Friday, March 6, 2015

New At-Larges As Season Hits Final Regular Season Weekend

March is certainly in full swing, as we sit just ten days away from the unveiling of the 68-team field for the NCAA Championship. And as we head into the final weekend of the regular season, we have some new faces entering the field.

Illinois and BYU have entered the field as the last two at-larges, knocking out a pair of American Athletic teams in Temple and Tulsa (the Golden Hurricane fell out after losing the AAC's AQ spot with their loss Wednesday to Cincinnati). Texas is also right on the doorstep thanks to their huge win over Baylor. Davidson holding the auto-bid from the Atlantic 10 is what's keeping the Longhorns out at the moment. That could very well change over the next week and a half.

A lot of big-time action this week, including a huge bubble game in the Big Ten. Purdue and Illinois, both among the Last Four In, meet Saturday in West Lafayette at 4:30 on the Big Ten Network. This has a First Four feel to it. Winner stays in the field, loser very well falls out and has more work to do in Indianapolis at the Big Ten Tournament. This game is especially important for the Illini because a loss sends them to the 8/9 game in the Big Ten Tournament, meaning they'd be on a collision course to meet Wisconsin in the quarterfinals. Even if they win, they need Indiana to lose to avoid such a scenario. But a win would give them a bit more confidence heading into next week.

Remember, starting Monday, I will post an update every day of Championship Week, updating conference tournaments and watching for any potential bid-thieves. By the time Monday rolls around, we'll have as many as five tickets to the dance officially punched. The Atlantic Sun, Big South, Ohio Valley and Missouri Valley hold their Championship games this weekend, while the Ivy League can also be won this weekend. Harvard hosts Yale Friday. If the winner of that game also wins Saturday, they will win the Ivy League title. Otherwise, a one-game playoff will be needed to see if the Crimson win their fourth-straight Ivy title or if the Bulldogs dance for the first time since 1962.

So with that in mind, here is the final bracket projection before Championship Week begins. (Bracket Matrix)
Last Four Byes: North Carolina State, Oregon, Indiana, Colorado State
Last Four In: Texas A&M, Purdue, Illinois, BYU
First Four Out: Texas, Temple, UCLA, Tulsa
Next Four Out: Miami (FL), Old Dominion, Stanford, Kansas State

Conference Rundown

Big Ten - 8 
ACC - 6
Big 12 - 6
Big East - 6
SEC - 6
Atlantic 10 - 3
Mountain West - 3
Pac-12 - 3
American Athletic - 2
Missouri Valley - 2
West Coast - 2
One-bid Leagues - 21

And as always, I'll leave you with the notable games, separated into regular season and conference tournaments. Apologies in advance for the length. Obviously, it's a busy weekend.

Notable Games

Friday (regular season)

Central Michigan at Western Michigan, 7:00
Akron at Kent State, 7:00, ESPN2
Bowling Green at Buffalo, 7:00, ESPN3
Yale at Harvard, 8:00
Texas Tech at Baylor, 9:00, ESPN2

Friday (conference tournaments)

Big South Quarterfinals (in Myrtle Beach, SC)

No. 9 Longwood vs. No. 1 Charleston Southern, 12:00, ESPN3
No. 5 Winthrop vs. No. 4 Radford, 2:00, ESPN3
No. 7 Gardner-Webb vs. No. 2 High Point, 6:00, ESPN3
No. 6 UNC Asheville vs. No. 3 Coastal Carolina, 8:00, ESPN3

Colonial First Round (in Baltimore)

No. 9 Towson vs No. 8 Elon, 6:00
No. 10 College of Charleston vs. No. 7 Drexel, 8:30

Horizon League Quarterinals (at Valparaiso)

No. 6 UIC vs. No. 3 Oakland, 7:00, ESPN3
No. 5 Detroit vs. No. 4 Cleveland State, 9:30, ESPN3

Missouri Valley Quarterfinals (in St. Louis)

No. 9 Southern Illinois vs. No. 1 Wichita State, 12:00
No. 5 Evansville vs. No. 4 Illinois State, 2:30
No. 10 Bradley vs. No. 2 Northern Iowa, 6:00
No. 6 Loyola (MD) vs. No. 3 Indiana State, 8:30

Ohio Valley Semifinals (in Nashville)

No. 5 Morehead State vs. No. 1 Murray State, 6:30
No. 3 Belmont vs. No. 2 Eastern Kentucky, 8:30

Southern First Round (in Asheville, NC)

No. 9 Samford vs. No. 8 UNC Greensboro, 6:00, ESPN3
No. 10 Furman vs. No. 7 The Citadel, 8:30, ESPN3

West Coast First Round (in Las Vegas)

No. 9 Pacific vs. No. 8 San Francisco, 9:00, BYUtv
No. 10 Loyola Marymount vs. No. 7 Santa Clara, 11:00, BYUtv

Saturday (regular season)

Butler at Providence, 12:00, FOX Sports 1
Syracuse at North Carolina State, 12:00, CBS
Miami (FL) at Virginia Tech, 12:00, ESPN3
Pittsburgh at Florida State, 12:00, ESPN2
Seton Hall at Georgetown, 12:00, FOX
Northwestern at Iowa, 12:00, Big Ten Network
Michigan State at Indiana, 12:00, ESPN
Florida at Kentucky, 2:00, CBS
St. John's at Villanova, 2:00, FOX
LSU at Arkansas, 2:00, ESPN
Oklahoma State at West Virginia, 2:00, ESPNEWS
Connecticut at Temple, 2:00, ESPN2
Georgia Southern at Georgia State, 2:00
Alabama at Texas A&M, 2:00, ESPN3
St. Joseph's at Rhode Island, 2:00
Xavier at Creighton, 2:00, FOX Sports 2
Stanford at Arizona, 4:00, CBS
Kansas at Oklahoma, 4:00, ESPN
Clemson at Notre Dame, 4:00, ESPN3
Kansas State at Texas, 4:00, ESPN2
Dayton at La Salle, 4:00, CBS Sports Network
Georgia at Auburn, 4:00, SEC Network
Utah at Washington, 4:30, Pac-12 Network
Illinois at Purdue, 4:30, Big Ten Network
Sacramento State at Northern Arizona, 5:05
Western Kentucky at Old Dominion, 5:30
George Mason at VCU, 5:30, NBC Sports Network
Brown at Harvard, 6:00
Virginia at Louisville, 6:30, ESPN
Davidson at Duquesne, 7:00
Yale at Dartmouth, 7:00
Sam Houston State at Stephen F. Austin, 7:30
Fresno State at Boise State, 8:00
Iowa State at TCU, 8:30, ESPNEWS
Southern at Texas Southern, 8:30
Duke at North Carolina, 9:00, ESPN
Eastern Washington at Weber State, 9:00
Chicago State at New Mexico State, 9:00, ESPN3
Vanderbilt at Ole Miss, 9:00, SEC Network
Montana at Montana State, 9:05
Nevada at San Diego State, 10:00, CBS Sports Network
UC Irvine at UC Davis, 10:00

Saturday (conference tournaments)

Big South Semifinals (in Myrtle Beach, SC)

No. 9 Longwood vs. No. 5 Winthrop, 12:00, ESPN3
No. 7 Gardner-Webb vs. No. 3 Coastal Carolina, 2:00, ESPN3

Colonial Quarterfinals (Baltimore) 

No. 8 Elon vs. No. 1 William & Mary, 12:00
No. 5 Hofstra vs. No. 4 James Madison, 2:30
No. 10 College of Charleston vs. No. 2 UNC Wilmington, 6:00
No. 6 Delaware vs. No. 3 Northeastern, 8:30

Horizon League Semifinals (at Valparaiso)

No. 6 UIC vs. No. 2 Green Bay, 7:00 (tape delay at 11:30 on ESPNU)
No. 4 Cleveland State vs. No. 1 Valparaiso, 9:30, ESPNU

Metro Atlantic Quarterfinals (in Albany, NY)

No. 8 Siena vs. No. 1 Iona, 12:00, ESPN3
No. 5 Canisius vs. No. 4 Monmouth, 2:30, ESPN3
No. 7 Saint Peter's vs. No. 2 Rider, 5:30, ESPN3
No. 11 Marist vs. No. 3 Manhattan, 8:00, ESPN3

Missouri Valley Semifinals (in St. Louis)

No. 4 Illinois State vs. No. 1 Wichita State, 1:30
No. 6 Loyola (MD) vs. No. 2 Northern Iowa, 4:00

Northeast Semifinals

No. 3 Bryant at No. 2 Robert Morris, 12:00
No. 5 St. Francis (PA) at No. 1 St. Francis (NY), 2:00

Ohio Valley Championship (in Nashville)

No. 3 Belmont vs. No. 1 Murray State,  6:00, ESPN2

Southern Quarterfinals (in Asheville, NC)

No. 8 UNC Greensboro vs. No. 1 Wofford, 12:00, ESPN3
No. 5 East Tennessee State vs. No. 4 Western Carolina, 2:30, ESPN3
No. 10 Furman vs. No. 2 Chattanooga, 6:00, ESPN3
No. 6 VMI vs. No. 3 Mercer, 8:30, ESPN3

Summit League Quarterfinals (in Sioux Falls, SD)

No. 8 Western Illinois vs. No. 1 South Dakota State, 6:00
No. 7 Denver vs. No. 2 North Dakota State, 8:30

West Coast Quarterfinals (in Las Vegas)

No. 6 Portland vs. No. 3 Saint Mary's, 3:00, BYUtv
No. 5 San Diego vs. No. 4 Pepperdine, 5:00, BYUtv
No. 8 San Francisco vs. No. 1 Gonzaga, 9:00, ESPN2
No. 7 Santa Clara vs. No. 2 BYU, 11:00, ESPN2

Sunday (regular season)

Memphis at Cincinnati, 12:00, CBS
Tulsa at SMU, 3:00, ESPNU
Wisconsin at Ohio State, 4:30, CBS
Maryland at Nebraska, 7:30, Big Ten Network

Sunday (conference tournaments)

America East Semifinals

No. 3 Stony Brook at No. 2 Vermont, 1:00, ESPN3
No. 4 New Hampshire at No. 1 Albany, 2:00, ESPN3

Atlantic Sun Championship

No. 3 South Carolina Upstate at No. 1 North Florida, 2:30, ESPN2

Big South Championship (in Myrtle Beach, SC)

Coastal Carolina/Gardner-Webb winner vs. Winthrop/Longwood winner, 12:30, ESPN2

Colonial Semifinals (in Baltimore, MD)

Hofstra/James Madison winner vs. Elon/William & Mary winner, 2:30
Delaware/Northeastern winner vs. College of Charleston/UNC Wilmington winner, 5:00

Metro Atlantic Semifinals (in Albany, NY)

Monmouth/Canisius winner vs. Siena/Iona winner, 4:30, ESPN3
Marist/Manhattan winner vs. Saint Peter's/Rider winner, 7:00, ESPN3

Missouri Valley Championship (in St. Louis)

Loyola (MD)/Northern Iowa winner vs. Illinois State/Wichita State winner, 1:00, CBS Sports Network

Patriot League Semifinals

No. 4 Lafayette at No. 1 Bucknell, 2:00, CBS Sports Network
No. 6 American at No. 2 Colgate, 4:00, CBS Sports Network

Southern Semifinals (in Asheville, NC)

East Tennessee State/Western Carolina winner vs. UNC Greensboro/Wofford winner, 6:00, ESPN3
VMI/Mercer winner vs. Furman/Chattanooga winner, 8:30, ESPN3

Summit League Quarterfinals (in Sioux Falls, SD)

No. 5 South Dakota vs. No. 4 IPFW, 6:00
No. 6 IUPUI vs. No. 3 Oral Roberts, 8:30

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