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Men’s Bracket Watch: Bubble Action Steady in Tuesday’s Games

James Madison wins Sun Belt tournament and the WCC won’t have a bid stealer as Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s advance to the title game.

Welcome to Selection Sunday week! Sports Illustrated will be publishing daily updates of its projected men’s NCAA tournament field to keep you up to date on where things stand heading into the selection show. So as automatic bids get locked up, bubble teams fight for their seat at the table and top teams compete for seeding, keep an eye out for all of the latest updates from SI.

[ 2024 March Madness: Latest News & Analysis ]

Monday’s action lacked much drama from a bracket standpoint. The James Madison Dukes and Samford Bulldogs clinched automatic bids they had been projected to hold, and no projected tournament team lost. Here’s a look at the latest bracket update and what to watch for on Tuesday. 

On the Bubble

Last Four Byes:

Seton Hall Pirates
Michigan State Spartans
TCU Horned Frogs
Mississippi State Bulldogs

Last Four In:

Virginia Cavaliers
St. John's Red Storm
Colorado Buffaloes
New Mexico Lobos

First Four Out:

Indiana State Sycamores
Texas A&M Aggies
Villanova Wildcats
Providence Friars

Next Four Out:

Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Pittsburgh Panthers
Kansas State Wildcats
Iowa Hawkeyes

Bubble teams were grateful for the anticlimactic Monday. James Madison’s Sun Belt championship means the Dukes stay out of the potential at-large pool and avoid a week of debate balancing JMU’s poor nonconference schedule with its nation-leading win total. Expect the Dukes to land on the No. 11 line on Selection Sunday, with the floor a No. 12.

We also officially won’t get a bid stealer from the WCC with the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Saint Mary’s Gaels set to play for that league’s championship Tuesday night. Both teams got early challenges from their respective semifinal foes, but eventually pulled away for double-figure victories and now can only help their respective résumés Tuesday night.

Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Dusty Stromer (4) applies the advancing team sticker on the bracket against the San Francisco Dons after the game in the semifinals of the WCC Basketball Championship at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on March 11, 2024.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs celebrate after winning their WCC tournament semifinal game against San Francisco.

There are no teams in the realistic at-large pool play Tuesday night, so there shouldn’t be much movement around the bubble in the next 24 hours. Notable action begins Wednesday, including the Oklahoma Sooners taking on TCU, New Mexico and Villanova facing must-wins against the lowly Air Force Falcons and DePaul Blue Demons, respectively, and Kansas State looking to keep faint at-large hope alive with a win over the Texas Longhorns.

Automatic bids determined Tuesday:

  • CAA: No. 1 Charleston Cougars vs. No. 7 Stony Brook Seawolves, 7 p.m. ET
  • Horizon: No. 1 Oakland Golden Grizzlies vs. No. 6 Milwaukee Panthers, 7 p.m. ET
  • NEC: No. 6 Wagner Seahawks vs. No. 2 Merrimack Warriors, 7 p.m. ET
  • WCC: No. 1 Saint Mary’s Gaels vs. No. 2 Gonzaga Bulldogs, 9 p.m. ET
  • Summit: No. 1 South Dakota State Jackrabbits vs. No. 7 Denver Pioneers, 9:30 p.m. ET

** indicates clinched automatic bid
* indicates projected automatic bid

Midwest Region

No. 1 Purdue Boilermakers* vs. No. 16 Merrimack Warriors*/Grambling Tigers*
No. 8 Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. No. 9 Florida Atlantic Owls
No. 5 Clemson Tigers vs. No. 12 Grand Canyon Antelopes*
No. 4 Auburn Tigers vs. No. 13 McNeese State Cowboys*
No. 6 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. No. 11 Drake Bulldogs**
No. 3 Baylor Bears vs. No. 14 Vermont Catamounts*
No. 7 Utah State Aggies* vs. No. 10 TCU Horned Frogs
No. 2 Marquette Golden Eagles vs. No. 15 Colgate Raiders*

Gonzaga’s résumé keeps getting better and better after beating the San Francisco Dons on Monday night in WCC semifinal action. A win Tuesday night against Saint Mary’s would give Gonzaga, once thought to be a bubble team, at least a small chance at a protected top-four seed. A No. 5 seems more likely, but few if any teams are hotter than the Bulldogs.

If not locked before, Florida Atlantic beating the Memphis Tigers on Saturday ensures Dusty May’s team will hear its name called on Selection Sunday. Even with two Quad 4 losses, the Owls should be, at worst, a No. 10 seed. However, bubble teams will be hoping FAU can win the American Athletic Conference tournament, putting another at-large bid up for grabs in the process.

East Region

No. 1 UConn Huskies* vs. No. 16 Quinnipiac Bobcats*
No. 8 Colorado State Rams vs. No. 9 Nebraska Cornhuskers
No. 5 BYU Cougars vs. No. 12 Richmond Spiders*
No. 4 Illinois Fighting Illini vs. No. 13 Charleston Cougars*
No. 6 Dayton Flyers vs. No. 11 James Madison Dukes**
No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 14 Toledo Rockets*
No. 7 Saint Mary’s Gaels* vs. No. 10 Michigan State Spartans
No. 2 Iowa State Cyclones vs. No. 15 South Dakota State Jackrabbits*

Kentucky now has two monster road wins after winning at the Tennessee Volunteers over the weekend. That pushed John Calipari’s team to the top end of the No. 3 line. A nice SEC tournament showing could easily elevate the Wildcats to a No. 2 seed, especially if Marquette or Iowa State lose early in conference tournament play. 

South Region

No. 1 Houston Cougars* vs. No. 16 Longwood Lancers**
No. 8 Washington State Cougars vs. No. 9 Northwestern Wildcats
No. 5 San Diego State Aztecs vs. No. 12 South Florida Bulls*
No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide vs. No. 13 Samford Bulldogs**
No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers vs. No. 11 Colorado Buffaloes/New Mexico Lobos
No. 3 Creighton Bluejays vs. No. 14 Morehead State Eagles**
No. 7 Texas Longhorns vs. No. 10 Mississippi State Bulldogs
No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels* vs. No. 15 Sam Houston State BearKats*

Samford, locked in for the program’s first NCAA men’s tournament berth since 2000, comes in on the No. 13 line. The 29-win Bulldogs have a legitimate case for a No. 12 seed, but could use some help from teams above them on the seed list losing to strengthen that. Bucky McMillan’s team plays a breakneck run-and-press style that will be difficult for teams to prepare for in the Big Dance.

Things have officially gotten uncomfortable for Mississippi State after MSU lost its final four regular-season games. Let’s see how far elite home wins against Auburn and Tennessee can take the Bulldogs. A loss to the LSU Tigers in the SEC tournament on Thursday might knock the Bulldogs out of the field altogether, and if not would, it likely sends MSU to the First Four for a second straight year.

West Region

No. 1 Tennessee Volunteers* vs. No. 16 Stetson Hatters**/Norfolk State Spartans*
No. 8 Boise State Broncos vs. No. 9 Oklahoma Sooners
No. 5 South Carolina Gamecocks vs. No. 12 Princeton Tigers*
No. 4 Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 13 UC Irvine Anteaters*
No. 6 Nevada Wolf Pack vs. No. 11 Virginia Cavaliers/St. John’s Red Storm
No. 3 Kansas Jayhawks vs. No. 14 Oakland Golden Grizzlies*
No. 7 Florida Gators vs. No. 10 Seton Hall Pirates
No. 2 Arizona Wildcats* vs. No. 15 Montana Grizzlies*

Tennessee is maintaining a hold on the last No. 1 seed, barely edging out North Carolina despite the Vols’ loss at home against Kentucky over the weekend. The Heels do have a head-to-head win there, but Tennessee has the better top-to-bottom résumé as things stand today. If North Carolina wins the ACC tournament and the Vols slip up in the SEC, expect UNC to jump them. Arizona isn’t quite out of the No. 1 conversation, but it will be difficult to jump both teams after a loss over the weekend to the USC Trojans.