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Here are the latest projections after Friday’s action, assembled by our Kendall Rogers, Aaron Fitt and Mark Etheridge.
Today’s field of 64 features the following changes to our projected automatic qualifiers since yesterday:
America East: Top seeded Maine was knocked out by New Jersey Tech. The Highlanders face Binghamton in the finals, but the Bearcats are unbeaten in the tournament, so we are making them our new projected automatic qualifier.
Atlantic 10: Top-seeded Davidson was eliminated Friday by Richmond, setting up a battle between the Spiders and second-seeded VCU for the conference title. We are changing our projected automatic qualifier to the Rams.
MAAC: Niagara outslugged our previous projected pick, Fairfield, to send the Stags packing. We are changing our projection to Canisiusthe lone unbeaten team left standing.
Missouri Valley: Evansville blew out Dallas Baptist (which had been our projected automatic qualifier) 21-2 on Friday. The Patriots are still alive but face a daunting path to the MVC title, so we are changing our projected automatic qualifier to Evansville.
Mountain West: Top-seeded UNLV was eliminated from the MWC tournament, leaving San Jose State, Nevada and Air Force still alive. We are changing our projection to the Falcons, the lone unbeaten team in the tournament.
WCC: San Diego beat top-seeded Gonzaga 5-3, sending the Bulldogs into the losers’ bracket. The Zags will face the Toreros in Saturday’s title round, but would have to beat USD twice, so we are changing our projected automatic qualifier to San Diego.
AT LARGE PICTURE
• Given the AQ changes noted above in the MVC and WCC, Dallas Baptist and Gonzaga move from automatic bids to at-large bids, which means two at-large teams need to fall out of our projected field. We bumped out Ole Miss (which was eliminated from the SEC tournament in the play-in round) and Old Dominion (which beat Charlotte on Friday to stay alive in the C-USA tournament). The Monarchs now must beat Louisiana Tech twice on Saturday to advance to Sunday’s championship. UTSA, which has a remarkably similar resume to ODU, beat Southern Miss on Friday to improve to 2-0 in the tournament, putting the Roadrunners in a better position for an at-large bid than ODU. But Old Dominion’s case is still plenty compelling, with a 40-16 overall record, a 21-12 aggregate C-USA mark and a No. 46 RPI. They remain right in the mix, but they need to beat Louisiana Tech at least once on Saturday to keep hope alive, given the shrinking bubble.
Alabama is our last team in the field after getting outslugged by Texas A&M 12-8 on Friday, dropping Bama to 14-18 aggregate in the SEC and No. 43 in the RPI. Saturday’s elimination game against Florida is vital to Alabama’s chances.
Keep an eye on Pittsburgh, currently team no. 67 on our ladder. The Panthers face NC State in Saturday’s ACC tourney semifinals, and an at-large bid still seems unlikely even if they win, but they are just two wins away from earning an automatic bid, which would make the ACC an 11-bid league, since the other 10 projected regional teams all seem locked in.
AT LARGE LADDER
Here are the last four teams in the field, along with the first four teams out of the latest projection.
LAST FOUR IN:
62. West Virginia
FIRST FOUR OUT:
65. Old Dominion
66. Ole Miss
NATIONAL SEED/HOST PICTURE
• There was one change to our projected top eight national seeds: Notre-Dame replaces Miami after the Irish beat Virginia while the Hurricanes lost to Wake Forest. Notre Dame is up to No. 9 in the RPI with an 18-11 aggregate ACC mark, and Miami dropped to No. 15 in the RPI and 20-12 aggregate in the ACC.
• We also have one change to our projected hosts: North Carolina replaces Auburn. The Tar Heels finished 15-15 in the ACC in the regular season, and teams that finish .500 in their leagues do not host. But UNC jumped to No. 6 in the RPI with Friday’s big win against Virginia Tech and improved to 17-15 aggregate in the ACC, assuring they will finish with a winning record against conference foes even if they lose to Notre Dame on Saturday. The combination of a top-10 RPI, a winning aggregate conference record and a red-hot finish (13-2 in their last 15) likely adds up to a host spot even if UNC loses Saturday, but a win against the Irish would likely sew up a host spot.
Auburn is just 16-14 aggregate in the SEC and finished poorly, losing three of its final four games, all against Kentucky (a team that went 12-18 in the regular season), all of which undermines its strong RPI (No. 11 ). Auburn does own a head-to-head series win at LSU, which is behind in the RPI at No. 22. But LSU finished stronger and has a better conference record (18-14 aggregate even after Friday’s loss to Tennessee), and we think that trumps the head-to-head and RPI advantages that Auburn owns. LSU’s elimination game Saturday against Kentucky looks very important to its hosting hopes; if the Wildcats win, it will likely move Auburn back ahead of LSU in the pecking order.
• Oklahoma State boosted its hosting chances with a win against TCU on Friday, propelling the Cowboys to No. 14 in the RPI. We still give TCU the nod over the Pokes based on the Frogs’ regular-season Big 12 title, which carries enormous weight and should offset TCU’s problematic RPI (No. 36). But if Oklahoma State can beat Texas on Saturday, all bets are off. Perhaps both the Frogs and Cowboys could host in that scenario, at the expense of LSU or North Carolina or Georgia Southern. Or maybe OSU could host and knock TCU out. It’s tough to predict how the committee will handle TCU — hosts with RPIs in the 30s are extremely rare and have been so far limited to the Pac-12, but the Big 12 regular-season champion has always hosted in the 64-team era.
|1 Tennessee* (1)||1 Georgia Southern (16)|
|4 Coppin State*||4 Campbell*|
|2 Wake Forest||2Georgia|
|3 West Virginia||3Florida State|
|1 Virginia Tech* (2)||1 TCU (15)|
|4 Long Island*||4 Wright State*|
|3 VCU*||3 Dallas Baptist|
|1Stanford* (3)||1 LSU (14)|
|4 Binghamton*||4 McNeese*|
|2 Van derbilt||2 Texas Tech|
|3 San Diego*||3 Louisiana Tech|
|1 Oregon States (4)||1 North Carolina (13)|
|4 Air Force*||4 College of Charleston*|
|2 Gonzaga||2 Auburn|
|3 Grand Canyon*||3 Coastal Carolina|
|COLLEGE STATION||GREEN VILLE|
|1 Texas A&M (5)||1 East Carolina* (12)|
|4 Army*||4 Columbia*|
|2 Oklahoma||2 NC states|
|1 Maryland* (6)||1 Texas (11)|
|4 Canisius*||4 Oral Roberts*|
|2 Virginia||2 Arkansas|
|1 Notre Dame (7)||1 Louisville (10)|
|4 Evansville*||4 Ball State*|
|2Oregon||2 Oklahoma States|
|3 Rutgers||3UC Santa Barbara*|
|1 Southern Miss* (8)||1 Miami (9)|
|4 Belmont*||4 Florida A&M*|
|2 Georgia Tech||2 Florida|
|3 Alabama||3 Connecticut*|