Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Championship Week Wednesday, Gonzaga Potentially Steals a Bid

It felt pretty weird talking about Gonzaga on the bubble. We're so used to the Bulldogs playing very well every season and being assured of a tournament berth. But heading into the West Coast Conference tournament, Mark Few's team was in a position where they almost had to win the automatic bid to reach their 18th consecutive tournament. Sure enough, the Zags were up to the task, avenging the two losses to Saint Mary's during the regular season to defeat the Gaels and punch their ticket to the dance. No more bubble talk for Gonzaga. They're in.

All eyes will now turn to Saint Mary's, as they join an at-large pool which includes Monmouth, Wichita State and Valparaiso, among mid-majors. However, despite the loss, the Gael's profile actually improved a bit. Gonzaga's win moved their RPI rank from 60 to 47, which now gives Saint Mary's two top-50 wins. The Gaels also hold a top-40 RPI and six top-100 wins, which are more than Monmouth and Wichita State. I think the Gaels have played well enough to merit an at-large. The two wins over Gonzaga are a big help as well. As of now, they are slotted for Dayton in the First Four as the fourth-to-last team in the field. Tulsa moved out of the field thanks to Gonzaga and Syracuse now sits as the last team in heading into a big bubble game against Pittsburgh in the ACC Tournament. This has almost become a must-win situation for the Orange, especially with teams like Tulsa and VCU still able to play.

Three other tickets were punched Tuesday. Green Bay is dancing for the first time since 1996 after defeating Wright State to win the Horizon League tournament, South Dakota State exacted revenge on North Dakota State in the Summit League final for their 3rd NCAA trip in five seasons and first since 2013 and Fairleigh Dickinson won at Wagner to book their first trip to the dance since 2005 and a likely spot in Dayton for the First Four, possibly against Austin Peay.

Let's see how the bracket now looks with the four new entrants to the field.

Last Four Byes: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, South Carolina, St. Bonaventure
Last Four In: Saint Mary's, Connecticut, Monmouth, Syracuse
First Four Out: Tulsa, VCU, Wichita State, Florida
Next Four Out: Michigan, Alabama, Valparaiso, Stanford

Conference Rundown

ACC - 7
Big 12 - 7
Pac-12 - 7
Big Ten - 6
Big East - 5
SEC - 4
American Athletic - 3
Atlantic 10 - 3
MAAC - 2
West Coast - 2
One-bid Leagues - 22

Tonight, just one bid is up for grabs, the last one before 14 are at stake on Saturday. Plus, more conference kick off their tournaments, including all of the Power 5 conferences (ACC enters their second round). Here's your schedule for today. And as always, enjoy the action.

And be sure to check out the Bracket Matrix to see how I view the teams compared to dozens of bracketologists, including the famous ones like Joe Lunardi, Jerry Palm, Brad Evans and many, many more.

Patriot League Championship

No. 9 Holy Cross at No. 2 Lehigh, 7:30, CBS Sports Network

ACC Second Round (in Washington, D.C.)

No. 8 Pittsburgh vs. No. 9 Syracuse, 12:00, ESPN
No. 5 Duke vs. No. 12 North Carolina State, 2:00, ESPN
No. 7 Clemson vs. No. 10 Georgia Tech, 7:00, ESPN2
No. 6 Virginia Tech vs. No. 11 Florida State, 9:00, ESPN2

Conference USA Second Round (in Birmingham, AL)

No. 8 Western Kentucky vs. No. 9 North Texas, 1:00
No. 5 Old Dominion vs. No. 12 Florida Atlantic, 3:30
No. 7 Charlotte vs. No. 10 Rice, 7:00
No. 6 UTEP vs. No. 11 Florida International, 9:30

Mountain West First Round (in Las Vegas, NV)

No. 8 Wyoming vs. No. 9 Utah State, 2:00
No. 7 UNLV vs. No. 10 Air Force, 4:30
No. 6 Colorado State vs. No. 11 San Jose State, 7:00

Pac-12 First Round (in Las Vegas, NV)

No. 8 Washington vs. No. 9 Stanford, 3:00, Pac-12 Network
No. 5 Colorado vs. No. 12 Washington State, 5:30, Pac-12 Network
No. 7 USC vs. No. 10 UCLA, 9:00, Pac-12 Network
No. 6 Oregon State vs. No. 11 Arizona State, 11:30, Pac-12 Network

SWAC Quarterfinals (in Houston, TX)

No. 2 Alcorn State vs. No. 7 Mississippi Valley State, 3:30
No. 1 Texas Southern vs. No. 8 Alabama A&M, 9:30

Big Ten First Round (in Indianapolis, IN)

No. 12 Illinois vs. No. 13 Minnesota, 4:30, ESPN2
No. 11 Nebraska vs. No. 14 Rutgers, 7:00, BTN

Southland First Round (in Katy, TX)

No. 5 Southeastern Louisiana vs. No. 8 New Orleans, 6:00, ESPN3
No. 6 McNeese State vs. No. 7 Nicholls State, 8:30, ESPN3

MEAC Quarterfinals (in Norfolk, VA)

No. 1 Hampton vs. No. 9 Morgan State, 6:00
No. 2 Norfolk State vs. No. 7 North Carolina Central, 8:30

Atlantic 10 First Round (in Brooklyn, NY)

No. 12 George Mason vs. No. 13 Saint Louis, 6:30
No. 11 Duquesne vs. No. 14 La Salle, 9:00

Big 12 First Round (in Kansas City, MO)

No. 8 Kansas State vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State, 7:00, ESPNU
No. 7 Texas Tech vs. No. 10 TCU, 9:00, ESPNU

Big East First Round (in New York, NY)

No. 8 Georgetown vs. No. 9 DePaul, 7:00, FS1
No. 7 Marquette vs. No. 10 St. John's, 9:30, FS1

SEC First Round (in Nashville, TN)

No. 12 Tennessee vs. No. 13 Auburn, 8:00, SEC Network

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