NCAA Tourney Projections: Final March
NEW YORK -- As far as the NCAA Tournament bubble teams, there might not be two bigger games than in the SEC Tournament Friday when Mississippi State plays Florida and Mississippi plays Tennessee.
Both Mississippi schools desperately need victories to improve their NCAA Tournament resume, while it wouldn't hurt Florida to get one more victory to strengthen its case for the NCAA Tournament. Tennessee (24-7) is safely in.
Other huge games for bubble teams Thursday include Washington against Stanford, Illinois against Wisconsin, Virginia Tech against Miami, Georgia Tech against Maryland, San Diego State against New Mexico, Rhode Island against Saint Louis and MInnesota against Michigan State.
Teams that likely saw their bubbles burst with losses Wednesday included a couple of Conference USA teams - Memphis and UAB. Both lost in the C-USA quarterfinals, killing their NCAA chances. Also, Arizona State was upset in the Pac-10 quarterfinals and that ultimately ended the Sun Devils' Big Dance hopes.
Here's a look at the projected NCAA Tournament field of 65 if the season ended Thursday. This does not attempt to predict future results. All records and RPI ratings, according to CollegeRPI.com, through Thursday's games.
ACC (7): Duke, Maryland, Florida State, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech.
ACC tournament: Through Sunday.
Breakdown: Duke's loss at Maryland cost the Blue Devils (26-5, 2 RPI) the outright ACC regular season title. However, Duke remains in solid position to earn a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. Maryland, Florida State and Clemson should feel very confident about their NCAA tournament hopes, but the league's remaining three teams in my NCAA projections -- Wake Forest (19-10, 37 RPI), Virginia Tech (23-7, 53 RPI) and Georgia Tech (20-11, 41 RPI) -- may have some anxious moments if they don't advance far in the ACC tournament. Wake Forest lost to Miami Thursday. Georgia Tech beat North Carolina in Thursday's opening round and plays Maryland Friday..
Atlantic 10 (3): Temple, Xavier, Richmond.
Atlantic 10 tournament: Through Sunday.
Breakdown: Rhode Island (22-8, 40 RPI) lost two of its last three entering A-10 Tournament, but opened with an expected win against Saint Joseph's. Saint Louis (20-10, 83 RPI) is up next Thursday which could be a big boost for the Rams.
Big East (9): Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Marquette, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Seton Hall.
Big East tournament: Through Saturday.
Breakdown: For now, I'll put Seton Hall in. However, the Pirates (19-12, 59 RPI) could quickly find themselves back out if Rhode Island, Mississippi State or Illinois makes deep runs in their respective conference tournaments. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Villanova each lost its Big East tournament openers, but the Orange still should remain a No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed. Any doubts about Notre Dame (23-10, 45 RPI) have been erased by the Fighting Irish advancing to the Big East semifinals against West Virginia.
Big Ten (4): Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin.
Big Ten tournament: Through Sunday.
Breakdown: A solid four bids and Illinois (18-13, 78 RPI) and Minnesota (19-12, 73 RPI) hope to get back in the NCAA conversation. To do that Illinois needs an upset of Wisconsin Friday and Minnesota needs to do the same against Michigan State.
Big 12 (7): Kansas, Kansas State, Texas, Baylor, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Missouri.
Big 12 tournament: Through Saturday.
Breakdown: This has been a solid seven-bid league for a few weeks. Kansas (30-2, 1 RPI) is locked into a No. 1 seed, while Kansas State (25-6, 6 RPI) also had an outside shot at a No. 1 seed until losses to Kansas and Iowa State killed those chances. Still, all seven teams are locked into the NCAA tournament.
Mountain West (4): New Mexico, BYU, UNLV, San Diego State.
Mountain West tournament: Through Saturday.
Breakdown: Of the four projected Mountain West teams, San Diego State (23-8, 32 RPI) is the only one that must have a strong showing in the MWC tournament. The Aztecs are one of the last projected teams in. They edged Colorado State Thursday and take on New Mexico Friday.
Pacific 10 (2): California, Washington.
Pacific 10 tournament: Through Saturday.
Breakdown: With so many bubble teams flailing down the stretch, I think that opens up a spot for the Pac-10. Arizona State (22-10, 62 RPI) lost to the Pac-10 quarterfinals and is out, but Washington (22-9, 49 RPI) can still get the Pac-10 a second bid. The Huskies need a win Friday against Stanford. The last time the Pac-10 only received one NCAA bid was in 1978 when it was only a 32-team tournament. Because of the Pac-10's "power conference" status, I think even if Cal (22-9, 20 RPI) wins the Pac-10 tournament, Washington gets a second bid.
SEC (5): Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida, Ole Miss.
SEC tournament: Through Sunday.
Breakdown: Ole Miss (21-9, 57 RPI) appears back in -- for now. The Rebels' roller coaster season is arcing up again. After a 1-4 stretch, the Rebels have won four consecutive games. They may need a victory against Tennessee in Friday's quarterfinals. Florida (21-11, 52 RPI) defeated Auburn on Thursday. The Gators now face Mississippi State (21-10, 68 RPI) in Friday's quarterfinals, a game that is bigger for the Bulldogs than the Gators.
West Coast (2): *St. Mary's, Gonzaga.
West Coast tournament final: St. Mary's defeated Gonzaga 81-62
Breakdown: The Gaels (26-5) clinched the automatic berth Monday night be defeating Gonzaga 81-62. This locks up two bids for the West Coast, although Gonzaga (26-6) will have the higher seed.
One bid leagues
America East: Vermont
Atlantic Sun: East Tennessee State*
Big Sky: Montana*
Big South: Winthrop*
Big West: UC Santa Barbara
Colonial: Old Dominion*
Conference USA: UTEP
Metro Atlantic: Siena*
Mid-Eastern: Morgan State
Missouri Valley: Northern Iowa*
Northeast: Robert Morris*
Ohio Valley: Murray State*
Southland: Sam Houston State
Sun Belt: North Texas*
SWAC: Arkansas Pine Bluff
Western Athletic: Utah State
* Earned conference's automatic bid to NCAA tournament.
Contact FanHouse senior writer Brett McMurphy at firstname.lastname@example.org