2/25 UPDATE: Since this post is still getting quite a few hits, I thought I would throw in some bullet-point updates and bump it back to the top of the page. No need to re-draw the bracket or anything (check back on Monday, obviously).
- West Virginia is clearly no longer a 1-seed after the UConn loss. I took a risk on that one, and it failed immediately.
- It will be interesting to see how Purdue is affected if Hummel really is out for the season, as they were suspecting last night. They are almost certainly not 1-seed material without him, and I have to figure Duke gets the edge for the final #1 spot now, since the committee will certainly punish them at least slightly because of the roster they actually take to the tourney.
- By the way, TOUGH loss for Minnesota's chances yesterday. They were that close to being quite high on the bubble, but not now.
- Meanwhile, go ahead and flip Seton Hall with UConn. They're obviously in now, with the big wins they've racked up.
- For those wondering how Illinois got a 9-seed (but is in the "Last Eight In") while Maryland got an 11 (and isn't), it's because of adjustments that had to be made to the brackets to get everybody separated from conference mates. With the Big East, ACC and Big 12 all with more than 5 teams in, the brackets get pretty messy, and some tweaks had to be made.
- Virginia Tech is still in, but this was a REALLY bad loss.
- Huge last-second win for Marquette last night. St. John's is an improving team, the Golden Eagles would have dropped a lot further down on the "Last 8 In" list with a loss.
- NEW LAST EIGHT IN (for now): Illinois, Florida, Marquette, UConn (now in), Dayton, Rhode Island (now in), St. Mary's, UAB
- NEW FIRST EIGHT OUT (for now): San Diego State (now out), Seton Hall (now out), Cincinnati, Mississippi State, Charlotte, Arizona State, Ole Miss, Wichita State
Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming:
It took a few weeks, but we've officially reached the time of the season where I begin to get disgusted with some of the teams I'm letting into my bracket, and some of the teams that are far too high up on the bubble. Florida? Seton Hall? UConn? Really? And ... how is Wichita State anywhere CLOSE? And we're thinking about expanding to 96 teams. Awesome.
Who wants in?
The Atlantic 10 was looking at potentially getting six teams in ... and now they're barely getting four after terrible weeks for Charlotte and Rhode Island. One team out of the Seton Hall-UConn-Cincy-South Florida less-than-superfecta might still have a case for inclusion, even though none of them are currently better than 16-11. Ole Miss and Mississippi State are hanging around. Florida has somehow taken hold of a spot in the field, for at least one week. San Diego State suddenly has as good a case as anybody. The Pac-10 might still get two teams in, with California, Arizona State and Washington building their resumes at least a little bit. St. Mary's has done nothing to prove they belong ... but they might belong. Hell, NORTHEASTERN has a decent case.
In other words, the bubble is wide open, and any of about 25 teams could still sneak in if they start to get hot. Minnesota had a great week, and a couple more would suddenly land them a spot. Memphis is hanging around. St. John's has gotten to 15-11, and another couple of good weeks might land them on the same plane as USF, UConn, etc. Same with Notre Dame, really. St. Louis is coming on strong (though they started from waaaaaaaay back). Stumbling teams like Wichita State, Rhode Island and Charlotte still have a chance to put the pieces back together.
The sudden weakness of the current bubble is, I think, almost a good thing. There are so many teams with flimsy cases that the bids will likely go to teams who get hot down the stretch and are therefore a tougher out in the tourney. That might be more Big East teams, or it might be complete surprises like William & Mary or Marshall.
South Florida - Let's just say that the Bulls chose a bad time to lose three of four. They won five of six to work their way to the precipice of a tourney bid, then lost to Notre Dame and Marquette on the road, and St. John's at home by SIXTEEN. They are still considered pretty high on the bubble because they're in the Big East, but ... eww.
Illinois - As with last week, I have no idea what to do with Illinois. Thanks to their 9-5 Big Ten record and three wins over Ken Pomeroy's top 26 teams, the Illini are certainly still in right now ... but they laid a giant egg last Sunday against Ohio State, blew a chance to steal a huge road win at Purdue this weekend, and their #71 RPI is still a massive anchor. Right now, they could get an 8-seed, and I wouldn't be surprised ... or they could be left out and I wouldn't be surprised.
Gonzaga - I realize it's pretty tough to be Gonzaga right now; every road trip in the West Coast Conference is a complete land mine. You're going to get an opponent's best crowd and performance of the year (by far), and you're almost certainly going to slip up here and there. This young Zags team has certainly shown both their age and talent this year by a) pummeling St. Mary's twice (they get up for big games) and b) losing to both San Francisco and Loyola Marymount and almost losing to Santa Clara and Portland. This is Gonzaga, so we assume they'll be a 4- or 5-seed when all is said and done, but at this exact moment I don't see them better than a 6.
Dayton - A 2OT loss at a hot St. Louis team isn't too embarrassing, but they followed that up with a rather inexcusable 2-point road loss to Duquesne yesterday. Charlotte and Rhode Island both slipped right off the bubble this week, and Dayton really tried to do the same. They're still in ... but barely. They should definitely try not to get blown out at Temple this Wednesday night.
New Mexico - I like the Lobos, and I think their resume is pretty good ... but both Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm have them as 3-seeds right now, and ... yeah, I can't endorse that. An 11-2 Mountain West record is quite impressive this year, and their win over Texas A&M is looking better and better, but I still can't put them any higher than a 4. A 3-seed doesn't lose at Oral Roberts.
Utah State - Everything I heard about USU after their nice win over Wichita State on Saturday night was, "It was a good win, but they still haven't really played anybody, so they'll need to win the WAC Tourney to get a bid." I just don't get it. They're #31 in Ken Pomeroy's rankings and #34 in the RPI. Yes, they have a couple of bad losses (New Mexico State and Long Beach State in particular), and yes, they're infinitely better at home (their home win over BYU continues to look better and better), but with some of the other craptastic teams on the bubble, I just don't see how you can write a 22-6 USU team off in favor of somebody like Seton Hall, Florida or South Florida.
Clemson - When the Tigers lost 3 of 4 a few weeks ago, I think everybody assumed they were in typical February Collapse Mode and wrote them off. But they've now won four of five (albeit all wins at home) and stand at 7-5 in an underrated (yes, I just said that) ACC.
Why is the ACC underrated? Because for once people AREN'T talking about how great they are ... which is primarily because UNC sucks this year. But instead of the typical ACC, where you've got 2-3 great teams and a whole bunch of mediocrity below it, this year you've got maybe one great team (Duke) and about eight teams that are above average. Yes, UNC does indeed suck, but almost everybody in the conference besides UNC and N.C. State are pretty rock solid this year, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think the ACC is a bit better than it gets credit for this year.
Pardon me while I go make myself throw up now for saying that.
San Diego State - Because my numbers ALWAYS have them higher on the bubble than they are. But I should mention that Joe Lunardi had them in his first four out this weekend, and they've won six of seven. I've got them in.
BYU - They're 25-3 and ranked sixth in Ken Pomeroy's rankings. That's, umm, really good. And yet, Lunardi had them a 4-seed, Jerry Palm a 6. They've got as good or better a case for a 3-seed than New Mexico does.
Baylor - I'm sorry, but how in the hell did Joe Lunardi still have them as a SEVEN seed before their loss to Oklahoma State?? If they'd beaten OSU, they'd have had a reasonable case at a THREE seed.
UConn - Let's just say a road win over Villanova, followed by a blowout win in a trap game at Rutgers moves you up the pecking order pretty quickly.
Virginia Tech - They're a 21-5 team in the ACC, yet their resume wasn't too impressive until recently. Yes, they lost at Duke yesterday, but their mid-week home win over Wake Forest was nice.
Minnesota - Really nice story from the Twin Cities this weekend, as the whole team shaved their head in honor of a teammate's cancer-stricken sister, and then won a couple of games to boot. They actually looked great in beating Wisconsin mid-week, then they crushed Indiana. They're ranked #29 in Ken Pomeroy's rankings, and if they go 2-0 this week (Purdue, @Illinois), then they'll likely go straight from off the bubble to into the field.
Cornell - They've responded to their egregious road loss to Penn by taking care of business, winning three straight conference road games and all but locking up the Ivy title.
UTEP - They've won ten in a row, and they took care of a tricky Tulsa team on the road this week. Right now, they're in even if they don't win the CUSA tournament.
Charlotte - Two weeks ago, Charlotte was 8-1 in the A10 and basically forcing themselves into the tourney. Now, they've lost three in a row, and their KenPom ranking is a pathetic #101. A 6-point home loss to Duquesne is rather inexcusable, even if the Dukes are coming on strong.
Rhode Island - They killed Fordham this weekend to stop the bleeding of an ill-timed three-game losing streak. Yes, the Rams still have a case to make for inclusion -- the three losses were to three of the A10's best (Richmond, Temple, SLU), and they're still 20-6 overall -- but at this moment, I've got them out too, if just barely.
William & Mary - The Tribe was my darkhorse "They should be right on the bubble but aren't" pick while winning 5 of 6 in the CAA ... but a blowout Bracketbuster loss to Iona killed any hope they had of getting hot and squeezing into the field while everybody else collapsed. Alas.
South Florida - They've lost three of four and stand at just 6-8 in the Big East. Tourney teams don't lose by 16 at home to St. John's during the season's stretch run.
Wake Forest - At 18-5 and 8-3 in the ACC, Wake was quietly positioning themselves for a 3-seed. Then they lost at Virginia Tech and got their doors blown out by last-place N.C. State. Ouch.
Last 8 In
Come on, bubble teams ... somebody get hot. I can't tell you how much it grossed me out having to choose between Seton Hall, UConn, Rhode Island, Cincy, Mississippi State and Arizona State for the final spot. Of course, that spot will get eaten up when a surprise team wins a conference tourney, but still. Somebody seize the spot.
San Diego State
First 8 Out
8 - Big East
7 - ACC, Big 12
5 - Big Ten
4 - Atlantic 10, Mountain West, SEC
2 - Conference USA, West Coast
Midwest Region (in St. Louis)
1 Kansas vs 16 North Texas
8 Georgia Tech vs 9 Old Dominion
in Oklahoma City
5 Butler vs 12 San Diego State
4 Pittsburgh vs 13 UAB
6 Wake Forest vs 11 St. Mary's
3 Ohio State vs 14 Sam Houston
7 Northern Iowa vs 10 Oklahoma State
2 Villanova vs 15 Coastal Carolina
West Region (in Salt Lake City)
1 West Virginia vs 16 UC-Santa Barbara
8 Richmond vs 9 Virginia Tech
5 Michigan State vs 12 Florida
4 New Mexico vs 13 Kent State
in San Jose
6 Tennessee vs 11 Marquette
3 Wisconsin vs 14 Wofford
in San Jose
7 Missouri vs 10 Dayton
2 Duke vs 15 Stony Brook
South Region (in Houston)
1 Syracuse vs 16 Robert Morris / Jackson State
8 Clemson vs 9 UTEP
5 Texas vs 12 Siena
4 BYU vs 13 Cornell
6 Gonzaga vs 11 Maryland
3 Vanderbilt vs 14 Oakland
in New Orleans
7 Xavier vs 10 Louisville
2 Kansas State vs 15 Jacksonville
in Oklahoma City
East Region (in Syracuse)
1 Kentucky vs 16 Lehigh
8 UNLV vs 9 Illinois
in New Orleans
5 Baylor vs 12 Seton Hall
4 Temple vs 13 Murray State
6 Texas A&M vs 11 Utah State
3 Georgetown vs 14 Weber State
7 Florida State vs 10 California
2 Purdue vs 15 Morgan State
My At-First-Glance Final Four
Kansas, West Virginia, Vanderbilt!, Kentucky
Second glance: Villanova, Michigan State, Syracuse, Georgetown
Missouri's inevitable path to destiny™ (ahem)
Dayton, Duke, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Kansas, Kentucky