Beyond the Arc: Championship Saturday LIVEish BLOG
9:30 PM -- USC's come-from-behind victory over Arizona State is the death knell for some bubble team, probably a Creighton or Saint Mary's. Missouri did hold off Baylor, preventing further bubble shrinkage. Utah survived a late rally by San Diego State in a defensive struggle, 52-50, to keep the Aztecs on shaky ground.
Right now, I still have the Aztecs as one of the last three teams in, ahead of Maryland and Penn State. Any team not already in the bracket probably isn't getting in, unless the Committee makes some surprising decisions regarding the SEC and/or Saint Mary's.
The road gets a little easier for Duke in this version, playing in Louisville's bracket with Ohio State or Texas A&M in the second round. That's probably as favorable a second round matchup as the Blue Devils are going to get. I'd pick Duke to reach the Elite Eight at least in this hypothetical, and the Cardinals are probably the most vulnerable one-seed.
This accounts for some geographic issues and BYU's inability to play on a Sunday.
What does everyone think? Should a Duke win tomorrow result in a No. 1 seed? What teams do you want to see in the Blue Devils' bracket? And what teams scare you?
6:25 PM -- Duke holds off Maryland in the ACC semis and gets a chance to beat a second ACC team for a third time this season tomorrow against Florida State in the finals at 1:00. And my 70-63 score prediction wasn't too far off, thanks largely to Duke free throws and Eric Hayes 15 straight points for Maryland (over halfway to Mike Singletary!).
In other action, Tennessee knocked Auburn off the bubble, and the Volunteers can end Mississippi State's Tournament dreams tomorrow in the SEC Championship. It could also propel Tennessee up to about a 5-seed.
Purdue wrecked Illinois, meaning the two likely flip-flop seeds; the Boilermakers climb to a four, Illini slide to a five.
Right now, all the bubble teams (including Maryland) are pulling for Missouri and Arizona State to end the Cinderella dreams of Baylor and USC, respectively. Temple and Duquesne are also battling in the A-10 final, with the loser having little to no chance at an at-large.
Here's my bubble as of 6:30:
Last four in: San Diego State, Maryland, Penn State, Saint Mary's
Last four out: Creighton, Arizona, South Carolina, USC
3:55 PM -- I'm off to a solid 0-3 start today on predictions (you see why I go for the field instead of the games?), as Florida State, Ohio State and Mississippi State all pulled off semifinal upsets. The Seminoles' win could lift them up to a 4-seed, the Buckeyes' victory could push them to a seven and means Michigan State is a 2-seed and the Bulldogs' win means bubble teams have yet another potential at-large theft to worry about.
I'm not sure how to feel about UNC's loss, as I would have liked to see the Tar Heels play Duke in the ACC Tournament once in my four years in Durham. At the same time, it opens up the path for the Blue Devils to win the tournament and maintain a (very) outside shot at a top seed in the NCAA Tournament. At the very least, Duke can hop Michigan State on the S-curve with a win over Maryland today, which means the Blue Devils won't be paired with Pitt.
More important news: How complicit was Buffalo Wild Wings in the UConn-Syracuse six-overtime game the other night? These commercials are ludicrous: What self-respecting fan would prefer his team go to overtime rather than win in regulation? And how low can once-respectable announcer Gary Thorne go? How much did BWW pay him for this?
1:45 PM -- It's a tradition like none other: it's Tim, it's some sort of comfortable chair/couch, and it's a ludicrous amount of important college basketball. I'll be checking in throughout the day, updating you on what's going on across the NCAA and my quest to predict all 65 Tourney teams.
So far today, Tony Kornheiser's Binghamton Bearcats did what Michael Wilbon's Northwestern Wildcats could not: clinch its first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament. Binghamton beat UMBC in the America East final. These Bearcats, however, don't have the Vermont potential from a few years ago. They're a 15 or 16 that will be sent home in the first round, if not the play-in game.
Memphis has stunningly slipped by Tulsa for its 60th straight conference win. The Golden Hurricane are off the bubble, and the Tigers remain in the conversation for a No. 1 seed they don't in any way deserve. (Honestly, what separates Memphis' resume from George Washington's a few years ago, when the Colonials lost two games all season in a bad conference and got an 8-seed? I'll tell you: the Tigers made the Final Four last year.)
UNC and Florida State are getting ready to tip off, and even without Ty Lawson, it's tough to pick against the Heels. With Carolina, you get your one chance to beat them. The Seminoles already wasted that during the season, and the Tar Heels will win this one by about a dozen.
As far as other predictions:
I like LSU and Tennessee in the SEC semis--knocking Auburn off the bubble.
Michigan State and Purdue will meet for a third time in the Big Ten finals.
Temple will deny Duquesne's magical run for a bid in the A-10.
Baylor and USC both steal at-larges in their respective title games; they're both really talented teams that underperformed and have turned it on when they needed it the most.
Syracuse runs out of gas--finally--in the final against Louisville, who clinches a one-seed.
Nevada wins on its home floor to throw Utah State into the bubble mix, and the Aggies will again be left out because they don't schedule anyone in the non-conference.
San Diego State seals its bid by beating Utah in the Mountain West finals.
Cal State-Northridge takes care of Pacific in a battle of teams with eccentric fonts on their uniforms--otherwise known as the Big West finals.
Buffalo beats Akron to continue a banner year for Bulls' sports in the MAC.
Morgan State backs up its win over Maryland by defeating Norfolk State in the MEAC final.
Alabama State over Jackson State in the SWAC because...well, just because.
As for the bubble, there's been a lot of talk regarding Penn State, who I thought was pretty solidly in. The Nittany Lions' performance yesterday against Purdue was underwhelming, but they have a lot of quality wins in the RPI top 50, and the biggest reason I see to keep them out is to prevent the Big Ten--the third best conference in college basketball this season--from having the most teams in the dance with eight. If what I expect to happen today does happen, and Baylor, USC, and Nevada all steal bids, it could come down to Penn State, Maryland, and Utah State (in that order, in my mind) for the last at-large.
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