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BracketBuster Saturday Projection - 21 February 2009

I took a break from preparing today's bracket (seed list, bracket trends) to head to a bar to watch VCU and Nevada in the BracketBusters last night. It looked like the Rams were going to pick up the win until Mark Fox got ejected with a little more than eight minutes to go. (I think he would've spontaneously combusted had he been on the court for the questionable offensive foul called just after his ejection.) They had a nine-point lead after Eric Maynor hit both free throws for the second technical, but the Wolf Pack roared back after that. The margin would have been four, but Joey Rodriguez hit a three-quarter court three to make it a 71-70 final.

The Rams are in the bracket as the Colonial's auto bid, and a 13-seed right now. The Wolf Pack aren't in, as they're three games behind Utah State in the WAC. However, they still host the Aggies a week from tonight and host the WAC tournament. Maybe last night's win will provide the boost that propels Nevada into the Dance.

Little Change at the Top

My four number one seeds are the same, but Oklahoma has moved into the top spot overall. Pitt is now second overall after their big win over UConn on Monday night. The Huskies fall to fourth overall. One has to wonder if that game would've been any different had Hasheem Thabeet not received a questionable fifth foul with plenty of time left. But these two will meet at least once more, in Pittsburgh on March 7. North Carolina stays in third overall.

ACC Teams Flip Places on Lines Two and Three

Wake Forest moves up to the 2-line, switching places with Duke. They very well may switch again in Monday's bracket, since they meet for the second time this year in Durham on Sunday night. Louisville, Memphis, and Michigan State remain 2-seeds. Clemson, Marquette, and Missouri stay on the 3 line.

Looking for Some Western Teams to Rise

Purdue moves up to a protected seed this week, as they've won three straight, including a blowout victory over Michigan State on Tuesday night. Kansas, Villanova, and Xavier remain on the 4 line. The Musketeers really need to start winning again to stay here. Arizona State falls down to a five. They join two other Western teams on this line, Gonzaga and UCLA. This means that the Eastern and Central time zone teams on the 4 line who have to travel to Boise and Portland face potentially troublesome second-round matchups.

Eight Big Ten Teams This Week

At the bottom of the bracket, Michigan and Penn State replace Kansas State and Saint Mary's as at-larges. Two straight wins over fellow bubble dwellers, Northwestern and Minnesota, help the Wolverines, along with their non-conference wins over Duke and UCLA. The Nittany Lions also beat the Gophers (who are falling down the S-curve) and Illinois (in one of the worst games ever). They may not have the non-conference strength to stay in long-term, however. I think the Patrick Mills-less Gaels have a lot to prove today against Utah State. K-State's case is being hampered by the relative weakness of the Big 12 this season.

Virginia Tech is another team on a very short leash at the moment, after losses to Maryland and Virginia. They really need to beat fast-riser Florida State tonight. A win against Wake Forest can only count for so much when your next best wins are against Boston College (even if they appear safe at the moment) and Miami (a team who has trouble closing out wins).

UNLV now has three losses against the bottom half of the Mountain West. Non-conference wins over Arizona and Louisville are keeping them in at the moment. Games against BYU at home and at Utah and San Diego State will go a long way to determining their at-large fate.

Since there are eight Big Ten teams in today's bracket, there's the potential for a Michigan-Wisconsin matchup in the regional semifinals, something that was difficult to avoid with the clustering of Mountain West teams on the 10-12 lines and Virginia Tech already being dropped a seed line to prevent a similar earlier-than-desirable matchup with an ACC team. (This would be a little less forgivable with seven ACC teams in the field.)

Next bracket will be out late Monday evening.