Saturday, March 15, 2014

On Selection Sunday Eve, BYU Moves Back In

The biggest day of the season, save for Selection Sunday has arrived. It's Saturday of Championship Week, where 14 teams will officially claim their spot in the NCAA Tournament. First, let's check out the bracket and then let's talk about a team that is back in the field thanks to other teams playing their way out.

Last Four Byes: Nebraska, St. Joseph's, Tennessee, Xavier
Last Four In: Dayton, SMU, Providence, BYU
First Four Out: California, Florida State, Minnesota, Green Bay
Next Four Out: Missouri, NC State, Arkansas, Southern Miss

Conference Rundown:
7: Big 12
6: Atlantic 10, Big Ten, Pac 12
5: American, ACC
4: Big East
3: SEC
2: Mountain West, West Coast
22 one-bid leagues

BYU lost to Gonzaga on Tuesday in the West Coast championship game. Their hopes were likely doomed when Kyle Collinsworth tore his ACL. Yet they find themselves as the last team in today's bracket. Why? Because pretty much every other bubble team that was right on the cut line (Missouri, Minnesota, California, Florida State) could not take advantage of the opportunity. As many have mentioned before, BYU played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation (currently ranks 3rd) and they are just outside the top-30 in the RPI. But as we know by now, it's those four bad losses (Pacific, Pepperdine, Portland, Loyola Marymount all on the road) that is weighing them down. But we've seen time and time again the committee reward teams with strong out-of-conference schedules.

BYU is certainly not out of the woods yet. There are still a few potential bid thieves left, namely North Carolina State, Georgia and St. Bonaventure (who pulled this exact same feat just two years ago). But for now, the Cougars are in the field.

NC State scored a huge win over Syracuse in the ACC quarterfinals and now get a shot at Duke in the semis. However, NC State may have to win it all to get in. Same with Georgia and the Bonnies. Neither have at-larges, but are both capable of winning their conference tournaments. The Bulldogs play Kentucky, the Bonnies take on St. Joseph's, who all but secured their spot by beating Dayton yesterday. The Flyers sit among the last four in.

Tennessee and Xavier both moved out of Dayton and directly into the main bracket of 64. This was a combination of the Vols avoiding a bad loss to South Carolina, Dayton's loss to St. Joe's and reconsidering SMU's profile. The Mustangs do have quality conference wins, including a sweep of Connecticut, but a lack of non-conference wins and a horrendous rating out-of-conference (No. 293) also hurts. SMU has also fallen out of the top 50 in RPI (main reason why Duke moved up to a 2-seed and Virginia fell back to a 3). Larry Brown's club should still get in, but may have to play a road game against Dayton on Tuesday or Wednesday.

In mid-major land, UC Irvine and Utah Valley joined the list of No. 1 seeds to lose in their conference tournaments and both will now play in the NIT. Cal State Northridge, the No. 5 seed, is now the AQ for the Big West, who is now guaranteed a spot in Dayton as as the Matadors have an RPI of 238 and Cal Poly is No. 222 in RPI. The new WAC AQ is New Mexico State, who is in much better position. They project as a 13-seed.

As if the Big West wasn't bad enough, the SWAC pits RPI No. 250 Texas Southern against RPI 301 (!!!) Prairie View. As I read from CBS' Jerry Palm, no team with an RPI that low has ever made the NCAA Tournament. Liberty's RPI rating was 287 last season when they won the Big South.

As mentioned above, Selection Sunday Eve is always action-packed. 14 bids are up for grabs, and it all starts at 11:30 am. Here is the rundown of the title games, followed by the conferences playing semifinal games today.

America East Championship
No. 4 Albany at No. 2 Stony Brook, 11:30, ESPN2

Conference USA Championship (in El Paso, TX)
No. 2 Tulsa vs. No. 1 Louisiana Tech, 11:30, CBS

SWAC Championship (in Houston)
No. 8 Prairie View A&M vs. No. 2 Texas Southern, 4:30, ESPN2

Mountain West Championship (in Las Vegas)
No. 2 New Mexico vs. No. 1 San Diego State, 6:00, CBS

Pac 12 Championship (in Las Vegas)
No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 1 Arizona, 6:00, FOX Sports 1

MEAC Championship (in Norfolk, VA)
No. 3 Morgan State vs. No. 1 North Carolina Central, 6:00, ESPNU

American Championship (in Memphis)
No. 4 Connecticut vs. No. 2 Louisville, 6:00, ESPN

MAC Championship (in Cleveland)
No. 2 Toledo vs. No. 1 Western Michigan, 6:30, ESPN2

Big Sky Championship
No. 2 North Dakota at No. 1 Weber State, 8:00, ESPNU

Southland Championship (in Katy, TX)
No. 3 Sam Houston State vs. No. 1 Stephen F. Austin, 8:30, ESPN2

Big East Championship (in New York City)
No. 4 Providence vs. No. 2 Creighton, 8:30, FOX Sports 1

Big 12 Championship (in Kansas City, MO)
No. 7 Baylor vs. No. 4 Iowa State, 9:00, ESPN

WAC Championship (in Las Vegas)
No. 5 Idaho vs. No. 2 New Mexico State, 10:00, ESPNU

Big West Championship (in Anaheim)
No. 7 Cal Poly vs. No. 5 Cal State Northridge, 10:30, ESPN2

ACC Semifinals (in Greensboro, NC)
No. 5 Pittsburgh vs. No. 1 Virginia, 1:00, ESPN
No. 7 North Carolina State vs. No. 3 Duke, 3:00, ESPN

Atlantic 10 Semifinals (in Brooklyn)
No. 9 St. Bonaventure vs. No. 4 St. Joseph's, 1:30, CBS Sports Network
No. 3 George Washington vs. No. 2 VCU, 4:00, CBS Sports Network

Big Ten Semifinals (in Indianapolis)
No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 1 Michigan, 1:40, CBS
No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Wisconsin, 4:05, CBS

SEC Semifinals (in Atlanta)
No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 1 Florida, 1:00, ABC
No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 2 Kentucky, 3:25, ABC

Sun Belt Semifinals (in New Orleans)
No. 4 Arkansas State vs. No. 1 Georgia State, 3:00, ESPN3
No. 3 Louisiana-Lafayette vs. No. 2 Western Kentucky, 5:30, ESPN3

Today will decide how busy tomorrow will be. Bubble teams will either sweat out the Bonnies, Wolfpack or Bulldogs or the field will be all but set. You'll have to stay tuned to find out. Remember, I will post two brackets tomorrow. One in the morning to gear up for Championship Sunday and then my final bracket will be posted at about 5:30 (hopefully there will be time between the end of the Big Ten championship and 6:00).

Enjoy Selection Sunday Eve, everyone and I will see you all tomorrow.

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