Although there were few bubble developments of note on Tuesday, it was still a semi-eventful day with Big Dance tickets punched in the Horizon (Detroit), Summit (South Dakota State), and Sun Belt (Western Kentucky). There was also another ticket punched, indirectly so, in the Ivy League, where Penn's loss at Princeton gave Harvard its first NCAA Tourney invite since 1946.
The main storyline on Tuesday, however, was WKU, which completed a wild Sun Belt ride in Hot Springs with four wins in as many nights to become the first sub-.500 team (the Tops are 15-18) to enter the Big Dance since 2008. WKU's trek to the NCAAs was defintitely unorthodox, with the team appeared to be headed nowhere at midseason with a 5-11 mark, and summarily dismissed HC Ken McDonald, promoting assistant Ray Harper on an interim basis. But the Tops played well enough thereafter for Harper to get the job on a full-time basis before the Sun Belt Tourney, and Harper rewarded the faith by his team delivering the most unlikely NCAA berth in several years.
Still, we're just as excited about the qualification of South Dakota State, which overcame WIU's slowdown tactics that would have made Boyd Grant proud before finally subduing the Leathernecks in overtime at nearby Sioux Falls. But what really excites us not just that it's SDSU's first-ever invitation...it's also the first time a team named the Jackrabbits has ever qualified for the Big Dance.
As for the bubble, the only development of note on Tuesday was Seton Hall keeping its at-large pulse beating with a resounding win over Providence at the Big East Tourney in New York City. That puts the Pirates at 20 wins and gives the Hall a chance to make a serious statement on Wednesday if it can beat a Louisville team that has been struggling in recent weeks. The other late game on Wednesday in the Big East Tourney will feature a South Florida side that probably needs a decent showing at the Garden to keep its at-large hopes alive. A loss to Villanova on Wednesday would probably relegate the Bulls to the NIT; but as it has gone all season for USF, we're still not how much a win over Nova helps Stan Heath's squad, which probably needs to advance another round to stay on the at-large radar.
Three more tickets will be punched on Wednesday, with Lehigh visiting CBS head honcho Les Moonves' alma mater Bucknell in the Patriot final, while Long Island hosts the home team of the Pittsburgh Airport, Robert Morris, in the Northeast Tourney finale. Montana and Weber State will also be getting together tonight in Missoula to determine the Big Sky rep to the Dance.
After Tuesday's games, here's how our projected seeds (1 thru 16) for the Big Dance set up as of AM, Wednesday, March 7...
No. 1 seeds...Kentucky, Syracuse, Kansas, North Carolina.
No. 2 seeds...Duke, Missouri, Ohio State, Michigan State.
No. 3 seeds...Marquette, Michigan, Indiana, Baylor.
No. 4 seeds...Wisconsin, Florida State, Georgetown, Wichita State.
No. 5 seeds...San Diego State, Creighton, UNLV, Florida.
No. 6 seeds...Gonzaga, Notre Dame, Virginia, Memphis.
No. 7 seeds...Temple, Saint Mary's, Saint Louis, Louisville.
No. 8 seeds...New Mexico, Vanderbilt, Purdue, Murray State.
No. 9 seeds...Iowa State, Kansas State, Cincinnati, Washington.
No. 10 seeds...BYU, UConn, California, Mississippi State.
No. 11 seeds...Oregon, Long Beach State, Virginia Commonwealth, Northwestern.
No. 12 seeds...Alabama, West Virginia, Colorado State, Miami-Fla., Texas.
No. 13 seeds...Akron, Belmont, Harvard, Southern Miss, Drexel.
No. 14 seeds...Loyola-Md., Davidson, Detroit, Nevada.
No. 15 seeds...Bucknell, UT-Arlington, South Dakota State, Montana.
No. 16 seeds...Long Island, UNC-Asheville, Savannah State, Stony Brook, Mississippi Valley State, Western Kentucky.
Last four in...Miami-Florida, Texas, Southern Miss, Drexel.
First four out...NC State, South Florida, Seton Hall, Tennessee.
Next four out...Arizona, Iona, Middle Tennessee, Oral Roberts.