By Kyle Beery
This year’s NCAA Tournament bubble has been more fluid than most. Teams move on or off the bubble seemingly every day.
There isn’t quite as much movement at the top of the bracket, but you know Champ Week can always provide us with some surprises, and we could see some movement before the end of the weekend.
Thursday — the second-best day of the year in college basketball, second to only the first Thursday of the NCAA Tournament — is moving day. A few teams may punch their tickets. A few teams may fall out of the field for good. Someone might wrap up a No. 1 seed, and someone may fall off the top line.
Here’s the field as it stands heading into the weekend.
(NOTE: CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS HAVE THEIR CONFERENCE IN PARENTHESIS. TEAMS THAT HAVE ALREADY WON CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS ARE LISTED IN ALL CAPS.)
MIDWEST REGIONAL — Kansas City — Thursday, March 23 & Saturday, March 25
- Barring a first-round letdown in the Big 12 Tournament, Kansas has a No. 1 seed wrapped up. Even then, it would be hard to imagine seeing the Jayhawks fall off the top line.
- Providence has moved off the bubble to a 10-seed. If they lost in the Big East quarterfinals to Creighton, the Friars should still be in the field, but may drop to an 11-seed, possibly looking at playing in the First Four in Dayton.
- Kentucky, despite having a few close calls along the way, has played some good basketball during its eight-game win streak. The Wildcats should secure a 2-seed, as long as they don’t lose early in the SEC Tournament.
WEST REGIONAL — San Jose — Thursday, March 23 & Saturday, March 25
- Gonzaga won the WCC Tournament in pretty convincing fashion. The Bulldogs are holding onto the final 1-seed right now, but by no means do they have it wrapped up. They’ll be playing close attention to what North Carolina and Oregon do this weekend.
- Xavier is definitely a bubble team. The Musketeers are sitting one spot away from playing in Dayton. A loss against Butler wouldn’t be too detrimental to their tournament hopes, but they’d be left to sweat it out until Sunday. Beating the Bulldogs, however, would punch a ticket to the Big Dance.
- Purdue has risen to a 4-seed, which is probably its ceiling. It’s hard to imagine the Boilermakers finding a way to steal a 3-seed, but it’s not inconceivable to see them drop to a 5-seed.
EAST REGIONAL — New York City — Friday, March 24 & Sunday, March 26
- Like Kansas, Villanova probably has a 1-seed wrapped up. In fact, the Wildcats are in contention for the No. 1 overall seed in their quest for a repeat championship, which would be the first since The Florida Gators did it in 2006-07.
- Louisville can wrap up a 2-seed by winning its ACC quarterfinal against Duke. A loss wouldn’t necessarily bump them down, but the Cardinals would be in danger of that, depending on what other teams do this weekend.
- Vanderbilt is in an interesting situation. The Commodores have played their way into the field over the last few weeks after being seemingly dead in the water, but will need to get at least one game in the SEC Tournament to feel comfortable about their chances.
SOUTH REGIONAL — Memphis — Friday, March 24 & Sunday, March 26
- Baylor is the lowest-ranked 2-seed. The Bears need a good showing in the Big 12 Tournament in order to hold onto that spot. The biggest threats to stealing the final 2-seed are UCLA, Arizona and Florida State.
- Butler could have an outside chance at that last 2-seed if it goes on a run to win the Big East and the right combination of other teams lose. A loss to Xavier, however, would put the Bulldogs in jeopardy of falling down a line. They at least should have a spot in Milwaukee — and maybe even at home in Indianapolis if Louisville or Kentucky slip up early in their conference tournaments — even if they do lose to Xavier.
- Wake Forest and USC are squarely on the bubble. The Demon Deacons had a chance to wrap up a bid in the NCAA Tournament, but lost in the second round of the ACC Tournament to Virginia Tech, left hoping other bubble teams stumble this weekend. USC kept its hopes alive with a win over Washington, but the Trojans did not look very good, and need a little more help to get in.
Last five at-large byes: Vanderbilt, Xavier, VCU, Marquette, Providence
Last four in (First Four in Dayton): Illinois, Wake Forest, Rhode Island, USC
First four out: Syracuse, Iowa, Illinois State, Kansas State, California
Syracuse’s chances took a hit with a loss against Miami on Wednesday. California almost suffered a catastrophic loss against Oregon State, but remains alive, needing to win at least one more game.
Illinois State has a long weekend ahead after losing its conference championship game by an ugly 20 points. The Redbirds will need to see a lot of bubble chaos over the next couple days to have a chance.