Saturday: Aztecs shake up West, Memphis, Princeton ready to dance
San Diego State got the revenge it wanted, and it could lead to a significant shake-up in the bracket. It seems likely now the Aztecs will bump BYU from the West regional and stake a claim to at least a 2-seed. That would push BYU into the Southeast Regional in New Orleans (the other Thursday/Saturday regional) ... and now seeding is very much up in the air for the Cougars, who are 3-2 without Brandon Davies (two blowout losses).
What was a good day for bubble teams has turned unfavorable in the late afternoon. Penn State likely punched its ticket to the dance by rolling past Michigan State and into the Big Ten title game. With four or five credible wins and only one bad loss, the Nittany Lions' profile (relatively) holds up well to others at the cutline.
The news worsened when Richmond, which wasn't 100 percent safe, beat Temple to make the A-10 final and, for all intents, lock up an at-large. Now all bubblers will have to root for the Spiders to beat Dayton on Sunday to keep the Flyers from thieving a bid for themselves.
And, if it was it was going to happen, the way the Ivy playoff went down made Harvard a favorable at-large candidate. Douglas Davis' leaner at the buzzer pushed Princeton past the Crimson and into the NCAAs, while dropping Harvard into the at-large mix, as its résumé features a low-30s RPI and wins at Boston College and over Colorado. I don't know if Harvard will quite get there, but having the Crimson as an at-large option is another issue for fellow bubblers.
If you're a bubble team already done with your season, you're pretty happy with the way this afternoon has gone. After Memphis snatched the auto bid from C-USA, Michigan, Clemson and Alabama each lost in their semifinals, with the Tide getting overrun by Kentucky. The Wolverines are in decent shape to make the tournament, but Clemson and Alabama will be two heavily debated teams right at the cutline, so the fact that neither won today helps teams like Saint Mary's, Boston College and VCU. It also gives Penn State an enormous opportunity in the second Big Ten semifinal against Michigan State.
Memphis only led once in the C-USA final, but it was for the final seven seconds and that was good enough to swipe the C-USA auto bid from UTEP
After a huge series of results on Friday, the bubble picture hasn't really cleared up very well at all. There are a lot of spots still available at the cutline, but the bubble profiles are so incomparable and flawed that it's really impossible to determine any concrete order based on a consistent application of criteria.
Entering play on Saturday, there are eight at-large spots available for 16 teams of variable quality. Here's how the breakout looks:
• Last four first-round byes: Illinois, Colorado, Michigan, Virginia Tech
• Last four in (First Four in Dayton): Penn St, Alabama, Georgia, Memphis
• First four out: USC, Clemson, VCU, Saint Mary's
• Next four out: Boston College, UAB, Harvard, Missouri State
Starting with Virginia Tech and ending with Saint Mary's, you can make logical arguments for almost any ordering of the teams. I spent about 90 minutes last night looking over this batch and still don't have a ton of conviction about any of it.
It's worth noting that Memphis being the last team in is a phantom position, since today's bracket has UTEP as the C-USA auto bid. By this afternoon, the Tigers will either have won the title and the auto bid or lost and likely would miss an at-large. Either way, an at-large spot almost certainly will open up -- unless, of course, Utah State loses the WAC title game and Boise State claims an unexpected spot in the field.
If one is available, Clemson can get there by beating North Carolina. Otherwise, it will take another round of evaluation to see if the order is correct. Also note that Penn State and Alabama also play semifinals, and if they lose, they're not assured of holding on to their tenuous at-large positions.
In auto-bid land:
Records listed are Division I only, per NCAA Tournament selection guidelines. All RPI and SOS data are from Friday's collegerpi.com RPI report.
GW = good wins.
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Both league heavyweights won their quarterfinals, although North Carolina needed a buzzer-beater to subdue Miami. Both will be favored to win their semis. If Duke can win out, the Blue Devils could poach a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs. Carolina looks to be playing to secure a No. 2. In bubble land, did Seth Greenberg's luck finally change for the good? His club may make the NCAAs by a fingertip.
Kansas and Texas will meet in a highly anticipated rematch for the Big 12 tournament crown after the Longhorns faded down the stretch and let Kansas poach a seventh straight league championship. Colorado is feeling decent about its chances despite a seven-point loss to KU.
Louisville and UConn will square off in the title game, with UConn playing its fifth game in five days. Louisville's OT win over Notre Dame may end up costing the Irish a No. 1 seed. How high can the winner on Saturday go? A 3-seed is most likely, but could a 2 be in the offing?
Ohio State is the only top team left after Purdue was crushed by Michigan State and Wisconsin lost to Penn State in a horrific but very meaningful game for the Nittany Lions.
Bubblers are happy now that Arizona and Washington will face off in the final. There will be no bid thief in the Pac-10. The Huskies will dance even with a very so-so resume. I'll leave them in the category below for clarity and semantics' sake, but they should be safe now.
Georgia gagged away its quarterfinal with Alabama and now may be in serious bubble trouble. The Tide isn't completely safe, either, but has a chance against Kentucky on Saturday to ice things.
One side of the bracket looks normal, with Temple and Richmond squaring off. The other side is "holy heck, what happened?!?!" weird, with 9-seed Dayton wearing white uniforms against 12-seed (the last team let into the postseason tourney) Saint Joseph's. We'll have a bid thief in the final regardless of Saturday's results.
Just another day in the MWC, with Jimmer Ferdette dropping a 52-point piledriver on nemesis New Mexico and D.J. Gay dropping a final-seconds teardrop that brought tears to the eyes of UNLV. BYU-SDSU III should be epic and could be for a 2-seed (or better??) in the West regional.
Can Memphis nip an at-large with a tight loss at UTEP in the C-USA final? Can Utah State save an at-large for someone else by winning the WAC crown? They edged San Jose State to move into (presumed) lock status.