By Kyle Beery
Selection Sunday is finally here. We had plenty of drama on Saturday, leaving much debate throughout the entire bracket, especially at the very top.
Duke completed its ACC title run by beating Notre Dame for its fourth win in four days. Arizona won the Pac-12 crown, looking phenomenal in doing so this week. Both teams are in serious contention for the final 1-seed, but it will be a very close call.
The final six automatic bids will be awarded on Sunday. Rhode Island is the only bubble team still playing. They can shore things up by beating VCU in the Atlantic 10 championship today, but if they don’t, they will have a very nerve-wracking couple of hours until the field is revealed.
Without further ado, here is my final projected field of the season.
EAST REGIONAL — New York City — Friday, March 24 & Sunday, March 26
- Villanova took care of business by winning the Big East title on Saturday, wrapping up the No. 1 overall seed.
- Oregon suffered two losses on Saturday. Not only did the Ducks fall to Arizona in the Pac-12 championship, they lost big man Chris Boucher for the rest of the season with a torn ACL. The absence of Boucher hurts the Ducks, without a doubt, but this is still a team worthy of a 2-seed and they can still go on a run.
- Wake Forest and Kansas State are the two most comfortable bubble teams, if there is such a thing. They should both wind up in the “last four in” category, but Sunday will be anything but comfortable for the Demon Deacons and Wildcats.
- Vermont may be an enticing upset pick for a lot of people. The Catamounts are riding a 21-game win streak into the tournament. They last lost at Butler back in December.
SOUTH REGIONAL — Memphis — Friday, March 24 & Sunday, March 26
- North Carolina holds onto the final 1-seed. The Tar Heels (27-7) lost to Duke in the ACC semifinals. Many think that the Blue Devils (27-8) may jump their rivals onto the 1-line after winning four games in four days, but I’m giving UNC the nod on the grounds of one more quality win (17-6 vs. RPI top 100) and a better non-conference strength-of-schedule.
- Purdue is likely going to end up as a 5-seed, which would be the lowest top seed for the Big Ten since 2004.
- Michigan might be able to jump up to a 6-seed if it beats Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship on Sunday. That would give the Wolverines 13 top-100 wins and ninth win away from home.
- USC and Rhode Island are the last two teams to receive at-large bids. Rhode Island may drop out of the field if it loses to VCU in the A-10 title game (12:30 p.m., CBS). Obviously, they can take any doubt out of the Selection Committee’s minds by winning that game, but they may be in jeopardy of losing that spot to Syracuse.
MIDWEST REGIONAL — Kansas City — Thursday, March 23 & Saturday, March 25
- Kansas should have a pretty good hold on a 1-seed, thanks to 16 RPI top 100 wins and no losses outside the top 100.
- As previously mentioned, Duke has a very strong case for a spot on the top line, but it’s hard to see the committee moving a team up that far after being in the 3-4-seed range four days ago. The Blue Devils would be the first eight-loss team to ever receive a 1-seed.
- Iowa State is right on the fence between a 4-seed and 5-seed. Winning a strong Big 12 could give them a nod up to the 4-line, but the Cyclones have seven losses against the RPI top 50 and a glaring loss at Texas (RPI No. 157) holding them down.
- The curious case of Wichita State continues to be a head-scratcher. The Shockers lost just four games this season, three of which came against RPI-top 50 teams, and the other against Michigan State (RPI No. 51) on a neutral court. But they also have just three wins inside the top 100. The Shockers could give any No. 1 seed a real problem, especially considering their No. 8 ranking on kenpom.com.
WEST REGIONAL — San Jose — Thursday, March 23 & Saturday, March 25
- At 32-1 with 12 wins against the RPI top 100, Gonzaga should get a 1-seed. The biggest thing holding them down is their 77th-ranked SOS. The Bulldogs did, however, do all they could to play a tougher non-conference schedule, which ranked 62nd in the country.
- Arizona looks like it will fall just short of a 1-seed, despite winning the Pac-12. All four of the Wildcats’ losses were against top-50 teams, and they racked up 16 top-100 wins, but a 5-4 mark against the top 50 looks rather paltry stacked up against UNC’s 11-5 mark against the top 50.
- Middle Tennessee had a little bit of trouble against Marshall in the C-USA championship game, but the Blue Raiders still get bumped up to an 11-seed, to open up a spot for one of the “last four in” pairings to avoid both being placed in first-round sites that are played on Thursday.
Last five at-large byes (avoiding Dayton): Marquette, Providence, Vanderbilt, VCU, Xavier
Last four in (First Four in Dayton): Wake Forest, Kansas State, USC, Rhode Island
First five out: Syracuse, California, Illinois State, Illinois Iowa
For a bubble that has been incredibly fluid over the last month, things got relatively clear this weekend. It looks like there are five teams in contention for four spots — the last four teams in the above field, plus Syracuse. California and possibly Illinois State still have a bit of an outside shot, but beyond that, teams look to be out of luck.
Things get complicated if Rhode Island wins the A-10, possibly bumping VCU or Xavier down to one of the last four spots. If the Rams lose, that could open the door for Syracuse.
NCAA IS A TRADEMARK OF THE NATIONAL COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION. THE IMAGE USED IN THIS POST IS COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS.