Saturday, March 6, 2021

Rescheduled games puts Mountain West bids on thin ice

 We discussed earlier this week about Boise State's untimely loss to Fresno State. Another rescheduled game this week saw another Mountain West bubble team suffer a blow to their resume. That was Colorado State, who was the victim of a last-second three-point field goal that gave Nevada the 85-82 win over the Rams. 

The silver lining for Colorado State is that this is only a Quad 2 loss for them, instead of the Quad 4 loss for Boise State. Even better for both the Rams and Broncos, some of the other bubble teams haven't fully taken advantage of their miscues, namely Seton Hall.

Seton Hall's Wednesday loss to Connecticut dropped the Pirates to 13-11 overall and currently out of the field, putting Boise State back in and giving the Mountain West three bids in today's projection, but Colorado State and Boise State are currently the last two teams in.

As we check out today's bracket projection, you'll note we have our first official ticket punched to the NCAA Tournament. The Liberty Flames are back in the NCAA Tournament out of the Atlantic Sun. And this is before they even play their championship game. That's because their opponent in the A-Sun final is North Alabama, who is still in a transitional period into Division 1, and therefore ineligible for the NCAA Tournament. So win or lose, Liberty is dancing.

So here is today's bracket update.



Last Four Byes: North Carolina, Louisville, VCU, Drake

Last Four In: Michigan State, Xavier, Colorado State, Boise State

First Four Out: Seton Hall, Ole Miss, Utah State, Stanford

Next Four Out: Duke, Saint Louis, Syracuse, SMU

Bids by Conference

Big Ten - 9

ACC - 7

Big 12 - 7

SEC - 6

Big East - 4

Pac-12 - 4

Mountain West - 3

American Athletic - 2

Atlantic 10 - 2

Missouri Valley - 2

West Coast - 2

One-bid leagues - 20

Saturday has plenty of bubble action, including some key games in two conference tournaments. 

In the Atlantic 10, a huge semifinal tips off at 6:00 when Saint Louis (Next Four Out) takes on Saint Bonaventure. A win for the Billikens would move them closer to the cut line and give them a chance at getting off the bubble completely. A win for the Bonnies should just about put them in the field, but by no means would they be a lock. The Bonnies would be among the last four byes if they didn't have the automatic bid at the moment. 

The A-10's remaining other bubble team, VCU, takes on a dangerous Davidson team in the second semifinal. The two winners today get a week off before meeting in Dayton on March 14 for the Atlantic 10 championship. Richmond lost any remaining hope it had for the dance when they lost to Duquesne in the second round.

Out in St. Louis, Arch Madness has reached their quarterfinal round and the two big dogs in the race both advanced to today's semifinals, but in very different fashions. Top-seeded Loyola-Chicago had no trouble with Southern Illinois to set up today's semifinal with Indiana State. Drake, on the other hand, didn't even take the court for their quarterfinal. Northern Iowa had a COVID issue and had to drop out of the MVC tournament, automatically advancing Drake to the semifinals against Missouri State. 

The dreams of a two-bid Valley are still alive and if Loyola and Drake can advance today, it becomes more likely to be a reality. Even with a loss to Indiana State, the Ramblers are probably a near-lock for the tournament. Drake, however, cannot afford a loss to Missouri State.

We will also dish out a tournament bid in the Ohio Valley. The top two seeds, Belmont and Morehead State, both advanced to today's championship game.

Elsewhere Saturday, Duke and North Carolina tangle in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels can perhaps improve their NCAA seeding with a win, while Duke has to win to give themselves a shot. A loss puts them at 11-11 and a lot of work would have to be done in the ACC tournament.

In the Big Ten, Illinois visits Ohio State. The status of Ayo Dosunmu is still unknown but the Illini have rallied in his absence. A win over the Buckeyes would really help cement their spot on the top line. A win for the Buckeyes not only puts them back in the mix for the top line, but also improves the chances for SEC champion Alabama. It's going to be a run ride to figure out the last spot on the top line. Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan are pretty much sure bets at this point to headline their respective regions.

Here's a rundown of today's conference tournament action, including one championship game and a number of other tournaments getting underway.

Ohio Valley Championship

No. 2 Morehead State vs. No. 1 Belmont, 8:00, ESPN2

America East Semifinals

No. 6 UMass Lowell at No. 1 UMBC, 2:00, ESPN+

No. 4 Hartford at No. 2 Vermont, 4:00, ESPN+

Atlantic 10 Semifinals (in Richmond, VA)

No. 4 Saint Louis vs. No. 1 Saint Bonaventure, 6:00, CBSSN

No. 3 Davidson vs. No. 2 VCU, 9:00, CBSSN

Colonial First Round (in Harrisonburg, VA)

No. 9 Towson vs. No. 8 Elon, 3:00

No. 10 UNC Wilmington vs. No. 7 William & Mary, 7:00

Missouri Valley Semifinals (in St. Louis)

No. 4 Indiana State vs. No. 1 Loyola-Chicago, 1:00, CBSSN

No. 3 Missouri State vs. No. 2 Drake, 4:00, CBSSN

Northeast Semifinals

No. 3 Sacred Heart at No. 2 Bryant, 12:00, ESPN3

No. 4 Mount St. Mary's at No. 1 Wagner, 2:00, ESPN3

Patriot League Quarterfinals

No. 9 Loyola (MD) at No. 1 Navy, 12:00, ESPN+

No. 7 Boston University at No. 2 Colgate, 1:00, ESPN+

No. 6 Bucknell at No. 3 Lafayette, 2:00, ESPN+

No. 5 American at No. 4 Army West Point, 3:00, ESPN+

Southern Conference Quarterfinals (Asheville, NC)

No. 8 The Citadel vs. No. 1 UNC Greensboro, 12:00, ESPN+

No. 5 East Tennessee State vs. No. 4 Chattanooga, 2:30, ESPN+

No. 7 Mercer vs. No. 2 Wofford, 5:30, ESPN+

No. 6 VMI vs. No. 3 Furman, 8:00, ESPN+

Summit League Quarterfinals (in Sioux Falls, SD)

No. 8 Omaha vs. No. 1 South Dakota State, 6:45, ESPN+

No. 7 Western Illinois vs. No. 2 South Dakota, 9:45, ESPN+

Sun Belt Quarterfinals (in Pensacola, FL)

East No. 3 South Alabama vs. West No. 2 Louisiana, 6:00, ESPN+

West No. 4 Arkansas State vs. East No. 1 Georgia State, 6:30, ESPN+

East No. 6 Troy vs. East No. 2 Coastal Carolina, 8:30, ESPN+

East No. 4 Appalachian State vs. West No. 1 Texas State, 9:00, ESPN+

West Coast Quarterfinals (in Las Vegas)

No. 5 Loyola Marymount vs. No. 4 Saint Mary's, 9:00, ESPNU

No. 7 Santa Clara vs. No. 3 Pepperdine, 12:00 midnight, ESPN2

And now a rundown of the action in the power conferences and more.

ACC

Florida State at Notre Dame, 12:00, ESPN2

Pittsburgh at Clemson, 12:00, ACCN

Virginia at Louisville, 4:00, ESPN2

Duke at North Carolina, 6:00, ESPN

Virginia Tech at North Carolina State was canceled.

The big game, of course, is Duke and North Carolina. As noted above, Duke really needs this one to have some hope heading into next week's ACC tournament.

American Athletic

South Florida at Wichita State, 1:00

The Shockers look to avoid a bad loss and keep their spot as the AQ in the American and would wrap up the regular season championship in the American.

Big 12

Oklahoma State at West Virginia, 2:00, ESPN2

Iowa State at Kansas State, 5:00, ESPN+

The Cowboys and Mountaineers are playing for seeding in both the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments. West Virginia will try to keep pressure on Villanova for a spot on two line.

Big East

Georgetown at Connecticut, 12:00, CBS

Villanova at Providence, 2:30, FOX

Butler at Creighton, 5:00, FOX

Seton Hall at St. John's, 7:00, FS1

Xavier at Marquette, 9:00, FS1

Villanova wrapped up the Big East title earlier this week with their win over Creighton. Now, it's about staying on the two line. Then on FS1, it's a pair of bubble teams. Xavier looks to keep their spot in the field against a Marquette team that recently won in Chapel Hill. Seton Hall absolutely cannot afford a loss to the Johnnies. Entering the Big East tournament at 13-12 would give them absolutely no room error.

Big Ten

Rutgers at Minnesota, 12:00, FOX

Indiana at Purdue, 2:00, ESPN

Illinois at Ohio State, 4:00, ESPN

The Illini and Buckeyes meet in a huge showdown with NCAA No. 1 seed implications. Rutgers had a bit of a stumble but can get themselves right against a Minnesota team that has hit rock bottom and will enter the Big Ten tournament 0-10 away from home. Indiana has at least won away from home, but are in a world of trouble if they can't win at Purdue today.

Mountain West

Utah State at Fresno State, 11:00, FS1

UNLV at Wyoming, 11:00, CBSSN

Utah State will look to avoid the same fate that Boise State suffered earlier this week, a loss to Fresno State. A win keeps them near the cut line. A loss would be devastating going into the conference tournament.

Pac-12

Arizona State at Utah, 2:00, FS1

USC at UCLA, 4:00, CBS

The USC/UCLA winner will be at least the No. 2 seed in the Pac-12 tournament and will be huge Oregon State fans Sunday. If Oregon State upsets Oregon, the USC/UCLA winner would claim the regular season Pac-12 title. The Ducks win the title if they win the Civil War.

SEC

South Carolina at Kentucky, 12:00, ESPN

Mississippi State at Auburn, 1:00, SECN

Alabama at Georgia, 2:00, CBS

LSU at Missouri, 3:00, SECN

Texas A&M at Arkansas, 5:00, SECN

Vanderbilt at Ole Miss, 7:00, SECN

LSU at Missouri is the highlight game here. LSU could use a win at Missouri to move them away from the bubble and secure third place in the SEC. A loss for Missouri could inch them closer to the always-dangerous 8/9 game in the NCAA Tournament. Alabama hopes to keep the pressure on the Big Ten teams, namely Illinois and Ohio State, in their quest for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament after already locking up their first SEC regular-season title since 2002.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Boise State's tumble highlights first bracket of March

 The calendar has turned to March, conference tournaments are underway and we are inching closer to finally having an NCAA tournament again after COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 edition.

One of the notable features of this first post of March is that Boise State, who had ben in the field for the longest time, now finds themselves out of today's projected field after their stunning home loss to Fresno State on Tuesday. The Broncos are now the first team out and are replaced by a fellow Mountain West contender, Colorado State.

The Rams had a lengthy layoff, but were able to shake off the rust with two dominating, and needed, wins over Air Force. Colorado State and Boise State split a two-game set at Colorado State in late January. Colorado State also split at San Diego State and at Utah State.

Boise State's loss also helped save Xavier's spot in the field, despite the Musketeers losing to Georgetown on Tuesday. Xavier's profile is boosted by their 22-point December home win over Oklahoma and have a split with Creighton.

Boise State's claim for the dance is a win at BYU in December, a split at Colorado State and a home sweep of Utah State. But they were swept at Nevada (sub-100 NET) and have the aforementioned home loss to Fresno State, which gives them a Quad 4 loss. Boise let a golden opportunity fly out the window when they were swept last week at San Diego State.

In addition, that was Boise State's last regular-season game. That's a bad taste to leave heading into the conference tournament. The Broncos needs to make some noise in Vegas.

This is going to make the Mountain West tournament extremely fun to watch. San Diego State looks like the only sure bet to dance. We also can't count out Utah State, who swept the Aztecs at home and split with Colorado State. But being swept by Boise State, as well as losses to South Dakota State and UNLV (both Quad 3 losses), put a damper on the Aggies' chances. They have the same number of Quad 3 losses as Quad 1 wins (two).

As it stands now in conference play, San Diego State and Colorado State are tied at 13-3, Utah State is right behind at 13-4 and Boise State sits at 14-6. If a team other than San Diego State can claim the Mountain West regular season title, that will give them some added cushion (but still not a huge margin for error) heading into the Mountain West tournament.

Colorado State hosts New Mexico Wednesday and visits Nevada on Friday. Utah State has Wyoming at home Thursday and UNLV at home Saturday. As mentioned earlier, Boise State is done until the Mountain West tournament.

With all that, let's take a look at the full bracket, which includes a more-solid group at the top line after Illinois' impressive win at Michigan on Tuesday.





Last Four Byes: Connecticut, Georgia Tech, VCU, Drake
Last Four In: Michigan State, Seton Hall, Xavier, Colorado State
First Four Out: Boise State, Ole Miss, Utah State, Stanford
Next Four Out: Duke, Saint Louis, Syracuse, SMU

Bids by Conference

Big Ten - 9

ACC - 7

Big 12 - 7

SEC - 6

Big East - 5

Pac-12 - 4

American Athletic - 2

Atlantic 10 - 2

Missouri Valley - 2

Mountain West - 2

West Coast - 2

One-bid leagues - 20

Three conferences have tournament games today, including the start of the Atlantic 10 tournament.

Atlantic 10 First Round (in Richmond, VA)

No. 13 Saint Joseph's vs. No. 12 La Salle, 11:00 a.m., ESPN+
No. 14 Fordham vs. No. 11 George Washington, 2 p.m., ESPN+

Patriot League First Round

No. 10 Lehigh at No. 7 Boston University, 7:00 p.m., ESPN+

Note: No. 9 Loyola (MD) was scheduled to visit No. 8 Holy Cross, but due to a positive COVID-19 test within the Holy Cross program, Loyola will advance to Saturday's quarterfinal against No. 1 Navy.

Ohio Valley Quarterfinals (in Evansville, IN)

No. 8 SIU-Edwardsville vs. No. 1 Belmont, 8:00 p.m., ESPN+
No. 7 SE Missouri State vs. No. 2 Morehead State, 10:30 p.m., ESPN+


As for the rest of Wednesday's action, the highlight matchup comes in the Big East as Villanova hosts Creighton (8:30 p.m., FS1). The Bluejays took the first meeting in Omaha on February 13.

Syracuse looks for another key win as they host Clemson (5:00 p.m., ACCN), while Seton Hall can inch closer to a better standing in the field if they can knock off Connecticut (6:30 p.m., FS1).

The Pac-12 will try to get some clarity in their title race. UCLA visits Oregon (9:00, ESPN2) and USC hosts Stanford (10:30 p.m., FS1) in what would be a huge win for the Cardinal, who sit among our first four out entering play today.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Tuesday Bracket Update with Conference Tournaments set to begin Thursday

 




Last Four Byes: Louisville, Maryland, Seton Hall, Oregon

Last Four In: Xavier, Indiana, Stanford, Colorado State

First Four Out: Minnesota, Connecticut, Duke, Richmond

Next Four Out: Utah State, Saint Louis, SMU, Georgia Tech

Conference Breakdown

Big Ten - 9

Big 12 - 7

ACC - 6

SEC - 6

Pac-12 - 5

Big East - 4

Mountain West - 3

American Athletic - 2

Atlantic 10 - 2

Missouri Valley - 2

West Coast - 2

One-bid leagues - 20


Friday, February 19, 2021

Finally Back for 2021, and still weird that Duke, Michigan State and Kentucky may all miss the dance

 It's been quite some time since we got this blog rolling. So let's dust off the old Corral and check out some brackets with less than a month to go before Selection Sunday.


Last Four Byes: Oregon, Xavier, Seton Hall, Maryland

Last Four In: Drake, Saint Bonaventure, North Carolina, Connecticut

First Four Out: Colorado State, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Richmond

Next Four Out: Utah State, Saint Louis, Syracuse, St. John's

Conference Breakdown

Big Ten - 9

Big 12 - 7

ACC - 6

SEC - 6

Big East - 5

Pac-12 - 5

American Athletic - 2

Missouri Valley - 2

Mountain West - 2-

West Coast - 2

One-bid leagues - 20

It obviously goes without saying that this has been one unique season in college basketball. Schedules have been altered due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. And if you've been following the season and the consensus bracket projections, you know that we're looking at a tournament that will not feature the likes of Duke, Michigan State or Kentucky. 

John Calipari's squad is currently sitting at 7-13 and, unless they make a stunning run in the SEC tournament, will miss the dance for the first time since 2013 (the year they lost to Robert Morris in the NIT).

For Tom Izzo and the Spartans, once upon a time, Sparty started 6-0, including a win at Duke in the Champions Classic. They have lost nine of their last 13 since their 6-0 start and sit outside the top 90 of the NET and sit 11th in the Big Ten standings at 4-9. This would be the first time since 1997 Michigan State doesn't hear its name called on Selection Sunday.

Then there's Duke. Just sniffing the top 60 of the NET, the Blue Devils are 9-8 overall with just one of those wins coming against Quadrant 1 and that was against NET No. 65 Notre Dame. They do have a home victory against Clemson to their credit. But their overall record and lack of top wins aren't making up for their pair of Quadrant 3 losses (one of which is actually Michigan State). Of the three teams we're discussing, Duke has the longest streak of consecutive tournament appearances. They haven't been left out of the dance since 1995.

In addition to these blue bloods being out, we also have North Carolina squarely on the bubble. But on the flip side, this has opened the door for more smaller schools to get more of an opportunity. This is why we have teams like Drake and Saint Bonaventure with at-large bids. The Missouri Valley Conference has not seen an at-large bid since Wichita State in 2016. But with Loyola-Chicago and Drake, a two-bid Missouri Valley is a viable possibility.

Drake earning a home split last weekend with the Ramblers kept them on the right side of the at-large conversation. The Missouri Valley tournament is going to be an exciting one. Here's hoping for a final between Drake and Loyola, a situation that could all but ensure both teams head to Indiana for the Big Dance.

That, of course, is another big change to the 2021 tournament, for those of you just catching up. The entire NCAA Tournament will take in the state of Indiana, with majority of the games being in Indianapolis, while Indiana and Purdue will also host some games. Also, this year's tournament will have 37 at-large bids, instead of 36, as the Ivy League decided not to play basketball. In fact, the league just announced they are not sponsoring spring sports, meaning the league will officially lose an entire academic year worth of sports, including two straight spring seasons, after the pandemic also wiped out the 2020 spring sports season.

This is going to be a fascinating final run to the bracket and to see how the committee values these teams with so many unbalanced schedules and odd number of games due to many games being postponed and even canceled. We'll dive more as we get closer to Selection Sunday. But it's good to be back.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Championship Thursday: Xavier, Stanford suffer bad losses as week begins to halt from Coronavirus

Wednesday was a pretty light day in terms of the tournament outlook but the bracket still saw a shakeup thanks to two bubble teams suffering untimely losses and Boston University claiming the Patriot League title over Colgate on the road.

Entering the day, Xavier and Stanford were among the last four in and needed to avoid losses Wednesday to stay in the field. Unfortunately, neither of them were able to take care of business as DePaul and California, respectively, knocked them out and may have sent both to the NIT...if we have an NIT. We'll get to that in a moment.

As a result, both are currently out of the field and UCLA and North Carolina State have moved in heading into their respective conference tournaments...or so they thought.

As of early Thursday afternoon, a host of conference tournaments for 2020 have ceased to exist due to the Coronavirus. Those conferences include the ACC, American Athletic, Atlantic 10, Big Ten, Big 12, Conference USA, MAC, Pac-12 SEC, and WAC. We're really starting to think about the possibility of the NCAA Tournament not happening next week, if at all.

The NCAA has already announced the tournament will be played without fans in attendance. It's now very likely they suspend the tournament, following the season suspensions of the NBA and MLS and, likely, the NHL.

We will certainly continue to monitor the situation. As of now, here is the latest projection. The WAC, as of now, was the only conference to officially announce which team would receive the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament (though New Mexico State was the overwhelming favorite anyway). The interesting note here is that Cincinnati was set to be the No. 1 seed in the AAC tournament. If there is an NCAA Tournament, the conference canceling the tournament may have given the Bearcats a free pass into the NCAA Tournament. We'll find out.


Last Four Byes: Oklahoma, USC, Texas Tech, Richmond
Last Four In: Arizona State, Texas, UCLA, North Carolina State
First Four Out: Xavier, Stanford, Wichita State, Northern Iowa
Next Four Out: Memphis, Mississippi State, Rhode Island, Oklahoma State

Conference Breakdown

Big Ten - 10

Big 12 - 6

Pac-12 - 6

ACC - 5

Big East - 5

SEC - 4

West Coast - 3

AAC - 2

Atlantic 10 - 2

Mountain West - 2

One-bid leagues - 22

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Championship Wednesday: Gonzaga stamps their mark, four others punch ticket

Five more tickets were punched on the court Tuesday (not including Yale's due to the cancellation of the Ivy League Tournament).

Gonzaga exacted revenge on Saint Mary's from last season's West Coast final, 84-66, to reclaim the crown and lock up the No. 1 seed in the West Region come Sunday when the brackets are revealed. Saint Mary's should be fine as well, but likely will find themselves in the middle of the bracket, most likely an 8/9 game.

The full list of automatic qualifiers is as follows: Liberty (Atlantic Sun), Winthrop (Big South), Hofstra (Colonial), Northern Kentucky (Horizon), Yale (Ivy), Bradley (Missouri Valley), Utah State (Mountain West), Robert Morris (Northeast), Belmont (Ohio Valley), East Tennessee State (Southern), North Dakota State (Summit) and Gonzaga (West Coast).

One more bid will be awarded tonight, starting at 7:00 on CBS Sports Network, as Colgate hosts Boston University for the Patriot League Championship. Colgate is looking for their second-straight Patriot League title while Boston U is looking for their first tournament title in the Patriot League and first NCAA appearance since winning the America East in 2011.


Last Four Byes: Oklahoma, USC, Texas Tech, Richmond
Last Four In: Xavier, Arizona State, Texas, Stanford
First Four Out: UCLA, North Carolina State, Wichita State, Northern Iowa
Next Four Out: Memphis, Mississippi State, Rhode Island, Oklahoma State

Conference Breakdown

Big Ten - 10

Pac-12 - 7

Big East - 6

Big 12 - 6

ACC - 4

SEC - 4

West Coast - 3

AAC - 2

Atlantic 10 - 2

Mountain West - 2

One-bid leagues - 22

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Championship Week Tuesday: Two more bids thanks to Coronavirus

One more bid was handed out Monday to the NCAA Tournament as bubble teams everywhere breathed a sigh of relief for the time being.

East Tennessee State pulled away in the second half to defeat Wofford in the Southern Conference final and kept an at-large open for other bubble teams, as the Bucs might have had a case to be selected even with a loss.

Elsewhere Monday, San Francisco gave Gonzaga all they could handle in the West Coast semifinals, but the Bulldogs held off the Dons, 81-77, to advance to tonight's championship against Saint Mary's, who needed a late shot by Jordan Ford with 1.4 seconds left to defeat BYU, 51-50. The Gaels are in a much better position this year than they were last season, when they needed the automatic bid to dance. A win tonight likely ensures, however, they'll wear their home whites in round one.

Early Tuesday, we saw a surprise entrant into the NCAA Tournament. Due to concerns from the Coronavirus, the Ivy League decided to cancel the men's and women's conference tournaments this weekend. As a result, Yale, as regular-season champion, gets the automatic bid, just like the old days of the Ivy League, awarding the bid to the regular-season champion. Princeton will represent the league for the women.

Five more bids are up for grabs tonight, starting with three games at 7:00. Those will be in the Horizon League (UIC vs Northern Kentucky, ESPN), Northeast (St. Francis (PA) at Robert Morris, ESPN2) and Colonial (Hofstra vs Northeastern, CBSSN).

At 9:00, Gonzaga meets Saint's Mary's on ESPN for the West Coast title and ESPN2 has the Summit League final between North Dakota and North Dakota State.

Not much change in the bracket other than to show the automatic bids for East Tennessee State and Yale. Likely not much for tomorrow either, but Thursday's bracket might start looking a little different so stay tuned.




Last Four Byes: Oklahoma, USC, Texas Tech, Richmond
Last Four In: Xavier, Arizona State, Texas, Stanford
First Four Out: UCLA, North Carolina State, Wichita State, Northern Iowa
Next Four Out: Arkansas, Memphis, Mississippi State, Rhode Island

Conference Breakdown

Big Ten - 10

Pac-12 - 7

Big East - 6

Big 12 - 6

ACC - 4

SEC - 4

West Coast - 3

AAC - 2

Atlantic 10 - 2

Mountain West - 2

One-bid leagues - 22