By Andy Bottoms, Midwest Sports Fans
After a busy Saturday of action, just four automatic bids remain up for grabs. Of the eight teams slated to take the floor on Sunday, Ole Miss is the one that bubble teams will be most interested in, as the other seven teams are all safely in the field.
These projections have been updated through all games played on Saturday, March 16.
Please note one of the First Four games was moved to the 11 line based on scheduling and proximity to Dayton.
It’s also worth noting that I made a change to one of the final teams in the field. As I mentioned last night, I wanted to take another look at things today, which led to La Salle getting into the field. We’ve all made some regrettable decisions at 1:30 in the morning, and my exclusion of the Explorers yesterday falls into that category. I plan to continue my review of the teams and seeds tonight and once again in the morning.
Last Four In
The Gaels gained ground by simply sitting back and watching other bubble teams lose. With just four top-100 wins and a mediocre strength of schedule, they shouldn’t get too comfortable.
I mentioned Friday night I wanted to take another look at the Explorers’ profile, and I am glad that I did. They have just one sub-100 loss and wins over Butler and Villanova at home as well as VCU on the road. La Salle also has a winning record in road and neutral games, which should help its case.
Despite a quarterfinal loss to Alabama, I still have the Vols in the field. They played a solid non-conference schedule and are 9-10 against top-100 teams.
Like Saint Mary’s, MTSU was able to sit back and watch the carnage on Friday. The Blue Raiders are still in a precarious position with just one top-100 victory, but with such a soft bubble, I could see them being rewarded for playing the ninth-rated non-conference schedule and dominating their league in the regular season.
First Five Out
My second look at La Salle pushed Ole Miss out of the field despite a win over Vanderbilt in the SEC semifinals. The Rebels’ two best wins are over Missouri, but they played a very poor non-conference schedule and lost to both South Carolina and Mississippi State. To be fair, they swept Tennessee, but the Vols did far more in the non-conference, which I think will come into play with the committee.
The rest of these teams are in no particular order, and quite frankly I would be surprised to see any of them make it. The Cavaliers have some solid top-end wins, but seven sub-100 losses will be their undoing.
The Minutemen played well against VCU in stretches but came up short in the Atlantic-10 semifinals. A winning record away from home helps, but they have no top-25 wins and finished just 9-7 in the A-10 regular season.
Once again, Alabama was able to hang with Florida for a good portion of the game, but the Tide failed to pick up their first top-50 win of the season, which leaves them on the outside looking in. Four sub-100 losses don’t help either.
A late comeback fell short against North Carolina and will mean a trip to the NIT for the Terps. They have two wins over Duke, but Maryland was just 3-7 in true road games and played an extremely weak non-conference schedule.
Here is how the bids broke out by conference (Note: Teams that have earned an automatic bid are denoted with a *):
Big East (8): Cincinnati, Georgetown, Louisville*, Marquette, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Villanova
Big Ten (7): Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Big 12 (5): Iowa State, Kansas*, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Mountain West (5): Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico*, San Diego State, UNLV
Pac-12 (5): Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon, UCLA
Atlantic 10 (4): Butler, Saint Louis, Temple, VCU
ACC (4): Duke, Miami (FL), North Carolina, North Carolina State
SEC (4): Florida, Missouri, Ole Miss, Tennessee
Missouri Valley (2): Creighton*, Wichita State
Sun Belt (2): Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky*
West Coast (2): Gonzaga*, Saint Mary’s
America East: Albany*
Atlantic Sun: Florida Gulf Coast*
Big Sky: Montana*
Big South: Liberty*
Big West: Pacific
Colonial: James Madison*
Conference USA: Memphis*
MEAC: North Carolina A&T*
Northeast: LIU Brooklyn*
Ohio Valley: Belmont*
Southland: Northwestern State*
Summit: South Dakota State*
WAC: New Mexico State