March Madness has officially hit, as some top seeds fell in conference tournament action yesterday. Loyola-Chicago and South Dakota State are both NIT-bound. Belmont fell to Murray State in the Ohio Valley final, inspiring our first great debate of this year’s selection process: should Belmont get an at-large? And as I wrote this, Lipscomb fell to Liberty, which should cause more debate. We’ll take a closer look at that shortly. First, let’s honor those who have fought hard but have now lost any hope at getting into the NCAA Tournament.
As I watched Oregon take on Washington last night, Bill Walton – in one of his many musings about things totally unrelated to basketball – talked about being a great boat captain. So, maybe he could lead the expedition for today’s Gone Fishin’ participants.
In addition to Drake (who I had projected as the Missouri Valley Conference winner and also was upset in the semifinals yesterday) and South Dakota State, it’s over for Arizona, Butler, and San Francisco after losses yesterday. All of them were long shots to make the field anyway, and none of them could sustain a loss at this point. Joining them this afternoon is Radford, who fell to Gardner-Webb in the Big South final.
Now, back to Belmont and Lipscomb. With the continuing chaos around the cut line – Clemson and Temple picking up big wins yesterday, Alabama losing at Arkansas, and so on – where do they land? I believe both are good teams and I would love to see them in the NCAA tournament. But, the Selection Committee has shown a bias towards middle of the pack teams from major conferences lately.
So for now, I am going with that, and Lipscomb and Belmont are on the wrong side of the cut line. The problem is that for both, about two-thirds of their wins are in Quadrant 4. The best win between the two is Lipscomb’s win at TCU. Belmont actually beat Lipscomb twice and won at Murray State, but Murray State wouldn’t be in the field without the auto bid.
Because of all of this, I don’t see Belmont or Lipscomb having their names called on Selection Sunday… but I hope I’m wrong. We’ll find out what matters more: accruing good wins or avoiding bad losses. The first three out – Alabama, Arizona State, and Georgetown – have plenty of good wins but also a number of bad losses. The next three out – Furman, Lipscomb, and Belmont – don’t have a lot of good wins, but also have mostly avoided bad losses.
One last thing: yeah, I’m still leaving Texas Southern in over Prairie View A & M, despite being 3 games back in the SWAC now. The winner of that conference is going to be a 16 seed anyway, and I’m going with Texas Southern because of wins at Baylor and Oregon.
Here’s today’s projection. Moves up or down since yesterday are in parentheses after the team’s name. Teams who have secured bids are in bold. As always, drop me a line on Twitter, @Mike_Broman1, if you want to talk bracketology and college hoops in general.
In since yesterday: Murray State, Liberty, Gardner-Webb, Bradley, Nebraska-Omaha, Georgia State, Creighton, North Carolina State
Out since yesterday: Belmont, Lipscomb, Radford, Drake, South Dakota State, Texas State, Texas, Alabama
1s: Virginia, Gonzaga, Kentucky, North Carolina (+1)
2s: Duke (-1), Michigan State, Tennessee, Michigan
3s: LSU, Texas Tech, Houston, Purdue
4s: Kansas, Florida State, Kansas State, Marquette
5s: Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Maryland, Mississippi State (+1)
6s: Villanova, Iowa State (-1), Buffalo, Nevada (+1)
7s: Auburn, Cincinnati (-1), Louisville, Wofford (+1)
8s: Oklahoma, Iowa (-1), Ole Miss (+1), Syracuse
9s: UCF, Washington, VCU (+1), St. John’s
10s: Seton Hall (+1), Minnesota, Baylor (-1), Ohio State
11s: Utah State, Indiana, Florida (-1), Temple (+1)
12s: Creighton (new), Clemson, TCU, North Carolina State (new), Liberty (new), Murray State (new)
13s: New Mexico State, UC-Irvine, Vermont, Hofstra (+1)
14s: Old Dominion (-1), Yale, Georgia State (new), Northern Kentucky
15s: Montana, Nebraska-Omaha (new), Bucknell (+1), Gardner-Webb (new)
16s: Bradley (new), Sam Houston State, Texas Southern, Norfolk State, St. Francis-PA, Iona
Last Four Byes: Utah State, Indiana, Florida, Temple
Last Four In: Creighton, Clemson, TCU, North Carolina State
First Six Out: Alabama, Arizona State, Georgetown (+1), Furman (+1), Lipscomb, Belmont. I set it up this way because you really could make a case for any of these teams in any order. It is way too difficult at this point to put any of the two on a line below the other four.
Next Four Out: UNC-Greensboro, Texas, Dayton, Memphis. A quick note on Texas – they are now 16-15, and it is really hard to imagine them making the field if they lose their opener in the Big 12 Tournament.
Still Alive but Hanging by a Thread: Saint Mary’s, East Tennessee State, Fresno State, Oregon, Toledo, Colorado, Davidson, Oregon State, Providence, South Florida, Xavier. These teams must win their next game to keep any hope alive (and it looks like ETSU is on their way to losing as I write this).
Enjoy the games, and look for my next update tomorrow (Monday, March 11). Check out the Bracket Matrix in the meantime!