Brand New Bracket Predictions with Bubbly Goodness!

Another week, another bracket as we are eleven days from Selection Sunday and a few conference tournaments are already underway with more starting tonight and tomorrow. We’ll have more previews of those a little later today. Armando is pounding away at his keyboard as we speak. Until then, here’s how I see the bracket looking next Sunday. Let the arguments begin all over.

South (Atlanta) Regional
#1 Kentucky (SEC, #1 overall) vs. #16 winner of Mississippi Valley State (SWAC)/Norfolk State (MEAC)
#8 Memphis (Conference USA) vs. #9 Kansas State (Big 12)
#5 Murray State (OVC) vs. #12 winner of Connecticut (Big East)/Northwestern (Big Ten)
#4 Wisconsin (Big Ten) vs. #13 Oral Roberts (Summit)
#6 Florida State (ACC) vs. #11 Mississippi State (SEC)
#3 Baylor (Big 12) vs. #14 Nevada (WAC)
#7 New Mexico (MWC) vs. #10 Virginia (ACC)
#2 Ohio State (Big Ten) vs. #15 Weber State (Big Sky)
West (Phoenix) Regional
#1 Duke (ACC) vs. #16 Long Island (NEC)
#8 Harvard (Ivy) vs. #9 Saint Louis (Atlantic 10)
   #5 Florida (SEC) vs. #12 West Virginia (Big East)
#4 Wichita State (MVC) vs. #13 winner of Texas (Big 12)/Xavier (Atlantic 10)
#6 San Diego State (MWC) vs. #11 Cincinnati (Big East)
#3 Michigan (Big Ten) vs. #14 Belmont (Atlantic Sun)
#7 Notre Dame (Big East) vs. #10 Washington (Pac-12)
#2 Missouri (Big 12) vs. #15 Bucknell (Patriot)
East (Boston) Regional
#1 Syracuse (Big East) vs. #16 Stony Brook (America East)
#8 Purdue (Big Ten) vs. #9 Iowa State (Big 12)
#5 Temple (Atlantic 10) vs. #12 BYU (WCC)
#4 Indiana (Big Ten) vs. #13 Iona (MAAC)
#6 Vanderbilt (SEC) vs. #11 Long Beach State (Big West)
#3 Georgetown (Big East) vs. #14 Middle Tennessee State (Sun Belt)
#7 Saint Marys’ (WCC) vs. #10 Seton Hall (Big East)
#2 Michigan State (Big Ten) vs. #15 Davidson (Southern)
 Midwest (St. Louis) Regional
#1 Kansas (Big 12) vs. #16 winner of UNC-Asheville (Big South)/Texas-Arlington (Southland)
#8 Alabama (SEC) vs. #9 Southern Mississippi (Conference USA)
#5 UNLV (MWC) vs. #12 Miami (FL) (ACC)
#4 Louisville (Big East) vs. #13 Drexel (CAA)
#6 Creighton (MVC) vs. #11 Arizona (Pac-12)
  #3 Marquette (Big East) vs. #14 Akron (MAC)
#7 Gonzaga (WCC) vs. #10 California (Pac-12)
#2 North Carolina (ACC) vs. #15 Valparaiso (Horizon)
Bubble Teams
A quick bit about each of the teams that are just in or just out.   
  • Saint Louis – A close loss to Rhode Island on Saturday threatened the Billikens’ spot, but blowing Xavier out of the water last night helped them recover and may have doomed a fellow bubble team. Putting away Duquesne on Saturday and at least one win in the Atlantic 10 tournament should lock a spot up for them. Solid RPI is a plus, a lack of a signature win plus Saturday’s bad loss could hurt, but they could take care of one of those in the conference tournament.
  • Seton Hall – I was torn on how far the Pirates should fall after their overtime loss to Rutgers. That opened up so many question about the team that their spot seemed even more iffy. They should be able to take their season closing trip to DePaul, so with a likely bye in the Big East tournament, they’ll need to get to at least the quarters to ensure a spot in the tournament.  Another team with a decent RPI, but Seton Hall has the advantage of two top-30 wins to offset their two bad losses. 
  • Mississippi State – The Bulldogs have been in a free fall, losing six straight with a blowout at Alabama being the latest. Getting off the schnide this week and picking up two wins is not only possible, but I think necessary. If they roll into New Orleans on an eight-game losing streak, well. their bubble may have already burst by then.
  • Cincinnati – The Bearcats had been climbing off the bubble and solidly into the tournament before Sunday’s loss to fellow Big East bubble team South Florida. It will be tough to shake that loss to Presbyterian but they are already at 10 wins in the Big East with a shot tonight to notch another top 10 upset. Their non-conference schedule may be a knock against them, but they are another team that should be in with a conference tournament win.
  • Arizona – The Pac-12 as a whole is down again this year and I debated for awhile whether or not a third team out of the conference was warranted. But this is a team getting hot at the right time, winning 7 of their last 8, and is still a 21-win team. They have work to do in the conference tournament, but for right now they are somewhere in the double-digit seed range. 
  • West Virginia – The Mountaineers are another one of those up-and-down teams in the middle of the Big East. Their RPI is impressive, they have four wins in the top 50 and no real bad losses. Kent State and St. John’s are the worst. But their Saturday showdown with South Florida could burst one of those bubbles. I know the Big East schedule is very rough and teams are always given the benefit of the doubt. However, losing seven of their last ten leave me wanting to see more from WVU in New York before I feel absolute about including them.
  • Miami – The Hurricanes may need to be dropped to the play-in game, but for now I game them a spot in the second round. The upset of Florida State overshadowed the loss to Maryland in my eyes. They’ve ridden that upset of Duke since the beginning of the month and deservedly. The only black mark on the record is that Maryland loss, so a win in the ACC tournament should be just enough (I keep saying that, I starting to annoy myself that that much repeating).
  • Connecticut – UConn looked like they were getting back to solid footing. They gave Syracuse a very good game and while they fell short, there was plenty they could take away from the loss. And then last night in Providence happened. Now they are guaranteed to be playing on the first day of the Big East Tournament and a run to at least the quarterfinals will keep them in and even then I’m not sure I’ll be completely convinced, A loss to Pitt on Saturday would burst their bubble in my opinion.
  • Northwestern – The Wildcats hope for their first NCAA bid is still alive with a good loss at Michigan and a win at Penn State. They have to stay competitive with Ohio State tonight and beat Iowa to put them in place to earn a bid through the Big Ten tournament. They have played a strong schedule and don’t have any bad losses. Their upset of Michigan State could be what gives them the boost over some other bubble squads. 
  • Texas – I’ve been back and forth on the Longhorns for most of the month.  They badly needed the Texas Tech win on Saturday and another tonight against Oklahoma will help. But a regular season finale against Kansas and a tough draw to get past the Big 12 quarters could have Texas slide out of this spot. Only having one top 25 win and two bad losses will have Texas sweating next Sunday if they can’t make noise in the conference tournament. 
  • Xavier – The Musketeers are my last team in and South Florida are right behind them. Right now, Xavier looks better on the back end, only having one loss outside of the top  150. A win over Charlotte and two wins in Atlantic City are needed to maintain this spot. 
  • South Florida – Louisville tonight, West Virginia Saturday. There’s plenty of opportunity to get off the bubble before New York. Eleven win in the Big East should be enough to get in, but the fact that the only team in the top 8 they’ve beaten is Seton Hall is a little troubling. They need a signature win and taking down Louisville tonight would do that. A double-bye is also within their reach (outside shot) and that should get them firmly off the bubble. 
  • UCF – Memphis strengthened their resume on the Knights back last night. The Rice loss hurt their case a bit and an upset along the way in the Conference USA tournament can get them in. But some things ahead of them will have to fall in place. 
  • VCU – The Rams dispatched George Mason and back into the bubble conversation, taking over second place in the CAA. They’re bad losses happened early and weren’t horrible (Georgia Tech and Georgia State), although a lack of top 50 win could cost them. A win over Drexel may solidify them in but that would spell a CCA tournament title and make the at-large question irrelevant. 
  • Colorado State – A week after being the next up-and-comer, the Rams have been cooled off by San Diego State and now sit in fifth place in the Mountain West. They get a shot at getting back into the discussion tonight when they host UNLV. I’m not sure that a win tonight alone would get them in, but it would boost them in the eyes of the committee, which will see a resume that is decent all the way though with one of the toughest schedules in the nation (#6). Getting to 20 wins would also help a ton
  • Other teams just on the outside: Saint Joseph’s (upsets of Temple and Creight could go long way), Dayton (URI loss may have burst their bubble), Oregon (resume not too much different from Arizona’s, tournament could be the difference), George Mason (Will have to avenge VCU loss to get back into the conversation), Tulsa (deep CUSA tournament run is only way in, weak RPI and no signature wins hurt), NC State (couldn’t survive brutal stretch in schedule, but a win over Miami puts them back in the bubble conversation), Mississippi (last of the outside shots, deep SEC tourney run needed, knocking off Alabama Sat. would go a long way as well)

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