See the post below this for Friday’s new bracket. But the tournament picture is getting quite clear. Precious few spots remain up for grabs, and today’s results will have a huge impact on who makes it (Vandy’s win over Florida and Northwestern’s win over Maryland have already taken two spots from contention).
There are 32 automatic bids to the tournament, and nine conferences that already have at least two locks. So 31 of the 36 at-large bids are already spoken for by:
A-10 (1) – Dayton
AAC (2) – Cincinnati, SMU
ACC (8) – Florida State, UNC, Louisville, Virginia, Notre Dame, Duke, Miami, Virginia Tech
Big XII (5) – Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia, Iowa State, Oklahoma State
Big East (7) – Villanova, Butler, Creighton, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, Xavier
Big Ten (7) – Northwestern, Wisconsin, Maryland, Purdue, Minnesota, Michigan State, Michigan
SEC (5) – Kentucky, Florida, South Carolina, Arkansas, Vanderbilt
Pac-12 (3) – UCLA, Oregon, Arizona
WCC (2) – Gonzaga, St. Mary’s
There are also three teams that should be in the tournament, but aren’t locks. If they all make it, the bubble would be down to just two spots left. The following teams can likely lose out and make the field, but it’s not guaranteed:
VCU – Dayton and MTSU are the only wins toner excited about, and those aren’t very exciting. So while VCU is almost sure to go dancing, I can’t lock them yet after beating George Mason. They should be fine, though.
Wake Forest – Danny Manning is no stranger to success in March, and his Demon Deacons should be dancing after avoiding a bad loss to Boston College in the first round of the ACC tournament. With wins over Louisville and Miami at home, and Virginia Tech on the road, expect Danny Manning’s team to dance even after they fell to Virginia Tech on Wednesday. No matter what happens elsewhere, this resume is not strong enough to support a lock. But I expect Manning’s team to dance.
USC – The Trojans have a very blah profile. That is to say, they’ll probably make it after posting wins over UCLA and SMU. But I hope their fans are looking forward to vacationing in Dayton.
The next tier are those truly on the cut line (only two of these teams will likely make it as an at-large):
Kansas State – The Baylor win moved them to my last spot in. I’m not sure they will be able to hold that position after the West Virginia loss. They are a cut line team, for sure. There will be lots of discussion about this team in the committee room.
Illinois – The Illini would’ve been dancing with a win over Michigan. Instead, the Wolverines beat them down without even putting on real uniforms. Illinois is barely holding onto a spot in my bracket. This is a team nobody is talking about as being a bubble contender (seriously, on Bracket Matrix right now only Shelby Mast and Warren Nolan have them in besides me). But not only are they a bubble contender, I think they’re likely in.
Syracuse – The Orange have six top 50 wins, a winning ACC record, and most of the country is calling for them to be in. I am not one of them, however. I said earlier this week I thought the Miami game would be do-or-die for them, and they lost. I stand by it. I expect the Orange to just miss.
Middle Tennessee – The Blue Raiders beat UTEP in the CUSA semis. That win might be enough to get them in. At this point, I think MTSU will need the auto bid.
Illinois State – I don’t see it happening for the RedBirds. Too many bubble teams have made progress this week while ISU has had to sit at home and watch. They’ll be right in the thick of the discussions, but the lack of quality wins will likely get them in the end.
Rhode Island – The Rams must make the A-10 title game to have a shot at making the field. Because the A-10 title game is on Sunday, the committee will know whether they decided to include Rhode Island before that title game even tips. Rhode Island’s at-large hopes were severely hampered by the loss Dayton took to Davidson, which gives the Rams one less chance to get a top 50 win.
The last tier is teams needing a shocking committee decision to include them:
Nevada – It’s possible because of all the top 100 wins, but it’s quite unlikely after getting swept by Fresno State.
Georgia – Do I expect Georgia to get in? Not at all. But I can’t completely discount the notion. Georgia did beat Vanderbilt, and they have eight top 100 wins with one the nation’s best overall and non-conference strength of schedules. So, don’t expect to see Georgia in the tournament. But if you’re looking for a drop the jaw selection, it could be Georgia.
Cal – They shouldn’t get in, but maybe the committee likes the PAC?