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Bracketology 2021: A decent Saturday for mid-major bubble teams

Power conference teams largely left themselves with work to do when tournament play tips off on Tuesday and Wednesday.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri Valley Conference Tournament-Missouri State vs Drake
Missouri State gave Drake a fight in the second Arch Madness semifinal on Saturday, but the Bulldogs prevailed and set themselves up for an at-large if they fail to win the title today.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

While the final Saturday of the regular season didn’t affect the top of the bracket too much, Ohio State did drop to the last No. 2 seed and Villanova fell to the final No. 3 following their respective losses to Illinois and Providence. I’m not too worried about the Buckeyes falling further, but the Wildcats are in real trouble without Collin Gillespie (knee) and potentially Justin Moore (ankle). Otherwise, Virginia replaced Florida State as the top ACC team in the field, following the Cavaliers’ win over Louisville and the Seminoles’ defeat at Notre Dame. That combination of results gave Tony Bennett’s team the top seed in the ACC Tournament this week.

But the Cardinals’ home loss to Virginia was one of several bubble contests that shook up the picture at the cut line. Louisville now finds itself holding the final bye, meaning a trip to the First Four is not off the table should the Cards lose in Greensboro on Wednesday.

The bubble teams that got the best news yesterday are those from the Atlantic 10, Missouri Valley, and Mountain West. In both Richmond and St. Louis, the top two seeds booked places in their respective league finals. Loyola Chicago and Drake will meet today to settle Arch Madness (2 p.m., CBS), while St. Bonaventure and VCU will travel to Dayton in one week’s time to conclude the A 10’s festivities. All four teams are in line to make the field win or lose, though Saint Louis’ blowout loss to the Bonnies in yesterday’s first Atlantic 10 semifinal will leave the Billikens sweating.

In the Mountain West, Colorado State remains in and Boise State rejoins the field despite midweek makeup losses, while Utah State is the third team out following a Saturday night win at Fresno State. Thanks to the strength of their wins, the Rams and Broncos get the edge on the Aggies for the moment, and this parade of results elsewhere helped contribute to their current good fortune:

  • Xavier fell to Marquette and Seton Hall opened up an 18-0 lead on St. John’s, and lost by 10, to fall to 13-12. The Musketeers remain in the field, barely, thanks to their home wins over Oklahoma and Creighton, but both they and the Pirates will need to grab some wins at MSG. And that won’t be easy with the Red Storm now back in the picture. UConn, meanwhile, moved to lock status by defeating Georgetown.
  • While Louisville had a bad Saturday, Duke’s was worse. The Blue Devils fell to .500, 11-11, and they need to play on ACC Tournament Tuesday, against 15th-seeded Boston College. This is why Duke joins teams like Indiana and Minnesota outside of the teams under consideration group. I just don’t see the Selection Committee considering teams at .500 or below, even in this most unusual season.
  • Rutgers moved closer to lock status, even if the Scarlet Knights needed OT to win at Minnesota. Indiana’s loss at Purdue pushed them to two games under .500, one game worse than the Golden Gophers.
  • Ole Miss defeated Vanderbilt to keep its hopes alive, while idle Syracuse might have been the day’s biggest winner. The Orange now sit as the second team out heading into Wednesday’s ACC Tournament 8 vs. 9 game against an NC State squad that’s also still alive.

After today’s full bracket, I’ll take a look at some changes in the automatic bid pool.

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 (8): Boise State, Bryant (NEC), Colgate (Patriot), Georgia State (Sun Belt), Grand Canyon (WAC), Hartford (AE), Morehead State (OVC), Nicholls State (Southland)
OUT: Belmont (OVC), Navy (Patriot), Saint Louis, Sam Houston State (Southland), Texas State (Sun Belt), UMBC (AE), Utah Valley (WAC), Wagner (NEC)

Last Four Byes: North Carolina, VCU, Drake, Louisville
Last Four IN: Michigan State, Colorado State, Boise State, Xavier,
First Four OUT: Saint Louis, Syracuse, Utah State, St. John’s
Second Four OUT: Ole Miss, Memphis, SMU, NC State
Third Four OUT: Seton Hall, Richmond, Stanford, Belmont

Locks and Bubble by Conference

For Sunday, March 7, 2021

Conference (Bids) Locks (54) Bubble IN (6) Last Four Byes/ Last Four In (8) Bubble Out (12)
Conference (Bids) Locks (54) Bubble IN (6) Last Four Byes/ Last Four In (8) Bubble Out (12)
Big Ten (9) 6: 1. Michigan*,
1. Illinois,
2. Iowa,
2. Ohio State,
4. Purdue,
7. Wisconsin
2: 10. Maryland,
10. Rutgers
1: 11. Michigan State
(First Four)
ACC (7) 4: 4. Virginia*,
6. Florida State*,
6. Clemson,
7. Virginia Tech
1: 9. Georgia Tech 2: 10. North Carolina,
11. Louisville
Syracuse (First 4 Out), NC State (Second 4 Out)
Big 12 (7) 7: 1. Baylor*,
3. West Virginia,
3. Texas,
4. Oklahoma State,
4. Kansas,
5. Oklahoma,
6. Texas Tech
SEC (6) 6: 2. Alabama*,
3. Arkansas,
6. Tennessee,
7. Missouri,
8. LSU,
8. Florida
Ole Miss (Second 4 Out)
Big East (4) 3: 3. Villanova*,
5. Creighton,
7. UConn
1: 12. Xavier
(First Four)
St. John's (First 4 Out), Seton Hall (Third 4 Out)
Pac-12 (4) 4: 5. Colorado,
6. USC,
8. Oregon*,
Stanford (Third 4 Out)
Mountain West (3) 1: 9. San Diego State* 2: 11. Colorado State
(First Four),
12. Boise State
(First Four)
Utah State (First 4 Out)
Atlantic 10 (2) 1: 10. St. Bonaventure* 1: 11. VCU Saint Louis (First 4 Out) Richmond (Third 4 Out)
American (2) 1: 2. Houston 1: 12. Wichita State* Memphis (Second 4 Out), SMU (Second 4 Out)
Missouri Valley (2) 1: 9. Loyola Chicago* 1: 11. Drake
West Coast (2) 2: 1. Gonzaga*,
8. BYU
One-Bid 20 conference tournament winners Belmont (Third 4 Out)

There are eight new teams in the field today, with just one being an at-large, thanks to a typically chaotic day of conference tournament play.

  • Navy lost its third game of the year at the worst possible time, falling to a Loyola Maryland team it defeated three times during the regular season (including twice the week before), 76-68. Second-seeded Colgate replaces the Midshipmen in the projection as a result.
  • Bryant handily won its NEC semifinal over Sacred Heart despite having only seven players available. The Bulldogs will play for their first NCAA appearance on Tuesday at home against Mount St. Mary’s, who stunned top-seeded Wagner on Staten Island.
  • The America East is guaranteed a first-time NCAA team, as Hartford won at second-seeded Vermont and UMass Lowell topped top-seeded UMBC. The Hawks and River Hawks will meet in West Hartford next Saturday morning.
  • Sun Belt West top-seed Texas State lost a thrilling overtime quarterfinal to Appalachian State, so East No. 1 Georgia State replaces the Bobcats in the field. The Panthers meet West two seed Louisiana in tonight’s semifinals.
  • Morehead State defeated Belmont for the second time in as many Saturdays to clinch the OVC’s bid. While I have the Bruins on the board, they don’t have a realistic shot for at-large selection.

Grand Canyon and Nicholls State sewed up the No. 1 seeds in their respective conference tournaments, so they’ll be in the field unless they lose this week.

I’ll be updating the field on a daily basis at a minimum from here on out. There are plenty of games on tap for this Sunday that could alter the picture, including three conference title games (even if only two bids are on the line). Check out today’s viewing guide for all the info and head back here tomorrow for a fresh bracket.