First, let me get this out of the way: congratulations to Holy Cross. They won 4 road games in a row to win the Patriot League conference tournament. They played their way into the Big Dance, under the rules we have.
With that being said, is it time to revisit the structure of the conference tournaments? Does a team that finished 5-13 in a weak conference and 10-19 overall really belong in the tournament? Granted, the Patriot League isn’t rife with great teams, but the top 5 (out of the 10 in the league) at least finished the season with a winning record. Holy Cross finished 9th. Their strength of schedule is an appalling 294th. Their list of losses to teams who are at 200 or worse in the RPI is longer than your grocery list when you haven’t gone shopping in two weeks. Then again, their RPI is 264, so this isn’t surprising. Does anyone really want to be subjected to Holy Cross vs Kansas, should Holy Cross win its First Four game next week?
While I certainly think every conference should get a bid, it might be worth it for the lower tier conferences to have, say, four teams in their tournaments, so that they are ensured of at least getting a decent team into the field of 68. In turn, this would give them a reasonable shot at pulling an upset in the first round. The odds of a team who went 10-19 on the regular season pulling an opening round upset are the same as the odds that the sun won’t come up tomorrow.
With that out of the way, most of the movement since my last update is within seed lines. Most notably, the string of upsets in the conference tournaments continued and Green Bay, Fairleigh-Dickinson, South Dakota State (who was expected to win the Summit League), and Gonzaga have officially joined the field in addition to Holy Cross over the last two nights.
At the bottom of the at-large field, Saint Mary’s appears after losing out on an auto bid, thanks to their 27-5 overall record, 7-3 record in true road games, solid RPI number (36), and regular season sweep of Gonzaga. Connecticut falls to the First Four Out, joining Monmouth, Valparaiso, and Florida on that line.
Here is the entire seed list, with moves up or down in parentheses, projected auto qualifiers in bold, and teams who have clinched auto bids bold and underlined.
1s: Kansas, Villanova, Virginia, Michigan State
2s: Oklahoma, Oregon, North Carolina, Xavier
3s: Utah, West Virginia, Miami, Purdue
4s: Indiana, Texas A & M, Kentucky, Duke (+1)
5s: Iowa State, California, Arizona (-1), Maryland
6s: Texas, Iowa, Dayton, Baylor
7s: Notre Dame, Seton Hall, Texas Tech, Wisconsin
8s: Colorado, Providence, Wichita State, Oregon State (+1)
9s: Butler, Saint Bonaventure (-1), Temple, Saint Joe’s
10s: Southern California, Cincinnati, Virginia Commonwealth, Vanderbilt
11s: Pittsburgh, Tulsa, San Diego State, Gonzaga (new), South Carolina, Saint Mary’s
12s: Chattanooga, Yale, UNC-Wilmington, Akron
13s: Northern Iowa, UC-Irvine, Arkansas-Little Rock, Stephen F. Austin
14s: Iona, South Dakota State, Stony Brook, Alabama-Birmingham
15s: Green Bay (new), UNC-Asheville, New Mexico State, Weber State
16s: Florida Gulf Coast, Austin Peay, Fairleigh-Dickinson (new), Texas Southern, Hampton, Holy Cross (new)
Last Four In: Pittsburgh, Tulsa, South Carolina, Saint Mary’s
First Four Out: Connecticut, Monmouth, Valparaiso (+2), Florida
Next Four Out: Syracuse (-1), Michigan, Florida State, George Washington
Third Four Out: Georgia Tech, Houston (-1), Alabama, Washington (+1)
Keep watching the conference tournaments, and look for my next update on Friday. As always, check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime.