Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM

Bracketology Update (3/16)

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Still plenty of tourney action to go on Saturday and Sunday, with the bubble as usual in constant transition.

Entering Saturday, here is how we have the seeds lined up.
(Automatic Bids)

1-Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Gonzaga
2-Duke, Tennessee, Michigan State, Houston
3-Michigan, Texas Tech, LSU, Florida State
4-Kansas, Kansas State, Purdue, Virginia Tech
5-Wisconsin, Marquette, Villanova, Auburn
6-Buffalo, Wofford
, Nevada, Mississippi State
7-Cincinnati, Maryland, Iowa State, VCU
8-Louisville, UCF, Minnesota, Seton Hall
9-Baylor, Washington, Syracuse, Iowa
10-Utah State, Ole Miss, NC State, Oklahoma
11-TCU, Arizona State, St. Mary’s, Florida
12-New Mexico State, Murray State
, Belmont, Temple, Indiana, St. John’s
13-Yale, Liberty, Northeastern, UC Irvine
14-Colgate, Vermont, Northern Kentucky, Georgia State
15-Bradley, Gardner Webb, Georgia State, Montana
16-Sam Houston, North Dakota State, Iona, Fairleigh Dickinson*, Norfolk State, Texas Southern
Last four byes...TCU, Arizona State, Florida, NC State

Last four in...Belmont, Temple, Indiana, St. John’s 

First Four Out...Xavier, Ohio State, Texas, Clemson 

Next Four Out...UNC-Greensboro, Furman, Memphis, Alabama
If there has been a storyline to tell in championship week, it’s been the emergence of the bubble thieves. Two of them (San Diego State from the Mountain West and Davidson from the A-10), stormed the Dance out of championship week last March. And we’ve already matched that number with two full days to go.
Indeed, St. Mary’s, projected at best as a “next four out” entry, won the auto bid from the West Coast Conference, effectively shrinking the bubble by one.  Then, the Friday KO of Virginia Commonwealth by Rhode Island means the A-10 will now be a two-bid league. Which of the four remaining emerges as the official bubble thief will be determined by the conference title game on Sunday in Brooklyn. 
Bubble thieves still lurk, however, especially in the Pac-12 and Mountain West, where Oregon (vs. Washington) and, like last year, San Diego State (vs. Utah State) can add bids to their respective leagues.  Both of those games figure to be rated as near toss-ups, too, so there’s a decent chance the bubble will shrink a bit more. Meanwhile, Buffalo’s narrow escape in Friday MAC Tourney action at Cleveland vs. Central Michigan almost turned the MAC into a 2-bid league.  But given how the Bulls labored vs. the Chips, encountering more trouble vs. a Bowling Green side that beat Buffalo in the regular season marks another golden opportunity for a bubble thief to emerge.
Friday’s action featured opportunities missed by the likes of Ohio State and Xavier for signature wins that might have pushed them to the safe side of the cut line. With the bubble already contracting, and perhaps ready to do it some more, all of the projected  “first four in” and “first four out” candidates will be watching the Mountain West, Pac-12, and MAC intently on Saturday.  Moving intently back to the periphery of the bubble could be Memphis, still very much alive as its hosts the American Tournament.  A win over Houston in one of the Saturday semifinals would force the Tigers into the at-large conversation, but if Penny Hardaway’s troops can upset the Cougars, they might as well close the deal and get the auto bid on Sunday vs. either Cincinnati or Wichita State, which has been quietly surging for the past few weeks (no surprise there under Gregg Marshall) and could also emerge as a bubble thief out pof the American.
Elsewhere on Friday it was more about likely seed shuffling. Of course, LSU’s projected spot on the 2-line is now under review after the SEC quarterfinal loss to Florida. It sure didn’t hurt the Tigers’ quest for a 2-seed, however, that Texas Tech lost right out of the box (a “bad” loss at that vs. West Virginia) in the Big 12 Tourney on Thursday.  That likely moves the Red Raiders to the 3-line.  Purdue now looks more likely to land on the 4-line after losing a Big Ten quarterfinal to Minnesota, the second loss to the Golden Gophers in just over a week.  

Saturday’s ACC title game between Duke and Florida State could impact the lines; a Blue Devils win and we suspect Coach K leapfrogs North Carolina to the top line; a Noles win could move FSU as high as a 3.

Likely dropping a line, however, is Nevada after being dumped out of the Mountain West semis by San Diego State for the second straight year.  Further, star F Jordan Carolina missed the MW semifinal with a reported Achilles tendon injury.  Though initial reports were that it was just a precautionary move, Wolf Pack HC Eric Musselman didn’t elaborate much in the post-game press conference.  Without Caroline, Nevada would be at real risk to become a one-and-done in the Dance, but for the moment we’ll take Musselman’s word that it was just a precautionary move.  For their sake in Reno, we hope he’s right. 
Moving safely into the field should have been Florida with its second win of the season over LSU (both of those wins away from Gainesville, too), while Seton Hall and Minnesota have both likely moved into single-digit seed status.  Xavier’s late run at an at-large likely landed one win short when losing a bitter OT verdict to Villanova in the Big Ten semis.  Right now, we suspect the Musketeers, Creighton, and Georgetown out of the Big East all fall just short on Selection Sunday. 
Meanwhile, all eyes Saturday on the Mountain West, Pac-12, and MAC; as noted, bubble thieves are lurking!

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