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.
|16||UC Irvine*/New Orleans*|
|7||Iowa State||at Indianapolis|
|1||Gonzaga*||at Salt Lake City|
|16||Texas Southern*/Mount St. Mary’s*|
|4||Duke||at Greenville, SC|
|14||Florida Gulf Coast*|
|7||Virginia Tech||at Sacramento|
|15||Cal State Bakersfield*|
|4||West Virginia||at Buffalo|
|1||North Carolina*||at Greenville, SC|
|6||Saint Mary’s||at Salt Lake City|
|11||Wake Forest/Illinois State|
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)