(Let’s leave the Atlantic 10 out of the latter argument, because its damage has already been done. With top-seeded VCU headed for an at-large berth after getting knocked out in the quarterfinals, whoever survives the weekend among Davidson, Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure and Saint Louis is ensured a bid. But only one of them will make the field.)
That leaves only a handful of games Saturday that could influence the makeup of the at-large field. But there are still plenty of viewing options:
American Athletic semifinals (3 and approx. 5:30 p.m., ESPN2): It’s pretty basic here. If the top two seeds, Houston and Cincinnati, can advance to Sunday’s title game, there won’t be a bid snatcher lurking on Sunday. But if Memphis (21-12) or Wichita State (19-13) wins in the semifinals, the potential will exist for anxiety right down to the final hour before the tournament selection show on Sunday.
Utah State vs. San Diego State (Mountain West final, 6, ESPN): It’s a matchup of two teams that were impressive in their own ways on Friday. San Diego State (21-12) opened the Mountain West semifinal doubleheader by stymieing Nevada, 65-56, to deny the top-seeded Wolf Pack a shot at an automatic bid. Fortunately for borderline teams, Utah State (27-6) was already a credible at-large possibility. The Aggies clubbed Fresno State, 85-60, to reach the final; if they win again, no one is getting bumped from the field.
Buffalo vs. Bowling Green (Mid-American final, 7:30, ESPN2): Winner of 11 in a row, Buffalo (30-3) is getting in no matter how this game goes. The same is not true of the Falcons (22-11), who would nudge a bubble team out of the NCAA field if they can upend the Bulls. It would be Bowling Green’s first NCAA bid since 1968.
Washington vs. Oregon (Pac-12 final, 10:30, ESPN: After the train wreck that was the 2018-19 Pac-12 season, could three teams end up landing NCAA bids out of the Conference of Champions? Washington is a given, Arizona State has a legitimate shot at an at-large and Oregon (22-12) is poised to be a late-night spoiler. The Ducks have won seven in a row, including a 55-47 defeat of Washington a week ago, and might just send somebody at the edge of the field packing for the NIT.
Big 12: Kansas vs. Iowa State (6, ESPN): Two perfectly solid teams playing for improved seeding. With the likes of LSU, Purdue and Texas Tech all bowing out quickly in their respective league tournaments, there’s a chance for Kansas to move up to the No. 3 line — and claim another Big 12 title (albeit not a regular season version).
Big East: Villanova vs. Seton Hall (6:30, Fox): Funny how Seton Hall was a borderline postseason team a couple weeks ago. Victories over Marquette, Villanova, Georgetown and Marquette (again) have put the Pirates in position to wear their home whites in the NCAA tournament. As for Villanova, it’s business as usual as the Wildcats play in their fifth consecutive Big East final. A No. 5 seed seems like a realistic possibility for Jay Wright’s bunch.
ACC: Duke vs. Florida State (8:30, ESPN/Raycom): If Duke isn’t yet on the No. 1 line, it will be if it defeats Florida State. It’s safe to say, though, that Zion Williamson has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt he’s healthy, averaging 30 points and 12.5 rebounds while shooting 26 of 32 from the floor in the Blue Devils’ two ACC tournament games. Don’t sleep on Florida State and its cast of thousands, which nearly took down Duke in the first game between these teams.
Last four included: Indiana, TCU, St. John’s, Arizona State
First four on the outside: Clemson, Texas, Creighton, Alabama
Next four on the outside: Nebraska, Temple, Oregon, Belmont
Moving in: Abilene Christian, Davidson
Moving out: Clemson, Sam Houston State
Conference call: Big Ten (9), ACC (8), Big 12 (7), SEC (7), Big East (4), American Athletic (3), Atlantic 10 (2), Mountain West (2), Pac-12 (2), West Coast (2)
East Region vs. West, South vs. Midwest
(1) Virginia vs. winner of (16) NORTHEAST/Fairleigh Dickinson vs. METRO ATLANTIC/Iona
(8) PAC-12/Washington vs. (9) Iowa
(5) Kansas State vs. (12) Indiana-St. John’s winner
(4) LSU vs. (13) AMERICA EAST/Vermont
(3) AMERICAN ATHLETIC/Houston vs. (14) HORIZON/Northern Kentucky
(6) Marquette vs. (11) Ohio State
(7) Louisville vs. (10) Oklahoma
(2) Michigan vs. (15) MISSOURI VALLEY/Bradley
There’s still a case for Virginia as the No. 1 overall seed based on the entirety of the Cavaliers’ portfolio. But if the Cavaliers end up elsewhere on the top line, does it really matter? Not really, besides the longer trip. … I bumped Kansas State down to the No. 5 line after last night’s loss to Iowa State. The Wildcats have the profile of a No. 4 or No. 5 seed. …
There’s always a résumé or two at this stage that’s something of an optical illusion — it can look different every time you take a glance. Count St. John’s in that group. The Red Storm claimed some fabulous victories, but almost all of its advanced metrics suggest doom looming after last night’s lopsided loss to Marquette. … Michigan finding its form in the Big Ten tournament was Friday’s least surprising development.
(1) Gonzaga vs. winner of (16) MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC/Norfolk State vs. SUMMIT/North Dakota State
(8) Mississippi vs. (9) VCU
(5) Virginia Tech vs. (12) OHIO VALLEY/Murray State
(4) BIG 12/Kansas vs. (13) WESTERN ATHLETIC/New Mexico State
(3) Purdue vs. (14) CONFERENCE USA/Old Dominion
(6) Mississippi State vs. (11) MOUNTAIN WEST/Utah State
(7) Seton Hall vs. (10) Central Florida
(2) North Carolina vs. (15) PATRIOT/Colgate
The least consequential debate of the next 36 hours might be the one pitting Gonzaga and North Carolina for a No. 1 seed. Flip them in this regional (while taking their opening weekend sites with them), and is there really a huge difference? … Maybe VCU falls to the No. 10 line after its loss to Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals, but it should still be in the field. …
Consider Purdue vulnerable to getting bumped down a line if Kansas wins the Big 12 tournament. The Boilermakers are pegged as the weakest No. 3 seed in this projection. … Central Florida followed its defeats of Houston and Cincinnati with losses to Temple and Memphis. The Knights should still be in the tournament, but a ticket to Dayton isn’t out of the question depending on the committee’s whims.
(1) ACC/Duke vs. (16) BIG SOUTH/Gardner-Webb
(8) Baylor vs. (9) Florida
(5) MID-AMERICAN/Buffalo vs. (12) ATLANTIC 10/Davidson
(4) Wisconsin vs. (13) BIG WEST/UC Irvine
(3) Texas Tech vs. (14) IVY/Yale
(6) Nevada vs. (11) WEST COAST/Saint Mary’s
(7) Maryland vs. (10) N.C. State
(2) Tennessee vs. (15) SOUTHLAND/Abilene Christian
It’s going to be hard to keep a full-strength Duke off the No. 1 line, especially after the Blue Devils edged North Carolina in the ACC semifinals. … One of the more baffling questions of the last day was whether Florida’s defeat of LSU got it into the field. The Gators’ profile hasn’t been in any serious question in weeks. …
Once again, who knows what to make of Nevada, a team with undeniable talent that turns it on and off seemingly at will but has a flimsy top to its résumé. The Wolf Pack’s worst-case scenario is a place in an 8-9 game, and there’s an argument to be made that even a No. 6 seed is too generous. … Abilene Christian, the top seed left in the Southland, hasn’t reached the NCAA tournament since moving up to Division I in 2013-14. Its last Division II tournament trip came in 1999, and it made only three D-II tournament appearances since 1966. The Wildcats would be an amazing opening week story.
(1) SEC/Kentucky vs. (16) SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC/Prairie View A&M
(8) SOUTHERN/Wofford vs. (9) Minnesota
(5) BIG EAST/Villanova vs. (12) ATLANTIC SUN/Liberty
(4) Iowa State vs. (13) COLONIAL/Northeastern
(3) Florida State vs. (14) SUN BELT/Georgia State
(6) Auburn vs. (11) Arizona State-TCU winner
(7) Cincinnati vs. (10) Syracuse
(2) BIG TEN/Michigan State vs. (15) BIG SKY/Montana
A defeat of Tennessee in the SEC semifinals Saturday afternoon should solidify Kentucky on the top line, and the Wildcats might be fine even with a loss. … Minnesota had a solid profile coming into the week, but a second victory over Purdue is a useful asset. …
Here’s thinking the right combination of results — LSU losing quickly in the SEC tournament, Florida State beating Virginia in the ACC semifinals — gets the unheralded Seminoles up to the No. 3 line. … Time for Arizona State to sit and wait after losing in overtime to Oregon late Friday. The Sun Devils probably aren’t on firm ground and will be rooting for Washington to do what they couldn’t: Beat Dana Altman’s Ducks.