NCAA tournament bracketology: Big East set to win top seeds, bubble battles on Selection Sunday

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today Sports)   —    It’s surprising and rare for a bubble team to go toe-to-toe with a projected No. 1 seed — forcing overtime — as Providence did on Saturday against Villanova in the Big East final.

But that captures how the Big East is poised to win in multiple ways on Selection Sunday.

The Wildcats claimed the conference tournament title and are a lock for a No. 1 seed. Their conference foe Xavier, which won the regular season but lost in overtime to upstart Providence, will grab the last No. 1 — as the closest No. 2, North Carolina, just has too many losses (10).

Providence, meanwhile, shot up to a No. 9 seed after entering the league tournament as a projected No. 12 — in a play-in game. Seton Hall, a projected No. 7 seed, and Butler, another No. 9 seed, are in the safety zone as well.

On the unsafe area of the bubble, it’s the Big East that’s benefiting from ‘Nova and Xavier’s prowess — as well as the Friars’ late surge in the conference tourney. Fringe teams Marquette and Creighton are both two of the last four teams in the projected field — as No. 11 seeds slated to play in Dayton for play-in competition. They’re set to beat out ACC bubble teams Louisville, Notre Dame and Syracuse.

As a whole, the Big East is sending seven of 10 teams — tied with the Big 12 for the best overall percentage of teams dancing and just one back from the ACC and SEC’s eight projected teams. That’s eye-raising considering the season-long story line about the strength of the Big 12 (with nine of 10 teams in the NCAA tourney equation). Yet two of the Big 12’s bubble teams, Oklahoma State and Baylor, will likely be left out of the field.


► No. 1 seeds: Virginia, Villanova, Kansas, Xavier

► Last four in: Oklahoma, Creighton, Marquette, Arizona State

► First Four out: Middle Tennessee State, Louisville, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame

  • Other bubble teams considered: Saint Mary’s, Syracuse, Baylor, Western Kentucky, Utah, Georgia, Oregon, Nebraska
  • On life support: Temple, Washington, Boise State, Penn State, LSU

With Selection Sunday on the horizon, USA TODAY Sports tracks how bubble teams fared in their ever-crucial championship weekend showings.

Outcomes are based on games from Thursday, Friday and Saturday in major conference tournament action. Teams that are sweating and lost earlier in the week  — including Saint Mary’s (first four out), Syracuse (next four out), No. 11 seed Arizona State (last four in), No. 11 seed Oklahoma (last four in) — are not included. Same goes for teams that are relatively safe but lost early in their league tourneys — including No. 11 seed Florida State and No. 10 N.C. State.

BRACKETOLOGY: A look at the full field of 68

POSTSEASON LINEUP: College basketball conference tournament schedule


► Kansas State (No. 8 seed, lock): The Wildcats defeated TCU 66-64 on Thursday in the Big 12 quarterfinals before bowing out to Kansas 83-67 on Friday in the semifinals.

► Rhode Island (No. 8 seed, lock): The Rams defeated VCU 76-67 on Friday in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals and then beat Saint Joseph’s 90-87 on Saturday in the semifinals to reach the tournament title game for the second year in a row. ⇒ [still playing]

Providence (No. 9 seed, safe): The Friars lost to Villanova 76-66 in overtime on Saturday night in the Big East tournament championship after upsetting Xavier 75-72 on Friday in the semifinals and defeating Creighton 72-68 on Thursday in the quarterfinals.

► Butler (No. 9 seed, safe): The Bulldogs beat Seton Hall 75-74 on Thursday in the Big East quarterfinals before bowing out to Villanova 87-68 on Friday in the semifinals.

► Alabama (No. 9 seed, safe): The Crimson Tide knocked off Texas A&M 71-70 on Thursday in the SEC tournament second-round, then upset Auburn 81-63 on Friday in the quarterfinals before bowing out to Kentucky 86-63 on Saturday in the semifinals.

► UCLA (No. 10 seed, safe): The Bruins defeated Stanford 88-77 on Thursday in the Pac-12 tournament quarterfinals before bowing out to Arizona 78-67 on Friday in the semifinals.

► USC (No. 10 seed, safe): The Trojans defeated Oregon State 61-48 on Thursday in the Pac-12 quarterfinals, then routed Oregon 74-54 on Friday in the semifinals to reach the Pac-12 tourney title game, where they fell 75-61 to Arizona.


St. Bonaventure (No. 9 seed, safe): The Bonnies lost to possible bid thief Davidson 82-70 on Saturday in the Atlantic 10 semifinals — snapping a 13-game winning streak — after beating Richmond 83-77 in the quarterfinals.

Texas (No. 10 seed, relatively safe): The Longhorns lost to Texas Tech 73-69 on Thursday in the Big 12 tournament quarterfinals but escaped Iowa State 68-64 in the first round to avoid the résumé stain.

Creighton (No. 11 seed, unsafe and sweating): The Bluejays lost to Providence 72-68 on Thursday in the Big East quarterfinals.

Marquette (No. 11 play-in seed, unsafe and sweating): The Golden Eagles lost to Villanova 84-70 on Thursday in the Big East quarterfinals.

Middle Tennessee State (First four out): The Blue Raiders lost to Southern Mississippi on Thursday in the Conference USA quarterfinals.

Notre Dame (First four out): The Irish lost to Duke 88-70 on Thursday in the ACC quarterfinals after previously beating Virginia Tech 71-65 in the second round and Pittsburgh 67-64 in the first round.

► Louisville (First four out): The Cardinals lost to Virginia 75-58 on Thursday in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. They beat Florida State 82-74 in the second round.

Oklahoma State (First four out): The Cowboys lost to Kansas 82-68 on Thursday in the Big 12 quarterfinals. They beat Oklahoma 71-60 in the first round.

► Baylor (Out of the projected field): The Bears lost to West Virginia 78-65 on Thursday in the Big 12 quarterfinals.

► Georgia (Out of the projected field): The Bulldogs lost to Kentucky 62-49 on Friday in the SEC tournament quarterfinals. They defeated Missouri 62-60 on Thursday in the second round.

► Oregon (Out of the projected field): The Ducks lost to USC 74-54 on Friday in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals. They beat Utah 68-66 on Thursday in the quarterfinals.

► LSU (On life support): The Tigers lost 80-77 on Thursday in the SEC tournament second round.


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