(Final update at 4:02 ET)
Championship week is always the perfect appetizer to the NCAA Tournament, and this one hasn’t disappointed. We have bid stealers, No. 1 seed battles, and bubble teams falling in and out, and there could still be more movement in the final hours of Selection Sunday. I hope the Selection Committee has some contingency brackets ready.
Congratulations are in order to the 31 teams who have already earned automatic bids. Automatic qualifiers, whether official or projected, are noted in italics in the bracket.
With one more result to be determined in the AAC championship game, here’s the field of 68 with analysis on the bracket and the bubble below:
Last four in: NC State, UCLA, USC, Saint Mary’s
Whispering distance: Louisville, Arizona State, Oklahoma State, Middle Tennessee, Baylor
Talking distance: Marquette, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Utah
Shouting distance: LSU, Oregon, Mississippi State, Washington, Penn State, Nebraska
**(3:44 p.m. ET) Somebody fell out of the bracket when Davidson (No. 12 seed, West) stole a bid by beating Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 championship. We won’t for sure know who it was until the bracket gets revealed, but I think Louisville is the victim. This also means one team who would’ve had a bye is now headed to Dayton. I think that team is NC State, but there’s also a chance Alabama or Oklahoma gets sent to Dayton instead of the Wolfpack.
Davidson wins the Atlantic 10! Will ruin someone’s bubble! pic.twitter.com/YvfYR5Uvad
— Abdul Memon (@abdulamemon) March 11, 2018
**(3:44 p.m. ET) Tennessee (No. 3 seed, South) fell short against Kentucky in the SEC championship game, which will keep the Vols from snagging a No. 2 seed. However, don’t expect them to fall either, as they had a noticeably better resume even compared to other No. 3 seeds. Kentucky, however, should improve to a No. 4 seed assuming the Selection Committee is putting a fair price on these Sunday games.
** Cincinnati (No. 2 seed, South) can eliminate any doubt for a No. 2 seed by beating Houston in the AAC finals, although I would have the Bearcats as a No. 2 seed regardless. The Bearcats are one of only two teams with no losses outside Quadrant 1. (The other is Michigan State.) With a victory, they’d also join Virginia and Villanova as the only teams with 30 wins.
** On the flipside, does Houston need to beat Cincinnati to hold on to its No. 5 seed? If the Cougars lose, it will be between them and Ohio State (No. 6 seed, South) for the final spot on that seed line. Houston enters Sunday with a 6-2 record against Q1 highlighted by two wins over Wichita State and one win over Cincy, but they also have a really bad Q4 loss to Drexel. Meanwhile, Ohio State has big wins over Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan State, but the Buckeyes also lost three times to Penn State.
Everything points to Houston being safe as a No. 5 seed no matter what, thanks to Saturday’s win over Wichita State. Ohio State can’t hold up to the depth of Houston’s resume. However, we’ve seen the selection committee disrespect the AAC plenty of times before.
** Congrats to Lipscomb (No. 15 seed, East), our only first-time dancer. Grand Canyon (WAC) and South Dakota (Summit) came close to joining the Bisons, but each fell in its championship game. Several schools will snap droughts of 15 years or more, and in seed order they are Auburn, TCU, Loyola Chicago, Charleston, UNC Greensboro, and Marshall.
Bids by conference:
ACC — 8
SEC — 8
Big 12 — 7
Big East — 6
Big Ten — 4
Pac-12 — 4
A10 — 3
AAC — 3
MW — 2
WCC — 2