Bracket Watch: It’s getting awfully crowded on the bubble
At long last, several bubble teams racked up much-needed big wins this week. Syracuse (which knocked off Duke) and Providence (which won at Creighton) both moved into my bracket. Miami (which rallied to beat Virginia) and Seton Hall (which beat Xavier) both made themselves more comfortable.
Nevertheless, pickings are so slim that nearly any power-conference team currently sitting above .500 still has a puncher’s chance at an at-large berth. As evidence, 15-13 Vanderbilt, 15-13 Tennessee, 14-13 Clemson, 15-13 Pittsburgh and 16-13 Ohio State all sit among my first eight teams out. Seriously.
Many fans will say they’d rather see a mid-major with a better record get an opportunity before those mediocre big boys. The problem is, very few fit the bill.
Wichita State (26-4), despite holding just one RPI Top 50 win, would be one exception given it’s ranked in the Top 15 of advanced metrics like KenPom. But Missouri Valley co-leader Illinois State (24-5) doesn’t have as convincing an argument due to two sub-100 losses and a KenPom ranking in the 50s.
All of this will change, of course, once conference tournaments begin and a few upset champs steal bids. Sitting in the “last four in” today is hardly a place of comfort. But the good news for those teams on the fence is that even one big victory down the stretch may be enough to push them over the top.
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. South and East vs. West in the national semifinals, based on the order of my No. 1 seeds.
|16||UC Irvine*/New Orleans*|
|14||East Tennessee State*|
|7||Oklahoma State||at Indianapolis|
|1||North Carolina*||at Greenville, SC|
|4||West Virginia||at Buffalo|
|6||Saint Mary’s||at Orlando|
|7||South Carolina||at Salt Lake City|
|15||Florida Gulf Coast*|
|1||Gonzaga*||at Salt Lake City|
|16||Texas Southern*/Mount St. Mary’s*|
|6||Creighton||at Greenville, SC|
|7||Virginia Tech||at Sacramento|
|15||Cal State Bakersfield*|
LAST FOUR BYES: Arkansas, Michigan State, Seton Hall, Syracuse
LAST FOUR IN: Providence, Kansas State, Wake Forest, TCU
FIRST FOUR OUT: Cal, Illinois State, Vanderbilt, Tennessee
NEXT FOUR OUT: Clemson, Illinois, Pittsburgh, Ohio State
MULTIPLE BID CONFERENCES: ACC (10), Big Ten (7), Big 12 (7), Big East (7), Pac-12 (4), SEC (4), A-10 (2), American (2), WCC (2)