Tuesday was all about survival.
It was true for an assortment of one-bid league winners, including Charleston, which rallied from five points down in the final 40 seconds of regulation to force overtime against Northeastern before going on to claim its first NCAA tournament berth since 1999.
It was the case for Notre Dame and Syracuse, a pair of ACC teams in need of more than one victory in Brooklyn this week. Both went wire-to-wire, but had some dicey moments against Pittsburgh and Wake Forest, respectively. Notre Dame, in particular, was underwhelming in its 67-64 victory over a team that went winless in the ACC.
And it was true of teams not even playing who needed some help to save an at-large bid. Gonzaga obliged, handling Brigham Young, 74-54, to win its sixth consecutive West Coast Conference title and prevent the Cougars from thieving a bid.
Wednesday’s key games
ACC second round, Florida State (20-10) vs. Louisville (19-12) (noon, ESPN or ACC Network): Louisville has a split with Florida State, a sweep of Virginia Tech and a victory at Notre Dame to go with no lousy losses. Winning this one might be a necessity for the Cardinals to make the field, and Florida State could use an insurance victory in Brooklyn, too.
Big 12 first round, Oklahoma (18-12) vs. Oklahoma State (18-13) (7 p.m., ESPNU): Oklahoma should have nothing to worry about as it heads into the Big 12 tournament. Oklahoma State at least has the ability to make a case for itself, but in addition to its oodles of high-end victories is an RPI that sat at 88 entering Tuesday. That’s an outlier among the metrics available to the committee, but none of them push the Cowboys over the top, either. Oklahoma State needs this one to maintain any sort of case.
ACC second round, Notre Dame (19-13) vs. Virginia Tech (21-10) (7 p.m., ESPN2 or ACC Network): Notre Dame’s entire argument hinges on looking like an excellent team with the return of Bonzie Colson. The Irish handled Pittsburgh in Colson’s first game back from injury and put up a good showing against Virginia last week, but their uninspired offensive performance Wednesday in a rematch with Pitt did not help. It’s tough to see how Notre Dame gets in if it doesn’t beat the Hokies, who could use an insurance win of their own.
Patriot League final, Colgate (19-12) at Bucknell (24-9), (7:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network): The Patriot is the only conference to award its automatic bid over the next three days. Defending champion and regular season winner Bucknell erased a nine-point deficit in the final 46 seconds to beat the Raiders in regulation in the teams’ last meeting.
Pac-12 first round, Washington (20-11) vs. Oregon State (9, Pac-12 Networks): Washington enters having dropped five of its last eight. If it becomes six of nine, forget any NCAA hopes.
Big 12 first round, Texas (18-13) vs. Iowa State (9:30 p.m., ESPNU): Mo Bamba missed Texas’s last two games with a toe injury and could sit out again against the Cyclones. The Longhorns might be in okay shape for an at-large berth, anyway, but a loss would be cause for pause.
ACC second round, Syracuse (20-12) vs. North Carolina (9:30 p.m., ESPN2 or ACC Network): The Orange’s borderline case gets a whole lot better if it can find a way to beat North Carolina. Easier said than done; the Tar Heels are 6-1 against Syracuse since the Orange entered the ACC.
Big East first round, Marquette (18-12) vs. DePaul (9:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1): Only a few snippets of advice works every March for teams chasing an at-large bid. Here’s one of them: Don’t lose to DePaul (again).
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
Moving in: LIU-Brooklyn
Moving out: Wagner
Clinched automatic bids: Charleston (Colonial), Gonzaga (West Coast), Iona (Metro Atlantic), Lipscomb (Atlantic Sun), LIU-Brooklyn (Northeast), Loyola-Chicago (Missouri Valley), Michigan (Big Ten), Murray State (Ohio Valley), Radford (Big South), South Dakota State (Summit), UNC Greensboro (Southern), Wright State (Horizon)
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)
(1) ATLANTIC COAST/Virginia vs. (16) BIG SOUTH/Radford — SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC/Arkansas-Pine Bluff winner
(8) Creighton vs. (9) Southern California
(5) Ohio State vs. (12) WESTERN ATHLETIC/New Mexico State
(4) Texas Tech vs. (13) SUN BELT/UL Lafayette
(3) AMERICAN ATHLETIC/Cincinnati vs. (14) BIG WEST/UC Davis
(6) Seton Hall vs. (11) Florida State
(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.
(1) Villanova vs. (16) SOUTHLAND/Southeastern Louisiana — NORTHEAST/LIU-Brooklyn winner
(8) Missouri vs. (9) UCLA
(5) WEST COAST/Gonzaga vs. (12) MISSOURI VALLEY/Loyola-Chicago
(4) Clemson vs. (13) SUMMIT/South Dakota State
(3) Tennessee vs. (14) PATRIOT/Bucknell
(6) Miami vs. (11) Alabama-Providence winner
(7) Texas Christian vs. (10) St. Bonaventure
(2) Purdue vs. (15) HORIZON/Wright State
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 . . . .
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.
(1) BIG EAST/Xavier vs. (16) MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC/Hampton
(8) ATLANTIC 10/Rhode Island vs. (9) Arizona State
(5) Florida vs. (12) MID-AMERICAN/Buffalo
(4) West Virginia vs. (13) AMERICA EAST/Vermont
(3) BIG TEN/Michigan vs. (14) SOUTHERN/UNC Greensboro
(6) Kentucky vs. (11) Marquette-Syracuse winner
(7) Houston vs. (10) MOUNTAIN WEST/Nevada
(2) North Carolina vs. (15) METRO ATLANTIC/Iona
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 Florida–West 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 midafternoon 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.
(1) BIG 12/Kansas vs. (16) IVY/Harvard
(8) N.C. State vs. (9) Butler
(5) Wichita State vs. (12) CONFERENCE USA/Middle Tennessee
(4) PAC-12/Arizona vs. (13) OHIO VALLEY/Murray State
(3) Michigan State vs. (14) COLONIAL/College of Charleston
(6) Texas A&M vs. (11) Texas
(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.
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