Just like on the eve of the Selection Show last year, I decided one projection wasn’t enough for the day, so I doubled up. I’m fully locked in right now, as are so many of the teams around the country on their way to wrapping up bids. Let’s start with one who didn’t wrap up a bid and who may, in fact, have relegated itself to the NIT.
Texas-Arlington will be a really interesting case tomorrow. They’re a quality mid-major who didn’t win their conference tournament, falling today by 21 points to Texas State in the Sun Belt semifinals. So what will their fate be? They had a very nice non-conference win at Saint Mary’s, but that was their only win vs. a team in the Top 100 of the RPI. Much like their mid-major counterpart Illinois State, I believe Texas-Arlington is destined for a 1 seed in the NIT right now.
Speaking of Illinois State, that makes me think of their conference, the Missouri Valley, and Wichita State. The Shockers might be the hardest team to seed in the entire field. A look at today’s update of the Bracket Matrix speaks to that, as they are anywhere from a 3 to an 11! Most teams stopped having such a disparity in where bracketologists were seeding them in early January.
What makes it so difficult with the Shockers is they are clearly a good team, having compiled an overall record of 30-4 that consisted mostly of blowing teams out. KenPom ranks them 9th. But they only have three wins vs. Top 100 teams in the RPI – two against Illinois State and one against Colorado State. I have the Shockers on the 7 line for now, but I don’t feel good about it at all and I am liable to go back and forth about it 50 times before my final projection tomorrow afternoon.
Elsewhere tonight, a ton is on the line. If Creighton beats Villanova for the Big East title, they have a shot at a 5 seed. But, they will need Iowa State to fall to West Virginia in the Big 12 title game, because Iowa State is first in line for that spot going into the evening. In the ACC title game, Duke will solidify their grip on a 2 seed if they knock off Notre Dame.
On the other sides of these coins, Villanova is a 1 seed regardless. I think West Virginia and Notre Dame have reached their ceiling. Both have unsightly non-conference strength of schedules. West Virginia has losses to bad Temple and Oklahoma teams, while Notre Dame’s only quality non-con win is against Northwestern. This is to take nothing away from either, as they are both very good teams, but I don’t see them rising above the 4 line even with a win tonight.
Later on, we’ll have Arizona and Oregon squaring off for the Pac-12 title. The winner gets a 2 seed. Arizona drops back to the 3 line if they lose, while with Oregon, it would be a close call between them and Baylor or Louisville. Regardless, this game could be the night’s most entertaining simply because Bill Walton and Dave Pasch will call it.
Looking at the bubble, teams in the Last Four In breathed a collective sigh of relief a few minutes ago when VCU topped Richmond in overtime. Richmond winning that game and beating Rhode Island in tomorrow’s A-10 title game would be a nightmare scenario for those teams, as VCU would then get an at-large, taking away a previously available bid. But, those bubble teams will be feeling the stress once again if Colorado State defeats Nevada in the upcoming Mountain West title game. Nevada could potentially nab an at-large. The same can be said for the Conference USA title game. If Middle Tennessee falls to Marshall, they are very likely an at-large qualifier.
And beyond the games I’ve written about here, five more automatic bids are on the line tonight:
- Kent State Akron in the MAC
- Weber State North Dakota in the Big Sky
- Texas A & M – Corpus Christi New Orleans in the Southland
- New Mexico State Cal-Bakersfield in the WAC
- Cal-Davis Cal-Irvine in the Big West
It’s going to be a fun night. So to start it off, here’s the updated projection. Moves up or down since earlier today are in parentheses after the team’s name. Projected auto qualifiers are in bold, and teams who have clinched bids are bold and underlined.
New auto bids: Vermont, North Carolina Central, Texas Southern (actually clinched it Friday night because of Alcorn State winning the other SWAC semifinal but being ineligible for the NCAA tournament)
In since earlier today: Troy
Out since earlier today: Texas-Arlington
1s: Villanova, Kansas, Gonzaga, North Carolina
2s: Kentucky, Oregon, Duke, Arizona
3s: Baylor, Louisville, UCLA, Florida State
4s: Florida, West Virginia, Butler, Notre Dame
5s: Purdue, Virginia, Cincinnati, Minnesota
6s: SMU, Wisconsin, Iowa State, Creighton
7s: Michigan, Saint Mary’s, Maryland, Wichita State (+1)
8s: Oklahoma State (-1), Miami (+1), Dayton, South Carolina
9s: Arkansas, VCU (+1), Virginia Tech, Northwestern (-1)
10s: Seton Hall (-1), Xavier, Michigan State, Providence (+1)
11s: Vanderbilt (-1), Marquette, Wake Forest, Rhode Island, Middle Tennessee
12s: Kansas State (-1), Southern California (-1), Nevada, UNC-Wilmington, Vermont (+1)
13s: Princeton, East Tennessee State, Bucknell, Winthrop (+1)
14s: Akron, Cal-Bakersfield, Florida Gulf Coast, Iona (+1)
15s: Northern Kentucky, Texas Southern, North Dakota, Cal-Irvine (+1)
16s: Troy (new), South Dakota State, Mount Saint Mary’s, Jacksonville State, New Orleans, North Carolina Central
First Five Out: Illinois State, Syracuse, California, Texas-Arlington, Iowa
Texas-Arlington grabbed an auto-bid to the NIT, since they were the Sun Belt regular season champions. This pushed New Mexico out of the field. This also caused one team from each seed line earlier to fall, as UT-Arlington is projected on the top line.
1s: Illinois State, Syracuse, California, Texas-Arlington
2s: Iowa (-1), Illinois, Indiana, Houston
3s: Alabama (-1), Ole Miss, TCU, Georgia
4s: Utah (-1), Clemson, Monmouth, Charleston
5s: Georgia Tech (-1), Ohio State, Boise State, BYU
6s: Texas Tech (-1), Central Florida, Colorado State, Richmond
7s: Valparaiso (-1), Fresno State, Tennessee, New Mexico State
8s: Belmont (-1), Oakland, UNC-Greensboro, South Dakota
Thanks for reading, and catch my final projection before the Selection Show tomorrow. Check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!