Time to officially punch some tickets for March Madness! Automatic bids begin to be awarded on Saturday with the OVC men’s championship, and several more will be officially booked on Monday night. With automatic bidding comes bargain thieves, a crucial story to reckon with for bubble teams. Could someone jump in and steal an offer in the Missouri Valley, potentially turning it into a three-bid league? If you’re a fan of a bubble team, you certainly hope not. How does the field look heading into this critical weekend?
In the bubble
The bubble is still doing itself no favors. Xavier could have essentially secured his spot in the NCAA tournament if he had won at Georgetown, but it was apparently too difficult a task for the Musketeers. Meanwhile, Seton Hall watches a near-essential game Saturday at St. John’s after losing to UConn on Wednesday. A loss there would leave the Pirates at 13-12 and likely off the field to enter the Big East tournament. One more team that is still on the right side of things is Boise State, but the Broncos are now in full sweat mode entering the Mountain West tournament after a terrible home loss to Fresno State.
It feels like I am running out of teams with a real opportunity to open the field that are not there yet. The state of Wichita has quietly slipped by keeping its resume clean in recent days, and it’s possible the Shockers could sneak in even if they fell into the AAC tournament. I would advise Saint Louis and Utah State to get things off the committee and win their conference tournaments.
Last four byes:
State of colorado
Last four in:
First four out:
Next four out:
* Indicates that the team is expected to win the automatic bid for your conference.
No. 1 Gonzaga * vs. No. 16 Wagner * / NC A & T *
No. 8 Virginia Tech vs. No. 9 Rutgers
No. 5 Creighton vs. No. 12 Michigan State / Drake
No. 4 Texas vs. No. 13 Winthrop *
No. 6 Missouri vs. No. 11 St. Buenaventura *
No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 14 James Madison *
No. 7 San Diego State * vs. No. 10 Louisville
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Southern Utah *
Figuring out exactly what to do with half of the Big 12 remains a huge challenge with less than 10 days until Selection Sunday. Take the No. 4 seed Texas: The Longhorns have no bad losses and multiple high-level wins. But their NET / KenPom rankings are not very good and they have a relatively high number of total losses from playing in a difficult conference. A No. 4 seems right for now, in part because others around him are taking big losses. But the range is wide, I could see them anywhere from the back end of line # 3 to the top end of line # 6.
An automatic offer to watch this weekend is 22-1 Winthrop, who will play for a Big South championship on Sunday against Campbell. I’m still skeptical that the committee would put the Eagles out if they don’t win the conference tournament, but they would probably be in the Next Four Out if nothing else. With just two losses, he wouldn’t completely close the door to a surprise from the committee.
No. 1 Baylor * vs. No. 16 State of Texas *
No. 8 Maryland vs. No. 9 Florida
No. 5 Oklahoma vs. No. 12 UC Santa Barbara *
No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 13 Belmont *
No. 6 Colorado vs. No. 11 VCU
No. 3 Villanova * vs. No. 14 UNC Greensboro *
No. 7 Clemson vs. No. 10 UCLA
No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 15 Grand Canyon *
One question I’ve seen floating around is what happens to a team’s seed when it loses a key player for the rest of the season, like how Villanova just lost star point guard Collin Gillespie. Personally, I would be surprised if Villanova moves down because of that. Now, if the Wildcats finish the season with a loss to Providence and an early exit from the Big East tournament, they could fall to fourth place on Selection Sunday. But through it all, Villanova is likely to be outclassed relative to how good he really is at tournament time, given how different a team is without Gillespie.
One team in their conference tournament this weekend that is worth tracking down in general search is VCU, which is in the “Last four byes” as of now. A deep run in the A-10 tournament will likely lock out the Rams, while a quarterfinal loss to Dayton could seriously jeopardize their overall hopes.
No. 1 Michigan * vs. No. 16 Cleveland State *
No. 8 Loyola Chicago * vs. No. 9 LSU
No. 5 Virginia vs. No. 12 Western Kentucky *
No. 4 Arkansas vs. No. 13 Colgate *
No. 6 USC vs. No. 11 State of Colorado
No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 14 Abilene Christian *
No. 7 Wisconsin vs. No. 10 North Carolina
No. 2 Houston * vs. No. 15 UMBC *
Michigan’s streak as the second seed overall was very short-lived, as that home loss to Illinois dropped the Wolverines to No. 3. No matter how ugly that loss was, Michigan is not in serious risk of losing Line No. 1 and it is likely to be a padlock. Closer to the bubble, North Carolina could remove all doubt if it defeats Duke at home on Saturday in a rivalry showdown. A defeat would be far from catastrophic, and UNC would likely make their way regardless, but a victory would end the sweat of the Tar Heels.
No. 1 Illinois vs. No. 16 State of South Dakota * / Prairie View A & M *
No. 8 Oregon vs. No. 9 UConn
No. 5 Tennessee vs. No. 12 Seton Hall / Boise State
No. 4 State of Oklahoma vs. No. 13 Toledo *
No. 6 Texas Tech vs. No. 11 Xavier
No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 14 Liberty *
No. 7 BYU vs. No. 10 Georgia Tech
No. 2 Alabama * vs. No. 15 Siena *
Illinois is now a big favorite to have the last No. 1 seed after their win at Michigan, but the debate will really be decided on Saturday when the Illini travel to Ohio State. The Buckeyes already have a head-to-head win against Illinois, and sweeping that season series would make the race for the final No. 1 seed that much more interesting. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech can mark its ticket to Indianapolis with a victory Friday night against Wake Forest. However, a loss would be catastrophic.
Full screening of Sweeney’s March Madness, starting March 5:
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.