Well, we're here. Almost. There's still that sticky "Mississippi State hijacking a bid" problem looming for the final few teams in the bracket, but a Tennessee win in the SEC final should finalize the picture below.
Click here for the final bracket projection
Despite a wild week, there are surprisingly few bids left up for grabs. And like always, the final candidates are all fairly interchangeable. You'll judge this exercise on whether this interpretation of split hairs matches the groupthink of the 10-person selection committee, but there's no "right answer."
In the end, it realistically comes down to seven teams for four spots if you believe San Diego State, despite just an OK overall profile, is safe after its strong MWC tourney. Pending the SEC final, the last four teams in are Arizona, Wisconsin, Maryland and Creighton. The last three out are Saint Mary's, Minnesota and Penn State. If Mississippi State takes the auto bid, Creighton goes to the NIT.
You can cut these decisions dozens of ways. Ultimately, quality of wins carried Arizona and Maryland, both of which showed they were capable of beating top-four seeds in the NCAAs. Maryland's under-.500 ACC mark is tempered by the Terps having now played seven games against teams that were ranked No. 1 at some point this season.
Wisconsin got in, well, it's not 100 percent clear why. If you're looking for Sunday's so-called shock omission (and a team that was seeded too high here most of this week), it will be the Badgers. In the end, the three-way tango in the Big Ten was broken by Wisconsin's large schedule strength advantage on Penn State (which has an embarrassing nonleague SOS of 313) and its slight schedule strength and overall standings advantage on Minnesota, which swept the Badgers but still finished a game behind them in the Big Ten. If you want to insert either omitted Big Ten team instead, it's fine.
Why Creighton instead of either of them or Saint Mary's? The Bluejays should be rewarded for playing their way into the picture, tying for the league crown in a pretty solid Missouri Valley and winning 11 straight before the league semis. They also are whole, so they get the mulligan over Saint Mary's, which didn't prove clearly enough that Patty Mills was fully back.
Resolving today's other intriguing subplot: the potential for a two-bid SEC. While the league has strong selection committee representation in chairperson Mike Slive (the league's commissioner), it's hard to make cases for additional bids when your bubble teams' nonconference SOS's are 268 (So. Carolina), 195 (Auburn), 161 (Miss. State, if it loses) and 248 (Florida). If you actually play someone before January, then 9-7 or 10-6 in conference play will enhance your profile, not mask it. Just ask the Big Ten.
Enjoy your Selection Sunday and the madness itself.
(Records listed are Division I only, per NCAA Tournament selection guidelines. All RPI and SOS data are from Sunday's collegerpi.com RPI report.)
Locks: North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, Florida State, ClemsonRemaining questions: Can Florida State play its way into a 3-seed if it beats Duke for the ACC crown? Has Maryland done just enough to hold on?
SHOULD BE INBoston College (22-11, 9-7; RPI: 60, SOS: 70) took a valiant swing at Duke but came up a point short. If the committee had any lingering reservations about the Eagles, that moral victory should have removed them.
SITTING AND WAITINGMaryland (20-13, 7-9; RPI: 55; SOS: 22) fell short for a third time this season against Duke after storming past Wake Forest and right into the last at-large line of the bracket.
Auto bid: MissouriLocks: Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma StateRemaining questions: Will the league get three top-three seeds? Will the Aggies need to send a thank you to Missouri?
SHOULD BE INNone.
SITTING AND WAITING Texas A&M (22-9, 9-7; RPI: 36, SOS: 52) -- and its at-large hopes -- took a really hard hit from Mike Singletary. No, not the former Bears MLB and 49ers head coach -- Texas Tech's Mike Singletary, who poured in 43 points in Texas Tech's epic rally from 20 points down. Now the Aggies should be really glad that they punched out Missouri to close the regular season. They appear to remain in the natural nine-seed range.
Auto bid: Louisville Locks: Pitt, Connecticut, Marquette, Villanova, Syracuse, West Virginia Remaining questions: Will UConn hold on to a No. 1 seed or be trumped by Memphis? What will the committee do with Marquette's seeding?
SHOULD BE INNone.
SITTING AND WAITING
Providence (19-13, 10-8; RPI: 72; SOS: 54) got pounded by Louisville in the BET quarters and now looks like it's headed to the NIT. Just not enough quality wins in its resume.
Locks: Michigan State, Purdue, Illinois, Ohio State Remaining questions: How much of a seeding push will Purdue or Ohio State get from a tournament title? How many of the league's four bubblers get in? O/U is set at 2.5
SHOULD BE INNone.
IN THE MIXWisconsin (18-12, 10-8, RPI: 45, SOS: 20) needs to hope the committee had the lingering assumption that the Badgers were fine and not take a closer look at the ol' résumé, which is devoid of any real quality wins. Michigan (19-13, 9-9; RPI: 44, SOS: 11) very well might get a better seed, assuming Wisconsin doesn't get bounced.
After another half-hour of examination, yesterday's determination that Penn State (22-11, 10-8; RPI: 70; SOS: 118) barely edged out Minnesota (21-10, 9-9, RPI: 42; SOS: 37) has been reversed, but it's unclear if that's enough to get the Gophers into the field.
Auto bid: USC Locks: Washington, Arizona State, UCLA, Cal Remaining questions: Did Arizona State blow that halftime lead just to spite Arizona? Will the committee believe the Cats' entire profile over the late-season slide?
SHOULD BE INNone.
SITTING AND WAITING Arizona (19-13, 9-9; RPI: 62, SOS: 36) has to keep hoping things don't decay further from here. Nonleague wins over beat Kansas, Gonzaga and San Diego State to add to home wins over Washington and UCLA could be very crucial, as their road record is weak. They also lost to Texas A&M (and UNLV) and went just 2-6 against the top four teams in the Pac-10.
Locks: LSU, Tennessee Remaining question: Did the final four bubble teams stand outside Mississippi State's hotel Saturday night with air horns?
SHOULD BE INNone.
IN THE MIX Mississippi State (21-12, 9-7; RPI: 67; SOS: 49) is the final bid thief of 2009. It doesn't appear that the Bulldogs can get in with a loss to the Vols, but maybe they're this season's Arkansas, the mystery inclusion from a couple of years back.
South Carolina (21-9, 10-6; RPI: 58; RPI: 95) got run over down the stretch of its quarterfinal with Mississippi State and probably trapdoored itself into the NIT (where the program has had great success this decade). Despite a 10-6 SEC mark and a share of the East crown, the Gamecocks ended up 0-4 against the RPI Top 50 when Florida fell out after its own loss, are only 5-7 away from home, and have a nonleague SOS in the 270s.
Auburn (21-11, 10-6; RPI: 63; SOS; 59) beat Florida (23-9, 9-7; RPI: 52; SOS: 94) in their knockout game, but lost to Tennessee in the semifinal and looks like it, too, is on the outside looking in.
Auto bid: TempleLocks: Xavier Remaining question: Will Temple start bottling its signature "Late-season Surge" as a Gatorade flavor?
SHOULD BE INDayton (26-7, 11-5; RPI: 29, SOS: 88) fell short of official lockdom, but should be fine on Sunday even after losing to Duquesne.
Auto bid: Utah Locks: BYU Remaining questions: Was the selection committee able to find the MWC final on Versus HD? How many last-second strips did we see this week that denied a possible game-tying shot?
SHOULD BE INSan Diego State (21-8, 11-5; RPI: 35, SOS: 35) sits pretty well after beating 1-seed BYU and then losing by a deuce to Utah in the conference final. The Aztecs looked like an NCAA team that could win games.
SITTING AND WAITINGWill a share of the regular-season title be enough for New Mexico (21-11, 12-4; RPI: 65, SOS: 87)? That's in serious question after the Lobos lost to 6-seed Wyoming in the last quarterfinal game Thursday. They picked a bad time for their first loss to a lower-division team.
UNLV(21-10, 9-7; RPI: 66, SOS: 90) may have a better overall profile than New Mexico, but it's really hard to see a way for the Rebels to make it after a fifth-place finish in a true double round-robin and a home loss in the quarters. There will be some good teams in this year's NIT.
Auto bids: Gonzaga, Siena, Memphis, Utah State, SienaLocks: Butler Remaining question: Is this it for this category, or will Creighton and/or Saint Mary's strike at-large gold?
SHOULD BE IN None.
SITTING AND WAITINGIn an unusual twist, especially for a mid-major, Creighton (26-7, 14-4; RPI: 41, SOS: 110) has seen its fortunes improve after getting blasted by Illinois State in the Valley semis. They had won 11 in a row before that, tied for the Valley crown, and have beaten New Mexico and Dayton in nonleague play. The Bluejays could be the team squeezed out if Mississippi State wins the SEC.
Saint Mary's (24-6, 10-4; RPI: 47; SOS: 156) eventually beat Eastern Washington by 20 and Patty Mills looked reasonably good judging from scant highlights. Now what? It's up to the committee to decide if this is the same team as before Patty Mills was hurt. The closer that answer is to yes, the closer the Gaels will be to the field. Without Mills, they beat Utah State for their best win of the season, and also beat San Diego State.
Davidson (25-7, 18-2; RPI: 69; SOS: 166) lost for the second time to College of Charleston and now it looks pretty likely the Wildcats will end up in the NIT. Their computer numbers and best win (West Virginia) mostly mimic Kentucky's, and those Wildcats aren't getting in, either. How about an NIT meeting of Stephen Curry and Jodie Meeks?