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Championship Week Sunday: Tennessee in line for No. 1 seed

It was a productive Saturday for the Vols.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Kentucky vs Tennessee Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The day is finally here. It is Selection Sunday. Just six games stand between us and the reveal of the field of 68. And unlike other years, there is still plenty of competition for the top line. Two teams look to be locks for the top line and that’s Duke and Virginia. With their ACC tournament victory, 11 group one wins (ten away from home) and sweep of Virginia, Duke is projected as the overall No. 1 seed in the tournament, with Virginia right behind them.

Gonzaga has been sitting back since Monday, anxiously waiting to see if they’ve done enough to earn a No. 1 seed. They won 30 games, including beating Duke on a neutral-court. As of now, they are still projected to be the No. 1 seed in the West.

Which leaves one spot left on the top line and Tennessee is currently the owners of that spot, based on our projections. After their rally in the semifinals against Kentucky, Tennessee now owns two victories over the Wildcats and, without any sort of SEC championship, Kentucky looks destined to be a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Tennessee’s win over Gonzaga really looks strong now and the Vols can cement their spot on the top line by winning the SEC championship over Auburn. If they lose, it opens the door for either North Carolina to get back to the top line and give the ACC three No. 1 seeds or possibly Michigan State, who can earn the double-dip in the Big Ten with a win today over Michigan and has 12 wins against group one. It’s hard to remember a time when the possible No. 1 seeds were still so fluid going into Selection Sunday, but that’s how crazy this college basketball season has been.

That’s the race for the No. 1 seeds, where teams feel safe. On the other side of the bracket, bubble teams got a bit more worried Saturday night when the Oregon Ducks finally put it all together after a disappointing start to the season to crush top-seeded Washington by 20 to win the Pac-12 tournament and shrink the bubble even more. For now, that drops St. John’s out of the field, makes North Carolina State the last team in and drops Arizona State to the First Four. At least, after a mostly bad season, the Pac-12 will at least salvage three bids to the NCAA Tournament.

In case you need a recap, here are the 26 teams that have punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

Abilene Christian (Southland)
Bradley (Missouri Valley)
Buffalo (MAC)
Colgate (Patriot)
Duke (ACC)
Fairleigh Dickinson (Northeast)
Gardner-Webb (Big South)
Iona (MAAC)
Iowa State (Big 12)
Liberty (Atlantic Sun)
Montana (Big Sky)
Murray State (Ohio Valley)
New Mexico State (WAC)
North Carolina Central (MEAC)
North Dakota State (Summit)
Northeastern (Colonial)
Northern Kentucky (Horizon)
Old Dominion (Conference USA)
Oregon (Pac-12)
Prairie View A&M (SWAC)
Saint Mary’s (West Coast)
UC Irvine (Big West)
Utah State (Mountain West)
Vermont (America East)
Villanova (Big East)
Wofford (Southern)

Two teams will be making their debut appearance in the NCAA Tournament: Gardner-Webb and Abilene Christian.

With all that in mind, let’s look ahead to the final day of action before the NCAA Tournament field is revealed. Six championship games today, including the SEC final. Here’s your bracket and your Sunday rundown.

March 17th 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. Ole Miss 8. Seton Hall
9. VCU 9. UCF
San Jose (Mar. 22/24) San Jose (Mar. 22/24)
5. Villanova (Big East) 5. Iowa State (Big 12)
12. TCU / North Carolina State 12. Murray State (Ohio Valley)
4. Wisconsin 4. Buffalo (MAC)
13. Vermont (America East) 13. Northeastern (Colonial)
Des Moines (Mar. 21/23) Tulsa (Mar. 22/24)
6. Virginia Tech 6. Nevada
11. Temple 11. Saint Mary's (West Coast)
3. Kansas (Big 12) 3. LSU
14. Harvard (Ivy) 14. Georgia State (Sun Belt)
Columbus (Mar. 22/24 Columbus (Mar. 22/24)
7. Maryland 7. Wofford (Southern)
10. Syracuse 10. Baylor
2. Kentucky 2. Michigan State
15. Colgate (Patriot) 15. Gardner-Webb (Big South)
Midwest Region (Kansas City) West Region (Anaheim)
Jacksonville (Mar. 21/23) Salt Lake City (Mar. 21/23)
1. Tennessee (SEC) 1. Gonzaga
16. Iona (MAAC) 16. F. Dickinson (NEC) / NC Central (MEAC)
8. Iowa 8. Utah State (Mountain West)
9. Washington 9. Florida
Hartford (Mar. 21/23) Salt Lake City (Mar. 21/23)
5. Kansas State 5. Marquette
12. Liberty (Atlantic Sun) 12. New Mexico State (WAC)
4. Purdue 4. Texas Tech
13. UC Irvine (Big West) 13. Old Dominion (Conference USA)
Tulsa (Mar. 22/24) Hartford (Mar. 21/23)
6. Mississippi State 6. Auburn
11. Oregon (Pac-12) 11. Arizona State / Ohio State
3. Houston (AAC) 3. Florida State
14. St. Bonaventure (Atlantic 10) 14. Northern Kentucky (Horizon)
Jacksonville (Mar. 21/23) Des Moines (Mar. 21/23)
7. Cincinnati 7. Louisville
10. Minnesota 10. Oklahoma
2. North Carolina 2. Michigan
15. Bradley (Missouri Valley) 15. Montana (Big Sky)

Last Four Byes: Oklahoma, Baylor, Syracuse, Temple

Last Four In: Arizona State, Ohio State, TCU, North Carolina State

First Four Out: St. John’s, Alabama, Belmont, Creighton

Next Four Out: Indiana, Nebraska, Furman, Clemson

Conference Breakdown

Big Ten - 8
SEC - 8
ACC - 7
Big 12 - 7
American - 4
Big East - 3
Pac-12 - 3
Atlantic 10 - 2
Mountain West - 2
West Coast - 2
One-bid leagues - 22

Ivy League Championship (in New Haven, CT)

No. 1 Harvard vs. No. 2 Yale, 12:00, ESPN

Harvard and Yale have been the two best teams in the Ivy all season long, so it’s fitting they meet for the automatic bid. Harvard swept Yale during the season, but this game is on Yale’s campus, which should give them a bit of a boost.

Atlantic 10 Championship (in Brooklyn, NY)

No. 4 St. Bonaventure vs. No. 6 Saint Louis, 1:00, CBS

Craziness in Brooklyn has led to none of VCU, Davidson or Dayton playing in the final. Instead, we’ve got the Bonnies looking for back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament, while the Billikens haven’t been to the tournament since 2014. Saint Louis was a favorite heading into the season in the Atlantic 10 and after some struggles during the season, they’ve gotten things together seemingly just in the time. These teams met just eight days ago, with the Bonnies winning at home, 66-57.

SEC Championship (in Nashville, TN)

No. 3 Tennessee vs. No. 5 Auburn, 1:00, ESPN

It was just eight days ago when Auburn knocked off Tennessee to close out the regular season and, at the time, likely cost Tennessee a No. 1 seed. How quickly things change. The Vols should secure a spot on the top line if they win, while Auburn is trying to improve their NCAA seeding.

Sun Belt Championship (in New Orleans, LA)

No. 1 Georgia State vs. No. 2 Texas-Arlington, 2:00, ESPN2

Georgia State is back in the championship game, looking for their second-straight bid to the NCAA Tournament, while Texas-Arlington has only been to the dance once, back in 2008. The Panthers swept UTA during the regular season with both games back in January.

American Athletic Championship (in Memphis, TN)

No. 1 Houston vs. No. 2 Cincinnati, 3:15, ESPN

After valiant efforts from Memphis and Wichita State in the semifinals, it’s the top two seeds battling for the conference championship, as Houston looks to cap off a fantastic season with a double championship. Houston is still in play for a No. 2 seed but will be no worse than a No. 3. Cincinnati looks pretty set as a No. 7, but possibly can move up to a No. 6.

Big Ten Championship (in Chicago, IL)

No. 1 Michigan State vs. No. 3 Michigan, 3:30. CBS

The final game to tip off before the Selection Show is a classic rivalry in the Big Ten between the two teams that went back and forth all season long in the conference, though Sparty has the upper hand with two victories over the Wolverines. Michigan State may still have a shot at a No. 1 seed, but more likely are headed for a No. 2. Michigan could join them on the second line, especially if they can avoid a three-game sweep and make it three straight Big Ten tournament titles.

I’ll be updating the field throughout the day as the games play out. Check back here around 5:30 eastern, certainly before 6:00, when I post my final bracket of the season. Enjoy Selection Sunday, folks. We’ll see you back here later today.