Bracket Watch: Tennessee has surged onto the bubble

Is it too early to talk bubble teams? Of course it’s not.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Tennessee was a .500 team not being remotely discussed for the NCAA tournament. Four straight wins later — including a memorable upset of Kentucky — the 13-9 Vols entered my latest bracket. And they’re not the only bubble team trending in the right direction.

After starting 0-6 in Big 12 play, 14-8 Oklahoma State has righted itself with four consecutive wins, including a solid non-conference victory over Arkansas. The Cowboys sit in the Top 24 on KenPom.com and high enough on my list to merit a No. 10 seed.

Elsewhere, 13-8 Clemson has put itself on more solid footing despite still sitting at just 3-6 in the ACC. Four RPI Top 50 wins will do that. And VCU has played itself back into my field with consecutive wins over fellow Atlantic 10 title contenders Dayton and Richmond.

A reminder: Selection Sunday is March 12, and the tourney begins March 14. The Final Four is April 1-3 in Phoenix.

* — Denotes projected conference champion, automatic berth

This edition’s bracket is Midwest vs. West champions and East vs. South champions in the national semifinals, based on the order of my No. 1 seeds.

BRACKET WATCH

MIDWEST REGION (KANSAS CITY)
Seed Team Location
1 Kansas* at Tulsa
16 UC Irvine*
8 SMU
9 Dayton*
4 Butler at Milwaukee
13 Vermont*
5 Cincinnati*
12 UNC Wilmington*
6 South Carolina at Greenville, SC
11 TCU/Miami
3 Virginia
14 Valparaiso*
7 Virginia Tech at Indianapolis
10 Michigan State
2 Kentucky*
15 Florida Gulf Coast*
WEST REGION (SAN JOSE)
Seed Team Location
1 Gonzaga* at Salt Lake City
16 Weber State*
8 USC
9 Iowa State
4 Purdue at Orlando
13 New Mexico State*
5 Notre Dame
12 Nevada*
6 Saint Mary’s at Salt Lake City
11 Tennessee/Wake Forest
3 Arizona*
14 Akron*
7 Northwestern at Indianapolis
10 Oklahoma State
2 Louisville
15 North Dakota State*
EAST REGION (NEW YORK)
Seed Team Location
1 Villanova* at Buffalo
16 Sam Houston State*/Texas Southern*
8 Indiana
9 Arkansas
4 UCLA at Sacramento
13 Princeton*
5 Duke
12 East Tennessee State*
6 Maryland at Buffalo
11 Georgia Tech
3 West Virginia
14 Monmouth*
7 Xavier at Orlando
10 Michigan
2 Florida State
15 UNC Asheville*
SOUTH REGION (MEMPHIS)
Seed Team Location
1 Baylor at Tulsa
16 Mount St. Mary’s*/Morgan State*
8 Marquette
9 Clemson
4 Oregon at Sacramento
13 Belmont*
5 Wisconsin*
12 Middle Tennessee*
6 Florida at Milwaukee
11 Illinois State*
3 Creighton
14 Bucknell*
7 Minnesota at Greenville, S.C.
10 VCU
2 North Carolina*
15 Arkansas State*

LAST FOUR IN: Tennessee, TCU, Wake Forest, Miami

FIRST FOUR OUT: Kansas State, Wichita State, Seton Hall, Providence

NEXT FOUR OUT: Georgia, Georgetown, Cal, Pittsburgh

MULTIPLE BID CONFERENCES: ACC (11), Big Ten (8), Big 12 (6), Big East (5), SEC (5), Pac-12 (4), A-10 (2), American (2), WCC (2)