Posted: Wednesday March 9, 2011 12:04AM ; Updated: Wednesday March 9, 2011 12:58AM
Andy Glockner
Andy Glockner>BUBBLE WATCH

Wednesday Update: Villanova down but not out, Butler pleases bubblers

Story Highlights

Slumping Villanova was upset by USF, but the Wildcats are still in the tournament

Butler ensured its spot in the bracket by winning the Horizon League tourney title

Wednesday features the beginning of the Big 12 tourney and two more auto bids

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Maalik Wayns, Jay Wright
Maalik Wayns, coach Jay Wright and Villanova have lost five straight, but the Wildcats' bid shouldn't be in danger.
Rich Kane/Icon SMI

There were dramatic auto-bid snatches (hello, UALR!), one-game playoffs forced (well done, Princeton) and bid thieves subdued (the bubblers thank Butler!), and all anyone wants to talk about is ... Villanova?

Yup, the Wildcats are the story of the night in Bubble Watch after throwing away a 16-point halftime lead and suffering a horrible last-second loss to South Florida (3-15 Big East) in the first round of their conference tournament.

The immediate aftermath on Twitter was fierce, with the vast majority of people immediately ushering the Wildcats out of the bracket completely. That's not happening. There's no way the committee, with a mandate to evaluate the entire résumé of an at-large team, will omit a team with six RPI top-50 wins with all of the flotsam at the bottom of this year's at-large pool. Villanova will become the first team in the 64/65/68-team era to make the NCAAs after losing its last five games.

GLOCKNER: Wednesday's bracket projection

The real question now is where to seed a team that finished 5-10 in its final 15 games, including coming very close to losing nine straight to close things out. Nova was a 7-seed entering Tuesday, and a drop to a 10-seed or so by Sunday looks very possible at this point. Now watch them make the Sweet 16 ...

Elsewhere, congratulations are in order for those Butler Bulldogs (Horizon), Oakland Grizzlies (Summit) and the Trojans from Little Rock (Sun Belt) for auto-bidding their way into the NCAAs (full automatic bid list).

Now things really start to cook. Here's some of what's on tap for Wednesday:

-- Marquette takes on West Virginia in the second round of the Big East tournament. The Golden Eagles are in OK position right now, but a win would clinch things for them.

-- The Big 12 tournament kicks off with bubble team Colorado needing to beat Iowa State to keep hopes alive.

-- In auto bid news, Robert Morris plays at Long Island in the NEC final and Montana will play at Northern Colorado in the Big Sky final.

Bubble Watch and Bracket Watch will be daily through Selection Sunday. Enjoy!

Records listed are Division I only, per NCAA Tournament selection guidelines. All RPI and SOS data are from Tuesday's collegerpi.com RPI report.

GW = good wins.
BL = bad losses.
(N) = neutral-site game.

Send your feedback to bubblewatch@gmail.com or to @aglock on Twitter. All submissions are read; polite, fact-based ones stand the best chance of a response.

ACC

(Conference Tournament Bracket)

Locks: Duke, North Carolina

North Carolina stormed past Duke on Saturday night to claim the outright ACC title, boosting its own surging seed aspirations while putting a crimp in Duke's push for a No. 1. Florida State will be the third team in from this league. The real question is: Will that be all?

SHOULD BE IN

Florida State (21-9, 11-5; RPI: 45, SOS: 81)
Next game: Friday vs. Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech winner in ACC quarterfinals
Harrison Barnes cashiered the Noles in the final seconds, but FSU looked pretty good without Chris Singleton, so they should be OK in a year of bubble weakness. Beating NC State moves them to 11-5 and a solid third-place league finish. They haven't done a ton, but they have done more than enough.
GW: Duke, Baylor (N)?
BL: at Auburn

IN THE MIX

Boston College (19-11, 9-7; RPI: 44, SOS: 28)
Next game: Thursday vs. 12-seed Wake Forest in ACC first round
The Eagles came up huge, crushing Virginia Tech in Blacksburg to get a sweep and then taking care of Wake Forest. Now they have to beat the league minnow again to get a crack at Clemson in a possible win-and-in quarterfinal for both teams.
GW: Texas A&M (N), sweep of VT, plus so-so collection of others.
BL: Yale

Virginia Tech (19-10, 9-7, RPI: 64; SOS: 88)
Next game: Thursday vs. 11-seed Georgia Tech in ACC first round
What's left to say? The Hokies are inexorably -- and squarely -- on the bubble again after a dispiriting 0-2 week that let BC and Clemson tighten things up. Now they have to win a useless first-round game against Georgia Tech before a meeting with Florida State in the quarters. I don't think their profile will hold up if they lose that game.
GW: Duke, Florida State, plus batch of other OK Ws
BL: Virginia (2x), at Georgia Tech

Clemson (20-10, 9-7; RPI: 59, SOS: 75)
Next game: Friday vs. BC-Wake Forest winner in ACC quarterfinal
Clemson gave it a decent go at Cameron but lost, but then handled VT to get to 9-7 and avoid having to play a first-round ACC tourney game. It may not be enough simply to beat Boston College (or, especially Wake, with a big upset), but North Carolina would await in the semis for the marquee win Clemson lacks.
GW: BC, VT and FSU at home? Plus at College of Charleston
BL: at Virginia, at NC State

Big 12

(Conference Tournament Bracket)

Locks: Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Kansas State

With the help of Texas losing three of its last five games, Kansas remarkably claimed a seventh straight Big 12 crown and seems headed for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs. The Horns better figure things out quickly as this team looks nothing like it did three weeks ago, when people were touting it as possibly the national title favorite. The other team in the Sunflower State continues to surge, as well, and joins the lock party. K-State is suddenly looking like a team no one wants to see in their bracket.

SHOULD BE IN

Missouri (21-9, 8-8; RPI: 33, SOS: 41)
Next game: Wed. vs. 11-seed Texas Tech in Big 12 first round
With the talent on this roster, this is pretty much the absolute minimum this team could have accomplished. They'll make the NCAAs, but with one top-75 Big 12 win and a 1-7 road mark, this has been anything but impressive.
GW: K-State, Vanderbilt, Old Dominion, vs. Illinois?
BL: None, really

IN THE MIX

Colorado (18-12, 8-8; RPI: 76, SOS: 73)
Next game: Wed. vs. 12-seed Iowa State in Big 12 first round
The Buffaloes elbowed Nebraska aside to get to .500, but they could really end up lamenting the loss at Iowa State earlier in the week (and their atrocious nonleague schedule). They have a decent set of quality Ws, including a sweep of Kansas State and a win over Texas, but more work is needed. Beating Iowa State this time won't help, but what would beating K-State for a third time in the quarters mean?
GW: Texas, Missouri, Colorado State (for bubble)?, sweep of Kansas State
BL: at San Francisco, at Oklahoma

Baylor (17-12, 7-9; RPI: 84; SOS: 39)
Next game: Wed. vs. 10-seed Oklahoma in Big 12 first round
The Bears' NCAA hopes are on life support. Too many losses everywhere -- in the league, on the road, against the top 50. If they beat Oklahoma, they get another shot at Texas after wasting one on Saturday. It likely will take at least a run to the tourney final now to get in. Best nonleague win: Lipscomb
GW: Sweep of Texas A&M
BL: at Iowa State (by 15), at Oklahoma, Texas Tech

Big East

(Conference Tournament Bracket)

Locks: Pitt, Villanova, UConn, Notre Dame, G'town, Louisville, St. John's, Syracuse, WVU, Cincinnati

The Bearcats locked up their spot with a really impressive two-win week. In the process, they may have edged the league closer to 10 bids than 11. Notre Dame's resume is begging for No. 1 seed consideration. Georgetown is begging for Chris Wright to get healthy. Jay Wright is begging for his team to stop a staggering free fall.

SHOULD BE IN

None.

IN THE MIX

Marquette (19-13, 9-9; RPI: 66; SOS: 31)
Next game: Wednesday vs. 6-seed West Virginia in Big East second round
The Golden Eagles handled Providence in the first round of the Big East Tournament and look more settled for an at-large to the NCAAs. Things would look a lot more comfortable if they can win once more, on Wednesday vs. West Virginia.
GW: at UConn plus a trio of good home league wins (WV, ND, Syracuse)
BL: at Seton Hall

Big Ten

(Conference Tournament Bracket)

Locks: Ohio State, Purdue, Wisconsin

Purdue's stunning loss at Iowa dings the Boilermakers' hopes for a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs, but the most compelling news is coming from the bubble, where Michigan's second win over MSU has created a mess in the middle.

SHOULD BE IN

None.

IN THE MIX

Illinois (19-12, 9-9; RPI: 40, SOS: 16)
Next game: Friday vs. 4-seed Michigan in Big Ten quarterfinals
Another expected split, another week where the Illini spurned the chance to impress. They seem like the prototype 8/9-seed right now. They'll joust with Michigan in a game the Illini probably don't need to win, but could put the Wolverines into the dance.
GW: UNC, (plus MSU and Wisconsin at home), Maryland (N)?, Gonzaga (N)?
BL: Illinois-Chicago (N), at Indiana

Michigan State (16-13, 9-9, RPI: 48, SOS: 9)
Next game: Thursday vs. 10-seed Iowa in Big Ten first round
A loss at Michigan on Saturday, which gives the Wolverines a season sweep, has more or less eliminated any wiggle room and puts the Spartans in a sticky situation. With Penn State's win over Minnesota, the Spartans are now the 7-seed and are staring at a quarterfinal matchup with Purdue. If they don't win that game, this could end badly.
GW: Washington (N) (plus Wisconsin and Minnesota at home)
BL: Swept by Michigan (for bubble purposes), at Iowa

Michigan (18-12, 9-9; RPI: 56, SOS: 18)
Next game: Friday vs. 5-seed Illinois in Big Ten quarterfinals
The Wolverines got the critical sweep of Michigan State and now let the debates begin. Which team ends up ahead in the pecking order will come down to Big Ten tourney performance. Right now, I think the Spartans are barely ahead on the basis of better top-quality wins (although two of MSU's three top-50 wins came with Korie Lucious on the roster).
GW: Sweep of Michigan State, Harvard
BL: at Indiana

Penn State (16-13, 9-9; RPI: 55, SOS: 7)
Next game: Thursday vs. 11-seed Indiana in Big Ten first round
The Nittany Lions are 9-9 like three others, but have a weaker profile with an RPI fueled mostly by schedule strength. They probably need to make the tournament final to have a truly legit claim.
GW: MSU, Illinois and Wisconsin all at home in league play
BL: Maine

 
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