Our quick thoughts about Saturday's results:
The last game at Freedom Hall was one to remember. Kyle Kuric scored all of his 22 points in the second half, as Louisville completed a gigantic season sweep of Syracuse by upsetting the top-ranked Orange 78-68. The win makes Louisville an absolute lock to make the tournament and it will move them to around the 8 line in our next bracket on Monday. Syracuse, meanwhile, will still be on the 1 line on Monday even with a loss (its first one on the road all year), and they still have to be regarded as the favorite going into the Big East tournament next week. As long as they make the semis in the Garden, which means just one win, they'll be a lock for 1 seed on Selection Sunday. They might even be able to make it with a loss in the Big East quarters depending on what happens elsewhere.
Like Louisville, West Virginia didn't wait until the Big East tournament to make a final statement to the selection committee. Thanks to some huge clutch shots from Da'Sean Butler, including the decisive runner with 5.8 seconds left in overtime, the Mountaineers rallied from 13 down at the half to knock off Villanova 68-66 on Saturday at the Wachovia Center. After Butler's shot, Scottie Reynolds got a good look at what would have been a game-winning three at the buzzer, but the shot was too strong and West Virginia held on for the victory. The win moved the Mountaineers to 13-5 in conference and clinched them the No. 3 seed in the Big East tournament. They'll move up to the 2 line in our next bracket on Monday, while Villanova will likely drop to a 3. The Wildcats have now lost four of six down the stretch, and looking ahead, we like Ohio State's chances to win the Big Ten tourney better than we like 'Nova's chances to win the Big East tourney. That projection will keep 'Nova on the top of the 3 line.
March is a fun month to be Irish, and it's also been a heck of a month to be a Notre Dame fan. The red-hot Fighting Irish won their fourth straight game Saturday - beating Marquette 63-60 in overtime in Milwaukee - and they all but locked up an at-large bid in the process. ND trailed by six with just under a minute to go in regulation in this one, but Carlton Scott hit a three at the buzzer (no foul, Buzz Williams?) to send the game into OT. Tim Abromaitis and Tyrone Nash took over for the Irish after that, scoring 10 of ND's 12 points in overtime. At this point, ND would be an absolute lock for an at-large with just one Big East win, and they'll probably get in regardless. The return of Luke Harangody (he scored five points in a cameo appearance against Marquette) definitely helps the Irish's case if they were to slip up at the Garden. Even with the loss, Marquette is still safe in terms of an at-large. They'll be playing for seeding in the Big East tourney, and they'll likely be a low 9 seed in our bracket next week.
There's no need to discuss UConn's in-or-out scenarios anymore: the Huskies are going to have to win the Big East tournament to go dancing. Their 75-68 loss at South Florida on Saturday was as shocking as it was ugly, and the final score wasn't indicative or how easy USF had it at times. UConn trailed by double digits for much of the second half against the Bulls, before cutting the lead to four in the closing minutes. They wouldn't get get any closer, though, as South Florida made seven of eight free throws down the stretch to ice it. The most curious part about the game's ending was who was on the floor for UConn - Jerome Dyson and Stanley Robinson were both on the bench during the Huskies' comeback, while seldom-used Darius Smith and Jamal Coomb-McDaniel got a lot of playing time. The win moved South Florida to 9-9 in the Big East and puts them back into bubble contention heading into the Big East tournament. Two Big East wins is a minimum (they play DePaul and then Georgetown), and they might have to win a third too (Syracuse) depending on what happens elsewhere, but the Bulls are certainly a lot more alive for a bid than they were yesterday.
(We wonder where the Huskies will be in Lunardi's Monday bracket. A 12 seed? 13 seed? The last 1 seed?)
Speaking of Lunardi, how's that Kansas State as a 1 seed move looking now? The Wildcats lost an absolute stunner at home to lowly Iowa State on Saturday, falling 85-82 in OT.
We apologize, Hokie Nation: we shouldn't have ended our season-long support of Virginia Tech when we did. The Hokies proved us wrong - and proved that they are indeed worthy of an at-large - by beating Georgia Tech 88-82 in Atlanta on Saturday. Malcolm Delaney had 32 points in the win for Virginia Tech, who not got picked up the 10th ACC win they so desperately needed, they also clinched the four seed and a first round bye in the ACC tourney. They'll face Wake Forest or Florida State in the quarters. If they win, they're a lock, but with everything that went on today bubble-wise, even a loss might get them in. They'd have to root for as few bid-stealers as possible, but a fourth place finish and 10 wins in a conference like the ACC is tough to ignore.
Georgia Tech, meanwhile, will be on the wrong side of the bubble come Monday. The Yellow Jackets have lost five of seven overall and their 7-9 finish in the ACC looks really ugly right now (especially with VT at 10-6). Two wins in the ACC tourney are a must to get Georgia Tech back into the at-large mix, but given their ACC road record this season (1-7), we don't like their chances to make a whole lot of noise in Greensboro.
Rhode Island's stay in our bracket lasted less than 24 hours. The Rams, who we liked the best out of all the free-falling A-10 bubble teams, blew a six-point halftime lead and lost at UMass 69-67 on Saturday. Ricky Harris was the hero for the Minutemen, scoring 28 points and making what ended up being the game-winning lay-up with 3.5 seconds left. URI shot 37% from the field and went just 9-of-17 from the line in the loss, which dropped them to 9-7 in conference. They'll enter the A-10 tournament needing a trip to the final to make up for their 0-4 record against the Big Three in conference and two straight killer road losses to teams in the bottom half of the A-10 standings.
Saint Louis should probably get the blame should the A-10 only end up with three bids next Sunday. The Billikens beat Dayton 71-66 on Saturday and have now beaten Dayton twice and Rhode Island once in the last month to finish two games clear of the field, and in 4th place, in the A-10. If Saint Louis had been able to pull the upset against Temple or Xavier on their home floor over the past two weeks, then they would have been in great shape for a bid. Unfortunately for both the Billikens and the A-10, they weren't able to win either of those games, plus they have three losses outside of the top 100 RPI. They still have an outside chance at an at-large, though, should they reach the A-10 final. Dayton has now lost five of seven games and is completely out of the running for an at-large. The absolute collapse of all of the A-10 bubble teams has really opened things up and will make this next week even crazier.
Did any team do more this week to hurt their tourney chances than Mississippi State? They had a great opportunity to finish 11-5 in the SEC and pick up their first big win in conference against Tennessee at home on Saturday night. Instead of sitting pretty going into the SEC tourney, they lost 75-59 and will now need to make a deep run into the SEC tourney to get any serious consideration for a bid. The Vols were in control from the very start of this one (a 17-0 run to start the game is tough to overcome) and they can now prepare for their opening round game in the SEC tourney against LSU on Thursday.
On a side note, we think the SEC needs to change the way it seeds teams for the conference tourney. Even though Tennessee finished two games better than both Mississippi and Mississippi State, they will still have to play in the opening round of the SEC tourney since they finished in 3rd place in the SEC East. The SEC should either get rid of the East and West divisions or just seed teams based on their conference record regardless of the division.
Mississippi State's loss might be San Diego State's gain in our next bracket. The Aztecs took care of business against Air Force on Saturday - winning 61-42 on the road - and they've now won six of seven heading into the MWC tourney. They'll be the No. 4 seed in that tourney, which means a potential semifinal match-up with New Mexico. If they win that game and make the final, they're going to be in great shape for a bid, especially with all of the losses on and around the bubble that happened today. Playing a close game against the Lobos might still be enough, but it would take a perfect storm of favorites winning for that scenario to get the Aztecs in.
Head-scratcher: South Carolina won 77-73 at Vanderbilt (Devan Downey had 26 points for the Gamecocks in the win).
Of note: Kansas won at Missouri; Baylor beat Texas at home; Texas A&M won at Oklahoma; Oklahoma State beat Nebraska at home; Georgetown beat Cincinnati at home; Pittsburgh beat Rutgers at home; Purdue won 64-60 at Penn State; Duke blew out North Carolina at home; Maryland won at Virginia; Florida State won 61-60 at Miami; Temple beat George Washington at home; Xavier beat St. Bonaventure at home; Richmond won at Charlotte in OT; BYU won at TCU; UNLV beat Wyoming at home; UTEP rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat UAB at home; Memphis beat Tulsa at home; Cal won at Stanford; Washington won at Oregon State; Utah State beat New Mexico State at home; Cornell won at Yale; Seton Hall won at Providence; Mississippi escaped with a 68-66 win at Arkansas.
Winthrop won the Big South final, beating Coastal Carolina 61-48 on the Chanticleers' home floor. It's the fifth NCAA tournament appearance in the last six years for the Eagles.
East Tennessee State won its second straight Atlantic Sun tournament, beating tourney Cinderella Mercer 72-66 on Mercer's home floor.
Murray State capped off a great season with a 62-51 win over Morehead State to clinch the Ohio Valley auto bid. We will likely have the Racers on the 13 line in our final bracket, but we wouldn't be shocked if they end up a 12.
Colonial Tournament - Quarterfinals
No. 1 Old Dominion beat No. 8 Towson; No. 5 VCU beat No. 4 George Mason; No. 2 Northeastern beat No. 7 Hofstra in double OT; No. 3 William & Mary beat No. 11 James Madison.
Horizon Tournament - Semifinals
No. 1 Butler beat No. 4 Milwaukee; No. 2 Wright State beat No. 7 Detroit.
MVC Tournament - Semifinals
No. 1 Northern Iowa beat No. 5 Bradley; No. 2 Wichita State beat No. 3 Illinois State.
WCC Tournament - Quarterfinals
No. 3 Portland beat No. 6 San Diego; No. 5 Loyola Marymount beat No. 4 San Francisco.
America East Tournament - Quarterfinals
No. 1 Stony Brook beat No. 8 Albany; No. 2 Vermont beat No. 7 UMBC; No. 4 Boston University beat No. 5 Hartford; No. 6 New Hampshire beat No. 3 Maine.
Southern Tournament - Quarterfinals
S1 Wofford beat N4 UNC-Greensboro; N1 Appalachian State beat S4 The Citadel; N2 Western Carolina beat N6 Elon; S2 Charleston beat N3 Chattanooga.
MAAC Tournament - Quarterfinals
No. 1 Siena beat No. 9 Manhattan; No. 2 Fairfield beat No. 7 Canisius; No. 6 Niagara beat No. 3 Iona; No. 5 Rider beat No. 4 St Peter's.
Summit Tournament - Quarterfinals
No. 1 Oakland beat No. 8 UMKC; No. 2 IUPUI beat No. 7 Western Illinois.
Sun Belt Tournament - First Round
No. 9 South Alabama beat No. 8 Florida Atlantic; No. 4 Western Kentucky beat No. 13 New Orleans; No. 5 Arkansas State beat No. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock; No. 6 Denver beat No. 11 Florida International; No. 10 Louisiana-Monroe beat No. 7 Louisiana-Lafayette.
Big Sky Tournament - First Round
No. 6 Portland State beat No. 3 Montana State; No. 4 Montana beat No. 5 Northern Arizona.