Last night was about as quiet as a Championship Week night can be. All but one big conference team that should have won did win, and in the two small conference championship games, favorites Robert Morris (in the NEC) and Portland State (in the Big Sky) punched their tickets to the dance. The lone favorite to lose was Texas A&M, thanks to a ridiculous 35-point second half performance from Texas Tech's Mike Singletary. The Aggies are still safe in terms of an at-large berth, but their seed took a bit of a hit in today's bracket. They fell from the top 9 seed to the third 10 seed.
The real fun (and the chaos) starts tonight. There are 53 games on today's schedule, and a large majority of them involve teams on or close to the bubble.
Here's a quick breakdown of tonight's biggest games, a look at what each of the bubble teams playing tonight has to do to eventually secure an at-large, and what the biggest storylines are with less than 96 hours remaining until the Selection Show:
In the A-10...
The most important sub-plot heading into the A-10 tournament is whether Rhode Island can get to the final and get an at-large. The second-seeded Rams, who have won 10 of their last 12, begin that journey today against Duquesne. If they win, they face Dayton in the semis. Another win over the Flyers, who they beat at home at the buzzer two weeks ago, might be enough to get URI dancing.
In the ACC...
Miami and Virginia Tech face off today in an at-large elimination game. The loser's at-large chances are over; the winner will still need to beat Carolina in the quarters to get a bid. Maryland is also in action against N.C. State in the 7-10 game. If the Terps can beat the Wolfpack, and then upset Wake Forest in the quarters, they'll be back in the bracket.
In the Big XII...
There's already been one upset victim in the Big XII tourney...will there be more today? Oklahoma State fans are hoping their team can pull a Texas Tech against second-seeded Oklahoma tonight. The Cowboys, who have now won seven of eight, probably punched their ticket by beating Iowa State last night, but they better not get blown out by the Sooners tonight if they want to feel safe on Selection Sunday. The wild card, if Oklahoma State does get blown out, is Kansas State. The Wildcats face Texas in their first game today, and if they upset the Longhorns and then beat top-seeded Kansas in the semis, they'd be in great shape for a bid.
In the Big East...
It's looking more and more like Providence is going to have to beat Louisville tonight (or at the very least play a very, very competitive game) to get a bid. Having to play DePaul, and not Cincinnati, in their first game, really hurt the Friars, who were in need of one more notable win. Providence isn't 100% done with a loss tonight, but they'll certainly need some things to break right over the next few days. In other quarterfinal action today, Marquette takes on Villanova, UConn plays Syracuse, and West Virginia plays Pitt.
In the Big Ten...
The tournament with the most critical set of first round games is the Big Ten. We have held firm in our belief that the Big Ten is going to be a seven-bid league when all is said and done, and whether that happens or not will depend a lot on what happens today. In the first Big Ten game of the day, Minnesota takes on Northwestern in a game that we have commented an approximately 8,427 times in the last four days. We still think the Wildcats, despite a season-ending loss at Ohio State, are a dangerous team in this tourney, and we like their chances to upset the Gophers. If we are wrong, and Minnesota wins, Creighton or Providence would see their bubble burst and the Gophers would be back in the field. The other two ginormous first round games today involve Michigan and Penn State. Michigan takes on Iowa, and if the Wolverines win, they're a lock for an at-large. If they lose (which is very possible), they wouldn't be done, but they would be in for a very long, painful weekend. Penn State, meanwhile, faces Indiana under circumstances that are very similar to Michigan's. With a win, the Nittany Lions should be in for good. A loss opens up a huge can of worms, especially if Michigan loses as well. We would give the slight edge to Penn State as the seventh Big Ten team if that scenario happens, but we aren't sure the committee would agree. It would depend on whether they value Michigan's solid OOC wins or Penn State's extremely strong arsenal of Big Ten wins. Did Penn State do enough in conference to make up for a non-existent OOC resume? Nittany Nation is hoping they don't have to find out the answer to that question.
In the Pac-10...
The biggest question heading into the Pac-10 tournament is whether Arizona will get an at-large. The Wildcats face Arizona State, who swept them during the regular season, in their first round game. One win gets Arizona in, while a loss will have them on the Last Four In or Last Four Out list (depending on what happens elsewhere) on Selection Sunday.
In the MWC...
The MWC has a chance to be anywhere from a two- to a four-bid league depending on what happens over the next couple of days. Utah and BYU are safe, and right now, we like New Mexico as the third and final MWC bid. The Lobos open up with Wyoming today, and if they win, they face the Utes in the semis. If New Mexico wins that game, they're in. If they don't, the third MWC bid (if there is one) would be the winner of today's UNLV/San Diego State game. The Rebels and Aztecs just played last week, and SDSU completed a season sweep by winning at home. If the Aztecs win this game and get past BYU and into the final, they'll get a bid. If they can't beat the Cougars, their at-large hopes depend on how New Mexico does and what happens elsewhere. Keep in mind that this tourney is in Vegas, where the Rebels lost just once (to SDSU) all season.
In the SEC...
Of all the major conference tournaments, the most wide-open is no doubt the SEC. Whether the league ends up with three or four bids will be determined by how South Carolina, Florida, Auburn, and Kentucky fare. The Wildcats, who need to get to the final to get back in the at-large discussion, open with Mississippi today, while Florida opens with Arkansas. If the Gators win, they play Auburn in the quarters in an at-large elimination game. The winner of that game, if they can beat Tennessee and get to the final, will get a bid. If that team loses to the Vols, they'll have to hope that South Carolina loses its first game (to Georgia or Mississippi State) and that no other craziness happens in the rest of the conference tournies.
In This Bracket
Out This Bracket
Last Four In
South Carolina, Providence, Creighton, New Mexico
Last Four Out
Minnesota, St. Mary's, Florida, San Diego State
Next Four Out
Maryland, Auburn, Rhode Island, Miami (FL)
Big East (8), Big Ten (7), ACC (6), Big XII (6), Pac-10 (5), MWC (3), SEC (3), A-10 (2), Horizon (2), MVC (2)
America East - Binghamton
ACC - North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, Florida State, Clemson, Boston College
Atlantic Sun - East Tennessee State
A-10 - Xavier, Dayton
Big East - Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Louisville, Villanova, Syracuse, Marquette, West Virginia, Providence
Big Sky - Portland State
Big South - Radford
Big Ten - Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State
Big XII - Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State
Big West - Cal State Northridge
Colonial - VCU
Conference USA - Memphis
Horizon - Cleveland State, Butler
Ivy - Cornell
MAAC - Siena
MAC - Buffalo
MEAC - Morgan State
MVC - Northern Iowa, Creighton
MWC - Utah, BYU, New Mexico
Northeast - Robert Morris
Ohio Valley - Morehead State
Pac-10 - Washington, UCLA, Arizona State, California, Arizona
Patriot - American
SEC - LSU, Tennessee, South Carolina
Southern - Chattanooga
Southland - Stephen F. Austin
Summit - North Dakota State
Sun Belt - Western Kentucky
SWAC - Alabama State
WAC - Utah State
WCC - Gonzaga
Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Connecticut, Oklahoma
Louisville, Michigan State, Duke, Memphis
Wake Forest, Villanova, Kansas, Washington
Florida State, Missouri, Xavier, UCLA
Gonzaga, Syracuse, Illinois, Clemson
Marquette, Arizona State, Purdue, California
Utah, Texas, LSU, Tennessee
BYU, West Virginia, Ohio State, Butler
Dayton, Boston College, Wisconsin, Michigan
Oklahoma State, Penn State, Texas A&M, Arizona
South Carolina, Providence, Creighton, Siena
Utah State, New Mexico, Cleveland State, Western Kentucky
Northern Iowa, VCU, Buffalo, Binghamton
North Dakota State, American, Portland State, Stephen F. Austin
Cornell, East Tennessee State, Robert Morris, Morgan State
Cal State Northridge, Morehead State, Radford, Chattanooga (Play-In Game), Alabama State (Play-In-Game)
(Bracket courtesy Matt Reeves)
*Congratulations to Matt and his wife, who welcomed a new baby boy to their family on Tuesday*
Questions? Comments? E-mail Bracketology 101 at email@example.com