Bracket Watch: Bid Stealers Shaking Up Final 24 Hours

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It’s Championship Week, and Selection Sunday is nearly here. But first, there's the matter of settling the final men's NCAA tournament bids. Sports Illustrated will keep you updated on all the latest movement around the bracket throughout the weekend. Stay tuned as more teams punch their tickets, bid-stealers wreak havoc on the bubble and bubble teams make their final plea to the selection committee.

Saturday's games to watch:

Tennessee vs. Alabama, SEC semifinals: Tennessee looked like the elite team many expected them to be in the preseason in a wire-to-wire win over Florida Friday. A win over Alabama could bump the Vols up by a seed line. Meanwhile, the pursuit of a No. 1 seed may be over for Alabama, but the Tide would officially clinch a No. 2 with a win.

Result: Alabama 73, Tennessee 68

Iowa vs. Illinois, Big Ten semifinals: This game is a great chance for both teams to move up the seed list slightly. A win for the Illini would give them their 12th Quad 1 victory and yet another truly elite win, which would help in their pursuit of the No. 3 (or even No. 2) overall seed in the field. Meanwhile, any hope Iowa has of a No. 1 seed is predicated on a win in this one.

Result: Illinois 82, Iowa 71

Georgetown vs. Creighton, Big East championship: One of two significant bid-stealer games today, everyone on the bubble is a Creighton fan Saturday night. Patrick Ewing’s club could throw a wrench in everyone’s NCAA tournament hopes by sneaking in themselves with their fourth win in four days at MSG.

Result: Georgetown 73, Creighton 48

Oregon State vs. Colorado, Pac-12 championship: Like with Georgetown, Oregon State’s only path to the NCAA tournament is a win Saturday. That makes the Beavers a very dangerous team for the rest of the bubble, potentially stripping a bid from the likes of Colorado State near the cut line.

Oklahoma State vs. Texas, Big 12 championship: I just can’t get over the hump and put Oklahoma State on the No. 2 line with a NET of 26. Even with yet another elite win added to the ledger Friday against Baylor, I believe the metrics will hold the Cowboys back despite having the second-most Q1 wins of any team in the field. That said, winning the Big 12 tournament would force the committee to make a tough call and give us some insight into how much metrics are valued. 

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Illinois basketball

On the Bubble

Last Four Byes:

UCLA
Louisville
Michigan State
VCU

Last Four In:

Drake
Saint Louis
Wichita State
Utah State

First Four Out:

Syracuse
Colorado State
Boise State
Ole Miss

Next Four Out:

Seton Hall
Memphis
Xavier
Duke

We officially have our first bid-stealer: Georgetown. The Hoyas’ dominant win over Creighton in the Big East championship rips away a bid from the cut line, with Colorado State bounced from the most recent field. Wichita State, Utah State, Syracuse and Colorado State are in a virtual dead heat for what (for now) are the final two spots left in the field. Further bid-steals could complicate things further.

For now, I’m keeping Utah State in after losing in the Mountain West championship game and Wichita State in after its loss to Cincinnati, but that remains subject to change as we get closer to the selection show. Sunday morning’s NET announcement will be critical as we try to differentiate between Utah State, Wichita, Syracuse and Colorado State. I have some level of confidence in Saint Louis and Drake getting in as of now, but neither are out of the woods yet either. 

Bold indicates team has secured its conference's automatic bid

Gonzaga Region

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary's/Norfolk State
No. 8 Florida vs. No. 9 UConn
No. 5 Virginia vs. No. 12 Wichita State/Utah State
No. 4 Villanova vs. No. 13 Western Kentucky
No. 6 Oklahoma vs. No. 11 Drake/Saint Louis
No. 3 Arkansas vs. No. 14 UNC Greensboro
No. 7 Loyola Chicago vs. No. 10 St. Bonaventure
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Drexel

Gonzaga trailed late against a feisty BYU club in the WCC championship Tuesday night, but a late surge led by Jalen Suggs allowed the Bulldogs to complete an undefeated regular season. With that, Gonzaga is now a lock for the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s field. No matter what happens between now and Selection Sunday, the Zags will be the first school to hear its name called.

Ohio State’s slide continued over the weekend with a loss to Illinois, the Buckeyes’ fourth in a row. But after back-to-back wins in the Big Ten tournament over Purdue and Michigan, they're locked into the No. 2 line. Ohio State’s nine Quad 1 wins are second nationally, and combined with a No. 9 NET ranking, the team is positioned well.

Baylor Region

No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 16 Oral Roberts
No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Rutgers
No. 5 Tennessee vs. No. 12 UC Santa Barbara
No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 13 Ohio
No. 6 Missouri vs. No. 11 VCU
No. 3 Texas vs. No. 14 Abilene Christian
No. 7 Clemson vs. No. 10 UCLA
No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 15 Cleveland State

West Virginia had been charging hard for a No. 2 seed, but its hopes of sneaking past Ohio State or another team on the fringes took a big hit when the Mountaineers lost to Oklahoma State this weekend and then again on Thursday when they lost a rematch with the Cowboys in the Big 12 quarters.

One team I’m curious to figure out what the committee will do with is Missouri. The Tigers are one of nine teams in college basketball with seven Quad 1 wins, but their No. 43 NET is closer to that of a bubble team’s than a top-five seed. A strong showing inin Nashville this week would bolster the Tigers’ case to move up the seed list.

Illinois Region

No. 1 Illinois vs. No. 16 Appalachian State
No. 8 Oregon vs. No. 9 LSU
No. 5 Creighton vs. No. 12 Winthrop
No. 4 West Virginia vs. No. 13 Colgate
No. 6 Colorado vs. No. 11 Michigan State
No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 14 Morehead State
No. 7 Wisconsin vs. No. 10 Georgia Tech
No. 2 Houston vs. No. 15 Eastern Washington

Michigan’s loss to Ohio State combined with Illinois’s win over Iowa moves the Wolverines down to the No. 4 overall seed. A 12th Quad 1 victory for the Illini over the Hawkeyes is significant, and that combined with the recent head-to-head victory between the teams and Michigan’s fifth loss of the season pushed Brad Underwood’s club ahead on the seed list. It also essentially locks in the four No. 1 seeds. Michigan will stay as my No. 4 overall seed no matter what happens between Illinois and Ohio State on Sunday.

One story line also worth watching, particularly as more and more No. 1 seeds get knocked out of mid-major conference tournaments, is how mid-majors move up the seed list. Using the example of Morehead State, when the Eagles punched their ticket on Saturday night they were probably looking at a No. 15 seed. Losses around them have already moved them up to a No. 14, and it’s possible enough upsets could happen that Morehead State will move up to a No. 13. That move can be the difference between having a chance to pull an upset and not.

Michigan Region

No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 16 Hartford/Texas Southern
No. 8 BYU vs. No. 9 Virginia Tech
No. 5 USC vs. No. 12 Georgetown
No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 13 Liberty
No. 6 Texas Tech vs. No. 11 Louisville
No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 14 Grand Canyon
No. 7 San Diego State vs. No. 10 Maryland
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 15 Iona

Oklahoma State’s meteoric rise continues, as the Cowboys won again against West Virginia in the Big 12 quarterfinals to continue to add impressive wins to their résumé. Like with Missouri, the NET and KenPom aren’t big believers in OSU, but its body of work is difficult to ignore. My hunch is those metrics will cap Oklahoma State at a No. 3 seed no matter how it finishes at the Big 12 tournament.

Sweeney's full March Madness projection, as of March 13:

March 13 PM bracket watch update

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