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Bracketology 2019: Duke returns to the top line following Friday’s win over UNC

The Blue Devils and Tar Heels swap places, but the door isn’t yet closed for Roy Williams’ club. Meanwhile, Virginia remains No. 1 overall despite falling to Florida State in the ACC Tournament’s first, less anticipated, semifinal.

NCAA Basketball: ACC Conference Tournament-Duke vs North Carolina
Duke’s Zion Williamson finally got a chance to play against North Carolina, and the experience was worth the wait.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

In Friday night’s second ACC Tournament semifinal, the Duke Blue Devils finally got to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels, with the NBA Draft’s likely top pick, Zion Williamson, in the lineup. For the basketball-loving public, it was worth the wait, as the Tobacco Road archrivals put on a show, with the Blue Devils edging the Tar Heels by the minimum margin, 74-73.

That narrow win lifted 28-5 Duke above 27-6 North Carolina on the seed list, despite the Tar Heels’ two easy wins over the Blue Devils sans Williamson. So Mike Krzyzewski’s squad now finds itself back on the top seed line, alongside the Virginia Cavaliers, who remain the overall No. 1 overall despite Friday night’s loss to the Florida State Seminoles in the first ACC semifinal, the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Kentucky Wildcats.

There’s still a chance for three ACC No. 1 seeds, however, as North Carolina could slide past Kentucky if the Wildcats lose to the Tennessee Volunteers in this afternoon’s second SEC Tournament semifinal. As for the Volunteers, they would likely need to win the league’s automatic bid to earn top seed consideration. A pair of Big Ten teams, the Michigan State Spartans and Michigan Wolverines, follow North Carolina and Tennessee on seed line No. 2, and neither can be eliminated from the race for a No. 1 yet.

The LSU Tigers, who fell to the Florida Gators in the SEC quarterfinals on Friday afternoon, dropped to seed line No. 3, where they’re joined by the Houston Cougars and a pair of teams who solidified their spots by winning conference semifinals on Friday night, the Kansas Jayhawks and aforementioned Florida State Seminoles. On the other hand, the Texas Tech Red Raiders and Purdue Boilermakers seem consigned to the four line following quarterfinal losses, while the two remaining protected seeds, the Virginia Tech Hokies and Kansas State Wildcats could yet be passed by the top No. 5 seed, the Wisconsin Badgers, who happen to play Michigan State in today’s first Big Ten Tournament semifinal.

After today’s full bracket, I’ll quickly rundown what’s at stake in today’s conference tournament action.

Note: Auto bid holders in this section are noted by the conference names in parentheses. Arrows indicate movement up or down seed lines relative to Friday’s projection. New entrants are marked with an asterisk. Teams that have clinched bids are in all caps.

1. East (Washington, D.C.)

Columbia, South Carolina (Fri./Sun.)

8. Seton Hall vs. ↓9. VCU

San José, California (Fri./Sun.)

5. Wisconsin vs. 12. New Mexico State (WAC)
4. Kansas State vs. 13. Old Dominion (C-USA)

Tulsa, Oklahoma (Fri./Sun.)

6. Maryland vs. ↓11. St. John’s/Arizona State
3. Houston (American) vs. 14. Georgia State (Sun Belt)

Jacksonville, Florida (Thu./Sat.)

7. WOFFORD (SoCon) vs. 10. Syracuse
2. Tennessee vs. 15. COLGATE (Patriot)

4. Midwest (Kansas City, Missouri)

Columbia (Fri./Sun.)

↑1. Duke (ACC) vs. *16. Abilene Christian (Southland)
↑8. Minnesota vs. 9. Oklahoma

San José (Fri./Sun.)

↑5. Iowa State vs. *12. Davidson (A 10)
4. Virginia Tech vs. 13. UC Irvine (Big West)

Tulsa (Fri./Sun.)

↓6. Marquette vs. 11. TCU
↓3. LSU vs. 14. Montana (Big Sky)

Columbus, Ohio (Fri./Sun.)

7. Buffalo (MAC) vs. ↑10. SAINT MARY’S (WCC)
2. Michigan State (Big Ten) vs. BRADLEY (MVC)

2. West (Anaheim, California)

Salt Lake City, Utah (Thu./Sat.)

1. Gonzaga vs. 16. Prairie View (SWAC)/Norfolk State (MEAC)
↑8. Utah State (MW) vs. 9. Washington (Pac-12)

Salt Lake City (Thu./Sat.)

5. Mississippi State vs. 12. MURRAY STATE (OVC)
4. Texas Tech vs. 13. Vermont (Am. East)

Hartford, Connecticut (Thu./Sat.)

6. Cincinnati vs. 11. Florida
↑3. Florida State vs. 14. NORTHEASTERN (CAA)

Des Moines, Iowa (Thu./Sat.)

↑7. Louisville vs. 10. Ole Miss
↑2. Michigan vs. 15. NORTHERN KENTUCKY (Horizon)

3. South (Louisville, Kentucky)

Columbus (Fri./Sun.)

1. Kentucky (SEC) vs. 16. IONA (MAAC)
8. Iowa vs. 9. Baylor

Hartford (Thu./Sat.)

↑5. Villanova (Big East) vs. 12. Temple/Belmont
↓4. Purdue vs. 13. LIBERTY (ASUN)

Des Moines (Thu./Sat.)

6. Auburn vs. 11. Ohio State
3. Kansas (Big 12) vs. 14. Harvard (Ivy)

Jacksonville (Thu./Sat.)

↓7. Nevada vs. ↓10. UCF
↓2. North Carolina vs. 15. GARDNER-WEBB (Big South)

Last Four Byes: Ole Miss, TCU, Florida, Ohio State
Last Four IN: St. John’s, Arizona State, Temple, Belmont
First Four OUT: NC State, Alabama, Indiana, Texas,
Next Four OUT: Oregon, Lipscomb, UNC Greensboro, Clemson

Bids by Conference: 8 Big Ten, 7 ACC, 7 Big 12, 7 SEC, 4 American, 4 Big East, 2 Atlantic 10, 2 Mountain West, 2 Ohio Valley, 2 Pac-12, 2 West Coast, 21 one-bid conferences

Saturday preview

Note: All times are Eastern.

For starters, a whopping 14 automatic bids are at stake throughout the day and night. Bubble fans will want to pay particularly close attention to the Mountain West (6 p.m., CBS) and MAC (7:30 p.m., ESPN2) championship games, as both feature potential surprise auto bid winners. I have more details on those games in today’s bubble update.

Big Ten Semifinals (1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., CBS)

Both Michigan State and Michigan need to advance to tomorrow afternoon’s final to stay in the hunt for one of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament bracket. Wisconsin, meanwhile, is a contender for a spot on the four line, while Minnesota will look to continue to improve their seeding after picking up a pair of wins that lifted them off the bubble.

SEC Semifinals (1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., ESPN)

Florida has to be relatively happy to play a quality Auburn squad in this afternoon’s first semifinal as a loss to potential opponent South Carolina could have damaged the Gators’ at-large hopes even after Friday’s big win over LSU. Game one’s winner will earn a surprise berth in Sunday’s final alongside either Kentucky or Tennessee, who are playing a top-seed elimination game in the second game of the day in Nashville.

American Athletic Semifinals (3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., ESPN2)

Bubble teams will want the top two seeds, Houston and Cincinnati, to eliminate their respective semifinal opponents, host Memphis and surprising Wichita State. If they don’t, the American will have a surprise auto bid winner and perhaps five entrants in the field, if the Selection Committee takes Temple after the Owls’ Friday loss to the Shockers.

Big 12 Championship (6 p.m., ESPN)

The first game of ESPN’s Saturday night championship triple-header features a Kansas squad hoping to stay on seed line No. 3 (a two seed is unlikely given the teams ahead of the Jayhawks) and an Iowa State squad hoping to somehow crack the four line.

Big East Championship (6:30 p.m., Fox)

While Seton Hall has stormed its way into the field with four straight wins, the Pirates might find it difficult to extend that run to five games. That’s because Villanova is going for its third straight Big East Tournament title and a spot on seed line No. 5 at a minimum.

ACC Championship (8:30 p.m., ESPN)

A win for Duke over Florida State would cement their place on the top seed line and might open up some debate as to whether the Blue Devils or Virginia should be No. 1 overall. As for the Seminoles, they’re aiming to jump up to an unlikely two seed.

Pac-12 Championship (10:30 p.m., ESPN)

This is not only your final chance to listen to Dave Pasch and Bill Walton working together this season, but it’s an opportunity for the Pac-12 to potentially earn a surprising third bid. Thanks to an overtime win over Arizona State, Oregon will take on Washington for the second Saturday night in a row. And if the Ducks dominate the Huskies like they did in Seattle one week ago, they’ll be in the field.

In short, there’s still much to play for with fewer than 36 hours remaining until the Selection Show.