and Bulldogs, who aren’t yet locks even after picking up big quarterfinal wins on Thursday.

ACC Tournament Semifinals

No. 4 Clemson Tigers (23-8, 11-7) vs. No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers (29-2, 17-1), 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
No. 6 North Carolina Tar Heels (24-9, 11-7) vs. No. 2 Duke Blue Devils (26-6, 13-5), approx. 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)

The ACC Network will air both of these games in ACC markets, if you want a different viewing option.

For starters, the Cavaliers are both No. 1 RPI and have two fewer losses than anyone else, so they’re going to be a top seed, win or lose tonight. On the flip side, Clemson probably needs to beat Virginia to have a shot at a four seed.

There’s far more mystery in the second game of the night in Brooklyn, as a pair of eternal Tobacco Road rivals meet to decide their season series. Both teams likely need to win this one to land on the top line on Sunday, but even a dominant victory might not be enough for the Tar Heels. That’s because they already have two more losses than any previous No. 1 seed.

Big 12 Tournament Semifinals

No. 4 Kansas State Wildcats (22-10, 10-8) vs. No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks (25-7, 13-5), 7:15 p.m. (ESPN)
No. 3 West Virginia Mountaineers (23-9, 11-7) vs. No. 2 Texas Tech Red Raiders (24-8, 11-7) , approx. 9:45 p.m. (ESPN2)

The Jayhawks are already at the seven-loss mark, and if history is any indicator, they can’t afford another if they want to land on the top line. They’ll look to defeat the Wildcats, who earned themselves a bit of separation from the bubble by defeating the TCU Horned Frogs yesterday afternoon, for a third time.

In the nightcap in Kansas City, the Mountaineers and Red Raiders are playing for places among the top 16 seeds overall.

I’ll preview Friday’s other key conference tournament action in this morning’s bubble post.