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Bracketology: BYU has a chance to steal your bubble team’s NCAA tournament bid

By Patrick Stevens

March 6, 2018 at 11:40 AM

BYU, with Elijah Bryant (No. 3), Dalton Nixon (No. 33) and Yoeli Childs, upset Saint Mary’s in the West Coast semifinals. (Isaac Brekken/Associated Press/)

A bid snatcher still lurks in the West Coast Conference.

The math in the Gonzaga-and-Saint Mary’s-and-everybody-else league was plain heading into the conference tournament. Those two schools were a combined 31-1 against the rest of the WCC entering the postseason (and 33-1 entering Monday’s semifinals).

Top-seeded Gonzaga did its part to continue the two-team dominance, dismantling San Francisco, 88-60, behind Killian Tillie’s 26 points. Saint Mary’s did not, falling, 85-72, to Brigham Young as Yoeli Childs dropped 33 points for the Cougars.

So what had the chance to be an entertaining Round Three between the WCC heavyweights instead turns into a game of significance for borderline NCAA tournament teams throughout the nation. If Gonzaga (29-4) wins the conference tournament final Tuesday night (9 Eastern time, ESPN), those teams rest easy. If BYU (24-9) pulls its second upset in a row, there’s one less at-large bid for the rest of the field.

Related: [How do the NCAA tournament bubble teams stack up? Let’s look at the quadrants.]

As for the Gaels (28-5), they will make it Selection Sunday with a gaudy record, a victory at Gonzaga, some favorable advanced metrics numbers (they’re No. 29 on KenPom.com), and a pair of questionable losses to San Francisco and Washington State.

Is it enough to land an at-large bid? Probably. Is it enough to avoid a trip to Dayton for a play-in game? Not necessarily. The Gaels are pegged as the last of the No. 10 seeds in this morning’s projection (see below) and will be an interesting case for the committee to assess in the coming days.

Outside of the WCC . . .

Tuesday’s key games: 

ACC first round, Notre Dame (18-13) vs. Pittsburgh (approx. 2:30 p.m., ESPN2 or ACC Network): The 10th-seeded Fighting Irish draw a de facto bye on the first day of the ACC tournament against Pittsburgh, which went winless in league play. Notre Dame has a lot to prove this week after getting Bonzie Colson back. It starts with beating the Panthers.

ACC first round, Syracuse (19-12) vs. Wake Forest (7 p.m., ESPNU or ACC Network): Like Notre Dame, Syracuse isn’t making the tournament on the strength of a single victory in Brooklyn. But a loss to the Demon Deacons would be damaging.

Related: [ACC tournament TV schedule, bracket and team previews]

CAA final, College of Charleston (25-7) vs. Northeastern (23-9) (7 p.m., CBS Sports Network): The top two seeds in the Colonial Athletic Association meet about 10 miles from Charleston’s campus. Northeastern is the CAA’s top defensive team and is led by junior guard Vasa Pusica. Charleston is looking to secure its first NCAA bid since 1999 and is led by guards Joe Chealey and Grant Riller.

Northeast final, LIU Brooklyn (17-16) at Wagner (23-8) (7 p.m., ESPN2): The host Seahawks, the conference regular season champions, go for their first NCAA trip since 2003 when Derek Kellogg’s Blackbirds make the cross-borough trip to Staten Island.

Horizon final, Wright State (24-9) vs. Cleveland State (12-22) (7 p.m., ESPN): It’s been a wild league tournament run for eighth-seeded Cleveland State (12-22), which has won four in a row for the first time since 2014. You might remember Vikings Coach Dennis Felton from another improbable run, Georgia’s tornado-interrupted Southeastern Conference tournament title in 2008. Wright State, the No. 2 seed, is aiming for its first NCAA appearance since 2007.

Summit final, South Dakota State (27-6) vs. South Dakota (26-7) (9 p.m., ESPN2): These two were clearly the best teams in the Summit League this season, so it’s an appropriate league title game. Mike Daum has more than 2,000 career points as a junior for South Dakota State, while junior guard Matt Mooney is the top player for the Coyotes, who play superb defense.

*****

Field notes

Last four included: Marquette, Syracuse, Providence, Alabama
Four just on the outside: Kansas State, Baylor, Louisville, Utah
Next four on the outside: Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Washington, Nebraska
Clinched automatic bids: Iona (Metro Atlantic), Lipscomb (Atlantic Sun), Loyola-Chicago (Missouri Valley), Michigan (Big Ten), Murray State (Ohio Valley), Radford (Big South), UNC Greensboro (Southern)
Conference call: Atlantic Coast (9), Southeastern (8), Big East (7), Big 12 (6), Big Ten (4), Pac-12 (4), American Athletic (3), Atlantic 10 (2), West Coast (2)

*****

Bracket projection

SOUTH REGION

Charlotte
(1) ATLANTIC COAST/Virginia vs. (16) BIG SOUTH/Radford — SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC/Arkansas-Pine Bluff winner
(8) Creighton vs. (9) Southern California

San Diego
(5) Ohio State vs. (12) WESTERN ATHLETIC/New Mexico State
(4) Texas Tech vs. (13) SUN BELT/UL Lafayette

Wichita
(3) AMERICAN ATHLETIC/Cincinnati vs. (14) BIG WEST/UC Davis
(6) Seton Hall vs. (11) Florida State

Nashville
(7) Oklahoma vs. (10) Virginia Tech
(2) SOUTHEASTERN/Auburn vs. (15) BIG SKY/Montana

There’s a pretty decent shot Radford winds up in Charlotte, especially if Duke doesn’t land a No. 1 seed (the Highlanders could then face Virginia as a 16 seed or Duke as a 15). That would put the Highlanders in play for a game within a few hours of campus if they remain as a No. 16 seed or find a way to climb up to a 15. . . . Ohio State’s inability to deal with Penn State all season, including at last week’s Big Ten tournament, probably cost it a 4 seed or better, but chances are most (if not all) the No. 4 seeds end up out west, anyway. . . .

Cincinnati snagged a win at Wichita State over the weekend to further solidify its hold over a top-four seed. The Bearcats could climb as high as the No. 2 line by winning the American tournament this week. . . . Auburn is the last of the No. 2 seeds, but Cincinnati, Michigan and Tennessee all warranted plenty of consideration. . . . Oklahoma is making the tournament, regardless of its inability to win away from home since the calendar turned to 2018.

EAST REGION

Pittsburgh
(1) Villanova vs. (16) IVY/Harvard — SOUTHLAND/Southeastern Louisiana winner
(8) Missouri vs. (9) UCLA

Boise, Idaho
(5) WEST COAST/Gonzaga vs. (12) MISSOURI VALLEY/Loyola-Chicago
(4) Clemson vs. (13) SUMMIT/South Dakota State

Dallas
(3) Tennessee vs. (14) PATRIOT/Bucknell
(6) Miami vs. (11) Alabama-Providence winner

Detroit
(7) Texas Christian vs. (10) St. Bonaventure
(2) Purdue vs. (15) NORTHEAST/Wagner

Cue up the Tyus Edney highlight if Missouri vs. UCLA comes to fruition. . . . Clemson owns the weakest resume of the No. 4 seeds and would have been bumped down to the 5 line had Wichita State defeated Cincinnati on Sunday. . . . Loyola-Chicago is making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 1985 and has all the makings of being a popular 12-over-5 upset pick. The Ramblers, who won at Florida earlier this season, share the ball exquisitely and will be a major headache after claiming Arch Madness. . . .

Related: [Feinstein: Behind college basketball’s best surprise story, a pioneer for racial equality]

Miami has gone from iffy to solidly in the field to flirting with a No. 5 seed in a span of two weeks. Maybe that first reading was a little off — the Hurricanes’ resume sort of had a house-of-mirrors effect before they won at North Carolina last week — but it also reflects a jumble in the middle of the bracket. . . . It’s getting harder to see how St. Bonaventure gets left out, but it happened two years ago to the Bonnies. They might as well win a game in the Atlantic 10 tournament to feel safe. What’s one more for a team on a 12-game winning streak? . . . Alabama has survived a five-game skid to close out the regular season, but it probably won’t remain in the field if it loses its SEC tournament opener.

MIDWEST REGION

Nashville
(1) BIG EAST/Xavier vs. (16) MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC/Hampton
(8) ATLANTIC 10/Rhode Island vs. (9) Arizona State

Boise, Idaho
(5) Florida vs. (12) MID-AMERICAN/Buffalo
(4) West Virginia vs. (13) AMERICA EAST/Vermont

Detroit
(3) BIG TEN/Michigan vs. (14) SOUTHERN/UNC Greensboro
(6) Kentucky vs. (11) Marquette-Syracuse winner

Pittsburgh
(7) Houston vs. (10) MOUNTAIN WEST/Nevada
(2) North Carolina vs. (15) HORIZON/Wright State

Put away the tinfoil hats, there’s no conspiracy here. In the trickle-down from making the bracket mechanics work and trying to space out the SEC teams, Rhode Island (coached by Dan Hurley) ended up paired with Arizona State (coached by his brother, Bob Hurley). . . . A FloridaWest Virginia round-of-32 game would have a definite “first-to-55 wins” vibe. . . .

Here’s one upside from the Big Ten tournament going a week early this year: The committee has plenty of time to seed Michigan appropriately after the Wolverines claimed the title. The seeding of much of the Big Ten was one of the committee’s biggest problems last year, and the tight turnaround from a mid-afternoon Selection Sunday title game probably played a role. . . . Marquette has made a solid push in the last couple weeks; its two late-season defeats of Creighton could sweep it into the field.

WEST REGION

Wichita
(1) BIG 12/Kansas vs. (16) METRO ATLANTIC/Iona
(8) N.C. State vs. (9) Butler

San Diego
(5) Wichita State vs. (12) CONFERENCE USA/Middle Tennessee
(4) PAC-12/Arizona vs. (13) OHIO VALLEY/Murray State

Dallas
(3) Michigan State vs. (14) COLONIAL/College of Charleston
(6) Texas A&M; vs. (11) Texas

Charlotte
(7) Arkansas vs. (10) Saint Mary’s
(2) Duke vs. (15) ATLANTIC SUN/Lipscomb

Yeah, N.C. State is safe. . . . Michigan State is the last of the No. 3 seeds, and even that might be generous. . . . If South Carolina could play Duke as a No. 7 seed less than two hours from campus last season, Texas or Texas A&M could face Michigan State in Dallas in the second round.

More college basketball:

After dominant regular season, Virginia ready for a ‘full reset’ in tournament play

As ACC tournament begins, Duke looks like a national championship contender

A season on the stink: Remembering the smelliest team in NCAA tournament history

Svlruga: Here’s one way to clean up college basketball: Start paying the workforce

These small-conference teams are primed to pull NCAA tournament upsets — if they get in

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Sports | Analysis

Bracketology: BYU has a chance to steal your bubble team’s NCAA tournament bid

By Patrick Stevens

March 6, 2018 at 11:40 AM

BYU, with Elijah Bryant (No. 3), Dalton Nixon (No. 33) and Yoeli Childs, upset Saint Mary’s in the West Coast semifinals. (Isaac Brekken/Associated Press/)

A bid snatcher still lurks in the West Coast Conference.

The math in the Gonzaga-and-Saint Mary’s-and-everybody-else league was plain heading into the conference tournament. Those two schools were a combined 31-1 against the rest of the WCC entering the postseason (and 33-1 entering Monday’s semifinals).

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