Bracket Watch: The NCAA Tournament bubble is changing by the day

The mix of bubble teams in play for the last few spots in my field has actually changed quite a bit — on both sides of the cut line — over the past week or so. Here, now, a little update on the contenders.

Trending up: Michigan State, Vanderbilt, Illinois.

The 18-11 Spartans are close to a lock at this point after beating Wisconsin over the weekend. The 16-13 Commodores have surged from below .500 a few weeks ago to one of my last four in. And the 17-12 Illini, largely forgotten all season, have moved into my first four out after improving to 7-9 in conference.

Trending down: USC, TCU, Kansas State.

The Trojans, once 21-4, are suddenly on shaky ground after four straight losses, most recently to 14-16 Arizona State. The 17-12 Horned Frogs and Wildcats had been in my field all the way up until this edition. Both are now 6-10 in the Big 12.

Wild card: Illinois State.

While Wichita State is likely in regardless of whether it wins this week’s Missouri Valley tournament, 25-5 Illinois State is harder to predict. A Jan. 14 win over the Shockers is essentially its entire resume. The Redbirds got my last at-large.

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 and East vs. South in the national semifinals, based on the order of my No. 1 seeds.


Seed Team Location
1 Kansas* at Tulsa
16 UC Irvine*/New Orleans*
8 South Carolina
9 Marquette
4 Purdue* at Milwaukee
13 Princeton*
5 Notre Dame
12 Vermont*
6 Wisconsin at Indianapolis
11 Vanderbilt/Syracuse
3 Butler
14 Akron*
7 Iowa State at Indianapolis
10 Arkansas
2 Louisville
15 North Dakota*
Seed Team Location
1 Gonzaga* at Salt Lake City
16 Texas Southern*/Mount St. Mary’s*
8 Michigan
9 Xavier
4 Duke at Greenville, SC
13 Nevada*
5 SMU*
12 UT Arlington*
6 Creighton at Milwaukee
11 USC
3 Kentucky*
14 Florida Gulf Coast*
7 Virginia Tech at Sacramento
10 Wichita State*
2 Oregon*
15 Cal State Bakersfield*
Seed Team Location
1 Villanova* at Buffalo
16 NC Central*
8 Dayton*
9 Northwestern
4 West Virginia at Buffalo
13 Monmouth*
5 Virginia
12 UNC Wilmington*
6 Maryland at Orlando
11 Providence
3 Florida State
14 Bucknell*
7 Miami at Sacramento
10 VCU
15 UNC Greensboro*
Seed Team Location
1 North Carolina* at Greenville, SC
16 South Dakota*
8 Oklahoma State
9 Michigan State
4 Florida at Orlando
13 Belmont*
5 Cincinnati
12 Middle Tennessee*
6 Saint Mary’s at Salt Lake City
11 Wake Forest/Illinois State
3 Arizona
14 Oakland*
7 Minnesota at Tulsa
10 Seton Hall
2 Baylor
15 Winthrop*

LAST FOUR BYES: Arkansas, Seton Hall, Providence, USC

LAST FOUR IN: Vanderbilt, Syracuse, Wake Forest, Illinois State

FIRST FOUR OUT: Cal, Illinois, TCU, Kansas State

NEXT FOUR OUT: Ohio State, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Georgia

MULTIPLE BID CONFERENCES: ACC (10), Big Ten (7), Big East (7), Big 12 (5), SEC (5), Pac-12 (4), A-10 (2), American (2), MVC (2), WCC (2)