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Championship Week Saturday Bracketology: Time to Sweat for Bubble Teams

A new shakeup after Duke’s big win.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Kentucky vs Alabama Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

We’re inching ever so closer to Selection Sunday. Just two days of action remain and, for the most part, the bubble teams are done and now sweating it out until Sunday. Today is also a very busy day as 13 tournament bids are up for grabs. Let’s check out the field, recap Friday and look ahead to Championship Saturday.

March 16th Projection

East Region (Washington, D.C.) South Region (Louisville)
East Region (Washington, D.C.) South Region (Louisville)
Columbia (Mar. 22/24) Columbia (Mar. 22/24)
1. Duke (ACC) 1. Virginia
16. Prairie View (SWAC) / N. Dakota St (Summit) 16. Abilene Christian (Southland)
8. Seton Hall 8. Ole Miss
9. VCU 9. UCF
San Jose (Mar. 22/24) San Jose (Mar. 22/24)
5. Virginia Tech 5. Kansas State
12. Davidson (Atlantic 10) 12. NC State / St. John's
4. Wisconsin 4. Buffalo (MAC)
13. Vermont (America East) 13. Liberty (Atlantic Sun)
Des Moines (Mar. 21/23) Tulsa (Mar. 22/24)
6. Auburn 6. Iowa State
11. Temple 11. Saint Mary's (West Coast)
3. Kansas (Big 12) 3. LSU
14. Harvard (Ivy) 14. Old Dominion (Conference USA)
Jacksonville (Mar. 21/23) Columbus (Mar. 22/24)
7. Maryland 7. Wofford (Southern)
10. Syracuse 10. Oklahoma
2. Tennessee 2. Michigan State
15. Colgate (Patriot) 15. Gardner-Webb (Big South)
West Region (Anaheim) Midwest Region (Kansas City)
Salt Lake City (Mar. 21/23) Columbus
1. Gonzaga 1. Kentucky (SEC)
16. Norfolk St (MEAC) / F. Dickinson (NEC) 16. Iona (MAAC)
8. Utah State (Mountain West) 8. Iowa
9. Florida 9. Washington
Hartford (Mar. 21/23) Salt Lake City (Mar. 21/23)
5. Marquette 5. Villanova (Big East)
12. New Mexico State (WAC) 12. Murray State (Ohio Valley)
4. Purdue 4. Texas Tech
13. UC Irvine (Big West) 13. Northeastern (Colonial)
Hartford (Mar. 21/23) Des Moines (Mar. 21/23)
6. Nevada 6. Mississippi State
11. Ohio State / TCU 11. Arizona State
3. Florida State 3. Michigan
14. Northern Kentucky (Horizon) 14. Georgia State (Sun Belt)
Tulsa (Mar. 22/24) Jacksonville (Mar. 21/23)
7. Louisville 7. Cincinnati
10. Baylor 10. Minnesota
2. Houston (AAC) 2. North Carolina
15. Montana (Big Sky) 15. Bradley (Missouri Valley)

Last Four Byes: Baylor, Syracuse, Temple, Arizona State

Last Four In: Ohio State, TCU, North Carolina State, St. John’s

First Four Out: Alabama, Belmont, Creighton, Indiana

Next Four Out: Nebraska, Furman, Clemson, Oregon

Conference Breakdown

ACC - 8

Big Ten - 8

Big 12 - 7

SEC - 7

American - 4

Big East - 4

Atlantic 10 - 2

Mountain West - 2

Pac-12 - 2

West Coast - 2

One-bid leagues - 22


Bubble teams are not only sweating because of the wait, but they watched as the number of spots was trimmed once again. VCU, the top seed in the Atlantic 10, was upset by No. 8 seed Rhode Island in the quarterfinals. That means there will be a bid thief in the A-10, as VCU will still be in the field, but will now have to take an at-large and the A-10 has become a two-bid league. For the moment, Davidson, as the No. 2 seed, is now in the field as the projected tournament champion and highest seed remaining. The bubble caught a lucky break when Buffalo and Villanova survived their respective semifinal battles against Central Michigan and Xavier, respectively.

After talking about Alabama and thinking they were in good shape, the Tide laid a dud in the quarterfinals against Kentucky and now their 3-10 record against group one will really come into focus, as will their two quadrant three losses. If the committee is going to value the NET rankings, North Carolina State should feel pretty good with their top-35 NET rank and a 9-9 record against the top two groups, compared to 10-13 for Alabama.

And while Alabama’s ten wins against the top two groups equals that of St. John’s, their three group one wins fall behind the five for St. John’s and, despite their No. 72 ranking, St. John’s slots in as the final team in today’s projection, while Alabama is the first team out.

Florida, on the other hand, scored a huge victory over LSU in the quarterfinals, a win that should lock the Gators into the field, as they now sit as a No. 10 seed in today’s projection. They can move up even more if they can defeat Auburn in the semifinals. As a result, LSU drops to a No. 3 seed and Houston moves up to a No. 2.

And you’ll notice a new team at the top of the bracket. With their win over North Carolina to reach the ACC championship, and the sheer fact that they have been dominant with Zion Williamson in the lineup, Duke now currently sits as the overall No. 1 seed.

Here’s your schedule for Saturday, including 13 championship games, starting nice and early at 11:00 A.M.

America East Championship

No. 3 UMBC at No. 1 Vermont, 11:00, ESPN2

A tradition unlike any other, the America East championship at 11:00 Saturday morning to kick off the championship action. This is the second straight year Vermont is hosting UMBC for the title. Remember, it took a buzzer-beater for the Terriers to knock off Vermont before their historic upset over No. 1 Virginia in the NCAA Tournament. Will history repeat itself? Or will Vermont get revenge and get back to the big dance? Vermont also has to overcome the fact they’ve already lost twice this season to UMBC, including a 13-point loss in Burlington on January 23.

ACC Championship (in Charlotte, NC)

No. 3 Duke vs. No. 4 Florida State, 8:30, ESPN

Florida State may very well have cost Virginia the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, though Virginia will absolutely still be on the top line in some fashion. The Seminoles have worked their way up to a No. 3 seed with this run, with an outside shot at a No. 2 seed if they win. But to do it, they have to stop Zion Williamson, who picked up right where he left off when he was injured in the first North Carolina game to help Duke make a run to the ACC final and potentially the overall No. 1 seed.

Big 12 Championship (in Kansas City, MO)

No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 5 Iowa State, 6:00, ESPN

After Texas Tech went down in the quarterfinals, the other co-champion of the Big 12 was knocked out in the semifinals, as Iowa State upset No. 1 seed Kansas State. But look who’s not knocked out. That’s right, it’s Kansas. These teams split during the regular season.

Big East Championship (in New York, NY)

No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 3 Seton Hall, 6:35, FOX

Villanova survived a valiant effort from Xavier in the semifinals and helped bubble teams breathe a little easier and they advanced to their fifth-straight Big East title game. And after what was a mess of a semifinal that turned a bit ugly, Seton Hall defeated Marquette to continue the Golden Eagles’ downward spiral heading into the NCAA Tournament. The Cats and Pirates split their two regular season meetings.

Big Sky Championship (in Boise, ID)

No. 1 Montana vs. No. 3 Eastern Washington, 8:00, ESPNU

After throttling Weber State in the semifinals, Montana in back in the championship game for the fourth time in five years and seventh time in nine seasons. And for the second straight season, they’ll meet Eastern Washington, who is looking for their third tournament appearance and first since 2015.

Big West Championship (in Anaheim, CA)

No. 1 UC Irvine vs. No. 3 Cal State Fullerton, 12:00 a.m., ESPN2

The top-seeded Anteaters needed a rally against Long Beach State in the semifinals, but here they are, in position for just their second tournament appearance, the other coming in 2015. They swept Cal State Fullerton in the regular season. If the Titans pull the upset, they’ll likely head to Dayton with what would be a 15-16 record against Division I competition (two of their 16 wins thus far have been against non-Division I schools). This would be the second straight Big West title for the Titans.

Conference USA Championship (in Frisco, TX)

No. 1 Old Dominion vs. No. 2 Western Kentucky. 8:30, CBSSN

These teams met twice in the regular season and played very close games, as the total margin of victory in the two games was only seven points. Unfortunately for the Hilltoppers, Old Dominion took both meetings, leading to them grabbing the regular season championship. The Monarchs have not danced since 2011 while Western Kentucky hopes to reach their first tournament since 2013.

MAC Championship (in Cleveland, OH)

No. 1 Buffalo vs. No. 3 Bowling Green, 7:30, ESPN2

Central Michigan gave Buffalo all they could handle but the Bulls prevailed and now go after another MAC championship and possibly a protected seed in the NCAA Tournament. Now they’ll face a Bowling Green team that held off a strong comeback attempt by Northern Illinois in the semifinals. Bubble teams will be holding their breath in this one.

MEAC Championship (in Norfolk, VA)

No. 1 Norfolk State vs. No. 3 North Carolina Central, 1:00, ESPN2

Norfolk State edged out a six-point win over Howard in the semifinals and now get to play a de facto home game for the conference championship. But a familiar team awaits in the final in two-time champ North Carolina Central. These two met once during the regular season, in Norfolk, and the Spartans won, 75-71, in overtime.

Mountain West Championship (in Las Vegas, NV)

No. 2 Utah State vs. No. 4 San Diego State, 6:00, CBS

Utah State had no trouble with Fresno State in the semifinals and should feel good now about their tournament hopes. But bubble teams elsewhere will be sweating some more as the Aztecs are back to try and steal a bid for the second consecutive year and make the Mountain West a three-bid league. The two split during the regular season.

Pac-12 Championship (in Las Vegas, NV)

No. 1 Washington vs. No. 6 Oregon, 10:30, ESPN

It took overtime, but Oregon pulled the upset of Arizona State, putting the Sun Devils in nervous mode and putting the Ducks in position to also steal a bid. Washington is likely very safe at this point. Both teams won on the opposing floor during the regular season.

Southland Championship (in Katy, TX)

No. 2 Abilene Christian vs. No. 4 New Orleans, 9:30, ESPN2

Another NIT spot was filled Friday as New Orleans upset top-seed Sam Houston State. New Orleans is the only other team besides Stephen F. Austin to win the Southland title in the past five seasons, as the Privateers look to make it two trips in three years to the big dance. Abilene Christian has only been in Division I since 2013-14 and is in their first Southland title game. The Wildcats took the lone meeting between the two back on January 2.

SWAC Championship (in Birmingham, AL)

No. 1 Prairie View A&M vs. No. 2 Texas Southern

Prairie View has been in control of the SWAC all season long as they eye just their second tournament appearance in school history, the other time coming in 1998. But the staple of the SWAC, Texas Southern, stands in their way. Both teams won at home during their two meetings.

WAC Championship (in Las Vegas, NV)

No. 1 New Mexico State vs. No. 3 Grand Canyon, 10:00, ESPNU

For the second year in a row, it’s the Aggies and the Antelopes in the WAC final. Grand Canyon is searching their first tournament berth, while this has become old hat for the Aggies, going after a third straight WAC title and seven out of eight. The Aggies are 2-0 so far against the Antelopes.

Atlantic 10 Semifinals (in Brooklyn, NY)

No. 4 St. Bonaventure vs. No. 8 Rhode Island, 1:00, CBSSN
No. 2 Davidson vs. No. 6 Saint Louis, 3:30, CBSSN

As mentioned earlier, Rhode Island shocked VCU in the battle of the Rams to ensure the Atlantic 10 will be a two-bid league. So either the Bonnies or the Rhode Island Rams will play for the automatic bid on Sunday. On the other side of the bracket, Dayton was upset by Saint Louis, making Davidson now the clear favorite, but if the quarterfinals are any indication, things could get wild in Brooklyn.

American Athletic Semifinals (in Memphis, TN)

No. 1 Houston vs. No. 5 Memphis, 3:00, ESPN2
No. 2 Cincinnati vs. No. 6 Wichita State, 5:00, ESPN2

The dark horse is still alive as Memphis upset UCF in the quarterfinals to set up a date with the top-seeded Cougars. UCF should still be in the field, but they’ll be wearing road uniforms in round one. Houston is looking to keep hold of their newly-claimed spot on the second line. And sure enough, an improved Wichita State team upset Temple, meaning the Owls will sweat on Sunday, but they’ve played well enough that they should still get in, but they are currently among the last four byes and it’s possible they end up in Dayton. Especially if either Memphis or Wichita State take the automatic bid.

Big Ten Semifinals (in Chicago, IL)

No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Wisconsin, 1:00, CBS
No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 7 Minnesota, 3:30, CBS

Michigan State kept their hopes for a No. 1 seed alive with their quarterfinal win over Ohio State, possibly sending the Buckeyes to the First Four. Minnesota pulled off a big win over Purdue, moving them likely into a lock status and certainly above the First Four now. Michigan is still fighting for a No. 2 seed.

Ivy League Semifinals (in New Haven, CT)

No. 1 Harvard vs. No. 4 Penn, 12:30, ESPNU
No. 2 Yale vs. No. 3 Princeton, 3:00, ESPNU

After two years at the Palestra, it’s Yale’s turn to host the Ivy League tournament, so you can argue they are the favorite in this field, even though Harvard is the top seed and swept Yale. A third meeting between Harvard and Yale would be a fitting ending to the Ivy League season.

SEC Semifinals (in Nashville, TN)

No. 5 Auburn vs. No. 8 Florida, 1:00, ESPN
No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 3 Tennessee

Kentucky may still be in line for a No. 1 seed, but they probably would’ve wanted a potential final against LSU, rather than either Auburn or Florida. Nonetheless, Kentucky and Tennessee still have a possible path to the top line, provided one of them wins this tournament. Their meeting today becomes ever so important.

Sun Belt Semifinals (in New Orleans, LA)

No. 1 Georgia State vs. No. 4 Texas State, 4:00, ESPN+
No. 2 Texas-Arlington vs. No. 3 Georgia Southern6:30, ESPN+

This should be a fun two days as the Sun Belt reaches their semifinal round. Georgia State went 13-5 in conference while the other three teams all went 12-6. This is anyone’s tournament and should be exciting.