Here are the latest projections after Saturday’s action, assembled by our Kendall Rogers, Aaron Fitt and Mark Etheridge.
The following automatic bids were secured in Saturday’s conference title games:
America East: Binghamton (no change from Saturday morning’s projection)
Atlantic 10: VCU (no change from yesterday’s projection)
ASUN: Kennesaw State (replaces Liberty from yesterday’s projection after beating Flames in the final)
Big South: Campbell (no change)
Horizon: Wright State (no change)
Mountain West: Air Force (no change)
Ohio Valley: Southeast Missouri State (replaces Belmont after beating Bruins in the final)
Southland: Southeastern Louisiana (replaces McNeese after beating Cowboys in the final)
WCC: San Diego (replaces Gonzaga after beating Zags in the final)
Today’s field of 64 features the following changes to our projected automatic qualifiers since yesterday, with these conference tournament champions yet to be crowned:
CAA: Hofstra replaces College of Charleston (Pride will face Northeastern on Sunday for the title, but Huskies must win twice to claim the bid)
Big Ten: Rutgers replaces Maryland (Terps still in as an at-large but were knocked out of the tournament Saturday. Rutgers will face the Iowa/Michigan winner in the finals. Should the Scarlet Knights lose, they should grab an at-large bid, making the Big Ten a three-bid league)
Conference USA: Louisiana Tech replaces Southern Miss (Golden Eagles still in as an at-large. La Tech faces UTSA for the title Sunday)
Missouri Valley: Missouri State replaces Evansville (Aces were eliminated Saturday; Bears face Southern Illinois for the title Sunday, but Salukis would have to win twice)
Sun Belt: Georgia Southern replaces Texas State (Bobcats were eliminated Saturday; Eagles face Louisiana for the title Sunday, and if Cajuns win this becomes a four-bid league, with Texas State, Georgia Southern and Coastal getting at-large spots)
• STOLEN BIDS: The bubble shrank by two more spots Saturday when Kennesaw State and San Diego won automatic bids, forcing Liberty and Gonzaga from the automatic qualifier pool into the at-large pool. Both Kennesaw and USD were legitimate at-large contenders anyway, but both likely would have wound up just outside the field of 64 if they hadn’t secured auto bids. Gonzaga is an ironclad lock for an at-large spot, of course, and Liberty should be just fine with a No. 33 RPI and a strong showing in both the regular season standings and conference tournament.
Another at-large spot could disappear if Rutgers fails to win the Big Ten tournament Sunday, because the Scarlet Knights are a strong bet for an at-large spot. And as noted above, Louisiana could also reduce the at-large pool by beating Georgia Southern in the Sun Belt.
• C-USA contenders Louisiana Tech and UTSA both climbed our ladder Saturday, as the Roadrunners eliminated top-seeded Southern Miss and the Bulldogs sent Old Dominion packing. Louisiana Tech now looks safe, and UTSA moves up from team No. 63 to No. 61, passing Liberty (which has a very strong case but is still team No. 62, which shows how tight the bubble is this year).
• Dallas Baptist tumbles down our ladder after getting knocked out of the MVC tourney with a 1-2 mark. DBU has a few things going for it: a No. 22 RPI ranking, a 13-9 mark against the top 50 in the RPI, which is bolstered by its strong nonconference resumé. That includes a sweep of Southern Miss, a road series win at San Diego and a home series win against Maryland — all three of whom will be in regionals, and two of whom will host. But a few things undermine those strengths: an unimpressive 12-11-1 aggregate mark in the Valley (not exactly a premier conference), and the fact that the Patriots lost more conference series (four) than they won (three). Will the nonconference body of work outweigh the lackluster conference body of work? Probably … but if the bubble shrinks some more, it could get dicey.
• Old Dominion went 1-1 against Louisiana Tech to finish with a 22-13 aggregate C-USA mark, a 41-17 overall record and a No. 42 RPI. In most years, that’s a pretty solid at-large resumé, but with this tight bubble the Monarchs find themselves right on the edge, and if the bubble shrinks more on Sunday they could be in trouble. For now, they’re our last team in.
• West Virginia and Grand Canyon both get squeezed out with RPIs of No. 50 and No. 51, respectively. WVU went 14-10 in the regular season in a power conference, but really hurt its cause with an 0-2 showing in the Big 12. Couple that with an RPI problem and it’s not looking great for the Mountaineers. Grand Canyon won its regular-season title, but its WAC tournament exit against Abilene Christian shy of the conference title game leaves it in a precarious spot. The Lopes did go 7-5 against the top 50, but history suggests a WAC team outside the top 50 isn’t likely to grab an at-large spot.
Here are the last four teams in the field, along with the first four teams out of the latest projection.
LAST FOUR IN:
63. Dallas Baptist
64. Old Dominion
FIRST FOUR OUT:
65. Grand Canyon
66. West Virginia
68. Ole Miss
NATIONAL SEED/HOST PICTURE
• Southern Miss and Notre Dame both losing Saturday opened the door for Miami to slide back into a top eight seed. The Golden Eagles slipped all the day down to No. 19 in the RPI, which just seems too low for a top-eight seed from a non-power-four conference, despite USM’s regular-season title in C-USA. So Miami and Notre Dame get our final two spots in the top eight, with the Hurricanes back ahead of the Irish in the pecking order thanks to a better aggregate conference record (20-12 vs. 18-12) and the head-to-head advantage (Miami took two of three from the Irish just last weekend). For now, the Irish hang onto their top-eight spot, but Texas could bump them out of the top eight if it can win the Big 12 tournament on Sunday.
• Two changes from yesterday in our hosting pool: Oklahoma State and Florida replace TCU and LSU as hosts. OSU beat Texas on Saturday but then lost to the Longhorns in a rematch, but the pair of games helped the Cowboys in the RPI; they are now up eight spots to No. 10, which should be good enough to host when combined with their Big 12 record. Florida beat Texas A&M to reach the SEC title game; the Gators are now 4-1 in Hoover, boosting their aggregate SEC record to 19-16 and improving their RPI to No. 12. Win or lose Sunday against Tennessee, the Gators are likely in hosting position now.
LSU fell to No. 25 in the RPI after getting knocked out of the SEC tournament by Kentucky on Saturday, and that RPI is likely too low to host for a team that did not win its division, even though the Tigers went 18-15 aggregate in the SEC. TCU is hanging its hopes on its Big 12 regular-season title, but we suspect its No. 36 RPI will ultimately be its downfall when it comes to hosting. Oklahoma State’s 3-2 showing in the conference tourney allowed it to pass the Horned Frogs in the pecking order, considering its 26-spot advantage in the RPI. And Georgia Southern reaching the championship game in the Sun Belt tournament likely secured the Eagles (No. 8 in the RPI) a host spot, probably dashing TCU’s chances to be a third host out of the Big 12. Likewise, North Carolina’s victory against Notre Dame on Saturday secured the Tar Heels (No. 4 in the RPI) as a host, eliminating any chance that the Frogs could host over the Heels. The Big 12 regular-season champion has hosted every year since the 64-team era began in 1999, but we are betting that streak ends this year, due to TCU’s RPI problem.
|1 Tennessee* (1)||1 Georgia Southern* (16)|
|4 Alabama State*||4 Columbia*|
|2 Wake Forest||2 Georgia|
|3 Kennesaw State*||3 Florida State|
|1 Stanford* (2)||1 Florida (15)|
|4 New Mexico State*||4 Missouri State*|
|2 Georgia Tech||2 TCU|
|3 San Diego*||3 Campbell*|
|1 Virginia Tech (3)||1 Oklahoma State (14)|
|4 Coppin State*||4 SE Missouri State*|
|2 UCLA||2 Arkansas|
|3 VCU*||3 Dallas Baptist|
|1 Oregon State (4)||1 East Carolina* (12)|
|4 Air Force*||4 Hofstra*|
|2 Gonzaga||2 NC State|
|3 UC Santa Barbara*||3 Wofford*|
|1 Texas A&M (5)||1 Louisville (12)|
|4 Long Island*||4 Ball State*|
|2 Oklahoma||2 LSU|
|3 UTSA||3 Old Dominion|
|COLLEGE PARK||CHAPEL HILL|
|1 Maryland* (6)||1 North Carolina (11)|
|4 Canisius*||4 Army*|
|2 Virginia||2 Vanderbilt|
|3 Liberty||3 Coastal Carolina|
|1 Miami(7)||1 Southern Miss (10)|
|4 Binghamton*||4 SE Louisiana*|
|2 Texas Tech||2 Auburn|
|3 Rutgers*||3 Arizona|
|1 Notre Dame (8)||1 Texas (9)|
|4 Wright State*||4 Oral Roberts*|
|2 Oregon||2 Texas State|
|3 Connecticut*||3 Louisiana Tech*|