Bracketology before the Selection, 3/13

Well, what seemed like a weak bubble became pretty competitive after a Saturday full of upsets in both mid-major conferences as well as the big boys. Houston knocked off UTEP to win the automatic bid for the Conference USA, and you have to think that UTEP will still get an at large bid after winning 26 games and nearly sweeping its conference with an RPI of 40. That development pushed out a mid-pack team from one of the major conferences, and teams in that group were hurt again as the clock approached midnight and New Mexico State knocked off Utah State to win the WAC championship. The U-St Aggies won 27 games, including a big one over BYU, and it is equally difficult to imagine them being left out, especially with an RPI in the top 30. (Remember when Air Force got an at large bid with 27 wins, beating no one in the RPI top 100?)

Meanwhile, teams that were way below the bubble on Thursday like Minnesota and Mississippi State find themselves back in the hunt after improbable runs towards their conference championships. At the moment, I give Minnesota the edge as their path seems to have been tougher, having beaten Michigan State and demolishing Purdue, and they seem to have the flair of a team possessed. Either team will likely knock the other out by winning tomorrow, but the real loser today was Illinois, who lost at home to Minnesota in its last regular season game, and then got sloppy on two potentially game winning possessions in a double overtime loss to what appears to be a destined Ohio State team today. After the Utah State loss, it is hard to see the 19-14 Illini getting into the tourney, even with 5 wins over current tourney teams (it also has 4 losses to teams not in the tourney). As an Indiana alum, I am clearly heartbroken by this development, as well as the massacre that Purdue was subjected to by a team with a buck-toothed mascot. I will cry myself to sleep.

As a result, even with a loss tomorrow, I have Minnesota as the very last team in the tourney, with Illinois out. That means Mississippi State will have to win the SEC Championship to get in, and if they do, and Minnesota loses a close game, amazingly, it should be the ACC that loses a team. Georgia Tech seems like a lock now that they have advanced to the title game, while Virginia Tech seems to be holding on by the skin of its teeth thanks to head to head wins over Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, and by virtue of finishing third outright in conference play. I truly believe that if Mississippi State and Minnesota both win, admittedly an unlikely scenario, Wake Forest will be the team that misses the cut- a reality that seemed utterly impossible just 24 hours ago. Oh, and teams like Florida, Rhode Island and Arizona State that appeared safe at that juncture? See ya!

Last four teams in: Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Minnesota, Wake Forest

Last four teams out: Illinois, Mississippi State, Florida, Rhode Island

EAST MIDWEST SOUTH WEST
1 Kentucky Kansas Duke Syracuse
2 Kansas State Purdue West Virginia Ohio State
3 New Mexico Villanova Temple Georgetown
4 Tennessee Michigan State Pittsburgh Baylor
5 Texas A & M Vanderbilt Wisconsin Butler
6 Maryland Richmond Gonzaga BYU
7 Marquette Texas Xavier Northern Iowa
8 Oklahoma St St. Mary’s SDSU Louisville
9 Florida State Missouri Notre Dame Clemson
10 UNLV UTEP Old Dominion California
11 Utah State Virginia Tech Georgia Tech Washington
12 Cornell Wake Forest Minnesota NMSU
13 Wofford Murray State Siena Oakland
14 Sam Houston State Houston Montana Ohio
15 North Texas UCSB Winthrop Morgan State
16 Vermont Robert Morris ETSU Lehigh/ Texas Southern
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