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Bracketology 2021: Friday defines ‘mixed bag’ for bubble teams (Updated with Duke)

While Drake, Louisville, and Syracuse can breathe a bit easier now, a pair of unexpected conference title matchups tonight means they’re not yet out of danger.

NCAA Basketball: PAC-12 Conference Tournament Oregon vs Oregon State
Might Oregon State ruin someone’s at-large dreams tonight?
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, let me take a look back at Friday before revealing this morning’s full bracket. For a full preview of Saturday’s action, check out today’s viewer’s guide.

  • While most of the power conference tournaments went largely chalk or at least have remaining matchups that feature only teams locked into the field, there are two significant exceptions. The first is the Big East, where Georgetown burst Seton Hall’s bubble to move on to tonight’s final against second-seeded Creighton. The Hoyas are 12-12, so they won’t qualify if they lose tonight. That means bubble fans should be cheering hard against the Hoyas, which won’t be hard for at least one of the fanbases involved.
  • The other potential party crasher comes out of the Pac-12, as Oregon State let top-seeded Oregon get within five late in their tournament semifinal on Friday night. Then, the Beavers stepped on the gas, earning a championship date with Colorado. While Oregon State is 15-12 in Division I games, a NET ranking of 97th means the Beavers will also need to win tonight to qualify.
  • The American is the other conference to keep an eye on as its semifinals play out late this afternoon in Fort Worth. Top-seeded Wichita State survived its quarterfinal against USF to set up a semifinal with Cincinnati, who defeated SMU in the Mustangs’ first game in over a month. While that ended SMU’s theoretical bubble chance, the Bearcats remain as a potential late bid-earner, while the Shockers’ position has improved by virtue of the bubble collapsing around them. Game two is a rematch of Sunday’s thrilling 67-64 Houston win over Memphis, a game the Cougars needed a buzzer-beater to claim on their own floor. If the Tigers can flip the script today, the American will suddenly go from a one-bid league to a potential three-bid league.
  • From a seeding perspective, the Big 12 title game and Big Ten SEC semifinals are the most intriguing matchups today. In Kansas City, Oklahoma State, now the top No. 3 seed, meets Texas, my projected third No. 3, with a potential two seed on the line (particularly if Houston loses to Memphis). Meanwhile, in Nashville, the top four seeds advanced to the SEC semifinals. Top-seeded Alabama, who could earn a No. 1 seed if there’s chaos in Indianapolis, meets Tennessee, positioned to get back to the four line, in game one. Then, Arkansas, sandwiched between Oklahoma State and Texas on line three, meets LSU. The Tigers, a mid-bracket squad, basically popped Ole Miss’s bubble last night. In the Big Ten, the semifinals pair projected top seeds against twos, as Michigan meets Ohio State and Illinois faces Iowa.
  • For the third straight year, the Mountain West final features San Diego State and Utah State. While the Aztecs are a lock, the Aggies might as well just try to end all of their anxiety by claiming the league’s auto bid for a third straight time. Despite its semifinal loss to USU, Colorado State remains in as the final team in the field. There’s more on that in this morning’s look at the cut line.

The Bracket

Stars (✴️) indicate new entrants, while arrows (⬆️ ⬇️) indicate movement up and down the seed list since Friday. In a change for this season, teams that have won their auto bids are in gold-colored cells.


IN (4): Buffalo (MAC), Eastern Washington (Big Sky), Fairfield (MAAC), Norfolk State (MEAC)
OUT: Coppin State (MEAC), Saint Peter’s (MAAC), Southern Utah (Big Sky), Toledo (MAC)

Last Four Byes: UCLA, Michigan State, VCU, Drake
Last Four IN: Louisville, Utah State, Syracuse, Colorado State
First Four OUT: Saint Louis, Boise State, Ole Miss, Memphis
Next Four OUT: Duke, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Xavier, SMU

Update 1:54 p.m. Eastern: According to the News & Observer, Duke’s season isn’t necessarily over. So, the Blue Devils are back on the bubble and SMU drops off.

Bids By Conference

Big Ten: 9
ACC 8:
Big 12: 7
SEC: 6
Pac-12: 4
Big East: 3
MW: 2
American: 2
Atlantic 10: 2
Missouri Valley: 2
WCC: 2
One-bid conferences: 20

I will complete a full seed list scrub tonight, so expect some changes in Selection Sunday’s first bracket based on that alone. And who knows what today’s on-court action will lead to.