The bubble situation is set in stone — it all depends on what the selection committee has decided to do.
The selection of at-large teams is likely a past-tense event. Sunday’s various conference tournament finals do not involve bubble teams or unexpected automatic bids. The selection drama is naturally the biggest part of Selection Sunday, but there’s nothing left to be done on that front. Bubble teams can only sit and wait for the selection show.
The parts of the NCAA tournament that might still depend on the results of Sunday’s games are the seeding and bracketing components. We’ll focus on that piece of the NCAA tournament in this final installment of “Bubbles and Brackets.”
Let’s get the bubble discussion out of the way first.
Providence removed a spot from the bubble pool with its win over Creighton in the Big East Tournament final, but other than that event, bubble teams enjoyed a fantastic week. We at Run The Floor are not licensed and bonded bracketologists, so we’re not going to insist that certain teams are in or out.
What we can tell you is that four at-large bids have not been fully and firmly claimed (neatly matching the number of bubble teams that will go to the First Four in Dayton on Tuesday and Wednesday). Among the teams that seem secure in terms of at-large bids, Nebraska and Saint Joseph’s are the latest additions to the list.
The teams in the running for the four unclaimed at-large spots are, in no particular order of advantage/rank:
BYU, Dayton, California, Minnesota, SMU, Green Bay, Louisiana Tech, Southern Mississippi, Toledo, Florida State, North Carolina State, and Tennessee.
If you looked at that group and asked a large group of qualified bracketologists, the strong majority opinion would conclude that the mid-majors would likely not make the cut. That means Green Bay, Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss, and Toledo are not going to be happy on Selection Sunday. That leaves eight teams for four bids.
The high majors that aren’t making most bracketologists’ projections are Minnesota and Florida State, leaving six teams for four bids.
The best sense of the moment is that BYU, Dayton, Cal, SMU, Tennessee, and N.C. State will snag the four remaining bids. Two of those schools will be left in the cold, and that’s going to represent the central discussion Sunday evening at around 6:35 p.m. Eastern time. Again, all we can do now is wait.
Let’s move on to the seeding and bracketing portions of the program.
There’s only one question left in terms of the No. 1 seeds: Which team will get the 1 in the East Region? The West (Arizona), Midwest (Wichita State), and South (Florida) are spoken for.
The current sense is that Michigan has the inside track to the 1 in the East. The fact that Wisconsin — a competitor for the top seed in the East — lost in the Big Ten semifinals to Michigan State should help the Wolverines a great deal.
One must also confront this point: As discussed earlier this week at Run The Floor, the selection committee has often placed minimal value on the Sunday conference tournament finals in the past. Michigan might have already gained the 1 seed in the East, and would surrender it only in the event of a blowout loss to Michigan State, which isn’t likely. If Michigan doesn’t get the 1 in the East, the winner of the Duke-Virginia ACC Tournament final could sneak into that slot. Rick Pitino of Louisville believes his team will get the 1 in the East, but the Cardinals didn’t start collecting high-end scalps until roughly a month ago. Villanova might actually still have an outside chance of snagging the 1 in the East if Michigan is crushed by Michigan State.
The key point to remember about the bracketing of the NCAA tournament is that it’s often better to stay in one’s home region as a 2 or 3 seed than to go somewhere else as the 1. Michigan might like a 2 in the Midwest more than a 1 in the East. Villanova would certainly like a 2 in the East more than a 2 in any other region. Duke (a team that has historically done well in New York/New Jersey, especially in East Regionals over the years) will be happy with a 2 in the East, as will Louisville, a team that would love to go back to its old Big East stomping grounds at Madison Square Garden. Keep the East Region’s seeding in perspective when you look at the revealed brackets on Sunday evening.
The next key question to ask is this: How did the results of the past 36 hours change the nature of the brackets and seeding lines?
Here are some basic answers, without insisting that Team A is assured of getting Seed Number X:
Iowa State played its way off the 4 line and onto the 3 line at the very least. The Cyclones, due to wins over Michigan and Iowa in non-conference play, would have a strong argument for a 2 seed.
Louisville might have been a 4 at the start of the week. The Cardinals will surely be no worse than a 3, and they also have a strong claim to a 2 seed. The No. 1 seeds in the field will be glad that they won’t have to face Louisville in the Sweet 16. Rick Pitino is frighteningly good in that round of the NCAA tournament.
Kansas, by losing in the Big 12 semifinals, very likely cost itself a 1 seed. The Jayhawks would love to be the 2 in the Midwest, but Wisconsin will offer stiff competition in that regard. If Michigan State beats Michigan in the Big Ten final and the committee takes that result into account, it will be fascinating to see how the Midwestern trio of Kansas, Wisconsin and Michigan gets distributed across the four regions. The best bet is that if Kansas is a 2 seed (which is very much in doubt), it will probably be shipped to another region at this point due to Joel Embiid’s injury. That’s an educated guess, but only a guess.
North Carolina almost surely played its way out of a protected (top-4) seed. The Tar Heels should be on the 5 or 6 line and will not play in a local pod on the first weekend of the NCAAs.
Baylor and Kentucky really helped their seedings. Arizona State and Iowa really hurt their seedings.
Have other questions? Submit them on Twitter (to @MattZemek), and I’ll be happy to converse with you throughout Selection Sunday — morning, afternoon and night.