THURSDAY UPDATE: Miami, Northwestern, Providence out
Miami, Northwestern and Providence kissed their tournament hopes goodbye
Portland State and Robert Morris secured automatic bids
More on bubble issues with only three days until Selection Sunday
Update: Thursday, 3:30 p.m.
On Wednesday, coach Keno Davis was pushing the position that Providence (19-13, 10-8; RPI: 71; SOS: 60) didn't have to beat Louisville to get an at-large. That was unlikely to begin with, but even Davis probably realizes that an 18-point loss to the Cardinals doesn't even qualify as a moral victory for consideration. The defeat leaves the Friars just 2-8 against the RPI Top 50 and 6-13 against the Top 100. As bubble peers like Minnesota (21-9, 9-9, RPI: 41; SOS: 41) continue to advance in other tournaments, it looks like the NIT for Provy.
Speaking of the Gophers, they used a late 14-0 rally to thwart Northwestern and take an important step toward the NCAAs. They now draw the one-seed Michigan State. Win, and they're in. Lose, and it will be fairly close one way or the other.
In another early knockout game, Virginia Tech (18-13, 7-9; RPI: 63; SOS: 23) routed Miami (17-12, 7-9; RPI: 52, SOS: 25), which should end the Canes' slim hopes. The Hokies now get a banged-up UNC squad in the quarters. It's not certain a win will be enough, but they have to get that one and then we can reevaluate.
The biggest seeding news came from the Big 12, where top-seeded Kansas lost to Baylor in the quarterfinals. Kansas was a three-seed in today's bracket and won't go any higher than that now. Could they drop to a four? Depends on what teams like Washington, Clemson, Missouri, etc. do in their postseasons. Baylor is now two wins away from theiving the auto bid and knocking out a bubble team.
Update: Thursday, 10 a.m.
The margin for error in March always is slim, but in the NEC final Wednesday night, the margin was one -- as in one extra player on the court. Late in the first half, Mount St. Mary's was T'd up for inbounding with six men in the game. Robert Morris made both free throws ... and ended up winning the game (and the auto bid) by a deuce on a jumper with 2.5 seconds left.
Speaking of final seconds, Portland State repeated as Big Sky tournament champs by dunking the Cinderella run of under-.500 Montana State with 3.5 ticks left (and Chattanooga fans continue looking for Dayton hotel rooms).
On the flip side, the wait (and the weight) is now on Texas A&M after the Aggies frittered away a 19-point halftime lead and lost to Texas Tech. Significant credit goes to Tech's Mike Singletary, who scored 29 straight points down the stretch for the Red Raiders, on his way to 43 for the game. Smart money would be on the Aggies to hang on and make the NCAAs, but losing this early in the week makes you a sitting duck for those behind you. This was not a good idea.
Enjoy the bazillion important games today. The picture likely will look quite different tomorrow.
(Records listed are Division I only, per NCAA Tournament selection guidelines. All RPI and SOS data are from Thursday's collegerpi.com RPI report.)
Locks: North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida State
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
The loss at Virginia is an absolute killer for Maryland (18-12, 7-9; RPI: 67; SOS: 29), which ended below-.500 in the league and has lost three of four since its home upset of North Carolina. Granted, the two home games were against Duke and Wake Forest, but now with a 3-8 mark against the RPI top 50, the Terps likely need a deep ACC tournament run to get in. That starts against NC State and then, with a win, against two-seed Wake Forest.
Locks: Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, Texas
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Kansas State (20-10, 9-7; RPI: 77; SOS: 117) missed some chances down the stretch and now is in position where it, at least, has to beat (assumedly) Texas in the 4-5 quarterfinal. Given the Wildcats' dreadful nonleague SOS and only five Top 100 wins on the season, it's possible that wouldn't even be enough.
Locks: Pitt, Connecticut, Louisville, Marquette, Villanova, Syracuse, West Virginia
SHOULD BE IN
In The Mix
Locks: Michigan State, Purdue, Illinois
SHOULD BE IN
IN THE MIX
Wisconsin (18-11, 10-8, RPI: 38, SOS: 15) lost at Minnesota but beat Indiana to finish with wins in seven of its final nine games. The Badgers only have a win at Virginia Tech to promote in non-league play but have the best record against the other five teams in the mix along with the toughest overall conference schedule. They will play Ohio State (20-9, 10-8; RPI: 37; SOS: 33) in the quarterfinal after the Buckeyes held off Northwestern on Sunday. The Buckeyes have non-league wins over Miami, Butler and Notre Dame and a slightly better top 50 mark but faced a weaker conference slate. Which team is ahead right now is irrelevant. The winner of their quarterfinal is headed to the NCAAs while the loser retains a fairly decent chance to get in.
The next three will all be in action on the first day of the Big Ten tourney and will face stern quarterfinal tests should they advance. If any of these teams win two in a row, they're going to get in. Win one, and we'll see. Lose to a bottom-feeder and that's a route to the NIT.
Michigan (18-12, 9-9; RPI: 42, SOS: 10) appears slightly ahead of the other two at this point. The Wolverines are one of the few teams that actually came up with a big performance when it needed one, winning at Minnesota to help create this logjam. They have two marquee non-league wins (Duke and UCLA); Minnesota has one (Louisville), Penn State has none. Michigan also went 3-1 against the Golden Gophers and Nittany Lions and played the hardest league slate of the three.
Penn State (21-10, 10-8; RPI: 66; SOS: 103) The Nittany Lions' double-overtime loss to Iowa was really costly, as they now ended up as the six-seed in the Big Ten tourney. That means a useless first-round game against Indiana before what very well could be a make-or-break quarterfinal against Purdue. Michigan gets Iowa and then Illinois, should it beat the Hawkeyes.
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