Welcome to March.
This happened last night:
And that came just two nights after this:
The madness is officially upon us. Conference tournaments are underway across the world of college basketball, while other teams gear up for the final weekend of the regular season. This is where the field stands right now, based on what has happened, not what could happen over the next nine days leading up to Selection Sunday.
Conference champions are listed in ALL CAPS. NCAA Selection Committee bracket principles are used, including the new Quadrant System. In this iteration of the bracket, winners of the South and West regionals would meet in the Final Four, and the winners of the Midwest and East would face off.
SOUTH REGIONAL — Atlanta — Thursday, March 22 & Saturday, March 24
- Virginia escaped danger with that beauty of a comeback. Five points in less than one second. The Cavaliers have just two losses — to two likely locks for the tournament by a combined eight points — and nine wins against Quadrant 1. It will take utter chaos for them to fall off the 1-line between now and Selection Sunday.
- Purdue gained a bit of a safety net between them and a 3-seed, thanks to Duke and Auburn losing. It’s hard to see them falling, unless they lose to Rutgers Friday night. It’s also hard to see them getting back up to a 1-seed, but with a Big Ten Tournament title and a perfect storm among other teams ahead of them, it’s still possible.
- Texas Tech squandered a big opportunity to improve its resume, losing to West Virginia this week. Now the Red Raiders will have to bank on a big run in the Big 12 Tournament to have any shot at a 2-seed.
- Miami’s buzzer beater at UNC was huge. It helped them move up to a 6-seed (from an 8-seed in my last bracket) and all but lock them into the field.
- St. Bonaventure got a jolt of hope by beating Davidson this week and seeing a ton of other bubble teams lose. The A-10 may end up a two-bid league after all.
MIDWEST REGIONAL — Omaha — Friday, March 23 & Sunday, March 25
- A few weeks ago, thinking of Kansas as a 1-seed may have sounded ludicrous. But a five-game winning streak — two of those against ranked teams — has them in good shape. The Jayhawks have the most Quadrant 1 wins in the entire country with 11, and they’re a staggering 19-5 against Quadrants 1+2.
- Xavier is teetering between the 1-2 line. If they can win out and claim their first Big East Tournament title in school history, they should wind up a 1-seed. Here, I have them matched up with a school just 11 miles away. Northern Kentucky is the 1-seed in the Horizon League Tournament, which begins Friday in Detroit. The Norse could sneak up to a 14-seed by next weekend if they win the tournament, but that would be their ceiling.
- Florida got a big win over Auburn to boost its resume, while Rhode Island got absolutely hammered by St. Joseph’s at home on senior night. Two teams trending in opposite directions rather quickly.
- Michigan avoided disaster by sneaking past Iowa in the Big Ten Tournament. Next up: Nebraska. The Wolverines could use one more quality win as insurance for a higher seed. Nebraska would be a nice win, but it would be even better for them if they can get through to the Big Ten Championship Game, likely going through rival Michigan State, who they beat in East Lansing, if they do so.
EAST REGIONAL — Boston — Friday, March 23 & Sunday, March 25
- Speaking of Michigan State, the Spartans are standing firm on the 1-line. They don’t have the eye-popping numbers in terms of quality wins like Kansas, but they do rank sixth in KenPom’s overall ratings and are 13-3 against the KP top 100. A Big Ten Tournament championship would secure a 1-seed for the Spartans, who boast blowout wins over teams like Notre Dame and Maryland that didn’t age as nicely as they looked at the time of the games.
- North Carolina, despite the loss to Miami, stays on the 2-line, thanks to a few losses behind them. The Tar Heels have the second most Quadrant 1 wins in the country with 10.
- Seton Hall nearly got a massive win over Villanova, but fell to the Wildcats by one point in overtime. The Pirates are likely trapped at a No. 6-seed and below without that win, but a nice run in the Big East Tournament would be huge. They end the regular season Saturday against Butler, who just took a nasty looking loss at St. John’s. The Bulldogs can rebound and improve their seed with a win at Seton Hall, but a loss there will but a lot of pressure on them to win a game in the Big East Tournament, something they haven’t done in four trips to MSG.
- This region features a potential Cinderella team in Vermont, who was a one-point loss away from its second consecutive undefeated conference slate. You can read more about them, and other mid-major teams and players you need to get to know during conference tournament week.
WEST REGIONAL — Los Angeles — Thursday, March 22 & Saturday, March 24
- Villanova is clinging to the last 1-seed, mostly thanks to their two dominant wins over Xavier. The Wildcats are 14-3 against Quadrants 1+2 and are either No. 1 or No. 2 in all of the metric rankings available to the Selection Committee (RPI, KenPom, Sagarin, BPI). It’s hard to keep a resume like that off the top line.
- Duke suffered a setback with a loss to Virginia Tech. With that, any hopes of a No. 1-seed likely went out the door. They have a shot at revenge against North Carolina on Saturday. The winner will be in good position to get a No. 2-seed, unless they slip up early in the ACC Tournament.
- Nevada just keeps winning. They should be a lock for an at-large bid, even if they lose early in the Mountain West Conference Tournament. The Wolf Pack are a little suspect on defense, but that offense is fun to watch. Nevada is 10th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency, scoring 120.9 points per 100 possessions.
- Kentucky has reversed a four-game losing streak by winning four in a row. The Cats close the regular season with a shot at a nice road victory against Florida. That, plus a run in the SEC Tournament, could do wonders for their seeding.
Last four at-large bids
- Kansas State – K-State was starting to look more and more like a lock, but then the Wildcats lost back-to-back games against Oklahoma and TCU.
- NC State – Same goes for the Wolf Pack. A four-game winning streak was erased with an ugly, ugly loss to Georgia Tech.
- USC – The Trojans just keep climbing closer to safety. Riding a four-game winning streak, they have a chance to lock it up if they can beat UCLA this weekend.
- Providence – A loss at Xavier when the Musketeers had a chance to wrap up a share of their first ever Big East title on senior night? Not the end of the world for the Friars.
Last four in (First Four @ Dayton March 13-14)
- Louisville – Beating UVA would’ve almost surely punched Louisville’s ticket. But instead, Cards fans will have to sweat it out the next nine days and keep seeing replays of De’Andre Hunter’s miracle shot.
- Texas – A loss at Kansas didn’t hurt too badly, thanks to a shaky week for other bubble teams. The Longhorns close the season with West Virginia. Beating the Mountaineers would be huge, but a loss would give them a ninth place finish in the Big 12 and leave them in need of a run in Kansas City next week.
- St. Bonaventure – As previously mentioned, the Bonnies’ win over Davidson looked a lot better next to the mayhem on the rest of the bubble. Anything short of a trip to the A-10 finals would likely knock them out of at-large contention, though.
- UCLA – The Bruins were idle this week, but have a big game looming with crosstown rival USC. Will they head to Vegas with momentum or a three-game losing streak?
First four out
- Nebraska – The Huskers’ NCAA Tournament fate lies in Friday’s Big Ten Quarterfinal game against Michigan. Win, and the chances of a bid are good. Lose, and the chances are shot.
- Mississippi State – The Bulldogs were gaining steam with three straight wins before getting embarrassed in a 21-point senior night loss to Tennessee.
- Syracuse – I’ve been saying it for weeks. Syracuse can’t let the losses keep piling up. But they did. With 12 losses — five outside the RPI Top 50 — and their best wins coming against Miami and Louisville, there is a lot of work to be done and not a lot of time to do it.
- Washington – The Huskies are another team that benefitted from the wild week on the bubble. A win over Oregon State was obviously nice, but the Huskies will need to win a couple games in Vegas to sneak in. Aside from beating Kansas, their next best non-conference win is against Belmont at home.
Next four out
- Utah – A loss to USC last weekend snapped a five-game winning streak that had the Utes trending towards a bid. But now they’ll have to convincingly beat Colorado and make some noise in the Pac-12 Tournament to have a chance.
- Baylor – The Bears have earned some nice wins over the last couple weeks, but they missed on real nice opportunities against West Virginia and TCU. Aside from beating Creighton and Wisconsin, they don’t have any other non-conference wins against power-conference schools.
- Boise State – A loss to San Diego State was pretty much the nail in the coffin for the Broncos. They’re sticking around thanks to a shrinking bubble, but they’re going to need to win the MWC Tournament.
- Penn State – The Nittany Lions couldn’t beat Nebraska in the regular season finale, which would have been huge. Their only path to an at-large bid will be convincing wins over Purdue and Ohio State, with a close game against Michigan State or Michigan in the Big Ten title game. Anything other than that, and they probably won’t get an at-large bid. Of course, they could just go ahead and win the auto-bid.