By Andy Bottoms, Midwest Sports Fans
After a full day of hoops on Thursday, there have been a few seeding changes but no changes to the teams in the field.
There are a number of key games on the schedule for Friday, as bubble teams like Virginia, La Salle, Kentucky, Tennessee, Iowa, Temple, and Massachusetts take the floor.
The projections below take into account all games played through Thursday, March 14. Please note one of the First Four games was moved to the 11 line based on scheduling and proximity to Dayton.
Look for a new set of projections Saturday morning.
Last Four In
The Broncos were unable to defeat San Diego State for the second time in the last five days, as the Aztecs withstood a furious rally to win by six in the Mountain West quarterfinals.
Now Boise State will be forced to sweat it out for the rest of the week. The Broncos have four top-30 wins and are 8-8 against the Top 100, which helps their case. They also have a solid non-conference road win at Creighton, but they struggled mightily away from home in league play.
The Explorers got blitzed by Saint Louis on Saturday but still got the fourth seed in the Atlantic 10 tournament. They are likely to face Butler in the quarterfinals. La Salle beat the Bulldogs for one of its two top-50 wins, and the Explorers also boast a solid nonconference win over Villanova.
Unfortunately, they have also lost to Central Connecticut State and simply don’t have much depth to their profile. A trip to the A-10 semis certainly would help their case.
Saturday’s win over Florida propelled Kentucky back into the field, but there is still work left to do.
The Wildcats have both of their top-50 wins since losing Nerlens Noel, so they have proven they can compete without him. Their first SEC tournament game will come against either Arkansas or Vanderbilt, and a loss to either one likely would spell their ultimate doom.
In the wake of a third loss to Gonzaga this season, the Gaels are now my last team in. Their only losses since late December all came at the hands of the Bulldogs, and Saint Mary’s is now left to sweat out the next five days.
When compared to the first couple of teams out, the Gaels have done more away from home and have far fewer bad losses. They also have far fewer quality wins.
Middle Tennessee played a far tougher nonconference schedule, but the Blue Raiders have just one win vs. the top 100. I just can’t see the committee overlooking that.
Consequently, the Gaels are in — for now.
First Four Out
The Cavaliers had to come from behind to knock off Maryland at home in overtime, but they still dropped out of the field. UVa owns the most confounding profile in recent memory with a number of high-end victories but an equally impressive list of poor losses.
A solid performance in the ACC tournament is a must, and Virginia’s first opponent will most likely be North Carolina State in the quarterfinals.
The Blue Raiders fell in the Sun Belt semifinals to Florida International and now will be forced to wait out the committee’s decision after finishing 19-1 in league play.
MTSU ranks in the top 30 in RPI and boasts a solid nonconference strength of schedule, but it has just one top-100 win. That came against fellow bubble contender Ole Miss, so while I would love to see another mid-major in the field, I doubt the committee gives the Raiders the nod.
A road win at LSU kept the Rebels in the discussion, but there is still work to do in the SEC tournament.
Their lone top-50 win came against Missouri in January, and the Tigers likely will be their opponent in the quarterfinals. A loss there would be the end of the road for Ole Miss.
Baylor’s loss to Oklahoma State propelled the Hawkeyes to this spot, but Friday’s matchup with Michigan State is critical for Iowa. A poor non-conference schedule certainly isn’t doing Fran McCaffery’s club any favors, but they do have four Top 50 wins.
I can’t see the Hawkeyes getting in the field unless they can make a run to the Big Ten Tournament title game.
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
Atlantic 10 (5): Butler, La Salle, Saint Louis, Temple, VCU
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
ACC (4): Duke, Miami (FL), North Carolina, North Carolina State
SEC (4): Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee
Missouri Valley (2): Creighton*, Wichita State
West Coast (2): Gonzaga*, Saint Mary’s
America East: Vermont
Atlantic Sun: Florida Gulf Coast*
Big Sky: Montana
Big South: Liberty*
Big West: Long Beach State
Colonial: James Madison*
Conference USA: Memphis
MEAC: Morgan State
Northeast: LIU Brooklyn*
Ohio Valley: Belmont*
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
Summit: South Dakota State*
Sun Belt: Western Kentucky*
WAC: New Mexico State