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Pac-12 may be locked into two bids

3/10/2012

We could see some bid thievery Saturday, only it might not be where you'd expect to find it.

With both the Washington Huskies and California Golden Bears out of the Pac-12 tournament, you might think that the Pac-12 will steal a third bid when the Arizona Wildcats and Colorado Buffaloes play for the championship at 6 p.m. on Saturday. I don't think the Pac-12 will get a third team into the bracket however.

After digesting all of Friday's action, I now have the Huskies as the first team out. That, my friends, would be a historical scenario since a power conference regular-season champion has never missed out on an invitation to the Dance.

But the case for the Huskies' at-large bid just isn't a good one. An RPI of 69? Zero top-50 wins? An SOS of 90? What part of that résumé screams "at-large selection?" I've moved Arizona into the bracket for now, but solely as the projected Pac-12 champion as it's the highest remaining seed in the Pac-12 tournament. If the Wildcats lose to the Buffs tonight, Arizona can kiss its bid hopes goodbye as well. All in all, I think the Pac-12 is locked in for a pair of bids and no more.

Where we could see some Saturday bid theft is in Conference USA. If the Marshall Thundering Herd can trip up the Memphis Tigers, C-USA will steal a third bid and bounce someone off the bubble.

Here's how the rest of the S Curve shapes up:

The S Curve

ALL CAPS: Regular-season champion (NIT auto-bid if needed) or highest remaining seed

Bold: NCAA automatic qualifier

GREEN: Teams with tourney odds of 90 percent or better through games of March 9.

YELLOW: "Last four in" (will play March 13-14 in Dayton, Ohio)

GOLD: Lowest four auto-bids (will play March 13-14 in Dayton, Ohio)

RED: "First four out" (teams 69-72 on the S curve)

PURPLE: "Next four out" (teams 73-76 on the S curve)

The Full S-curve

*conference leader (teams)

Add the current AQs to the "solid" at-large candidates (current tournament odds at 90 percent or better), and there are now 52 teams in the field. Add in the remaining automatic qualifiers yet to be decided, and that's eight more spots. All told, 60 of the 68 spots are accounted for, with eight still up for grabs among current "bubble" teams.

The bubble (17 teams for 8 spots)

IN (8, in S-curve order):

42-BYU, 45-Xavier, 46-Colorado St., 47-South Florida, 48-Texas, 49-N.C. State, 50-Mississippi St., 51-Seton Hall

OUT (9, in S-curve order)

69-Washington, 70-Drexel, 71-Miami (FL), 72-Marshall, 73-Iona, 74-Ole Miss, 75-Massachusetts, 76-Colorado, 77-Nevada

Conference breakdown

As you can see, the Northwestern Wildcats and Tennessee Volunteers are now completely off the bubble. The Vols made a strong charge, but I believe the bad losses will outweigh their good wins. The Nevada Wolfpack is also likely done after losing in the WAC tournament. They're replaced by New Mexico State, which is now the projected champion.

The Texas Longhorns fall into the Last Four In after losing to the Missouri Tigers. The North Carolina State Wolfpack move up to join that group after ousting the Virginia Cavaliers on Friday. And Seton Hall keeps clinging to that last at-large bid but that grip remains very tenuous.

Finally, looking at the top line, the Kansas Jayhawks fall to No. 4 on the curve and head out west after losing to the Baylor Bears in the Big 12 semis. But with Michigan State, Duke, Ohio State and Missouri all alive on the No. 2 line, there's some peril ahead for KU's No. 1 seed. Meanwhile, the Kentucky Wildcats have locked up the No. 1 overall seed with the Syracuse Orange falling in the Big East semis.

Here's how the conferences break down by bids as of Saturday morning: Big East (10), Big Ten (6), Big 12 (6), ACC (5), SEC (5), Mountain West (4), Atlantic 10 (3), West Coast (3), Conference USA (2), Missouri Valley (2), Pac-12 (2).

NCAA automatic qualifiers (15)

• UNC Asheville (Big South)

• Murray State (OVC)

• Belmont (Atlantic Sun)

• Creighton (Missouri Valley)

• VCU (Colonial)

• Loyola-Maryland (MAAC)

• Davidson (SoCon)

• Saint Mary's (WCC)

• Harvard (Ivy League)

• Western Kentucky (Sun Belt)

• Detroit (Horizon League)

• South Dakota State (Summit)

• Long Island (NEC)

• Lehigh (Patriot League)

• Montana (Big Sky)

NIT AQs (9)*

• Drexel (CAA)

• Iona (MAAC)

• Nevada (WAC)

• Oral Roberts (Summit)

• Middle Tennessee (Sun Belt)

• Valparaiso (Horizon)

• Bucknell (Patriot)

• Savannah State (MEAC)

• Texas-Arlington (MEAC)

* if not selected at-large

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