After Sunday night's first go-through, even with fairly generous standards of inclusion, there were still 10 at-large spots available. Yet,
That means two at-large spots went to true mid-majors: Saint Mary's (WCC) and William & Mary (CAA).
And here's the kicker: If the real bracket in March is anything like this, it's the mid-majors' fault.
Yes, it's well documented that mids get hosed in scheduling, but they also know the two parts of their side of the bargain: Take your shots when you do get them, and don't blow stupid games elsewhere. Now look at what some of the peripheral at-large candidates from mid-major leagues have done:
Even some of the teams positioned for automatic bids, like UAB, Cornell, Louisiana Tech and Siena, could be questionable at best if they don't win their league tournaments (or, in Cornell's case, outlast Harvard in the Ivy's round-robin), in large part because they missed on their biggest nonleague chances.
With the pool of mediocrity around the bubble, this should have been the year mids reversed the recent trend and grabbed a larger piece of the at-large pie. Now, unless strong favorites like Gonzaga, Butler and Northern Iowa lose in their league tourneys, it probably will be more of the same. It didn't have to be that way, but very few of the mid-majors took care of enough of their own business.
GW: Good wins over top-50ish foes.
BL: Bad losses to teams outside top 100 or to direct bubble competitors.
The Blue Devils' bad night at N.C. State moves them further away from the 1-seed line, but they're
Nice bounceback for
Texas' first two losses cost them a No. 1 seed but not its lock status. After the league's top three, things remain very up for grabs.
A week after
Also, back from the dead (for now) is
Feeling generous, we'll leave Pitt here for now, even after Sunday's surprise drop at Seton Hall. The overall profile remains very strong and the schedule looks very likely to get the Panthers to at least 11 Big East wins, which will be plenty with who they have beaten. West Virginia jumps back in after a really impressive nonleague sweep of dangerous in-state rival Marshall (something like 10 of the last 12 in the series have been decided by six points or fewer) and Ohio State after a big second-half rally.
After that? There's plenty of time for a number of teams to slot in as Big East team No. 6.
If UConn just "needed" a coaching change, did
The Spartans, at 7-0, are all but in the NCAAs, so let's lock them up. The next three in the pecking order should comfortably join them.
Beating Illinois helped
This league is still a mess and remains strongly in contention to end up a one-bid league. It really could happen. In fact, let's call it now: it's going to happen. Just like in a mid-major league, when teams with mediocre profiles beat up on each other in conference play, no one wins.
Who else should even be mentioned at this point?
With Texas' reverse two-step, Kentucky moves ever closer to locking up a 1 seed in the NCAAs. The Cats will find some road tests down the stretch of the season, but as the other competitors for the top line slide, they're starting to compile some room for error, too.
Alabama's not bad, but if
The Owls took out the league's other unbeaten, Xavier, in Philly in the teams' only meeting. Despite that, the X-Men may be solidifying their position as other teams drop behind them.
An interesting bubble debate has arisen as William & Mary lost twice and dropped to fourth in the league, two games behind the top three, which includes two teams (George Mason and Northeastern) that are not at-large hopefuls. VCU really isn't one either at this point after its fourth league loss.
The bubble may be bursting for
BYU continues to impress and is a win at New Mexico away from really putting a chokehold on the conference. If the Cougars win the league by too many games and win the auto bid, could the MWC possibly get shut out in the at-large pool?
In a blow to the league's two-bid hopes, Northern Iowa lost at Wichita State and then the Shockers turned around and were handled at Drake.
Despite a good record,
UAB continues to be the best hope for an at-large, and the Blazers took another step toward that level of insurance this week.
Siena (MAAC), Cornell (Ivy), Louisiana Tech (WAC).